FRC 2357 - System Meltdown - 2022 Offseason Summary

Hi everyone, in the sprit of participating in the Open Alliance, this is our summary thread of what we’ve been busy with in the offseason this year!

We’ve had a great off season and start to our pre-season. The team has been keeping busy these past several months, so here are all the fun things that we have been doing and working on.

3D Printing Camps - Kids and Adults

During the summer, we held 3D printing camps for middle schoolers. Our camps were a bit different as the price included the cost of a 3D printer, filament, and accessories. The goal was for each student who participated to go home with their own computer and a new 3D printer that was all set up and that they knew how to use. Through the camp we helped them assemble their printer, taught them basic CAD, and showed them how to repair and maintain their new printer.
We started with a session in June, then a girls-only session in July, and the program was so successful that we added a third session in August! Additionally, we got so much attention from folks in the community that we did a session for adults in November! This is definitely one of our best outreaches in the community and we’ll be doing this again next year.

T-Shirt Cannon

Over the summer, we did a major redesign of our T-Shirt Cannon Robot. This time, instead of using a really old cRIO control system, we made our own out of Arduinos and 900 MHz LoRa radio systems. We even 3D Printed our own controller. After we got the new robot running, we had a great time with it during the football season! We shot off over a dozen t-shirts graciously provided by the Ray-Pec Athletic Boosters each game. Everyone loved it and we enjoyed having the opportunity to entertain the crowd at our home games.

Raymore Festival

We returned again this year to the Raymore Festival, and it was an awesome experience. The team members were able to teach kids how to solder with kits kindly provided to us by Peculiar Controls. We got to demo both our T-Shirt cannon and our competition robot. This year we sold 3D printed objects (which we printed ourselves!) which is something we haven’t done before. The response to these was great and we’re excited to see what we get to make next year.

E-Recycling

For the 3rd year we also again participated in 2 electronics recycling events. We partnered with Cass Recycle, Meredith Recycling and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to help collect old electronics that otherwise would have ended up in landfills! Each event, we collected on average about 21,000 pounds of electronics.

Clothing Drive

Continuing with our recycling initiatives, we tried a new activity this year and collected clothing through the Raymore Festival and our fall E-Recycling event. We collected about 4,000 pounds of clothing for a local thrift store!

FLL Mentoring

Since the creation of FLL teams in both of our middle schools, our team has helped mentor these students to complete FLL robot missions and innovation projects. We have 6 students involved this year, lending their own past FLL experience to these teams to help them with this year’s challenges. Additionally, thanks to 6413, we were able to arrange for our school district to donate 2 EV3 Lego Kits to kids in Ghana! And we are arranging some mentoring assistance via Google Hangouts with some of those kids right now (time zones are tough!)

Cowtown Throwdown

To start off our pre-season, we participated in the Cowtown Throwdown FRC Offseason event hosted by 1730, Team Driven in Lee’s Summit, MO. Our team ended up captaining the 6th alliance with 1739, Team Driven and Team Laser 3284. This was a fun opportunity for first time team members to experience what future competitions will look like!

KC STEM Alliance Workshops

Most recently, the team got to go to the KC STEM Alliance workshops! Not only did some of the mentors from our team give talks on CAD and programming, but we also got to listen in on other team’s talks as well!

Swerve Drivebase

We also purchased a set of SDS Mk4i modules this offseason to test out a swerve drive. We assembled it in the fall and have been working on programming for this over the last few months.

Programming Updates

We’ve had a few objectives for programming this offseason:

  • Swerve Drive
  • Trajectory / Pose Estimation (this is an area we need to improve)
  • Logging (checking out Advantage Kit now!)
  • Arduino USB Sensors (more to come on that one when we get it all working)

Training

We’re in the middle of several training sessions within the team for everything from shop safety to power tools, CAD, programming, CAM and CNC machining.

Mock Kickoff

Today we just finished our mock kickoff where we spent 4 hours going over the 2018 season, analyzing the game, going over strategies, tradeoffs, and what we would expect the season to look like. The human reenactment of the game is always the favorite part! And then we ended the session by watching some Einstein finals matches, as well as some of our own team’s from 2018.

Looking back it’s amazing to see everything we’ve done this year after competition! It’s even more amazing when we realize we only have 1st and 2nd year students on the team this year, so we’ll take what we’ve learned and expand on it even more next year. But we’re even more excited to get ready for the 2023 competition season!

Thanks for following along!

Sincerely,

Everyone at Ray-Pec Robotics, FRC 2357 “System Meltdown”

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I think that it is great that those people who did the 3d printing camp can go home and have their own printer and knowledge to use it! That is a great idea!

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Thanks! The reception by the community has been nothing short of amazing. We even got some attention from the school district!

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Quick update on our Swerve Drivebase code. We started out using the SDS swerve library and got it working for teleop, but ran into some issues when integrating it with the 2023 WPILib beta. Looking at the update history of the SDS lib and the inflexibility it has (you basically give it CAN IDs and that’s it), we switched to using the WPILib Swerve library code directly. This took a bit of time, but we got it working and finally tried it out with a Path Planner route. Cheers!

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Elevator R&D

One more update for what we’ve worked on in our preseason. We were playing with the idea of an independent 2-stage elevator driven by lengths of timing belt. This CAD model is likely overbuilt for most tasks, but it would be an easy task to design smaller gearboxes using NEO 550s, for example, and change the bracing, etc.

Unique Features

Open timing belt with custom tensioning system

Each stage has two separate belts driven by contra-rotating pulleys from the same gearbox. The gearbox pictured is designed for high torque, but a smaller, lighter one could be designed similarly.

Each belt has a screw-driven tensioner built into the 2x1at the bottom of each stage.

The reason for timing belts is because we’ve grown a general distaste for rope rigging. It always seems to wrap strangely, gets stuck in crevices, and eventually frays. Timing belts provide a more reliable way of transferring bidirectional power

Independent 2-stage system

While a timing belt system could be made to drive 2 stages in a continuous configuration, we were thinking about the possibility of driving each stage independently. There could be some advantages for this, such as additional speed, each stage could be geared differently, and the upper stages could be run by lighter weight motors (like NEO 550s)

Constant Force spring assist

This isn’t necessarily novel, but it’s a nice feature to highlight. Again each stage could have different springs to facilitate a better neutrally buoyant state.

Here’s a link to the design if you’d like to take a closer look: https://a360.co/3jVaqDJ

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