RIP Mr. Giraffe you will be remembered
As you might have read if you follow our Open Alliance Discord channel, this year is the best YETI has done at Worlds - we even managed to win our first Worlds-level award with the Judge’s Award at Johnson Division. But before we get to our worlds recap, here’s a short blurb about what went down the week before worlds!
We went ahead with continuing our hand-off design for a few reasons. We didn’t finish our top stage rigging in time and decided that we did not have enough time for programming and subsequent driver practice for it to be a viable design. As such, the all-in-one design was gutted for parts for spares for the main robot.
Most of that week was spent driver practice - our mechanical subteam spent most of their time on creating spares. We did rebuild the intake for strength and made other small improvements to the robot (for instance, we had the 3D-printed parts that failed on us at states remade in metal). Programming mostly spent time on tuning the autos - we developed a two-high-one-mid auto in this time that wasn’t especially reliable but was able to hit one high and one mid fairly consistently.
We also tested out having our human player hold up an Apriltag while in front of the field to help the robot auto-align with the chute, but the angle of this ended up being impractical - we found that with our current limelight angle, our human player would have to hold the Apriltag over his face. (we did joke about making an Apriltag mask for him)
The student working on Genius Dashboard also made it stable and ready to go; we ended up using it for some of our matches at worlds! More information on that later.
On to worlds!
Our robot performed very well at Johnson - we ended up ranking 30th out of 78 teams in our division and then was first pick for 8th Alliance Captain 4011 πρbοtics. Our other alliance partners were 971 Spartan Robotics and 1391 The Metal Moose. Huge thank you to these alliances - this was a fantastic opportunity!
Our robot did not sustain much serious damage in this event, barring our last playoff match where the mechanism that flips our carriage broke - Is anyone else noticing a trend of our robot breaking in the final match?
At worlds, 4 RP was no longer the “unicorn point,” so we were a lot more focused on links than we were at the district and even the state level. We managed to score the two extra ranking points in half of our qualification matches. Interestingly, the remainder lost the ranking points primarily for the charge station rather than the links, despite the increase in links needed to gain this ranking point.
We have a knack for losing things by one point this season as well - in our first playoff match against Alliance 1, we lost 168-169. Our autonomous routine’s mid cube ended up bouncing out of the grid. Alliance captain 4011 πρbοtics, unfortunately, broke down during this match, so we subbed in 1391 The Metal Moose for our second match in the lower bracket against Alliance 5. Everyone’s autonomous this match was flawless! You might remember from above that our flipping mechanism broke in teleop, and 971 Spartan Robotics’ arm’s sensor broke down this match leaving them to defend for much of the match as well. Up against the strength of Alliance 5, we ended up losing this match 151 - 196.
Regardless, we had a great time this year - in fact, as mentioned above, this is a record-setting year for our team. It’s the best win-loss record we’ve had at Worlds (7-5-0), and the first time in our team’s history we’ve advanced to our division finals. The Judge’s Award we received at worlds was also the first time we’ve won an award at this level. We’re all extremely proud that we got here, and the future holds a lot of promise!
Our team doesn’t stop, though - we learned a lot from this season and we’re looking to have a very busy offseason.
First on our priority list - YETI is homeless. (temporarily, hopefully!)
The building in which the QCRA FIRST Zone was housed was sold and will no longer be available for us to use in the coming season. Both QCRA and our lead mentors are searching for a new space for all the teams that work here. Provided that we can find a new space, our policy of keeping the doors open to any team that wishes to use it will remain regardless of where we are - nothing but the location is changing. This does mean that a lot of our offseason will be spent prepping to move out of this building.
Now, those of you who have been following our build threat probably have a good idea of how our design process went and how we ended up going with a less competitive but more practiced design. We went back and scrutinized this process to hopefully not encounter the same situation next year.
One of our main issues this season was strategic design. This season, we had fairly good subsystem designs, but put together they did not reach what we believed to be our potential for competitiveness. A change we thought might help for upcoming seasons is to try designing with a whole robot in mind rather than prototyping individual subsystems and trying to form-fit them all together. We had a couple of ways to try and implement this - one of our mentors suggested doing something like our offseason CADathon for the first week of build season, where we split into separate groups to generate full robot designs. The goal of this would be to move away from individual subsystem prototyping, and instead full robot prototyping. Splitting into separate groups like this would hopefully also eliminate groupthink. We found this season after one person made a working prototype, more efforts went to improving that design rather than encouraging people to design their own offshoot and possibly more competitive designs.
We also wanted to work on our bumper fabrication. Here’s an untold story from NC District Championships: we went a day early so that we could arrive rested and ready to go since this competition was farther away from us than all our other competitions. However, on opening our truck, we found our bumpers torn and unusable. One of our lead mentors (who is also our drive coach) and half our drive team stayed up to fix it up - they were up until around 2 AM trying to cut out new bumper fabric with a box knife and replace them. To try and avoid this situation in the future, we’re going to (finally!) document the fabric pattern we use to make our bumpers, rather than them being an afterthought. This also hopefully means we won’t have much loose fabric around our bumpers - since we use flipped bumpers instead of two separate bumpers for each alliance, having well-cut fabric is especially important.
Less related to this problem but still related to bumpers is working on making a bumper mounting design we can reuse each year. Until now, we’ve had to spend time coming up with new ways to mount the bumpers on our robot each season which often takes up a meeting or so to CAD. Having a design that we can reuse would help us shorten the amount of time we spend on robot CAD.
Speaking of shortening the amount of time we spend building the robot, we also spoke about improving procurement of designs - many of our parts are produced by sponsors, and we found ourselves at many points this season sitting around on Saturdays (our main all-day meetings) without parts because our designs were not sent out early enough, or because we didn’t have the parts to progress. Preventing this mostly involves scheduling better, and finalizing designs earlier in the week so that we can either purchase the parts or send them out to sponsors on time.
More specific to the offseason, we’re changing the way we train rookies. In previous years, we’ve shaped our training in the form of presentations, but this often ends up giving possible recruits the idea that we only ever do lectures. So this year, we’re hoping to shift to more hands-on learning. We still have to keep some presentations around since theory is important, but we’re hoping that this shift will improve engagement.
We’re also hoping to increase electrical training - as it stands, next year we will have 1 person out of the 70 people on our team that is proficient with electrical skills. Historically, the number of people with these skills on our team has been low since programming and electrical are both lumped into the controls subteam, which tends to prioritize programming skills over electrical in the offseason; we’re hoping that shifting this to prioritize electrical more will make sure we don’t have only one person to wire the entire robot. We’re also working to encourage people to work outside their subteam - for instance, pushing those on the mechanical subteam to learn at least a baseline of controls - which we think will help both make our designs more strategic and spread out knowledge rather than restricting it.
Our lead mentor has mentioned that part of increasing hands-on education should possibly include having all women on the team design and build their own robot for Doyenne, an off-season competition for women and non-binary people typically held near us.
Outside of robot design, we have a couple of other things we’re looking to improve. One of the things we saw was especially lacking was our scouting this year - engagement in scouting from our team was low, the accuracy itself was low, and oftentimes those in our strategy meeting would end up rewatching matches anyway to get an idea of what each robot was like, more or less negating the work of scouting. One idea we bounced around was creating a new scouting system with 2 or more people assigned to each robot, with one person responsible for qualitative information (for instance, in the context of this season, how well a robot balances on the charge station) and the other person responsible for scoring data, or one person responsible for callouts and the other person responsible for recording the data. Furthermore, to aid the strategy meeting and with generating a pick list, we hope to update our scouting website to sort through the quantitative data and generate a preliminary pick list rather than making those attending the strategy meeting sift through all the data from that day’s scouting.
We also wanted to look at our outreach. We don’t feel that we’ve hit the ceiling for technical outreach - while we have initiatives like our Girl Scout badge program, our Montessori afterschool robotics programs, and our senior cybersecurity education programs, we still think there’s more that we can do with the resources that we have. We’re looking into other things we could do - a couple of ideas we’re considering is to help machine parts for local FTC teams or restart our YETI Tips on our Youtube channel, among others.
This was a great close to our season, but we have plenty planned. More updates are on their way!