FRC Horror Stories, a second try

One time we shot a power cell into our 3D printed lime light mount. The resulting noise sounded similar in nature to the discharge of a firearm.

We found plastic everywhere….

Needless to say - ware your safety glasses


I’d say one of the scarier things that have happened at a meeting was when we were testing the new PID controlled drive, something was wrong with the gains and the robot was quite uncontrollable. I was test driving it at the time and it almost ran over a mentor, who happened to be my dad.

My advice: Test stuff in the simulators before testing them physically

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I’ll just leave some pictures and a video 🥲

^^As the driver, I was kind of confused that this happened. I’ve driven over the cable guard hundreds of times in practice and in competition, and it only ever tipped once


We no longer speak of the “lets use a kettlebell for ballast” incident.


Well, in 2018 Detroit championship finals we barrowed a battery from an alliance member with longer battery leads and the extra length hit the main breaker. Don’t under estimate the difficulty and importance of maintaining charged batteries as you progress through World Elims. Also if you do have to barrow another teams batteries check if their wires could hit anything.


Sort and sweet horror story here: one of the freshmen this year took a chisel to one of the old SLA batteries.


Testing IRL first is so much more fun :slight_smile:

Why did they think it was a good idea? what happened?

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I honestly don’t know why they thought it was a good idea. And I think there was a leak from the battery and a ban on chisels for that person.


Last year, my team (5438) was tiny (only ~ 10 students), and we were all super inexperienced - only one member had ever been to a competition before, and he was on the business and scouting side of the team. We had quite the nightmare at the FMA Mount Olive event, but it all worked out in the end.

Because of our small size and lack of experience, we only had one person that knew how to do all of the programming for the robot. The Thursday night before our first competition, we just barely got all of our code running on the robot for the first time. We finished packing about a half hour before we were going to leave on Friday, so we decided to just run some final tests. We take our laptop/driverstation out of the tote it was packed in, power up the robot, and run a few tests.

When we got to the competition and started unpacking, we realized that nobody packed the laptop back up after we took it out to test. Luckily, we were still able to complete all of the parts of the inspection that do not require enabling the robot that night. We knew we would be cutting it close with passing the inspection on Saturday morning, but it was our only option.

The day after, we come back with our laptop to finish the inspection. When we connect to the robot for the inspector to check the roborio image version, we learned that it was outdated. To make things worse, our only programmer was taking the SAT that day, so he couldn’t fix it and we couldn’t even call him to guide us through the process. So, there we are, ~30 mins from our first match (practice matches were cancelled because a snowstorm was coming later) without a functional robot and no clue how to fix it.

Luckily, some incredibly helpful mentors from other teams came in and helped (I remember 3142 was super helpful but I unfortunately cant remember the other teams that pitched in - thanks to everyone that lent a hand). After they updated the rio image, we needed to figure out how to update our code. WPIlib needed to be replaced with a newer version, and we couldn’t download it off of the internet from the pits. Luckily, someone had a flash drive with the newest version, and we were able to get that into the code. With less than 10 minutes before our first match started queuing, we passed inspection. We got to the field not being sure if the robot would even work, as we hadn’t enabled our robot since it was updated. Luckily, the software all worked perfectly (the hardware was another issue though…)


During the 2018 Detroit Champs, One of our team members broke his arm. It had nothing to do with robots, but still wasn’t the best thing to happen when you are hundreds of miles away from home.

This year we learned that falcons are very powerful. We also learned that you do not want to be holding a falcon attached to a wheel going at 100% speed. Let’s just say that our programmer’s hand was not the same after the incident. We now mount our falcons in metal when testing them (and keep our hands far away).

When we went to comps, we were disconnecting a lot and at the end of quals we decided that we were going to replace the rio at the end of the day to get ready for the second comp (immediately after). We didn’t expect to be picked. We were picked and we replaced the rio and tested everything in the hour-long break between alliance selection and the first playoff match (which we were in). It worked out tho and we won the second event!

In 2019 at our first event we found out after going through all of our qualification matches on Friday that our gear ratios for our drive train were completely wrong. We were browning out every pushing match we got into and could barely move by the end of the day.

So we scrounged up the correct gears we needed and decided to disassemble our entire drive train at the end of Friday, knowing this would be the only shot we have to go far on Saturday.

We had 45 mins before pits closed, at this point only 5 members were allowed in the pits. As I watched the students take the robot apart I had many teams come up in awe that our robot was completely in pieces, asking if we needed help at all.

But 45 mins later the robot was back together and running perfectly fine! Saturday came around and we made it to the finals of the event and ended up losing in the 3rd match.

In 2020 at our only event(week 1) we were having major jamming issues that we have never encountered while practicing.

We tried everything from changing code to mechanical solutions but still couldn’t figure it out.

By the end of the day all the students were discouraged and upset that the robot wasn’t working. One of our mentors came up and mentioned that it could be our sensors we were using, which happened to be IR beam sensors.

Turns out the event we were at were using lights that were emitting IR light that were effecting our sensors. They were getting false readings for when a ball was in the right position. So instead of stopping they were moving past the position the needed to be at and kept jamming into the shooter wheel.

A couple pieces of tape and some spacer material to fill the holes in later we were ready to roll. But by that time we had no idea if it was going to work or not we were getting rushed out of the pits before we could test it on the field.

Friday morning came along and the students were all nervous. Our first match of the day the drive team was intensely watching the robot as auto ended after it picked up the first ball to see if the solution worked and it did! You could hear the sigh of relief from the rest of the team from the stands. We ended up winning that event.

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Oh, I have another one.

Aluminum gears on drivetrain


Definitely made DMR more exciting though lol!

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Ha, funnily enough I was actually on the other side of this, running around and trying to make sure that your team got inspected in time for the match. Not too often do I get to hear the other side of things. Glad to hear everything went smoothly :+1:


Thank you so much for all the help and being such a great RI! We really couldn’t have done it without you.


This one’s fun.

Because of Covid, I was the only person on my team who was able to attend an off-season/demo event. Since I was going anyways, I was asked if I wanted to bring the IR@H robot, to which I responded of course, because I’m me.

So I’m there with myself and my friend from college. I’m dragging the robot and driver station on and off the field. I’m doing all the driving, no operator no drivecoach. I’m writing new autos for this bot since it was never actually designed to play IR, just the at home challenge. It’s a great time. First match no auto, trying to adjust the speeds for the real goal versus the 2D goal. It’s a learning experience.

Second match, intake goes down in auto. It’s made of wood, and it’s a 118 2018 style deploy where wheels spin and it goes out, never to come back in. The wheels spin up and it deploys, and the wood at the end of the bearing snaps. Great. Fantastic. But I still have half an intake. So I’m going to make it work. I go to intake a ball, and I get tapped on the shoulder. I get so spooked, because I have no drivecoach so who is behind me?!?, that my finger jerks on the controller and instead of intaking the ball I get stuck on it. So I turn around to see whose behind me while trying to get off the power cell.

Turns out it’s Dean Kamen. He’s asking me about where the rest of my team is and why no one’s helping operate for me and whatnot. Meanwhile time is ticking down in the match. I’m trying to get the attention of Windup to get me off the power cell, preferably without breaking my intake more, while not being rude to Dean, and floundering on a power cell. I think Dean felt kind of bad for me haha. After the match ended I was able to have a much nicer conversation with him about how school was going and whatnot, but during the match it was very stressful. He turned to one of my co-workers and basically was like “that poor girl”. I was having a blast though, after losing my junior and senior seasons I finally got to drive on the field. My friend got the match on video too.

00:38 you can see where I get stuck on the powercell

01:25 you can see Windup go to get me off the powercell

and at 01:27 you can see Dean wheel past on his irobot

Was a very surreal experience. Terrifying at the time, pretty hilarious looking back at it.

I have some pictures too!

Me trying to write new autos.

Me talking to Dean after the match was over

My janky intake fix (thank you 2370 and 3467. That metal bracket wasn’t there before. Fun fact it’s still there today)


I’m so glad we were able to get you through inspection in time!

On a related note, that whole weekend is one of my more memorable recent horror stories. Not because of the teams or volunteers (y’all were wonderful), but because of scheduling/snow.

For anybody who isn’t aware, Mt. Olive got hit with a snowstorm forcing a schedule change. We had the fastest imaginable opening ceremonies at 8 AM on Saturday, played 13 matches, and were done for the day. On Sunday we had the remaining 61 qualifying matches and playoffs - more than my team’s second event had for Saturday and Sunday combined.


Anyone want to try to calculate these odds?

Video (sound on lol):
BreakingShooter (2).zip (209.0 KB)

Middle of 2020 build season. Currently testing and documenting the performance of our metal product shooter. From the video below, we clearly set up a wooden field. So we simply had someone feed the power cells, and someone rebound them. We should have specified the rebound part more. The rebounder, as you can see in the video, tossed the power cell back towards our robot. Our “catcher” did not catch the ball. Notice in the video where the ball impacts. The cables of our NEO brushless motors powering the spin action of the shooter weren’t secured as the wire guide was still being developed. The ball knocks the cables into the exposed gears, where they are caught. These cables are ripped out of the motor, destroying the brushless motor, and jamming the gear train. Not a fun time.

Another horror story - Team 2539 in Hatboro at 2017. Alliance 3 of 2539 2590, and 3474. Finals 1, alliance 3 defeated the 4th alliance. Next, tie between the two. Moving on to Finals 3, Alliance 4 defeats Alliance 3. Now Finals 4. Clean game, everything is going well for Alliance 3, up until the endgame. 2 seconds on the clock, 2539’s airship rope tears, resulting in a loss in Finals 4, losing the event. Tough loss.

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Ever get your finger guillotined (not sliced, just impacted) by the robot elevator falling?