Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator and Powercube Claw


I’m not sure what exactly you think should be happening during build season, but let’s be clear here that the engineering process can and should be taught outside of the 6 weeks.

There’s no reason why the same process can’t lead a team to the decision of purchasing this claw for example.

How you teach students varies for everyone. Honestly if someone can’t find learning opportunities in cots parts and systems like this then you should reevaluate how students are being taught on said team.

There’s a million ways to teach a student something, examining COTS items is one of the best ways.


I don’t see how COTS mechanisms like this hurt inspiration. I see them the same way I see Ri3D, the Kitbot drive base, our build blog, and the multiple of other resources that provide teams an easier way to play the game when they don’t have the experience, mentors, resources, etc to do it. I have 2 things I want to add to this.

  1. When I started in FRC (2003) kit bots didn’t exist. A large portion of the season was spent building the drive train for our team. We were lucky enough to have a mentor that could design and machine a gearbox for the CIM motor, that was a big deal in 2003. None of the students on the team helped design or machine it, we did help assemble and mount it. Very similar to what COTS gearboxes do today. Our “game mechanism” that year was a single jointed arm to knock down bins that only got deployed in auto. The rest of the robot was just drive train and electronics. I learned a ton from helping assemble and maintain that robot, my mentors taught me a lot. So yes I was inspired even though I didn’t do the design, and I’m still running an FRC team.

  2. Last season the shooter Spectrum designed originally was objectively awful. We knew we wanted to be able to shoot at some point so we started looking around at other teams after the first week or two of competition. I spoke with a few friends on other teams to see what I could learn about their functional shooters. One of them (Jim Zondag of the Killer Bees, one of the best people in FRC or anywhere) was kind enough to offer to send over the full CAD model of their shooter to us to use as a base for our new shooter. I had a student take that design reverse engineer it to use our manufacturing methods and work to integrate it in to our robot design. We didn’t get it working by champs but for IRI we had a pretty respectable hooper auto. Our students wouldn’t have learned near as much if we hadn’t been able to actually build and implement a mechanism from a world class team. Our robot this year will be better because of what we learned from Jim and the Killer Bees last year. Building and implementing world class designs makes teams stronger not weaker.

973 and WCP are just sharing designs with everyone not just their friends, and they are even offering to help some teams build it that don’t have the mentors or machining resources required to build it them selves. I don’t have a problem with it, since I think more students will have a better experience and be inspired to do cool stuff.


WOW I have such mixed feelings about this.
I worked with 3rd graders last year in an after school program. We have a bunch of Legos and I have often sat down with kids and built along side them, but I never let them have what I built. No matter how much they liked it, no matter how much or how politely they asked I would never give them something I made. I would always break what I made in front of them. At first this always annoyed them and made them ask “Well if you aren’t going to keep it why can’t I have it?” and I would always say
“I broke it apart but all the pieces are still there, and you might have liked what I built, but you would have liked it even more if you had built yourself.”
Once they understood the message (it took a few months) a lot of them became great at building their own creations and would proudly show whoever was picking them up what they had made all on their own. I wouldn’t want to take that sense of achievement, that sense of joy, and that sense of pride away from any of them.
But I also remember being a student and the feeling of embarrassment when I sat in the stands and saw our robot fail. And I remember being a mentor and seeing sadness and frustration in students when our robot was heavily damaged and couldn’t move. And I wouldn’t wish any of those feelings onto anyone.
I dunno.
I do know I need to review my initial predictions fun fun fun…





Are we going to nickname this year’s game as “The Clone Wars”?


It seems from your first paragraph that you are implying the engineering process should not be taught within the six weeks of build season. Would you be able to explain your reasoning on that?

Second, and pertaining to the main discussion: I completely agree that cots parts can and are very effective in the engineering process. Most engineers that I know and work with wouldn’t be getting nearly as much done if they were designing and building everything themselves. Still, I wonder in FRC, which also puts a focus on education, specifically when/if this might go too far. What if down the road we see a team that has bought every part of their robot predesigned and mostly assembled with code, a drivebase, manipulators, and everything else they need. Is it as valuable as an experience if a student assembles a robot as long as they understand the design behind it? Or is it better if they had designed, prototyped, (maybe failed a couple of times along the way), and created a finished version by themselves?


A thought activity for everybody: jump into this hypothetical scenario. How much time do you think the team spends on putting together the robot? How do they spend the rest of their time? How well do you think that team does in competition (given those products are available to everybody else)?


Personally I do not see a problem with this. This isn’t the first elevator kit available on the market, REV and AndyMark both sell ones, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find another. My team is making an elevator and this being on the market isn’t going to change my team’s design. This is a good product but it’s something to base off of and make better. Thats what should happen with all COTs parts. My team even did that with DART linear actuators in 2016, and then went custom for actuators in 2017. Rhino Tracks in 2016 allowed teams to go over defenses easily in comparison to wheels and I felt like that did not create a huge issue, and that was comparable at moments to teams during Custom 8" Wheels. Team’s like 3357 even modified the Rhino Tracks to make them better. I don’t think anybody should be discouraged to buy COTs parts. If you already have your CAD for it done, just improve. Always make things better.


Assumptions: KOP drivetrain (maybe with parts for the Steroids variant), all remaining items are COTS wherever possible.

An average team can get the KOP drivetrain together in about a week, maybe faster. Let’s assume they spend the first week assembling that and ordering the rest of their COTS Mechanisms.

Depending on the mechanisms, I would say that that’s probably another week. Probably. Might be another 0.5 weeks in there due to getting them integrated with the KOP drivetrain. Call it 2 just to be safe.

So, let’s call that 3 weeks and the team has a functional robot that they bought and assembled*. With 3 weeks before bag day, I would expect that the team does some drive practice for three weeks or so, attends a local scrimmage if there is one, and focuses on other stuff (scouting, Chairman’s, being non-productive, doing schoolwork, that sort of thing). Possibly modifies a couple of things on the robot for better performance.

At competition, I’d expect–depending somewhat on what COTS parts are used and how well-adapted to the game they were, and how vigorous the driver practice was–that the team would end up somewhere in the upper middle of the pack for seeding, and as a second-round pick or maybe late first-round. They might get lucky and land in the top 8 (lower end). Better than the “tried and failed” teams, worse than the “fully-optimized” teams, and really worse than the “iterate again” teams who refuse to recognize that “fully-optimized” exists. IF, that is, they were the only one.

If about half the teams at the event do the exact same thing, varying only the amount of drive practice, the equation changes dramatically. Teams that make use of the COTS mechanisms as key parts of their robots will be spread from about the #3 seed to about the N-5 seed. The teams that don’t have the resources to do so will be at the bottom (and whining loudly, if I know anything about human nature :mad:); the teams that go custom and optimized will land at the top still but with a lot more work required. Teams that simply go custom will be spread around the rankings intermixed with the teams that went COTS.

At the end of the season/event someone will start a thread about how the COTS stuff is ruining FRC based on “education” and the flame wars will commence. See comment marked with a “mad” smiley above. The GDC will reintroduce the “specifically solve the game challenge” rule, and another flame war will commence. :wink:

*I’m going to totally ignore Parkinson’s Law here. Under Parkinson’s Law, it’ll take them 6 weeks and a couple days. :stuck_out_tongue:

Changing direction for a moment:

I think what’s bugging a lot of people is the timing (that would be item 2 of 2). Compare the response to the Rhino tracks, AM elevator, REV elevator, VEXPro elevator, to the response here to the Greyt Powercube Claw. (Trust me, the elevator isn’t the issue, or the previously-listed kits would also be issues.) All of those mechanisms were available before the season (or in the case of the Rhinos, before the season they’d be most useful in), and all of those mechanisms were “speculative” at the time. They’re also what I’d call “evergreen”–useful in multiple seasons (even the Rhinos). The Claw is BASED ON an “evergreen” design–I’ve seen something similar in several previous years including ball years-- but it’s released two weeks into build as a specific response to the game. If it’s released as “possibly useful claw kit” before the season we aren’t even having this discussion, I’m sure of that!!!

But at this point, people have already designed their own mechanisms, or are perfecting them. Item 1 of 2 on the “bugging people” list is probably that there’s some emotions (read as “hurt feelings” or “attached to my work”) going on right now. I’d go into detail, but I think that description will suffice.

And on my personal pet peeve list: Some of y’all seem to be thinking this is JUST a robotics competition, and we need a level playing field with a high floor. I might agree on the “high floor” and on some aspects of “level playing field”, but this ain’t JUST a robotics competition. It’s an Inspiration and Recognition program disguised as a robotics competition. Hard to tell how much inspiration (and I don’t mean design inspiration) this claw will give right now so I’m going to withhold judgement until after the season at least.


I’d largely agree with this. If there was a 2 stage elevator COTS item and generic game piece roller claw kit available on kickoff weekend, I don’t think many of us would be upset.
The fact that it’s after we spent two weeks of the season designing mechanisms makes it hard to stomach.

Right now I know some very upset students who do not feel very inspired.


I think (maybe this is optimistic) a team that used the COTS mechanisms and didn’t tweak them would end up N-5 (or wherever), and those that spent the most time tweaking (and maybe even replacing) would end up at the top. It probably increases costs for those teams but it also moves performance up substantially.


There have been a few comments in this thread so far that are all along the lines of:

“How are these products helpful to low-resource teams? They have COTS access to assemblies that they otherwise can’t CAD or manufacture, but they’re too expensive for these teams to purchase!”

Speaking candidly, the team that I mentor certainly has the money to buy into this entire system - even two times over if we took the time saved in build and applied it toward piecing together a practice robot. We also certainly do not have the resources to design or build these mechanisms on our own. My students have access to pens, paper, cordless drills, and hacksaws. On top of this, the team does not meet in the off-season and is in the shop just 12 hours a week during build season.

The biggest factors in deciding our strategy and design this year were 1) time and 2) access to tools. We chose to forego building an arm or elevator for this reason, and subsequently will ignore scoring on the scale and/or climbing entirely. I’d like to think we were smart enough to analyze our resources critically and make strategic decisions here so as not to “waste” time trying to build something that wouldn’t function as well as desired. We leveled with ourselves and made the choice; build something ambitious and cool that might not work, or build simpler in hopes of greater functionality. Many teams with similar situations don’t do this, and it shows when they un-bag at their first events.

Do full COTS mechanisms like this allow teams to play all parts of the game without compromise, even if they don’t have the time, tools, or engineering knowledge to do it themselves? Absolutely, it’s a great thing, and I think that’s why so many people have chimed in with support for this already. Are teams going to be chomping at the bit to buy these mechanisms when they come in stock? I don’t know, maybe it’s too late in the build season, or maybe it isn’t. Maybe next year teams will wait until these products are released, knowing that they’re coming, and effectively shorten their build season a week or two.

So far, I think my students are happy with the path we’re going down and I don’t think this release changes anything for us. They’re engaged, they’re learning, they’re doing, and I’d like to think they’re being inspired. I don’t think there is one black-or-white, yes-or-no answer to the “is this a bridge too far in COTS?” question. I think the best thing we can all do as individual teams is evaluate our own situations and make decisions that make the most sense for us.


I don’t like this trend of COTS becoming more of a complete kit. (disclaimer: my opinions don’t matter)

The kitbot is different. The kitbot works, but it’s far from perfect. Teams looking for a drivetrain with less weight, 2 speeds, or that takes up less space, etc. can do so by modifying the kitbot or building their own. There is still the incentive and room to iterate and innovate.

But the this Greyt stuff is too good. Several others in this thread said that Greyt is very similar to what they designed. Greyt is too close to perfect. Most teams- not all, but most teams- looking to improve on the kit may not find much to do. Unlike the kitbot, there’s less incentive to build upon and improve the kit when it’s already so good. Imo, COTS should be decent, COTS should get you something that moves and scores points, but COTS should not be world-class. COTS alone should not captain an alliance and win regionals (I could be wrong; Greyt might not be quite that good. But if it is that good, then it crosses my line from good COTS to bad).

Let’s say one team spends many offseasons improving their resources. They get new tools, they learn how to use them, they train new members effectively, they read CD and other resources, and learn how to design better. They improve their manufacturing and design resources so that during the season, they can create an effective mechanism to complete the hardest challenges in the game.

Then another team who hasn’t done all that just buys some COTS mechanisms, assembles them together, and beats them. (We may not at that level of COTS, but it’s getting there)

The trouble is not the unfairness. The trouble is that there is no incentive for teams to be like the first team I mentioned. There’s no incentive for any up and coming team to improve their resources and make their team better, when they can just fundraise money to buy competitiveness. A lot of current COTS offerings (bless the versaframe system) still requires a good level of skills and resources to implement effectively, while I believe the Greyt does not.

Also, I don’t know about other people, but I’m pretty inspired when I try to improve myself and my team and I see results on the field. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be as inspired if I bought mechanisms and put them together, no more than I would be inspired by my laptop computer performing what I’m sure are feats of engineering. Because I wouldn’t truly “own” that robot. It would just be something I bought for its performance, like a laptop. And like my laptop, I don’t attempt to build one, when I can buy one that works much better.

But that’s me, and my opinion. Worth nothing, really, especially since I’m no longer a student, and not yet a mentor/volunteer.


The issue that I’ve found hard to swallow about this over the past day, is that I can envision, based on this move, a team or individual opening a new website store and offering their “COTS assembly” for sale, keeping it all backordered or out of stock so no one can physically get their hands on it, and then showing up to competition with 5 full assemblies – skirting around the 30lb weight withholding allowance in doing so because they are COTS – in order to do a direct replacement for their robot if it’s damaged or to cheesecake other robots with it.

I’m not saying this is what is happening with this particular mechanism (does WCP have the manufacturing capacity to supply EVERY FRC team with this assembly if they desired it before the end of build season?? If not, is it really COTS?), but a lot of folks were talking about where to draw the line and whether there is a line.


The Manual section 8.1 defines VENDOR as a legitimate business source for COTS items, with several detailed criteria given in parts A. through E.

Part D. is particularly interesting, because it offers a possible definition of “keep up with order demand”:


I wonder to what extent this is truly enforced, remembering back to last year when half the Versaplanetary stages and ring gears were sold out for all of competition season. Or this year when the Rev Robotics Lift Kit which has been out of stock since the first week of build season.


This is a really important point that many current FRC students don’t know about, and as a result can’t fully judge the extent to which COTS/professional solutions have aided the development of FRC over the years. For those that don’t know, when Ri3D launched their frisbee design in 2013, it was met with a whole wave of backlash because instantly teams across the world began to copy that same design. However, because teams were able to replicate that design and then iterate upon it in their own way, that Ri3D baseline served as a conduit toward inspiring teams to think bigger and better in the following years.

That being said, there’s an obvious discrepancy between a COTS product created by one of the best FRC teams in existence that’s been tried and tested versus a slapdash solution created in three days; however, the general principle still holds true: the COTS designs of 2018 could be the extra starting push that many FRC teams need to flourish through reverse engineering.


We can fill orders more or less as fast as we can get 2d parts cut (~3-7 days).

We already sold out of the initial quantity, I will be sourcing more 2d parts first thing monday morning and will probably be cutting 2x or more of whatever the current order tally is at that point.


Even though both of these systems are incredibly simple, I’ve already been surprised by how much work goes into facilitating something like this.

If the goal was a competitive advantage for 973, this is NOT the way to do it.

Sure a hypothetical team could do some cute stuff with the above “COTS loophole”, but it’s FAR more work than just making a decent robot through the usual methods.

Sourcing this components is motivated by a combination of wanting to help some teams, and wanting to make a few bucks… Anything directly benefiting 973 doesn’t even factor into the equation.


It’s interesting to read the original thread.

In particular, one post, which shows how things have evolved over the past 14 years. Literally all of these things have come to pass (plus we found out about mecanum wheels, and nobody buys anything online unless it arrives in 2 days or less).

Andy’s response, I think, summarizes how I feel.