Good reads and opinions. Lets be clear on a couple of things. FRC has never been a “fair” competition. The distribution and disparity of resource distribution are just too great. If you are able to design something like this as a High School student, how did you get there? Do you have a mentor that taught you good CAD/Design skills? Did you sketch the design and a mentor fleshed it out? Did you come up with a vague concept and a mentor created it? All are possibilities (and probabilities). Your resource might be the mentors you have available that allowed you to be able to design something like this. Do you as a team have access to machines that can cut parts like this? We all know what teams in First are most likely to end up at Worlds because of resources of one kind or another. This is a discussion that has been going on within First for as long as I have been participating. Resources like these are a good thing. It allows more teams to compete at a higher level. In some years individual robot design isn’t so critical as the robots are independent. A really strong robot could carry an alliance. This year, not so much. I don’t see the same discussion in the thread on 118’s robot design for low budget teams. Yet the idea is exactly the same as here. The same discussion was had when the first robot in 3 days videos started coming out. More resources are better.
ETA: i.e. custom built software intended specifically for FIRST, available for sale, complete with a promise to upgrade it based on specifics for this year’s game after reveal. Yes, there is a camera, but the real benefit of Limelight is that it is an off the shelf software solution that is custom built for FIRST.
After I wrote my last post, about Limelight as a custom solution, I decided to figure out how that NavX sensor works. One of the students insisted it was a great idea so we bought it. I’m going there to see how it works because one of the freshmen will have to write the program to use it, so I figured I had better figure out how it works, so I could guide him along with it.
That’s a pretty FIRST-specific piece of equipment, with FIRST-specific example code, although it isn’t specific to any one game.
I suppose it’s something for HQ to really pay attention to. Is the availability of FIRST-specific solutions, and then even more the availability of game-specific solutions, something that takes FIRST in the direction people want to go?
I have a feeling in the end it will come down to the attitude of sponsors. They aren’t much concerned about “levels of competition”. They mostly want education. If there’s too much off the shelf product that is available for FIRST, they might start wondering if they aren’t just paying for toys that kids (and let’s be honest, adults) can play with.
Like many teams, when we send thank you notes to our sponsors, we like to include some description of how their money was spent. I’m just wondering how they would react to “Thank you for your generous support. Your contribution enabled us to purchase the Greyt Powercube Claw, which enabled us to compete at a much higher level.”
Could someone explain what exactly the Greyt Roller Claw (2 Wheel Add On Kit) is? We are not really sure, and it doesn’t seem like there is an explanation on the WCP website.
This claw is awesome. I don’t plan to show my students, but I expect they’ll find it. When they do, I hope they ask me about it so we can tear it apart and learn from the design, just like we do from Spectrum and the Grasshoppers build blogs and Ri3D. We might buy it, or we might just cut a copy on our router, or maybe we will tweak it before we cut. (We’re trying to do a one-motor claw for weight savings.)
I really love that not only is it a released prototype design that a team with a router or laser can cut, but a released prototype design a team without router or laser can buy and build.
Note “prototype”. it’s not a finished design, no matter what people in this thread are claiming. It might come with decent first guesses on motor gear ratios, but it’s also deeply adjustable and works well for iteration of mechanical variations. Wheels? Speeds? Compression? Spacing? All that is NOT included in this design. This is just a jumping off point. Or did you miss the 101 holes Adam put in it for adjustability?
Why do I love this prototype design? I hate being fabrication-limited. It’s my least favorite constraint to winning in FRC. It forces time to be spent making parts, failing, and learning about fabrication… instead of making robots, testing, failing, and learning about design engineering.
Not only does this public design demonstrate adjustable prototype development, it makes it available at a modest price to teams without mechanical engineers, CAD, or high quality fabrication tools, which is a shockingly large number of teams.
Why do I care about this so much?
The worst robot I ever helped build was my senior year of high school. We had access to a full machine shop, but still allowed our design process to be fabrication-limited. I settled on a drive design in the end of the first week and then made 2 assembled copies plus a full set of perfectly toleranced individual spare parts for competition. We never benchmarked against other robots, and were outrun in every match. We made similar choices elsewhere - making the perfect final part that was not actually perfect, instead of an adjustable prototype to learn from.
I loved building that beast, but getting absolutely crushed (scored about three points, literal last seed, after captaining the SVR finalist alliance the previous year) at competition was… painful. At the time I was fuming about cheaty mentor-built robots, but with hindsight and maturity, it was all in our design process, nothing about what other teams could or did do.
You must spread some Reputation around before giving it to s-neff again.
I’ve seen a few variations of this sentiment in this thread and in the one on Everybot, and I must admit that I truly don’t understand it. By that I mean I literally cannot grasp the point of it. Is it really a problem that, in some of the matches, you are teamed with low performing bots?
Maybe I am spoiled by competing in Michigan, where we are guaranteed a minimum of 24 matches in a season, and most teams get more. Of course some teams on your qualification alliances will be low performing, and some will be champions. I guess if you only have a handful of “real” matches, and you have to be in the top to get to (half) Worlds, maybe that one weak alliance partnership matters more. I don’t know. As I said, I truly don’t understand how “raising the floor” helps, with the possible exception of making a more interesting game for spectators.
If that’s the case, and it’s a real problem, put your energy into recruiting enough volunteers to run a district system so that everyone can get plenty of matches, with partners at all levels.
If the problem really is weak partnerships, having high capability robots that are improved by advanced COTS purchases will truly not solve the problem. No matter how many parts are available for purchase some teams will use them better than others. There will always be a disparity between teams that have large student populations, involved mentors, and good funding, versus teams that lack one or more of those elements.
This isn’t going to be entirely cohesive since there is a lot to respond to, but I’ve seen some arguments that I would like to contest.
Many people above have talked about wanting to maximize the amount of ‘inspiration’ from FRC. They’ve mentioned how it wasn’t interesting when teams struggled even to create a moving robot. I feel this entire outlook is odd and that the build season is the far more important part. In my freshman year our robot didn’t move and I came back, vice versa I very much doubt that anyone who enjoyed the six weeks of creating a robot decides to quit FRC since they didn’t do well in a tournament. (I wouldn’t actually contest that the kit-bot is good, I like everyone being able to drive, I just want us to remember that the season is more important than the competition)
Many people want to level the playing field and give examples of teams who have the money to buy one of these but not the time or resources to create it on their own. It would be great if there were a way to enable to create things like this, however we should be very careful before removing technical skill from FRC, while it makes it inherently unfair, it also makes it interesting. I believe that the far more common circumstance will be teams who might be able to build something nearly equivalent but not quite as good as these mechanisms. Putting aside just the disappointment caused by wasted work, this forces those teams to choose between learning and being competitive, a choice I wouldn’t want to impose on anyone. (This is also my argument against those who ask why you would care what other teams do. You have to compete with them and if you’re anywhere near average you can no longer do so on your own.)
Yet others claim there’s difficulty in integrating with the electrical and software components or that it enables teams who focus on software. As a programmer myself I’d enjoy competing in a competition where everyone started with the same hardware and just tested their coding prowess, however that’s not FRC. Given how low the ceiling of code that makes a significant difference is in the recent years’ games, this essentially puts everyone into two categories: they got everything working together correctly or they didn’t. When those who roughly got things working all have the same mechanisms it’s just a less interesting competition.
I’m likely to be out of here before the market for game-specific pre-builts is fully realized, but while I’m still here I think it’s clearly the wrong direction for us to go.
I’m going to preface this by saying that I have nothing but the utmost respect for Adam, WCP, and many of the people who have posted in this thread before me.
I spent a long time thinking before I posted in this thread. And I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about both of these releases or their implications.
I feel like using the Greyt products versus not could be a lose-lose situation for my team. I’ll do my best to illustrate what I mean.
159 has long been a team that makes all of its own components. We’re happy to take design inspiration from other sources but we take great pride (like many of the teams in this thread) in putting a robot on the field that was designed and built in our shop. But we also want to be competitive, win matches, play in eliminations, and hopefully win an event. I feel like the Greyt releases potentially put us in a situation where we can’t achieve both of those goals (putting our stuff on the field, and being competitive) at the same time.
We (again like many) drew lots of elevator inspiration from 973 and the RAMP videos. We recognized that the Greyt elevator could very well be superior to our own design, given that it was improved design of something that we were using as design inspiration. So when Adam and WCP released this we had a choice that wasn’t very enjoyable. A choice between our two biggest team goals. Build something that we could be proud to say we made and build something that is competitively successful. This is the thing I find that bothers me about the Greyt releases.
You’ll notice throughout my post I use *. That’s because I don’t know what will happen and I felt a need to recognize that. I think I’m happy the Greyt products exist. And I hope they get used by teams who need them or want them. I just wish that my team didn’t have to make such a difficult choice because of their existence.
OK, I am with the crowd that is a little uncomfortable about this, concerns that Chris and Kevin have expressed. At same time not against COTs revolution - I would not want to give back my Pigeon or even Limelight- and we bought the Vexpro linear motion brackets (yes before sold out), and have high respect for Adam and others espousing this direction.
But still… I propose that COTs items should be (only in future) be available
to public before KO, along with other current requirements.
Solutions offered to public after KO would be fine for future years. CAD would be OK ( I propose) as this would involve considerable effort and understanding by the using team. This prevents any semblance of game particular solutions, that some see as be inappropriate…
Yes, while this claw would work with 2011 game, but it was made with this year in mind.
but OK - we understand that this is just another change , like in “real” world, adapt, and conquer.
My feelings on this are basically “meh.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen in season designed COTS components designed for a game, Andymark released this intake kit in the 2016 season.
In the end good teams will probably continue to be good, bad teams will continue to be bad, teams in the middle may do a little better. I’d honestly be surprised if more than a handful of teams in the bottom %50 resource wise even know or care that these products are available.
IMO what prevents most un-competitive teams from being competitive isn’t a lack of fabrication or design resources, it’s everything else. Nine times out of ten things like poor organization, lack of time, no knowledge of strategy and poor team culture are why teams fail. My own team used to be that way. You could’ve given us access to every product WCP sells for free and we’d still would’ve done terribly. It’s not about the product, it’s about the team.
The people who work the hardest don’t always win, both in FRC and the real world. FRC/engineering is about getting the best result with your resources (time, money, skill, facilities). While these new products may impact the relative power of those resources, they don’t change the challenge.
Ten years ago, people would have said, “the fundamental problem with COTs transmissions being available is that they punish students for working hard on their own designs, and reward teams that chose to just buy.” Instead, COTs items like transmissions have pushed teams to spend resources on manipulators instead of drivetrains. Now, with COTs manipulators, teams should be pushed to spend resources on iterating, practicing, and programming their manipulators instead of fabrication. Again, we see the relative importance of various tasks changing, not the overall challenge.
Learning how to work with COTS parts is great and all but if a team really places that high of a standard on it, Vex and FTC are both far more COTS-based.
The fact is, COTS shifting transmissions have punished students who would have spent time learning how to design them. The difference is that the drivetrain is only a small part of the bigger picture, and the one thing that hasn’t changed between old games and new is the difficulty of making a good manipulator, so there was still value in learning those things. The Greyt Elevator lets you can get away with the whole season without knowing a thing about gear ratios or thermal properties of motors. The intake does too. Maybe the “way of the future” is an all-COTS FRC, but the thing that’s helped me the most in the last couple years has been not only my knowledge of COTS parts but also the design/Solidworks knowledge.
My first thought when I saw this thread was - “Wow. More adult Legos.” * And I see why some might think this is a bad thing.
It’s fair to say *(https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1S8EySYukQAbo0aetj9LvnAivrF7W3Qxruvxfqk-V-t8/view) ;). The thing is, teams are actually encouraged to build off of an existing design, to iterate, modify, troubleshoot, improve, and ultimately thrive. At the end of the day, the best teams were always those that started with a reasonable design and made it better. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel.
Granted, there are teams that do not modify the kit. That’s okay too - it’s kind of like a recruiting/retention tool. If a team tries to enter FRC and they do not know where to begin (other than maybe the KOP drive train), they may fail. This won’t stop some of them but it undoubtedly will stop others. Letting a team compete with a functional robot is inspiring. Just because they didn’t design from scratch does not mean they didn’t learn. And now, they’re hooked for the next year and perhaps are ready to take it up a notch.
Complainers, I see where you’re coming from. But this is a great tool for rookies and those struggling to get started.
Pro Chief Delphi Tip: Always search a thread for what you are about to write about! Searching “Legos” prevented me from making a fool of myself.
Oh man, as a motor nerd you hit a nerve here!
The WCP page lists 63:1 VP as a starting point that “should” be good as a starting point… but it’s definitely not optimal nor guaranteed to not fail a motor if too much load is on the carriage.
The JVN calc can be used by teams to determine a far more optimal ratio for their individual application.
It’s a problem - only if the leadership doesn’t handle it correctly. If you get paired with 2 unmoving robots in a match, it’s very easy for the first thought to be that your overall results were hurt by it. And if you’re a high performing robot normally, that one loss may take you out of the top seed and deny you the alliance that you think will win it all.
However, that’s just a part of life. If the leadership handles your competitions correctly you’ll be asking folks if they need help and giving it to them. I don’t mean to be preachy, but we’ve spent all day helping a non-moving rookie team get going. Even thought they were matched in an alliance going against ours. We’ve repeatedly given teams spare parts - and lost to them a match later. And you can’t beat the feeling you get when another team looks at you and says “Thank you, you made our event”.
So if the leadership of the team chimes in and starts commiserating with the complainers, then the entire atmosphere goes negative. If you’ve got a positive to focus on and can do it, or even if you use it as a lesson to teach your team members then it all becomes a net benefit and you can term it a win.
I’ve seen rookie teams lose every match at a regional and come out all smiles, and that lesson is one just about everyone can learn.
After re-visiting my original post I realized that I don’t get to determine what can or cannot inspire students. A single remark meant in good faith can be taken the wrong direction. Maybe this kind of product will inspire some of the students, and maybe some won’t. I really shouldn’t have taken this as seriously as I did, cause at the end of the day if I’m not creating as much of an impact as something that can be bought of a shelf than I’m not being a very good mentor. In the end I guess I am just hoping this isn’t the next mecanum wheel, where discussing it can lead to heated conversations, and attaching it to a robot causes some people to think less of you.
Given that you helped design this, would 63:1 work with the Greyt Elevator and Roller Claw combo?
Some quick maths in JVN Calc show that indeed it does work, at a motor current of under 20 amps. I suppose you could speed it up, but why bother? If it already works at a rate very close to optimal (which it does) then there’s really no reason to pick up JVN. Heaven knows few do as it is.
I’ve run the gamut of opinions while reading through and considering this thread.
My initial reaction, as a mentor of a low-funded rural team, was, “Oh boy - another way for the teams sponsored by huge corporations to gain an advantage that only money can buy.” But I digress.
Before this COTS Greyt Universal Cascade Elevator item was available, one of our students began to design an elevator using C-channel and custom wheels turned down from Harbor Freight casters. We’re going with that for our competition machine.
For the first time, however, we have enough spare parts and old robots to construct a second practice machine. To save fabrication time, we purchased a Competition Robot Parts COTS (notice I said COTS) roller set and a bunch of 1 x 2 tubing. By the time we’re done with gussets and brackets, it’s cost in time and material will be close to that of the Greyt item - which wasn’t available when we made our decision. So it goes.
Moreover, WCP has made the STP file for the Greyt elevator available. We have learned much viewing it, and we will certainly be incorporating some of its ideas in our designs. We are grateful that Adam and Greybots share their knowledge so freely.
So, in the end, I think it’s OK. There is still much that can be taught and learned even while using COTS items. It’s really up to the teams.
Your right teams finding the “Wisdom of FRC Mentors” elsewhere, when they cant find it locally, is a great thing. After all that is one of the reasons that chief delphi is awesome. However this isn’t a mentor answering questions and guiding students along the design process this is a mentor handing them a completed design.