Hands On FRC Design Training

Hey everyone,

I’m currently blanking out on ideas for newbie projects for their first week in FRC, and wanted to teach them the basics of design* in a week. How does your team introduce Design to newbies?

*basics of design entails that they learn the design process in a fun way and are able to actually make projects etc etc

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Prototyping using a prototyping system like Spectrum ProtoPipe, HypeBlocks, or Thrifty Blocks is a good intersection of hands on learning and design training. Using a prototyping system does a lot of heavy lifting so they can focus on what to build not how to build it. You can also use this as a vehicle to teach setting performance requirements and the importance of documentation.

I’ve heard of teams doing something similar but with Lego models instead.


Projects about anything. It doesn’t have to be robot related at all. It could be shopcart design project or a shelf project. Anything specific that your team might need. practicing designing these things separate from FRC can help introduce the design process that can be transferred to FRC.

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Right now, Im thinking of having like rudimentary things from middle school; bridge + boat workshops where they are able to create things that are able to take load. They would get 2 shots, brainstorming time etc etc, and this way they would learn how to iteratively think if that kinda makes sense?

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Do you think this would be good for a first week newbie? I was thinking extreme basic projects to introduce them to what it means to design in general, and then later on really focus on how to design specifically for FRC

small side note, but I really love your posts I’ve learned so much from ur replies

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Hmmm, this is a good point, this level of prototyping could be a bit advanced for a first week newbie. It’s more doable if you could pair new kids with experienced kids.

Some ideas:

  • Your ideas for a bridge/boat project have merit.
  • As I mentioned Legos or a similar style of small building systems
  • A project I did in 5th grade that stuck with me was making a small car out of tiny DC motors, a 9v battery, rubberbands, wheels + axels, and a styrofoam hot dog container for the structure
  • if you have a 3D printer there’s tons of ways you can leverage that!
  • Build the tallest tower with a single sheet of paper, a fixed length of tape, ect.
  • Egg drop contest
  • Mouse trap car races

Maybe research mechatronics class projects?

This website has some cool little projects.

Appreciate the kind words :blush:

Prototyping using a prototyping system like Spectrum ProtoPipe, HypeBlocks, or Thrifty Blocks is a good intersection of hands on learning and design training.

I’ve never used a prototyping system like this, is it a CAD library or a different system entirely?

The prototyping systems I listed are physical build systems created by members in the community to allow you quickly throw together subsystems for the purpose of prototyping. These systems typically use 3D printed components and box tubing/PVC pipe for structure.

Here’s some links:

I cannot recommend using a prototyping system like these strongly enough, particularly if your team is like mine and doesn’t have access to a laser cutter. It’s a absolute game changer! As an example, during the 2022 season we were quickly able to prototype multiple different conveyor configurations over the course of 2 weeks, compared to 2020 where we spent 2 weeks getting a single plywood conveyor prototype off the ground.

Here’s a few pictures from the 2022 season of our conveyor prototyping (using a combination of the HypeBlocks and TBB Blocks):


Just for reference: most times someone refers to “prototype”, it’s going to be a physical setup, often put together quickly, aimed at testing some specific aspect of a system.

Very rarely will someone do all their prototyping in CAD, because CAD can’t quite get all of the real-world effects. But it would be pretty common for CAD to say “we need this spacing” and build does a prototype around that and comes back with “actually it works better at [slightly adjusted spacing number]”.

I’d say that this would work well, but it would also be really cool to see their own parts come into fruitation later on, so they can actually see the results of their own work so I might use a 3dprinter for that later on. But as for egg drop / tallest tower I really like these iddeas, seeing how the failure teaches them how to iteratively think of ideas. I appreciate your response

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You could try asking them to build a 2D scaled ‘climber’ using paper clips, tacks, and paper. Cut out links and pin them together in such a way that a robot can move all the way up to the traverse bar. Fit the whole thing on a piece of cardboard or just a piece of paper! 4-bars, elevators, Dorito climbers, all are possible in 2D on a scaled drawing on a note book! (you could also use the 2013 pyramid)

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I’ve aways been a big fan of the ‘mock kickoff’.

Show your team a game reveal video and then get them to brainstorm designs for mechanisms or full robots to compete in that game.
These can be just sketches, or if you’ve got the resources they can begin on prototypes for the ideas they came up with.

You can pretty much choose any game, from any competition (FRC, FTC, VRC) and if you’re looking for a game without any existing robot designs check out the IR@H game design submissions.

This sounds like a good idea for a proof of concept idea…just i. feel liek this could come later on during the trainign season, not like a first thing.

I’ll save this idea for later during the training season, it would be perfeect for then. Thank you so much

There is also something to be said about just “building things” that are already designed well. While new students are not actively designing themselves, they are seeing the fundamental building blocks that go into creating a solid design. They are engaged with the machines used to create the prototype. They are also very involved, so you have a higher chance of retention.


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