Hatches on the floor? Was it worth the ability to pick them up off the floor?


Based on our experience this weekend, floor pickup of both hatches and balls isn’t needed… until it is. Let me explain. All of the following is based on the assumption that your floor pickup isn’t lightening fast.

Everything in this game is about fast cycle times. Usually, running to the feeder station for both balls and hatches is faster than picking them up from the floor. But, there are lots of common circumstances that change this calculus. Here are three common ones:

  1. Balls block access to the feeder station. Many bots require the robot to be flush to the wall to get hatches or balls. It is quite common that the pile of balls ends up blocking the feeder station. The first time I took note of this was when a robot plowed through the pile during sandstorm, pushing it in front of the feeder station and slowing down their own alliance. Balls in front of the feeder station can easily make it quicker to pick up from the floor rather than clearing the balls to get to the station. (Full disclosure: Before being reminded it was illegal, I thought pushing the balls there would be a valid defensive strategy. It still happens regularly in the natural course of gameplay, though.)

  2. Your partners get in the way. Even with the best deconfliction plan, if there are 3 bots and 2 feeders, at some point you will be waiting on your partner to get out of the station for you to get a gamepiece. A good field coach will be looking ahead to see if the feeder station is open, and if not, telling their drive team to get gamepieces from the floor rather than waiting.

  3. Defense bots get in the way. An efficient defense strategy is to slow down access to one of the feeder stations. That forces 3 robots to use just 1 feeder station, rather than 2, drastically increasing cycle times for that alliance if they don’t have floor pickup bots. This is even more effective if the feeder station you are blocking is the one the fastest cycling bot would prefer to be using.

Floor pickup doesn’t need to be faster than feeder station retrieval. It just needs to increase your cycle times when access to the feeder station isn’t assured. You just need to remember to use that capability, if you have it, when it’s wise to do so.


That kinda’ eases my belly a little. I am one of “those mentors” that hands off the design, construction to the team while managing the logistics of the build. I will sit down, have a cold drink (a real cold drink) with the team and kick around what they think is most important, put into a decision matrix and have them make the desicion as to overall strategy. I then back off throughout the build process, just making recommendations and referring technical questions to our engineer mentors. It still makes me a bit uneasy until we hit the floor for our first several matches. I guess I’m just living la vida loca vicariously. That’s why I love being a teacher/coach/mentor. FRC truly isn’t just about the robots.


We initially designed our hatch panel mechanism to pick up off the floor. We regretted not being able to pick up gears off the floor in 2017. However attempting to use the same mechanism for floor loading and feeder station meant that it was, at best, mediocre at both. So we are redesigning to be more reliable on the feeder station and forgoing floor load. After watching week one, it seems like a good call. Hatch panels aren’t like gears because you don’t have to cross the field to get them. It’s not like they’re in short supply, and the feeder station is right there. I guess you might run into feeder station congestion, but that will probably only be an issue later on in the season, and by that point teams probably won’t be dropping many hatch panels.

However cargo floor pickup seems like a must. There’s real potential for cycle time reduction. Case and point: 118 soloing the rocket, in part due to the human player rolling cargo towards the rocket. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUoXfv0BPZ0


It would be pretty sweet to be able to pick up the occasional hatch that was dropped in an attempt to score it. If it’s your ally that dropped it, you can swing over there and pick it up and score it while they go to the opposite end and grab another game piece from the feeder station area. It’s just a nice setup to be able to do it that way. It saves on time and feeder station congestion. If you dropped the hatch, in theory you can save a few seconds by picking it back up instead of going all the way back for another hatch. I see the ability as an incremental benefit, and those types of things can swing a close match.


After competing in a Week 1 event, my opinion is still the same. Picking up hatches off the floor is definitely worth having. For our design, there wasn’t much compromise in our final design in order to have this feature.
We had to pick up off the floor near the feeder station and the rockets quite a bit throughout the competition and the time savings was huge.
Our best example was match 55 of the Del Mar regional. Watch towards the end when we get the ranking point for filling up the rocket.


Any idea how this was done? The human player isn’t visible in the video.


No clue if there was any special technique. It appears that they drop them through the feeder station and they naturally bounce in the general direction of the rocket.


In order of importance for hatches:

  1. Grab a hatch, own a hatch
  2. Placing hatches on rocket (for rocket RP)
  3. Placing hatches on cargo ship
  4. Picking up hatches from loading station
  5. Picking up hatches from floor

After week 1 I still see that teams need to work on #1, #3 and #4.


Yes, I do have an idea. I came up with the methodology for our team. But I’m afraid its a trade secret… Don’t worry. Someone else will give it away.


Thanks…we’ve got the system, the method down but was just wondering if it was worth it since we’ve not played yet. I guess it’s one of those great unknowns…lolz


Our floor pickup just helped cushion the weaknesses of our hatch mechanism. I could see us using it only once or twice at ventura after we itterate a few more times.


I agree completely. We quite literally picked up more than a dozen hatches in our Gibraltor matches. My only caution is that if you didn’t design your robot with a floor pickup in mind, improving your wall pickup should be a much greater priority. Teams are drastically underestimating the amount of force it takes to remove a hatch from the wall. In addition, some are turning a bit as they try to pull them out. You absolutely CAN not turn while doing this, because it can hook the hatch edge back behind the feeder slot.

We have enough force in our hatch grabber that it actually flexes the hatch while we hold it. And I wouldn’t want an once less.


Certainly worth it for us. However, you have to keep the scoring allay clear. That was hard!


Having watched a few events I would say it is 100 percent worth it. There were dropped hatches that would block robots from getting to the station to grab them as there were many dropped hatches there. Additionally if you do not have to go as far to grab them, and spend as much time lining up, that would greatly reduce cycle time.


I’m still of the opinion that picking hatches off the floor is nice to have…not need to have.

It’s not 2017 where the hatches can be fed to the floor through the loading station…you/someone has to drop the hatch for it end up on the floor this year.

I think vision assisted hatch-loading station bots will end up cycling plenty fast for every level of competition this year.

Picking up cargo from the floor is a must have this year I feel, but not hatches.


Had one designed and fabricated on the practice robot, never put it on the comp bot at Northern Lights this weekend. Don’t see us ever putting it on. The space it took up will be used for something else we noticed might help us be faster at cycling hatches instead.


If your robot doesn’t drop them, and you’re the only one playing on one side of the field, then I don’t see there being any use for floor pickup. But if you are dropping them all the time, sure, it would be nice to be able to pick them up. Then again, would it just make sense to build a better gripper?


If the way you are picking it up is by velcro, it may or may not be worth it. We have velcro. We never used it. If the pickup is something like 118 or 694, then i would keep it.


We have a floor pickup for hatch panels and it was a benefit in a couple of our matches when other robots were taking time at the loading station and there was one on the field. It turns out that it nicely doubles as a Hab 2 climbing device as well.


We competed Week 2 and picking up hatches helped. Helped with the congestion at the feeder station and any little time saved in this game is going to help. It’s only the end of week 2 and we are already seeing many close matches. We saw in some of our matches that 1 second was the difference in a win, as well as the climb ranking point.