How does your team train its design members (not rookies) sharpen their mechanical design skills?

How does your team help its design members gain practice? Are there any exercises and/or projects you do? For example, do you make robots based on old games?
Thanks in advance.

Edit: pre and off season practice, not during the season


This is something I’ve been working on with 1293, to an extent. Part of it is simply writing stuff down so we don’t forget it. Does it work? Ask me in May. :slight_smile:


We design and build a new robot every year, starting in January.

edit: We play around with robot projects a bit during the off season, mostly as something for team promotion to the public. but we don’t do anything like what I would consider exercises or projects, intended to teach our design members how to do stuff.


This is a reeaally cool document and I’m tempted to steal the idea so that we can keep building knowledge instead of answering the same questions to new freshmen. Thank you for sharing!!

Do it! It may have had one of our kids in tears because it was so helpful. (She has a tendency to be in tears or at least doubled over for silly things. But hey, scoreboard!)

We’ve started working on speculative prototypes during the off-season. The mechanisms will never be put directly on a competition robot (though we do mount them on our test chassis), but they are things that we think might have something to do with an upcoming season or with a design problem we’ve had in the past. Right now, the team is working on prototypes of a flywheel shooter and a double-articulation arm because we suspect that either (or both) may be the kind of things we’ll need to design in more specific terms for Infinite Recharge. It’s gives the sub-teams practice in design and building, neither of which is wasted even if we’re totally wrong in our speculations since all practice in good design is useful.

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Our current CAD designers are very good but largely self taught. They both work for one of our sponsors now designing CNC machines. As they are a senior and a junior this year the process of handing down that talent has been discussed. We had informal summer sessions where one of them taught several middle school students the basics of Fusion 360. Enough to lay out and laser cut some sheet metal parts. One of the now 8th graders is talented enough to warrant a “call up from the minors”. To get him ready he’s helping with an afterschool program designing widgets for 3D printing. As the season gets closer he’ll be assembling a CAD library that we can draw on during the first weeks of build. Our general theory on talent development has become “start them a year earlier”. But we have a good farm system in the middle school to draw from.


This does not apply to 1665

For 1665, pre-season and off-season doesnt exist.
We come out of the caves when it’s January, live through February and go back hibernating after March.


I suppose to strictly adhere to the (not rookies) part of the topic I should add that the ability to teach others what you know is among the best ways to sharpen your own skills.
I’ve warned the old hands that the Kids will surpass them just as the former newbies, now three and four year vets, surpassed me long ago…


If you want to learn about how a particular mechanism may work (like cams, linkages, or other things) you could check out design books online like the machinery’s handbook and design mini projects around it so you can better understand the math, physics, and design principles around it.

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The F4 Cadathon is a great way to not only sharpen your design skills, but to also learn how to design things quickly with a partner.


Do not bring acrylic or plexiglass into the shop. That stuff will crack or shatter, and we don’t need that negativity in our lives.

That’s a minty fresh quote right there.


I miss the spotlight feature.


I wish so much that i can stop this. If you look at our 2017 robot, anything that isn’t metal or wires is probably plexi. The electronics see through board on our 2018 is also plexi. And the stuff that holds the cargo, our electronics board, is, plexi.

I cannot convince my mentor enough to not use plexiglass.

Our bottom panel for protecting our electronics in 2017 was acrylic. It’s all we had left over at the time. We should have probably replaced it but it never became an issue.

You certainly can use acrylic on a robot, but for the most part teams should be using poly-carbonate.

The best way to get good at designing robots is to design a lot of robots, and the best way to get good at building robots is to build a lot of robots. We try to design two robots a year (1 preseason, 1 competition), and build three (1x preseason, 2x competition). Unfortunately, it’s hard to force students to practice this stuff since it takes so long. The ones who end up really killing it are the ones who design gearboxes and elevators and other robot bits in their free time. Generally speaking, if someone gets a personal project up to the point of being “almost ready,” then I’m happy to run a full design review and put some team resources into building it.


This, this, this, and this. Practice makes perfect, and honestly, if someone wants to be “good,” the season isn’t enough time for practicing. I cannot endorse side projects enough, no matter how silly they are. Apple launcher, pumpkin launcher, cat elevator (don’t hurt your cat please), compact drivetrain gearboxes, Power Racing Series, BattleBots, combat robotics, anything.

The same thing goes for software – I learned a ton creating a crappy TBA clone. I didn’t contribute anything useful to the world doing it, but I at least learned a lot about web servers, parallelism in Python, and databases. (I do recommend contributing to TBA instead, though…)


Practice, Practice, Practice.
I also agree with this

Literally pick up some out game piece cad build a robot around it. When you’re done, review it and iterate. Experiment with different ways of doing it rather than copying or making it the easiest/comfortable way you know how.

F4 Cadathons are fun, but it’s a big time crunch. It’s like 3 days. Do recommend though.


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