How to Learn Mechanics/Engineering

Hi, I am a freshman and I wanted to join my school’s robotics team but I missed the deadline to join the team. My friend, who is a Scout/Team Spirit member, told me about the different groups and I am most interested in joining the Mechanics team next year. The problem is I have no idea where to start. My afore-mentioned friend told me about this website so I decided to check here for help. What is the best way for me to learn enough about mechanics and engineering by myself so I can have a good base to join next year?

Thanks in advance!

First, I would double check with the team’s mentors to REALLY be sure it’s too late. Kickoff isn’t for another month, and generally teams are accepting of kids up to that point, especially those who have a desire to learn, and even moreso if they’re willing to put themselves out on chiefdelphi. I understand not all teams are the same, but it would be worth an e-mail.

Second, if you’re interested in design/engineering, there are quite a few good resources out there. I like the FUNdaMENTALS of design from MIT: . There are powerpoints and video lectures from a really good professor. The lectures aren’t too advanced (especially the first couple) and focus on design intent. There are actually ties to the origins of the FIRST Robotics program (MIT 2.70/2.007 class). Knowing some of the basics in that course can put you miles ahead of many veteran students (and some mentors for that matter :stuck_out_tongue: ).

Exploring, particularly the math and physics sections in the high school portion can give you good background knowledge you’ll need for the more advanced sections of the FUNdaMENTALS series, particularly the sections involving forces and loads. But really, in the video lectures, he tries to develop intuition over exactness, which can be very beneficial, and I would skip ahead if things are getting too advanced. Good luck!

I know some FRC teams have put out powerpoints and other things on chief delphi and elsewhere about relevant mechanical concepts. However, I was wondering the same thing when it comes to more advanced concepts like stress and strain. I think a lot of that comes from talking to your team’s mentors and asking for help with those concepts, especially if they are engineers who apply mechanical engineering on a daily basis.

If you begin to understand FIRST and the engineering side, I would hope that they let you join, but if worse comes to worse, their mechanical team would most likely be doing CAD. Download Autodesk Inventor to begin designing parts, and also look up youtube videos of FIRST content such as robot reveals, FIRST documentaries, and design videos to show you how to design a bot. Also, begin designing household objects in CAD and begin to expand your knowledge of FIRST, robotics, and design.

Hope this helps!! If you need any other help getting started, let me know I would be happy to help.:smiley:

Honestly, the fact that you have a passion and desire to learn, AND you went out of your way to go to ChiefDelphi and post here, I think any team would happily reconsider the deadline for that. I can’t speak for your schools team, but the deadlines we make for signing up are because it takes several several weeks to even get kids in the correct mindset to learn and prepare for the season, but you seem ahead of the game already. Like others, I’d say talk to the mentor about it, and tell him you are serious. FRC is the experience of a lifetime, and missing even one year kinda sucks. If that fails, see if there are any community teams around you that you can join. I hope to see you as a FIRSTer in the near future!

Really, it’s not all that uncommon for a team to be decided and locked in well before kickoff. We pretty much have our team together in May or June for the following January. In the 6 months between, we have over 100 hours of training and practice. We would never consider taking a student to join our team this late, and I don’t blame any team that has a similar policy. There are reasons.

To the OP, you took the right first step by posting here. Many of my students who have been on the team in a prior year STILL don’t read these forums, much less post to them.

We shut down accepting applications two days ago for the 2018 season. We’re starting to dial in jobs and such-like for the build–and applications have been available since the end of September.

On to the main topic…

–Pay attention in physics, or related science work. Projectile physics plays into a lot of FRC games somehow.
–Hang around someone who does a lot of DIY projects. Do a few yourself, too. Someone who can use hand tools safely is an automatic benefit to a team, because that’s one less thing you have to be taught.

Also, ask the leadership if you can stop by during build, on a limited basis. If you can play the role of “outside reviewer” it’ll help the team a LOT. (Basically, all you’re doing here is asking “Why did you do it this way/What is your reasoning?” and if they come back with anything that shows they haven’t thought about it, ask “are you sure?”) It’s actually better if you aren’t on the team for that role because you won’t know this stuff, and they’ll have a chance to find out just how silly some decisions might be.

One other thing that may help: Read the rules of the game, and make sure to show up to support the team at their competitions–if your friend doesn’t know when those are, they’ll be able to find out.

+1 to the “don’t give up this year as a lost cause”. Don’t do this in an e-mail - figure out who the person is who can make (or at least recommend) adding you to the team at a late date, and make an in-person appeal. Passion is incredibly easy to misread (whether up or down) in a text/email medium. 3946 did tryouts in September, but have accepted three new members since then, the latest yesterday.

There are scads of power points and videos available through Chief Delphi and other media to help you learn the basics of FRC-specific design. As an example, let me shamelessly plug my own. CD has a great search function if you can figure out the right key words to search - don’t forget to search the white papers on CD-media as well as the forum posts!

After you’ve been through a few, look up the “JVN calculator.” This spreadsheet goes through calculations for a bunch of different motors, multi-stage and shifting gearboxes, and applies them to drive trains, rotating arms, lift racks, and a bunch of other situations. John Von Neun intended these as a canned way to put stuff in a spreadsheet and see what it would do - and it’s great at that! If you really want to learn this stuff “on your own”, start looking at the formulas in his spreadsheet, and figure out what they’re doing – THAT will lead to understanding. And when you hit something you just can’t find on search and in your own experience, ask a specific question on Chief Delphi, and be amazed at the speed that the answers start pouring in.

Oh - as you use CD to do your searches, check out the spotlighted posts at the top of the page. Whenever you aren’t on a specific mission, click through to the post - you’ll learn such wonderful things about the history of FRC, at least back to around 2003 or so, when CD appears to have really become a forum for all of FRC.

As aforementioned, many teams have resources on design. As far as FRC goes, understanding strategic design (designing optimally for the given game) is more easily understood initially and is essential to being an effective mechanical designer later, and I recommend starting there.
I was in the same place as you only a few years ago, here are some of the teams’ resources that I would highly recommend.
“Steal from the best, invent the rest” I believe originated from 1678 (or let me know if I’m wrong there) and it holds very true in FRC

I think that planning this far ahead of time is not an inclusive method of recruiting for a FRC team. Yes, a student added to the team a month or two before kickoff may have not gotten the same amount of “training” but this should not force them to wait an entire year to get involved in FRC. There should be plenty of things for these late bloomers to do on the team and be involved. I encourage all teams to accept highly motivated students all the way up to kickoff.

Kudos to the OP for seeking how to improve in order to join the team next year.

I’m in agreement with Sandrag that a lot of training goes into a new team member, so maybe you could ask the team if you could hang with them at a local competition and then join the team next year.

Here is a list training things I have collected over time.

The RSN Behind the Lines series is terrific.

Prof. Ken Stafford’s videos on DC motors are also terrific

The motherload of training material

NEFIRST University - Drivetrains 2016
NEFIRST University - COTS 2014
FRC558 Training - Kickoff Overview
FRC558 Training - Pneumatics
FRC2168 Training - Drivers Manual Training_8.22.11.pdf

Game Analysis Process.docx


1678 build videos

Course Material for Summer Robotics Micro-Degree
Class 1: Design Process
Class 2: CAD (OnShape)
Class 3: Nuts and Bolts
Class 4: Mechanical Engineering
Class 5: Mechanisms
Class 6: Electrical Engineering
Class 7: Project Planning

How to work with Lexan Polycarb

Prototyping by Chris Picone

I sent you a pm maybe if your local we love for you to join our team if possible