Introducing the EWCP FRC Research Agenda

EWCP - About would be a solid place to start.

I coulda sworn we had a History page at one point, guess that’s a todo.

Short version - a group of folks got together a while ago to talk robots and build more competitive ones. Then that went off and did a podcast for a few years, a few blogs, and most recently a scholarship. This is the latest effort to help push towards a world with better STEM opportunities.

As a general rule, with the exception of board of directors, we haven’t published member lists. Not out of any intention to be secretive just simply because I’m not sure there’s a point.

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just looking through the website, I noticed that the wiki requires a login to access it – is it still under development?

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I’ve always wanted to build an instrumented dyno…

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Good criticism! The project is meant to support efforts to uncover knowledge that, once uncovered, will better equip all teams. The project is not directly meant to help teams be competitive in the near term.

Some good examples from FRC history of things that have advanced the field, despite not immediately helping most teams play after lunch, include:

  • Chris Hibner’s “How to make sure your robot will turn” Ian MacKenzie’s Drive Train Kinematics
  • Ether’s kinematic derivations of swerve and omnidirectional control theory
  • 234’s drivetrain testing
  • 2363’s measurement of the adder for exact c-c #25 chain spacing

It’s a good point that we should prioritize agenda items that have the potential to help most teams. This is the major reason to develop a research agenda: to create a forum where we can rank certain lines of inquiry above others. We hope to flesh out each item with a description of

  • what the actual problem statement is
  • why a solution is desired
  • who it will benefit and how
  • why it’s possible to solve now

An apparent focus on optimization might show our limited creativity in developing the research agenda so far. Or… (And I dont think this is the case) it might show that there’s generally less unsolved problems out there. The examples I gave above (from a landmark 2003 whitepaper to a 2018 CD post) shows a trend of narrowing scope and a shift of focus from theory to empirical measurement.

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I think this is THE fundamental example of a paper that did immediately help teams play after lunch. It wasn’t bleeding edge teams that weren’t turning.

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I’ll disagree on both counts…

  1. “How to make sure your robot will turn” was just the memorable alternate title of a paper actually called Drive Train Basics, which established a baseline understanding of the traction forces on a drivetrain.
  2. Einstein teams were struggling to turn in those days. E.g. 469 2003 in this semifinals match: https://youtu.be/vnwl31zoAPI

My point to Adam is that research that advances our community does not necessarily need to be immediately helpful to most teams. If it does, that’s great!

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  1. Regardless of which title you prefer, the paper was aimed at helping increase a fundamental knowledge of drivetrains. It was mostly effective at helping borderline teams, such as my own, create more effective drivetrain solutions.
  2. 469 didn’t “struggle to turn” because of drivetrain issues. Watch their turn in autonomous, it was butter smooth. Their driving in tele-op is the result game design and strategy. They’re on the red side of the field, trying to defend the red stacks without pushing any totes out of the red zone. 341 flips, and 175 is initially on the blue side. 469 begins crossing over the ramp to blue when 175 comes under the bar to red. 469 attempts to return to red to save their stacks, but navigating thru the field of crates is not easy work. 175 doesn’t have to particularly care about navigating carefully thru red, as their goal is to descore totes. The game design that year inherently led to teams have to maneuver apprehensively on their side of the field. Visibility was also a concern (particularly on the far side of fields). To steal a phrase from 341, “we knew where we were by watching the trail of destruction among totes on the far side.”

If you want to reference a paper from roughly that era that was aimed more at bleeding edge teams, Ian MacKenzie’s Drive Train Kinematics would be a far better example.

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I don’t know what the right answer is to help lower performing teams (but I’ve been trying to figure it out)… Much easier to say what it isn’t.

Cool stuff for the sake of science, engineering and/or its own sake is cool, but isn’t it.

  • Chris Hibner’s “How to make sure your robot will turn” Ian MacKenzie’s Drive Train Kinematics
  • Ether’s kinematic derivations of swerve and omnidirectional control theory
  • 234’s drivetrain testing
  • 2363’s measurement of the adder for exact c-c #25 chain spacing

Agreed on the impact of the first and how it lead to the popularization of the various standards of 6wd’s, but I don’t think the rest of had much of an impact on most teams.

Blockquote Increasing the cutting edge doesn’t help many teams short term, but those innovations can eventually benefit a much larger number of teams down the road. Take trajectory planning for example, which was pretty cutting edge not that long ago and was only used by a few teams. Those few teams and some developers found a way to package it in a more approachable form, and now we have tools like pathweaver which are very accessible and commonly used.

I have an unscientific estimate that less than 15% (edited up from 5% after some very loose math) of teams effectively use the paths.

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My unscientific estimate is that this season meant we finally had enough programming time to make use of them (after past seasons of being disappointed by other trajectory things not working out for us).

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My even more unscientific estimate is that usage has increased a good bit higher than 5% given that almost weekly/daily there is some active thread where a team is trying to use path planning/frc-char. I assume by the end of the season they will be “effectively use paths”.

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15% translates to hundreds of teams, which is far more than the handful of teams that were using it a few seasons ago. I’d expect that number to continue to increase in future seasons too.

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Research for the sake of research, regardless of outcomes has value. 900 doesn’t use ROS for it’s competitive advantage but because they seem to enjoy the process and outcomes of using it - I’m not saying I understand them, but sometimes the point is the process.

I’m going to cherry pick some research topics that potentially could impact more than the top 10%:
DSTR.02 Tripped breaker performance degradation - Should there be a standard practice around replacing breakers? What should it be. Personally I’m unaware if my team should be replacing breakers.
CAN.01 CAN wire joinery impedance Is there a best way to extend my CAN lines?
PNEU.03 Performance impact of tubing size Pneumatics, from my non-mechanical perspective, are mostly “we do it this way because we do?” Adding some “here is why” could help teams.
AWD.01 WFA word frequency analysis I’m super biased because I put in a lot of time to collect and present WF(F)A essays and I want a word cloud.

I guess I’m not sure what goal you’re trying to reach. “No don’t do something on your own time for free because maybe it won’t benefit everyone” is an interesting take.

Is this an argument with wording? Should EWCP ditch their justification and say “yeah we just want to science” or… ?

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Re: pneumatics

I don’t remember the equation off the top of my head, but iirc the rate of flow between two areas of different pressure is inversely proportional to the cross sectional area of the opening (so the tubing diameter), meaning larger tubing will always lead to faster flow, but the flip side of that is you need more air to ensure the pressure stays relatively close to where you wanted (since pressure and volume are inversely proportional, and as tubing size goes up so does volume)

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I’m not really sure what point I’m making anymore, I mistakenly assumed the intention was more of an outreach versus research program.

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Mixture of things.

When dealing with all volunteer organizations you do have to play to the interests of the workforce. Some of these topics are just what people want to play with. We don’t currently have the ability to distribute grants on specific topics of value.

Second - there’s some level of behavior modeling. By approaching frc scale problems with a research mindset and approach it models behaviors for students to help understand that area of STEM.

That being said - your comments sparked quite the internal discussion about communicating goals more effectively and evaluating what we do for communal good or for our own interest.

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I’d like to see someone put an oscilloscope on star vs. bus CAN to see signal degredation. Even better would be getting SNR vs. Frequency.

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Me too! I encourage you to submit a PR to add this agenda item.

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It would also be good to have some sort of software to monitor the number of dropped packets and resends etc.

Noise effects are non-linear. Often, no significant effects are observed until the noise crosses some threshold level.

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Ideally figuring out where that threshold is for dropped packets vs SNR would be nice, even a ballpark. That combined with signal integrity data would tell people how much headroom they have with star networks.

I’ll submit a PR tonight.

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Can individuals donate to sponsor research? Is EWCP a real non-profit?

What can I get done for $100?

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