Congratulations on joining FRC. It is great to see another team in Western Canada.
You are probably already aware of the veteran FRC 1482 team at Bishop Grandin high school in Calgary, but did you know that there was also a team from Red Deer’s (Team 1870) Hunting Hills High School for several years? Queen Elizabeth also ran a team many years ago.
<edit> Just realized you listed team affiliation as 1482… so you’re definitely aware of them! I figure there must be close to 14 CIMs and a couple dozen speed controllers kicking around Bishop Grandin school by now. I was going by your “pre-rookie” team description, but if you’re affiliated with 1482 then you’re already off to a great start. </edit>
You may find local veteran support (and spare parts) from those organizations.
You will also be pleased to know that McMaster is quite happy to ship to Canada, as are AndyMark, IFI robotics (or VEXPro, as they call their product line now), Banebots, robotshop.ca and pretty much everyone else. You’ll pay a brokerage fee at the border, and a premium on shipping, but you are still miles ahead of where we had a sixty-cent dollar! (And many kilometers ahead of our friends, overseas, who have a significant issue with regards to shipping parts and robots, or even getting permission for team members to come to competitions. In most of the world you can’t find a 1/4-20 bolt, or #8-32 screw for instance!)
Princess Auto is great for a lot of things… chain, sprockets and such, but rarely did I find great stuff for the robots there other than that. Even their sprockets tend to be a bit heavy and we’ve either ordered aluminum ones on-line or machined our own. (Your local university or technical institute may very well have a water jet cutter ideal for such a purpose.)
You are right that six chassis will get very expensive, even with a modular control system. It took our team six or seven years before we finally started to build good, cheap, light, robust drivetrains that really made me happy.
There is more information on it here http://www.chiefdelphi.com/media/photos/35536
There is no reason that you can’t use wood for wheels… I’d go with plywood, but if you want to get fancy… http://www.chiefdelphi.com/media/photos/22924 (like those Maple bearing blocks, too, eh?)
Perhaps rather than building six chassis, what you might want to consider is building just two or three robots and diverting some of the time and energy into building a few virtual chassis using Autodesk Inventor (or similar modelling software). The ability to rapidly model a robot in Inventor has saved our team a lot of nightmares. It took us a few years to clue in to just how valuable that ability is… there is a reason Boeing and GM and all those industry people do it, you know!
Good luck and have fun.