[MCC] Minimum Competitive Concept 2014

Isaac Rife “IKE” usually posts up a thread like this once a year or so. I think its a pretty interesting thought exercise.
MCC 2013
MCC 2012
MCC 2011

To borrow his words:
*Each year I am amazed by what teams come up with to compete in FRC. Teams have a ton of wonderful ideas and some even see good execution of those ideas.
I would like this thread to focus on the “Minimum Competitive Concept” for a robot for 2014. It is often easy to identify all the possible tasks you could have a robot do. Prioritizing those tasks, and realizing it in the form of a competitive robot is in my opinion much more impressive.

If you haven’t watched the Simbotics Strategy Presentation, please do before responding to this thread. Especially review the “Golden Rules 1&2”.

Assumptions are that one of the primary goals of the MCC is to play in elims (not necessarily win on Einstein), and your team has mid-pack to lower fabrication resources.
Please list your assumptions, strategy to seed high, estimate of a winning score, and what robot design elements would achieve this score.*

I’ll toss my two cents in later.

Cheers, Bryan

It’s been a few months since the thought of last season’s MCC has come to mind, but it’s definitely a slightly trickier one this year. At just about every event, the most desirable robots (at least, in my opinion/experience) were the best, simple, inbounders which, I’d say meet the goal of an MCC. A simple intake in/out that can be achieved by rookie teams and just about all teams. Two excellent examples in New England were rookie teams 4908 and 5112 (unfortunately I don’t have a picture). Two simple, effective inbounders that were able to be competitive with 5112 captaining an alliance at RIDE.

One team we had the opportunity to work with was 4909 the Billerica Bionics this past year. They were a small team for their first season but they really understood those “Golden Rule” concepts and really ran with a robot design of their own. A picture of their robot is here where they have a spring loaded claw that can move forward outside their frame perimeter to collect balls and bring them back inside their robot. They had a consistent autonomous from the start of the season that drove forward and spit into the low goal. During the match they assisted with their partners and were strongest at quickly picking up the ball and depositing it into the low goals. At the Granite State District they had the second highest assist points (rank 15 & first pick by the 7th seed) and at the WPI District they had the most assist points (rank 4 & captains of the 3rd alliance).

It was a very strong, consistent robot and well built for a team in their first season using minimal in house resources and readily available kit components.

The MCC for this year in my mind should undoubtedly go to 5288 (after their modifications for elims). Solid driving and a system that can quickly catch the ball from a HP and pass it out is all any team needs to be an extremely helpful alliance partner in either quals or elims.

That being said though, I would probably never encourage a team to build a robot like this. For whatever reason, most alliance selectors tend to pick robots that are bad at doing the “primary” task over teams that do other tasks exceptionally well and don’t do the “primary” task at all. I would therefore be extremely nervous about going all-in on a design like 5288’s, since it could be difficult to show off in quals and we might not get picked because other teams do not realize our potential to be a beneficial partner.

The assumptions: First, assuming that most robots have some form of functional shooter. Second, assuming most robots may have trouble with intakes or shooters from time to time, with some types needing more help than others. Third, assuming that 66% or more of the time this robot will be playing defense; the remaining 33% will be taking defensive hits. Fourth, assume that a reliable automode–or adaptability to partners’ automode(s)–is important.

To seed high: Score one ball in auto, high or low. Reliably inbound the ball and immediately dump it to a partner that can shoot accurately. Play shutdown defense. Wash, rinse, repeat. In absence of said accurate partner, dump to someone that can drop in the low goal quickly, and revert to defense.

MCC: Robot with a strong drivetrain, a quick-acting acquisition device, and a reasonable target for inbounding. For a slightly more advanced MCC, add a shooter capable of making it into the high goal. (I would not necessarily rate a shooter as a requirement–the assists are more important–but if you run into a pair of BLT robots on your alliance, it’s nice to get 10 points as opposed to one as your base.)

I actually have a robot in mind for MCC, believe it or not. And it’s a rookie team that’s been in FTC for a few years now, with a couple of members off of the team I currently mentor. FRC5124 sported a 2-wheel-over-fork pickup device that could function as an output, an accurate 1-ball automode, and a shooter with enough power and accuracy to score… but dat surgical tubing do. They also played killer defense. Take off the shooter and you’ve got a low-goal assist specialist.

The absolute minimum would be a kit bot with a surgical tubing trampoline on top of it. This robot, which could have been built in a weekend, should be picked at eliminations at most regionals and likely all districts.

Or a lawn chair. 687 was the 9th pick at LA this year with a [strike]kit bot drive train[/strike] COTS drivetrain and a lawn chair strapped to the top for inbounding.

In many cases, teams could effectively get assists by merely trapping the ball against the wall. In that case, MCC becomes the bare minimum for a desirable drivetrain, combined with reliability, and intelligent drivers capable of heavy yet penalty-free defense.

In fact, at the Missouri State Fair (a 2v2 event with a shorter field, mind you), our practice bot broke both it’s shooter and collector just before Finals 3. Neither us nor 2164 shot a ball in autonomous, and Teleop amounted to us playing defense while 2164 shot trusses and scored 1s. That was until the last 10 seconds where we broke off of defense to push a ball into the low goal for the winning score.

Now let’s be honest, 8 Wheel 6CIM dual speed drivetrains may be a bit out of the price range of many teams. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see well-geared single speed 6CIM or 4CIM kitbots or drive-in-a-day bots with good drivers capable of smart, penalty-free defense be incredibly high picks at a regional. So long as they can trap or push for assists, and shut down some high powered offensive bots, they’re a huge credit to their alliance.

5136’s robot was very minimal, yet made it onto alliances at CVR, Newton (1678/1114/1640’s 3rd pick), and Chezy Champs. They used a kitbot drive base and had a simple intake and blocker pole. They played really smart and knew what to do during matches. Their simplicity was a strong point that made them a very reliable robot.

Their drive was a 6-cim 2 speed milled WCD on vexpro traction wheels IIRC. About as COTs as 254’s, except for the gearboxes.

I thought that the frame was COTS too but honestly it doesn’t matter. A kit bot drive train with their driver would have done just as good. Their decision to remove the top part of the bot that wasn’t working at LA was an example of great outside of the box thinking and a gutsy call. They showed that the minimum design to be a competitive team this year involved more match strategy and quick thinking rather than robot design (and they were a finalist at Las Vegas after they got the top half working).

And lots of ballast!

Bingo. Even pre-goalie pole, they were the perfect compliment to a finishing robot, and were our next choice after 973 at CVR. A reliable COTS drive, simple but effective intake, ability to easily human load without fumbling the ball, and well practiced drive team made for a great #2 or 3 at any Regional or district, and a solid #3 or 4 at Champs.

Not quite, may want to check that seeding order.

Thanks for the kind words. I’m very proud of what our team was able to accomplish given the circumstances, though frankly it was pretty shocking finding all this out from the other side of the state. (Alumni problems, I suppose. :p)
To set the record straight regarding our drive train: It was supposed to be a COTS VersaChassis WCD (much like Team Copioli’s), but due to extended shipping delays we had to machine the tubing ourselves and lathe out some spacers to use #35 sprockets/chain instead of belts/pulleys.

In all honestly, the MCC for most events in 2014 would simply be great drivers and the ability to receive from the human player.

When 1712 prioritized our design, the ability to pass significantly outranked the ability to truss (which outranked the ability to score in the high goal). During our subsequent design and brainstorming processes, we didn’t arrive at a shooter/intake geometry that would allow us to have the level of passing ability we desired before our downselect, so we opted not to shoot. In the end, that ended up generally working in our favor. We arrived at a single-intake design with a significant area to catch the ball (particularly useful for inbounding, but occasionally for catching trusses as well) driven by a 6-CIM 6WD with versa wheels. We were selected at all three of our events, including MAR Championship. Being able to score easily in the 1-pt goal was definitely a benefit as well (we quite often were the finisher on our alliances, including in two of our elimination alliances), and a consistent 16 point autonomous was quite useful.

The “whatever reason” is poor scouting. In my experience, any team that significantly contributes will be noticed by the teams with solid scouting and good match strategy. I think making a robot that forgoes “primary” tasks and does other tasks well is a great build strategy. You will probably be ignored by the captains with poor scouting (whom you generally don’t want to partner with anyway) and you can be noticed by the ones that scout and pick strategically.
And you can always make sure you are noticed by talking to the teams that will be in a position to pick. I have been on a high seeded team a number of times - never once did I have a team come to me to discuss their value as a 3rd partner. Any team that would commit to working with our strategy and could demonstrate their ability to do it would leap up my pick list.


MCC 2014 - kitbot, pneumatic actuated roller bar intake that allows spitting out.

Robot could gain mobility bonus in auton and score in low goal.

Robot could also be valuable inbounder and then harry the other alliance as they attempt to score.

With clever play this robot could have seeded quite high due to the importance of assist points. As such I’ve prioritized driver practice over any sort of trussing capability. However, it will be hampered by the serpentine at small events where it can’t pick up a solid trusser as a third.

In other words…

I agree with these posts completely. It’s amazing (although some people might use other words here…) to think that a team could assemble a kit bot drivetrain, stick a lawn chair on it, and have a robot that would be a contender for a blue banner at most local events, ahead of many teams who spent six weeks building active mechanisms.