Most Impressive/Advanced/Unique/Cool drivetrain you've ever seen

Post a pic/link of the most Impressive, Advanced, Unique, or Cool drive system you have ever seen. Also write a couple comments about why you think it is so good. Please nobody post their own, we all already know each of ours is the best.

Well, at Peachtree I saw a pretty cool robot from Austen High School (Alabama). I think it was four wheel drive and the back to wheels actually turned. I think it was rack and pinion steering in the back. Very small turning radius. Maybe it was just me that thought it was cool. I don’t have a picture, sorry.

After seeing what 116 looked like this year, I’m a fan! It just looks awesome to me…very…out of this world? :rolleyes: Anywho, here’s the link. Can’t wait to see it in action at IRI!

Beatty 2002-awesome idea, completely dominant
SPAM 2002-crazy fast, and super powerful
25 2003-fast as heck. Fit their strategy perfectly
33 2004-Autoshifting 4 speed. Need I say more?

I have to say I was impressed by S.P.A.M. 180, team 65 and team 45’s drive trains. I also noticed the unique wheels on team 207. And, of course, who could forget the chain stuffed omni drive of 118 Robonauts robot Chainzilla?

Pictures please, if you can.

i agree with cory 2003 team 25s drive train was insanely fast and very powerful pretty much unstopable that was the most dominant drive ive seen. i like the 22/60/254 drive they all had a great base that was very quick with power but as insane as 25’s 2003 robot it is a nice drive tho.

Team 71 in 2002

The file cards were an ingenious way of turning The Beast into an unmovable object. They slowly pushed through any obstacle on their way to the endzone. In one match (Newton SF2), they took three 90 lb goals, and two 120 lb robots (67 & 68) and dragged them into the endzone.

The file cards proved to be so effective at gaining traction, that FIRST outlawed them the following year. (Also because they had a habit of damaging the carpet)

Team 857 in 2002

At this point in history Omniwheels were a rarity, and holonomic drive was completely unheard of. The Kiwi drive turned heads across the country as news of it spread. A true innovation.

Team 45 in 2003 – Not their competition bot

The “Ball Drive”. This drive system was similar to a traditional computer mouse. Probably the most unique drivetrain I’ve ever seen, up until Team 116 this past season.

Team 111 in 2002

The most common complaint about “swerve” drive systems, is the lack of traction. Well, here’s a simple solution. Why not add a drop down tank drive? This gave Wildstang the maneuverability from the swerve modules, and the ability to push with the tank drive. The fact that they crammed all this plus a ball pickup system into 120 lbs. of robot is beyond me. One of the best feats I’ve ever seen in FIRST.

Team 157 in 1999

This unique 8 wheel drive system allowed 157 to glide onto the 1999 puck with ease. The drove over the puck as if it wasn’t even there.

All these pictures, and many more can be found at .

Just one minor clarification, but it might be more correct to say “Omniwheels were a rarity in the FIRST community.” This is not to take anything away from 857 or any of the other early adopters of omnidirectional drive systems. But omnidirectional drives, holonomic drives, and Mecanum have been around for quite a while. The patent for Mecanum wheels (also known as “Swedish wheels”) goes back to the 1970s. They were developed by Bengt Ilon, an engineer for the Swedish company Mecanum AB (one paper describing some of the early Mecanum wheel history and designs can be found here). The Navy used them on commercially-purchased cargo handling systems in the 1980s. Orthogonal holonomic drive systems were first developed in the 1980s. “Killough Platform Drives” were developed by Steve Killough in the early 1990s, based on the early omnidirectional holonomic drive work he did at Oak Ridge National Labs in 1991-1992.

There have been some truly unique “first ever, anywhere” developments by FIRST teams (the Thunder Chicken’s Chicken Drive comes to mind). But many of our developments have been based on our ability to see something developed for, or used in, other applications, and realize that they can be adapted to FIRST-style robots. The skill/ability to do this is extremely valuable, and forms the basis for a lot of creative developments. But we should not forget that these developments are based on the work of others, and we stand on the shoulders of true innovators.


Like Kyle45 said earlier, Team 116 had a very unique design this year. While working at Annapolis i had the pleasure to talk with some students from 116 and learn how it worked. I think they not only took a huge step this year by doing something no one else has ever done in FIRST before but made a memorable drive train that we will be seeing more versions of in the future. Oh and who else can say their drive train is Team Tested, Tony Approved :wink:.

Is that a picture of omni wheels placed sideways. Hmmm… I actually had that same idea but I didn’t know if it would actually work. It’s nice to know that it would work.

Can someone elaborate on exactly what the 116 drive is and how it works? This is the first I’ve ever seen of it.

No those are on the right way. (but yes at a slight angle from being flat)

Dave could explain it better I am a control person. I thinks it’s even patent pending. I have the sheet we had for the judges I might post it later.](P1060718)
Start with a standard holonomic drive system, with four omnidirectional wheels at the center of each edge of the robot. Tilt the wheels over at an 82-degree angle, and cram them as far into the corners of the legal footprint as you can. The wheels now effectively run on the “edge” rather than the “outer face” of the wheel. The wheel is driven by mounting a 144-tooth, 20DP gear (with spokes and hub removed) to the “upper” side of the gear with 5/8" standoffs. This ring gear is driven by a Chiaphua motor with an 11-tooth gear, which is mounted on the same strut that supports the wheel/gear combination.

When you do this, a couple of things happen. The points of contact between the robot and the floor are spread way out. The resulting conservative support polygon is about 56% larger than it would be with a conventional orthogonal holonomic drive. Thus, the entire robot is considerably more stable. Also, by pushing the contact points farther out from the CG of the robot, you create a longer lever arm for the application of force when trying to turn the robot. Finally, by tilting the wheels over that far, the entire CG of the drive system and robot is dropped by about 3 inches. This increases the stability of the robot even further.

We played around with a few similar design concepts before converging on this version. We also had to play around with the particular compound used in the smaller wheels of the omniwheels. While several other teams that were using the AndyMark omniwheels were after harder mini-wheels, we actually wanted the softer compounds to maximize the traction we would get. Otherwise, we would spin out and create these really neat cresent-shaped burn marks on the carpet. That is why we ended up with the unusual white, slightly lower durometer, mini-wheels on our omniwheels (the picture above is from the Annapolis Regional, before we swapped out the mini-wheels for the Atlanta competition).


About how much extra time did that take compared to building just a regular holonomic drivetrain? Also, how many feet/second did you get?

The particular design we developed was very easy to build. There are only three machined parts in each drive module (the modified gear, the structural support strut, and a small bracket that holds the load bearing in place). The drive modules can be used in either the cambered holonomic drive configuration (our version) or the traditional orthogonal holonomic drive configuration. In fact, we used the modules in the traditional configuration on our test robot for software development. So the answer is that it didn’t take any longer to make this version vs. a traditional version. With regard to linear speed of the robot, it was designed for 10 ft/second. But it was never actually timed to determine real performance, so we can’t attest to the actual speed.

Those two pictures show some of the design shots of the drive system, hopefully giving a bit better idea of what we did. In simple terms, its a normal holonomic drive tilted on it’s side.
Although it’s only an external view, 33’s 4 speed, shift on the fly, automatic transmission last year kicked butt.edit

Not far away from team 116, Team 612 worked on their Aukerman Steering Drive System.
Unfortunatly, only 2 days beofre the ship date, Team 612 end up breaking some of the major parts of the drive system during the DC scrimmage clash. Its kind of sad story. Team 612 worked all six weeks wokring on this drive system, and then they have to switch back to tank drive within 48 hours of time span.


Couple of questions for you; why the 82 degrees (I have some ideas, by why speculate)? The second is how did you control it? We went with an orthogonal holonomic drive this year, but discovered the unfortunate fact that 3 points define a plane, but 4 are over-constrained. Which is to say every time we hit an uneven spot in the floor whoever had the traction won and the robot went in that direction. We solved it in two ways, first added a yaw sensor so at least it knew what a straight line was, and then added a suspension so that all wheels maintained traction. This design looks even more interesting because it is inscribing arcs; at least ours was in a vector.


I’m very surprised that no one has mentioned 47’s swerve drive from the year 2000. It was, at the time, revolutionary. By todays standards, it may not seem all that cool, but 5 years ago, when it was one of the first strafing robots in FIRST, it was really something else. It gave 47 a clear advantage that year and served as the inspiration to many future swerve drives. It was well before my time coming to FIRST but I’m still inspired.

My thanks for FIRST Mechanism library for the pics