Longtime lurker. I am helping a rookie team start up this year. I am looking for some resources which outlines basic supplies teams should have heading into the season. The team seems to have a build space furnished with tools, but they are lacking in FIRST specific items. Any resource recommendations would be great!
Spectrum’s first $1000 and first $10,000 lists are great starting points for a specific tool list that is useful to FRC.
In terms of team infrastructure:
- If you have a trailer with a ramp in the back, building a dedicated pit wagon/workbench combo saves you a metric ton of time between when you arrive and when you can start working. Teams with budget tend to build these into road cases; we were cheapskates and built ours out of lumber and plywood. Spend money on good casters, and you’ll get years out of it. Ditto a battery cart and robot cart.
- Figure out your small parts storage and shelving system now. Our current mix is between Harbor Freight organizers with the removable bins, Plano Stowaway tackle boxes I had left over from a business, and Sterilite shoeboxes for bigger items. I suggest labeling shelves and then labeling the boxes so it’s clear where they go back to.
- Battery chargers. I really like these PowerStream ones because they’re cheap and there’s no way to set them up wrong. (I do suggest a piece of electrical tape over the green battery diagram, so your eyes don’t get confused.) If you’re flush with cash or need to limit the vendor count to keep the bookkeepers happy, this AndyMark 3-bank unit is also great and comes with the right connectors already on it.
- Fans, especially if you’re running CIM-class motors. Your robot will be happier if its motors and main breaker are cooled to ambient temperature before a match, and fair chance that doesn’t happen by itself. You’ll also make your team really happy if they can cool off for a moment. I like these ones, which are a generic design with a dozen white-label sellers on Amazon.
- Lights. Venue lighting can be sus. At worst, wait for a Harbor Freight coupon and get something cheap; they’ve usually got some kind of lantern or flashlight for under five bucks.
- Leave some headroom for practice field components. Every time we assume “oh it’s fiiiiiine”, it isn’t.
In terms of the robot itself:
- Fair chance we see some product announcements this fall, so keep that in mind.
- If budgets are snug or parts are supply chain’d, check around with local teams to see if they can give you some hand-me-downs. One advantage of the recent brushless revolution is that it’s made it far less appealing to run brushed motors like the CIM, Mini CIM, RedLine, and 775pro on a robot…which also means there are a lot of teams with surplus SPARK, Talon/SR/SRX, and Victor SP/SPX controllers. You’ll eat a weight and power disadvantage on the CIM-class motors, and you can’t get away with as much on the RedLine or 775pro compared with the NEO 550, but treat them right and you can get an honest mechanism together.
- I’d watch for the coming examples on the REV ION system. Everything I’ve seen says they’ve sweated it a lot, and the newer parts we’ve used over the past year like the MAX Planetary have been great.
- There are probably more recommendations we can make if you’ve got a sense of the robot parts budget. I would make different ones for a team with a $5,000 budget versus a team with a $1,000 budget.
This year vision will change and you will want something to be a vision coprocessor. If you can find some Raspberry Pi get them. Digikey has their lead time to January 24. The go to solution for vision used to be Limelight. I do not know if they will have stock this year or not and as a product loses some of its value as FRC is moving away from retro reflective tape. Even without using retroreflective tape If you can get a Limelight it is a good package for camera, coprocessor, and power go ahead. But you will probably want some combination of coprocessor and camera. They are hard to find so start looking now.
Are you looking for a list of potentially useful sensors? My team stocks some that are rarely used but when we need them it’s nice to reach into the drawer and try it. Partial list if this is what you are interested in:
- IR distance
- IR proximity
- US distance
- mechanical micro switches
- magnetic switches - there are several types and form factors that we use but generally they are a separate magnet and a Hall effect sensor
- beam break or photo eye sensors - various forms
- encoders and mounts for the various mechanisms you use
- driver USB camera
My team made one of our videos last year for this exact occasion. Many of our recommendations line up with those suggested above. Hope this helps!
Definitely make sure you are able to make purchases quickly in season you won’t know what you need before you need it sometimes.
For preseason, as much as possible decide how you want to build your robots. I really like Vex Versa Frame or Rev Ion tubing to minimize machining (as a team with multiple manual and CNC mills, you still want to minimize machining time even if you have a machine shop). If you go that route buy 60-100ft each of 2x1and 1x1tubing a mixture of thick and thin wall, and plenty of bolts (8-32 for vex, 10-32 for rev). Note that 8-32 nuts require a 11/32” wrench so make sure you have those as they are often missing from wrench sets.
Pick some planetary gear boxes and stock up if you are planning to use custom mechanisms. Rev Max planetary is the best system for strength, ease of assembly, reliability etc, but they big and heavy. Rev Ultra planetary is super easy to assemble, extremely small and light, but they are pretty weak. Don’t tighten the assembly bolts more than finger tight and don’t allow significant cantilevered loads on the shaft, and they will last pretty well. Vex Versa planetary are somewhere in between, they are much stronger and more reliable than an Ultra and weaker, and less durable than a Max. They are middle sized and good all around gearboxes, but they are a pain to build. Be very careful to keep gear sets separate, and assemble properly with the correct mix of 8 and 10 screws. I recommend using Versas or both Ultras and Maxs.
This is a really great basic setup, but I do disagree with you on one point. Since CIMs, Neos, Falcons, and several common gearboxes must be mounted with 10-32s I recommend using only 10-32s and eliminating all 10-24s from regular circulation. People will get them mixed up and will cross thread expensive components.
Thanks Patrick! That is a great point and idea. At the very least, maybe have a box labeled “motor bolts”?
We do run into the headache of nuts getting mixed up and having to find the 32 counts instead of the 24 or 20 counts.