Open Challenge: Redesign the airship lifts/ports.

I was inspired by this thread. I think we can all get behind the concept of a field that doesn’t permit safety issues, in that it’s safer and it means there’s less the refs have to call.

So in the name of broadening horizons and increased understanding, and knowing we have the benefit of hindsight (which FIRST didn’t in their unenviable task here), could the lift/port arrangement on the airship have been designed such that it was more difficult to create a safety issue?

To throw some reasonable constraints on this:

  • Let’s assume the game mechanic is “pilot action brings gear into airship”. It doesn’t have to have a lift spring or be compatible with actual 2017 robots.
  • Don’t allow another handle-falls-out-of-the-airship situation.
  • It should be something FIRST can manufacture a bunch of quickly.
  • It should be something that would survive an FRC season, ignoring consumable parts. (This is a subjective thing.)

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but FIRST seems to have a taste for these materials in their field elements:

  • Polycarbonate sheet, cut and drilled with the occasional bend where precision isn’t needed
  • ABS plastic sheets and blocks
  • Welded tube structures, square and round
  • Rather tame 5052 aluminum sheetmetal (they have less of a weight limit than your robot).

Bonus points for:

  • Fasteners FIRST commonly uses (hitch pins, zip ties, velcro)
  • Fast repair or replacement, because you saw how lift springs were.
  • Cost-effective to produce. (Let’s assume 200 lifts, and some reasonable multiplier of that in consumables that robots will beat up.)

So whatcha got?

I love this idea, Billfred! Seems super fun, I’ll definitely try my hand at it. Two quick questions though:

  1. Should the newly refurbished airships be drop-in replacements for the old ones in regards to relative size and field location, or do we have the freedom to recreate the field as we’d like to accomplish what the goals?

  2. Should the newly refurbished airships have the same number of features as the original (ie. 3 scoring pegs, 3 climbing ropes, 4 rotors and 4 geartrains, etc.)?

It seems like the solution isn’t all that difficult. Run the track all the way up to the railing instead of the floor. That way the carriage can easily be completely contained within the airship before you pull the gear off, without requiring it to fold back like it does now. With that, you can even have a chute around the carriage entrance for a foot or so (I would consider this optional). As an added benefit, now the pilots don’t need to kneel on the deck to pull up the gears, which helps to mitigate tripping over each other and facilitate movement around the airship.

You still have the rule that you can’t reach out of the ports, but now you’ve changed the typical behavior so the pilots aren’t putting their hands near the ports to begin with.

I think you have misinterpreted the intent of this. As I see (Billfred, please correct if I am wrong) your replacement should be a new lift/port to be used on the airship, not a totally new airship.

Wait, is the challenge to design a whole new airship or just new lifts that fit (approximately) into the existing airship? I think the general design of the airship was fine, just the lifts could theoretically be improved.

Edit: sniped, kind of

I didn’t really constrain it, but that’s what I get for assuming things.

Let’s assume the airship has the same objectives as before (four rotors, three davits) and roughly the same dimensions and structure. (Underneath the airship is in play, as long as you leave a microwave-sized space for the electronics that resided underneath.) It doesn’t have to look like the official lifts, it just has to serve the purpose of “pilot action brings gear into airship”.

The pilots shouldn’t have meaningfully less space than they do now, but I’m willing to spot everything else a few inches either way for a functional benefit. Geartrains should be as easy to operate as the current model, but I won’t rule out relocating it.

Basically: Break my rules if there’s a good reason to do it, just keep it something that could exist on this field.

To stir the pot, I’ll start.

STEP 1: Remove the lifts entirely. Close the portholes.
STEP 2: Add small slots to the airship panels below deck, maybe a foot off the floor, 12-15" wide (I’m guessing here), and about 3" tall. Something where there has to be some moderate precision for the gear to go in.
STEP 3: Add three slides (not unlike the loading stations) going from these slots to roughly the center of the airship.
STEP 4: Steam tank sits up a little bit from the floor. Pilots get a grabber to pull gears up to deck level, retained by steel cable. Most of the time, you’d probably see one pilot fishing and one pilot placing.
STEP 5: Probably ditch pre-populated gears to rebalance the game.

It certainly would lead to different robots and maybe less camera-friendly action, but you can’t argue it isn’t less prone to safety issues.

I’m not sure this solution would make teams score more gears since robots would need to actively deploy the gears, correct. All the passive gear slot robots would need pretty big upgrades to be able to place a gear in a slot.

You could probably take it from “passive gear pocket” to “gear pocket with a servo or small-bore cylinder release”. Or use some unused AM14U3 belts and drive them out that way.

Not to say it’s as simple to slap together as a passive gear pocket…but it would be a Saturday afternoon build for sure.

Let’s go back to the beginning.
The objective: Transport Gears from Robots to Pilots.
The requirements: Impossible for a Pilot and Robot to make contact, even through a gear; fits loosely into the existing airship dimensions; safe for everybody.

What I might do would be to replace the peg with a saucer. This saucer is a square-ish tray, slightly larger than the gears, with raised edges (a “lip”). We won’t get into material details but polycarb or sheet metal are both candidates.

Now, I redesign the track and carriage. The carriage is now relatively small up-and-down; the track has as sharp of a curve as it can handle at some point near the deck of the Airship. This curve is placed to allow the tray to hit the next item.

Next, the ports. I need them to exist for this, but I want 'em covered. So each port gets a spring-loaded flap covering it, with the spring holding the flap closed on the inside of the panel.

And now I route the handle cord to a convenient but not-in-the-way location next to the port. It’ll be to the side, or maybe with some clever routing over by the steam tank.

Operation is simple, sort of. Pulling the handle pulls up the carriage, which when it hits the curve flips the tray through the port’s flap and ideally (if done at speed) drops the gear clear onto the deck of the airship. Release the handle and the carriage drops down, the flap closes, and the pilot places the gear.

How many of these saucers do you think we would be replacing at each event? More or less than springs?

Probably less. In most cases they’d be bent back, or built strongly enough to take a hit, depending on exact construction. They might even get a spring-loaded base to take some shock loading, but some design knowing that a robot is going to be setting a gear on top, in a hurry, would do wonders.

Core ideas

  • Inset the 3 lifts to underneath the airship rather than at its edge. Create protected zones similar to 2013.
  • Reduce number of lifts to 2. Align airship so the corner of the hex is near the alliance station wall rather than a flat edge of the hex. This also means one of the climbing ropes is harder to see, but in hindsight that’s a good thing IMO.
  • Cut holes in the airship floor so the gears come up from underneath the airship.
  • Remove the port openings in the polycarbonate
  • Shorten the spring pegs as necessary

Pre-requisites and residual adjustments for game balance

  • Get rid of the center tower. Modernize the steam-powered airship to be a quad rotor with 4 Davinci rotors. Make sure opposite corners spin in opposite directions.
  • Increase fuel value to a 2:1 ratio in high boiler and 4:1 in low boiler during teleop. Widen both boiler openings. This is to balance out the lift inaccessibility of tall robots and also the slight increase in ease of placing gears at high levels of play.
    *]Remove the free gear. Adjust setup to make 4 rotors still require 12 gears. Why? There is no longer a place to put the free gear at the start of the match… yea, let’s go with that one …