Something breaks on your robot after a match. You return to your pit, get it halfway working (but not quite 100%), and then rush out to queue up for your next match. And then, boom, the match before you has a field fault and dance break as the FTA and scorekeepers resolve the issue. Suddenly there’s 5-10 more minutes to fix your robot than you had budgeted. But, you don’t know exactly how long the field delay will last, and you may not have time to make it all the way back to your pit and return to the field before you need to load on. You don’t necessarily have all the right tools or equipment to make the repair on your cart in queue. I think we’ve all experienced something along these lines before, either in qualifications or the playoffs.
So why can’t we have a “robot first aid station” near the queueing area? Tool chests available to each alliance that have as many basics for robot repair as are reasonable. Ratchet, wrench, and Allen key sets. Ethernet cords. A collection of spare zip ties, tape, nuts, bolts, rivets, and wood screws in common sizes. Some cordless drills. Electrical crimpers, wire strippers, and some electrical lugs/ferrules. Some big ink markers for fixing bumper number issues. A shop vac and trash can. All the tools can be marked as FIRST or district property (rubberized tool dip would be a high visibility way), and then a volunteer can staff the area to ensure they are returned.
Would this cost money? Sure. But in the scope of what it costs to run an event, it’s a heck of a lot less than many other things. And properly managed the investment should last years.
Heck, in many venues you can’t reasonably fit much of your pit supplies field-side in the playoffs, and this may help remediate some of the concerns regarding moving between fields and pits (and particularly the inequity caused by varying distances to individual pits) during the short turnarounds of playoff matches.
So, what can we do to make this happen? What are the shortcomings of this concept? How can it be improved? Who is already doing this that we can pilot off of?
We are asking Queuers and FTAs to remind teams that, if there is room and the teams don’t need to go back to their pits, they should stay field-side or even on the field to reduce unnecessary transit time.
This instruction to “stay field-side” means teams are expected to be working on robots in the queue during elims [edit-- talking here about semis and finals specifically, because this is when teams experience those critical back-to-back matches that we’ve been talking about this weekl]-- at least at every event I’ve attended!
In these venues, would it be possible to create enough space in or near the queue, providing enough space for all teams queued to work at the same time? Some events (like the Great Northern Regional) could easily add an extra 12, full sized pit areas in the queue for teams to do work while waiting, there’s just that much space available. Others are likely much more crunched for space and just don’t have the extra space to provide additional working area.
Now this is a constructive suggestion. HQ recently started requiring all venues to designate a quiet room or space, and they all had to figure out how to comply when planning the layouts.
I’m not sure if 100% of events could accommodate this, but I can think of a good number where the queuing area could be made a bit larger by rearranging bleachers/seating or shifting the location of production/A/V. If this is a mandatory consideration for events, we could probably improve the situation at some venues quite a bit.
Possible? Yes, definitely. Plenty of room. Just need the say-so from above.
Just last weekend in Carrolton the queuer told my team, several times in a just several seconds, to “switch off in queue”. Our students respectfully reminded her that there is no rule backing her request, if there is could she show it to them, and we are sorry but the robot needs to remain on for the moment. Man I thought her head would explode. O. M. C.
So I thought about this, and it sounds like a great idea. I could see this helping all levels of teams in playoffs. It’s a super stressful time of the competition, and not having to worry that you brought just the right tools with you could be a relief for some teams.
A couple of caveats I see are:
It places an extra burden on the crew loading/unloading the game trailer(s). If you consider SteamWorks, there wasn’t room for a sheet of paper in the trailers, let alone 2 sets of tools for each end of the field.
You would most definitely need an attendant to monitor the tools and equipment. Things will walk away, no malicious intent, it’s just the nature of tool boxes.
The cost of replacing the tools/expendables (zip ties (and not the cheap ones), lugs, terminals, connectors etc.) is a wide open unknown since you don’t know what will break or need to be replaced. Should this be an issue? Not in my mind considering FIRST, but that’s a topic for another thread, and has probably already been hashed out in many other threads.
As has been said before, it may be tight to have in some venues. Because, in reality, there should be the tool chest(s), and a work table.
I would love to see this implemented, and there is MUCH more than I have thought of that needs to be considered to make it a reality.
We have made upgrades to our pit equipment over our 8 years in First.
Our robot cart has a 10 drawer tool box that contains most of the tools needed to work on the robot. We have fixed many things while in que for qual matches.
We built a rolling battery cart that charges 10 batteries plus our cordless tool batteries.
We bought a 24 x 72 rolling cabinet that has the remaining tools, hardware supplies, drawers specific to major components. These will have spare parts,. Additional motor/ gearbox hot spares and specialty hardware. It has a butcher block top and a small vice.
We use these 3 pit pieces to form a field side pit. The biggest issue is finding a power source near the queue.
My team has a case we call The Football that goes everywhere with the robot/robot cart. It’s full of anything we might need in a pinch: Ethernet, zip ties, diagonal cutters, materials to change a battery/bumpers, and a few other generic tools. It’s not the best for fixing anything huge, but it’s good enough for any quick and somewhat-temporary solution.