Paly Robotics (Team 8) Build Season Recap

Team 8 is excited to reveal our build season recap video.

After a strong performance last year, we chose to create a very ambitious robot, which required advancements among all of our technical subteams. This video shows our technical progress throughout build season and competition season.

We thank all our mentors, sponsors, and parents who made this great season possible!

Amazing video and awesome work throughout the season!

I personally loved the progression of autonomous, but I’m a bit biased. :slight_smile:

You guys have made huge improvements the past two seasons. What did your students and mentors do in the off season and build season differently the past two years? What was the biggest motivation behind the big changes? How did you create a plan for self improvement?

Great stuff!

There have been quite a few changes that have pushed us to improve in the last few seasons. Here are a few that I can think of off the top of my head.

  1. Emphasis on strategy and scouting at competition. After our 2016 season, we saw the power of scouting when other teams’ data allowed us to perform better in matches. Over the offseason between Stronghold and Steamworks, we started developing a fully electronic scouting system. We posted the documentation for the Steamworks system here, and the documentation for the Power Up system will probably be posted later this year.

  2. Prototyping in the first week and a half of build season. In the past 2 years, we have allocated more time to prototyping, and we have worked on making our prototypes more active.

  3. Software switched to using a single code structure from year to year. In 2015 and 2016, software used a different code structure each year. However, in 2017, we switched to a Java architecture very similar to that of 254 (the code for our 2017 robot can be found here). In addition to using the same architecture, the software team has done a lot of work with autonomous path planning, which allowed us to have the 2D movement this year.

  4. Improving the way that we teach new members. Because our team only has one or two technically oriented mentors (neither of which work on the actual robot), it is very important that students pass on knowledge to younger students. By improving the way that we do this, we are able to develop more technically knowledgeable members.

  5. We try to build an off season robot each year. This not only helps the new technical leads become accustomed with management, but it also gives us an additional opportunity to teach younger students.

  6. Acquiring new machines. In the past year, we have gained access to a CNC router and a laser cutter. The laser cutter was very helpful with prototyping, and the router allowed us to have a higher production capacity (all of our robot is machined in house, excluding a few gusset plates).

I might be forgetting a few things.

Great work! Did your team come together at some point to re-establish this type of team culture? Were there students leading these efforts or was it mentors really pushing you to become better?

Culture change is an incredibly difficult thing, and it sounds like you guys have done an incredible job. I’m really looking forward to seeing how team 8 does in the future.

I think that the turning point for our team was definitely 2016. Before that, we were pretty much a last place team, with a robot that was lucky to move in a match. In 2016, we finally had a critical mass of students with a couple of FRC years under their belt, and we had begun to see what our team was lacking—mechanisms developed through iteration, scouting/strategy, codebases reused and improved over many years, etc. A bit of luck got us to championships, and this trip was probably the biggest motivation for the coming years. Following the 2016 season, we doubled down on all of the things Robbie mentioned above. Our goal was to make it to champs again in 2017, and that was a goal shared by all of the team members.

Robbie does a great job of describing a lot of the intermediate outcomes that bridge between fundamental changes to the team as a community and outcomes on the field. He, as a student, has been one of our outstanding contributors in implementing the advancements he enumerates.

Much of the transition at the level of the team as a community is captured in the presentations we made at champs in Houston and Detroit this year. There is supposed to be a video of these on the FIRST website somewhere. DM me at [email protected] and I will be happy to share the slides.

TLDR: Talk with, but do not try to copy 971 and 254 (or whomever is good and local and friendly) Insist on decision making that is inclusive, transparent, and reviewable. Insist on no cussing in the lab and enforce that. Expect to lose ‘essential’ students and mentors who do not conform to these requirements. Otherwise do not try to control things, and let the students be responsible for the technical decisions.

Next up for team 8: Increasing mentor engagement without losing student autonomy (looks like the key is junior mentors)

– Head coach team 8: 2012-2018.

I really enjoyed the video! Fun to see some of your team’s progress through the season.

Team 8 has been on fire recently! We have really enjoyed having your team at CCC the past few years. Your students are always willing to help at the event and have great attitudes. Their desire to learn and grow into a better team is big part of what FIRST is all about!

Along with awesome robots and imagery, Team 8 is doing some great things in the community. Special thanks to Devin and the rest of the team for doing robot demo’s for my dad’s FLL teams in EPA!

I hope you are able to increase mentor engagement in the coming years. Too often I’ve seen team’s show flashes of brilliance that are not sustained. Solid support groups are critical to allow students to flourish and reach their potential.

Can’t wait to see what Team 8 does next!