paper: Roboting: A Guide for Total Noobs

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Roboting: A Guide for Total Noobs
by: Brian Gray

A basic, yet thorough, guide to common practices, available materials and COTS solutions for novice FRC members.

This guide was began as a simple reference for new team members and kept growing in size and scope over a 2 month period between May and July 2018. It starts simple with wheel types and assembly, to drivetrains, and eventually onto wiring and controls, where it ends abruptly.

This is still very much a work in progress and is not presented here as a final document.

As this was originally purely intended for in-house use, many graphics and snippets of text were liberally appropriated along the way as the project progressed. The intention was not to outright steal, but to illustrate ideas along the way where time was limited. That said I did create many of the graphics within, so if I were a DJ it’d be called sampling.

Roboting 10.5.pdf (26.5 MB)
Roboting 10.99.pdf (12.3 MB)


This is awesome! Thanks for sharing it!

I’ve been debating whether to upload this or not, but here goes:

This guide was originally intended for novices joining our team and was written over a 2-month period, following the epic spanking that was our 2018 FRC season. It’s a work in progress and is somewhat disjointed in places.

If you are like me and have students who repeatedly propose using “a thing…that goes into a thing…and sort of…does stuff” during brainstorming and prototyping stages, then this might be for you. It’s more to acquaint students with the different “things” in FRC and give brief descriptions of the “stuff” they can do.

It is purposely designed for those with short attention spans and features a lot of pictures and brief snippets of text.

It is, however, totally not finished, hence the rather abrupt ending.

Please let me know what you think and any changes you suggest.

Also, I did a lot of hasty Google image searches, so apologies to anyone who sees their photos or graphics used without permission.

This is amazing, I love it. Thank you so much for sharing!

If you ever make any revisions, I’d suggest adding flex wheels to the wheel section! They’ve got tons of options in durometers and sizes, and are fantastic for intakes and other roller subsystems. I doubt I’ll design a robot without them ever again.

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I believe they are referred to as compliant wheels in the wheel subsection titled “other wheels”…or something like that.

That’s very comprehensive! Thanks for all your hard work.

Gotcha - the section only mentions AndyMark Compliant Wheels, which are a specific type of wheel only available through AndyMark. Since other sections mentioned multiple variations and suppliers for different robot parts, it seemed like Flex Wheels were being left out. There’s definitely similarities between the two, but they’re different in terms of use cases and available mounting styles. I figured I’d bring it up since more options for teams is never a bad thing. :slight_smile:

That aside, this guide is going to be mandatory reading for my team. The thoroughness makes it an invaluable training resource that I can’t wait for my students to use!

Completely understand. I tried to go with the generic/proper term for each component, but a few placeholders got left along the way. In this particular case I found a vendor who makes urethane wheels and rollers that they referred to as compliant, so I took that as corroboration. This was a tricky one.

That aside, this guide is going to be mandatory reading for my team. The thoroughness makes it an invaluable training resource that I can’t wait for my students to use!

Wow. I’m humbled. Thanks.

I haven’t finished looking through this, but this legit looks incredible. I wish I’d had this when we started years ago. I’ve already sent this to a rookie team in our area.

This is seriously fantastic. Nice work and thanks for sharing it.

Brian Gray, you are my hero. This is fantastic!

Many, many people will be using this great resource during this year and years to come.

Andy B.


What a fantastic collection of resources you’ve put together! That being said, I’ve noticed some of my own photos and resources thrown into it (Specifically the latch section and those immediately before and after, as indicated by choice in photos.), as well as that of others that I’ve used in sources I suspect you used.

You openly admit that it’s incomplete; In a more complete version, do you intend to link / reference the year & team of the robot you’re exhibiting a feature of? I specifically did that myself in my own resources, as I knew that some people wanted to do additional research on their own, and a team number and season is a good starting point.

Thanks for putting together a cohesive collection of resources, I’m sure this will be used for many years to come!

This is amazing. Perhaps the best I’ve ever seen. I can’t begin to imagine the time this must have taken to put together. You have done an incredible service for the FIRST Robotics community with this one. The students you work with are so fortunate to be guided by someone with your drive and passion for it. Thank you for sharing!

There is so much information that I could populate a preseason from this single resource! :ahh: :ahh: This is fantastic!

Just as a suggestion that will help teams make weight - not all gears need to be steel. My team has found that most gears are fine as 7075 aluminum (a la VEXPro) and typically we only need steel gears for very high loads (ie catapult crank, pinions).

Also, I highly recommend the pixy ( as another camera option - its cheap and easy and makes vision tracking very accessible.

So I like a lot of this presentation but I noticed some of the information is misleading or just incorrect in places. I’d be worried about just giving this to new students.

The slide on live vs dead axles is particularly troubling. The descriptions of using omni wheels in tank drives seems inconsistent as well with some of your example photos. You also mention a limit of only 4 air tanks on a robot that hasn’t been in the rule book for over a decade. A lot of FTC specific items get used in example photos that don’t really make sense, like tilerunner.

OMG FUN…eeeeeeee!!!

This made my day. Your presentations from 10 years ago were really what inspired me to start work on this. It started with a few tweaks at first and then scope creep happened. I’m sure you noticed your sections on arm forces and torque.

So, about that. When I started work on this, there was no one resource that was quite what I wanted, but then you uploaded Encyclopedia Robotica and it was amazing. So amazing that I really wasn’t sure if it was worth continuing. I do know that I borrowed liberally from it, but continued to make changes and edits to where it was hard to remember what was stolen and what was not. My justification was that this was designed for a handful of rural students out in the middle of nowhere.

Good point. We’ve used aluminum gears.

I had planned to include Pixycam towards the end.

The FTC specific items were shown because they illustrated the point I was trying to make. The Tilerunner was chosen because I couldn’t find any suitable pics of the FRC KOP chassis and the wheel placement is similar. I believe the other pic was for direct gearing. That was just a lazy fix, probably not the best example.

In writing this, there was no outline, just a wishlist of topics and things sort of snowballed and were reiterated several times. Sections were deleted or moved several times and info was hastily researched in places where I felt I needed to double check on things. By the time I took a break from it, I was pretty sure that it was rife with mistakes, so I was hesitant to post it.

I’m not an engineer. I’m just an hourly employee who works in the automotive industry and this was almost entirely written on 20 minute breaks and lunches over a 2 month period. My background is in art and literature, but I grew up programming on C64s and learning electronics from Forest Mims manuals. I know some stuff, but I’m far from being classically trained.

So bearing that in mind, if the coach of a hugely successful team with boatloads of funding finds a few boo-boos in all of this, I probably did okay.

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Not sure if attacking Allen is the best way to go here, since he maintains a huge assortment of FRC resources, and knows what goes into maintaining and updating something like this. Also unclear how his team budget has anything to do with this.

The document is a great primer, and is well laid out, but there are definitely some incorrect or misleading statements. How about being open to revision instead of attacking people who suggest edits? If you intend this to be a helpful document for new students, you should be open to making edits.

Honestly wasn’t trying to come off as insulting, if I did I apologize. This is a good resource. I was just giving a warning to other teams since Andrew L, Andy Baker, and others endorsed it so heavily, that teams should do some due diligence before giving it to “noobs” to learn from.

Allen you’ve officially made it! You’re hugely successful and have all the money!

This is a good resource, but I think Allen and others were just providing constructive criticism so it can be improved. It’s a great starting point and a good thing to show your team. No resource is perfect, and we can all learn from reviewing these types of presentations.

Despite how crappy my reply now sounds in retrospect, I didn’t take offense and meant no harm. I follow your team’s blog and have read several of your resources, so I’m actually honored to receive your feedback

I felt attacked when I read that on Mentor Built last week. That and the piece about LRIs. Yow!