pic: Me with the Simbotics robot from 2004

Finally got around to uploading a larger version of my avatar…

Thank you for posting this Ian. This robot is still one of my all time favorites.

For those of you that were not there to see this thing in action I will describe it. It had 2 swerve drive modules and 2 caster wheels. the control system was excellent giving it omni directional ability and controllability. The greatest part was that both the swerve modules and the casters were actuated vertically using pneumatics. They would drive up to the platform that was on the field in 2004 (6" I think) and they would raise the frame of the machine by firing the actuators. The frame would clear the platform, and they would lift the wheels up as the drove forward. The thing climbed up onto the platform without tipping at all. It was an amazing thing.

Matt B.

And remember they were the 2004 SBP Long Island Regional Champions with that robot. What a solid robot they had, and supported by a great drive team that i have now seen only has gotten better.

It brings back some great memories.

That was by far the coolest robot I’ve ever been a part of. I’ll never forget seeing that robot climb the deck in our shop for the first time. Seeing all four wheels pop up in unison was a delight to watch. I still can’t believe we actually managed to make the pneumatic wheel lifters work. This was one of those rare cases in design where you can actually move past a possible tradeoff. Initially we decided that the tight quarters of the field and necessity for agility required us to have a swerve drive. But, we also thought that controlling the bar from deck was essential. At first it seemed like these would be two irreconcilable goals, since a swerve drive requires the compactness of small wheels.

After doing some brainstorming and looking to past FIRST robots, we remembered Wildstang’s “gurney” that allowed them to climb the puck in 1999. Piggybacking off of this idea, we came up with the idea of raising and lowering the wheels with pneumatics. It took the fancy engineering of Ian Mackenzie, Derek Bessette, Greg Phillips and then high school student Tyler Holtzman to make this crazy idea work.

That 2004 season will always have a special place in my heart.