I, like many of you I suspect, felt uncomfortable when I saw this for some reason. I knew it was just a matter of time until somebody offered a swerve kit. But that still didn’t prepare me for actually seeing it.
My first reaction was, this has gone too far. Traditionally in FRC, mastering the swerve was a result of years of iteration, piles of aluminum shavings, and many sleepless nights for programmers. Effective swerve teams were like an exclusive club. Now anybody who can afford it can just order a working swerve system* from a catalog!
- it was at this point in my train of thought that I realized the flaw in my thinking.
This is not a working swerve system that is for sale. It is a single wheel pod. I know from experience and observation that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making a 3DOF drive train. It is no more a “full mobility system” than an AndyMark shifter:
- Effectively mounting the pods, steering motors, and steering sensors is a nontrivial exercise.
- Writing effective control software is a very challenging task, especially with non-coaxial systems that need to limit pod rotations.
- This is by no means the only way to do swerve.
- Many of the teams who successfully utilize swerve year after year (71, 111, 118, 1625 come to mind) have another hidden talent: they are masters of weight reduction. Swerve drives represent a huge weight (not to mention motor) investment, and require special attention to drive, chassis, and scoring mechanism weight in order to be good choices.
But of course, maybe somebody will offer a kit that does #1. And maybe WildStang (or anybody else) decides to offer their swerve code up to anyone. And maybe in a couple years ultra-light weight versions (with coaxial options) show up. And maybe…
The point is, even though this is not a “full mobility system”, the mechanisms available to FIRST teams are certainly moving in that direction. How will we, as a community, react to this change?
Personally, I embrace it. For many reasons. One, the FIRST component price limit will keep things from getting too out of hand. Simply put, vendors won’t sell what isn’t profitable. Two, we’re always just a GDC curveball away from forgetting about this stuff anyhow. And finally (and most importantly), are students really less inspired when they use a COTS item? If they want to succeed, they will still need to understand it, assemble it, control it, and maintain it. The fact that it was machined using resources not normally available to some of them is irrelevant.
A lot of people on here talk about how FIRST is expanding too quickly and hanging a lot of under supported teams out to dry. For these same people to critique the availability of new components that said teams could otherwise not fabricate strikes me as hypocritical.