Prototyping: How Does Your Team Do It?

Hey all! I am a member of Team 4201 and I am currently working on the development of our prototyping process, and I am wondering how other teams approach prototyping. To provide a brief overview of what we have so far, we are working on implementing prototyping with strategic design and CAD. For example, Before we begin prototyping we conduct rule optimization and analyze ways to score points among other things. We also work to design cartoon CADs of our prototypes. Along with the implementation of strategic design and CAD, we are also developing proficiency levels to assess team member’s skills. Knowing this, are there any suggestions or tips that you all have to further develop our team’s prototyping system?


My first thing is always find some really experienced mentors and steal everything they have in their head. Most of our “prototyping” was basically just reusing designs from the last ~25 years, with maybe one new thing per year. Having someone that can confidently say “That isn’t going to work for XYZ reason” will save a lot of time and resources. I’m pretty sure we technically didn’t prototype in 2018 and 2019 outside of CAD geometry sketches. Of course, there’s benefit in students making mistakes themselves, but I’m rather opposed to fool’s errands to keep freshmen busy. All of our most successful robots either had a lot of minor iterations, or just lifted designs off of previous robots. 2005 and 2007’s grippers changed countless times despite their apparent simplicity, 2016’s linear pneumatic shooter is straight off of 2014, 2011 is basically just 2007 with a minibot instead of wings, and of course the classic 330 arm.

The real prototyping isn’t how a mechanism is going to work, but the things you can’t check in CAD. Stuff like what material your gripper uses, whether round compliant wheels or flappy wheels work better, what tyre pressure balances power draw and obstacle traversal, if it’s worth it to steal the floor mats and use them as a shooter backing*, etc. When we moved shops in 2017 there were probably 4+ totes worth of just random compliant materials: conveyor belts, pipe insulation, mastic tape, neoprene rubber, 6" wide tread material, drawer liners, and what most people would think is random garbage.
If you’re building full prototypes just to see what a mechanism will actually look like, say horizontal vs vertical rollers on a cube intake (which has been done countless times now), you’re probably allocating resources poorly.

* I’m still slightly salty about losing the floor mats


This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.