Renewable resources on robots

Hello all, one of our sponsors recently challenged our team to include some sort of renewable resource on our robot. So what I am wondering is what kinda rules are there use of certain renewable resources and if you have any examples that would also be awesome.

Recycled cardboard? (For robustness)
Recycled aluminum? (For looks)
Root through your dumpster? (For practicality)
Plywood? (Everything but bumpers)
Anything recycled really. I don’t know where to get recycled metals but I’m sure you could try.
Wood is the only true renewable and useful resource on bots.

I don’t believe there would be any rules persay unless it was somehow a hazardous product. Just don’t use anything except 3/4" plywood for your bumpers.

You could look into 3D printable hemp plastic, or just any hemp based plastic in general.

Edit: If I remember right PLA is a corn based plastic which makes it a renewable resource(Although the Corn industry isn’t the best on our environment)

1 Like

Take a look at 4183’s old robots, they have made extensive use of laser-cut plywood (I think they do more of a metal/wood mix now then they used to). Their 2015 robot in particular is a thing of beauty and I believe made the Behind the Design book from that season.

Re-use of materials is probably one of the easier things to do. We cut down an aluminum garage door opener track and used that for part of our structure in 2015.

If you have a 3D printer, there are ways to recycle plastic bottles into new filament.

Another good recycling resource is contacting local construction companies/sites and asking for wood scraps for prototypes and field elements.

You could probably stretch the definition of “renewable resource” on the robot. Some Ideas:

Reduce - Make a lighter robot. Don’t build a 2nd robot. Make less prototypes!
Reuse - COTS parts re-use is obvious, but re-purposed items instead of making new is also reuse
Recycle- (don’t rush) Using recycled material might be hard - most recycled materials like Aluminum and Polyethylene go directly into products, not bulk material you can buy. But you can always recycle your metal scraps / previous robots.

Solar / Wind Battery Charging? maybe?!
Energy recovery - difficult, if not rule bending (on robot)

An easy way to recycle discarded items is using rubber innertubes on intake rollers and other grippers. Easy to find.

If you want to make something crazy for the sponsor, back in 2007 my high school team (MORT FRC 11) created a VEX robot powered off a hydrogen fuel cell. I believe 71 powered part of an old FRC robot off of theirs. This was part of a FIRST Fuel Cell mini competition. Found a video of it -

PLA is corn based and it is technically compostable.

Be careful not to violate rules regarding using parts made before kickoff or cots parts modified before kickoff


I keep wanting to do solar photovoltaic battery charging and then remembering that our competition events are indoors.
Most of our demos are outdoors, so I’m thinking we’ll adopt something for that. I’ll post a writeup when we get around to it.
OP, if you have outdoor demos this might be a fun direction to go.

You should be able to get “good enough” modules for <$2/watt or a local solar company to donate them.
Look for “Off Grid solar PV” and you’ll find tons of MPPT-tracking 12v battery charging rigs. Integrate into a cart and you’ll be good to go.

(I work in solar PV products/installation, PM me if you want some remote mentoring / project cross checks)

Off topic

but has anyone ever attempted a wind/electric powered vehicle?
Battery starts a fan, fan sucks in air, air gets released at high speeds…

Lots of teams use renewably-sourced materials on their robot. There are several bio-plastics that are considered renewable, including PLA, which many teams use already. You could use renewable lubricants instead of petroleum lubricants as well. Wood, of course, is renewable and commonly used.

Simply not true.

I would love to see a clutched flywheel on a drivetrain to aid acceleration and deceleration.


I see a lot of comments here talking about recycling which is enviromentally friendly, but may not be what their sponsor is looking for in terms of “renewable resource”

An interesting thought is if Wood is even a renewable resource. I remember having discussions about this in an environmentalism class i took. In theory anything that is naturally replenishing is “renewable”, however, rates of harvesting vs rates of use should be consider to determine if a resource is being over harvested to the point it becomes non-renewable.

At the end of the day you have to consider what your sponsor is really looking for. If I had to reckon a guess on their intent. They basically want to market the fact they are sponsoring an environmentally conscious culture, so i’d put together a little brief on what steps your team takes to reduce its environmental footprint as well as meet this criteria of utilizing a renewable resource on your robot.


About renewable: what’s your definition here @Thequackmaster?
If renewable is recycled or compostable, that’s different from naturally replenished.

Rockwest composites has carbon/flax blend and flax only tubing, not fully renewable due to the epoxy binder, but they do use an “eco-resin” and it is definitely a more unique eco-friendly option, I would love to see some team use it. and

1 Like

naturally replenished

Off the top of my head, plywood is something renewable that you use on your robot (bumpers).
Other things you may already use: Renewable energy, using PLA or other plant based polymer parts
Random other renewable things a team would use: Freshmen (for energy or to save electricity by doing the work themselves), electric vehicles (renewable energy), some sort of plant based material
Some of this is practical, some is not.
I think that’s all I can think of right now, but a good renewable thing to use is renewable energy, such as freshmen, solar, wind, or hydro power.


If you’re looking for the pro’s of renewable robots, talk to the experts: 1899 Saints Robotics.

They have been building largely WOOD robots for a number of years, and doing so magnificently. Although they have moved away from the practice a bit in recent years, they have an incredible award history centered arround their expertly crafted wooden robots.

Hopefully one of the good people on 1899 sees this, so they can speak more on the topic

Our one of our mentee teams, 7504, built the base/structure for their 3D printed mechanism on wood this year and it worked well.