Robot in 3 Days 2017

Robot in 3 Days is proud to be back for our fifth year and we are again growing our ranks of robot builders. This year we have 11 teams competing against the clock to build a robot in 72 hours.

Watch our team announcement on YouTube where we talk about interesting team factoids.

We are continuing the trend of mixing professional, college and community based teams. We are excited by the impact our teams are having in their areas through sharing, mentoring and partnering with local FRC and FTC teams. Impacts such as the sharing of resources with underprivileged teams or letting incoming rookies use Ri3D bots at off season events.

We are also making a few changes for 2017. With the 11 teams we felt it may be better to create longer episodes compiling many of the builds and discussing each teams strategies. This is a recipe that we are still perfecting but we are striving to drive quality of content over quantity. Robot reveals will continue to be stand alone videos and be released as they are available throughout the first week.

Teams will be using the Ri3D Blog, Twitter and Facebook so make sure to follow and subscribe to get frequent updates.

We are also continuing the twist in the “build rules” in which teams may choose to build more game function prototypes in place of finishing an actual bot. This will allow teams to cover more ideas and game angles and hopefully have a more diverse showing. As was with last year we really have no idea if this will actually happen as some games need a complete robot to demonstrate the ideas… But maybe it will?

The 2017 teams are:

Ri3D 1.0
Team Indiana
Team oRyon
Snow Problem
Team Redacted
Team Tesla
The GreenHorns
Week 6
Zou Keepers
Team National Instruments

Follow the action here:

Looking forward to this! I anticipate another bizarre challenge this year, so Ri3D may be more important for many teams than any year since 2013. Until the Ri3D reveal, we had NO workable ideas how to fit a frisbee launcher inside a 112 inch perimeter. Our launcher was just a refinement.

I’m sure this will be an unpopular perspective…but here goes.

As a long term supporter of FIRST and as a mentor of FRC teams in the New York area I find myself reminiscing for a time when students could not just browse for an answer to the challenges set by FIRST.

No disrespect meant to the engineers and mentors taking part in robot in 3 days. Just my 2 cents.

For us the point of Ri3D is, rather than a place to get ideas, a way to see a prototype of your idea. For anyone like us who doesn’t really have a budget for prototypes this can serve as a sort of proxy for it.

RI3D is a very good resource to get a starting point, most teams don’t use RI3D as a basis for their entire robot, just starting points to create a more refined version.

Starting points are nice.

Your perspective is not so unpopular.

I think teams should browse for ideas. A three-day idea, and the thoughts that lead up to it, are worth browsing.

It should be clear now (5 yrs into the RI3D era) that three-day designs require iterative improvement to become winning FRC robots.

While I support your sentiments … It is my belief that Ri3D is a decent starting point. Anyone who brings a Ri3D robot to a competition will have a hard time winning.

Ri3D gives a very good assessment of what you may find at a competition … and winning 'bots will have been benchmarked to be better than them.

I’m so pumped for Ri3D this year! It’ll be my third year participating, and it’s by far the most fun thing I’ve done in college. The past two years I’ve been the captain of The GreenHorns and this year I’ll be participating as well. I’m very excited to see what we can accomplish!

The problem is, this isn’t really true. Ri3D’s lifespan has coincided, perhaps without coincidence, with a dramatically increased awareness of just how poorly the average FRC robot performs at achieving the game’s objectives. This year, as has happened every year Ri3D has been a thing, the reveal threads are going to be filled with statements like “This robot could probably win 30% of regionals and be picked at 100% of them,” a number of particularly effective Ri3D clones are going to be widely celebrated as smart decision making, and a very large number of teams with underperforming or broken down robots are going to be told, perhaps a bit smugly, “You should try this cool thing called KISS, have you heard of Ri3D? You could’ve built a better robot in 3 days.” “Build an Ri3D bot, be a 2nd pick, win” is many people’s idea of what most teams should be doing. And while they feel wrong to us, the truth is that these statements are very often factually accurate. The only year I can think of where allRi3D robots were very clearly several steps behind most better-than-average robots is 2015, a game where being good demanded ambitious scope and breaking assumptions from the past, whereas Ri3D, and unfortunately most FRC games, emphasize the opposite.

I don’t really know how to feel about Ri3D. I like that is provides a very visible icon of what an effective design process looks like, with enough time for most teams to implement it themselves. I like the emphasis on prototyping. I like that it pushes teams to do better than the Ri3D teams, though it’s been my perception that the community comes right back and says “actually, just be exactly like them instead please.” I like that it exposes teams to ideas on how to solve the problem, but I don’t like the tendency for the chosen ideas to be presented and interpreted as the correct or best ideas. Having so many teams may reduce this effect a bit, but it also runs the risk of more or less encompassing most viable/mainstream approaches to the challenge, and dramatically reducing detailed design variation when a majority of teams have a physical standard to build their robot to after only three days, whether or not they were initially inspired by the Ri3D teams. I think the design diversity experienced in a stroll through the FRC pits, on both a full robot scale and in the tiny details, is one of the most inspiring experiences the program has to offer, and I don’t like Ri3D’s intentional or not reduction of this. Everyone talks about how it reduces diversity on a macro scale, but I’ve honestly noticed it more on a micro scale (little things like COTS tricks, gripper material choice, and so on), and don’t like it there either. I definitely don’t like how much teams are able to shortcut their own processes using Ri3D, or are encouraged to nix pursuit of their own concepts due to the presence of Ri3D and a ticking clock. I also don’t like that it very often seems to serve as glorified advertising for COTS parts, often at the expense of optimal design, and has played a large part in perceived “kit-ification” of FRC in recent years. On the other hand, all of these things have absolutely increased the average performance and average level of success a low to mid level FRC team sees. And that’s a good thing, but I also worry about the things being lost to get there.

One way to think of/view Ri3D is as a resource. Each team uses the resources they are afforded in different ways, with there being no single perfect way to do it. As someone who drew inspiration from an Ri3D mechanism to help complete a vital mechanism in 2015 I see this as no different than looking at previous games bots to help with mechanism ideas/implementation. I am thankful for Ri3D and assume most of the FRC community is as well. They are wonderful in helping kick-start ideas.

I am also thankful to Ri3D teams. It’s always a great place to get inspiration and ideas. I think everyone knows to always take Ri3D robots’ strategies with a grain of salt, but they are nevertheless awesome robots.
For example, last year, the inspiration for our first iteration boulder intake came from Team Indiana (thanks!). It gave us a good starting point, but our intake ended up looking nothing like their intake after several iterations and improvements. So, you see, teams don’t just copy Ri3D robots, they get inspiration and ideas from them.

One interesting thing to consider is that the Ri3D reveal videos may be the first FRC-style robots a rookie team ever sees, barring the animated robots in the game reveal. I think that’s a bigger deal than most of the people on here might realize, just because we’re so used to what an FRC robot should look like. I distinctly remember watching the Ri3D reveal from 2013 and learning so much, not about the specifics or exact engineering, but just about the general scale and proportions of a robot. The KOP chassis also does a good job of giving rookies this sense of scale just off of how the chassis is made, but it’s just a chassis.

[Transitioning from an anecdotal and reasonable argument to a completely contrived and unsupported argument.]

I do understand the arguments about Ri3D possibly making things too easy or providing a big chunk of the design element to teams. But as mentioned above, we’re still seeing a significant portion of FRC teams fielding a robot that competes at lower level than an Ri3D clone might have. So either teams are too proud to just copy Ri3D and hone their reliability and driver skill to field a competitive robot, or teams aren’t able to translate the design they see in a video into an equally competitive robot. Or both, plus a whole bunch of other, more complex reasons.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I also think that as FRC spreads, more and more teams are being founded without:

  1. a solid base of technical mentors,
  2. a solid base of financial support and sponsors.

Now, if this is completely incorrect and the same percentage of teams in the early to mid-2000’s were started without either or both of those two things, please tell me. That’s just an impression I’ve gotten from reading around on here. But if it is somewhat true, I think that shows why the existence of Ri3D is more important and beneficial now than it might have been in earlier years.

I would be highly interested in a little challenge. I don’t know if it can be pulled off, but…

Any Ri3D robots that remain functional (and give-or-take unmodified–modify to be “legal”, for a given offseason’s value of “legal”, but without further iteration) get entered into one or more offseason events, either as pre-rookie robots or as second robots or as “house” robots.

I think you can see where this is going…

The challenge is to see how an Ri3D robot would end up in a competition environment. Obviously it wouldn’t be a good idea to do that at an official competition event, but at an offseason you can get away with a lot of stuff. If they all end up at the bottom of the stack, then there’s a pretty good argument that they’re not as “upsetting the system” as anybody thinks. If they end up at the top, then the argument goes the other way. My guess is they’ll end up in the middle: above the BLT-types and below the iterated robots.

I’d love to see this just because I think it’d be a lot of fun as well. Also, the logistics would be difficult, but it’d be awesome to get 6 Ri3D bots at one event and let them duke it out.

“So either teams are too proud to just copy Ri3D and hone their reliability and driver skill to field a competitive robot, or teams aren’t able to translate the design they see in a video into an equally competitive robot.”

Umm…how much would a young team learn by just copying an admittedly cool robot? We are supposed to be training Engineers not RetroEngineers. Or strictly speaking, just well trained Robot Jockeys.

As a mentor I would be much happier with a crazy, innovative but ultimately less or even unsuccessful design.

T. Wolter

The GreenHorns have actually done this the past two years. We’ve worked with 4607 to bring our Ri3D robot to a pre-rookie team. The pre-rookie team works with 4607 to build bumpers for the robot which gives the team great experience. After the bumpers are made, our robot has been entered in a couple of the Minnesota offseason events including the Minnesota Robotics Invitational (MRI) and Minne Mini.

The rookie team then competes with our Ri3D robot while learning to scout, market their team, etc. from 4607. Considering the robot is controlled by a pre-rookie team that doesn’t fully understand the game, that may skew the results slightly, but our robots have been low to middle of the pack in each event.

I would think if the robot were controlled by somebody with a decent amount of drive practice and an understanding of the game, it would be a late pick at most events.

This was also attempted in 2015 (albeit on a far smaller scale). 'Snow Problem (from the University of Minnesota) and The GreenHorns (from NDSU) met at 4607’s high school to do a demonstration of both robots driving around on a makeshift field. We met up and filmed and had a great time and then realized our camera setup failed… so none of driving was recorded.

I would love to meet up with Snow Problem again this year, but we run into the problem of missing the first week of the semester… In fact, The GreenHorns’ team members are already missing the first day of classes and most likely the second day as well (going to class after having 5 hours of sleep over a 4 day period isn’t the best idea). If there was interest, perhaps we could set up a meeting the following weekend?

As I reread my own post, I realize the “too proud” bit came off a little harsh. The reason I worded it as such and agree with that sentiment is because I have fallen victim to that mistake. You mention a crazy, innovative robot that ends up being less successful. I’ve built one of those, and I’m immensely proud of it. Our 2015 bot was very unique in design and execution, but it wasn’t near as successful as we hoped or thought. But I still learned a lot from designing and building that robot, and I’m not trying to discourage those designs. However, our 2014 bot was neither innovative or successful. It was just poorly designed and even more poorly built. I learned very little from that robot, and I wish I could go back and borrow more heavily from Ri3D or many other resources that I now know about to develop the base of the design for that year.

Either way, I think it’s all a moot point if the students aren’t taught the engineering behind any of those decisions. If students decide to borrow heavily from Ri3D, then the mentors can use that opportunity to teach the students how and when to “steal from the best,” and when to “invent the rest.” Then they can teach students how to optimize their design and iterate to improve performance and reliability. If students decide to strike it out on their own and go with a very innovative design, then the mentors should take that opportunity to teach better prototyping skills to iron out all the unknowns of a unique design. Then they can teach students how to compete and exist in a niche and how to market themselves as a unique and innovative solution.

So in the end, I think it’s just two different situations that the mentors can take advantage of and teach the students valuable skills through different scenarios.

I also did not mean to sound harsh. Last year my rookie team was quite impressed with Ri3d but decided to go in other directions. I think it would be great to have far out design ideas every year…even if it means several total failures for every astonishing success.

T. Wolter

While I have some issues with this perspective (big wonder why, I help run 'Snow Problem), as we enter another season of Ri3D I do appreciate the consistent amount of push-back Ri3D gets. I think it’s a great thing that the community consistently pushes us to be a positive part of the FIRST season. I know we’ve had a number of discussions on 'Snow Problem that revolved around the fundamental question of how we could positively affect teams. While on some level disagreement is inevitable, it is something that has pushed us to try new things in order to give back to this community.