Should teams be allowed to reuse fabricated items and/or build before Kickoff

After the season (2019), our driver was playing around with our 2018 robot, and she scored more cargo in our rocket in about 15 minutes with our 2018 robot than we had scored during the entire 2019 season (with the 2019 robot). Yeah, there’s quite a story around that, and suffice it to say that this season was NOT very inspiring for any of our students.

If we could have used the 2018 robot (chassis and elevator) for competition, our software guy (yes, we have a software team of 1) could have spent a lot more time developing some nifty vision processing stuff, and our mechanical team could have developed some really nifty hatch-panel manipulators and/or a Hab3 climb. That would have been great! Now, we could have simply re-built the same chassis and elevator (at substantial cost), but if we had been able to just start with the old robot (which is more “real world”), the cost and time savings would have been the ‘nudge’ they needed to make better decisions about design and use of resources.

As a low-resource team (maybe middle, we do have cash but no ‘fortune 500’ or real engineering sponsors or mentors), I think removing the limits on pre-season design and build would help us more than it would hurt us (and more than it would help our higher-resourced competition).

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I think I tend to agree with @bjtheone .

Students are inspired by seeing their robot succeed on the field, but only if it really does feel like their robot. We have a heck of a time getting our rookie students excited about improving the previous year’s robot for offseason competitions - working on “someone else’s bot” just isn’t that interesting to them, and I think that some of that disinterest would extend to the whole season if too much reuse was allowed (and potentially if the kitbot became an everybot, as well). The #1 feedback we got from our seniors this year in their exit interviews and testimonials was how much pride they felt from seeing their robot on the field and knowing that it was 100% theirs.

As a design mentor, assembling a pre-made robot from a kit sounds boring as heck, and it would have to 16-year-old-me too. What got me hooked on engineering was mentors drawing me into the design process and making me make design decisions. Looking back, the drivetrain I designed and built in high school was very basic and probably not very different from a kit chassis, but it was mine, and seeing that 6W tank drive for the first time was a life-changing moment. We were a pretty low-resource 3rd year team (bandsaws, drill presses and no CAD), but we still got a robot out there that did reasonably well, without using any KOP or COTS assemblies.

That said, every year there are young teams that don’t manage to get a robot out there that plays the game. I don’t begrudge anyone using the kit chassis if that’s the only way they can field a robot, or if that’s the only way they’d have time to do a scoring mechanism. But a team that uses a KOP everybot would be giving up the entire mechanical design aspect of FIRST. Maybe it’s still better for a low-resource team to only inspire programmers than to fail or fold and inspire no one. But it doesn’t sit well with me.

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Coming from a time-constrained team (school rules), I’ll agree being able to use parts fab’d before kickoff would help.

Example: We use the kitbot to save time, and being able to build it & shake it out before kickoff (even understanding the likely need to mod it) would have saved a lot of time this year… because we had several problems like a flawed gear, a flaky encoder, along with a couple human errors… probably lost us over a week of elapsed time, and then we hit our mandatory break from meetings for finals, and then snow… sigh still stressful to think about a bare chassis in week 4.

In addition to the benefits mentioned already, I think time-constrained teams could devise pre-kickoff-built, already-tested chassis approaches conducive to reasonably flexible perimeter dimension and open-side mods after kick-off. It would give more of the precious time to game-specific mech design.

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Unfortunately, many teams don’t/won’t take advantage of the off-season time. At least they are not starting from zero at the next Kickoff.

I think the team I have been mentoring this past season would have benefitted from being allowed to use a previously built chassis. While they are neither desperate for resources nor do they have more resources than they know what to do with, the team members are very slow at building. It took them most of 2 weeks to get a KoP chassis assembled to where it could move and we could start troubleshooting. After a few years, they could have one each of a long, wide and square KoP chassis that is ready to go.

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Your team is time-constrained. My team this year is productivity-constrained (they build very slowly). Such teams could use a pre-built KoP-based chassis that is smaller than what has been allowed in recent years so it is virtually guaranteed to fit future rules. Neither of our teams should be trying to emulate what teams like 118 do so the smaller size would likely not be much of a constraint.

Was your 2018 bot used for prototyping at all last year? it sounds like some playtime using it may of shown that last years bot would be a good idea to base your designs on…

A lot of the anecdotal issues that are being claimed to be “solved” from this idea could be fixed with work in the offseason. Im not really for or against it, but I have yet to see anything compelling either way.

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I have been saying this for a while, the information first puts out you need to dig for.

I started doing pneumatics for the first time last year and had to dig for a clear guide.

When I first started the team, as a rookie we luckily knew the wiring rules but I went digging for a wiring guide which wasn’t as easy to find if I didn’t go through CD.

I would love to see this, for 2019 it could have been a very simple mechanism to score balls in the cargo ship and left plenty of room and weight for the team to add a hatch mechanism, ground cargo intake, climber. For 2017 a scoop that acquired gears from the HP Station on the front of the robot, but left the back open for either a climber, ground gear intake, or fuel. Doing something like this would give teams more of a chance to innovate and improve on the given mechanism, or install others in addition, Overall raising the floor of competition.

At the FiM District event, a team showed up with half the KoP Chassis on Friday morning about one hour before matches started. By the end of the weekend, thanks to numerous teams and volunteers at the event, not only were they driving, they had a camera, they also were able to score a hatch on the cargo ship in sandstorm! The mechanism that was given to them was their mechanism to keep, and they went to the FiM Traverse City event and ended up getting the highest rookie seed at 14th. The members of their team were so happy at Alpena when they scored their first hatch, I can only imagine how happy they were when they were a first pick.

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A lot of posts mention that low-resource teams can benefit from the re-use of the KOP chassis from previous seasons. Couldn’t we just explicitly allow this? Allow teams to re-use old KOP items including any assembly and modifications done to them prior to build season. We already re-use KOP electronics, the chassis wouldn’t be much different.

This allows low-resource teams to re-use last season’s chassis.
This avoids the more contentious issue of total mechanism and robot re-use (unless your robot is a KOP box on wheels).
And it opens up the door for other potential cost saving measures.

What if teams weren’t required to receive a new chassis each season? Instead of a voucher, you could have an option for a cheaper entry fee if you receive no chassis that season. I have no idea what amount of the KOP is donated versus paid for so this might not help at all if the chassis is effectively donated each year, but it’s an idea to help sustainability.

One side effect of this would be creating incentives to use the KOP chassis, since it could be re-used but a custom WCD couldn’t. I’m not sure whether that is a good or a bad thing, but either way it creates incentives that can skew design choices (just like the allowance for COTS parts vs an identical custom part does now).

This whole discussion is pretty timely, I was just looking at AndyMark Performance Wheels this week and realized that you have to drill your own rivet holes for mounting tread. The way I have interpreted past game manuals this means you could not re-use the wheels year to year since you’ve modified them in a way to achieve your final design. That interpretation has a major impact on whether a team like mine would be willing to spend the money on nicer wheels. I could justify it if I can see them being re-used for many seasons but can’t if we have to buy new ones every year, which would add $500+ extra we need to spend over a 4 year period. To me this doesn’t fit the spirit of why these rules exist but it looks like that is how it is currently written.

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The conversation about about whether or not we should be giving teams a base level robot has been going on for decades at this point. Very similar arguments were being made when Andymark first opened in this thread (I’m not saying that the people here are acting the same as that thread just that similar points are being made) back in 2004.

I think that there’s definitely an argument that we shouldn’t have everybody with the same robot but I don’t think we’re anywhere near that point. If at some point FIRST does decide to go with giving everybody a basic robot I think it should be super basic. For example this year I would put a velcro hatch intake and a bucket with a piston that can load from the human player station and kick the cargo out. Both of these are super simple and probably wouldn’t be that effective but I think it’s a lot more inspiring to have a robot that can do something over a robot that breaks down every match.

I’d be totally on-board with allowing teams to re-use the KOP chassis, and/or releasing the KOP chassis much earlier (say, upon registration for the year) and allowing teams to assemble, wire, program, and drive it right away.

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Rookies should be given the KOP chassis and electronics upon registration, then given a second one in the KOP at the beginning of the season. Basically, they should get 2 copies of the rookie tote.

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Consider a brand new team entering FRC after a few years of a “build anytime” rule. They have the struggles we all would expect. The. They go to an event and get completely run over on the field because every other robot is a combination of tried and true previous robots from teams with more experience. The next year, they don’t show up to any more competitions…

Designing is a key part of the learning and inspiring that happens. Putting together modules is simply not the same thing. Count me against this idea.

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You pretty much just described the current state of FRC…

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Yup. It’d be a pretty easy rule change in my opinion. Many teams already do it every season regardless of the rules. Inspectors let it slide and rightfully so - who wants to be the person that has to tell a team they can’t compete because they re-used an old KOP drive? Nobody.

I am all for this. As a team with declining numbers, we need every second we can get.

Also, I think we gave Marshall something to complain about.

I think that without regulation this incentivizes re-use of key components, and if you re-use them, you can’t re-design them. If we hadn’t built a new elevator this year, I wouldn’t have the experience working with belting that I gained, the student who oversaw the construction of the elevator wouldn’t have the build experience that will let her become an effective leader next year. Please keep in mind the student experience when making suggesting such things. Iteration across seasons is an important part of FRC, and this makes it extremely financially irresponsible to do so. The last thing we need right now is more of the same looking robots (cough tube elevators cough)…

I’m not entirely against this, but I am against the free-for-all that seems to be the front-running candidate in these posts. This does nothing to help the teams without manufacturing facilities, and a little too much to help those with.

I completely agree that having a functional robot is more inspiring. However, I spend more time pondering this last night and I still don’t think the KOP delivered Everybot is a good idea. I believe it has the potential to create a strong divide between the “design & fab” and the “build the kit” teams. On the positive it would lift the initial functionality of the “kit” teams, and lower the barriers to entry (no/less design, almost no fab, potentially full software framework). The negative is that without requiring design & fab & software to deliver a robot, would you get the progression, or would you just create silos. I suspect the later, and that it would effectively facilitate a different overall experience. Assembling a Everybot kit does not teach you the design or fabrication skills, nor does it take you through the design process of game analysis, brainstorming, conceptual design, prototyping. design, and fabrication. It would teach you the assembly side of things.

The KOP already delivers a fairly simple, low requirement path to a drive-able chassis. A number of vendors are stepping up with kit solutions to game manipulators.

The Everybot initiative gives you a path to get from current chassis kit to functional robot, while still exposing you to more of the aspects of the full process. I think it provides a better roadmap for progression.

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I would worry about a “low resource” team relying on being able to use their KOP chassis from the previous season, but not being able to because the game changed in some way that affects the chassis.

At some point, “low resource” means “insufficient resource.” There is some minimum budget below which competing in FRC is just not really a reasonable option. We can have a discussion about what that minimum budget is. (and, if you look around on CD, you can probably find that discussion :slight_smile: ). But, if you can’t make the $475 (or whatever) for the kit chassis, there’s decent chance that you may be below the minimum.

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While I, like many others on this thread, are pretty torn on the concept of an Everybot in the KoP, there are two areas where I think there might be more consensus in relaxing the no-manufacturing-before-kickoff rule:

  • Like others have mentioned, release some of the robot rules (perimeter, weight, etc) early and allow teams to build the KoP drivebase before kickoff.
  • Allow teams to manufacture parts that are identical to existing COTS components. This can also be legislated in another way: manufactured parts that are identical to COTS components are considered COTS components. If teams could mass manufacture things like gussets and other small common parts before the season starts, we’re really just saving teams money.
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