Should we rebuild our robot to be an autonomous container grabber?

One of the teams I’m working with this year is considering switching their robot to an autonomous container grabber if they qualify for the championship. The “robot” would be four container grabbers. I don’t want to disclose the exact strategy, but let’s just say they have a good chance to win almost any container grab competition.

At first, I dismissed it as crazy. Sure, containers from the step are important, but can you really justify picking a robot that can only do one thing? After autonomous mode, the robot doesn’t move - not the most exciting thing ever.

A few nights ago, a student and his brother came to me and explained why they thought it was worth it. They would only make the change if/when they were at the championships. After watching teams play, it’s clear that a good team can make two full 42 point stacks. It’s not unimaginable that two of these teams could end up together on an alliance at the championship. If these teams each scored their two stacks, and we grabbed the auto containers, the other teams would have to stack 21 totes to make up for our fourth stack and tie with us. It gets even better if the other two teams score more points. I was worried that this alliance might not make it out of quarterfinals, but the four team alliances would let us sit out and the other three bots rack up points to boost our average. In semis, we’d score fewer points, but we’d severely limit the number of points our opponents can score.

What do you guys think? Is it worth it, or are we just crazy? How desirable is the ability to be amazingly good at grabbing center containers? If we’re the best at it, are we sure to be picked?

It’s a viable idea, but don’t forget,

R17 At an Event, Teams may have access to a static set of FABRICATED ITEMS, not bagged per R14, known as the WITHHOLDING
ALLOWANCE, that shall not exceed 30 lbs. to be used to repair and/or upgrade their ROBOT. The WITHHOLDING
ALLOWANCE may only be brought into the Venue when the Team initially loads in at the Event. Items made at an Event do not
count towards this weight limit.

Thanks for the reminder - we’ve already planned for this. Lots of our weight is motors, COTS gearboxes, parts than are on our currently bagged robot, and raw material we plan to cut to size at the event.

Can you post a before and after pic like they have in dietary commercials?

Perhaps more relevant:

R4 The ROBOT weight may not exceed 120 lbs. When determining weight, the basic ROBOT structure and all elements of all
additional MECHANISMS that might be used in different configurations of the ROBOT shall be weighed together.

If you’re going to make such a drastic change on a Thursday, I would definitely want to have already built one so you don’t have to do nearly as much tweaking at competition.

Also, if you’re going to tune for the autonomous container grab, you should consider:

  • There will likely be an arms race for the cans in many championships matches; we already saw it at finals in Dallas in week 1 - build strong!
  • If you add a quick drive to the auto zone (presuming you don’t get caught in a tug-of-war), you may score or contribute to an 8 point auto container set for each match
  • Once you get the cans, you would be far more attractive as an alliance partner if you can also take care of getting noodles in the cans and stacking them high, or at least delivering them to your alliance partners.

30 lbs is enough to remake an entire robot if done right.

Assuming your container grabbing ability is top-notch, and you grab all four containers every time, you alliance needs to make either 7 fully capped stacks of 5 or about 5 fully capped stacks of 6 to “beat” an opponent.
So yes, the top two robots in a division are theoretically capable of this, but will your ability to outscore your direct opponents be able to keep your average score high enough to move on to the finals of playoffs where it really matters.

However, if your options are a mediocre stacker or a potential clutch pick at the championship event (even as a fourth robot the alliance just brings out for finals), I’d take the clutch pick personally.

I hope to see this robot happen.

Very true. Most teams at champs go to three events, that is 90 pounds. If you were pre-qualified or otherwise confident in your ability to get to Champs, you can strategize by bringing 30 pounds of fabricated items at your first two events with the express purpose of just putting them in the bag after the event is over. You make duplicates of whatever you are fabricating to go in the bags so you can test it while it sits in the bag (likely in your shop). By champs you have 90 pounds worth of assemblies ready to go.

I imagine teams with little raw talent on their team but with high aspirations might even wait a couple weeks to see mechanisms they like, deploy crucial ones to win their regional and qualify for champs, then build the other crucial stuff to split between the bag at their second event and champs.

We actually switched out almost 100% of our robot last year between stop build day and championship Saturday.

(but we still need stop build day, right?)

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Come alliance selection at st louis, I feel that the first alliance team will have to make a very tough choice. Do they pick the second best stacker and risk being chokeholded, or do they pick the best autonomous can grabber and then pick a not top teir stacker robot that will be able to put up (at least) 6 stacks with litter with you.

148 almost put up 5 stacks on their own in the eliminations at dallas (in week 1 mind you), except one of their stacks took a tumble transporting it. I’m willing to bet they practice more and fix any issues they have and are capable of doing 5 stacks consistently in the future.

If all of those are topped with a bin and litter, most likely the best the other team can do is tie them by matching them. (The other team wins if they have an additional stack of any size).

So say you’re in 148’s shoes on Tesla and finish qualifications and are seeded first. I would choose the team that can grab 2 or 4 middle bins the fastest then pick the best landfill stacker.

So, for whatever team is considering this: if you already have a spot at worlds, I think it is a very viable game plan. You better hope you are one of the fastest robots that can grab those bins though. You won’t seed very high most likely, but the teams that will be alliance captains will take full notice of your potential for them.

I actually meant just the 30.

I’m not understanding where the 90 lbs comes in can you clarify what happens at each event with bag items so I can see where the 90 lbs comes in?Of course to staying withing the rules.

Edit: I see you corrected it. But still how is the 30 an advantage for multiple event bots. Just for swap outs?

I think this year is going to see a lot more rebuilds than in the past. We are rebuilding our robot completely at our first event. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we will be good this weekend after the rebuild. Our original design wasn’t going to cut it and we need to find a way to be better by our next event, championships, and in the off-season. In other games you can play defense or have clever game plans. In this game there isn’t much hope for that other than the center cans and by worlds I’m pretty sure the fastest RC grabs are going to be on some of the very well known teams. There will definitely be places and ways where other teams can contribute but it’s going to be interesting to find them.

The funny thing is that they most likely won’t seed every high either. I could easily see the fastest RC grabber in a division be in the bottom 25% seed wise, but be first picked in alliance selection.

gg. You can if you want. From disassembling an OTS gearbox all the way up to bringing raw stock and knowing what you need to cut, it’s simple to cut down a change to 30. It just keeps getting simpler after that (simple doesn’t mean easy, but it can).

Not for swap outs. If you wanted to build a step can and landfill-centric strategy or a human player and full auto-centric strategy, or any kind of heavy hitting one, you could pick the one you think is more likely to bring you success at your regional to build first. After that you could in theory build around an entirely different strategy and limit the weight of it depending on how many events you attend. If you attend 3 events, that is 90 pounds. Teams in the district system have to compete a minimum of 3 events before they can even reach a 4th event in Championships (unless there is a pre-qualified team that prefers to sit out their region/state championship). In theory, the robot they put in the bag on stop build day could be joined by 3 separate sets of 30 pounds worth of fabricated items, and a 4th set of 30 would join them at championships, allowing them to have modified or replaced 100% of their robot. With the 45 pound limit last year, this could be done across 3 events.

Obviously there are drawbacks to this (you don’t allow yourself to make any spares unless you play smart, you spend practice day reassembling, you don’t spend your allowance on making iterative improvements to your existing designs) but there is enough play in the rules to do it.

We’re doing it.

This is how we bagged at Inland Empire.

Check back in 1.5 weeks for an entirely new Sandstorm.



Hey we did that last year!

If you don’t switch out a major assembly between events you’re doing it wrong (or very very right, good on you!)

I think we one upped you. Between our at champs we tore our entire robot to pieces except for the drive train. New electronics board, new pick up, new holder. All in four hours at champs. I remember our alliance partners coming over to us every 30 minutes asking if we were going to make our match. And I am glad to say we did :smiley:

Is it worth it? It really depends on what you do now. I would suggest that if you are an RC specialist, like to play in the landfill, and/or can easily deal with tipped RC’s, you are far better off making a less drastic change: A very fast 2 RC autonomous grabber isn’t that hard to do. This would rally augment your abilities and make you very desirable as an alliance pick. Even if you are, overall, a mediocre robot, you could be an outstanding 2nd pick - or even a 1st pick, depending on how well you do other things. (i.e., if you can only make one 3 tote stack with an RC in 2:15, but if one of those RC’s came from teh center during autonomous with a second, you have potentially just added a huge value to your alliance.)

As for the “grab 4 every time” idea, I don’t buy into it. I am of the opinion that if you can do something, there is always somebody out there who can do the same thing just as well, if not better. For every 4 RC grabber, there will be 2 robots that can grab 2 RC’s in half the time - or with double the strength… Frankly, I’d have to be very sure of myself before selecting a 4 RC grabber for eliminations, especially if it does nothing else.

The interesting thing about planning for a complete Champs rebuild into a 4 RC auto specialist is you don’t necessarily have to be working Thursday. If your whole plan is to be good enough at 4 RC auto to get nabbed by a stacking fiend alliance, then you clearly don’t care about your ranking. All you need is to show up at enough matches to convince one of the higher ranked teams that you’re worth a pick. It’s entirely possible to do that with your handful of Saturday morning matches, though you’re better off if you fit one or two demos in Friday afternoon.

57 accidentally did this in 2007 at Great Lakes. We had a double ramp lift that was broken all thursday/friday till we had the the BB gearbox shaft welded to the planet carrier. Lift worked flawlessly Saturday morning and 1114 was the only team that noticed and nabbed us as the last pick of the draft.