The Robonauts 118 - Driver Training System

During the offseason after FIRST Steamworks, the Robonauts Class of 2017 developed a modular driver training system to better prepare team 118’s drivers for competition. These mechanisms were built to manipulate the rugged gears from FIRST Steamworks, and can mount to almost any chassis with just 4 bolts (shown on our prototyping platforms we call “Pacbots”). The video contains footage from a couple of our driver tryout sessions in December.

I counted 189 gears…

Roughly $5,000 at the sale price of $25 and roughly $10,000 at the original price of $50…

Love it.

As always, I am impressed at the scale that you guys operate at.

Beyond just making robots, it looks like you also improved the pegs. I couldn’t help but notice that they were supporting multiple gears without needing an end hook to keep the gears on, yet when the drivers ran into them they had a little give. What design are you using on the pegs?

The wonderful things that can be accomplished with a large dedicated space like that make me beyond jealous.

Actually, closer to $1200 or $2400 - they’re now $25 for a box of four, $7 for one. It’s also curious how beaten up some of those gears are…

It looks like schedule 40 PVC pipe on a smaller spring so that most of the give is at the fixed end.

The pegs are 1/2" PVC pipe that is pressed onto a turned down andymark wheel hub. Then there is surgical tubing with a bolt inside of it and washer on the outside that runs through the PVC pipe and has a zip tie and a washer inside of the wooden assembly that keeps it in tension. They are able to bend in any direction and pop right back to the correct orientation. Across 4 days of driver tryouts we had only one fail due to a zip tie that wasn’t tight enough.

Thanks for the correction… didn’t see that the price was for four Gears. Still an outrageous amount of Gears!


Is that frosted polycarb on the gear mechanism?

That’s what we call it. It’s just normal polycarb orbital sanded on both sides. It doesnt show scratches as much as regular polycarb. If you sand it on just one side it remains somewhat translucent.

This is super cool! It also solves a very minor mystery I’ve been pondering ever since my (non-FRC) friend sent me a wide-angle shot from his tour of the Johnson Space Center a couple months ago. He just wanted to share all the space stuff going on, but I could clearly see some brightly-colored bumpers on the Robonauts’ field and wondered what they were! Both pics below are highly zoomed-in and thus quite blurry. His original pic captured the whole assembly/work room there at JSC (quite giant).

(On an aside, I’ve toured JSC a couple times and loved it; always love the FRC easter egg that is 118’s work area).

The Robonauts would like to THANK The Robonauts Class of 2017 for making such a great system and we’d like to especially THANK FIRST for making such a GREAT gamepiece … THANK YOU both. To provide a little background, the GeaRunner concept started with recognizing that the gear, in our opinion, was the single best gamepiece in the 25+ years of FIRST from a durability and manipulation standpoint. We had several motives to pursue the GeaRunners with the top two being:

  • to have an FRC-class robot that could be driven and operated to do an FRC-type task by our guests, who are of all ages, to the NASA-JSC Robotics Division.

  • to have a robot that 118 could use to train drivers and to allow all team members to experience operating & competing with an FRC-class robot.

Again, in the 20+ years of The Robonauts, we had never seen a better game piece that was so durable and encompassed so many of the skills needed to drive an FRC robot. We expect these gears to last around 118 years. Making it more compelling was the idea of making two GeaRunners so we could have head-to-head competitions.

After our driver training & tryouts in December and having our guests drive the robots, the GeaRunners have turned out better than we expected … THANKS again to the Class of 2017 for taking what you learned in your 18 years of life and giving back to The Robonauts. On a side note and to brag a bit on our new alumni, the GeaRunners were almost completely “student built”; the mentors that were involved spent a few minutes on a design review and several hours in front of a waterjet cutting parts to help the students. Oh, and by the way, these are the same students that spent endless hours tearing out sheetrock all around Houston after Harvey … we are VERY proud of you!

The GeaRunners were designed for durability and they have given us a couple dozen hours of operation without a failure. I would encourage anyone to develop your own GeaRunner for demonstrations & training, expecially the gear intake & arm … or duplicate our GeaRunner - we’d be more than happy to share the CAD files with you. And, it looks like AndyMark still has lots of gears for the buying:)

For the record, personally, I am very fond of other game pieces, such as the tetra, but the gear’s “place” in the pick-n-place sequence requires so many skills (accuracy & patience to name a couple) … especially when the pressure is on … when “patience” becomes “hurried patience”.

Also for the record, please always remember that sometimes the Robonauts videos are not what they appear at first watching … the “I counted 189 gears…” was really you counting about 15 whole gears and over 170 half gears, which turns your $10,000 into about $600 with Andy’s Summer Sale, which is a LOT of money BUT if the gears last us 118 years then that’s less than a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts a year … okay, I admit, we may have made a bad decision … ohhhhhhhh, Krispy Kreme … anybody want to trade half a gear for a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts … OHHHHHH, the sacrifices we make for robots :slight_smile:

Have a great kickoff … only about 118 hours away … give or take 2056 minutes!,

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Can we get a ballpark number of the cost to make a single GeaRunner?

Well said, looks fun.

I’m fond of the gear, but my favorite attribute is how they roll with good stability because of the thickness. You can bowl it across the field and it will stay on edge. I would have enjoyed seeing robot-to-robot or HP-to-robot passes. A HP station where you could bowl like in 2016 would be interesting.

Our non-broken Tetra collection went from 0 to 1 today! During shop cleanup it was noticed how much Tetra PVC pieces are still in our bins and how there are still a few non-broken end caps. A couple new lexan pieces and we added the game piece to the museum. Mr. Bill was pleased to have his game piece back. We have all but 2 robots there and most game pieces.

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Here’s a link to the bill of materials. The areas for the different materials are close estimates and this doesn’t include fasteners. It also assumes that you already have a chassis with a controls system. They could be made cheaper if you standardized on materials and thicknesses.

Great article on NASA building 9 where they are based.

My friend Allison runs the mocup section and it’s fun walking through the ISS.