Ultimate Ascent - Most Difficult Ever? Too difficult?

This is my 12th year in FIRST Robotics, and I’d thought the build had generally become somewhat routine, the games somewhat predicable, and I’d just about seen it all. But now in the third week of build season, I’m finding this very difficult. Even with the ability to rapidly make parts in-house and over a decade of experience of doing this, I’m finding myself doubting our abilities to get it all done by the deadline, and do everything well in this game, and keep the robot built to our standards of quality.

Over 2 weeks in and here’s where we are:
Accurate prototype shooter.
Full welded steel pyramid about 90% constructed.
One goal and one feeder station constructed
All sprockets, bearing blocks, chain tensioners, and wheel axles machined
Gearbox designed
Prototype intake
Electronics mostly laid out, and wire routing planned
Base chassis mostly designed. Still need to design base pan.

Here’s what scares me:
The climbing mechanism has not yet been designed for real in CAD
Neither has the shooter
Nor has the intake conveyor
Nor has the feeding mechanism
Nor has the storage area.
There are areas of our robot that could experience 600 lbs of force under certain circumstances.
All of the above I can see taking another full week to design.
And the really scary part, is I can envision a week straight of welding for 4 hours every night being necessary.

Fitting all this stuff into the new 112" frame perimeter has been a nightmare and a half. And I know there are others with more years in FIRST than myself who have mentioned the same difficulties.

If those of us with this much experience are having this much trouble with it, I fear for what the game will look like for teams of average standing. The teams who work out of a classroom or meet less than 20 hours per week are really going to struggle.

Is this the year one robot/team just can’t realistically do it all?
Is combining the challenging game with the reduced size just too much to ask?
Is there any wayto be competitive at this without meeting every single day until midnight.

I’ve poured every neuron in my brain and dollar in my wallet into this over the past two weeks, and it doesn’t seem any easier yet.

I think a lot of teams will really struggle this year, unless they decide to abandon any plans for hanging beyond 10 pts. The 20 and 30 point hangs will be very rare, especially for a robot that also shoots well.

Kudos to FIRST for really switching it up, but I feel this year has just taken a littletoo big of a step, to the point where the key members of a team are required to sideline the rest of their lives to be truly competitive in this sport. As a teacher, on top of my full time job, I’ve put in over 45 hours per week over each of the last two weeks (and so have some students) outside of the school day, and we’re still behind. Being a real leader in this sport is a full time job, which is a lot on top of an already full time job.

I’m not saying I want an easier challenge, but if after 12 years and almost all the resources we could need, me finding it difficult makes me think it’s terrifying if not impossible for many teams to do well in this year’s game.

Anyone agree with any of the above?

I agree that it’s really tough to do it all. So we’re just doing the easy stuff…and I think you can be pretty competitive if you concentrate on the easier parts of the game. Auto seems to be underrated compared to climbing, and the pick up and score thing sure seems a whole bunch easier than climbing, and has good point return. Missing out on 10 or 20 points by not wasting weeks designing and building a climber is the most sensible way to try to get it all done.


Difficult? Yeah.
Extremely difficult? Some parts.

Doable? It’s been done. It’s being done. This game is hard, hardest I’ve experienced, but it’s completely doable. I think with this game teams had to cut down on their priorities and focus on doing a select few things really well instead of everything. As stated in one of the many 1114 white paper resources that I’ve read 1000 times, “If I had 30 unites of robot, I’d rather have 3 units of 10 rather than 6 unites of 5”. While some very good teams in previous years could do everything and more with 10 units of robot, I think due to this year’s challenges even all-star teams are cutting back on doing everything and focusing on being able to do a few things really well.

That being said, I still know a lot of people who are trying to do everything imaginable, and may succeed at it. Maybe you’ll figure something out before the build season is over and make a kick-butt do everything robot. But on the off-chance you don’t have an epiphany anytime soon, I think it would be a good idea to start focusing in on a few major priorities for your strategy, and once those are done look into making them better, and MAYBE after that look into adding those things you couldn’t fit into the build season.

There are 3 weeks left. You’re not alone. Most teams are behind schedule this year, ourselves included (we’ll be cutting steel tomorrow for the first time). Make the best out of the time you have left, and make sure what you get at the end of it does whatever it does at 110% power.

This year is super tough, and I love it! We are going for everything, and I’m very optimistic.

There will be very few robots that can do everything, but teams that specialize in a certain aspect of the game will do very well. I think the GDC did an excellent job with the game design this year, and we’ll have some exciting gameplay.

This is my 11th year, and this is definitely the hardest game to do everything in. There will be teams that do it. There are a lot of curve balls, but for most of the elite teams they are working on a 16 week build schedule anyway. By the time championship roles around we’ll see some very impressive robots.

The new size requirements seem to make robots lighter. So even though we are putting climbing on hold, we have a few ideas of how we might be able to do it before Championship if were able to get there.

I agree with you 100%. Our team has more competent (and even brilliant) designers than it ever has had, and it’s taking every ounce of mental effort we have just to design a robot. We were supposed to have a CAD done this weekend. Another deadline blown. A parent asked me today if we were on schedule, and I told her that the game was so hard that it blew our schedule out of the water.

Here’s my opinion on making the typical powerhouse “do everything” robot. It can be done. But it won’t. Not successfully. By do everything, I mean have a half court shooter and a pickup and a 30pt climber. There simply is not enough room on the robot to fit on all three without heavily compromising multiple aspects of the design. Maybe there’s some game breaking design that I just haven’t come up with, but I just don’t think it’s possible. Any team that tries will underdesign their robot to the degree that it will fail in competition.

We’re managing to do 2 (or 1 1/2, depending on how you look at it) out of three. If we can pull it off, it will be a beastly robot. But if a mechanism breaks or fails to function as designed or we don’t manufacture fast enough or if software doesn’t work or if it’s too hard to drive or if it breaks in competition it will be a failure. High risk and high reward.

A 30 pt is the hardest thing I have ever designed (and you should have seen our off season project…). We have a huge leg up, a very good prototype climber, but there is still a chance we will fail. Fitting it into that smaller frame size compounds the challenge.

Here’s what I can take away: you don’t need to do everything. I know a few people on very successful teams, and they won’t be trying to do everything. This year will go down in FRC history as the hardest one ever. The robots that rise to the top will not be the ones that do everything poorly, but the ones that are breathtaking at one thing. Be that robot.

Has FIRST ever made a game that was easy to do?

This is my 9th season. I agree that the combination of game mechanics and robot constraints have made this game a designer’s nightmare.

It has kept me up until 11pm and woke me at 6am most weekdays. I spent 24 hours in 3 days just coming up with a side & top profile sketch of the inner workings of our bot. The student CAD’ing the disc launcher isn’t losing sleep, but is definitely stressed given the amount of work we’re putting into CAD this year. Packing it into a smaller frame and (oh yea) under 27.5" is even worse.

Yet we’re through the hard part now. Keep pushing, you’ll find the same!

I think this is the most true-to-life game in my FIRST history. I feel the GDC did a great job with this year’s game, especially with the introduction of a new game piece and new robot size requirements.

The scoring objectives are not necessarily clear to which is most valuable. This game is all about developing game level objectives (how to play the game), setting priorities, determining trade space, and sacrificing methodology or mechanisms for the sake of achieving your team’s gameplay objectives.

In my workplace, I work with extremely complex systems that in many cases are supposed to “do it all”. This game is a prime example of how these systems are conceived and developed.

My team does not meet as a class, has never met every day, and only occasionly meets late when needed. I would say we are always competitive. We have no intention of changing our meeting schedule now.*

Yes. 2008 and 2011 had extremely simple tasks that were required to score points. 2011 being 4 years after the previous tube game, with a behind the design book being available every team should have been able to score 2-3 tubes a match.

From my point of view 2010 was harder. the three challenges of the bump, possesing the ball and hanging that year were harder as a combined group. The low hanging fruit way to play this year, human loading, dumping then doing a 10 point hang will be viable for most teams and seed at most events.

The robot that does everything may not actually be viable this year due to space connstraints. It also may not be necessary. To me this is like 2004 where it was almost impossible to hang, hold the doubler ball and collect small balls on 1 robot. In the end only the best teams did it all, while other teams figured out one of those tasks was unnecessary if you played the right way.

*Disclaimer: I’m not heavily involved this year, after 11 years I have too much going on this year to spend much time with the team.

This is year 9 for me. This is by far the most fun; oddly, the challenge seems much more doable for us this year. Not because the game is easy or because we’ve found the secret for a do-all bot; rather, because we accepted early on that we could pursue one of several viable scoring/utility options, and that by excelling in that narrow band we might have a chance in our region. I think lower tier teams that think through their options could become valuable and viable players. Not everyone will like that, and I’m sure the powerhouses will still do everything well, but I am excited to see what teams come up with this year.

This game definitely seems to have been designed to force teams to compromise. Want an accurate shooter? Floor pickup? Storage and indexing for 4 discs? 30 point hanger? Pyramid goal scorer? Go under the low rung of the pyramid? Here, have a 112" frame perimeter and a 54" cylinder (oh, and your bumpers count too).

If you refuse to come to any compromises with your Ultimate Ascent robot design, you risk compromising everything (including your sanity).

Stack Attack…

The more I read about the difficulties everyone is having, the happier I am my team said on day 1, for the first time in team history, that we weren’t going to be doing everything.

You are not alone, this one’s tough.

Our initial strategy to climb for 30 and dump four for 20 more points was near unanimous by the team, and it looks like a lot of other on CD had the same idea. We knew we could only focus on one thing, we didn’t have the resources to try to do it all, and were blinding by the big score. Two weeks later we realize just how hard, and how big a risk that strategy is, and two weeks have been lost.

Yesterday we scrapped all we had done prototyping and CADding a promising climbing mechanism and will be starting from square one with a shooter and a 10-point climb. The main concern was finishing in time to get some driver practice. The design challenge was considerable, requiring a unique chassis, and we weren’t even trying to incorporate a good shooter.

Now we’re hopeful to get a working, playing robot done before ship day, instead of machining like madmen trying to finish an unproven climbing mechanism by Tuesday night.

Bite off what you can chew I think is the lesson for this year.

do everything well in this game

This is your problem. In my opinion, FIRST has spoiled teams by repeatedly giving us two game tasks that can be combined together somewhat easily by the mid to top tier, so “do everything” has been an okay strategy. I don’t think that’s the case this year for many teams. Maybe the elite can do everything, but otherwise you’ve gotta specialize, or you’ll just end up wasting time spreading yourself too thin.

How many teams “did everything well” in 2004? Not many. It’s a little like that year in my mind. I hoped this game was hard enough that teams would recognize “doing everything” to be a bad idea. Paradoxically, the teams intimidated by the challenge into aiming lower will do better this year than they would in an “easier” year where they tried to do more.

If you’re a classroom team working a few hours a week, why, why, WHY would you try to do everything??? It sounds like teams have bit off more than they can chew. For their benefit, I hope they spit something out sooner rather than later…

Quoted for truth. Look at the robot in 3 days design, and ask yourself if what you’re designing is better, then compare the risks you are taking in complexity. We are benchmarking everything we do against that robot, asking ‘will we score more than that robot with this feature, and how likely is this feature’s complexity to cause problems’. If you can’t reliably beat the 3 day robot with a given feature, ask yourself why you’re using it.

I aboslutely understand where you are coming from. I am a 6th year coach (with no engineering background except what I have learned in FIRST). Up until this year I had 1 engineer that worked with us (this year we finally have 5). I am the only coach and because we work out of my classroom I can’t leave the kids with the engineer while I go pick up parts/supplies etc. (district rules). I am also a full-time teacher (4 class preps a day as I teach 4 different classes) and I don’t know what insanity inspired me to do it but I returned to college this semester so tack on 2 senior level college classes to build/competition season.

We are what you would probably call an ‘average’ team but this is something we recognize and accept at this point in our development and it is mainly due to limited resources. It was with this in mind that we decided to focus all of our energy and talent on one aspect of the game. We are not financially able to attend more than one regional and know that it is our one shot at making championships but with a powerhouse field (Robonauts, Robowranglers, Cryptonite, Texas Torque, and Kaos just to name a few) making championships is difficult at best for teams like ours.

Is this the year your team focuses one doing one thing really well? Who knows, that’s something you guys have to decide together but as far as the killer schedule and money that goes with this I absolutely understand where you are. All you can do is dig deep and know that there are other coaches in the same boat you are and we are all paddling together (or bailing the water out in some cases :stuck_out_tongue: ). Know that you have our moral support and that at the end of the day, no matter what your team accomlishes, you are doing a great thing for kids and are admired by many.

If you ever just need to vent or bang your head against the wall (while wearing saftey glasses of course ::safety:: ) PM me and I will be happy to listen and/or offer advice.

Keep your chin up, your safety glasses on, and don’t let the magic smoke out of the electrical components and you’ll do just fine :slight_smile:

Definitely the toughest game in 10 years. The frisbees are easier than expected, but the pyramid is so far beyond a single bar hang.

Not that I have heard anyone complaining, but we should really relish the opportunity to make hard decisions. If a team doesn’t want sacrifice 30 points for floor pick-up (for example) then the team has no right to say the game is too hard.

We embrace this game, because success will say a lot about the team.

We work out of a classroom and still are having great success this year, it is only what you make of it. Perks of being a Michigan team, plenty of teams to help you!