Unexpected use of robotics skills or technology

I’d like to share and hear about times you’ve used skills or techniques or technology you learned from FIRST to solve real-world issues, ESPECIALLY those which don’t appear to be STEM problems. I’ll start with two, both involving VersaFrame.

About six months ago, the local chapter of Family Promise, a charity which helps homeless families get back on their feet, bought a new trailer to transport beds. I did a bunch of work to get the trailer into usable shape, such as mounting the spare tire, building a shelf for smaller items, adding tie-down pads and so forth. When it came time to mount the license plate, I used a piece (about 10" long) of Versaframe Channel I had left over from last fall’s robot project; it was the perfect bracket for the job.

This summer, I’m again working with the Vacation Bible School/Arts Camp at my church. For the “big group project” this year, the desire was to build a cross woven of fabric scraps. (The painted-stone cross from two years ago is hanging on the east wall of the church, a bit to the right of the altar because it turned out so awesome.) Anyway, this project (a “loom”/framework so the kids could go to town being creative) went through a LOT of iterations in my mind (at least as many as some robots), and the framework will be made of four sticks of Vex VersaFrame (mostly 0.4", but some 1x1x0.1") fourteen (or more) pair of VF gussets, 100+ eye bolts from Bolt Depot, 200+ Rivets from Hansen Rivets, 100+ feet of 5/32" bungee cord custom-ordered from Home Depot, plus four nylon washers/spacers from Ace Hardware. If it weren’t for my robotics experience, this project would have turned out much differently.


That is really cool. That’s great that you helped with your skills you learned from robotics.

The best place to be is where you aren’t afraid to apply anything you learned anywhere to a problem somewhere else. “Promiscuous Correlation” is a term I’ve seen which seems to apply. Sometimes outside answers work, sometimes they don’t. In general, I’ve found it best to consider that they might work but then do the math to knock out most of the times they don’t.


I used some vex pro tube axle stock to part off some spacers to mount a large computer monitor.

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Hammers are surprisingly useful for a lot of things…
I’ve used SW for math homework as well. It works really well for geometry.

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I’m not sure if this counts but I know for our 2018 robot’s elevator there were tolerance issues so high friction between stages. Adding WD-40 lubricated and helped it move smoother.
I used the same concept this weekend actually at an AirBNB. We were checking out and screen door got stuck open (it’s like one of those pneumatic cylinder things that keep it open like no pneumatics but like body with a rod). The lock that kept it extend refused to move but I remembered that oil = lubricant so grabbed some and applied and voila, lock slid and door closed. Probably saved like $50 which to put in perspective was cost to stay one night.

I too have had a VBS build season. We are doing Jonah & the whale. I made a big whale that sits in front of a door. With the press of a button the whale opens up allowing people in. I have a big 8020 frame with a single stage lift. The bearing design was taken from our robot lift this year. Some of the 8020 was taken from our stock but I had to order a few long bars. My plan is to donate all the 8020 parts back to the team after I take it apart.


I’m trying to remember exactly how we did it, but the Drama club needed a couple of Tooeys for their fall production last year. So the robotics team used some servos and small motors and controllers to build the first two of 4.

For those that didn't figure out WHAT we built...

Little Shop of Horrors, Audrey II, first and second versions (that is, small pot and slightly bigger pot). The drama club took care of versions 3 and 4 (4 being a “major set piece”).

I used a Victor SPX, a Neverest 60, and an arduino to power custom mini turntables that we use at work. The turntables are used to rotate glass eyes while the decorator paints them.

My team helped our theater department with their spring musical. They were doing Little Shop of Horrors and wanted to bring the dentist’s chair up through a trap in the stage. We rigged a platform lift for them, based on our elevator design, powered by a CIM motor with a 64:1 CIMSport gearbox. We controlled it using our test board (a PDP, RoboRIO and TalonSRX controller), our secondary driver station laptop and a joystick. It worked beautifully, lifting the chair and platform up from the pit and then locking it down for the dentist office scenes. This exercise in applied robotics let the team extend our outreach to help other aspects of the school and showed them how robotics can be applied directly to solve unconventional problems.

I am an automation engineer at an injection molding company in the Denver area. I have designed multiple automation cells and almost every single one has an FRC component in it somewhere. In the photo of one of the systems, you will see thunder hex and other Vex pieces in multiple places if you look close enough.


I have recliners built into my couch, activated by pull handles attached to a steel cable. I’ve replaced the cables after they’ve frayed and broken several times, borrowing tools from the shop to properly crimp it, and broken out the calipers to make measurements to design and 3D print new handles when the plastic ones broke. The whole thing is one big design flaw, with these parts never intended to last this long. After replacing yet another handle this past weekend (the last of the originals, over on a side that practically never gets used), I’ve started to consider a complete overhaul and replacing the pull cables with push-button controlled window or seat motors with a simple linear linkage. I figure I might be able to get another 10 years out of the couch that way :slight_smile:

I was at a Twins game and they do these fillers between innings. One is a game where they give a subject and you see if you can rattle off more than the Twins player in 10 seconds. Usually 5 or 6 is pretty good. On the subject of “Northern Minnesota Towns”, I was able to say 15 because of all the FRC teams that come from Northern Minnesota.


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