What was there before AndyMark?

I don’t know where people are getting this, unless by “entire robot” they mean “something that drives” and not much else.

Not that “something that drives” can’t be an extremely productive part of an alliance, of course, but it certainly doesn’t trivialize FRC (or even come close).

This is really true. I feel the same way. We no longer have wacky weird (but effective) designs. There’s no longer weird stuff, like ball drives, swerve pods that go up and down, and other strange grabbers from team 47.

How much of that is COTS availability, and how much of that is the game? I love the heck out of 111’s lifting swerve of 2004, but when was the last time there was a game application that called for it?

Really? Really?!?

Articulating drive trains with various omni-directional, mecanum, and traction wheels are all the rage. 148 has a sideways drive that is activated entirely by inertia this year. 971 was experimenting with friction clutch gearboxes. There is no shortage of new and interesting software algorithms like CheesyDrive. There’s been swerve drives with CIM motors inside wheels. We’ve had fans and ball magnets on robots, and some teams even used massive spinning weights to make their robots turn faster. Teams are 3D printing drive wheels and gearboxes.

We are in a golden age of innovation in FRC and robots today are way better than they’ve ever been before.

Reading this topic, it’s painfully obvious that most of the frequent posters on this board are completely unable to look beyond the top 10-20% of FRC teams. Again.


The ironic part about your post is that it is in a thread started about COTS parts. COTS parts have done almost nothing for the top 10% of teams compared to what it has done for the middle 80%.

I remember the “good old days” when hardly anyone moved at a week one regional. It was painful. That is why Woodie Flowers, along with IFI, started a committee to fix the problem in 2004. I was fortunate enough to be asked to be on that committee. The #1 priority: NO Circle bots. If you don’t know, it was a robot that only drove in circles. Without rehashing all the details, here are the highlights:

  1. Got rid of the drill motors as primary drive motors. Replaced with 4 CIMS.

  2. IFI lead designer of the Kit Chassis, making all the parts in their facility in Greenville, TX.

  3. I was the lead designer of the gearbox, while I was still at FANUC Robotics.

  4. I suggested bringing in the newly formed AndyMark to manufacture some of the hex shafts and gears as IFI was not experienced at that yet and the FANUC suppliers were way too expensive.

  5. The majority of the operational stuff was handled between IFI, AM, and FIRST but I burned a favor with the FANUC operations manual department to make the instruction and assembly guide for the gearbox.

This single committee has changed the face of the FRC competition field more than any single entity, in my opinion.

The COTS movement, started by AM, has made it so the elite level teams (the 10% you say the majority concentrate on) had to up their game to stay on top of the pack. The biggest benefactors have been the middle 80% of teams. The teams that had the will, but not the way. The COTs movement gave them the way.

Sorry, do you want teams that should be focusing on reliably achieving the game challenge to be innovating? Yeah that’s a recipe for success right there.

Look at what COTs have done for the normal team:

  • They can drive
  • They aren’t locked into whatever gear ratio they happened to guess when they initially made a gearbox (IF they could make one and didn’t have to hack together some drill gearbox)
  • Costs have come way down
  • Innovations from top teams are actually available to them (shifting transmissions were a black art before AM, god help you about swerve drives)

What has COTS really done for teams like 118, 254, and 67? What do they have available that they couldn’t have done before? (If someone from those teams could chime in here that’d be GREAT)

In my mind this was the single best thing to happen in FIRST to improve the level of play. After this happened you didn’t need a machine shop to actually build a robot that wouldn’t throw chains and have other reliability and drive issues. This allowed everyone to focus on contributing to the alliance rather than just moving.

It’s given them a much larger selection of great alliance partners.

I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that was in response to people complaining about COTS parts trivializing the design challenges of FIRST (“buying a robot,” etc), not in response to people (correctly) saying that COTS parts are a very good thing and have greatly improved FIRST.

If the statement was about the bottom 10%-20% of teams I have a really unpopular response for them: Maybe FRC isn’t for you. There might be benefit in going to a different program with lower costs (FTC,VEX) while you build up the resources needed to compete in FRC. This includes mentorship, community, machining, and monetary resources.

I wouldn’t jump straight to brag, but we are proud of what we are able to accomplish within our resources. FRC558 works from a decent sized build area with only a hand tools, drill press, band saw, belt sander, and drum sander. Building within a teams real resources is one of the hardest things for a team to learn to do. We operate under a couple of mottos on the design side of the team:

“Steal from the best, design the rest” (draw inspiration from what you’ve seen work and integrate with your design)
“Why build what you can buy?” (within reason)

There is plenty of innovation to be had with COTS parts. Part integration and using products for things they were not originally intended are found on machines every year, if you just take the time to look and talk to teams about it.

I have been around as a **mentor since 2000 **and I can tell you that things are so much better now and way more competitive now at every level. Every team has the ability to focus on innovative design concepts, rather simple reliability. As mentioned previously most matches were won or lost by counting how many robots were stuck driving in a circle.

In my opinion the current KOP rules more closely simulates the real world of engineering anyway. I worked as a designer in the food & packaging industries for many years. Most of the designs in our industry were a collection of COTS parts that were custom packaged for our design task. Truly custom design was only performed on about 25% of the overall production line and about half of that was outsourced.

In my industry if your boss found you spending hours designing an unproven custom gearbox when you could have purchased it from a catalog in 10 minutes, you would have a lot of explaining to do. Why not use your time to **create innovative overall designs **rather than solving problems that have already been solved. Its a valid question.

Its important for the kids to understand how a gearbox works, but they do not need to design it from scratch to have the full engineering experience.

Yes, that’s an entire robot. It has a chassis, drive train, can pass inspection, and play in the competition. And nowhere in my post did I say that doing so “trivializes” FRC, particularly since in the very next sentence I talk about how having the fundamentals of a robot provided in the kit are a good thing since raising the floor also raises the ceiling. My team particularly benefits from the KOP. We don’t have a lot of equipment, mostly hand power tools, so being able to start with the chassis is ideal for us.

Then what exactly is “lost?” What benefit was there to a competition where most teams struggle to get something that moves?

Also, I have a hard time construing something that’s not at all designed to play the specific game an “entire” robot.

Small Parts Catalog from 1996 with the winning robot from Ramp N Roll.
Some day I will tell you how this machine was involved in the creation of the term “Gracious Professionalism”

The benefit was the experience of building the chassis and drive train, of having the students innovate and work with what they were given. Of having built something completely from scratch. Now that innovation has shifted to the manipulators and autonomous mode, with the upper echelon teams also being free to develop their drive trains and chassis. I really don’t see what you’re arguing about. All I said was “something” was lost when they transitioned towards a more COTS oriented foundation, and that whatever was lost was offset by what was gained with respect to opening up the game to more teams.

A team can purchase everything necessary to create a robot (including elements specifically designed for the individual competition, especially Aerial Assist) and assemble it. I suppose we can argue about whether or not using AndyMark’s bumper kits count as assembly, but I put that on the same level as having to cut the frame to the right size.

I don’t think the vast majority of teams are capable of making gearboxes from scratch, so I find it hard to lament the “loss” of this particular challenge.

Students still have to innovate and work with what they’re given. What they’re given now is strictly better, as far as I can tell, than what they were given in the past.

Judging from the issues some teams have with bumpers… Nothing is trivial.:slight_smile:

As I recall, before AndyMark, there was darkness, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.