What was there before AndyMark?

And somehow we still got the 2007 KOP transmissions…

(They were from BB)

Spend some time around a rookie team with no money or mentors, and it will cease to be a mystery. Honestly, I think a lot of people here would do well to expand their horizons in that way - at best, the “I can’t understand how people can do badly at FIRST” culture is unproductive, and at worst it serves to drive people away from this community who stand to benefit from it most.

Moreover, you can’t buy entire manipulators, you can’t buy any of it pre-assembled, you can’t buy the knowledge to make the whole system work; there’s always going to be some amount of design and machining involved, no matter how COTS-oriented your design process is. Step back for a second and think about the amount of institutionalized knowledge that goes into putting a working robot on a FRC field; imagine stripping all that away, and starting from scratch. The reality for many FRC teams is that they have a collection of students who have never done any engineering, teachers who have never built robots, and no clear idea of what they’re getting into. They often also have extremely limited budgets, and likely could not afford a completely COTS robot (have you looked at VexPro’s prices?) even if they had the know-how to put one together. Does it seem so mysterious now?

Having been a mentor through some of the dark days before cots rules were loosened and kit bot created I can say those items have elevated play in ways I can’t even begin to describe.

In 2003-2004 my first years as a mentor the question of whether or not we had partners that could move every match was a valid concern because lots of teams tried crazy things in their drives that just wouldn’t work. Robots would throw chains from missaligned axles regularly it was a world of difference.

Once teams could “drive out of the box” and spend 6 weeks developing a mechanism the quality of robots go signifcantly better and you had far fewer concerns about heather your partner could move, and started figuring out how you could work together.

Also to respond to the questions about IFI getting into COTS, they made and distributed the original JVN/Copioli kitbot in 2005. To the best of my knowledge that started them selling COTS parts on the mechanical side.

We all make mistakes :wink:

Bosch Drill transmissions with servo gear changes.


What gives?

That’s what gives. Every team can’t just buy a very competitive robot, only some can.

I am assuming you are being sarcastic here, but either way, it is kind of offensive.

My son joined the TechnoKats in 2003. From my point of view, there was never a time before AndyMark.

This assertion that a “competitive” robot somehow costs thousands of dollars is, frankly, ridiculous.

You get a drivebase in the KoP which is covered by a cost you HAVE to pay, total cost, $0. This year alone that will give you at least 11 points in auton. Yet I consistently see teams not earning even that. Heck, strap a chair on top and it’s a viable inbounder. Not the most glamorous role but certainly needed and a hot commodity. Total cost, $40 if you buy a REALLY nice chair.

Look at 558 for an example of simple, mostly COTS bot that doesn’t cost a ton.

We spend a lot of time designing and perfecting our omni-wheels.

We started using Knex wheels as the rollers:

Those were replaced with plastic rollers:

The two layers of carbon fiber (legalized in 2004) were eventually replaced with a single sheet of aluminum and plastic rollers replaced with rubber…and then we switched to AndyMark.

We used the Bosch drill transmissions in 2003 and 2004, Nothing But Dewalts (3 speeds!) from 2005 to 2007. I can remember rebuilding the Bosch transmissions every 2-3 matches at IRI in 2003. We had a horrible time with those.

Our frames were 80/20 for our first two years, a modified IFI kit frame in 2005, and in 2006 we designed our first sheet metal chassis.

Mike Trapp of Waterjet Cutting of Indiana began helping us in 2004 so we had the advantage of getting custom aluminum sprockets and gears cut for us.

The primary reason that teams have difficulty “doing” FRC is that they design beyond their abilities. And they should.

When teams (and individuals) push the envelope, they are bound to fail, but hopefully they learn. It would be a great shame if many teams that are “struggling” stopped doing so and simply became “support” teams for those who can really “play the game”.

FRC is a game of mentors. The best teams are guided by mentors who know how to balance on the knife edge of pushing the envelope and achieving success.

As for the “days before AM”, I remember the challenges of just getting a drive system working in the days of Small Parts, extruded aluminum and a single 4’ x 8’ sheet of 1/2" plywood.

  • Mr. Van
    Coach, Robodox

I started in 2001. At the time I think Small Parts inc. was still the ‘prefered’ supplier. It’s a little foggy, but I think you could buy from other suppliers as long as something equivalent was in SPI. Naturally, at the time, our corner of the woods didn’t have anything like a Home Depot nearby. I think we had just gotten a Walmart. It was pretty rough.

Robots were a great deal more reliant on the KOP, but there was also a lot of interesting things in there that don’t show up anymore. All your motors came in the kit, and lot of them had associated gearboxes and power transmission parts. Getting spares for KOP items was tough and teams traded a great deal (not using your FP motors? We’ll trade you our window motors for them…). A big part of success was figuring out how to utilize the KOP and SPI catalog to maximum effect.

I’ve rewatched match videos from the early 2000s recently and I’ll agree with JVN. Robots were slower, clumsy and the games ended up being dominated by some game breaking strategy. In 2002 95 had a 8fps robot and that was fast (two wheel drive with corner skids!). A 15+fps robot back then would have been thought impossible (and, with 30 amp breakers and a 60 amp main it’d have been challenging at best).

There were also lot of scissor lifts. Like, a lot of them. I have no idea why.

I think the better question is why they’ve disappeared. They can be a very elegant and simple solution.

I respectfully disagree with this mindset.

The most inspiration-creating thing for any team that I have seen has always been success on the competition field. However, you did not reference “inspiration”, you were talking about “learning”, so I will talk about that instead.

In my time in FRC, the lion’s share the big learning moments that I have had have come from continuous iterations on designs, not from spectacular fails. Sure, I learned things from these failures, and some of them were certainly necessary for my advancement. However, I should not strive to fail just for the learning opportunity, but rather take my small failures in stride as I incrementally build up my knowledge.

I see no difference for FRC teams.

Many, many teams build beyond their abilities. They often do not realize that their robot will not perform successfully until after their first qualification match. They struggle through competition, do not get selected for elims, then pack up and go home. Maybe when they get back, they look at their robot, and learn a small handful of things about why the design failed.

Then there are the teams that, from day 1 of build, choose less aggressive designs. These teams build robots to play these unglorifying “support” roles that everyone seems to look down upon, but which nevertheless are crucial for successful alliances. These teams may actually get a chance to test out their designs in week 5, and when these designs fail for an unexpected reason, the team still has a week to work out the bugs. These are the teams go to competitions, win more matches than they lose, and get picked for elims. The kids walk away proud that they were successful, and they have probably learned more than the average team, because they had dozens of small failures along the way, each of which required a unique solution.

Why in the world do so many people think that the first team I described is better off than the second? The teams that build “support” robots will still work to tweak, iterate, improve, and practice with these designs, just like any other team. The “chair” as an inbounding device (love it) is not an endpoint, but a starting point. Most teams never even reach their starting point because they strive too hard for the complicated designs.

(Clearly, not all teams fall into one of the above two categories, I illustrate these because I think that the sole difference between the two is the mindset of the leaders on the teams)


I would be surprised if my team didn’t build “support role” type robots for the next 2 years, and maybe longer. I’d like to see someone try to tell any one of my kids that they were less inspired or that they learned less this year than the students on other teams who actually built shooters. They will probably laugh right in this person’s face.

I started with 234 in 2001, and that was in the transition between very limited materials and only Small Parts, to being able to use a part from any supplier as long as you could get it from small parts, to more open, to where we are today.

I think one of the major breakthru’s was when Andy Baker posted drawings of his/team 45’s gearboxes. That was a big event because nobody was sharing designs before that. Then Andy and Mark started selling some things, and IFI started selling more things, and it has taken off.

I do think it is interesting that we were so excited to be able to buy gearboxes, then shifting gearboxes, 2 motor and 3 motor versions, etc. and we have done that for several seasons.

And then for 2014 we built our own again.

Circle of Life. :slight_smile:

I feel as FIRST has evolved over the last 20 or so years, teams have started to converge on similar designs. Back in the day, (really before 2010) I don’t feel teams had a lot of experience building and designing different mechanisms. So they built what ever they thought would be the best for their situation. So you would get a lot of not so optimal designs for different arms or lifters, weird drives, and crazy mechanisms.

However, as FIRST has gotten older, teams have started to understand which type of mechanisms are the best. For example, if we had another game with inner tubes, almost every single team would have a elevator with a roller claw on the end. Why? Because this design was shown to be the most optimal in the past so why should a team try anything different. FIRST has transitioned from building something that works to building the most optimal design for the situation, and this is why designs have started to converge.

Shame, cause I loved the craziness of the older mechanisms, but great because the level of competitiveness has increased. I have no clue what is better or more inspiring, but this is a great topic for its own thread.

The 07 KOP transmissions were great gearboxes, save for a manufacturing defect. The carrier plates were not properly heat treated. Once the problem was identified, banebots went above and beyond to provide teams with replacement carrier plates in time for the first week of regionals.

I don’t know how much it cost banebots to solve that problem, but the experience left me with a very high impression of the commitment to customers. Anyone can run into a manufacturing glitch when scaling up production. Banebots set a great example of how to deal with it.

I stumbled upon our old Bosch drill motors from our 04 drivetrain the other day. It reminded me to be amazed by how the FRC COTS industry has grown over the past decade.


I participated in FIRST way back from 1999 to 2001, then went off to college and became an engineer. Last year I came back. Wow. What a difference.

When I participated teams lived or died based on their chassis. I was lucky enough to be part of a team that could get something welded from a sponsor, other teams had to make do with wood or even fiberglass. The “best” teams had 80/20 chassis that let them do whatever they wanted. Drive trains where the other killer. Everything else was secondary to making sure your chassis and drive train were solid. These days you get that in the box.

SmallParts was king. The robots were far more mechanical-focused back then, with no autonomous period. The best motors were drill motors and the van door motor, and teams had to be cautioned against using set screws because they inevitably slipped. Keyways were a rarity since the motors themselves weren’t keyed. The idea of buying a gearbox pre-made for everything was completely alien.

Are things better than they were before? Yes and no. I think something is lost when you can literally buy an entire robot and spend a few days assembling everything. But that’s offset by the fact that raising the floor also raises the ceiling. Instead of starting with nothing teams can start with a kit bot, and IMO that offers a lot of possibility. We’re a much more technologically advanced community now, with programming and automation taking a bigger role than before. The barrier to entry is far lower, and anything that exposes more students to FRC is a good thing.

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?