With the complete rulebook clocking in at ~130 pages each year, it can be tempting to skip sections right after kickoff. DON’T DO THIS! If you skip it after kickoff, odds are you’ll keep skipping it long into build season, and that can land you in a tough spot later on. With the robot rules taking up ~30 pages, and many of the rules not changing from one year to the next, it can be very tempting to skip them.
There are a few key pieces of information you’ll want to know immediately after kickoff:
- How big can my robot be?
- How heavy can my robot be?
- How far can my robot extend?
- What do I need to do about bumpers?
While all of the Robot Rules are important, finding the answers to these questions early is critical to being successful. There’s no point in discussing a strategy that requires a robot that’s too large, or needs to extend too far. There’s certainly no point in starting to build one! I’m going to break down each of these questions further for you.
How big can my robot be?
Robot size can be given to us in many different ways. In recent year’s, we’ve had:
- A fixed length, width, and height
- A fixed length, width, and height that included the bumpers
- A fixed length, width, and height for transportation to and from the field
- A fixed height along with a maximum frame perimeter measurement
Regardless of the exact specs, build 1" under in every dimension. If it wasn’t for Team Update 11 last year, a lot of teams would have been too big. By building under, you automatically take into account any legal protrusions (bolt heads, etc, up to 1/4" in past years) that would otherwise increase the size of your robot. You automatically take into account any looseness in your bumpers that may increase the size of your robot. You automatically take into account any possible difference or error between your measurement device and the device the inspectors are using.
In short, think of having to put your robot into a large steel box. By building 1" under in every dimension, it slides right in, no lubrication or pushing required! And honestly… having that 1" is not going to be critical to the success of your design.
How heavy can my robot be?
Weight can be a huge issue for teams. Do you have any idea how many 1" holes you need to drill in your 1/8" aluminum to reduce your weight by 1 lb? Doing so will take a lot of time, possibly compromise the strength of your robot, create metal shavings that could destroy your electronics, and overall not be very fun. And if you need to drop more weight… you’re looking at redesigning something, or even removing capability just so you can play.
So please, weigh your robot early and often. And make sure you’re at least 1 lb under weight when you bag it! Things like sponsor panels do weight something, and are often forgotten in your weight calculations. Plus, your scale could be calibrated differently from my scale at the inspection station - you don’t want that 1/10th of a lb of calibration to be the difference between passing and failing inspection your first time through!
How far can my robot extend?
We’ve had several different ways this rule has been specified in the past.
- A specified diameter right cylinder
- A specified distance from the frame perimeter
- One year we even had a specified amount of time you could extend out at once
Be aware of the rule, whatever it is, and make sure you understand how it applies to your robot. If you have an arm that swings out, make sure you look at it at all points through the swing, not just all the way up/down. If you’re going to be controlling this with software, make sure you can easily demonstrate the limits for the inspector.
What do I need to do about bumpers?
So many teams leave bumpers until the end (like I did in this post)… and yet they are a critical part of your robot. They protect you in the big impacts on the field. They leave an impression on those that look at your robot (like scouts!) - if you put time and care into your bumpers, then you did into your robot. If your bumpers look shoddy, then so is your robot! And they can easily impact how you interact with the game piece. they can impact how big of an opening you have for an intake, how large your arm needs to be, or even your intake’s ability to rotate the game piece into its desired angle. Build your bumpers early, make them look good, and make sure you can take them on/off quickly!
Finally, an offer for any team out there, at any point in the build season: Contact me. While the Q&A won’t rule on any specific designs, I am more than happy to look at pictures and tell you what rules I think may apply, help you understand a particular rule better, or even help you craft a question for the Q&A. If you find yourself in a tight spot, where a particular rule is keeping your design from working, I’ll do my best to help you find a way to fix it.
I dream of the day I’m at an event where every single team passes inspection on their first try, 2 hours after pits open. Please help me make that a reality!