Lessons Learned: 2016

Organization / Planning

  1. The overall team organization should be structured with clearly defined groups devoted
    to specific tasks (i.e., traction system, bumpers, articulating arm). This ensures a more
    even distribution of tasks so every team member can contribute.
  2. The team should form a detailed plan at the beginning of every week specifying what
    will get accomplished. This will ensure each task is accounted for and progress is made
    on all relevant aspects of the robot over the course of a week.
  3. Communication between the hardware and software groups is important so that all are
    aware of relevant changes.
  4. There should be attendance requirements. It is understood some students are involved
    in multiple extracurricular activities. However, the build season is very intense and
    consistent involvement is needed.
  5. A significant portion of the work involves fundraising/marketing/outreach. Be sure to
    have a group dedicated to this important endeavor.
  6. Engage parents to help out where possible. They have a lifetime of skills and
    experiences that the team can draw on. Parents with hardware experience are always
    needed to oversee the work and ensure the building is done in a safe manner. They can
    teach team members how to use tools, from a screwdriver to more complex machining
    equipment. If parents’ strengths lie in other areas, they can help with ordering spirit
    wear and competition giveaways, providing food for long build sessions, and helping
    with fundraising events. And don’t forget to thank them!
  7. It is most important to work as a team. Set egos aside. Listen to all suggestions with an
    open mind. Teamwork is just that – work. It doesn’t always come naturally. But, if you
    persist, you will accomplish more as a team than as a group of individuals.
  8. Design decisions need to be made very quickly. The build season is compressed. Also,
    robot suppliers like AndyMark and Vex will become depleted quickly.
  9. As part of the design process, understand the rules and how teams score points. Some
    features can yield a big payoff but are offset by some risk. It is important to understand
    the trade-offs.

Technical

  1. Keep the design simple, especially one’s rookie year. Do not attempt to have the robot
    perform every possible task. It is better to do a few tasks very well, than many tasks
    unreliably.
  2. Design decisions need to be made very quickly. The build season is compressed. Also,
    robot suppliers like Andy Mark and Vex will become depleted quickly.
  3. Ruggedness of the robot is important in competition and should be considered in all
    design aspects. In general, teams that had robots working consistently were the most
    likely to progress to the final rounds.
  4. PWM wires frequently disconnected, resulting in a loss of power. Possible fixes include
    hot gluing connectors to the RoboRio or spring-loaded connectors.
  5. Never drive two motors off of one motor controller. The controller is likely to burn out.
  6. The power on/off switch should be easily accessible but also protected. Contact with
    robots during the competition (i.e., another robot rolls on top of your robot) can cause
    the power button to inadvertently be depressed and shut off the power.
  7. Bumper design is very important and should not be an afterthought. Bumpers need to
    be very rugged. Also, there are many rules associated with the bumper design and
    dimensions that need to be addressed from the beginning of the design process, with
    particular attention paid to how the bumper fits into the entire robot design. In
    addition, bumpers should be designed for easy installation and removal. The time
    between matches is limited and valuable for troubleshooting problems. The process of
    bumper changing should be practiced ahead of time to ensure this valuable time is not
    wasted.
  8. Wiring:
    1. Use black and red wiring to distinguish between positive and negative
      connections from motor controllers to PDP.
    2. Label wires in accordance with motor controller numbering so any changes that
      need to be made can be accomplished quickly.
    3. Consider Anderson Pole power connectors for easy and reliable connections.
  9. It is best to have a fully functional robot completed as early as possible to enable
    additional practice time and troubleshooting of electrical, mechanical and software
    systems.

Competition

  1. Teamwork is very important, especially when there is a problem with the robot. The
    team needs to focus on the common goal of fixing the robot and minimizing lost time on
    the playing field.
  2. There is an extraordinary level of Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition at the
    competition, from the organizers to other teams. Do not be afraid to ask for help. In
    addition, be willing to share your expertise and hardware with other teams.
  3. Talk to the other teams in your alliance about your robot’s capabilities honestly so the
    alliance can plan a strategy.
  4. The number of people allowed in the pit should be limited as space is at a premium.
  5. The competition can be stressful. Things will break. Stay calm, and know that there is
    always a solution.
  6. The competition should be fun! Walk around the pits, talk to other teams, and embrace
    the spirit of competition. Ask questions about other robots and explore other teams’
    approaches to the design requirements. You can learn as much during that weekend as
    you do during the entire build season.