All systems go! The 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition Build Season is now over. This past week, many teams have taken time to reveal the robots that they have been working on for the past six weeks. During this “Reveal Weekend” some of The Blue Alliance Blog experts had a discussion about the robots that most intrigued us. Everyone knows to look at robot reveal videos from FRC Teams like 118, 148, 179, 254, 340, 610, 1678, and 2481. However, our experts decided to focus on the designs and strategies that most intrigued us and can greatly affect game play.
The Blue Alliance Blog experts contributing to this article are:
Marcus Bernstein: 1836 Alumni, MKCAD Developer
Tim Flynn: 1257 Alumni & Mentor; TBA Blog Contributor
Matt Starke: Editor-In-Chief of The Blue Alliance Blog; RSN Analyst
Ruth Toomey: RSN Analyst; TBA Blog Assistant Editor; AM in the PM Producer; FRC1024 Mentor
Each TBA Blog expert has selected two of their favorite teams from Reveal Weekend and what most intrigued them about their design/strategy.
Enjoy our picks from Reveal Weekend!
Team 694 – StuyPulse
Selected by Tim Flynn
This New York team may be in the wake of a massively successful 2018 season having triple-crowned at the 2018 NYC Regional, but they’re not slouching for 2019. With a tilted elevator design, a two-in-one intake, and a clever level 3, let’s dive in to one of the most interesting robots to come out of Manhattan this season.
The first mechanism worth pointing out is their elevator. Opting for a design that starts back and then positions forward, they can stay inside their frame perimeter at the start of the match without worries of game pieces falling out. Building on the polish of their 2018 elevator though, they also included a startlingly effective intake.
Their combination rollerclaw, piston grabber for Hatch and Cargo allows them to touch-it, own-it for cargo and quickly gain control of hatch covers. This mechanism avoids a handoff, keeping their robot relatively simple and allows them to keep their elevator close to the front of their robot. As for the back though, their level 3 takes the cake.
Taking a card from the mythical land of Georgia (1102 2018 vacuum bot link here), they opted to use a suction cup in combination with a vacuum for their level 3. The mechanism drops out flat onto the Hab platform, toggles a piston to build up enough of a vacuum, and then an “elevator” with a constant-force spring lifts their robot up to meet the definition of a level 3 climb, not unlike 1923.
This mechanism and their robot as a whole has occupied my curiosity for quite a while, and I can’t wait to see what else they might show up with at Tech Valley, Central New York, or New York City. Great job StuyPulse!
Team 1684 – The Chimeras
Selected by Marcus Bernstein
1684 is a rising star in FIM and this year is certainly no exception! Their robot, Aether, features an integrated hatch panel and cargo mechanism, slick climb, and an elevator that looks far too familiar to be anything but awesome.
This well-designed robot uses the same wheeled intake to grip and place both hatch panels and cargo. Their intake grips the inside of the hatch panel and is proven to have a very strong hold until they’re ready to place. They have an additional floor intake for cargo that spans the entire width of the robot, all of which integrates really smoothly. Their robot also features a quick and effective level three climb that packages nicely under the robot!
Heavily inspired by their prize from the 148 elevator sheet metal give away, the Chimeras iterated their own designs as well as 148’s incredible 2018 elevator to build their fast and effective 2019 cascade elevator. They worked hard to make a proven design work for their team and it really shows! The Chimeras have once again built an awesome robot and we can’t wait to see it in action!
Team 1787 – Flying Circuits
Selected by Ruth Toomey
Team 1787, the Flying Circuits, are no strangers when it comes to creative design – they have taken home several Xerox Creativity awards, including one just last year. Coming off of one of their best seasons in recent years, it looks like they are looking to get the ball – and their robot – rolling.
Let’s talk about that Hatch mechanism. Look at it, and I mean really look at it. Take a minute, pause the video, I’ll wait. O.K., you’re back? I was honestly half convinced that it’s magic. It’s a self-centering mechanism, and what boggles my mind is that it looks like it also uses the active hatch collector wheels to do it. It’s a bold but very successful choice to go with what looks like a pair of the little rigid blue wheels from the KoP as the active collector component, especially when so many teams with a similar concept have pursued a more compliant wheel. There’s enough grip and tension on the outside of the wheels to force the Hatch opening around them spinning in one direction, and to pop it off onto the Rocket or Cargo Ship with gusto when spinning in the other. I think 1787 is going to have one of the fastest cycles in Ohio if their robot performs this well in competition. It just works, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
1787 has a really quick collection and delivery for both game pieces, but when either are paired with their zippy drivetrain, it’s going to make them a pain in their opponent’s side when it comes to defending or being defended. I didn’t think that I would talk much about the drive based on everything else going on in this jam-packed bot, but I just can’t ignore it. As best as I can tell they’re running two traction wheels of some sort and two omni wheels, a popular approach for a reliable and highly maneuverable drivetrain. When you add this combination to a nearly round robot, it’s going to spell trouble for any opponent who wants to go head to head. Short sides combined with slick bumpers are a bad combination for anyone trying to make good contact on this bot to push them around.
The only thing I think this robot is missing is some sort of Hab mechanism, but I’m not convinced that Flying Circuits needs one. With the sheer number of level 3 climbers out there, a level 1 park is enough to get the needed points for the Hab RP to rank well. If my suspicions are correct, this little guy will make up for the lack of that level 3 in points scored on the Cargo Ship and Rocket. I’ve got high hopes that this is going to be a breakout year for 1787. Good luck, I’ll be rooting for you!
p.s. I want more video of your hatch mechanism.
Team 1923 – The MidKnight Inventors
Selected by Matt Starke
1923 has quietly become one of the teams to look out for over the past few years. Since 2015, this Mid-Atlantic Region (MAR) team have made an Einstein appearance, were finalists and winners of multiple events, and have received industrial design and engineering related awards. Their 2019 robot Knightshade has once again proved that they are ready to be serious contenders and have blasted them into game strategy relevance.
Similar to The Barker Redbacks, 1923 realized the true point potential related around the Level 3 Hab climb. Due to the size of the platform, it is difficult to get more than one robot to successfully sit on top to double it’s point value. Instead of taking up space on the platform, The Midknight Inventors decided to create a design that didn’t take up space on the platform at all. The design includes a set of forks (Similar to a forklift) that can slide underneath a robot sitting on the platform. Using their partner’s robot weight to their advantage, they pull themselves up to the height of the platform.
This unique “forklift” capability has a high probability to alter game strategies. For one, 1923 has the potential to work with most robot designs in an alliance that can get themselves onto the Level 3 Hab. Instead of being forced into particular robots that fit their climbing strategy, they can select or be selected by teams that better fit their strategy in other ways (Like cargo ship or rocket scoring strategies). Also, the forklift design gives them the opportunity to not need much time during the end game to climb to Level 3. Instead, they can use this time to score other game elements and then line up to quickly climb at the end of the match. This time savings has the potential to add points to the rocket or cargo ship with most of the field being open because other teams are dedicating the time to get onto the Hab.
I am looking forward to seeing this unique design and strategy in matches! Great job 1923!
Team 2910 – Jack in the Bot
Selected by Marcus Bernstein
2910 is one of those teams that just seems to get better and better. Coming off of a strong Einstein finals appearance last season, Jack In The Bot from Mill Creek, Washington has released yet another jaw-dropping robot! 2910 boasts a quick holonomic low-oriented robot with a level 3 Hab climb. They can place Hatch Panels on the Cargo Ship as well as the lowest levels of the rocket but are able to do so with such incredible speed that they will still compete at the highest levels of FRC!
Their Cargo mechanism relies on bottom rollers and top mecanum wheels for quick grabbing and centering of the balls. That claw swoops balls up with ease, and paired with a strong and effective arm it scores cargo by outtake in no time. On the other side, their Hatch Panel mechanism uses Entrapption stars to grab and retain hatch panels. That mechanism actuates forward and back for panel security and to help ensure the panel stays on the velcro once scored. This mechanism works in tandem with a sleek floor pick up reminiscent of the best 2017 gear intakes to score hatch panels with ease. Using their Cargo arm on the front and two pneumatic actuators on the back, their climb is similar to many we’ve seen but will be very effective on the field and appears to be as quick as any we’ve seen.
2910 is an incredible team that is probably best known for its swerve drives. Over the past few years we’ve seen incredible thought, iteration, and design work go into creating their swerve drives. 2910 worked hard this fall to put together an incredible differential swerve design using the power and speed from 2 NEOs to both drive and rotate the modules. Their 2019 robot features these modules or very similar which will give them a unique edge in maneuverability and speed on the field. This module will be the first of its kind to be used on an official competing FRC robot so keep an eye out to see how it performs and inspires the next generation of swerve drives!
Don’t let the small stature of 2910’s robot fool you- their low oriented robot will score countless game pieces every single match and will be a top contender in the PNW District and beyond!
Team 4613 – Barker Redbacks
Selected by Matt Starke
One of the earliest reveals to come out this year was an FRC team from Sydney, Australia. The Barker Redbacks have made a name for themselves in the past few years for their industrial designs, creative game strategies, and jaw dropping sub-systems. This year did not disappoint with their reveal video coming out a few days earlier than most.
There were two subsystems that were especially unique for Destination Deep Space. The first is the claw that is used to acquire the Cargo and score them in the Cargo Ship or Rocket. The acquisition of the Cargo is similar to designs that we have seen for many years with roller intakes. However, the method that is used to release the Cargo into the scoring destinations is very unique. A small conveyor belt system was designed into their intake and is used to eject the cargo sideways. This has game changing potential because their robot does not need to turn during the “cycle” of picking up a game piece and scoring it. Faster cycles = more cycles per match = higher score.
The second subsystem that 4613 designed that has game changing potential is the elevator to climb to the highest level of the Hab. Using their scoring analysis, 4613 knew that 30 points per Level 3 climb is important to greater increase potential for match wins. However, during higher levels or play, there will be opposing alliances that will also have this climbing ability. To counteract that, the Barker Redbacks built a dual purpose climber. Not only will the climber easily get them to Level 3, but it is durable enough and strong enough to lift another robot to the same level. Essentially, this move doubles their alliances climb points.
The Barker Redbacks once again prove that a well thought out plan and execution has the potential to really change game play at events. Well done 4613 for your intriguing design!
Team 6510 – Pymble Pride
Selected by Tim Flynn
This team set the bar and flipped it on it’s head in the 2018 season with an effective switch and climb robot, but this season they dropped their reveal video a few days before bag, shocking the world with a clever combination of mechanisms. This team is a new face to the FIRST Robotics Competition compared to other Aussie teams, but I expect that Pymble Pride is a name we’ll be hearing more as the seasons go by.
Their first mechanism combination of note is their roller-bar and hatch grabber combination. Using a hook on the end of their cargo intake, they can effectively grab both game pieces in one slick movement, but that’s not where the interesting bit ends. Their hatch hook grabs the mechanism and holds it loosely passing to a hand-off, which grabs it by flipping the hatch panel into hook & loop fastener on their elevator carriage. This effective combination of elevator carriage, hand-off, and combination intake allow them to effectively keep both light, simple and effective.
The other mechanism combination I’d like to call to attention is their effective climb, one of the only ones we saw the entire Reveal Weekend that took an intermediate stop through level 2 of the Hab to get to level 3. They used their roller intake once again to get them up to the intermediate step; on the lip. They then actuate an absolutely bonkers piston to push them up and on to the rest of the platform. Despite the more involved execution of this climb, it’ll be very competitive at both the Australian regionals, and in my mind, at the Championship in Houston.
Team 6886 – Synthesizers
Selected by Ruth Toomey
Following a breakout year in 2018, 6886 Synthesizers are looking to continue to capitalize on last season’s success with one of the more unique robots I think we have seen this year. They have a lot to live up to, having taken home a Rookie All-Star award, two Regional Highest Rookie Seed awards – both for seeding 2nd, and earning the Division Rookie Highest Seed award on Galileo for seeding 23rd. Simple and efficient robots seem to be in Synthesizer’s toolbox, and their 2019 robot is no exception. This Missouri bot is proving to be one of my favorites so far this year.
Most prominent on the robot is their dual-ended manipulator for Hatch Panels and Cargo. It’s a beefy arm at first glance, but with a closer look you can see the care and time that went into designing the arm to be lightweight and robust. It appears to be a sheet metal construction that not only has a full rotation of travel, but also accordions with two pneumatic cylinders to give the team some reach when they are collecting or scoring either game piece. One of the more interesting things to note is that they are able to do a complete pass-through with a collected Hatch Panel, which should prove to shorten their cycle times during the competition season. There is a fair bit of swing to the whole arm as they drive, but it doesn’t look like either mechanism has a chance to accidentally dislodge their pieces. This will be a plus for later in the season when matches start to get rough. I can appreciate the range that they have on their Cargo shooter as well. It will serve well to score over defenders camped at the bottom of the Rocket if they can get their angle dialed in just right.
Once I managed to pick my jaw up off of the floor, I took a closer look at their elevator system that carries the manipulator. 6886 is rocking a double two-stage cascading system. This gives them the reach to be able to score Hatch Panels and Cargo at all three levels of the Rocket with ease, and they show that they can score at the first level without breaking a sweat. It’s important to note that their double elevator is one of the smoothest we’ve seen so far this year, and it can be tricky to tune in one elevator to run so well, let alone two. Some elevator presets or autonomous sequences will go far to boost the efficiency of this robot.
I would be remiss to not say anything about their level 3 Hab climb. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s evidently strong. When robots are this polished and powder-coated that’s usually a sign that the robot is complete – something tells me that this machine may have something more up its sleeve. I’m on board with the theory that there’s a buddy climb on the way, which would definitely take this robot to the next level.
If nothing else, I fully expect the Synthesizers to walk away with some design award hardware. 6886 is definitely going to be a team to watch this season!