Monday, January 16, 2012

An alarming day at Robotics!

When we arrived at the lab today, we found that the fire alarms were being tested! Every couple of minutes, an alarm would go off, Victoria would do a crazed werewolf impression, and everybody else would moan about ringing ears. It wasn't the easiest place to work. Nevertheless, we continued on.

The first half of the day was spent designing full prototypes for our second Design Review. We developed two types of conveyor belt: one with surgical tubing and a v-shaped wall on the other side, and another that was 2-sided. We also developed two types of wheeled shooters: one vertical with adjustable angles, and one horizontal. Programming worked on getting the camera to function, and by lunch it was identifying different "blobs" of color.

After lunch, we finished our prototypes and the had our Design Review (thanks to all who came!). Conversation mostly focused on the specifics of the belt and shooter, as well as what would connect the two.

Finally, the team gathered to discuss further plans. We decided to create better prototypes of the two types of conveyor belt as well as a Sadie-type mechanism. (Sadie is a robot from a few years ago.) We also want to investigate the two different types of shooters more in-depth, and one of our overarching goals for the week ahead is to start getting dimensions for the parts.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Design Reviews One and Two

This past Wednesday, we had our first design review! Parents of team members came in to see what we'd been working on and to offer feedback. Here are the notes courtesy of Alice:

Carly and Katie: Catapult
  • Using different release mechanisms [ex: pneumatics]

Devanshi and Katherine: Defensive Robot
  • With a kicker we have to be able to maneuver the robot and the ball so that we have a “clear” shot
  • Conveyor belt drops ball in a “hole” in the canon where it would later be launched (maybe using pneumatics)
  • Is it possible to store more balls? With a longer conveyor belt
  • Pros: this is a good design in terms of the guiding
  • Cons: lots of moving parts
  • How is the pushing mechanism going to be strong enough?
  • What will be the aiming mechanism? If this is a defensive robot, then it doesn’t matter. But we can potentially use it as an offensive robot and aim the canon by angling it
  • Pneumatics: FIRST sets maximum pressure teams can use…
  • Conveyor belt: smooth, rugged, etc?
  • How does it get it off the ground, how fast will it get into the canon, how can we make sure the ball doesn’t roll off the conveyor belt?
  • Combine rollers and canon to create shooting mechanism

Balancing Ideas: accelerometer, shifting weight
Aneesha, Caroline, Sarah, and Karina: Conveyor Belt
  • Straight-up-and-down conveyor belt that can pick up balls and that can shoot them straight down into the first and second hoops, or bring it up to a catapult on the top to aim for all the other hoops (including the higher one that couldn’t be reached with just the conveyor belt!)
  • Might get harder to bring it up to the top with the change in pressure (pressure?)
  • How does it enter the conveyor belt? If we get it at the right height, it can just enter from the ground [Popular design in 2008]  
  • We can use other types of material: if the two strings are widened then it can be more stable
  • Outer strings with more tension can match the shape of the ball
  • Think about the wall: would we create a piece of metal that would be V-shaped so that the ball would go in naturally and there would be no need to worry about direction/guiding it – also think about friction! If there is too much the ball will get jammed and stop moving…
  • Can be both offensive and defensive…but would probably be better for offensive
  • Two conveyor belts: one that picks up and loads (slower), one that shoots (faster)
  • Think about angling the wall

Chloe, Yael, and Karina: Sweeping the ball in with brushes
  • Change the brush (the current ones are flimsy!) and maybe use a pliable plastic (or rubber…)
  • Lazy Susan @ the bottom = more power
  • Think about curving the plastic
  • Need to consider being able to change the direction of the sweeper in case a ball becomes jammed and stuck
  • If the mechanism is simple, then we can have multiple ones on the robot
  • Old lawnmower’s (lolwhat are those!?!?) curved piece of plastic

A few more things…
  • Anna and Shifrah’s Tank Drive: might enable us to go over the ramp, stronger, more stable
    • Getting on the ramp/bridge…tilt it with something (lead (sp?) screw to push down on the ramp -- someone needs to prototype this!!!)
    • Not limited by wheel diameter with the tank design
    • Able to push other robots really well, and other robots won’t be able to push us
    • Lots of friction with the carpet surface
  • Anna’s (leads’?) Chassis:
  • Programming:
    • Considering other balls being shot

We are having another design review tomorrow, so stay tuned for more info!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lots of Prototyping

Almost a week into the season and we’re busy prototyping, connecting our computer to one of our previous robots, and creating a new website.

Today, we split into small groups again and focused on various projects.
 Nicki M., Yael, and Chloe worked on prototyping the device for collecting the basketballs, creating a design where two bent plastic pieces rotate and guide basketballs into the robot. 

Sarah, Austin, Dani, Katie, Yael, and Nicki M. worked on a more detailed prototype of the conveyor belt, using pool noodles duct-taped around metal rods, surgical tubing stretched between the two metal rods, and wood with holes drilled in it to put the metal rods into.  They also worked on prototyping the wall behind the conveyor belt, using two pieces of foam core connected with L-brackets to create a corner for the basketballs to move up. 

Alice and Aneesha worked on a prototype for the basketball shooter, while Claire worked on building a model of the robot with a tilted conveyor belt.  Anna researched tank treads; we’re still unsure about our drivetrain. Nina and Sara drew a potential robot design.  

In programming, Shifrah, Katherine, and Kylie succeeded in getting a robot to communicate with the computer!  

Becky and Carly worked on the new team website (coming soon!). 

To see more from Team 1700, watch the fiveawesomerobots' YouTube channel (, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Who Knew You Could Prototype with Swiffers and Chocolate Bar Wrappers?

The team is officially complete again and ready to get this season going!

Tonight, we started by splitting into small groups to brainstorm and prototype specific parts of the robot. One group worked on the kicker, another worked on a pick-up mechanism, more worked on shooters, and a few more prototyped barriers and blockers. Nicki M., Dani M., Chloe, Yael, and Caroline C. worked on pick-up prototypes. They began with an sort of conveyor belt using surgical tubing, but by the end of the night, they had progressed to a spinning windmill/Sadie spin-off pick-up model. They showed their creativity when they dismantled a Swiffer to use in their prototype! Devanshi and Samra worked on the idea of a cannon and trying to implement something similar, yet explosive-free, for a shooter. Katherine and Nickie P. worked on improving the kicker design and improving our defensive strategy with a net/blocker. Carly, Katie, and Caroline D. created a catapult out of legos that could serve as a passing mechanism or a shooter. Initially prototyping with a chocolate bar wrapper, Sarah R., Samra, Nickie P., and Aneesha worked on trying to block balls with a net, but also using gravity to catch and control the ball in the net, moving it through a funnel, and then passing it to teammates all from a stationary position.

Anna and Sarah R. discussed the ramp. It soon became clear that the ramp will spring back to zero degrees when there is no weight on it; however the material with which the ramp is coated is still a mystery...

Meanwhile, on the programming end, Kylie and Katherine were programming a target tracker (for those targets around the backboards).

If you'd like to see more from Team 1700, check out the five awesome robots youtube channel (, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and keep checking back for more updates!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Welcome Back Juniors!

Today our Juniors returned! Welcome back!

We finished the barrier/threshold, but we were not able to attach any screws. We might want to reinforce it later. More people worked on cutting, gluing, and screwing parts of the balance bridge together.

In addition, some of us went down to the lower gym to test out the tennis ball pitching machine to see if it was viable as a shooting mechanism. We plan to test the basketball shooting machine as soon as we find Jez.

Down in the lab, Shifrah re-imaged the cRIO, Kylie worked on downloading robot test code, Ana used SolidWorks to modify the CAD of our robot, Sarah and Aneesha played with chain and masterLinks, and Nina and Katherine examined our 3-D accelerometers.

Near the end of the day, almost the whole team gathered on the circle to watch our off-season robot try to get over the barrier. It didn't work for a long time.

Also, remember to check the fiveawesomerobots youtube channel for team 1700's second video!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

A Great Start to the Season

Today, members of Gatorbotics split into two groups in which one group would focus on building and the other on prototyping. The building group examined the instructions on planning to cut the plywood for the barrier/ the "threshold". The group made careful measurements and spent a good portion of the day learning how to cut the plywood gotten at Home Depot. After cutting, the group actually tackled the building part of the threshold, using the pieces. One main challenge when trying to attach different parts was to work with slightly uneven pieces since glue did not completely do the job. Clamps worked pretty effectively along with the glue and the building group hopes to complete the barrier by tomorrow. The prototyping group brainstormed ideas for the robot getting a ball to be shot into the hoops. This team thought a conveyer-belt mechanism might work but are still finetuning this idea. At the end of today's work period, the team agreed on goals to accomplish by this upcoming Tuesday and Friday:

Things to do by Tuesday (Jan 10th):
1) Build threshold/bump
2) Build hoops
3) Build Thing in front of hoops
4) Interface with Kinect
5) Working prototype of conveyor belt
6) Reimage cRIO
7) Figure out accelerometer

Things to do by Friday (Jan 13th):
1) CAD of Chassis
2) Laser cut electronics board
3) Buy a band saw and drill press

~ We also figured out the gameplan for the programming team:

Things for programming to do:

1) Hopper
go, stop, reverse
2) Balance
correct itself
3) Aiming
recognize target
adjust power/angle
height feedback
4) Drivetrain (should be done soon)
tank drive

~ A quick reminder: Remember to read the rules/manual as soon as possible!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Kickoff 2012!

Today was the day we had all been waiting for! Kickoff 2012!

This year's challenge is called Rebound Rumble (the video can be seen here ). It involves a basketball component and then teams can balance on three different ramps at the end of the match to get more points.

After reading the manual the first thing that we did was come up with a list of what we Must Have, Want to Have, and things that would be Cool But Not Necessary. Here is the list below:

Must Have
Shooting or Dunking
Pick up balls from floor
Hold 3 balls
Angle/Height adjustment if we have a shooter or dunker
CAD of the robot

Want to Have
Short length (to make it easier to put three robots on one ramp)
Drive over bump (maybe pneumatic tires?)
Tipper for bump
Kinect, targeting hoops (aiming)
Computer controlled shooter
Low to ground
Get balls to driver side
Shoot quickly
Parking break

Cool but not necessary
Pretty (powder coating)
Bball jerseys

We then came up with the following list of strategies:
Be the last person on the ramp
High Torque drive train
Automated Shooting
Attach to other robots
Look at FTC from last year and robots from 1717 and 254 from 2009
Communicate with opposite alliances
Accelerometer for feedback on balance

We then broke into groups to brainstorm specific ideas for the robot. Tomorrow we are going to get the materials for the game pieces and start building them. Good luck to all of the teams!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Fall 2011 Update

Happy New Year! Though it is already 2012 and the build season is coming up we are excited to share the progress that we made on our off season project. This fall we decided to try and design a two speed transmission that we could potentially use for future robots. The project is essentially divided into three parts: gearbox, programming and the chassis.


The transmission code we wrote is broken up into two classes: one for driving and one for changing gears. In the drive class, we use a simple tank drive with four motors (two for each side) and two joysticks. To change gears, a pneumatic system opens and closes a solenoid when a button is pressed. "Open" represents one speed while "closed" signifies the other. If you would like to see a copy of the code feel free to leave a comment with an email for us to send it to you or you can email us at


We decided to create a two-speed transmission as an off-season project this year. The transmission should allow us to drive at two different speeds (we aimed for around 7 and 15 ft/sec) with full power. With the drivetrains we used in the past, our robot could move at different speeds, but it involved reducing the power. Having a transmission means we can have a setting for high speed and low torque for times when speed is important, and another with low speed and high torque (torque and speed are inversely related) that would be easier to control and would be able to push more strongly. As the CAD drawings show, we calculated the gear ratios in the two situations (you can email or comment again for these specific values, but while writing this post I can't seem to find them). We also have a pneumatic actuator that slides the middle set of gears back and forth between the two sets of gears on the side to create the right gear ratios.

For this process we first started by determining the number of teeth that we would want on each of the gears. Then we modeled the system in SolidWorks. We were then able to use our new laser cutter to make a prototype out of acrylic. While this prototype was not especially sturdy and could not be useful for the final product, it was useful to see what the system would look like. If we continue to pursue a transmission during the season we will continue to refine this design.

Below are the pictures of the acrylic prototype.


The chassis that we modeled in the fall is slightly different from what we have used in previous years. We decided to narrow the chassis so that we could put supports for the bumpers. With this new design we could easily modify the height of the bumpers depending on the rules for the challenge.

The second modification was that we made was to have a piece of sheet metal (or potentially another material) for the base. We could store the electronics board here, and in the current CAD the location of the battery mount is included as well.

In this design the wheels would also be mounted so that they are visible from the outside, and supported on one side. This is a six-wheel drive set-up, and we have not yet figured out the details of the how the chassis would work with the transmission system.

Here is the CAD that we have made.

That is it for now. If you have any other questions or feedback feel free to comment! We are excited for kick-off tomorrow.

PS Make sure to check out the Five Awesome Robots project that we started at