Components of our team
The mechanical subteam is the largest subteam, and focuses on the construction the framework and all the mechanisms that go on the robot. The only tangible items not on the robot, once the fabrication is complete, are the wires. This is accomplished in two steps; the creation of a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) of the robot, and the physical robot. The design and fabrication are the first steps in the development of the final robot. The mechanical team is split up between FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). The FTC team consists of First and Second Year members, who are still learning basic to intermediate fabrication skills. The goal of FTC is to teach members the skills that they will need for FRC, and so much of FTC consists of experimenting. Whether from our design, to our fabrication methods, FTC mechanical aims to give the newer members a wide knowledge base which they can build off of. The FRC team is made up of Second, Third, and Fourth Year members who have learned, and spent time developing, more advanced skills. They are focused not only on continuing to expand their knowledge, but also teaching newer members the skills that they need. The design of the robot occurs using OnShape, a free, online CAD software. For FTC it is usually done by interested Second Years, and for FRC, interested Third or Fourth Years. Our team recommends that anyone interested in CADding in future seasons spend at least one season on the mechanical team so that they understand the limits of our shop. Common mechanical tasks include the use of power tools to create parts and the assembly of said parts. Due to the potential danger of such tasks, 1389 makes sure that every member is confident on how to safely use each tool and that everyone feels comfortable asking for help if they are not. 1389 also looks to teach risk-assessment where members can look at a situation and see the potential dangers that could arise depending on how a task is completed.
FRC Programming, at the very core of it, is writing code that monitors input from sensors and humans through controllers, and translates that into output from motors and actuators. On Team 1389, the programming team writes the code that allows the robot to move after it has been designed, built, and wired. However, because the code we write is for the physical systems that are designed and wired, the programming team maintains close communication with the other subteams to avoid writing code for features that were never implemented.
The programming team is split into sub teams based on individual projects, such as programming an individual mechanism on the robot, integrating a sensor or controller into our student-written library, or writing a game simulation in Unity. Each team will range from 1 to multiple people, depending on the complexity of the task. We use git for version control, which lets multiple members work on the same task, and explore different options for implementation without messing up the main task.
First and Second year members both enter the First Tech Challenge programming team, which is essentially FRC on a smaller scale. This allows students to get hands-on experience in development and testing, while also learning how to develop software collaboratively. In FTC, we use much of the same algorithms and tools as FRC, making the transition from FTC to FRC very smooth. Although First and Second year members are automatically included in the FTC programming team, it does not mean that they are not allowed to be a part of the FRC team. Distribution of members depends on relative needs of both the FTC and FRC teams, as the seasons for FTC and FRC overlap.
One of the most interesting things in robotics programming is the automation of various systems on the robot. This can range from using drivetrain wheel-mounted encoders (sensor that measures how much a shaft rotates) with a gyro that measures the robot’s angle to drive the robot along a spline, or using PID control to move a system arm to a specific angle. This automation is meant to simplify operation of the robot, and speed up vital operations, which in turn increases the capacity of the robot to score.
On the Team 1389 Robotics team programming team, members learn:
Object Oriented Design in Java
Computer Vision using OpenCV in Python
Git & Github
Control Systems theory such as PID Loops
Collaborative Software Design
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Our FRC Electrical subteam is an essential part of the team as it is responsible for maintaining, organizing, and creating the wiring of the robot. Electrical provides the “infrastructure” that allows the programming team to control the mechanisms designed by the mechanical team. The wiring allows the signals to go throughout the robot and allows the systems that the mechanical team has created and work.
Our leaders LED the team to the best of their abilities and are always there to uplift the team when necessary. The members are GROUNDED and always motivated to learn. RESISTANCE is important when there is NEGATIVITY on the team and encourage everyone to stay POSITIVE through the long hours of robotics. We work together to LIGHTen the load and it allows for a more creative and collaborative solution to any of the problems we might face.
We begin the preseason by learning the basics of electrical like how each component works, how current flows, volts, resistance, amps, how to properly wire robots, electrical safety, crimping, basic wiring, general components within FRC and how to properly design an electrical board. These skills are essential when working with the robot as it allows basic understanding of how the robot is able to move. Learning how to design the electrical board is important as it allows students to learn proper spacing of each component and how to keep the robot well-maintained and organized. By learning what each component does students are better able to learn where the best position is for each component.
Within our electrical 1389 team we work closely with our programming team in order to maintain the wires and ensure that everything within the robot is connected correctly. The electrical sub team is an essential part of testing the robot so we can test that the robot is able to move and all of the mechanical systems function well. There is a constant back and forth between the programming team and electrical team since many of the symptoms of problems within the robot are similar between the wiring and the code. Furthermore, the electrical team works hand in hand with all of the subteams since many of our components are placed depending on what systems we add to the robot and the type of sensors we decide to use.
New members are first introduced onto our team as members on the First Tech Challenge electrical subteam, which allows them to get experience of building a robot but on a smaller scale. This provides the students with a more hands-on learning experience allowing them to learn how to properly wire, crimp, and understand the basics of electrical without the complexity of different components of FRC. Learning the more basics of electrical first allows members to get eased into the complexity and hardships of building a robot and creates a more smooth transition.
Scouts are an essential piece of any FRC team. Not only do they gather data on other teams and their robots in competition, which influences the decisions our team must make later on down the road, but they also must foster positive relationships with the other teams in our district and analyze all options available when deciding on strategies.
The scouting team of 1389 both observes matches from the stands and gathers data from the pit where the other teams keep all the supplies necessary to keep their robots in peak condition. In the pit, robots may be observed from up close, and the teams are around to supply information on how their robots function, as well as information on awards. The stands, on the other hand, are where the scouts get to see the robots in play. This is a big part of the scouting job. When in the pit, robots may look good, but may not play as well as they seem they might. While they are on the field, though, we may see how the robots actually work, despite what teams have told us. During competitions, the scouting team makes crucial decisions about which teams to create alliances with before team selections occur, depending on how the team has done throughout the tournament as well as how well the team has been pitched to the others. Without scouting, being picked would be much less likely, and the alternative, which would be picking other teams during alliance selection, would devolve into picking from rankings instead of the quality of each team. Thankfully, team 1389 has a well-rounded scouting team which gathers all data needed to make these important decisions during competition. There’s a massive set of skills to be learned while on the scouting team, including data analysis, basic programming, and communication. Currently, our scouting team is working to create a custom app that we hope will used by other teams to gather and organize their data. There are currently four different versions in progress, and they will be fully functional for our next season.