WHAT DO YOU DO IN ROBOTICS?
In robotics, there are many things we do. The three main parts is building the robot, programming the robot, and documenting everything that happens from meetings to the competitions to Outreach. What someone chooses to do in robotics is up to them but each part is essential to the robotics in general. Additionally, we complete Outreach, which could include events in public that spread the word about FIRST, the company that started the idea of robotics, and robotics in general.
WHAT MAKES ROBOTICS FUN?
Robotics is fun because of the teammates you become close to as well as the competitions you attend that spark up new friendships. These small little elements build up the fun that robotics can bring. By having a great team and a fun competitive spirit, anyone can have at any moment of the season.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO JOIN ROBOTICS?
Someone would want to join robotics because of the potential to not only gain skills but also to gain an opportunity to meet new people and faces. Once a person becomes involved in the world of robotics, they begin to gain a newfound leadership since teams are in charge of building their own robot with assistance from a designated coach. Additionally, they can build on their communication skills as they interact with other teams during the season as well as their own teammates while discussing the robots themselves. Finally, anyone who joins robotics is always welcome to the FIRST family!
WHAT IS FIRST ROBOTICS?
FIRST robotics can be categorized into 3 parts: FLL, FTC, and FRC. Each part has different games as well as the number of teams participating in those games. In FLL, it’s more for beginners who are just new to robotics and FIRST in general. The robots in FLL are typically built out of legos and basic programming. From FLL, teams can move onto FTC when they feel ready. This is the competition that is the most competitive since it is pretty convenient and can delve pretty deep into the mechanics of a robot. Here, teams can use materials that engineers use as well as programming that engineers could possibly use. And from FTC, teams that are big enough can try their luck in FRC. In FRC, the robots and the game is way bigger, having the robots almost half of the height of a regular high school student and the arena the size of a gym court. Of course, with bigger arenas and robots calls for a bigger team which is why this has the least amount of teams participating in it.
HOW IS THE COMPETITION SET UP?
There are three main levels of FTC competitions. First there is the league level- this includes three competitions with just robot matches and a league championship, which involves a judging session. The scores from the first three league meet competitions go towards your score in the league championship. During the league championships, a select number of teams are able to advance to the next level: regionals. At regionals, teams participate in matches and also judging. Regionals is much more of a challenge than league championships due to the competitors. Those who are chosen from regionals advance to the final level of competition: worlds. At worlds, the best of the best compete with one another. As seen in the name, worlds encompasses an international reach- including a plethora of countries from around the globe.
WHAT IS THE CRITERIA THAT JUDGES ARE LOOKING FOR?
The criteria that judges are looking for are improvements and a newfound knowledge of robotics and its process. They don’t care as much about the robot as they do about how the students in a team learned from their experiences during the season. They want to know what trials and errors a team faced as well as how the team found solutions to move past those obstacles. Additionally, this is where the judges can look at what a team has done throughout the season from outreach to fundraising to documentation of the robot. This is one of the main reasons as to why the Engineering Notebook is crucial to robotics since it documents every little aspect that a team may experience.
ARE THERE ANY TUTORIALS FOR FUSION360?
Yes! In fact, on this website, there is a CAD Basics tutorial that discusses how to use Fusion360 and apply it to your robot. If you have any further questions about Fusion360, feel free to contact us or to visit the Autodesk website.
DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE EXPERIENCE IN ROBOTICS TO PARTICIPATE?
That’s the great part about robotics; you don’t need any experience to participate in robotics! If you’re looking to join a team, find out if your school hosts a team or look for a local team and ask if they’re planning on taking on new members. After all, each robotics team in FIRST welcomes new faces!
WHAT IS THE JUDGING SESSION LIKE FOR FTC?
It is very similar to the FLL judging sessions, we introduce our team, present our robot and its features, and talk about our team’s outreach and fundraising tactics. Basically in the judging session, you present yourselves to the judges and make a good impression in order to have a higher chance at getting awards. The interview is usually 15 minutes. Present for 10 minutes and leave 5 minutes for questions.
WHICH ROBOT SET DO YOU RECOMMEND TO GET FOR A ROOKIE TEAM?
In general, for rookie teams, you can purchase a base set either from Tetrix or Rev Robotics because the base set includes many parts needed for the competition. Rev is more flexible but has a higher requirement on the precision of assembly. Tetrix is less flexible, but it is easier to assemble. Rev is cheaper, and Tetrix is more expensive; however, the two sets can be used together. In competition nowadays at higher level, we tend to see more Rev kits being used than Tetrix kits. Although, it might be a little easier for a rookie team to start with Tetrix.
WHAT COMPANY(S) ARE MOST OF YOUR PARTS FROM?
Most of our parts are from Andymark, which is good for a motor, gearboxes, a starter kit, intake wheels, and servocity (which includes a servo motor and other accessories). VEX Robotics is used for small but strong servo like motors, wheels, pulleys while REV robotics for electronics and sensors, and kits. Though we don’t use Modern Robotics as much, there are still some useful parts that your team could utilize. Tetrix’s motor could still be useful since it has a smaller size.
COMPARING THE TETRIX AND REV STARTER KIT, WHICH ONE DO YOU PREFER?
We prefer to use REV because it's a lot easier. It has its own parts specifically made for FTC and also has parts which are compatible with other hardware from other websites.
HOW MANY KITS DO WE NEED TO START THE SEASON?
We recommend to use two: one for practicing and one for competition.
WHAT PARTS WOULD BE THE BEST FOR A NEW TEAM?
We would suggest that a rookie team should buy parts off of major sites. We recommend robot starter sets where all the parts are together. For following years, slowly develop skills like CAD to be learn how to make 3D-printed parts. 3D-parts tend to be very hard to produce in the first year since, most of the time, it can be hard to find out what and how to design because of a lack of experience.
WHAT MAKES A ROBOT MORE EFFICIENT?
Most of the time the robot that can do the task better and faster than the opponent usually wins. Also, try to minimize driver error since the drivers of a team heavily factor the amount of points scored in a Tele-OP. Check out the Vex robotics website for robotics curriculum; they have good tips on intake design and many other topics.
WHAT TYPE OF WHEELS DO YOU RECOMMEND?
We would definitely recommend using Mecanum wheels. Although they can be a bit more of a challenge to code, they allow for a much greater control of movement. Mecanum wheels can be used to move a robot forwards, backwards, diagonally, and side-to-side without turning.
HOW DOES THE PROGRAMMING WORK?
FTC provides many sample coding templates. Check the HardwarePushBot code template for basic robot setups and hardware configuration. Then check the Pushbot Teleop Tank Iterative Java program for a basic teleop program that allow you to run the program. Then a Pushbot Auto-Drive to Line Linear Java program for a basic sample autonomous program.
WHAT CODING LANGUAGE(S) WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO ROOKIE TEAMS AND WHY?
We recommend to use OnBot Java since it is easier for rookie teams to use. The coding environment is not great since it doesn’t have many auto-correction features, but the updating process is fast and easy. Android studio is good for editing codes and using advanced features; however, the loading process is rather cumbersome. On the other hand, you are less likely to have bugs due to its auto-correction features. So, we recommend new teams to start with OnBot Java, and gradually move to Android Studio.
WHAT PROGRAMMING SITE ARE YOU (MAINLY) USING?
We use a mixture of Android Studio and OnBot Java. For more complicated code, we code with Android Studio first, and then download the code to OnBot Java, then modify codes in OnBot java.
HOW DO YOU CODE?
Coding is a very tedious process since you have to very meticulous in your code and the specific instructions you want to send to your robot. It’s very difficult to describe how to code in a short and easy way since it can expand in many different ways. The best bet on learning how to code is through CodeCademy or by watching Youtube videos on coding for a specific program.
WHAT SOFTWARE DO YOU USE TO DESIGN YOUR ROBOTS?
We use CAD Fusion 360 to design our robots before creating certain parts and assembling everything together for the final robot. Using the CAD software allows us to make a very detailed design of the robot and gives us a proper overview of the design.
HOW DO YOU START YOUR PRESEASON PRACTICE AND WHAT ARE YOUR SUGGESTIONS FOR US TO DO DURING THIS PERIOD?
We start our preseason practice with planning out what we want to do during the season—like setting up potential designs, planning out things to be done before and during the season. Our suggestions for you to complete during this period is to plan out what you should do for the season. This would include designing, building, outreach, volunteering, and the engineering notebook. Plan out who is doing which part, when each portion of the competition should be complete, and have an idea of how you want each task to be completed. We would also recommend your team to learn as much as you can about CAD design and programming during the preseason through various tutorials online or even other robotic teams. Utilize the preseason time to accumulate lots of knowledge in preparation for the competition season ahead. The internet and YouTube are going to be your best friends in finding resources and expanding your knowledge.
HOW TO START YOUR STRATEGIC PLANNING?
Once the competition video is released for the season, we congregate as an entire group. We discuss the game components and make plans according to making things efficient and effective while the season continues. We draw out different approaches to the different missions and then evaluate them further as an entire group. One of our favorite things to do as a team is to discuss a pro and con list for each approach or solution. This allows us to break down our ideas further and potentially eliminate future problems with design. Definitely make sure that this discussion process is efficient and effective; it can easily stretch across many, MANY meetings. However, if your team concentrates and stays on task- hitting each point you want to cover- then you will practice your team’s time management and continue to move forward.
WHAT ARE THE STEPS YOU HAVE TO TAKE BEFORE BUILDING THE ACTUAL ROBOT?
First, you want to plan out what kind of robot you want. This process involves a group discussion among the entire team to involve various perspectives and be sure to encourage active participation within the whole group—keep an open mind and value all team members’ opinions. Then begin to design the robot in Fusion 360 and make changes when necessary. Once the final design has been created, print out and buy the parts. Afterwards, assemble the pieces based on the design and make changes if necessary.
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