Kickoff was a little less than two weeks ago, and let's just say that we've been very hard at work trying to come up with design and working on awards!
We're always impressed with the interesting challenges that FIRST comes up with each year for the FRC competition, and this year is no different! Destination: Deep Space involves moving two different game pieces: 'Hatch Panels' (flat plates with a hole in the middle and velcro around the rim) and Cargo (orange, 13-inch diameter kickballs). Teams have to stick the Hatch Panels onto openings in a center, low 'Cargo Ship' and a tall, three-stage 'Rocket.' From there, they can then put Cargo pieces into the same two structures. Cargo pieces earn more points, but they will fall out and not give you any points if a Hatch Panel isn't placed first to stop it. During endgame (the last 30 seconds of the match), robots must climb their way on top of one of three different 'Hab Platforms,' all at different heights. This is much different than the normal climb that requires latching onto a rope or bar and pulling your robot up. Another interesting part of this game is the fact that the beginning does not require an autonomous mode. All of the past games that we've participated in had a 15-second autonomous period at the beginning of each match, where robots move based on pre-written programmming and not a driver's instruction. This game has what is called a 'Sandstorm,' where the driver's vision is blocked, but they can either rely on autonomous coding or cameras and vision tracking on their robot.
This is a very crude explaination of the game, but it's the basics of what we're trying to do. If you would like to learn more, you can check out FIRST's Official Game Animation.
Now that that's out of the way, build season has been... well, it's been busy. We've been coming up with countless ideas of how, exactly, we want to go about this game. Members have created CAD models, 3D printed prototypes, and wooden mechanisms to test their ideas. What we've found has worked best is an intake mechanism that uses wheels to suck in Cargo off of the ground (a mechanism that we've nicknamed the 'Slurp Mechanism'), a shooter-style mechanism on a pivot that allows us to shoot the Cargo at three different heights, and a piston-powered mechanism to hold onto and push the Hatch Panels off of our robot.
Programmers have been hard at work developing a vision-tracking program for our robot, a system that requires a lot of very difficult codes and strenuous work. Despite the rmany trials and obstacles, they have stayed motivated and gotten a lot of impressive work done. Our old programmer, Kevin, who graduated, has been coming back during his holiday break to help them. Kevin has also taken on the responsibility of becoming an official mentor for our team!
Media has been writing and editing essays for the many awards that FIRST gives out (the Chairman's Award, the Dean's List Awards, and the Woodie Flowers Award, more specifically). Some of these awards also require videos, and they've been developing creative ideas on how we can show off our team in an engaging and eye-catching way.
Public Relations has been contacting our sponsors to plan visits to their facilities and understand more about their companies. We have, so far, visited Biodex and Westhampton Architectural Glass, and we will be writing more about those amazing trips soon.
Electrical has been learning all of the electronics that they may need for this upcoming season. Our electrical head, AJ, graduated last year, and a majority of this department is new members trying to learn from his notes and mentorship.
3D Printing has been working closely with many of the members who know CAD to create prototypes.
Build is also working on prototypes and game pieces to help us create a mock-field to test our robot on.
We've been meeting almost every day to get work done, and we're very tired, but very proud of the progress we've made and very excited for this year's competition!