Mentoring BCS Vikings

Talking with BCS Vikings about pit design and tournament structure

BCS Vikings, a rookie FTC team from Norway, posted on social media that they needed general help from other teams, so we reached out and offered to help them. First, we introduced ourselves and what we do on the team and then they went through their introductions. After that, we helped them with some of their software issues. We explained why C++ doesn’t work well for FTC and why they would be better off using Java for programming. We also helped them figure out how to track joystick movements correctly as they didn’t know that the y-joystick values are reversed (up is negative, down is positive). We talked with them about how tournaments are run and the general outline of tournaments. They asked about pit design and we described how we design our pit and what is required for a pit. During the meeting, they mentioned that they were low on money because they are the only Norwegian FTC team in the last 15 years. We talked about how we contact companies for sponsorship by cold-calling and they described how cold-calling isn’t a thing in Norway so they have been emailing companies instead. They were also curious about 3D printed custom parts and asked if there were any restrictions on 3D printing. We talked about how we use a lot of 3D printed parts and how there aren’t strict restrictions on 3D printing. It was exciting to mentor an international team and we are going to stay in contact with them.

Meeting with Zeus

Discussing the robot with Bob and Duane

We met with Bob and Duane, two of the engineers from Zeus Electric Chassis. When we were meeting with them, we voiced our concerns about our robot tipping over when the lift is extended. They suggested that we use Matlab to calculate the center of gravity so we can anticipate if it will tip. We discussed how to keep our drivetrain stable and prevent it from cantilevering. One of their recommendations for this was to connect tension lines to the tops of the motors to prevent them from moving. We also explained our prototype of the swerve pod and our issues with finding the best way to attach it to the drivetrain. They are going to put us in contact with a company that specializes in creating bearings. Hopefully, they will be able to help us find an attachment solution. Besides giving us feedback on our robot design, they also gave us lots of general life advice. They suggested that we come over to their company sometime to talk to their engineers. Overall, they were super helpful and we hope to see them again soon.

Science Museum Demo

Showing our robot to Mark Dahlager (left) and letting kids drive our robot (right) 

Our team was invited by Wrench Dressing to demo our robot with them at the Science Museum. We showed our robot to the kids and adults there and allowed them to drive it around. The museum was open to members only at the time, so unfortunately the number of people we got was limited. We also talked to Mark Dahlager, the Vice President of Museum Experiences, and he offered to give us a tour of the shop below the museum in the future. This demo helped spread awareness about FTC, as well as the other FIRST programs.

Engineering Review Night

We hosted a virtual Engineering Review Night and invited our engineering mentors. During the meeting, we explained our robot’s designs through CAD and asked for their input and suggestions.

On the Zoom meeting we presented and explained each of the subsystems of our robot to the engineers. We also showed videos and images of the prototypes we have made so far and described how they were tested with the outcomes.

After presenting our robot to the engineers we asked them what suggestions or comments they had. One of our major concerns was the structural integrity of the odometry pod pivot points so it was suggested that we look into flexures. They are layered sheet metal components that are flexible in one direction and extremely rigid in the other. The engineers also told us that we could calculate the moment of inertia of our supports and determine what changes will make our drivetrain stronger. It was recommended that we calculate our robot’s center of gravity by placing the weights of parts on an x, y graph and using the moment of inertia and torque calculations. Mark, one of the engineers we invited from Minnesota Measuring Engineers, even offered to look at our calculations after we did them to make sure they were accurate. The engineers strongly suggested we do a risk analysis to identify where we were struggling and focus on those issues. We are implementing it to make our work more efficient. Finally, Mark recommended we check out a book called Fundamentals of Machine Component Design. It is an engineering textbook used in college, and it covers many of the topics and challenges we are dealing with right now. During the engineering review night, we received a lot of helpful feedback from the engineers and we will definitely continue to reach out to them.

Learning how we can improve our robot designs from the engineers

Alumni Engineering Review Night

Discussing the lift with our alumni friends.

We first discussed rules and scoring for this year’s game and let them become familiar with the field layout before we showed them our robot. While showing them our lift, they were concerned about a possible wobble in the lift and they said we should add reinforcements. They suggested that we should move the lift closer to the center of the robot and make the grabber longer to make sure the robot does not tip forward when extending. When they noticed the servo gearbox they told us that not all of the servos may start at the same time which could lead to issues. For the drivetrain, they suggested a different mounting material for the odometry, such as TPU. We discussed possible strategies and came to the conclusion that we should focus more on junction scoring rather than completing a circuit because most teams won’t be able to do it. Overall, it was really fun meeting with graduated FTC members and they were really helpful in giving a different view of our robot.

Robot in 2 Weeks

Our team attended the robot in 2 weeks competition to see how other teams were going about this year’s game. We watched matches to see various strategies as well as how the game works with all of the robots. We thought about some strategies for how to get more points and discussed which drivetrains and lifts worked the best. Overall this was a great way for our team to understand the best strategies and effective robot designs.

Meeting with CyberHawks

We met with Jack from CyberHawks to talk about different ways to implement spring-loaded Odometry to the robot. We learned that Jack originally used rubber bands to keep tension in his pods but in order to keep the footprint of the odometry small, he switched to torsion springs to keep the space of the pivot point small. This allowed him to fit his odometry into tight places while still maintaining accurate readings. After we showed Jack our odometry pod design and he gave us pointers on how to spring-load it. Overall, it was really fun hanging out with Jack and talking about different ideas for the season.

Boston Scientific Maple Grove Tour

Boston Scientific Weaver Lake Phase III Expansion | Kraus-Anderson

Our team met with Mr. Maves, a machine vision engineer, to learn about his work at Boston Scientific and what engineers do at the facility. He showed us the machine vision that he and his colleague were working on which was being used to speed up and ease the process of manufacturing parts. They would use a high-quality camera to detect any flaws and create a visual model of the part. This visual model will be displayed on a computer to be used for making small adjustments. He then showed us all of the manufacturing parts of the facility and how machine vision was or is planned on being used in manufacturing. We also toured the part of the building with mock operating rooms where doctors are trained to use Boston Scientific’s products on a patient. Finally, we met with a couple more engineers who work on machine vision in a very similar way to Mr. Maves. Overall, it was really exciting to see all of the different manufacturing processes for tools made at Boston Scientific and how machine vision is being utilized in the real world.

State Fair Demo

Posing with the other teams demoing at the State Fair (left) and letting kids drive the robot (right)

Every year, the Minnesota State Fair holds STEM Day which brings together student groups and businesses to celebrate STEM. We brought our robot and showed it to kids and adults, allowing everyone to try driving the robot. We had the Freight Frenzy field set up and let people pick up freight and place it onto the shipping hubs. Everyone who drove the robot received a robot driver’s license. We were there with other FTC teams so kids got to see and drive multiple different robots. We went to this demo, which was hosted by HTK, to reach more people and interest them in FTC and the STEM fields.