Build Season Team Update | Week 5

Howdy!

Week 5 is now behind us, meaning there are less than 10 days left in Build Season! Time is running out! Robot construction has been going well over the last couple weeks. So for this week’s blog post, we decided to interview the programming team.

Q: What do you enjoy about programming?

A: It feels very rewarding when your code works. We really enjoy going through the logic.

Q: What are you changing in the code from last year?

A: A big part of this year is the new hardware that we have. We replaced our motor controllers with Talon SRX’s and Victor SPX’s. Motor controllers tell the motors how much power to output on a basic level. We now have 2-way communication with the robot, so we can tell a motor controller to drive a specific amount, and it will report back.

Q: Have you successfully driven the robot yet?

A: Yes, our teleop drive has been improved immensely from the Talon SRX motor controllers. Not only that, but we are also in the process of testing autonomous code. So far, the code has run very smoothly.

Q: What programming language do you use?

A: Our team uses LabVIEW. We don’t have much experience with other languages so we can’t really say whether it’s better or worse than other languages, but we enjoy the blocks on the interface, and the code definitely runs well.

Q: What is Motion Magic?

A: Motion Magic is a way of making the drive experience better. It takes the yaw from the gyroscope and filters it through a PIDF loop, which stands for Proportional-Integral-Derivative-Feed Forward. The PIDF loop keeps the robot going in a straight line. Yaw shows what angle your robot is facing; for example, facing straight is 0 yaw. If the robot is going 2 yaw and we want it to go 0 yaw, it will correct it with Motion Magic.

Bonus! Here is the list of currently submitted team avatars. Can you find us? (Source: https://www.thebluealliance.com/avatars/2018)

The Marketing Team’s Takeover (Week 4 Update)

Howdy!

As you may or may not know, we have a fully dedicated Marketing team that works on the branding, design, and social media aspects of our team. (They also blog!) This is the story of our thought process of how we made our designs this year.

The Beginning

January 9th, 2018. Build season was just beginning. We thought we were going to create the usual, boring stuff, like business cards and brochures. We had no idea how we would design our pit. “Oh, we just won’t put much effort into it this year! It’s not worth our time!” some of us said. We would never go back to that heavy wooden pit that took over an hour to build! We knew we wanted to use a frame that we could put up in just minutes. However, we also wanted an awesome and unique design that grabs people’s attention, similar to last year’s pit.

One day, we were having one of our long brainstorming sessions, and all of a sudden, we got this crazy idea. And that idea was photoshopping the Howdy Bot mascot’s face onto a PacMan ghost, because why not! Seeing this idea changed our thought process completely. What if we merged our cowboy theme with the Power Up theme?

We shared our many ideas with the mechanical team – you know, those guys who think about nothing but robots all day long. Some sighed, some walked away. We were determined to make this work, despite their silly eye rolls, head shaking, and looks of disappointment!

The Rise of PacBot

January 21, 2018. Our ideas are not stopping. Our power levels are rising. We have this crazy idea of conquering the world with our genius designs! We could possibly even win the Imagery Award! We continued creating our designs in Photoshop. And then… a monster was born.

“That thing is hideous! IT HAS AN UNDER BITE!!!” the mechanical team told us. We did not care. We had the brilliant idea of putting it on our t-shirts, and even our pit! Nothing could stop us from our ideas!

We got to designing. Our pit will have a sign on the top, welcoming you into the “Power Up Saloon.” There will be three banners- a PacMan themed banner, a Super Mario themed banner, and the “Power Up Menu” in the middle. The menu will list things that “Power us Up” from sponsors and mentors, to brownies and memes! We began designing the pit in CAD software.

Banner Progress

February 1, 2018. The banners are going along well. Soon, we will be able to print them and start building our pit! You won’t believe how insane our pit is! (Not clickbait) The mechanical team is still busy building their robot in the dark, dreary garage. Meanwhile, we are inside, sitting by the fire, drinking hot chocolate, talking about memes, and creating our usual brilliant designs. The mechanical team looks at us and sighs. Oh well, maybe one day they will understand our ways! Or maybe not!

February 4, 2018. We have started painting foam for our PowerUp Saloon sign. We are using foam board because it is lightweight and easy to handle. Everything is going well. We have designed temporary tattoos to hand out in our pit, along with our world famous wooden pins like last year. However, this year’s pin design is a bit different…

A Sneak-Peek into the Future

May 10, 2018. Everyone loved our pit at champs. We are so proud of our hard work! We still can’t believe we got picked on the winning alliance at Einstein’s just because of our pit design! We told you that this was a good idea, mechanical team!

Thank you for reading the marketing team’s long ramble about designs and world conquering. If you somehow want more from us, you can find us on social media! Tune in next week for real robot updates! (Click for links- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

Build Season Team Update | Week 3

Howdy!

In this post, we are going to tell you about some of the improvements we are making to our robot this year. Last year was our rookie year, so we had a pretty basic robot, but it’s time to up our game!

Our programming team is currently working on a closed loop controller, which allows the robot to take care of any problems it runs into on the field. It makes autonomous more consistent and accurate, and it makes driving easier and smoother. We will have 2 way communication with the robot, so it can communicate back to us. For example, if we tell it to go full speed ahead, it will report back to us and give details on its current state.

The mechanical team has been building Ball Shifter Gear Boxes for our drive train. They consist of 3 mini CIM motors, a pneumatic gear shifter, and an encoder. Using three Mini-CIMs gives us the same power as two CIM motors, but it takes up less space in the robot, leaving more room for mechanics and electronics. We will be using 6″ wheels which are currently on order.

Our CAD team is using SolidWorks to create models for our mechanisms! Our lift mechanism (for the end-game) will be using the super-small but very powerful 775 Pro motors to lift our heavy alliance partners. (No offense!) Our cube intake mechanism will use Bag Motors and Versa-Planetary Gear Boxes to spin green rubber wheels that will grab power cubes and spit them out again. We are also creating our Pit in CAD!

 

Tune in every week for more blog updates, and follow our social media for daily updates!

 

Build Season Team Update | Week 2

Howdy! Week two is in the bag! These past 7 days were filled with creating prototypes, building field elements, and designing our pit and other marketing materials!

Cube Intake

Some of our most exciting news this week, we have a working cube intake prototype for our robot! The intake has two arms with wheels on the end, which spin to suck in the cube. The arms keep the cube in place. This is a huge step for the team! Check out this video to see it in action.

Field Element Construction

Yesterday, several members of our team spent all day building the necessary Field Elements for the tasks we are trying to achieve. We built half of a scale with a platform, and half of a switch. It’s not the whole field, but it’s all we need to practice the game elements we are designing our robot for!

The Rise of PacBot

 

The Marketing team has been designing this year’s pit and t-shirts. We decided to integrate our “Cowboy” theme with the Power Up theme for our pit design! When you first walk in to the pit, you will see a sign that says “Howdy Bots PowerUp Saloon”. We will have two banners on the sides- one Super Mario themed, one PacMan themed. On the back wall, we will have a “PowerUp Menu” which lists things that “Power Us Up” including sponsors, gracious professionalism, and brownies! Below is a sneak-peek to what we have planned!

What’s next for the team? Now that we have our field elements built, we can start prototyping even more. We hope to have a fully functional robot built very soon! Follow our social media accounts for more updates.

Bonus Fun-Fact: Mario was not originally named Mario. In the game Donkey Kong, he was simply called “Jumpman”.

Build Season Team Update | Week 1

Howdy!

What an exciting week! Last Saturday was kickoff, the day where we found out the challenge this season. And it’s a tricky one! (Click here for the reveal video link) Over this first week, we have been pretty busy strategizing, thinking about mechanism ideas, and reading the 133 page-long rulebook.

Last weekend, we spent nearly all our time reading the rules. Pretty fun stuff! Well, sometimes. We decided to hold off on all mechanism talk for a few days, to give everyone some time to think and to learn the rules first.

It’s amazing how many ideas a small team (11 members) can come up with! With an initial ban on mechanism talk, our team’s first goal was to come up with a game strategy. We wrote all of the ideas on the whiteboard and discussed point values and feasibility of each idea. With our strategy in place, our next task is to figure out how to achieve these hefty goals.

We’ve begun to split off into sub-groups to divide and conquer. The field elements are being assembled, the cad group is pulling specs for the builders, and the electronics team is starting to put together a simple bot so the programmers can start testing. And the marketing team, well we’re blogging!

Over the next 5 weeks we will be this will be our life. We are basically a family now. We will be spending about 40 hours building robots every week. It’s a lot, but it’s fun!

We will be posting weekly updates during Build Season. Follow our social media for more posts!