Build Season Update – Beginning of Week 3: A Look at Strategic Design

Strategic design is how a team goes about building a robot. While yes this may sound self-explanatory and simple. it is actually quite complex. FRC is a mind sport. It requires high-level thinking and puts people against one another in a competitive setting. And as sports age, they reach higher and higher levels, and reaching and staying at that top 1% becomes harder and harder and harder.

Take a look at Soccer, back in the old days, teams did not require intensive strategic management. It used to be just put your best players on the field and have them play it out and hopefully you’ll win. Then teams such as the Dutch Total Football, Barcelona Tiki-Taka, and Italian Catanaccio evolved. Teams did not necessarily need the best players in all positions to succeed, they required successful unit cohesion and a shared philosophy to overcome possibly more individually skilled opponents.

And FRC is reaching that level, slowly and slowly. The top 1% stay and reach that level not just because they have the brightest students, the best mentors, and the most advanced facilities, they also execute their robot efficiently and with a set purpose. In my personal opinion, FRC 2014 Aerial Assist marks this point. Karthik talks about how one mistake on in strategy can cost the entire team the Championship, how one misplayed cycle can throw the entire game off. If teams hope to reach levels of this competition, to stay at this level; if our team hopes to reach that level – it all has to start on day one.

I’ve mentioned kickoff, and I’m gonna mention it again but in more detail, because it is so darn crucial. We had to organize our ideas, given such a demanding task in a timely fashion but also efficient. We had to establish our philosophies: do we want to aim for Einstein or aim for a regional? Building a robot to win worlds is not the same as building a robot for a regional. After long polite argument, we eventually decided on aiming for Einstein, and even if we fail, we can still hope to trust fall into the arms of a regional win.

Starting with the Robot base, the chassis, we had a team meeting with Electrical, Mechanical, and Strategy members. We looked at the pros and cons at swerve drive, tank drive, a combination of the two. After evaluating our skills set, what the game demanded, and previous years, we wanted a more robust base of 8 Pneumatic Wheel 6 CIM WestCoast drive. This allows our robot to be a dominating force on the field, allow us to dictate the pace of the match and not be pushed around.

And since we also decided to go with balls, we powered a two-part conveyor belt feeder with custom 3D printed parts with two 775s. We also managed to efficiently fit our gear mechanism in the middle of all of this.

Shooting wise, after several prototypes, we’re learning at some Einstein inspired firepower with two wheels, versaplanateries, 775 pros, 3:1 gear ration all with an encoder, and possibly some Nexus inspiration tying it all together.

More prototypes for more passive and active mechanisms are coming together, and while I can’t share these yet, we’re hoping it will all lead to success. The process of weighing our pros and cons of shooting types, feeding mechanisms, gear ratios, motor types, has lead to a more streamlined proceess, and hopefully some success along the way.

I kinda don’t want build season to end, but I kinda do so I can see it all in action. It’s a bittersweet feeling especially with this being my last year.

Here’s to continuing our team’s success for the rest of the build season and competition season! 🙂




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