Allow me to introduce you to Whatnot the Robot:
Today was Stop Build Day, at Midnight. We worked our asses off, and didn’t get as far as we should have, but got farther than we ever have before when it was time to seal the robot. We have had chances to run nearly all the systems, and time to debug code and wiring and pneumatics.
And after much experimentation on lofting the Tater, we finally arrived at a spring loaded system that has a loaded tension of about 400 pounds. It’s actually rather frightening, and we are constantly warning team members to STAND CLEAR. Fortunately, it’s REALLY well designed, and the system contains the tension at full extension; although it takes THREE 2 inch diameter cylinders, delivering nearly 600 pounds of force to compress the system.
I will post a video when I get one, all the kids were shooting movies as we tested the installed system at the end of the night. The catapult (named BANG because that’s the noise it makes when it discharges) is currently lofting the tater to clear 9 feet in height, and 32 feet in distance. Maybe a bit over-served; the bottom of the goal is 6 feet 10 inches, and the entire field is only 54 feet long. The way the game rules are set this year, you don’t get as many points for long goals, but more points for assists to your team members; our ideal goal would be from about 12 feet away. Remember, here’s what we are trying to do:
On Sunday, we went to a scrimmage at one of our friend teams, in Sussex, and it is the first time we’ve had a running robot on the field, in six years of the team. We got to do tryouts for Field Team, and it was remarkable how much attention our robot (particularly the spring assembly) drew from other teams. I figure when they see and hear the thing actually work it will be even more impressive.
They had a platform scale set up, and Whatnot weighed in at 102 pounds; the limit is 120, so even with the things we added tonight, we are in good shape from that end. And with the experience on the Mentor side between me, Wife Sublime, and Bill, we are in pretty good shape for inspections all around.
So, after 6 very intense weeks, our team has gone from a pile of parts and a long list of rules to the best robot we’ve ever built, working through bitter cold, blizzards, and the usual setbacks in design and fabrication. Notably, we had to rewire Whatnot four different times; those who have seen some of these posts before may recognize that the final configuration is muchly different from the early setups (the needs of Bang the Catapult were more demanding than initially anticipated). We have a small team, and a lot of the kids who have participated the most are first years, with not so much skill or experience. But we are scrappers, and this year we will be going to two Regional competitions, one in Milwaukee and one in Chicago.
This is my fourth year mentoring a FIRST team, and while it is stressful and challenging, it is also rewarding and seventeen different kinds of fun. Tonight, while talking with Bill about a 4″ diameter Delrin rod he was modifying (and we were very excited about) I said that when I was deciding on a career path in college, I switched from Mechanical Engineering into architecture because it seemed like a better fit; but tonight, I felt like Material Engineering would have been maybe a better choice.
But at the end of the day, I am tickled fucking pink that we have a good robot, a tested robot, an engineered and designed robot, and what I think is going to be a competitive robot. Even though I am demanding towards the kids, and expect WAY more of them than they might be able to do right now (as ATA Grand Master once said “Today, not possible; tomorrow possible”) I hope they are feeling like we are having success and that they are, finally having some fun. The Regionals are even more fun, and that is when the hook is set. A little bit of success in the Qualification matches and maybe the Eliminations (can I dream?), would go a long way to inspiring them. It may also be noted that the Field Team WILL be wearing orange safety glasses and fuzzy tiger ears at the matches; and yes, that includes me.
We’ll take a few days break, and get back to it for Regional Prep next week. We sealed Whatnot into a Big Plastic Bag-n-Tag tonight, and will open her up on March 20th for the Wisconsin Regional. Right Now, I am having an adult beverage or three, and tomorrow I guess try to catch up on Klark Kent items.
But for now, I am going to wind down a bit, and go to order some needed hardware, materials, and… Whatnot. Heh.