Category Archives: General

Inspiration in the Design Process

JVN shared two really great articles with the Social Media team here at Build Blitz. They tie in perfectly to his presentations on the engineering design process for competition robotics, and his now-famous mantra – “Design is an iterative process!” – so we wanted to share them with you and talk about how they tie into the Build Blitz.

“An idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements. The capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships.” -James Webb Young, in his book ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’, first published in the 1940s. Write to Done talks about Young’s process in this article.

Each year after kickoff, many teams’ first thoughts on design are based upon looking at older years’ games with similar elements and seeing how the most successful teams put their robots together. For the 2014 challenges, there are a lot of comparisons being made to 2008 – the game object is essentially a smaller version of the trackball, and so looking at downsizing manipulators seen in Overdrive is a logical first step. “Steal from the best, invent the rest.” Here at Build Blitz, we’re lucky enough to have mentors from all three of the 2008 World Champion teams in the house. Steal from the best, indeed!

Every robot in FIRST today is inspired by a combination of past designs. With each game release comes a set of comparisons to past concepts, and teams that are smart about their designs can take bits and pieces of the ideas presented in previous years and improve on them as adapted to the new challenge. Everything in design comes down to a three-step process, as outlined here. Nobody works alone when it comes to great ideas, and the FIRST community is a great example of that. Copy, Modify, Combine. Whether it’s with previous designs from your own team, or bouncing ideas off of friends from another team, there are countless ways to adapt to Aerial Assist. Take an idea that’s worked in the past, and adapt it to the new game. Make small steps away from what you’ve got in order to improve it, and then compare the results and bring everything you’ve learned so far into your next iteration.

We hope you’ve been able to gain some helpful knowledge from watching our process here at the Build Blitz. As always, if you have question or there’s something you’d like to see more of, you can reach us at @BuildBlitz, @TeamJVN, and @TeamCopioli on twitter.

Team Copioli: Building a Simple Robot

One of the goals for Build Blitz was to give the teams with very few resources some design ideas that were very simple, yet had the potential to have a significant impact on a match. From the outset on Team Copioli, we thought we would make a priority list, and only focus on the top 3-4 items on the list. We recognized our own resource limitations (mainly time), and wanted to showcase the power of simplicity. However, as the process has gone on we’ve had very quick success with our prototypes, allowing us to pursue more of the items on our priority list. As such, while our robot is still very simple to construct, it’s definitely not as simple as it could be, or as we had initially envisioned. We didn’t want to abandon the idea of simplicity, so we’ll take this blog post to talk about what we would build, if we were going with the simplest approach.

Let’s revisit our priority list from yesterday. For full details (and the complete list) take a look at this blog post. If we chose to remain simple while still maintaining competitiveness, we would focus on only the first five items.

1. Drive. Obviously, we would need to have a driving robot.

2. EJECT! EJECT! EJECT! Being able to release a ball is a must, otherwise you run the risk of choking your own alliance.

3. Receive from the Human Player. This the most basic way to enter a ball into play, and allows you to have the potential to be part of an assist.

4. Score Low. This only requires a somewhat controlled release, and gives you the potential to convert assists into actual points.

5. Pick up off the Ground. Our final priority. This greatly increases your assist potential, as you can now pick up any ball that’s been released by an alliance partner (or their human counterparts).

Combining just these 5 relatively simple tasks, would make you a strong asset to any alliance, even at the highest level. This type of robot could be a first round pick at most Regionals, and a second or third round pick at the Championship.

Remember, it’s better to do 5 things at 8 out of 10, than 8 things at 5 out of 10. “The jack of all trades is the master of none.” Simple can win championships. In fact, I’m in the building with one of those simple World Champions right now. unnamed

Mike & Justin: First Thoughts

We’re lucky to have Mike & Justin in-house for the Build Blitz to help get their unique perspective on the event. We believe they’re both a great representation of the pulse of the FIRST community, and sat down with them to talk about their initial reactions. Q: What did you think about the brainstorming activities for each team? A: Team Copioli was in the conference room for a much longer time. They focused on pure strategy, planning thoroughly before execution. They talked through the details in-depth before they decided to get started. Team JVN did talk through strategy but focused less on the game and more on the robot strategy. They definitely took a more hands-on approach. Q: We’ve got two very different management styles leading each of these teams. Any thoughts on how they’re working so far? A: It’s no secret that Paul Copioli is a very dynamic personality and a strong leader. In the Team Copioli discussions, the entire team had input but it was obvious that Paul was leading and directing the discussion. Team Copioli strongly utilized Karthik, their sideline reporter, as game strategy is one of his strong suits. John V-Neun isn’t as vocal, but it’s clearly obvious that he is equally as passionate about the success of his team as Paul is about Team Copioli. Grant, Team JVN’s sideline reporter, has a strong role in ensuring the documentation is as complete as possible; he’s been doing a great job making sure their ideas have been captured. Team JVN hit the ground running – they did less talking through the issue but have been actively prototyping their ideas. Q: How is the prototyping different by team? A: Team Copioli currently has 4 people actively CAD-ing their robot. Team JVN has John CAD-ing, but the rest of the team prototyping. It’s a sharp contrast! We feel like Team Copioli is really treating this like the three-day challenge it is, whereas Team JVN is looking at it in the full six-week perspective. We feel like Team JVN may end up with a more prototype-looking robot and Team Copioli will have a much more refined, professional-looking robot. Q: What are your thoughts on the overall Build Blitz? Is the event playing out the way you thought it would? A: There’s no secrets! I knew that the general idea was to be as transparent as possible, but we’re overwhelmed by the mass documentation. It seems different than a lot of normal kickoffs – this isn’t the same as hunkering down with your team. Sometimes we feel like less is shared that way. Here at Build Blitz, they’re obviously working hard on emphasizing teaching others their brainstorming, prototyping, and building process. It’s an excellent look into the brains of JVN, Paul, and Karthik and to understand their past FRC successes. This is going to advance the FIRST community. Stay tuned – we’re just getting started and there’s still 66 hours to go!