On Saturday January 5th the Robowranglers met for the kickoff of our 27th FRC season. This year’s game is called “Destination: Deep Space” and since it’s unveiling the team has been hard at work analyzing it, and learning about our latest challenge. The big question: What do robots do in space? The last time we had a space themed game it was also a year we were defending champs, and it didn’t go so great… Maybe this year will be different?
2019: Destination Deep Space
The game is simple at the highest level: pickup big flat discs, velcro them over holes on some goals, then pickup balls and shove them into the goals. (Oh, and each robot can only hold one disc or ball at a time).
At the start of each match instead of the typical autonomous period, there is now a “Sandstorm” period for the first 15 seconds where the drivers have a (literal) black curtain blocking their view (so the robots must be controlled autonomously, or by remote camera). Then at the end of the match you need to get your robots up onto a set of stepped platforms for points.
Want more detail? Here’s the full kickoff broadcast. Okay, honestly… the big detail from the broadcast itself is that Boeing and Rockwell Automation gave generous donations for FIRST.
The real detail is in the full game manual found here.
This year we followed a slightly different process to breakdown the game. One with more shortcuts and less reliance on “blank slate” work.
Step 1 - Play Dodgeball
Well actually, we did this the night before kickoff. Kudos to some of the students from FRC3310 for winning our 2nd Annual Ultimate Extreme Robowrangler Dodgeball Tournament.
Step 2 - Watch the Broadcast
“Pickup balls, put balls in things. Do it all in spaaaaaaaace.”
Step 3 - Robot Rules
This year we didn’t read through the Robot Rules as a team. Instead we talked through the “big” design constraints. One of the themes of our process is the search for a “best” outcome by optimizing the tradeoff between Limits and Wants.
The Robot Rules are some of the biggest LIMITS we face.
The traditional robot constraints fall into 8 categories:
Robot Size / Expansion: This year the robot must have a perimeter measuring less than 120 inches at the start of the match, and can never extend more than 30 inches beyond this perimeter in any direction (it can’t extend at all on the opponent’s side of the field). The robot must be less than 4 feet tall at the start of the match, and can extend upwards as tall as we want it to, unless it’s in in the “habitat” zone (the climbing platform).
Weight: The robot’s maximum weight, not including it’s battery or bumpers, is 125 lbs (this is 5 lbs heavier than last year). The bumpers must weigh no more than 15 lbs (this is 5 lbs lighter than last year). 148 is not concerned about these limits. Our bumpers last year were 8-9 lbs and the robot was “way” under the limit. We like “building light” these days.
Power / Energy: Almost the same as previous years. We get to use a motorcycle battery, some stored air for pneumatics, and springs.
Actuator Limits: No changes which affect the Robowranglers. CIMs, MiniCIMs, 775pro Motors are all available in unlimited amounts. Pneumatic cylinders are legal if they meet certain requirements.
Control System / Wiring: No significant changes. The control system is the same and we wire the robots like we typically have.
Bumper Rules: Robots still have bumpers, they’re still built like FRC bumpers are usually built. This year they need to be mounted at a height between 0” and 7.5” off the ground. You need a bumper on every side of the robot, and each “corner” of the robot needs 6” bumpers on each side of it.
$$$ Rules: Very similar to previous years. Robots must account for the cost of components. Total cost must be less than $5000 (changed to $5500 per Team Update 1, released 1/8/2019) and no individual component can cost more than $500. These limits increased from previous years. New this year is the fact that items from the Kit of Parts are not “unlimited” but instead are restricted to the quantity actually received from the kit. This overall means the cost limit is more restrictive for 148.
Possession Rules: In this game, robots are only allowed to hold 1 game object at a time. This is a gameplay type restriction, not a design restriction. (Our robot CAN hold more than 1 object as long as it doesn’t actually do that…)
Other Rules: After we went through the typical restrictions we made sure there weren’t any others ones. The one which stuck out? Robots must not be able to throw hatch pieces more than 2-feet. This is a “can’t do it” rule not a “don’t do it” rule.
Step 4 - Field Breakdown
When a veteran FRC designer looks at a field, they quickly look for a few things. Rather than stumble our way into those things - this year we started off looking for them.
Robot Starting Locations & Initial Robot Configuration
Initial Field Setup & Game Object Sources
Field Zones & Zone Restrictions
Auton / Vision Targets
Time Limits & Match Periods
Field Changes vs. Time
Rule Changes vs. Time
Scoring Changes vs. Time
Robot Field Interaction Rules
“What are we allowed to grab onto?” “What ledge would 118 grapple on?”
In this game since the field is heavily separated Red vs. Blue, we ended up talking about only needing to draw and talk about a half field. This made the discussion go much quicker than the typical year.
Step 5 - Scoring Analysis
Complete a Rocket (score 6 hatches and 6 balls on one rocket).
Get 15 or more climb points ((1x) robot on level 3, and (1x) robot on level 1 OR (2x) robots on level 2, and (1x) robot on level 1).
List all the ways to SCORE points
List all the ways to BLOCK opponents from scoring points.
List all the ways to DESCORE points
Maximum Scores (139 to 154)
100 points per alliance for game-pieces.
24 to 36 for “Sandstorm Crossing”
24 to 36 for Climbing the Habitat (depending if you think 3 robots will be able to get up together.
Interesting Note - unlike some years, none of the points an alliance score take away from the opportunity for the opponent to score.
“Beatty” Scoring Locks
No easy ones, unless you want to hoard game pieces.
Game Cycles - “How many balls will an elite robot score?”
Loading station to goal… lather, rise, repeat.
Step 6 - Goal Map: “Path of Champions”
The 2019 Champion’s Path is very similar to previous years, with a few notable differences. The Round Robin Tie-Breakers are very different than last year. Also, since the Ranking Points don’t provide bonus points - in 2019’s game their priority is much lower than in previous years (beyond the points you get for doing those things.)
Step 7 - Random Thoughts
“Alright everyone… give it to me. Let’s skip the process. Let’s skip the rules. Tell me what you’re thinking. Tell me what robot you see in your head. Share what cool things you expect to see on the field…”
Step 8 - Robot Actions
Next, we listed ALL the actions a robot can take in the game. We had separate categories for “drivetrain” actions and “autonomous” actions (Note: even though autonomous mode is gone, there are still plenty of things a smart robot can do on it’s own).
The most important part of this step? Focus on WHAT the robot can do, not HOW it is going to do it.
It’s… NOT a short list.
The Big Question
When you squint at most games, they look the same. Often there are subtle differences but the underlying DNA is the same. If you look at the red on the Goal Map, does anything jump out at you? Does this game breakdown to the same single question as almost every other?
How do we score more points than our opponents?
Many teams start with this question, and some year’s jumping to this point will bite them in the behind. Not this year.
We can’t descore points.
There aren’t a lot of opportunities for defense.
How do we score more points than our opponents?
Score lots of points. Score fast. Design to score as fast as you can…
How do we Score (stupid) Fast?
This was an interesting discussion. What does it mean to score fast?
How do we design a robot to score (stupid) fast?
When it comes down to it, scoring stupidly fast is the thing every time is trying to do. It’s kind fun to have a talk as a team about what makes a robot score fast. In 2019 “top speed” has almost nothing to do with it.
How is your team going to win matches? Is it through some innovative defensive strategy? Or is it going to be by scoring fast? How are you going to score fast?
Level 3 Scoring Comparisons
How many robots are going to be able to climb to Level 3? Do you think the Robowranglers will be able to?
Do you think there will be robots out there to carry 1 robot with them onto the level 3 platform? how about carry 2 robots? Do you think the Robowranglers will build a robot to do it? Do you find yourself wondering? I’m wondering myself. We don’t know yet.
How many points is it worth?
In the fight that matters, I think it’s worth 12 points. That’s 5 game objects. 5-cycles. Quite a difference maker. Can we build a robot to earn us those points? Will there be a Robot Wrangler involved? Or two?
Last season we intentionally built a lightweight robot. We designed the Robot Wrangler and our end-game system specifically to avoid passing high-loads through the robot itself. Is that possible with a level 3 climber? We don’t know yet.
We want to score (stupid) fast, we know some of the attributes of a robot that
How will we know?
We need to get information. How do we do that? PROTOTYPING! That’s been the story of the week. “We don’t need to prototype everything, just the things we want to work.”
What drivetrain will clear the obstacles on the field?
Drive over the cable protector?
Climb up the level 1 ramp?
Climb up the level 2 step?
Drive off the level 2 step autonomously?
Drive over the “depot” barrier?
How do we handle the hatch panels?
Grab them from the loader?
Pickup off the floor? Do we need to do this?
Score them, quickly?
Score them without alignment?
How do we handle the cargo balls?
Pickup from the floor? Do we need to do this?
Do they “age” poorly? Turn into egg-shaped balls?
Pickup while bouncing?
Can we “launch” them accurately?
Place them precisely?
How do we get up onto the level 3 platform? What “system” ideas do this?
With a partner? With 2 partners?
Can we do it quickly?
Is it worth doing?
How do we get past defenders?
Where will the defenders be? How would we defend against ourselves?
Do we need to score off multiple sides of the robot?
Do we need to push? Do we need to hold our ground? Do we need to move sideways?
What automation can we incorporate into the robot?
“Win Match” button on the driver station?
Goal alignment? “Auto-score” sequence?
Driver vision? Drive by camera?
What sensors will we use?
What match strategies should we run?
Are there things not worth doing?
Where do we score first? What is our “Sandstorm” strategy?
How do we play if we’re partnered with a team like 254?
How do we play if we’re partnered with 2 rookies who only opened their kit that morning?
How do we fit all this stuff into one robot?
No one should ever let me build physical prototypes.. I’ve been spending my time doing systems integration work. Trying to understand in SOLIDWORKS how to package this robot together.
As we prototype and growing our knowledge about this game, we’re also discussing system concepts for the robot as a whole The design team does CAD work that adds detail to the whiteboard sketches of our teammates
Can you picture the Robowrangler 2019 robot?
Does it look like Uppercut? Or Renegade? Does it have aspects of both? Can you see it, Uppercut’s elevator driving over the top of hapless defenders with Renegade’s 10WD fury?
Is it Raptor, with a new claw? Will it climb the platform with something like Viper? Does it have a dual-intake like Rogue? Will it grip the balls like Armadillo?
Can you picture it?
We still can’t. But we’re working on it…
Are We Dumb?
This is a new segment in the JVN blog called “Are We Dumb” in which I present to my dozen readers some of the randomness of the team…
Robowrangler Student: “Is there room for #VictorySpins on top of the level 3 platform? That seems like a classy way to end a season.”
“We need to see if shooting will work for this game. How do we prototype that?” - JVN
”Well, if you help me I can start CADing up a new catapult and we can get it CNCd” - Student
”That seems like a lot of work… why don’t you just drag Renegade onto the field and see how that does?” - JVN
We spent approximately 1-hour trying to figure out how many balls and hatch panels there are in the game. No joke, one hour.
“Everyone in Greenville thinks ‘the Robowranglers are starting their season today’ and picturing people standing around with clipboards and lab coats… but here we are just trying to figure out what the max score is in this darn game…”
“So we keep making fun of Viper… but you do all realize it made it to Einstein as one of the highest scoring robots in the world?” - The Boss
”Yeah, but we can still hate it. Tumbleweed may be a Champion but that doesn’t make us respect it.” - JVN
“After looking at the scoring analysis, it seems like you just need to win every match and there’s no downside to skipping the ranking points.” - Rookie Wrangler
”Ok, I think we all agree there is literally no downside to winning.” - The Boss
…There is literally no downside to winning every match. #Full53ndsOnly