Another installment of the JVN Top 9! Today we’re going to look at something topical. Let’s talk about the Top 9 UNVEILED Mechanisms that (most of the FRC Community forgot) weren’t actually used!
On 148 we occasionally see people talking about our past robots as though they competed in their “unveil video” configuration. Apparently “The arc of FRC history is long, but it bends towards crowd-pleasers.”
That said - Let’s hit the list…
#9) 118-2012: Bridge Balancer
“Look man, if you won’t define grappling we’re just going to assume this is okay. It TOTALLY isn’t grappling.”
This one is fun for a few reasons. For lots of people, this was one of those "why didn’t I think of that” mechanisms. It changed the entire dynamic of the end-game. The Robonauts say it worked great. Unfortunately for them: the GDC didn’t believe it was legal. What a saga. To this day, I joke with 118 about “So… can you define grappling for me?”
#8) 118-2018: Auton Side Flippers
“That is AMAZING! We need to add some of those!”
”Wait… what if we just… score the cube with the intake?”
”Hmmm, good question.”
This one drove me nuts. When we saw it in 2018 we had the “man, why didn’t we add something like that” moment. Our team had talked about it… but decided to “save the weight” in pursuit of our super-light robot. THEN we saw it in 118’s video we had that moment of “Wait.. WHY didn’t we do those?” and had to talk ourselves out of them all over again. Turns out 118 had the same conversation - still made the video though!
#7) 148-2010: Climber
It totally worked, every time. Pay no attention to that random cut in the video.
This happened almost 10 years ago. Students in FIRST were 5 years old then. Those students have no idea that this climber was sawzalled off LITERALLY the day after we shot the video. All they know is “it looked sweet in the unveil video” - yes, yes it did.
True story, we get emails all the time asking for details on this mechanism and how to copy it.
#6) 118-2016: Sally Port Arm
“Yes, we can definitely cross ALL the defenses… even this one which almost no one can cross.”
Robonaut depression is real. It’s a genuine psychological phenomenon. We knew this was a silly mechanism. We knew it wasn’t going to actually be used for real. We didn’t even need to ask. BUT… even knowing all that, we still had that moment of “should we design a sallyport arm?”
Fun Fact… VERY few teams could open the sally port door thingy. So few in fact, that the one team who could do it at Waterloo 2016 (4678) is still known as “Sally Port” on 148. I thought that was actually their name.
#5) 118-2015: Can Claw
Ok this mechanism is genuinely one of my favorites. This list is starting to depress me.
This one didn’t fool us. We knew it wasn’t gonna last. We knew it probably didn’t work very well. They even show their “real” method for picking up the cans 10 seconds later in the unveil video. (This unveil video is a fun one, because you can see the Robonauts changing the robot between almost every shot).
Even knowing that… I still LOVED it. It’s beautiful. Any mechanism which requires 20 viewings to understand is a great one.
#4) 148-2017: Dual Intake
This things was sweet, it was money, it had some of the cutest engineering work I’ve personally ever done… and we chopped it off and threw it on the pile of my broken dreams. Sigh.
#3 and #2) 118-2013: Level 3 Climber
This mechanism definitely counts for TWO spots. How much weight do you think they saved when they pulled all this stuff off of there? They had tilting thing, the ski deals, the claws, the rolling wheel thing. They had weight for a whole new robot!
This is another one of those “okay, how many times do I need to watch this before I get it” type mechanisms. I want to become a Robonaut just so I can work on stuff like this.
Maybe I’m just salty because the 148 climber in 2013 was just as ridiculous, but in a different way. (And because I wish we had cut that thing off…)
#1) 148-2015: Alfred
I don’t think anyone should be surprised, and I suspect my bias will be forgiven… It’s not every day someone scraps a whole robot!
Yep, it really worked. Yep, it was ruled illegal at the Dallas Regional. Yep, we could have fixed it to make it legal. Yep, adding some “Action Arms” turned out to be a much simpler way of accomplishing the same thing. Yep, we still love Alfred. Yep, we turned it into a shelf…
Fun Fact - Alfred’s “grappling hooks” worked pretty well as prototypes for disc crabbing in 2019!
Looking at this list, I guess everything is bigger in Texas - even the ambition? Maybe the Robonauts and Robowranglers should tone down the crazy ideas? Naaaah.
The Real Lesson
Continuous improvement is a way of life. No one should be afraid to see their ideas hit the pile of broken dreams, especially if it means the overall solution gets better. Design is all about optimization of limits and wants. New information