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Build Season: February update

For the past five weeks, the team has been hard at work preparing for our first competition. Here’s a quick summary of what we’ve accomplished so far.

Week 1: Kickoff, Prototyping, and Swerve!

On the first Saturday of January, we kicked off the 2023 FIRST Robotics season with a brunch potluck and day-long brainstorming session. In this year’s robot game, teams earn points by grabbing and placing cones and inflated cubes on a grid of pegs and shelves. During the last 15 seconds of the game, teams can also earn points by balancing on a teeter-totter platform. With many rules to read and engineering challenges to explore, GRT spent the weekend strategizing, brainstorming, and even playing a human version of the game for better understanding.

Then onto prototyping! Dividing the mechanism team into four groups, each group tackled a different mechanism idea and conducted preliminary tests with simple apparatuses.

The Drivetrain subgroup continued assembling their custom-designed swerve drivetrain. This project began in spring of last year, with the goal of utilizing this omnidirectional drivetrain to maneuver faster on the field. With four independently-controlled swerve modules at each corner, swerve is both a drivetrain and programming challenge.

After incorporating multiple rounds of mentor feedback, finalizing the CAD assembly, manufacturing parts, and troubleshooting a few snags, our swerve modules have been fully assembled. Woo-hoo!

Week 2-3: Designing Mechanisms, Testing Swerve, and Animating

Our goal was to have a fully assembled Robot 1 by the end of Week 3. All four mechanism groups presented designs during the Week 2 mentor design review, then incorporated feedback into CAD models before beginning machining and assembly. Two groups were responsible for the “holding” mechanism to carry the game piece across the field, and the other two groups were designing the “moving” mechanism to lift game pieces onto pegs or shelves. At the end of Week 3, the Controls subgroup received two robots for wiring and programming with the goal of comparing the efficacy of each design and selecting one to pursue for Robot 2.

Drivetrain and Controls also continued testing the swerve drivetrain. Members of Drivetrain fixed mechanical issues while the drivetrain was run at progressively higher power and load. Stress-testing for the win!

Controls continued wiring, developing software for mechanisms, and tuning the swerve drivetrain PID. They also continued working on pose estimation using AprilTags located around the field, auto-balancing code for the teeter-totter challenge, and more. Integration with mechs is an important task as well--communicating with mech groups, they finalized sensor locations and developed a wiring plan.

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AprilTag locations on the field for robot localization.

Every year, FIRST Robotics hosts the Digital Animation Award. Our Animation subgroup worked tirelessly to storyboard, model, and edit a 1-minute animation called Light ‘Em Up.

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Watch here!

Week 4-5: Extensive Testing, Decision Making, and Parents’ Night!

Students ran extensive tests with each set of mechanisms, rotating through different pickup locations (ground, chute, or substation shelf) and game pieces to gather quantitative data on the reliability and success rate of mechanisms. Our robot drivers, two to three students selected from driver tryouts, also got their first taste of competition driving.

Using this data, two mechanisms were selected for Robot 2, the actual competition robot. Mechanism groups returned to the drawing board after a mentor design review to identify shortcomings and improve the design for R2. Students are now hard at work in the Design Lab and plan to complete machining by next week.

GRT also held the annual parents’ night where parents are invited to come and learn about what the team has been doing for the past few weeks through subgroup presentations and a robot demo. Five weeks of work comes together for this impressive night.

Controls continued refining control of the swerve drivetrain. The crowning achievement? Writing an autonomous path that spelled “GRT”.

Over the next three weeks, as Robot 2 is assembled and handed off to Controls for testing, the team plans to develop technical documentation, competition pit layout (where the robot stays for fixes in-between matches), and of course, dye our hair bright red. Mohawks, anyone?

More updates to come and we can’t wait to see other robots at competition!

November update

GRT hasn’t been able to host our annual FLL (First Lego League) regional competition since the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, however, we brought it back! With Mylie, our student FLL coordinator, our teacher mentor, Mrs. Granlund, and help from FRC team 1868 Space Cookies, we planned and hosted a day-long tournament for FLL teams around the Bay. Kids came from all backgrounds to compete, have fun, and hopefully win a trip to the Championship! Every member of GRT contributed to some part of the event--around the gymnasium, GRTers in red shirts commentated on the event as MCs, ran competition matches, DJed, and much more.

It was not only incredibly fun, but inspiring to see what these kids had built. Many teams set up tri-folds featuring their robot design and research on the 2022 theme of energy. At the end of the event, we returned the favor by running demo robots that launched inflatable balls into the crowd. We hope this event inspired the next stage of their robotics careers.

Many thanks to the hard-working referees, judges, parents, and others that made this event possible!

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October update

One of our favorite annual traditions is running a haunted house for Juana Briones Elementary School in October. After bringing Briones students to Gunn for a tour of our machine shop, they also pick up Crayola markers and sketch ideas for haunted house attractions. In the following weeks, we design and manufacture mechanisms to bring their ideas to life. This year’s haunted house included a Mike Wazowski transforming into an avocado on the second floor, a murderous rabbit, and bloody mummy arms emerging from the window--all against the backdrop of a sweet Halloween-themed soundtrack. Spooky!