Day #43 – 2/14/15 – One Robot Later

Lab Opening Time: 9:00 AM

The front team number plate which is placed on the face of the elevator.
The team number plate placed on the face of the elevator.

In the early hours of the morning (as in 12 AM – 2 AM), the team accomplished attaching and wiring the intakes while also driving for the first time. The first demonstration (as seen below) was taken slowly, but by the end of it all, Jack (the driver) was running around like we had some powder coat to scrape off.

This morning, the team continued to work. The brake for the elevator was installed, the team numbers were placed all around the robot (excluding the back), the forks along with the ejector piston were cut, programmed for milling, milled, installed, wired up, and chained.

The elevator team number plate.
The elevator team number plate.


The programming team continued to debug code along with work with new components of the robot throughout the day.
The programming team continued to debug code along with work with new components of the robot throughout the day.
Cable-actuated disc brake mechanism.
Cable-actuated disc brake mechanism.
Other sub-teams continue work outside the affairs of the robot.
Other sub-teams continue work outside the affairs of the robot.

In tomorrow’s horoscope, the flaps for the elevator forks need to be made while work on the autocanners continues.

We tested the elevator with various numbers of totes and to our dismay we found that the Banebots RS-550 motors are producing less power than expected, and we’re losing more efficiency in the VersaPlanetary gearboxes than we expected.  The elevator runs slower than anticipated, and stalls when lifting any more than 4 totes.  Another contributing factor is the weight of the moving parts of elevator mechanism itself, which amounts to approximately 8 pounds.  Furthermore, we noticed the VersaPlanetary gearboxes themselves become very hot during operation, and we’re wondering if the viscosity of the Mobile moly grease we used is a contributing factor.

The 15 lb constant force spring is an absolute necessity to remove some of the load off the motors.  We also plan to swap the RS550 motors for RS775-18V motors which have significantly more torque.  If that is still not enough, we can gear the VersaPlanetaries to 16:1 for another 33% increase in torque.

One interesting note is that we’ve found when running brand new BaneBots motors in brand new VersaPlanetaries, during the first minute of full speed operation under no load, the speed seems to significantly increase (approximately 50%) as indicated by the sound it emits.  We speculate the motor brushes may be seating against the commutator and the planetaries are wearing in and reducing friction.  It would be interesting to monitor the current on it.

Plenty of work left to do tomorrow, errr, today!

Lab Closing Time: (2:30 AM on 2/15/15)

Day #42 – 2/13-15 – Friday the 13th

Lab opening time: 12:00 pm

On this “unlucky”  Friday banking day, the team gathered to begin the final days of building the robot. Good progress was made on all fronts as the programming team got the swerve modules running and the animation team has an animation that works just like the team has imagined it to look like.

Anthony working on the animation of the robot.
Anthony working on the animation of the robot.

The CAD design for the elevator forks was completed along with a back support system that will fix the wrapping of the metal due to the welds on the frame. Joshua worked on the autocanner design which will hopefully be ready for manufacturing soon. Sipan worked on a name plate that would meet the number requirements and also look aesthetically pleasing. The CAM and CNC teams worked on manufacturing the elevator tension plates, the elevator forks, and the revised swerve tube.

Three computer are better than one.
Why not three computers?

The business team worked on making posters for the UPS delivery tomorrow. The delivery was suppose to be deliver today but a misunderstanding cause the deliver to be delayed until tomorrow. They also worked on customizing the dog tags.

Business team making posters.
Business team making posters.

The prototyping team worked on getting the intakes wiring and assembled so that the programming team could start programming them. They also worked on the wiring for the elevator and helped to put in little green triangles into the truss design that was added to the robot to lighten the robot.

2-14-2015 Green Triangles
Green triangles laser-cut to fit inside the truss design we did on the frame


Alexandr and Daniel are hard at work programing.
Aleksandr and Daniel are hard at work programming.

All of the different parts of the robot seem to be coming together. We may not have much time with the fully assembled robot but the way things are looking right now, at least we will have a robot that is completed by Tuesday.

Joshua and Jack assembling the intakes
Joshua and Jack assembling the intakes

Once the intakes were assembled and wired, we got the robot on the floor and began driving and intaking totes.

Then, we worked on getting the elevator bolted to the frame along with running the chain that runs the carriage up and down the elevator frame. Before we left, we managed to get the elevator screwed onto the chain.

Elevator chain-to-carriage attachment.



2-14-2015 Full Robot
State of robot a little while before leaving


Lab closing time: 2:00 AM on 2/14/2015

Day #41 – 2/12/15 – Fired

Lab Opening Time:  3:00 PM

Mr. Black and Mr. Hoard had a meeting with the team at the beginning of the day to showcase just how little time the team has left. Less than a week left leaves no room for error at this point: we need to finish.

Disassembling the prototype.
Disassembling the prototype.

One of the first things that happened was cleaning up the lab for the incoming powder coat pieces. With these incoming pieces, the team could start to put the puzzle pieces together to (hopefully) get a robot that functioned as it was designed to. One huge problem right now is the fact that manufacturing for the elevator forks is still not happening because they aren’t even designed yet.

Parts coming back from powder coating .
Parts coming back from powder coating .
The elevator coming back from powder coating.
The elevator supports coming back from powder coating.

With the set backs already going on, the programming team continued working with the robot. Programming this year is vastly different from years prior due to the swerve gearboxes which pose a completely new problem to the mix.

Daniel working to fix coding issues with the robot.
Daniel working to fix coding issues with the robot.

Mr. Black and Roupen were working on assembling the solenoid manifold while preparations for assembly happened.

Solenoid manifold being assembled.
Solenoid manifold being assembled.

Once the manifold was assembled, it was mounted along with the PCM to the back electronics plate. The comically short wires were routed


Meanwhile, the intakes were also mounted.

2-13-2015 Intakes Closed
Transport configuration
2-13-2015 Intakes Open
Open Intakes



Tomorrow, along with the rest of the weekend, is starting to look like the long hours and late night pizzas the team had been waiting for.

Lab Closing Time: 11:30 PM

Day #40 – Off to powder coat!

I arrived back at the lab just a short 4.5 hours after I left, and loaded the elevator frame, intake support frames, intake arms, and carriage plates into the Suburban.  After 45 minutes in traffic, I arrived at the powder coater and dropped off the parts, turned around and sat in 45 minutes of traffic back to the school.

This afternoon we received the orders of additional bearings for the elevator, BaneBots green 4 7/8 wheels for the upper portion of the intake, and air cylinders for pivoting the intake.

Due to the really late work session last night, not having the upper frames today, and the exhaustive list of work remaining to be done over Thursday through Tuesday, we took today completely off to catch up on rest, and we did not perform any FIRST Robotics work other than what is mentioned above.  We’ll come back and hit it hard tomorrow.

Day #39 – 2/10/15 – Round up the ponies

Lab opening time: 1:30 PM

We began the day by unpacking newly-received parts orders and organizing the components according to subsystem and hardware type.  Organization now is critical to ensuring an efficient assembly process over the next few days.

After sorting the parts, we programmed, set up, and ran the drilling and tapping routines for the clevis pieces for the intake arms.  We then machined the intake radius arm bearing holes and drilled the holes in the crossmember for the VersaPlanetary gearbox.  Finally, we machined the four four-hole plates to mount the pneumatic cylinder to the intake, and proceeded to weld together the device while measuring very precisely.  We noticed a critical design flaw in the intake this year, that is something we didn’t catch originally.  The gear mesh depends on a weldment, and powder coat thickness.  Those two things alone are tough to hold a decent tolerance on, and together, give concern that the gear mesh will not be optimal.  We did our best to weld it in a very accurate location while accounting for powder coat thickness.  We’ll see how it turns out.  Additionally, after welding each half of the intake, we determined that the rotating frame pivots do not fit into the stationary frame clevises when assembled.  We remedied this by putting the whole welded intake frame into the Haas Mini Mill and remachining 30 thousands off each of the machined pivots.  It now fits with plenty of free play to allow for easy assembly.

We rounded out the night by test fitting the elevator carriage with all the bearings and shoulder bolts installed.  After tack welding the carriage crossmember in place, and performing a second test fit, we noticed a lot of slop, amounting to approximately 1/16 of an inch, which would cause rather severe side-to-side rocking of the assembly.  Rather than attempting to weld the crossmember to a wider width, we decided to test fit again after powder coat, and laser cut a shim if needed to tighten the fit of the carriage in the elevator frame.

During test fitting of the elevator, we made frequent use of our new “Pony” brand C-clamps, which are quite nice actually.

During the fitment test, one concern that arose was that the elevator frame may bow outward slightly in the middle.  To remedy this issue, we are considering adding a cross brace in this area.

Today’s work was so fast paced and extensive that unfortunately, we did not bother spending even a just moment to take any pictures.  Everything took us much longer than anticipated, as indicated by the closing time below.  The good news is, everything is ready to go to powder coat in the morning.

Lab closing time: 3:30 AM on 2/11/15

Day #38 – 2/9/15

Lab opening time: 9:00am

Today was a school holiday for all schools in GUSD but team 696 did not take a holiday today. The team worked hard to fix mistakes that were made yesterday and to make progress on the robot to send the elevator to powder-coating.

Devon and Shay worked on completing the elevator frame and making sure all of the parts fit together and that there was no excess material that just adding weight.

The programing team worked on the code for the swerve modules although the swerves were malfunctioning. The hex bearing was not fitting properly and some of the screws were unscrewing themselves, After a discussion on what to do, it was decided that we should use red lock-tigh  instead of blue lock-tight. As it turns out, the red lock-tight does not seem to work much better than the blue. To fix this problem, Bhavin worked on a new design for the swerve tube that would help keep the bearing in place and reposition the screw so that they hopefully will not unscrew themselves again.

Cynthia working on fixing the swerves
Cynthia working on fixing the swerves

The media team worked on interviewing people for the chairman’s award video and also started working on editing all of the GoPro time lapse they have accumulated over the past few days.

Business team started making the personalized dog tags that will have everyone’s name and position. They also submitted the Woody Flower’s essay and started working on the logos for the sides of the robot.

On manufacturing, the roller chain plate, the elevator to compressor mount, and the intake pivots were manufactured today. On the pivot, we decided to use a 3D profile that would do a z-level roughing and then come back and do a planar finish perpendicular to the x-axis. This way, we could profile along the edge of the part. On the first try, the offsets were wrong and the part came out off-centered and we had to start over.

Hum..... I think something is wrong but I can't quite tell?
Hum….. I think something is wrong but I can’t quite tell?
The 3D profile on the intake pivots.
The 3D profile on the intake pivots.  We were able to do the ramping finish pass with a 1/4″ 2-flute ball endmill at 300 IPM.

Joshua and Sipan finished the CAD of the intake rollers and the stock was cut for the intake. Mr. Black welded the intake together and hopefully the intake and the elevator will be ready to be sent off to powder coating in the morning.

Lab closing time: 10:45pm

Day #37 – 2/8/15 – Ctrl-Z

Lab Opening Time: 1:00 PM

Today was one of those days in robotics we would rather not refer to ever again. Mostly, a lot of mistakes were made that should have been caught a lot earlier.

Last night, for example, the electronics team found out that the PDP (Power Distribution Panel) had been wired incorrectly. After what was probably hours wasted on fixing this problem, the programmers had left for the night and no programming took place.

Today was another story altogether. On the robot alone, the gearboxes had to be taken off the frame and the versaplanetarys had to get disassembled. After which, we had to re-drill holes into the frame because the gearboxes refused to fit as they had before.

Displaying IMG_6435.JPG
The elevator frame placed on the drive base.


On the manufacturing side of things, the diagonal supports for the elevator had to get cut, drilled, re-drilled, welded, re-cut, re-re-drilled, and welded again. Then, we found out the electronics plate had to get re-cut (after already being drilled) after which point we had to lathe rivets to fit the plate.

The Electronics Plate
The Electronics Plate

Then, we found out that the elevator mechanism (which we spent several days working to machine) had been wrongly designed after already being made.

Wasted time, energy, and stock: today wasn’t a good day.

However, among all of this, the team had also accomplished putting the elevator on the frame. While the team accepts it’s mistakes, we always come back with a solution.

Among all of this, the team still accomplished a lot today:

The media team working on the set up for the chairman's video.
The media team working on the set up for the chairman’s video.

The media team was working on the chairman’s video, and business was designing the new business cards (which are looking much more modern and stylistic in-code with the new website)

Lab Closing Time: Approximately 12:30 AM on 2/9/15


Day #36 – 2/7/15 – Doughnuts and Dog Tags

Lab opening time: 9:00am

The day started with Mr. Hoard and Claire bringing in doughnuts for the team. During build season, the team must eat lots of sugar to keep our energy up and our minds working at full capacity. The double doughnuts were a nice surprise and started the day with a bang.





PWM wires terminated and crimped

The electrical team got to work right away on the wiring of the swerves to the robot frame. They were able to complete this diligent process by lunch time and spent the rest of the day connecting wires to the PWM and getting the robot ready to be driven by the programers code.

Swerve mounted to the frame
Completed frame with swerves and wires.


The programers worked on getting their code ready for the swerve and also worked on the autonomous code for the robot. They have been able to program the autonomous so that the robot can do certain actions when certain code is placed with in the script. They also worked on a way to tell the robot where the center point is so that they can use the center of the tote as a reference to how the robot should move.

Last year's team president stopped by to see how the robot was coming.
Last year’s team president, Saikiran, stopped by to see how the robot was coming.

The CAM and CNC teams were busy today with the manufacturing of the elevator bearing blocks, gusset plates, and elevator frame, and the break hub. The whole team is trying to get ready to send the elevator parts off to powder-coating on Monday so we are working hard to get all of the parts manufactured by then.

Elevator bearing blocks


Shay worked on the break caliper design and got the elevator CAD completed today. All that is left on the CAD is the autocanners, the intakes and the rest of the elevator parts.

Photo Feb 07, 7 11 46 PM
List of parts and what still needs to be done to get ready for powder coating on Monday.


The media team worked on the Chairman’s Award video and made a sliding camera mount to help the footage come out smoother. The web team updated the photo gallery on the website and also got the website working on mobile devices. Go check out the new and updated website at


The business team got the team dog tags completed today and there were no more fires involving the laser cutter. The also worked on making new business cards and continued work on the Chairman’s Award.

The laser cutter is back up and running.
The laser cutter is back up and running.
Photo Feb 07, 4 54 58 PM
The finished dog tag.

Since the lathe team did not have much work on the lathe, they decided to take it upon themselves to start organizing the washers, nuts, and bolts, that were all over lab.



Mr. Black, spent most of today working on purging the old robotics server of all of its data and getting the techno router set up on the new robotics server.

The goal for tomorrow is to finalize the CAD model, get the elevator parts made and the elevator welded and to get the programing team ample amount of time to test the swerve modules.

Lab closing time:  1:00 AM on 2/8/2015


Day #35 – 2/6/15 – Remixes

Lab Opening Time: 1:30 PM

Today started with a brief meeting where Mr. Hoard handed out the invoices for the Ventura Regional along with the 2015 team shirt order forms.

Cynthia assembling the swerve gearboxes.
Cynthia assembling the swerve gearboxes.

After disbanding from the meeting,  the team separated into their given sub-teams and tasks. The main few tasks going on today involve wiring the robot, completing the assembly of the swerve gearboxes, and manufacturing the rest of the mechanisms and parts.

Electrical w Alexander (far)

Wiring was working on the PWMs between the RoboRIO and the victors today which involved a lot of elegant wiring work. In wiring, it is extremely easy to make spaghetti, but time consuming to make wiring anything but a pile of mismatched and thrown together wires. The way the electrical team makes things orderly is with time, patience, and a lot of Zip ties.

The robot as of 2-6-15.
The robot as of 2-6-15.

Cynthia completed the assembly of the swerve gearboxes today along with the help of a few mentors and students along the way. After they were put together, the RS-550s on the gearboxes were soldered to some twelve gauge wire and left out for the electrical team to work with. Hopefully, by tomorrow, the swerve gearboxes will be mounted, plugged in, and getting programmed.

The swerve gearbox mid-assembly.
The swerve gearbox mid-assembly.

Manufacturing today included machining the bearing blocks for the elevator and designing the autocanners.

While the main points of today were previously addressed, many things are still going on in other parts of the lab. Business is redesigning the Team Handout paper, a sheet of paper describing FIRST, the team, and it’s intentions as a team, and revising the Chairman’s essay.

Strategy team got to work on the scouting today, pulling Jack (the driver) and Alexander (the captain) aside to talk about how the scouting system should be set up, what important elements need to be addressed in scouting, and what needs to be scouted.

Lab Closing Time: 11:00 PM

Day #34 – 2/5/15 – Phoenix Rising

Lab Opening time: 1:30pm

At 3:00pm, the team held a meeting to make a few announcements. Today the engineering lab got new CO2 fire extinguishers that are more kind to equipment than a dry-chemical type extinguisher. We also discussed the snack room and how we have been neglecting to clean up the snack room and as a result, the snack room was off limits today. Each sub-group also got their assignment for the end of the year which is to create a document stating what each sub-group does.

Today was a busy work day with most of the team helping to assemble all of the parts we have gotten back from powder-coating and anodizing. Cynthia continued the assembling go the swerve modules and Mika, Devon, Alexander Luke, and Jack worked on the wiring of the robot.Today they mounted the Victor plate, and crimped the Anderson connectors onto the victors, they also terminated and crimped the wires from the PDP.

Top view of Victor plate
Wires from the Victors terminated and crimped
Jack and Devon working on wiring.
Jack and Devon working on wiring.
Cynthia working on the swerve assembly.
Cynthia working on the swerve assembly.

Joshua and Spian have been working on the CAD model of the the autocanners and have the designed mostly finalized. Shay continued to work on the CAD design of the elevator.

Olivia, Claire, and Mr. Widholm finished the right elevator forks today. The part take about 53 minutes to machine not including the time it took to replace the bolts and refill the coolant tank. Bahvin worked on getting the encoder mounters cut on the router.

The right elevator forks.
The right elevator forks.

The programing team worked on fixing the logger for the encoders and also worked on programing the elevator forks so that they go up incrementally instead by the height of one tote.

Business team went out to see Bob Smith Toyota about their sponsorship but were unable to meet with Mike Smith today. They also wrote thank you letters and worked on the invoices for the Ventura Regional trip. They also got back their revisions from the Clark teachers who read over their Woody Flowers Finalist Award nomination essays.

The media team worked finalizing the chairman’s award script. Chris continued the t-shirt design which needs to be done by tomorrow. The web team worked on updating the calendar on the website and are getting ready for their meeting with the drive team tomorrow.

Mr. Black and Mr. Hoard worked on continuing to reassemble the laser cutter and clean it with a 50/50 mix of alcohol and DI water, which proved to be very effective.  Lenses and mirrors were cleaned with a high-purity acetone and Kimwipes.  We are happy to report, that initial tests seem to indicate that the laser cutter has survived (!) the exothermic event (and chemical deluge) of two days prior, and appears to be functioning nominally.  So far, the laser appears to be engraving and cutting at a quality equal to if not better than before the mishap.  It certainly is now cleaner than ever before.  We still need to go through and perform a full maintenance procedure of the linear motion system, but it is fully functional currently.  A very very lucky save, and a nice way to end the day as we prepare to enter the long weekend.

Lab Closing time: 8:30pm