How do you get from an idea, which is in response to a season-specific game, to a functioning, reliable robot in 3 months?
Actually, how does anything go from abstract thought and not-yet realized to concrete and working in reality?
Truth be told, there are countless processes that the world operates under. Punahou School has adopted the "design thinking" model, as made popular by Stanford University in the recent decade. What is presented here shows similarities to the DT model, but focused on giving you success in FIRST Tech Challenge.
Taking a step back, what exactly is "design"? There are many definitions, but this one suits our situation the best. It is from Nobel Prize Laureate, Professor Herbert Simon, who said that to design is to devise courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.
What is our existing situation?
There is no robot designed or created.
There is a game challenge presented.
What is our preferred situation?
To have a functional, reliable robot to perform well in the game challenge
What is our course of action?
All the things done in the season, which this website will help to reveal.
Think of it as an informed decision making process
If you'd like to see a part of the informed decision making process in action, watch this 12 minute video about choosing a restaurant to go to.
Throughout the season, you will be going back and forth between divergent and convergent thinking.
Divergent: when you spread wide and try to generate as many possibilities as possible. Defer your judgment and focus on the quantity of what you can generate.
Think of this as "flare".
Convergent: when you want to zero in on making a decision based on criteria. This is where, as a team, you can judge what decision to make. Or, you need to inspect a situation to find out what specifically is wrong.
Think of this as "focus".
To make it easier to digest, think about ideate, select, and test.
Ideate: Generate as many ideas as possible (divergent)
Select: Choose criteria and make an informed decision (convergent)
Test: Encounter failure from reality and start over again (do it)
First, let's consider a variety of questions that you need to decide throughout the season.
What does success look like for our team at the end of the season?
What game strategy do we want?
What types of mechanisms could we build to use that game strategy?
What are ways to build that particular type of mechanism?
Looking at strategy is much like strategy found in team sports. Whether it be football, soccer, basketball, or anything in between, there are certain types of offenses and defenses that a team will be known for. Each strategy has advantages and disadvantages.
The key difference between sports and robotics is that in robotics, the team designs and creates the robot. In sports, each person has strengths and weaknesses in their physical abilities and must develop and condition their bodies accordingly.
Finally we get to the actual process, which can be used at any level of question, from the game prompt ("What type of strategy do we want"?) to the physical prototypes that you make ("How will we make that particular type of mechanism").
This is adopted from MIT Mechanical Engineering Professor Alex Slocum, who for many years taught the sophomore level 2.007 Design and Manufacturing I class. His predecessor was Professor Woodie Flowers, who developed the class in the 1970s and is the co-founder of FIRST Robotics.
What is a prototype? It is a part of the final product that is still being developed. We use this term frequently in robotics. A prototype should answer question that you have.
Think about a consumer product like the iPhone. While it was being developed, Apple created many types of prototypes to answer questions. For instance…
a "phone" that has the right dimensions and weight that engineers carried around to see how it felt to hold and carry throughout the day
but it had no function
interactive paper menus that designers showed to end-users to see how they would respond to a new user interface
but it was not functional software that you could touch your finger to and have it automatically respond
visual renderings of the iPhone that you would see on a product page to see if it was visually appealing to customers
but it was not something you could interact with or feel
The list goes on and on. Hundreds and thousands of prototypes are made before the final consumer product is created.
In the robotics season, you won't have the same resources (time, money, personnel) as a corporation, but you still want to develop the most simple prototypes to answer questions about the robot you want to build.
Inevitably, additional issues will pop up when you build your final robot. However, prototyping with simple materials will save you time later on. Examples of prototypes are
using a simple, but understanding, pen/pencil sketch to convey an idea
using graph paper to get more precision on your idea
using computer-aided design to layout hardware
using cardboard as a stand-in material
using black plastic rivets instead of nuts and bolts
"Hardware" or "Technology" will refer to all the building materials—structural, electronic, and otherwise—that is loaned out to each team for the season.
Punahou Robotics will manage the flow of inventory. We will balance on one hand, making sure teams have what they need, but on the other hand, making sure one team does not possess a disproportional amount of hardware.
A match is one instance of the game in the context of a competition, whether the League Events throughout the season or at the State Championship.
Based on previous seasons, a match consists of two periods
Autonomous (30 seconds): like in FLL, the robot behaves based on your programs, which instruct the robot to do tasks and perhaps make decisions based on sensor information.
Driver-Controlled (120 seconds): use your gamepads to control the robot and work with your Alliance partner to score as many points as possible.
Last 30 seconds of the Driver-Controlled period is the end game, where certain ways of scoring are unlocked.
Driver-Controlled period is sometimes known as Tele-Op
An Alliance consists of two robots (two teams). In a match, one Alliance is the Red Alliance and the other is the Blue Alliance. Assignments of colors change each match. Match schedule is computer generated.
A team that is your Alliance partner one match may become your Alliance opponent in another match.
Develop system of binders and any printed materials that are useful
Spend time with the team (team bonding) outside of just building the robot
Very important when times get stressful!
Establish Team Code of Conduct
While there are general rules and expectations of being a team supported by Punahou School, each team should create their own "code of conduct"—expectations of behaviors and commitments that each student (and indirectly, family of each student) will do his or her best to abide by.