The Final Countdown (to midnight)

Yesterday the sky was falling for us. Our six week build period was suddenly coming to an end, our deadline was hit, and it seemed like there wasn’t enough time in the world for us to use. In reality, our race against time started on Monday, two days before our robot had to be completed. We started with the frame. The fame of our new robot had been worked on, filed out, and bolted together tight. Unfortunately, some complications arose and we were delayed (again) till Tuesday. Then the panic hit, and sacrifices had to be made (and by sacrifices, I mean leaving class to work on the robot). But these were warranted, and needed for our team to successfully reach our goal.

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The work nobody else could do during class. Groups took shifts and rotated work.

Pictured above is a small group of our team working on the robot while the other members took a break in their classes (funny how that worked out). From there we placed the robot on the ground and began the wiring process. We used the CAN bus on our roboRIO brain to ensure that our drive would have less points of failure and more points of success.

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Rewiring and rebolting

Then we hit a bump in the road, our collector mechanism and back drive wheels were hitting each other causing our drive motors to be unable to run without friction getting in the way. So, like with every problem, our team of mechanics set out to fix that problem (which in the process revealed a problem with the wiring of a few CAN bus wires. Good to know, at least it wasn’t code!)

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CAD. It’s as lonely as it looks.

Then we realized that we had forgotten a necessary part needed for our success, a 3D printed spacer for our main drive wheels, and we needed immediately. Luckily, our CAD department of one jumped into action and created the part in record time. With that being completed our team had less to worry about, and more to focus on. We salute you, oh lonely CADer, you have done thee job well.

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Our robot had no trouble with any obstacles

Once the new 3D printed part was in the works, we rushed outside to test the robot on all of our required obstacles. As much as I’d love to say that everything worked and we finished the job around 8:45, I can’t, because problems hit the team hard, again. Our wheels were still giving us trouble and required a shift of the entire robot forward (which was done in record time I must say) and delayed our testing even further. Then the robot decided it would be a good idea to lose some bolts and get a bit wobbly. Again, our mechanics team jumped on the problem before it escalated to beyond repair.

Nicholas – “Wait, was that a bolt?

Shelby – “Yes…”

Nicholas  -“Oh god, there’s tons of them!”

During this, the time began to tick, and it seemed to be pushing us to our limit. At one point, I remember looking at the clock and hearing someone mutter, “We aren’t going to make it at this rate…”. Fortunately for us, our team is stubborn and we don’t quit. So our team powered forward and refused to let up. Test fix, rinse, repeat. At this point, sub-teams merged with sub-teams. There was no mechanic, programmer or electrician. There were engineers, scrambling to put the final pieces of the puzzle together.

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Programming worked on wiring up the Pixy and LIDAR to begin testing

As work continued and the final hour came into our sight the final pieces began to fall into place and the plan for programming began to come into the mind of the programming department (of two, at least it’s better than one!). The teams practice robot was now the property of the programming department and we were free to use it, and will continue to do so till our Long Beach Regional on March 10-13. Our vision processing (with the use of a Pixy camera) mixed with a LIDAR Lite V1 (a laser range finder) stands on the forefront of our minds. While the hardware people put the final pieces of the robot together in the physical world, the software world began to stir. As we continued to talk, I realized this was far from over. This was not a time to relax, we must keep going. And time marched onward.

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Our Chief Engineer and one of our mechanics lower the robot into the bag with care

Then, at 11:28, we heard the shout. The robot was weighed, tested and built to last. We were ready to bag it. The robot was moved to our secondary workroom and carefully placed into the bag. A silence came over the room as our coach took the zip-tie meant to seal the bag and closed it on the robot. I jotted down the time on our lockup form (a pledge that we did, in fact, finish and bag the robot before midnight), 11:34. We had done it. And the silence wafted over us as a sigh of relief passed through us all. We had made our deadline.

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The robot is bagged and untouchable until Long Beach Regional

Should we have been more diligent about our time? Yes. Should we have made sure we weren’t falling behind? Absolutely. But, did our team give up and fail our task at hand? No, we would never dream of failing. This is a part of our life, a piece of our year. Time we will never forget; time spent learning, time spent creating, time spent doing what we love. We have never lost to time, and we continue to keep it that way. We have learned a lot this year, and it will carry on into next year as a reminder of what not to do and what we can accomplish when we put our minds to it and work together.

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The final product of our six weeks of hard work

Next up is the Long Beach Regional, and you can all expect us to have plenty to write about from there. Perhaps we’ll document the Pixy camera targeting our goals for accurate shooting, but only time will tell. But what I can tell you is; we are all tired. Tired, but accomplished. And I think we all earned a day of rest. I applaud my team and the work we have managed to finish, let’s carry that into next year!

-Ezra (Head Programmer)

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