On Recycle Rush and the Iron Patriots
Today marks the end of the Shorewood FRC competition, and with it the end of the Iron Patriots' fourth FRC season. I can't really say I'm content with that.
There are a lot of emotions in my head right now. Disappointment, that we won't be getting as far as we did last year. Anger, because this year's auxilliary driver seemed incredibly inept. Confusion, as my brain still tries to resolve the fact that it's done. A little satisfaction, from knowing that in the final match, my autonomous code finally worked. Self-blame, for the fact that having autonomous working earlier (it turned out to be a less-than vs greater-than error) could have put us 11 places higher, and almost definitely gotten us picked - or even picking. Right now, they're all fighting each other so I'm not really feeling much of anything. Just a numbness, a void, and the sudden appearance of significant amounts of free time.
If I had a time machine, I'd go rewrite the entire project from scratch. Unfortunately, that isn't quite possible, so I'm stuck with recording it all for future years. Here we go.
- Command-based programming all the way. I started out with simple-robot code, because command-based seemed too bulky to me. I was completely wrong. We converted to command-based between the Auburn Mountainview and Shorewood competitions, and spent most of Shorewood picking up the pieces. Next year, it'll be command-based or bust.
- Avoid pivoting arms. We had the arms on the front of the robot this year, and the toros last year. Both times, they broke, bent, smoked, or were otherwise rendered inoperable multiple times throughout the season. We ended up running without the arms today because we elicited smoke from each motor. We actually scored more points without them, because we reverted to a less aggressive strategy: relay totes in stacks of two or three from the feeder station to the scoring platform and repeat. Things that pivot have been proven to not work well for us.
- Optimize for fast cycles. I started on this in the last point. By the end of each year, when everything broke and we were relegated little more than a box on wheels, we were running blitzingly-fast cycles. Getting maximum points per cycle - a triple assist over the truss in the high goal, or a six-stack with bin and noodle - is ridiculously hard. It's much easier, especially with minimal parts, to just keep making small points over and over. If we can come to this realization sooner than end of the second day at the last district event, we'll be better off in multiple ways; a refined robot design, a simpler game plan, and in the end, more points. (If we really want to improve, we can build up incrementally. But we still need to start off small.)
- Learn from other teams. If we look at the winning teams, we can learn from how they work and use it to improve our own design process. For example: IRS, CPR, and SkunkWorks, who were making 6-stacks like no-one's business, didn't have anything that pivoted. They had simple designs that involved more lifting than dragging. Even without knowing what they are building at Raisbeck Aviation High School or Issaquah High as we work, we can still learn from what they did build before.