Despite the name, the software team is working hard programming the robot, and they aren’t worn out yet.
Software is broken down into two major areas, the drive with manipulator code and the autonomous code. The manipulator moves the game elements. The autonomous code both drives the robot and runs the manipulator during the 15 second autonomous portion of the game. All of this is rolled up into the driver station that allows the team to run all aspects of the robot. Team software is a busy group.
Our team uses the Java programming language. It is our second year using this, and it is working well for us.
When main parts of the programming code are done, the software team gathers to have a design review. This helps keep the quality up, is a good way to learn new things, and lets everyone know what each other is doing.
The software team always has something to do. Often we have senors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, limit switches, and encoders that need be incorporated. This robot can get complicated. If you are on the software team, it is good to be a bit self-motivated as some times you have to figure things out yourself, but we do have a mentor as backup.
Software is sometimes the team that it last in and last out. They need to wait for a whole robot to work with, and then the pressure is on to make it perform!
Computer Aided Design lets us figure out how to build our robot, including what parts we might buy off-the-shelf, instructions on how to make the parts we can’t, and what it will take to put it all together.
While many of us want to immediately grab a wrench and start building a robot, those who take the time to come up with a proper plan will usually have a better bot in the end.
CAD members need to be comfortable working on computers with sophisticated programs, ‘seeing’ things in three dimensions as they create and assemble things on their screen, interact with other members of the team, be willing to have others critique their work, and solid math skills don’t hurt.
CAD members are also the first to start in on the robot and need to work quickly so the rest of the team will know what to do and get parts in on time.
Working closely with the mechanical design / build part of the team, CAD helps figure out just what the parts need to be to do what we want them to do.
Our team uses Autodesk Inventor which helps sponsor ours, and many other, FIRST teams.
The tricky parts we can’t make are machined by our premier sponsor Viper Northwest. They’ve been a solid supporter over the years, and we are always excited to see their parts come in!
Gear boxes can sometimes be like a three dimensional puzzle, and on occasion, greasy. This “box” will hold three of our standard motors and be used with another set to drive our 6 wheel drive. The “box” has more to put on, but we need to do assemble it one piece at a time.
It helps to carefully follow instructions, especially when familiarizing yourself with a new setup. There are step by step instructions online that put us through the process. Putting the instructions on the screen helps everyone follow along and gets the job done.
These sorts of things shouldn’t be rushed. We can’t afford the time it takes to fix or buy a new one. Plus, these boxes should last the whole season and beyond.
It also helps to take your time and be meticulous. Unfortunately, if things go bad during the competition, the crew in the pits will need to fix them under pressure. It’s good to have some practice now and folks that know what they are doing. When the time comes they may be in the hot seat and will not be able to consult the documentation.