Picture of Implementing Manipulators in Competition Robotics
In the FIRST Robotics Competition, choosing a manipulator that achieves your team’s strategy goals is crucial to fielding a successful robot.  However, designing and building one is often one of the most challenging aspects of the competition.  Successful teams have learned how to use the engineering design process to produce better results in the short six week build season.  This tutorial will teach you how to use this process to choose, prototype, refine, and implement a manipulator for FRC.  Though this tutorial is about using the engineering design process in FIRST Robotics, a similar process can be applied to any engineering competition.
In industry, the engineering design process is usually a formal series of steps.  In competition robotics, the formality is usually discarded in favor of a faster turnaround time.  There are about as many different implementations of the engineering design process as there are engineers.  In this tutorial, the general process we will follow is illustrated in the opening picture.  In the FIRST Robotics Competition, this circular process is accompanied by the mantra “design is iterative,” as popularized by John V-Neun of Innovation First International.
To fully adopt and successfully implement this iterative approach to design is challenging.  Your team will need to have the motivation to continue working even when you face repeated failure.  You will have to be willing to develop and re-develop a manipulator until you achieve excellence.  Attaining it will not come naturally, only through hard work not just during the build season, but during the rest of the year as well.
Finally, the process you use to implement a manipulator heavily depends on an honest evaluation of your team’s resources.  A team that has access to materials, work time, and experienced people will operate differently than a second year team that is still learning the ins and outs of building a robot and only has several hours per week to work.  Failing to make adjustments appropriate to your team’s capabilities will inevitably result in failure.

The pictures in this tutorial are primarily from my team's (FRC Team 2374) design process for the 2012 FRC game, Rebound Rumble.

This tutorial was made through the Autodesk FIRST High School Intern program.
gosphero2 years ago
This seems like a very useful tutorial for those interested in competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition. Great detail!
mrehfeld3 years ago
Ah! Deming's PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) to improve performance and effectiveness) Very good!