Creating the right manipulator for a challenge is one of the hardest parts of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).  In my four years as a student, it was always my team's biggest failing point.  Though the game challenge in FRC changes from year to year, there are often tasks that are similar to ones from previous years.  For example, the 2012 game, Rebound Rumble, had clear elements of the 2001 game, Diabolical Dynamics, and of the 2006 game, Aim High.  For this reason, it is beneficial to be familiar with basic manipulator designs used in previous games.
This tutorial will provide an overview of manipulators commonly used in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).  Each step will discuss a general manipulator type and provide examples of implementations of the manipulator.

This tutorial was made through the Autodesk FIRST High School Intern program.
A willingness to learn

Photo Credit:

Step 1: General Guidelines

Before I jump into the nuts and bolts of different manipulators, I wanted to provide some general guidelines that will help you choose and design a manipulator.
First, let strategy drive your manipulator design, not vice versa.  What this means is that your manipulator should achieve the design requirements your team decided upon in forming a strategy, instead of forming a strategy based upon the manipulator you cobble together.
Second, design within your teams’ limits.  If you know you just don’t have the resources to build the super-complicated manipulator that you think will dominate every aspect of the game, don’t do it!  Go for the simpler one that you can build and will fulfill one role really well.  However, also don’t be afraid to push your team to overcome your limits.  For example, my team pushed ourselves to build a practice bot this past year, and it ended up being really beneficial.
Third, always have active control of the gamepiece.  For example, if a ball needs to be transported through your robot, do it with a conveyor, not a ramp.  If you don’t actively control the gamepiece, it will inevitably jam or fall out of your manipulator.
Finally, prototyping and iterative development are key to building a successful manipulator.  Start out with a prototype, and then iteratively improve it until you are ready to build a final version.  Even then, be looking for improvements that will make it better.

Photo Credit: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/media/photos/30826
i'm on team 1760 from kokomo indiana. we just keep all of our bots on display in the hallway outside our shop and we can go look at them for inspiration:)
We love to see FIRST Robotics teams in action! Especially when it includes moving giant balls with robots.
AWESOME! I got something in my email from instructables about something for first robotics. as someone that is curently a student on another first robotics team it bring me great joy, and great instructable too. <br>
This is a great Instructable; it will be a very helpful to new FIRST teams. Nice work!
Cheesy Poofs FTW!!
have you seen team 987 bot.
You people have such linear thincking.
I see what you did there ..
I'm really not trying to be a jerk, even though I know I sounded like one. Its just that this excellent write up, it is good, makes it very apparent that there is a complaicency setting in, in the robotics world. There is something to be said for stick to what works, but no advancements will ever come about without some creative thinking. Thats all I really ment and I appologize to everyone for my critical remark.
Hey, no offense taken, and I definitely understand what you're saying now that you clarified it. <br>As for complacency setting in, I would argue that that isn't the case. Every year sees new and creative solutions to the unique problems presented by the game challenge. Actually, a fair number of the examples fit into this category. When similar challenges appear, similar solutions also appear simply because they are optimal solutions. <br>This Instructable wasn't meant to simply provide designs for other teams to copy, but to inform them about good solutions to common problems. Often times, new teams spend time trying to &quot;reinvent the wheel&quot; for &quot;solved problems&quot; when their time and creativity could be put to better use solving the unique challenges presented by the game. <br>Thanks for taking the time to check the Instructable out and for the feedback!
Very nice explanation. I hadn't heard about FIRST, and it's awesome...
so, what is the average cost to build one of these things?
Teams are limited to spending $3500, but that doesn't include sub-$1 parts and parts included in the Kit of Parts, a standardized collection of components that all teams receive but have to pay for at a subsidized price. In all, each robot is probably worth $5000-$7500. I just spend the money on my team though, so don't quote me on that ;)
Nice roundup! I'm expecting an Intro to Drivetrain soon!

About This Instructable




Bio: This summer I am working with Autodesk to make Instructables about the FIRST Robotics Competition. I will be studying mechanical engineering at Oregon State University ... More »
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