Introduction: The Pitbook: an Overview of FIRST Team 3181 Pittsford Panthers

We are FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) Team 3181, the Pittsford Panthers, based in Pittsford, New York. Our team consists of about fifty students, mentors, and teachers from Pittsford Mendon and Pittsford Sutherland High Schools. The creation of our FRC team began in the fall of 2009 by Mitch Cantwell and Brian Holliday. Greater Rochester Robotics team 340 aided our beginning through their junior varsity team, team 424. They generously lent their robot to Mr. Cantwell to drive around in the cafeterias of our two schools to promote the program. This helped our team gain much interest, and we had around eighty people interested in the program right from the start. At the Ra Cha Cha Ruckus of the 2009 season, since Greater Rochester's JV team had been dissolved, they allowed us to keep their robot for the competition. Last year was our real beginning as a team, being our first season to actually build and compete with our own robot. Coming into this season, we have grown an incredible amount from last season, and are no longer a clueless rookie team. 
Since our last year our team has grown a lot. Last year we only had thirty members on our team, and nine mentors who came in to volunteer and help us with our robot. This year, our team has expanded to a total of forty students, including eight girls, and we gained nine new mentors for a total of sixteen mentors. 

Robot Contest Info: Our contest age group is 13-18.

Step 1: Outreach and Fundraising


In October, Eddie, one of the members of the team, organized a Halloween Walk fundraiser.   Members of the team dressed up in Halloween costumes and scared the people who came to the walk.  At the end of the walk, the team asked for donations.  These donations from generous family and friends equaled $250!  Great job Eddie!

On the 23rd of November, the Pittsford Panthers held a fundraiser at Five Guys in Pittsford Plaza .  To advertise their fundraiser inside, students of the team stood outside the restaurant in the cold.  Many of the team members'  families came, and almost everybody who walked in the door during the fundraiser asked to support the team when they ordered their food.  Between friends, relatives, and all of the random people who walked in the door, Five Guys had one of their most successful fundraisers ever.  The team was rewarded with 20% of the profit, amounting to more than $350!  Great work, team!

In the fall, we sent out sponsor packets to a number of businesses and went canvassing around Pittsford. The additonal sponsors we found are as follows:
     -Sentry Safe
     -Shadow Lake, Shadow Pines, and Graystone Clubs
     -Interior Moving Services
     -Perlo's Italian Grill
     -UPS Store (Pittsford)
     -Pontillo's (Bushnell's Basin & Pittsford Village)
     -Dr. & Mrs. James Adams
     -Dr. & Mrs. Mark Adams
     -Hanson Dental Group
     -Palermo's Meat and Food Market
     -Metro Tire and Auto Service Center
     -Klein Steel & Rochester Steel Surplus
     -Choice Refreshments LLC
     -Two Pencil Designs
     -The Healing Connection LLC

We have also recieved grants from:
     -Bausch and Lomb
     -the 2 different Pittsford PTSAs

We have recieved support from teams 340, 1126,1511, and 2228. It has been greatly appreciated.

We have more team fundraisers planned for the spring and summer.

In the News:

Team 3181 was featured in the Democratic & Chronicle newspaper .  An article is to be published before the regional competition in March.  A video of the team, also from the Democrat & Chronicle, was released in February. The video interviewed students from the team and showed members of the team working on the robot. The video was posted on the Democrat & Chronicle's webpage, and can be viewed at

Team 3181 started a newsletter at the beginning of the season. the newsletter, Panther Bytes, follows the progress of the team, team mentors, and the values of the team.  All the articles are written by members of the team.

Team 3181 has also been featured in the school newspapers .  Articles were written by members about the team, and published in the newspapers at both schools.  This is in an effort to spread the name of FIRST and Team 3181to both schools.

Community Outreach:

This year we have been working on getting out in the community and spreading the ideas of the FIRST organization.  We are getting to be better known in the community and more people are willing to sponsor us.

Last year, during & after our competition season, we participated in many community outreach activities:

1. Members attended the Regional Science Olympiad Competition for middle school students at St. John Fisher on March 13, 2010.   There were eighteen middle school teams (close to three hundred students), primarily from local schools with a few from downstate New York. While the middle school students waited for their awards ceremony to begin, the Pittsford Robotics team gave a power point presentation on the FIRST Robotics program which included an overview of last year’s challenge Breakaway, video of portions of the matches at the Regional Competition, and a description of the parts of our robot. The team discussed some of the challenges of building and operating a robot, the problem solving that’s critical to the success of a team and how they can get involved in FIRST Robotics when they enter high school. The team also answered questions for the students and their coaches.

2. Members of the team participated in the ImagineRIT on May 1, 2010. They demonstrated the robot, displayed a power point presentation and answered questions for students & adults from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

3. Members brought the robot to Mendon Center Elementary School Science Day activities on May 14, 2010. They gave three, forty-five minute presentations to the elementary students and their teachers.

4. The team is scheduling outreach opportunities with Pittsford Calkins Road Middle School to demonstrate the robot , talk about the FIRST Robotics program and encourage students to consider joining the team when they enter high school.

Rochester Ra Cha Cha Ruckus:

Last year during the fall we participated in the local Ra Cha Cha Ruckus. At the ruckus we competed using last year's robot, and managed to do quite well. We won two awards for the competition. We placed sixth overall, out of a total of about twenty competitors, and we won the Spellbinder Award for the second year in the row, an award for the "Play of the Day". 

Step 2: Spirit Team!

The spirit team is a special team which is responsible for maintaining team spirit when working and at competitions. The spirit team is composed of a few key team leaders, but the entire team works to show team spirit at events. Our Spirit team has made promotional tattoos and badges to distribute at the competition. The team has also written team cheers, and we are making a panther mascot costume!

Step 3: The Minibot

Our minibot was constructed by a collaboration of members from our mechanical and electrical teams. The first step to building it was to cut out the main body of the minibot from twinwall polycarbonate, a material which was used for much of the construction of the minibot. We then CNC machined two polycarbonate motor mounts from the same material. We installed one 154 RPM DC motor in each of these mounts. Between these two wheels we placed a neodymium magnet set, which will help the minibot to maintain its grip on the pole. To the two motors, we attached one polycarbonate wheel with rubber treads each. However, before these could be attached we had to cut them in half to decrease the weight. On the bottom of the minibot we attached a battery using a bent polycarbonate mount. On the back of the minibot we attached legs to provide support to the minibot and improve the stability, and a limit switch on the top of the minibot to stop the minibot once it reaches the target on the pole. Finally, we placed a power switch on the bottom of the robot which could be triggered by the actual robot. The electrical team also included two switches to trigger the minibot’s deployment on the overall control box, which must both be pressed at the same time to activate the deployment.

How the Minibot Works:
• Rare earth magnets pull the minibot to the pole and hold it on while it is moving up. There are spacers between each magnet, and they are held in aluminum brackets.
• A household light switch turns the minibot on when the orange wire and grommet attached to the first stage pull it as the drawer slides extend.
• When the minibot reaches the top of the pole, a limit switch turns the minibot off. The magnets keep it held to the pole.
• On the limit switch is a piece of rubber that causes the switch to be triggered only when sufficient force is achieved (about 5 N). This force is necessary to hit the target and score points. The limit switch is DPDT and can be wired in a variety of ways to produce different outcomes.

How the Deployment System Works:
• The deployment system is made of two parallel, three stage drawer slides. They are connected by a bracket in the back, which is mounted to the robot on a bracket attached to the elevator. The deployment system is on a pivot point, so it can line up to the pole. The drawer slides rest on an aluminum support on the back of the robot’s frame.
• An aluminum stopper is used to hold back the PVC “v” system and to keep the deployment system from moving too far side to side. The stopper is attached to the bracket in the back of the robot. It has two pieces of cut pneumatic tubing to prevent damage to the drawer slides and the PVC “v.”
• On the third stage of the drawer slides, two brackets are mounted at the end. The platform sits on these brackets. They are attached by one 1/4-20 bolt and one #6 bolt on each side. Blue PVC spacers need to separate the platform from the brackets.
• On the platform, there is a spring loaded button. This keeps the minibot in place during the match. The button uses a 1/16 hex key to take off if needed, but be careful due to the spring; the button could fly off. The button is connected to a threaded rod that sits inside of an aluminum tube. This is connected by two screws to the bottom of the platform that are located in the aluminum bracket. This provides support for the button system. The back of the button has an aluminum piece that holds two short plastic screws that have aluminum tube around them. These hold the minibot in place during the match.
• The whole system runs on pneumatics. One 4 inch cylinder is attached directly to the bracket in the back of the deployment system. It is also attached to two pieces of polycarbonate cell, which are able to slide freely down the drawer slides. A 16 inch cylinder is attached to the top portion of this polycarbonate cell via industrial zip ties and sticky pad. This allows for a full 20 inches of extension.
• Both ends of both the 4” and 16” tubes have variable pressure fittings to control the flow. The input of both tubes is connected by a T fitting and plumbed into the solenoid farthest to the left on the back of the robot. Both output ends are connected by a T fitting and plumbed into the solenoid farthest to the left. (Troubleshooting note: if the deployment system is not firing correctly, try switching the plumbing of the tubes in the solenoid, reversing the input and output)
• Attached to the inside of the first stage of the drawer slide is an orange wire with a grommet on the end. This is used to turn on the minibot when the drawer slides extend.

Pre-Match Checklist:
1. Pull draw slides out slightly and flip PVC “v” in behind stopper (must be done before air compressor)
2. Place Minibot carefully on deployment system platform. This is done by first pushing and holding in the spring loaded button and then placing the tabs on the minibot through the larger slots. Release the button and be sure that the screws went through the holes in the tab.
3. Place the wire and grommet that is attached to the draw slides around the household light switch. Be sure the light switch is in the off position.
4. Check the white limit switch on the top of the Minibot. It should have a black piece of rubber around the switch and the switch should be pulled all the way up.
5. Make sure that the whole system is within the frame perimeter

Step 4: The Electrical Box and You!

Connecting the Electrical Box-
          The Electrical "Box" is connected to the robot through a variety of wires.
          The motors are connected through various Power pole connectors like the one in figure 2.
          The next connection to be made is the pneumatics. These are simply made by connecting the female db9 on the electrical box to the male db9 on the robot.
          The final connection on the robot is perhaps the most important one. The Battery! To connect the battery you take the connector on the switch and connect it to the battery. Then double check for making sure that the battery is well secured ON the robot.
Wiring the Electrical Box
          All power lines are shown in Figure 6
          All signal lines are shown in Figure 7
          All objects are designated in Figure 7 Wiring of all the objects is done from the Power Distribution. All the wiring is done at specific gauges according to the 2011 First Manual <R40>

Step 5: Programming the Heart

The Programming Subteam has grown from three members for the 2010 Breakaway game to five for the 2011 Logomotion game.  We have used Java in both years, and utilized a Google Code repository for both years.  And we have found that, in both years, the programming of the robot often finishes long before the construction of the robot.

Joystick Buttons:
Trigger , either joystick: Holding it puts the robot into high gear.  Otherwise, the robot is in low gear.
Button 3 , either joystick: Stops the robot from moving.
Button 10 , LEFT joystick: Manual disabling of the compressor.
Button 11 , LEFT joystick: Manual enabling of the compressor.

Roll Wheel , either joystick: If either wheel is up, this unlocks the minibot, giving the OK from the robot driver to the co-driver to deploy.

Cypress Box Buttons:
View image.

Step 6: The Elevator

Lifting "towers": consist of 2 ball bearing blocks, one block on each side with two ball bearings; 2 rails, one on each side; looking from the back, the left one a lift pulley. This tower is anchored by two cables screwed into the sides.
  - Function: The Lifting towers are the track upon which the 2nd stage moves up and down. The ball bearings must be lined up with the rails in order for it to work. The ball bearings of the lifting tower are lined up with stage 2's rails and are capable of running up and down them, and 2nd stage's ball bearings are lined up with the lifting towers' rails and are also capable of running up and down the rails. The two ball bearings dock up against each other to prevent the 2nd stage from escaping and falling out.
          -Note: Make sure the towers' round-head screws' heads are screwed in from the same side as the rails to anchor them to the towers.

2nd stage: This is a central rectangle that is moved up and down, guided by the lifting towers.
Consists of: 2 ball bearing blocks, same stats as lifting towers; 8 angle plates that hold the whole thing together; 4 rails, two on the outside, two on the inside; 4 metal bars, 2 very long, 2 quite short. There are 2 pulleys.
    -Function: The 2nd stage travels up the lifting tower, enabling the arm to reach the upper row. The inside rails allow the arm to travel up and down the inside of the second stage.
        -Note: Make sure the ROUND-HEAD screws are screwed in from the outside.

Arm stage: Mounts the arm; consists of 2 ball bearing blocks THESE HAVE 4 BALL BEARINGS!!!
   -Function: Travels up and down 2nd stage to enable the arm some mobility to reach all of the rows on the scoring rack. The lift belt is anchored here too
       -Note:Make sure that the screws holding the lift belt in place are as tight as they will go when the lift is going to be used

Gearbox: drives the motor; has a number of gears contained inside; a fisher-price transmission is mounted on it. To mount the transmission, place the black end of the plastic against the side of the gearbox with the brake. Line up the holes. Line up the screws from the inside of the gearbox. Insert a long hex key through the holes opposite where the screws are. Make sure you screw in (righty-tighty, lefty loosey). Make sure it's tight.

Step 7: The Claw

Parts list for the claw
2 motors
• 3 bolts for attaching the motors
• 6 pulleys
• 4 double sided threaded bolts
• 8 locking spacers
• 4 plastic bushings
• Urethane round tubing
• 22 locking nuts ¼’’
• 1’’ aluminum

Making the claw:

First, find dimensions from orthographic drawing. Then mark and cut the 1”/1” aluminum. Then we drilled holes for the axles. We threaded the axles and put in the bushings to reduce friction on the axles. After putting the axle with the bushing into the 1/1” aluminum, we put locking spacers to stop the sideways movement of the axles. Then put on the pulley wheels and locking nuts to hold them in place- make sure they are equidistant from the 1/1”. Then we cut excess plastic off the coupler of the motor and drilled the back pulleys’ inner circle to fit the diameter of the coupler. We screwed the coupler to the motor and bolted the side of the coupler to the side of the back pulleys, which we fit around the axle of the motor around the coupler. We attached Urethane round orange tubing on the pulleys for a belt.

Function of the claw:

To pick up the inner tubes by sucking them in with the belts

Common Issues:

Belt brakes: make new belt
Motor breaks: use the other motor to help you make new parts and attach them to a fresh motor
Axle breaks: cut metal axle to correct length, thread it, and then attach pulleys. Make sure you put the bushings in and the locking spacers, and make sure the axle can still rotate freely.

Step 8: The Chassis

At the start of the competition, our team received a kit of parts at our local kickoff. Within that kit were: 
6 C-Channels
8  Corner Connectors
2  Cross Tubes
6  3/8-16 x 7 inch long hex head bolts
6  3/8-16 Nylock nuts
6  1.940 inch long PVC spacers
6  2.550 inch long PVC spacers
4  1/4-20 x 1" Thread Rolling Screw
32  1/4-20 x 1.75" inch Socket Head Cap Screws
4  1/4-20 x 0.625" Socket Head Cap Screws
36  1/4-20 Nylock nuts
4  1/4" washers
All of these parts were necessary to create an official first chassis for our robot. Wheels, motors, sprockets, and other related parts. The mech team then laid out the nessasary parts on a table, placing each part where it would be in the final construction. They bolted the C-Channels together using the provided bolts and corner connectors, and used the knuts to hold the chassis' bolts in place so the chassis stays together. In the end the chassis was 35" by 27" inch with another rectangle inside the frame 35" by 16.68"

National Robotics Week Robot Contest

Second Prize in the
National Robotics Week Robot Contest