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2020 FRC Build-Season Blog

Posted by

Olivia E.

The Actual Final Hour, and the Power of FIRST

robot driving.jpg

This past weekend, we met from 9am Saturday morning until 6:00am Sunday morning in an effort to complete the final version of our robot. We faced a lot of challenges, but pulled through and had what we thought was a complete robot around 5:00am. Much to our dissapointment, we found that our robot was 10lbs over the maximum weight limit of 125lbs, resulting in us being forced to make the decision to remove our tested and practiced intake (the heaviest addition to our robot), and work to make a brand new one in time for Canada. We spent time on Sunday, and will continue today, to work on creating our intake as we did not send our bot with one when we placed it into our trailer. We have some strong prototypes going, and look forward to testing and using them at CPR this week!

Very early Sunday morning, and after nearly 24 hours straight of work, our robot trailer was packed up and is on its way to Canada for the Canadian Pacific Regional (CPR) that will take place this upcoming weekend.

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Driver Practice!

Our Electronics Panel, ready to go onto the robot!

One issue that we discovered earlier this month was a severe lack of spare motors. About two weeks ago, we got a message from the manufacturer that Falcon motors were no longer being made due to the spread of the corona virus in China, where the motors are put together, and that the manufacturers had no idea when they would be made once more. So we sent out a plea for help to California FRC teams, and low and behold, team 4201, The Vitruvian Bots, had extra motors that they were willing to sell to us!

Only one problem...the team is located over seven hours away from us in Southern California, and we are located in Northern California. Shipping them was an option, but it was unlikely that they would come in time for our first regional of the season.

Then team 6814, Ellipse, became a part of it. They were at the Los Angeles North regional, close enough to 4201 that they could get the motors for us and bring them back up to Northern California. As a result of these two teams, we will successfully obtain both motors tonight, the night before we leave for the Canadian Pacific Regional. A huge thank you to FRC teams 4201 and 6814 for their help!

Tomorrow morning, we will meet at our shop at 4:30am to begin our journey to Canada. We can't wait to compete in our first international regional, and look forward to competing with the other teams there!

If you're interested with keeping up with our progress at the Canadian Pacific Regional this week from March 4th-7th, go to The Blue Alliance to check our rank and watch past matched, or watch the competition live on twitch! 


All of our robot prototypes for this season lined up next to each other.

The Final Hour

Posted by

Olivia E.

We have had an extremely busy and productive season so far. Despite our time increase to 7 days a week, as well as an hour increase, we failed to meet our goal of having the robot done by a proposed February 18th deadline. But our team isn't discouraged at all, and are pushing harder than ever to have a completed robot by Friday night so that we can be ready for the Richmond Off-Season Competition on Saturday the 22nd.

We are in the final stages of building our competition robot. Our final steps right now are attaching our shooter, modifying some parts to fix a frame perimeter issue, and wiring our climbing mechanism. We will be meeting for as long as we can each day until we have this robot done. 

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One of our Team Captains using an angle drill 

One set back that we face this week was when the tip of the probe on our CNC machine broke, 

forcing us to hand-make parts for a few hours until we were able to connect with team 2085 RoboDogs in Vacaville who were able to provide us with a replacement tip. We were extremely grateful for this, because without them, we would've had a lot of trouble making parts. But thanks to 2085, we were back up and running on the very same day. 

An amazing opportunity that we recently had was the chance to go to the Queen of the Valley Hospital to see their surgical robots. We got to test out the two robots being molded, the Da Vinci XI robot by Intuitive Surgical and the Mako robot by Stryker. Both robots are used regularly by the hospital to conduct minimally invasive surgeries in order to minimize the risks of infections following major operations. We learned that some operations that once required patients to stay in the hospital for days after been altered to allow patients to go home on the same day as they've been operated on thanks to these robotic advancements.

This was an amazing experience for our team because we got to see how robotic engineering and the things that we are learning through FIRST and FRC can be applied to the real world, and how they can make life-changing impacts on those in our community. 


One of our team captains reacting to a sudden move made by the Stryker Mako Robot

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Team members getting to test out the Da Vinci XI Surgical Robot

Now in our final hour of robot construction, we are preparing for our regionals as well. Packing lists are being formed, competition roles are being set, and team members are getting excited for our first regional of the season in Victoria, Canada; The Canadian Pacific Regional. This weekend, we will hold driver tests at the Richmond competition where this year's robot drivers will be selected. In the meantime, we will all be working hard to complete our robot!


Our Manufacturing Lead fixing one of our drill presses


Team members working hard on the electronics and the final robot assembly!

Rotary Presentation and Robot Programming!

Posted by

Olivia E.

Today, a group of team members were invited to the local Napa Rotary club, a sponsor from our 2019 season and a supporter of our work as a team, to give them a demonstration of our 2019 robot that they helped to fund, and to tell them more about what our team does and how it works. We talked about our accomplishments from the 2019 season and our goals for the 2020 season, our third year as a team. Our members had a great time talking to the club about our 2019 Deep Space robot, Neil, and describing our progress over the 2020 season so far.

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Answering questions from the Rotary Club members about our robot

Programming-wise, we are making significant process as the weeks wind down and we get closer to our goal robot completion date, February 18th. Our programming team is currently working on calculating different ball trajectories so that we can ensure that we have the best possible placement on the field for shooting power cells into the power ports as quickly and accurately as possible. Thankfully, our programming team is larger than it has been in previous years, containing three people rather than our previous one. We have found that the larger programming team allows us to get a lot more done, and to test a lot more things because we can have students working on numerous programs at the same time. 


Mechanically, we are making a lot of progress on our intake prototypes, and are beginning to manufacture some final pieces of our robot. We hope to build at least one more practice bot before our final competition bot so that we will be

Our lead programmer calculating ball trajectories

able to practice the best way for us to climb onto the generator switch during endgame. The ability to practice with other robots on the generator switch will allow our drivers to perfect their maneuvering along the bar, and will give us time to make sure that our ideas work as best as they can so that we can do well in our competitions this season. We hope to have a second prototype bot finished by the middle of next week so that we can begin the process of creating our final robot!

Build Season Week #3

1/21/20 - 1/25/20
Tuesday - Saturday

Posted by
Olivia E.

Our third week of build season has seen a lot of progress as we push to create semi-final prototypes and begin putting our robot designs into CAD. We have successfully created a way to hang from the generator switch in addition to a shooter that can consistently place balls in the outer and inner ports. We are also currently in the process of finalizing a way to move along the bar of the generator switch once we are hanging on it, which will allow us to perfect the angle of the bar to obtain as many points as possible. 

Two of the most prominent projects that we are currently working to complete by the end of 1/25 are our intake prototypes. We have two different designs in the making, both of which we hope to be able to test as soon as possible so that we can decide exactly what we want to do for our final robot. Our machine shop is working in full force as we churn out parts for our prototypes, which is providing opportunities for our newer members to get a chance to make their first parts. 

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Machining parts in our shop

In regards to programming, we are currently working to be able to control a hood on the top of our shooter that will be able to shift 

the shooting angle based on how far away our robot is from the ports. This will help us continue to be consistent no matter our distance from our targets which will lead to more points for our alliance. We are also assigning buttons of our controller to processes, which involves the drive and programming teams working together to decide what button will control what aspect of the robot. We have switched from our traditional flightstick controls to using XBox controllers this year because people on our team have more experience with XBox controllers and have an easier time working with them. 

Working on one of our intake prototypes

programming and drive team working toget

Planning out button controls

As week four starts this weekend, we are confident in our planning so far and are on track to meet our goal of having a finalized robot by the 18th of February! We are sticking to the traditional "bag n' tag" date even though it is no longer official because having our robot done early will give us plenty of time to practice for competitions and work out any final kinks. 

Build Season day #14

Posted by

John O.

Today we have completed the prototype of the wheels that allow us to move along the rung of the generator switch while hanging. We are improving our projects such as intakes and the miniature 3D printed playing field. Our programming team is equipping encoders on a frame to know where the location of the robot is during the 15-second autonomous period. We are also planning updates to our website

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Roxanne on a table to test climber prototypes

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We continue to modify the structure that will allow our robot to hang on the rung of the generator switch. The Miniature field is close to completion: we have printed the power cells, power port, alliance stations, control panel, shield generator, generator switch, barriers to outline the field, and loading bay. During the first 15 seconds of a match, the autonomous period, teams cant see the field. To solve this issue we use encoders to help locate the robot during the phase. An encoder is a device that counts and outputs revolution amounts.

Frame to be equipped with encoders

This Monday was a good start to the third week and we plan to have most of our robot elements by the end of the week. Additionally, we are now setting up a fundraiser by selling See’s Candies.

Build Season day #13

Posted by

John O.

This Saturday was a great way to end off the second week of the build season. We are finalizing prototypes and will soon begin our prototype robot. We are moving very fast with our products and we want to keep improving our efficiency. We have two new intakes being made which also gives us more variety when choosing which one to put on our robot.

Our plan for next week is to have a fully operational robot that can interact mostly with every element of the game. Our efficiency and speed are only increasing as our team works hard to push out components and mechanisms that will be used for testing. One of the two new intakes involves a wooden hopper-like structure with a roller on the top portion that rolls the ball in and the hopper structure feeds it out near the center exit. The other intake will have a conveyer on the top to carry it out to the shooter and conveyers on the sides to bring it into the top from the groud.

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Hopper-like intake

The end of week two was great. Our team improved working skills and we are making components fast. Week three Saturday we will have a robot that interacts with most field elements.

Build Season days 7 - 12

1/13/20 - 1/17/20
Monday - Friday

Posted by
John O.

Our second week of build season has seen a lot of new ideas, contraptions, and improvements. We have a new mechanism that loads power cells into a shooter by having a conveyor belt carry the power cells up to be ejected out and into the ports. We are mounting it to a frame so we can be mobile and have easier movement. We don’t plan to focus on the bottom port now as we see the higher ports being more beneficial to our overall strategy plans.

Additionally, we have our field elements newly labeled to ensure that we keep calling them by their correct names rather than making up random ones. We also plan to have a student paint them to look more like the actual elements.

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Banshee with

conveyer on frame

 Hooks for hanging the robot

One of our biggest projects this week has been testing two hooks with one of our previous robots to know how much weight the hooks can handle while hanging from the Generator Switch. The hooks could handle the weight of our 2018 competition bot, however, we struggled to find the correct positioning for the bot to balance the best. To fix this issue we plan to make a mechanism that will allow the bot to move along the bar while hanging from it. 

Week two of the build season has swept by fast with new prototypes made. We plan to work harder and faster to push out our first prototype bot, also known as a “franken-bot” out soon. We will have this upcoming Monday off of school and plan to meet all day in order to get as much done on our bots as we can.​ 

1/10/20 - 1/11/20
Friday - Saturday

Posted by
John O.

In the past two days our field has been updated, and a loading bay as well as a new power port have been finished and are now fully functional for us to test our prototypes on them. The power port now has the bottom, outer and inner port whereas our temporary cardboard version just had the outer port. While the manufacturing team works on the game pieces, our engineering team has been hard at work prototyping our different mechanisms.

One of the two prototype designs of our shooters is a design with two wheels parallel to each other loading in from behind. It is made out of polycarbonate, with metal holding the pieces together and to stabilize it. Our team has nicknamed it “The Aircraft Carrier” because it sounds like it’s about to take flight whenever we try to run it.

Build Season day #5 & 6

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Power Port and Loading Bay

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 The other shooter design is a wheel that spins the power cell out into the ports. It has wooden plates attached to the side and a polycarbonate ramp to help the power cell travel up and out. We have nicknamed it “Banshee” because of how loudly it shrieks. This mechanism is currently the one that has been working better, and we are planning to attach it to a drivetrain for testing very soon. 

The business and controls teams have also made significant progress. Draft two of the business plan is complete, and we can now spin the control panel three and a half times 100% of the time, and we can also make it go to a certain color of our choosing from any starting point on the panel. 

"The Aircraft Carrier" Prototype

Another side project that is currently in progress in the creation of a 3D printed miniature version of the 2020 game field. While it is mostly for looks and a way for us to better visualize the full field, it will also be a good way to work on planning out strategies for competition matches.

This was a good first week for us, as we were able to accomplish a lot more than we had at this time in last year’s build season. Time flies fast we will have a full prototype of all of our robot’s mechanisms by the end of the second week of build season. 

Build Season day #4


Posted by
John O.

Today prototypes are moving fast in progression. A new storage system for power cells are being made and nearly complete. Our programmers are working on control panel rotation control and color recognition. Climbing methods and articulations are being discussed and starting to be prototyped. The climbing articulation that is being prototyped is the ability to adjust positioning on the generator switch while hanging the way it works is to have wheels turn on the rung of the switch thus moving the robot.

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Adjuster Wheel Prototype

The storage system for power cells we aim to create includes the capacity to store five power cells as that is the max the game will let a robot hold. Also, our goal is to make an efficient way to shoot power cells at a rapid pace making it easier to progress through the stages of the game. The color recognition that our programmers are working with is important because it will make rotating the control panel wheel more efficient.

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Storage Prototype

Things are going well for the Cellar Rats as we progress closer to prototyping an entire robot. We move steadily prototyping significant mechanisms so that we may put it all together soon.


Posted by
John O.

Build Season day #3

This morning in the Cellar Rats are working hard to continue the intake prototype as yesterday the shooter was tested and worked, but still needs more improvement. The shield generator switch that was being manufactured in our woodshop yesterday has now been transported and is stationary in the robotics lab. Today, it will be tested to ensure that it can hold the amount of weight it needs to for our robots. Our programmers are starting to discuss and code different functions of the robot. Such functions include climbing for the generator switch, rotation control for the control panel, driving methods, and shooting and intaking power cells. Plans for our next game element, the loading bay, are progressing and will soon be constructed.

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Generator Switch

The intake method that our members are currently working on consists of mecanum wheels which are multi-directional due to small rollers around the wheel. The reason for the use of these wheels is to drive the power cell into the middle of the intake to try and improve efficiency. The shooter works sort of as a pitching machine, two wheels are put next to each other and the power cell is loaded into a small polycarbonate ramp that feeds it into the wheels, shooting it out. 

Shooter Prototype.jpg

Today's casual mood was great in proportion to our productivity made and we have much more planned going into the season.

Shooter Prototype


Posted by
John O.

Build Season day #2

Today in the Cellar Rats robotics lab, everything was running smoothly as the control panel was finished and painted, along with a rough version of the outer port so that we can test the prototypes that we develop. The control panel wheel, or Wheel Of Fortune as our team nicknamed it, is a wheel used for activating Stage 2 in the game by scoring 20 power cells and then rotating the wheel three times then selecting the color in the next two rotations. If this is done incorrectly, then the counter resets to zero and we must start all over again. If done correctly, then Stage 2 will activate and then progressing the game further.  

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Painting the Control Panel

Additionally, the shield generator switch that began being built yesterday is near completion, and will likely be up and running very soon. The switch is important because, in the Endgame portion of competition matches, robots are required to climb onto the switch while also trying to balance it within 8 degrees horizontal in order to be able to earn fifteen additional points. 

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Making the Generator Switch

A lot of prototyping was done today along with more progression on the field, moving us forward for competition and experience. We are looking forward to having all of our field elements done by the end of the week, and to having some strong prototypes that we can begin to build off of to create the best robot we can!

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Our first-draft at an outer port

Putting up the Outer Port


Prototyping and designing an intake


Posted by
John O.

Build Season day #1 and Kickoff

On the first Saturday of January, the video announcing the challenge for the 2020 game Infinite Recharge was released. At Napa High, our team got to work on brainstorming and building for the game. The team's main focus for our start to build season is studying the game and starting to assemble the field early on. By accomplishing this, we will have a better understanding of game pieces and elements we will work with. This allows us to develop strategies that will  soon be incorporated into our future robot.


In our computer lab, most members spent the day observing and studying the game manual. As part of our team standards we expect our members to have a basic understanding of the rules for Infinite Recharge, and to ensure that team members know the game rules and aspects, we will have a rules quiz at our next meeting. Some members are in our wood shop, building and putting together game mechanisms for the assembly of the field which we will have completed by the end of the week.


Build season was off to a great start because we did a better job of managing and prioritizing our work than we have in previous years. Our members and mentors are progressing greatly and more seasoned members are giving advice to newer members to help improve our quality and efficiency.

Today's meeting started in joy as a piece for the control panel field element has been prototyped by a team member over the weekend and is nearly ready for testing and use. In order to ensure that everyone understood this year’s game, the team took a quiz about the game manual’s rules and concepts for this year. The highest scoring members recieved chocolate bars as a reward. Following the quiz, we split into groups to begin brainstorming ideas for the important parts of our robot. The projects worked on by the groups consisted of input and output mechanism ideas, the drive-train we will use for our bot to traverse the field, and the climbing method.

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Rules quiz Kahoot!

Additionally, a new method of planning known as Agile was introduced by the team’s student leadership and a parent volunteer. Agile consists of Epics, Stories, and Story Tasks, where Epics are the overall tasks that will take weeks to complete, such as writing a business plan or programming a method for working with the control panel, stories are the things that need to happen for the Epic to be completed, and story tasks are the individual

 things that must happen in order for the story to be completed. The incorporation of AGILE is a great strategy to improve productivity because everything is laid out clearly in a place where it is fully visible to everyone on the team, and people are able to choose tasks and accomplish them. It also allows us to see who completed what task if there is any confusion surrounding a project. We hope that this new method of planning will allow us to better plan out what projects we need to be working on, and will ensure that nobody has nothing to do.


Our AGILE project board

Also, in a surprise notice, we learned that we are off of the waiting list for the week two San Diego Regional, and now have a place there to compete. Our leadership team met and decided to take the opportunity, adding that third regional to our list in addition to the Canadian Pacific Regional and Sacramento Regional. This will be our second year going to San Diego for a regional, and we are looking forward to attend that regional for a second year in a row!

Today's productivity level was high, and the team’s ideas are progressing well from what they were on kickoff. The newly introduced AGILE method will greatly improve our work ethic, and will allow for greater levels of productivity among team members as the season becomes more intense.

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