Engineering & Design Process

Engineering Process

Before the season began, we decided to outline our approach to this season’s game. We did this to ensure success both in competition and in giving every member a chance to learn about the steps involved in the engineering design process. Below is our plan and how each part of our plan correlates to the steps of the design process.

The most well-known engineering design process usually consists of identifying the tasks and constraints, researching the problem, developing possible solutions, selecting promising solutions, building a prototype, evaluating the prototype, and improving/redesigning as needed. We implemented this process into the construction of our robot as well as coding. The engineering design process was an essential model that guided us during the 2019-2020 FTC season.

Step 1: Identify the Challenge

The first step of the engineering process is identifying tasks and constraints so our entire team knows the objective of competition and what we absolutely have to do and what is completely restricted. This step is crucial in allowing our entire team to understand the challenge and constraints. The mapped out graph below is used to demonstrate what we had to do as a team.

We planned to decide as a team which parts of the game (listed below) we would like to take on as our challenge, taking into consideration time constraints, feasibility, available resources, and point values. We will then address our challenge in parts, so as not to overwhelm ourselves at the beginning of the season and to develop a coherent timeline and strategy.

  1. This is where our robot begins in the competition.
  2. The marked blocks provide us with extra points if they are stacked during autonomous. The non-marked blocks are the objects that we have to grab during the tele-op period to stack on the building foundation.
  3. We must take the building foundation and relocate it to this corner to earn 15 points.
  4. We take these blocks and lay them on the playing field in front of our robot. The more blocks we are able to stack, the more points we gain.

Step 2: Identify Constraints

Understanding Design Constraints:

  • We will evaluate the sizing constraints along with any other new changes which may cause our design considerations to change.
  • In addition, we will review new parts available for this competition, such as the Rev Robotics electronics kit.

Understanding Constraints in the Field:

  • We will carefully read over all the rules outlined in the game manual
  • We will make sure to abide by all constraints that occur during competition
    • The robot must fit within the size restrictions
      • must be shorter than the lowest pole
      • cannot have a length longer than 18 inches
    • During competition, teams may not:
      • knock over other teams’ skyscrapers.
      • interfere with other teams’ access to elements.
      • reach outside of the designated playing field.
      • launch components off their robot.
      • touch or control the robot in any way during autonomous.
      • have more than one student from an alliance enter the question box

Step 3: Research

Our Research Process:

  • Team members will research both independently (and then bring their proposals to meetings) and as a team. This will maximize our results.
  • We will review past FIRST games and evaluate their difficulties and problem-solving strategies to improve how we address our own problems and work together as a team.
  • We will research tool sand designs by real world professionals to serve as a developmental simulant for our own designs.
    • Our sources will include NASA, DoD, SpaceX, and others
  • We will use the valuable resources offered by FIRST to help inform the design decisions for our robot and develop game-play strategies.

The image above simulates how weight impacts motor stability.

Step 4: Consider & Select Solutions

Brainstorming Process:

  • We will place emphasis on brainstorming as a team to optimize our results.
  • All team members will be able to propose solutions, and the team will evaluate, further develop, and improve all proposed ideas to find the best, most feasible one,
  • Should any designs prove unsuccessful, the team will work to modify it.
  • The team will be respectful and considerate throughout the brainstorming process. All team members will be encouraged to provide any input they can.

CADing Process:

  • We will place a large emphasis on CADing our designs so that we can:
    • better visualize our ideas and proposed solutions.
    • allow all team members to easily provide input on designs to improve them.
    • maximize our efficiency and results.
  • We will CAD all designs so that we have a framework for prototyping and construction.
  • We will use Autodesk Fusion 360 as our platform for computerized designs.

Below is the arm and gripper we decided on for competition, which can extend 4 blocks high.

Step 5: Create & Evaluate Prototype

  • We will build and prototype on TWO seperate robots to maximize our efficiency: we will be able to experiment and test on one bot while building and programming on the other.
  • If an idea is rather complex (which will be determined based with CAD), we will prototype in legos before moving on to metal.
  • Following the construction of a prototype, we will conduct extensive testing to determine if we’d like to move forward with the idea.

For our robot, the speediest method was to have a four bar lift. Others may use linear lifts because they are taller but these are way too unstable. But we realized that not using the linear bar lift posed another problem. How do we make up for that loss of height? Our solution was to add extensions to the prototype’s four bar lift.

Step 6: Implement & Test

  • Once our prototypes have become real, well-built components that we will place on our robot, we will conduct extensive testing of the component
  • Some of our testing strategies are listed below:
    • By-Hand Testing: If a design is rather difficult to integrate into the system, we will simulate the power of servos and motors by using our hands
    • Direct Battery Connection: IF it is safe to provide power to a motor, we will test the functionality of it using quick bursts of power which may clarify where it has weak points in a design
    • Full integration: Usually after conducting the previous two tests, we may end up deciding to implement the design on one of the two robots to give an opportunity to see how the design works with the other aspects of our robot plan.
    • Usability Tests: At outreach, we let others drive and use our robots along with our prototypes. Based on feedback and the difficulty individuals have with our robot we decide that a solution may need a modification.

Step 7: Improve

  • We will evaluate our designs based on the complexity, effectiveness, accuracy, precision, and cost of implementation
  • Based off our testing results, we will make our decision to improve a design or discontinue it to focus on another solution
    • If the design is sorely lacking or weak in one of the above areas, we will consider solutions to improve it as a team
  • This step is ongoing and always collaborative— there are always ways to improve our robot design, and the best solutions arise when we work together!

Step 8: Communicate Results

  • Communicating our results is a vital part of our process, because it allows us to track our progress
  • We will document our process in our Engineering Notebook
    • While the notebook will be written at the same time as our development, we believe that a successful notebook communicates both the full pathway to a solution and the solution itself.
  • Business Meetings
    • All teams of the Explorer Post 1010 have the opportunity to share their progress with the other teams for inspiration, community bonding, and advice
    • In these important meetings with our mentors and team, we discuss ways to improve ourselves and designs to continue our success in the engineering process.
  • Outreach
    • Communicating our results with our outside community during events or open houses gies us the opportunity to
      • gauge public opinion
      • simultaneously spread the spirit of FIRST.