Decisions, decisions

We just show you how, but you make the decisions. When you have this much power, you have to make big decisions.
— Bob Ross

The 'Dox have completed a successful second day of build season. Now that the game has began to sink in a little bit, and the large influx of people attending our kickoff has diminished, we were able to accomplish our objectives in a reasonably straightforward manner. Today, we reached three major milestones.

Before lunch, subsystem leads worked with their respective design groups on potential designs to determine pros and cons of different systems before we decided which to prototype. However, we realized soon afterwards that, as a result of dividing into different subsystems, our derived and driven requirements were not communicated effectively to other subsystems. To rectify this, we held a subsystem lead meeting to flush out several unknowns. 

The first unknown we discussed regarded strategy. After researching ideas from other teams, we considered the possibility of climbing while carrying one or more additional robots. We determined that there were essentially three different methods to climb while leaving opportunities for other robots. Firstly, a climbing mechanism could only contact a small proportion of the rung, leaving space for other robots to climb. We determined that it would be unreasonable to expect an alliance of three robots to have two which could both fit on the rung, and soon discounted this option. Secondly, a robot could deploy ramps or other rigid plates, allowing other robots to drive onto itself, before lifting all or two of them above the twelve inch climb height. Due to our ambitious requirements as driven from our prior day's strategic decisions, we felt as though we would not have sufficient student experience to lead a separate system capable of lifting two other robots from a drive perspective. The third option we considered was to mount a copy of the rung onto our robot, allowing other teams on our alliance to climb on a uniform standard. Despite depending on the mechanisms of other robots to secure a ranking point, we decided to utilize this strategy due to the relative simplicity of this method compared to the other two, as well as providing the option to utilize the full rung on the field. 

The second decision we faced was to select a mechanism to deliver power cubes to the scale. Prior brainstorming conducted on kickoff narrowed our linear lift to two general categories; a single-jointed arm, and a multi-stage linear elevator. In our design review meeting after lunch, we compared and contrasted the qualities of both mechanisms. A single jointed arm is considerably less complex than a multi-stage elevator, but comes with several risks which were difficult to ignore, such as the possibility of violating the maximum volume during the game, or unpredictably changing the robot's center of gravity while lifted to nearly seven feet tall, allowing other robots to potentially knock us over. A multi-stage elevator would be effective due to its increased repeatability in software, rigidity in climbing, ease of allowing other robots to climb from our own, and predictable constant center of gravity. This will allow our programming team to develop more robust and dependable code to control the major subsystems of this robot, and we ultimately decided to pursue this design.

The third and final significant design decision we faced today was among the last facing our drivetrain. At the culmination of the kickoff meeting, we were undecided as to the benefits of using pneumatics on this robot, due to weight concerns and the relatively low-defense nature we predict for this game. Initially, we were unable to see other mechanisms which might utilize them, however, for the benefits pneumatics could provide for augmenting the intake and outtake systems of the cube manipulator, in addition to serving as a static lock for the elevator, we decided ultimately to implement pneumatics into our robot. 

As you can see, today was extremely productive, and we left K2 with a clear idea of what our robot will eventually look like and how it will perform in-game. Tomorrow, we will present our decisions to the team as a whole, opening our discussion to a wider audience to find flaws before they may occur. Additionally, we will continue fabricating tomorrow, including beginning the structural members of the chassis.