Week #1 FIRST Robotics Competition, 2016
Arriving at a new event location for the first time is always a little daunting. Where do we park? Where do we unload? Where do we go once inside the doors? Fortunately, Kettering University provided a entire building for the competition with their Recreation Center. On Thursday, we arrived approximately 4:00 PM. There were already several teams unloaded. We had no trouble backing up to the load-in doors and getting our robot and gear inside. The pits were small at Kettering so we were a bit cramped in an 8’ x 8’ pit area, but we made it work.
As soon as the pit was setup, our first priority is to get the robot inspected. A robot inspector has to come by and unbag the robot. This is a process where they verify our lockup form, lockup tag number and give us the OK to cut the tag. Once the robot is opened we have time to get things ready for them to come back and begin the inspection. This year there is a two page inspection checklist to go through to ensure we followed all the rules and our robot is safe. This particular inspection was one of the longest we’ve done because there is just so much to go over with the bot. One of the last things to be inspected was the firmware versions of our radio that connects our bot to the field. A “week one” update was released (this information was not sent out to the teams so everyone was finding out about it at the event). Any releases that come out before we get a chance to test them scare me. Last season at Kentwood we had to do a firmware update and it broke our bot. We spent more time with our robot dead on the field than competing because their field and the update they applied didn’t work right. I did not want a repeat of that again this year so I was extremely frustrated to find out we had to update things. This frustration was not helped by the first attempt by the systems specialists at the event failed. That is to say that when they did the update the first time it didn’t work. The second time they did the update they forgot to configure our radio with our team number. On the third attempt it appeared everything was right and truth be told, we had no additional issues with our radio.
After inspection is complete, our highest priority is to get connected to the field. The field is an independent computer systems that links the robot to our control system. It allows for control of the robot wirelessly. We have experienced first hand how a robot can work fine when we directly connect to it, but does absolutely nothing when connected through the field system. Our first match is not a good time to discover we have field issues so we made sure to get a practice match in to verify everything works with the field.