Design / Build Workflows

First time poster, so tell me if I’ve done something wrong.
Anyways, after my team was swiftly eliminated this season I have been thinking about what went wrong. I believe that the biggest issue is that we had no formal method for approving designs, testing changes, or diving up work. I was wondering if any of you vex-veterans could let me know how your team organizes themselves. Do you use digital design? If so, what software do you use? Any information is appreciated!

Iterations of build and participating lots of events is the best way we have found for teams to improve. Sub-dividing tasks only gets you so far. Driving and learning from what you have built progresses you further over formal design review processes without empirical results guiding you.

“Stick time” is the most valuable lesson as you can drive the wheels off a second tier robot and still win many times. Having the coordination to operate a robot deftly across a field with the robot oriented in a different direction takes practice. Game stress situations helps that too which you don’t get in local practice.

Take what you learn on the field and bring it back to your designs. Whether that be making your controllers act together through automatic actions via buttons, adding sensors and control loops to prevent bad things (or control good things), or reworking a subsystem based off something you saw here in the forums or at competition. Redesign is great in Vex and there is no bagging a robot. You can work on it 24x7!

You learn something each season too and do not consider a one year run as being an expert. I think it takes 3-4 years to get fully up to speed. You will learn something new each year and you can jump start it through looking at what others have done before you and try those elements.

As you design and build, there are several common chassis types along with arm types and ingestion types. This year was the first shooter game in Vex so that added a new dimension.

I did not find team 280 in vexdb. Where are you from?

Thanks for the quick and in depth reply. I agree with what you said about driving time being important, my team has a nasty habit of our first tests being at a competition. My team is from Toronto, Canada.

Uh… we don’t do much of that :P. This has only been my team’s third year, so there is a definite possibility that we are doing some things wrong, but we typically just go right at building stuff. One of the best things about vex is how easy it is to prototype and rebuild, so it is often easier to just build something and see how it works rather than overly planning and CADing it. Often times we will prototype at the beginning of the year, and then for each rebuild after that, spend a day or two discussing design, strategy, and planning, and then I assign the major subsections of the robot, like chassis, launcher, and intake, to different teammates and then they will be responsible for building that part and making sure it works well while the other team members help them out whenever they need it.

Our cycle this year went something like this:
Strategize, build, rebuild, (no practice time, ahhh!) compete, (practice, compete) x 3, rebuild (during winter break), practice, compete, major modifications, practice, compete, practice, compete, minor modifications, practice, compete (State), and finally reaching the present with major modifications. Before Worlds we will practice a lot more.

While we practice, we fine-tune the robot as well. It doesn’t need to be fantastic, but try to perfect what you have if it is more worthwhile to use your time in that way than to practice. If there are minor problems that are limiting you, get rid of those limits or your practice isn’t really worthwhile.

In comparison to other teams in our region, we probably practice more and are fortunate enough to go to a lot of competitions. This is key to finding problems and training your driver to be practiced and handle stress. I wouldn’t recommend rotating drivers, but you should probably have an alternate with some idea what they’re doing (button mapping helps for this and your notebook)!

Tl;dr Practice, compete, fine-tune, and don’t be too in love with your robot to see its issues and rebuild.

Get one part of your robot to work really, really well. Move on to the next part. Get that to work, really, really well. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and make sure to have plenty of driving practice. Driving practice makes a world of difference. You should make sure you have at least a months experience on your robot before regionals.

Mostly, it’s trial and error.

Our cycle: build, compete and frantically rebuild simultaneously, rebuild, compete and frantically rebuild simultaneously, rebuild, compete, rebuild, compete, practice, compete, fine-tune, compete (States). We’re a second year team, though, so we may not be the best role model.