Needles vs. Hook Cycles

I personally think that while needle intakes are good for skills, hook cycles have a slight advantage in match play.

There. I said it.

Now let me justify:

The largest advantages of the needle intakes arise from the pyramid, straightness of the cube drop, and relative pneumatic efficiency. The largest advantages for hook cycles are the ability to pick up cubes in a straight row level to the ground a little bit off center. The pyramid in this sense is not beneficial for the hook cycle.

However, the pyramid consists of game objects, which can be knocked over. This gives hook cycles a field where all objects ideally are on one level instead of three, despite having cubes a little off center and lots of cubes burying everything on the field. For needle intakes, I feel the story gets worse much faster. First, the cubes are all one level now, forcing needles to raise one or two times more than usual. Second, the cubes are often scattered in all directions, causing cubes not to be in line with each other. This worsens the situation because many needles are built with a back reinforcement, causing there to be very little margin for error when intaking cubes. There are some obvious exceptions, but especially if the robot was built for mobility, this pyramid destruction strategy could be devastating to the PTCs on the base.

I recognize that the side rollers have many of the advantages listed for hook cycle, but I feel that there is, again, a slight advantage to hook cycle. But that’s for another thread.


I definitely see where you are coming from about the hook conveyor intake. At the same time though, it does make it more difficult to be able to use either a powered skyrise intake or build a skyrise without moving the base. However, that does not mean it can’t be done. 62 is a great example of this. The needle intake does give you two more motors to use though.

One other noticeable thing about hook cycles is the ability to outtake a certain number of cubes. Most needles have to outtake all the cubes the robot is holding, with a hook cycle you can outtake a certain number. For example outtaking 2 cubes on one low post and then 1 on the other low post. Most needles would need to release 2 cubes and then reengage pneumatic/passive intake, or drop 2 go get 1 or 2 more cubes and come back for the other low post. The same would go for a medium post with 2 or 3 cubes already scored, or high post with 3 or 4 cubes already scored.

Not sure how much of an advantage or disadvantage this is, it’s just an observation I had between needles and hook cycles.

So I might be stepping on some toes here, but I feel that the style of needle intake most commonly seen is not as good of an implementation of it as the needle intake that has no back supports, this therefore gives a rather negative light to the needle intake, but if you look at the principal behind a needle intake it is to be able to pick up cubes at any orientation on the field, this is it’s advantage over pretty much all other intakes, so the best needle will look something like skunkworks’ or the cyber pirates. Now I will agree that other intakes have endearing qualities to them as well, however, when built correctly a needle intake is arguably more powerful than the hook cycle.

unless you’re 185a, the only true advantage i see behind a needle intake is more space to build a stationary skyrise mechanism

otherwise, conveyor intakes built properly can pick up cubes from any angle, output onto multiple posts, and don’t have to raise up above a cube to grab it (not that it takes a long time, but still)

For the needle, couldn’t a team just drive into the cube to straighten it, then pick it up? With a drivetrain design that would align the cube, alignment would become less of an issue.

Aligning with a needle intake that grabs one side of the cube hasn’t been a problem for use. As the front of the robot is flat and in the same location as the back of the needle, you just need to drive into and push the cube a little bit to align it. For needles that grab in the middle alignment usually doesn’t matter.

I personally think that a needle intake is better, mostly because you don’t need a motor for it, but if you have a motor hooks work well also.

In my opinion, needles are definitely the more effective cube intake, especially for an all around robot. There is more room to build the skyrise mechanism, it is generally faster, and it saves a motor (or two). Also, from what I’ve observed, Needles that go through the middle of the cube are actually better at picking cubes up from an angle than a hook cycle. The only advantage that a hook cycle really has is capacity. I’m not trying to say that the hook cycle is a bad choice. There are many great teams that have a hook cycle. I just think that the needle comes out sigh a slight advantage.

The needle is a definite advantage in skills. Pumped air in one tank lasts for quite a while if there’s no leakage, and the speed of the linear scoring helps to outtake points quickly. Aligners stab right into the pole and has no chance of dropping cubes. Intaking is fast and easy and does not require a lot of aiming into cubes if the needle is built well.

Most importantly, they are small, compact and do not use motors. They are not top heavy and therefore reduce the chance of tipping greatly.

I agree with what many people said that sometimes in competitions, the motor conveyor is slightly simpler.
The main reason I say this is because of time and memory issues. In other words, human error. One match where members forget to pump air…well, R.I.P. Having motors is quick and easy, and does not deal with any sort of switch.

I have been amazed time after time when conveyor bots score cubes that were hung onto the poles (diagonally, not stacked) were intaked again and aimed properly. Conveyors are a little harder in my opinion to aim for lack of a guider such as one of a needle, but sufficient drive practice should help.

I think that the needle is better than the hook cycle. It uses no motors, which you could use towards your lift or drivetrain. If you build it correctly you can pickup cubes in any orientation. It out takes much faster, which the faster you can score the more you can score. I have seen many of both, and one common problem with all hook cycles is that when out taking you have the chance of getting the cube stuck on the top of the post, and with a needle intake you can rest the bottom of it on the top of the goal and release and not have to worry about the cube getting stuck.