The killer is that maximum airline size for a “normal” piece of checked luggage is 62" (height plus width plus depth). With a robot that is just slightly smaller than 18x18x18, that doesn’t leave much room for box structure or packing material. We shipped eight teams (about 22 boxes) to Dallas, with the robots packed into 20x20x20 cardboard cartons, and stuffed with *Elevation *cubes and bubble wrap. We shipped eight robots to Dallas with only one injury, and eight back with no damage.
Unfortunately, when team 575 unpacked their robot on Thursday morning, they found that all four of their aluminum primary vertical posts were bent into nice curves that could not be easily bent straight. By eight o’clock a mentor had sweet-talked the VEX people into opening the store early and selling the team an aluminum kit, and the students were tearing the robot into pieces. By 11am the robot was repaired and inspected. It was in Qualifying match 1 on Science, and was ready in time.
The cost for us of not violating the airline size limit was $100 in parts (that we will use again next year), and a scared team that had to hustle. It would have cost us $50 x 8 robots x 2 directions, or $800 for oversize charges. Since we are in Seattle, most out-of-town events we might want to attend are clearly going to be airplane trips. Dallas, for example, is nearly 2,500 miles from us.
I’m still debating what to do. If we stick with cardboard in the future, we risk more damaged robots, but if we don’t we will spend a LOT of money on oversize charges. $800 would fund most of the parts for a new team.
I’m hoping that Round Up won’t generate as many max-bots as Clean Sweep, and we can do better packing. For one thing, with 16x16x16 robots we can insert 1/4" plywood reinforcing and 1x1 posts in the corners and edges, greatly reducing crushing risks. Wood of even fairly modest dimensions has a LOT of strength in compression along the grain, and would have saved 575 from a crushed robot. I seriously expect that our students will use this as a design criteria this year.
I’m looking forward to seeing what other teams do.
ADDED: The $50 per item for oversize checked boxes is what Southwest charges. American Airlines charges $150 per box! Ack!