Why can't we: 3D print, weld, use co-processors, lasers on sharks, etc

There have been a number of posts in the last 8 weeks asking about middle school / high schools being able to 3D print, laser cut parts, weld materials, use advanced co-processors, etc.

Two reasons:
– Not everyone has access to a 3D Printer, laser cutters, etc.
– Safety. Welding is something you need training for.

RECF is trying to keep the contest on a level playing field. “Build what you want, use VEX parts”. So anyone from a home school team to a mega statewide group has the same parts. All that varies is their design, build and driving skills. But since the purpose is to improve design, build and driving (communications) skills, that’s OK to be a variable.

Safety is the other big concern. “Well I’ve been TIG welding since I was 6, I remember the welding mask I got that year on my birthday.” Good for you!! But the rest of us live in a world of insurance liability. Schools and clubs carry million dollar policies in case someone (roboteer, mentor, bystander) gets hurt. Many middle school teams don’t have access to power tools since that is a huge issue with the insurance company. They want to minimize claims. And costs. The difference can be a thousand dollars a year, that buys a lot of parts.

So how come VEXU gets carte blanche to do what they want? They are in Colleges and Universities that have the high tech stuff. (Face it, they are charging $40K a person, they can afford to shell out a few thousand on a printer or $35 on a Arduino. Second is that more than 99% of the roboteers in VEXU are over the age of 18, so they are more (and some are less) adult. Insurance is lots cheaper when you are trying to cover adults.

I’m not trying to be a wet blanket, but I can see why there are bounds on what can be used. I’m all for getting each team a co-microprocessor they can use. A good project for one of your teams: create a program that pays for and delivers a microprocessor board to each team. RobotC already supports Arduino, so that’s a good place to start.

Well stated. I would argue further that real innovation comes from truly taking the material you are allowed and using it in very disruptive ways. Look at the top VRC teams and their designs are truly remarkable in what they accomplish by repurposing stock pieces vs printing custom solutions.

Full disclosure, I am a middle school teacher :rolleyes:

Probably stated this before but perhaps an opportune time to point it out once more. In FTC you can do all that or just limit yourself to kit bits like VRC does. No lasers on sharks sadly.

This actually makes them 2 distinct competitions and being involved in both I can tell you one approach isn’t vastly better than the other. Teams I get involved with learn stuff either way.

Biggest things gained from near open materials and processing scope is innovation and design diversity. At FTC world championship level you just don’t see the VEX “efficiency bot” syndrome.

Want all that stuff VEX-U get and a whole lot more? Do FTC.

I would like to point out that most college teams find funding the same way high school teams do and not directly from the university. Even at 40K+ a head when in school it amazes me how quickly that money disappears :stuck_out_tongue:

Schools don’t like shelling out money. WPI saw that BNS was third and QCC2 (entirely WPI students) was first and is more than willing to help financially. But the issue is none of us actually have time to compete anymore. Hopefully we get some of the young blood that are interested next year.

You cannot put a laser on a shark simply because the shark would bite you…

Wait, maybe I’m late to the party or am misunderstanding; is BNS and QCC not competing in VEXU this year?

BNS will be returning to compete with most of the original people. The issue with BNS isn’t finding people who want to join but balancing everyone’s interesting ideas into competition robots. The couple WPI people are just too busy to keep competing (myself and Jonathan). I give team BNS the best and still try to keep myself on the loop in what is going on.

QCC will almost certainly continue to compete but the members of QCC2 specifically I believe all agreed to retire after this last year.

I actually don’t see why 3d printers are an issue anymore though. A lot of schools in my area are starting to get one or more 3d printers, and nowadays a printrbot play is about $400. Considering over a year a rookie vex team spends more than triple that on just registration and parts. (assuming a super kit and whatever extra things the team might need such as 2 extra motors and more metal) I can’t see a high school that supports robotics not supporting the purchase of a small 3D printer.

Not to mention it would likely not be exclusively used by the team, but would also be useful in design and engineering classes.

In addition, there are places to send stl files that will print it for you (for a nominal fee).

tl;dr: its not THAT prohibitive to 3d print anymore. you don’t need a massive Dimension machine. I’d honestly like to see this restriction at least lifted for high school teams.

It’s not just a question of whether you can 3D print but also how long you have to wait, how often you can print, the quality of the prints, the size of the prints, etc. Even if you take it for granted that every team can access a 3D printer (which is not the case) then there’s still a lot of room for different levels of 3D printing access to widen the resource gaps between teams.

I’m in support of it staying illegal in VRC. If it is allowed in a later season, there should be a tradeoff rule like for pneumatics where you give up something else in order to access 3D printing.

Unfortunately 3D printers come in many size and cost ranges, $750 to $750,000. Here is the one we used at my previous employer.

So how do you keep things fair? And why stop at 3D printing, why not CNC mills etc.

A printer that can print something solid enough / strong enough for competition will set you back a $1000 + materials.

I know lots of teams that just don’t have the money for the season, they are scraping corners to get the cash for event money.

“A high school that supports robotics” ranges from $100,000 in money, half a dozen teachers to a part time teacher and an empty room. I’ve met about 1000 teams on the empty room spectrum, still waiting on the $100,000 team visit.

Did a quick google to see what my Son’s former college had available, quite interesting, I assume this would be similar for many large engineering schools.

Berkeley - Digital fabrication lab
(interestingly that’s in the College of Environmental Design, not even in engineering).

I would very much like a 3d-print rule. Could we have 12 motors OR 10 + pnuematics OR 10 + 3d prints? It wouldn’t unlimited, like it is for VEXU now, but like it was last competition.

Just make Vex U open like Paul wanted, and make it basically mini-FRC, and let each team choose at what level they want to play.

By open I mean, CNC parts, metal, 3D prints, anything shy of things that tend to explode.

You’d be surprised, we all talk about fairness and all see cost as the worst part of “fairness” what if I told you that with some decent tools and effort, building outside the Vex kit would probably be cheaper…

The 100k+ machine shop you call “decent tools” is the issue with that plan. VEX teams can be run out of kids basements or church rec centers and that is one of the things that makes it so popular. Don’t try to take that away.

I’m talking about a $3,500 3D printer, a color-printer, a decent drill press and a dremel.

Oddly enough of that list I’m lacking the color printer and drill press atm. Funny how things change, I used to have the color printer and drill press but not the 3D printer.

We do have the crappy brother B/W laser printer, but I had to “hack” the cartridge which is now well beyond it’s end of life. Oh well I’ll use that freaking thing until it burns the house down or stops working, whichever comes first.

Maybe add a heatgun and a break for polycarbonate bending.

Before school started to kick my butt (taking 8 hours this summer and 15 this term didn’t help), I was working on an entirely 3D printed robot chassis. I figure I could build the superstructure (that is the chassis, not the motors or wheels) for about $50 on my Makerbot. Most of that cost was hardware, if I had a larger / better printer I’d just print the thing in one go. I’d need a dual extruder and a 16" x 16" build plate and it’d be a real challenge but it could be doable…

I’m not going to argue that teams with better resources / tools do better. They do, and THEY DO even in the current program.

having done both FRC (where you can use pretty much anything) and Vex, they are two totally different engineering challenges, in FRC, because you have access to higher quality part than are used in vex, you have to use them to be competitive, and along with that, you have to do a lot of custom fabrication. This makes FRC much more about great design process and building, because of custom fabrication, the time and effort that goes into a robot is much higher, so you really only get one try, so your design work has to be spot on.

because in vex everyone use the exact same parts, it becomes much more about how you use them, teams that come up with really innovative and creative designs that work get ahead, and you often go through several variations on a robot.

the main difference I think is that FRC stresses good designs that get it right first time, as well as excellent building, vex has more stress on good use of limited parts and continual improvement.

I think both challenges teach you something valuable and I think changing that in VEX may not be a great idea

We have sea bass.

There is time to iterate designs in the 6 week cycle time. In FRC it’s not the higher quality parts, it’s that it’s a universe of parts (except for motors and the controllers) but yet teams use the kitbot parts and others laser cut plywood and have been very successful. If you look at JVN posts on iterative design a lot happens in the 6 weeks and there are more cycles between regional.

YepL analysis, design, build, test: repeat until you win. Just like the real world. Vex gets 11 months to do that.

I know lots of FRC teams that go dozens of directions in the first two weeks and then they focus in. But I know (been part of) teams that are doing final build as they are bagging the robot (or building the shipping box around it).

I think they are both good. Different skills, different goals.

But to get back to the OP, we can still inspire and get roboteers excited about STEM. We don’t need 3D printers, welding and sharks. I get roboteers excited with snap together plastic parts that most everyone you know could do.

We have cookies, come to the dark side. It’s a shame to waste a great name “Cycloptic” as a troll. So much energy that could do so much more…