2020 FIRST Robotics Competition – Update on Team Manning Robotics

Vista is proud to sponsor Team 4267 Manning Robotics, who is representing Calgary’s Ernest Manning High School in the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition.

We’ll post weekly updates on the team’s progress here throughout the 12-week competition. You can also follow Manning Robotics on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Week 10

Week 10 Update

Week 10 was slow for Team Manning Robotics as students rested after the Victoria trip.

Progress Notes

  • Testing was performed on the shooter in order to try to improve its accuracy. This led to more prototyping.
  • Vision code was tweaked for better strip tracking and was to be tested on the robot.

Unfortunately, with the announcement of a global pandemic, the Calgary regional competition was cancelled.

Furthermore, the Alberta government announced the indefinite cancellation of all classes.

This comes as a huge disappointment to the team, who was looking forward to being more competitive in the Calgary regional competition. It is not certain what off-season projects the team will work on or when they will work on them, but the mentors and students have devised a long wish list for next season.

Stay tuned for possible updates and the outlook for next season.

Victoria Competition Videos

Week 9

Week 9 Update

Week 9 for Manning Robotics marks the first of two regional competitions. The expectation for the team’s first competition in Victoria was to be able to:

  • remove the robot from the trailer
  • pass inspection
  • head straight to the practice field and matches

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Problem #1

The first problem to arise was the elevator wasn’t moving.

Holding the motor that drives the elevator up could be done by hand, which meant something was not right in the gearbox. Upon disassembly, it was found that the shaft key was not engaging the coupler.

Fortunately, this meant the planetary gears were okay despite the poor compatibility between these two parts. After a quick fix, everything was reassembled and the elevator moved up properly.

Problem #2

Team Manning Robotics Week 8 - FIRST Robotics Competition 2020The second problem was discovered when trying to move the climbing clamp up and through the pulley system while the robot also moved up.

Again, the team needed to disassemble a gearbox. This time, though, it was not a simple fix. The team’s smart idea to weld a gear to its shaft to allow for locking of the gearbox was foiled because the gear was made of aluminum.

After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to stake the failed weld to the gear, the team decided to seek external support. The gear assembly was rushed to a nearby machine shop while a temporary gear set was reinstalled.

Lesson learned: don’t attempt to weld steel to aluminum.

Problem #3

During this disassembly, a student noticed one of the drive motors was loose. It was almost to the point of falling out of its gearbox.

The side of the chassis was quickly disassembled and set aside while the loose bolts were fished out of the gearbox. This would have been rather detrimental if this bolt had managed to find its way into the moving gears. By this point, the first practice match had been missed and all the mentors present were thoroughly freaking out. Finally, after reassembly, everything was up and running.

Lesson learned: use correctly-sized bolts.

Raise Before Raming

Team Manning Robotics Week 8 - FIRST Robotics Competition 2020Following the three problems, the robot worked almost perfectly for the rest of the event.

An inexperienced drive team resulted in a bent intake. It was a good lesson for the drivers to remember to always raise the intake before trying to ram another robot.

On the bright side, the drive team did not miss a single climb in match play, which was extremely valuable from a points/ranking perspective. The Manning robot’s climb actions performed exactly as designed, even for the unlevel climbs.

Heart Breaking Results

After two and a half days of qualification matches, Manning solidified second place entering Alliance Selection.

After not being chosen to join the first alliance captains, Manning was forced to form the second alliance. The team handily and confidently made it through quarterfinals but faced two heartbreaking matches in the semi-finals.

Shortly into the first semi-final match, an opposing robot shaped like a wedge managed to flip the Manning robot on its back. No penalty? No yellow card? The mentors were livid.

Most importantly, the robot was not available to attain those precious climb points.

Team Manning needed to succeed in the next match. After an intense battle, all eyes were on the scoreboard waiting for the final score. All three robots were climbed on the switch and it looked like a level climb. 90 points should have been there for the taking. Unfortunately, another team was victorious by a single point.

Team Manning was out and that was the end of that competition!

Back in Calgary

team Manning supporter watch back in CalgaryOn the homefront, families gathered at a local pub to watch the playoff action.

Tensions were running high with everyone concerned about how the team was dealing with the pressure. Thankfully, the camera captured footage of Manning’s drive team laughing and dancing; chatting with other teams and staying in the spirit of the competition.

It was a great reminder of what this event is all about.

Check back next week for another update on Team Manning Robotics’ progress in the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition.

Week 8

Week 8 Update

The team ran out of build time before its first competition but, thanks to the generosity of the school’s friendly custodial staff, managed to work through the weekend.

This extra time was definitely needed and put to good use as the team was able to finish building and debugging (mostly) its competition robot. We figured out the maximum number of people that can be crammed around a robot and exceeded it at times.

Tense Moments

Team Manning Robotics Week 8 - FIRST Robotics Competition 2020There was tension in the air when the robot was powered up for the first time and the team is pleased to note that a fire extinguisher was not deployed.

Another annual tense moment is when the robot goes on a scale.

This year’s verdict: Too heavy.

Out came the saws and drills, and the team managed to reduce the weight by 12 pounds, which put the robot comfortably within its weight allowance.

Progress Notes

  • Every subsystem was given a checkup and many problems were identified and solved.
  • Some further areas for improvement were identified and will be worked on in Victoria or thereafter.
  • The fabrication team completed the second road case in the woodshop
  • A small team of students worked diligently to determine every possible tool and part that would be required in Victoria and the resident Tetris expert was given free rein to pack everything into a 5×8 trailer.

And they’re on the road again!

Video Recap

Check back next week for another update on Team Manning Robotics’ progress in the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition.

Week 7

Week 7 Update

One week left until everything needs to be packed in a trailer and driven to Victoria for the team’s first competition of the 2020 season.

This last week was focused on getting a driveable robot into the hands of the drive team (none of who had ever actually driven a robot before). The team assembled its pre-production-bot and handed it off.

They spent the week learning how to:

  • drive on a polished concrete floor
  • collect balls
  • aim and shoot balls

There was also some geometrical fine-tuning that fed into the competition bot, which was being built in the lab upstairs. Some of the metal parts also arrived and were assembled on the competition bot.

This is the exciting and tedious part of the build. Ironing out some of the details with the robot would have been best done with a CAD program and this will be a lesson learned for next year.


The programming team spent portions of the week fine-tuning their teleoperation code by working side-by-side with the drive team. It’s a wonderful chance for them to see how their code is actually used.

Robot Characterization

The team also spent energy teaching the robot about itself via Robot Characterization. Once the Robot knows more about itself, it can start following trajectories in the autonomous portion of the competition.

Video Recap

Check back next week for another update on Team Manning Robotics’ progress in the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition.

Week 6

Week 6 Update

Team Manning Robotics Week 6 - FIRST Robotics Competition 2020In previous years, week 6 would normally be the last week to make any changes to the robot. Fortunately, the “Bag & Tag” approach was removed this year, which provides the team an extra 2 weeks of build time before its first competition in Victoria.

As it turns out, that’s a good thing because the team would not be comfortable competing with its current robot!

While waiting for its next batch of metal, the team deployed as much of the first run of metal parts as possible this week and fabricated the rest out of wood. The wood design was based its next revision and the team is narrowing in on a driveable/usable chassis that integrates all of the pieces for its final design.

Efficiency Gains

Students also started work on a second robot, using skills learned while building the first robot. Many efficiencies were achieved while building the second chassis and it was completed in a fraction of the time. This second chassis is ready to receive the new batch of metal parts while the first robot is used to refine mechanisms and driver and programmer testing.

It’s thanks to amazing support from sponsors that the team is able to build this second robot. This will provide a competitive edge compared to previous years where there was only one robot to be shared by the sub-teams working on drive time, programmer time, and build time. In previous years, one of the three sub-teams missed out on valuable time with the robot.

Special Guest

We invited a special guest from Northpoint Technical Services to show the team how vibration analysis and balancing work in the real world. A high-speed camera with lighting was erected in front of the team’s makeshift launcher and the resulting video was run through post-processing software. This software could amplify minute changes in pixels up to 50 times in order to visibly show how the system vibrated.

Since vibration equates to a loss of efficiency and increased wear, the team hopes to use this tool to balance the final launcher. This gracious demonstration by Northpoint allowed the students to fully visualize how vibrations affect spinning equipment and they have offered to come back once the final robot is ready to help balance the flywheel.

Video Recap

Check back next week for another update on Team Manning Robotics’ progress in the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition.

Week 5

Week 5 Update

Team 4627 has been very busy through the first five weeks of “build season,” and has made good progress in the 2020 First Robotics Competition.

In Week 5, the team received some metalwork from a sponsor, Aaron Machine Shop, and got busy assembling and working around oversights in the model.

Having Fun with the Robot

Programmers have been busy integrating with the vision pipeline and they now have a robot that tracks balls and reflective squares. They also have some rudimentary drivetrain encoder support so now the robot can proceed to a set distance in front of its vision target. This led to some fun with the robot chasing a mentor around the room while the mentor carried a ball or a reflective strip.

For the first time ever, it seems the programming team is ahead of our fabrication team.

Three Weeks to Go

The manufacturing team has been busy building the second road-case in preparation for the trip to Victoria. A few students tried their hand at machining.

These students fabricated parts out of aluminum and acetal on the school’s mini-lathes and mill.

Now there are only 3 weeks left before the first competition!

Video Recap

Check back next week for another update on Team Manning Robotics’ progress in the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition.

Week 4

Week 4 Update

As Week 4, and more importantly, exam-break, came to a close, the team finally managed to get CAD files pushed out to one of their generous sponsors: Aaron Machine Shop.

While testing the ball storage mechanism, the students discovered that these balls behave very differently if they’re touching one another. They’re very grippy, and thus like to crawl all over one another, which meant the design for transporting balls from intake to launcher had to change. This realization happened just an hour before the team intended to release the CAD files. Luckily, a last-minute change to add a second set of belts seemed to address the problem.

Looking Ahead to Next Week

For week 5, there’s still lots to do while they wait for their metal-work to come back.

  • The mechanical team needs to finish its first chassis.
  • The CAD team needs to tie up some loose ends and push out a few more CAD files.
  • The electrical team needs to build an electrical board.
  • The programmers will be busy working on an autonomous path and trajectory code.
  • When not busy working on robot-related tasks, the team is also on a cleaning mission to ensure it continues to meet the regularly-audited CBE safety requirements.

Video Recap

Check back next week for another update on Team Manning Robotics’ progress in the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition.

Week 3

Week 3 Update

The mentors always dread weeks 3 and 4 because it’s exam-break at the school. The kids are vacant for many days because they’re prioritizing academics over robots and are forbidden from attending robotics the day before their exams.

The grade 12 students are under a lot of pressure to write their diploma exams and these are the most critical students on the team due to their experience. These weeks have become known as “hell weeks” among the mentors due to the ever-shortening build time and lack of progress.

Now at the end of week 3, a growing sense of anxiety is ever-present with the mentors.

Progress Notes

  • The team is waiting for its single CAD student to design a robot and the machine shop is eagerly awaiting CAD files.
  • Another ball storage prototype was assembled and appeared to at least partially function.
  • The intake was also prototyped and worked surprisingly well.
  • The programmers successfully managed to merge their individual working branches into the main branch with minor hiccups.
  • The team also got their first chance to test their scouting skills and were tested by the lead scouter to ensure accuracy.

Video Recap

Check back next week for another update on Team Manning Robotics’ progress in the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition.

Week 2

Week 2 Update

This past week students and mentors progressed prototypes and iterated through designs as prototype deficiencies were discovered. The laser cutter was busy cutting MDF for prototypes and mentor credit cards are getting a real workout.

Progress Notes

  • The mechanical, electrical and programming teams all worked together to get two practice robots driving.
  • The programmers made great progress and managed to program their practice robot to follow a ball automatically without input from the controllers. They also used their practice robot to spin the Control Panel, which was fabricated and painted by the game piece build team.
  • The programmers are learning the value of source-code management (git) as they each work on their own features while not breaking the main build code. The CAD design is a little behind due to all of the prototype debugging.

The team looks forward to choosing a final chassis dimension early next week and working to integrate all the mechanism designs into the final robot.

Video Recap

Check back next week for another update on Team Manning Robotics’ progress in the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition.

Week 1

Week 1 Update

Week 1 is over for Team 4627 Manning Robotics. After the game was officially revealed for the 2020 season, the team quickly got to work brainstorming how to meet each of the challenges.

Identified Priorities

  1. Pick up balls from the ground
  2. Hold 5 of them
  3. Aim for the high goal and fire rapidly/accurately
  4. Spin the control-panel (colored wheel)
  5. Climb at the end game and be able to re-balance the switch

Note: some of the above priorities use specific terminology from the game.

Team Manning Robotics Week 1 - FIRST Robotics Competition 2020
While it’s not difficult to think of a way to do each of those things, it’s more difficult to find a way to do that in a single robot that fits within the dimensional constraints listed in the rules, and then also make the robot robust, reliable, agile, and defendable, and do it all in less than 2 months.

This week was spent coming up with those ideas, doing some quick CAD work and making a few prototypes. Here are a few photos and a video from week 1.

Check back next week for another update on Team Manning Robotics’ progress in the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition.