Meet Sir Render, our 2016 FIRST Stronghold Robot! (+Build Season and Design Synopsis)

[This post is not yet complete, it was published to show progress Team 2559, Normality Zero has made in 2016, please bare with us! Thank You.]

On Saturday, January 9th, FIRST announced the 2016 FRC game and it’s objectives to teams worldwide. Fast forward six weeks, and Team 2559, Normality Zero puts the finishing touches onto their new 2016 FIRST Stronghold robot, Sir Render.

Team 2559, Normality Zero, and their new robot Sir Render, competed in two district events, and one regional championship event, more information can be found in the blog post corresponding to each event.

Normality Zero 2016 FIRST Stronghold Robot Sir Render Side ProfileNormality Zero 2016 FIRST Stronghold Robot Sir Render



















The 2016 game, Stronghold was unprecedented in the FIRST community, requiring a very different approach compared to previous games. Stronghold’s brutal defenses would require a robot to be robustly built, while also satisfying a non stock drive train configuration. With all these new ideas and engineering challenges incorporated into this year’s game, Normality Zero had no choice but to consider a very different approach to the FRC build season. This year’s team would be vastly different from it’s 2015 counterpart, and not just solely in regards to the robot, but the involvement of students and organization as a whole.




This aforementioned change in approach to the build season schedule took form on the first day of build season, kick off.

During the day of the game kick off, Normality Zero students and mentors split into two groups, one group headed to a kick off location in New Jersey to acquire official game documentation and the FIRST kit of parts, while another group stayed at Dauphin County Technical School. The group of students that stayed behind were composed of primarily senior and junior members, they were tasked with dissecting the new game. Students worked diligently reading the 2016 game manual and going over possible game strategies, and rulings. The kick off day was very focused and productive, as students were able to comprehend the limitations and possibilities of their new challenge.




Following the initial day of kick off, strategy meetings were held to determine the overall priorities and functions of the robot. These strategy meetings spanned the coarse of three days, during which students and mentors agreed on building a robot that would perform the following tasks (in order of priority):

  1. Breach Defenses
  2. Consistently Shoot into the High Goal
  3. Scale
  4. Shoot into the Low Goal

The team had determined the what and why of the robot, their next goal was to determine the how and when. In order to do so, students and mentors worked together bouncing initial designs and concepts off one another in board room style discussion. This conceptualizing eventually was guided into a much more formal approach in which students paired off with mentors to individually express a potential design. The team came up with dozens of designs, all being roughly sketched out, and discussed. Following this discussion it was clear that the engineering mentors and students were on the same page, as they agreed on many of the principles that compose Sir Render as a robot.

Following this consensus was a plan to partition the design and build of the robot into it’s main subsystems: the drive train, articulating arm/intake, and shooting mechanism.


Normality Zero 2016 Drive Train Modules

Arguably the most important subsystem of the robot was going to be the drive train, as FIRST Stronghold implemented various defenses that a standard kit of parts drive system would not be able to traverse, a custom fabricated drive train seemed like an ideal choice. After considering various options, the team narrowed their robot’s drive system down to two popular candidates, six wheel pneumatic tire tank drive, and tank tread drive. Students and engineers both worked on identifying the strong and weak points of each system, until a clear winner could be determined. After an initial struggle, team 2559 opted for the six wheel pneumatic drive system.

CAD Model of Normality Zero 2016 Drive Train ModuleInstead of using a consumer off the shelf drive train from popular FIRST vendor AndyMark, team 2559 decided to develop and fabricate their own custom drive train, a first in the history of the team. The custom drive train featured elements from the standard kit of parts drive train and pneumatic wheel adjustment kit. The drive train was modeled in CAD and truly worked as a subsystem in which each side of the robot’s drive system was modular. Following the CAD modeling of the drive train modules, a sheet of 6061-T6 aluminum was sent out to major team sponsor, and employer of most of Normality Zero’s new mentors. TE Connectivity, who was then able to use a water jet cutter to precisely cut the drive train modules.

While in the fabrication for the new drive train was taking place, students set up a mock drive-only robot so electrical and programming students were able to start developing the control system of the 2016 robot.

The pneumatic tires of the drive train would  allow the robot to traverse most of the obstacles present in the game, as their compression allowed for a easier flow while driving over obstacles. The spacing between the tires was carefully determined so the robot would not be able to get stuck on an obstacle, rendering it ineffective. Each wheel was driven by a belt system which was powered by a ToughBox mini gearbox, with two CIM motors attached. The ToughBox mini gearboxes needed a new shaft which was to be modified to match the new drive module spacing, a new gearbox shaft was not readily available so team 2559 decided to custom fabricate the gearbox axle out of steel. The drive train was a major design challenge as it was the structural basis of the robot, as well as the primary subsystem, fortunately for the team the drive train was fully functional during week three of build season.

Drive Train 2016 Top Side View

Drive Train 2016 Drive Train Master View