Engineering Notebook
2014 Arial Assist

Table of Contents
  1. I. Game and Rule Review
    1. 1. Discussion
    2. 2. Brainstorming
    3. 3. Game plans
  2. II. Initial Design and Prototyping
    1. 1. Slingshot
    2. 2. Box-bot
    3. 3. Vacuum
    4. 4. Catapult
  3. III. Robot Development History
    1. 1. Catapult
    2. 2. Vacuum
    3. 3. Winch
  4. IV. Robot Component Breakdown
  5. V. Test and Simulation
  6. VI. Lessons Learned

Game and Rule Review


On Saturday January 4th, the day of the kickoff, we organized a meeting in our classroom to review the Kit of Parts and the Game Manual. WE watched the ten game videos a couple of times. After we fully understood the rules regarding the robot, we identified the major aspects and abilities for this year’s competition. They were:
- Pickup
- Passing
- Shooting
- Blocking
- Maneuvering
- Blocking


These were some of the more supported and feasible ideas that were brought up.


- Roller intake
- Claws
- Lift


- Catapult
- Slingshot
- Pneumatic launcher
We wrote down a full list of potential features onto a sheet of paper, even the unrealistic ones.

Soon after we began to brainstorm, the more plausible ideas received further development by the team. Soon, basic potential robot structure began to appear. Below are some the ideas that were more developed that day, as well as illustrations of the rules to aid in clarification.

Game Plans

After analyzing the scoring system, we started to look at which of the competition elements were the most important. We also came up with a thought experiment that involved figuring out how many points can be scored using different strategies. We figured that trying to earn more bonus points per ball would end up in less balls being scored. We also took into account that more complex robots have higher failure rates. We eventually decided that because this competition is so focused on cooperation, it would be best to make a robot that could adapt to various situations, and make it a team friendly robot. Following are pictures from the kickoff discussions.

Initial Design and Prototyping

We decided that we would give everyone one week to assemble prototype of their ideas to see if they are plausible. These prototypes usually consist of wood and other cheap, expendable materials for structure and pre-assembled parts for function. We make them so that we can get an approximation of what a final version may look and function like. Though we also made CAD models, many of them have been too time consuming to make and have often proved not useful enough for the time required. This however, will change as in the future we will start teaching newcomers how to properly use the CAD tools available.


This was one of the simplest and easiest concepts to build and test. As such, it was also the first one that was built. It was simply a rectangular wooden frame with surgical tubing tied to the sides. The frame was previously used as a means of transporting last year’s robot on a dolly. After some experimentation we found that it wasn’t very powerful, and it was essentially scrapped. We did, however, find that it was exceptional as a base for our catapult prototype, as it was the correct size and was very sturdy. We reused it (again) for the catapult base. Here’s a picture of it. The notches were intended to fit on the metal bars of a dolly.


This was an interesting idea that consisted of a hollow box robot that used rollers on all 4 sides to pick up and spit the ball from any direction. It would also have a funnel to catch, and a puncher to launch the ball upward. A basic prototype was built.

However we soon discovered that the amount of compactness needed for such a design was nearly impossible, so it didn’t see much advancement. We decided that there wasn’t enough benefit from such a design, as it would have a compromised shooting system. The idea of a folding catcher on the final robot was adopted from this concept, so it was still useful to us.


This concept was one of the most interesting that we had. What essentially happened is that one of us randomly and jokingly stated that we could just use a vacuum to hold the ball. Curiosity took over and we took a shop vacuum and used duct tape to take the hose to the bottom of a Home Depot Multipurpose Bucket. It actually worked, much better than any of us could have ever thought. This idea would go on and make it onto the final iteration of the robot.


The glorious medieval siege weapon makes a grand return in 21st century time and time again. We chose this design because it was the most compatible with the vacuum concept. We found that putting the vacuum on the end of the catapult arm would give us the most control. A vacuum bucket would also act as an excellent holder for launching, as it is also stable. The catapult arm plus an adjustable wrist on the vacuum seemed to be the design with the highest adaptability. This prototype was the most developed, and underwent many drastic changes.