The DC Regional 2011 FIRST Robotics competition has come and gone. I was a member of the rookie team #3455 and I really enjoyed participating in the competition for the first time. While we were not able to move onto the FIRST Championships in St. Louis, Missouri, we still were the highest ranked rookie team being seeded 21st out of 60+ teams by the end of the competition. Below is a picture of our robot (ours is the one in the foreground).
Two teams that stood out to me for doing very well were teams #233 (The Pink Team) and #2016 (The Mighty Monkey Wrenches). Between the teams there were two key design choices that I believe helped them win.
The first important choice was the design of their claw to pick up Ubertubes. Both team 233 and 2016 had an "accumulator" claw where each prong had wheels that would rotate inward. The claw couldn't open or close, but it allowed the team to just push it at an Ubertube and it would be sucked into the claw. The other advantage that this gives is it allows them to rotate the tube while in the claw, so it can be at an optimal angle when placing it on a peg.
The second important choice only appeared in the Pink Team, which was having a telescoping claw arm that could rotate more than 180 degrees. Using their accumulator claw, they were able to quickly pick up ubertubes, then due to the linear shape of the playing field, they could just go in the reverse direction back to the scoring rack without turning around; all they would have to do is rotate the claw's arm backwards while they were traveling to the scoring area. Once they got to the pegs, they would extend their arm and place the ubertube on the peg. This design is ingenious because it reduces travel time by allowing them to go backwards instead of having to turn, and it makes the robot significantly more agile because it has a low center of gravity (the arm is only extended when they stopped in front of the scoring rack).
Below is a video of the Pink team at the Florida FRC Regional Competition. (they're the team with the all-pink robot). Notice how their claw works and how agile the robot is.