FRC robotics team 118 (The Robonauts) was founded by the Clear Creek Independent School District and NASA JSC back in 1997. For the better part of 23 years, the Robonauts have been competing in robotics competitions and have been mentoring junior teams by developing affordable robots they can build using off-the-shelf parts that can be found at local hardware stores and online outlets.
They have been designing inexpensive ‘Everybots’ for teams just starting in the competition world since 2014, and have recently unveiled their latest model for the 2020 season, which uses a robotic arm like a front-end loader to collect balls and place them in a designated receptacle.
The Everybot 2020 was built around a Ni roboRIO Advanced Robotics Controller, which packs an Arm Cortex-A9 processor and a customizable Xilinx FPGA coprocessor. The module also features everything needed to control robots, including ports for I2C, SPI, RS232, PWM, USB, Ethernet, and relays.
Normally, the Ni roboRIO robotics controller retails for $1,000 on its own, but online electronics outlet AndyMark has dropped that price down to $435 for FIRST Robotics Competition teams, which is significant, as the Everybot 2020 has a strict $1,000 budget. The remaining funds go towards the remaining hardware, including pool noodles for the bumpers, motor for the arm and drive train, nuts and bolts, the frame, and more.
The Everybot 2020 is meant to take on the challenges of this year’s First Infinite Recharge competition, which was formed in partnership with Lucas Film and Star Wars: Force for Change initiative. Challengers score points using basic scoring tasks such as driving over boundaries and through trenches, picking up and holding power cells, and depositing them in a designated port, among a host of others.