So this build season’s painfully short hours have, in my opinion, led Shaker to unintentionally stumble into a great design process. The process has essentially been this:

1. Analyze strategy and prioritize.

2. Come up with a concept for each subsystem to match the strategy.

3. Simplify the subsystems.

4. Integrate subsystem design.

5. Simplify the integrated design.

6. Cut out all non-essential features and see if it still works.

7. Repeat steps 4 on until the robot is doable.

This rough process, combined with some lessons from JVN’s excellent design presentation, has served us very well. Eliminating robot design on strategy day made picking and prioritizing quite easy. Egos were put aside and consensus was built – we did strategy and drivetrain selection in 2 hours! Then we come up with ideas… then we cut them down, with never ending revision after revision. This eye to detail and critical attention put on the design as a whole instead of building piece by piece has led to part after part getting simpler and simpler.

I think the key to FIRST design is a lot like weight reduction. Start big, think big picture, make sure your piece does what you want it to, then cut away everything extraneous and non-essential.