In 2014, we added 3d printing to our repertoire, and have incorporated printed parts in each of our robots since then.  We also expanded our use of computer-assisted design (CAD) in the build season by, for the first time, adding a dedicated CAD sub-team.  With the help of tremendous instructional videos provided to our team by our sponsor, TEDCF Publishing , students on the CAD subteam have utilized their sharpened CAD skills to successfully design and integrate the chassis, devices, and electrical systems. Click here to see video of our 3D printer in action.

This year, we have incorporated carbon fiber into our robot as part of a weight reduction effort. The material was given to us by Middle River Aircraft Systems, a General Electric plant in Baltimore that employs one of our mentors. Thanks to MRAS we now have access to a generous supply of that material and we are looking forward to incorporating carbon fiber even more in the future.  Carbon fiber is a composite material that embeds woven strands of microscopic carbon fibers in an epoxy matrix. It is one-fifth the weight of a comparable volume of steel, and about one half the weight of aluminum, while providing comparable degrees of strength and stiffness.  By learning how to build structural elements out of this material, we hope to create a robot of more robust functionality while staying within the challenging weight limits established by FIRST.  Working with this material presents several challenges, including the difficulty of molding the layered material into the necessary structural shapes, curing the molded material in a vacuum-sealed oven, and machining the hardened material. But we are excited about the challenges and looking forward to building even more sophisticated robots in the future.