Our most asked questions, answered for you.
What does your robot development process look like?
Prototype, prototype, prototype! Before diving into the design, we build prototypes of key mechanisms in question. They are quick & dirty (nothin' fancy, but they get the job done!), but provide valuable information on the concept's feasibility.
Decisions... Not by committee! We find that "designing by committee" often leads to design compromises. As a result, we empower team members to lead and own decisions in the area they are subject matter experts in.
Don't get behind! The six-week build season goes quickly, so when something needs to be done, do it. You only compete a few times in the season, so make the most of the build season.
How do you design your robot?
We use SolidWorks, a 3D modeling software. We essentially complete our entire robot design on the computer before actually fabricating any parts (well, we often start fabricating assemblies prior to design phase completion, provided that they have a low risk of their design changing later). The reasons why are nearly endless, but here are a few:
- Doing so greatly enables an integrated design, one where assemblies can efficiently coexist. The result? Compact and lightweight designs.
- Doing so allows the weight of the robot to be approximated sooner than later. The result? Not having to remake/modify parts (a.k.a., "Swiss-cheesing" the robot... We've all been there!), or worst yet, eliminating mechanisms altogether.
- Doing so allows structural analyses to be conducted on key parts. The result? Parts that are sufficiently strong without being excessively heavy.
- Doing so enables concurrent engineering. The result? Fewer "surprises" due to on-the-fly design work completed independently, only to find out at integration that those designs do not work together on the robot.
- Doing so enables motion analyses. The result? The motion and functionality of mechanisms can be determined upfront prior to fabrication, greatly reducing redesigns and refabrication.
How do you fabricate your robot?
We fabricate essentially all of our parts on metal machining equipment, including:
- Manual mills
- Manual lathes
- CNC mills
- CNC lathes
Additionally, we use the following machines:
- Wire EDM machine
- CNC laser cutter
- TIG welder
- Sheet metal shear
- Sheet metal brake
We also frequently use the following:
- Vertical band saw
- Horizontal band saw
- Vibratory deburring machine
- Bead-blasting cabinet
- Drill press
To program the CNC equipment, we use HSMWorks, a great CAM software package that integrates into SolidWorks. Doing so enables the equipment to be programmed directly from the 3D computer model of the part being machined. Benefits include:
- Very fast programming time.
- Reduced likelihood of programming errors.
- Programs automatically update if the part's design changes.
What language do you program your robot in?
Our robots have been programmed in a few different languages over the years:
- 2005 - 2008: C
- 2009 - 2014: LabVIEW
- 2015 and beyond: Java
Besides the above languages, we also teach Processing during the off-season.
How do I join?
Simple! Contact us. Though our team is primarily known as high-school robotics club, team membership is NOT limited to 9th-12th grade students. We offer FIRST Lego League to 4th - 8th graders and FIRST Tech Challenge as an introduction to FIRST Robotics Challenge for 8th - 10th graders.
Students interested in FLL can join in May, though the season starts at the beginning of the school year. FTC and FRC starts in August.
If you are unable to join this year, you can keep up with our team on our weekly blog.
When do you meet?
We meet essentially year-round. Check out our calendar for an actual schedule, but here is a our general schedule:
- January-February (Robot Build Season)
- Monday-Thursday: 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
- Fridays: 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
- Saturdays: 9:00 am to 10:00 pm
- Sundays: 12:00 pm to 9:00 pm
- Other meetings "as needed"
- March-April (Competition Preparation)
- Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm
- May-August (Summer Learning Series)
- Tuesdays from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm
- September-December (Fall Learning Semester)
- Tuesdays from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
The intensity of the above schedule (especially January-February) can make people hesitant to join. No need to worry! We put academic performance first, and understand that team members have lives outside of Robotics (though some students/mentors would argue the latter!). Thus, while we do expect some level of commitment, we do not expect all team members to be at every meeting.
What was your first year in FIRST?
How many students and mentors are typically on your team each year?
It varies a bit by year, but we typically have ~40 students and ~15 mentors.
Should I join if I am not "mechanically inclined"?
Quite likely! We have a few paths for the "unsure" crowd:
- We get students that do not think they are interested in engineering, only to find out that it is a blast. We have numerous students that were headed down a non-engineering career path, only to change to engineering in college after being on our team.
- We get students that truly have no interest in engineering, but still contribute greatly to our team's success. Here are a few ways how:
- Website. Design website pages and create fun/useful website content.
- Spirit. Design shirts, make all sorts of swag, create cheers, and get the team pumped up!
- Awards. Do you like to write? If so, there are several awards that involve writing essays.
- Media. Like taking pictures are making videos? We could use you! We create slide shows and team videos for our competition, banquet, etcetera.
Is your team fun?
Yes! Besides having fun learning about all of the "engineering stuff" and important life skills, we like to hang out and have fun "off the clock". Game nights, movie nights, holiday parties, and banquets are just a few of the fun things we do.
Where does your team name come from?
Great question! Our original meeting place was Silver Creek High School. Our rookie year, we found ourselves "up a creek" a few times during the build season. Thus, the name Up-A-Creek Robotics was born. On a side note, we believe that being up a creek without a paddle is actually a better scenario than being down a creek without a paddle, so yay for our name again!
Who are your sponsors?
First, thanks to our sponsors for their support. We would not exist without them. Our main sponsors are Seagate Technology, Amgen, and Dynamic Design & Manufacturing. Additionally, we have a range of other great sponsors located on our Sponsors page.
Where are you located?
Our home base is 950 S Sherman Street, Unit 300, Longmont, CO:
What do you do during the off-season?
We meet essentially year-round, so we really do not have an off-season, per se. Having said that, we generally focus on the following outside of the robot build/competition season:
- Community events
- Sponsor visits
- Additional learning activities
- Running educational summer camps
Who should I contact for more information?
Us! Simply fill out the Contact us form to get more details.
What summer activities do you do?
Our team hosts educational and fun summer camps in June and July. These camps are very affordable and students love them! We host camps like Cooperative Minecraft Camp, Girls STEAM Camp, Photoshop & Aftereffects, and a few machining camps.
We also host free, weekly drop-in nights all summer. Here students can learn to program at any level, learn SolidWorks, or branch off and start an independent study with the help of our team members and mentors.