Originally separated into only three groups, Blue Tide is currently divided into four sub-teams: mechanical, assembly, programming/electrical, and SolidWorks. Everyone on the team learns the basics in each of these areas (so that any member can complete any task) but also specializes in a specific sub-team.
In the Blue Tide’s first year (2009), the programming team chose to use LabView, a graphical computer language. But in the team’s second year, the team decided to switch to C++, a more complicated yet more liberating language that they still use to this day. The team not only makes the robot’s wheels move but also develops controls for a competition-specific manipulator and takes advantage of a variety of sensors. (For example, in Aerial Assist, the 2014 challenge, they used an ultrasonic sensor to detect the distance between the robot and the goal and used this distance to automatically fire the ball at the correct speed.)
The electrical team is in charge of all of the electronics and the nest of wires on the robot. They must connect all essential components to the robot: the motor controllers, any extra sensors (such as potentiometers or a limit switches), and the roboRIO, the brain of the robot. While the team’s job may seem easy, all the wires must be hooked up correctly; a bad connection may result in something the team knows as “magic smoke,” which means that the once-perfect electronic is now destroyed. The team also must make sure that all the wires are neatly arranged in order to facilitate repairs.
This sub-team designs the entire robot from start to finish using SolidWorks, a computer-aided design (CAD) program. During build season, the SolidWorks team designs the basic frame of the robot as well as a competition-specific manipulator for the year. (In 2013, this was a Frisbee shooter; in 2014, it was a very powerful flipper.) This sub-team also creates other competition-specific items for more minor challenges. When these designs are completed and all measurements have been recorded, these drawings are passed to the mechanical and assembly teams.
The mechanical team is the largest sub-team on Blue Tide. Its members build almost everything else on the robot: the wheels, chains, gearboxes, and competition-specific manipulator. While the team previously only used drill presses, hand-held drills, and basic tools, it later began to make use of more sophisticated items such as a chop saw, a mill, and a lathe after donations from Blue Tide’s sponsors.
The assembly sub-team merges the plethora of components prepared by the mechanical sub-team into one robot. The members of this team are most active in the days leading up to bag and tag, in which they must ensure that all components are properly attached to the robot. This task was recorded in time-lapse in 2014.