FIRST Robotics Competition Machine Shop

Sector67 is proud to partner with Tormach (Waunakee, WI) to provide a mobile machine shop for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in 2017 and 2018 for the Seven River’s WI Regional Championship as well as the World Championship in St. Louis (2017) and Detroit (2018). We’re generously supported in this effort by Alliant Energy, Tormach, Zendesk, Miller, Dremel, Milwaukee Tools and King Trailer Company – who have worked together to provide cash, equipment, tools, and resources to make our mobile workspace a reality!

In March, 2017 Alliant Energy donated an old F550 service truck and money to purchase a suitable trailer to house our equipment:

This provided us with a capable platform to haul a lot of equipment and weight anywhere we needed to be.  The next step was to figure out what could fit in the trailer and to sort out what size workbenches made the most sense:

Tormach committed to providing a 440 milling machine, staff, and finances to help with other equipment to fill the trailer.  We decided to build dedicated workbenches that would house equipment only used on the trailer.  The first step was to weld up frames and build durable wood workbenches that would hold up to the abuse of riding in a trailer all over the country:

Most importantly they seemed to fit as planned!

We’d been collecting a lot of smaller equipment that wasn’t a good fit for our shop, but would be a great asset on a mobile work platform where you couldn’t afford the footprint of larger tools.  Other equipment was purchased or were timely donations, Madison Kipp Corporation was able to contribute a portable welding exhaust collector that was just collecting dust around their shop (yep, that’s a pun folks):

Which was a nice match for a pair of MIG and TIG welders and plasma cutter contributed by Miller:

Ultimately we split the equipment into cold working tools we could keep indoors, and a hot working table that could be placed wherever was appropriate for the venue.  We’ve had to weld and work inside the trailer, inside a loading dock, and outdoors depending on the situation but it works out well with the fume extractor and light weight welders.

We attended the 2017 La Crosse Seven River’s Regional FRC and had a great time working out the bugs and testing out the equipment:

We ended up with some jobs that were well beyond the capability of the equipment, but in the right hands no job is too complicated:

Teaching all of the kids how locks work is an added bonus for the teams who were out of the competition:

At the end of April 2017 we geared up to head down the St. Louis for the world championship and many many more teams to support:

The magnitude of the competition is tough to grasp, but we’re looking at roughly 20,000 students around for the contest!


and lots of broken robots to help repair:

A bird’s eye view of the machine shop:

We had a great time partnering with some local volunteers who brought in a bunch of their own machine tools to lend a hand with repairs as well.


This year we’re just finishing up at the Seven River’s Regional Competition and are excited to head to Detroit for the world championship:

The process is pretty simple, student participants stop over and ask for help, the request is documented in case we need to follow up/etc:

and then we do the best we can.  Sometimes we’re working from a napkin sketch, other times teams have a fully FEA’d (Finite Element Analysis, effectively a computer simulation of strength) part that’s been worked on for months but just broke:

Overall we could never run these outreach opportunities without generous support from our sponsors – Alliant Energy, Tormach, Zendesk, Miller, Dremel, Milwaukee Tools, and King Trailer Company.  We’re always looking for more contributors to help cover our costs and improve services.

Alliant’s contribution of an old service truck has been invaluable in many other ways, we’ve been able to pick up and move tons of iron for the iron pour:

and many piles of salvage materials to allow us to build our permanent home:

And we’re looking forward to more All Hand’s On metalworking activities a little closer to home!


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