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Zach Olsen

First Robotic Competition

The FRC (First Robotic Competition) is put on through FIRST and used to provide hands-on design/mechanical physics and engineering experience to high school students—along with valuable teamwork building and project management skills. This year, Team 2641 (a.k.a. the Vikings) of Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School decided to implement PBC Linear’s Uni-Guide linear slide for reliable operation of their robot’s “kicking” mechanism. Installed into a system they designed, the Vikings took the Uni-Guide through a host of competitive events throughout the country, pitting their design against other high school teams in a remote control game put together to test the ingenuity of each team!

FRC varies their game every year. For 2010, FRC rolled out Breakaway: a team effort game using a 27’ x 54’ carpeted field divided into thirds by two 13’’ barriers. The teams are grouped into alliances (3 teams and 3 robots per alliance). The robots use varied student-made designs to toss soccer balls at targets located on either side of the field in order to score points—the Vikings accomplished this utilizing their Uni-Guide controlled design. Teams can also score points by elevating or suspending robots by climbing towers at the center of the dividing barriers. To summarize, the alliance has 2 minutes 15 seconds to score the most points using their 3 unique and FRC approved robots.

Uni-Guide Robot Kicker ArmAt the beginning of the season, each team is given a strict budget of $3500.00 to create their unique robot design. For their robot, the Vikings required a reliable linear guide system to conduct the kicking mechanism in order to shoot the soccer balls into the targets. The linear guide would need to endure several performance obstacles: high shock vibration from periodic impact crashes during the game; functioning in particulate-heavy environments due to steel and aluminum filings; and fast changing repeatability under high charged loads.

The Vikings decided to go with PBC Linear’s Uni-Guide system. Using a motor driven, dual-carriage design, the Uni-Guide would drive one carriage down the slide and attach to the other. As the second carriage was retracted back up the slide, potential energy built-up—awaiting the trigger’s release. Once triggered, the carriage releases in a slingshot-like motion to provide the kicking foot with enough energy to easily knock soccer balls into the goal.

Uni-Guide Robot Kicker ArmThe Uni-Guide was the perfect solution. The linear slide’s plane bearing technology sustained smooth velocity control for the operation of the “kicking foot.” Containing no rolling elements, the Uni-Guide tolerates shock forces and contamination without experiencing system failure or binding. The simple, two-piece (rail and carriage) assembly mounts to existing systems and is precision machined to ensure high accuracy and repeatable travel. This reduces cost by eliminating further alignment machining and fasteners that other multiple piece linear guide assemblies require. Available in driven or un-driven assemblies with multiple carriages, the Uni-Guide is well-suited for unique applications that necessitate sophisticated control—even in harsh surroundings.

Put to the test in three regional competitions, the Vikings’ robot excelled in mechanical performance due to the team’s innovative design and hard-working components; such as the Uni-Guide. The Vikings were even recognized for their design, winning an award for Innovation and Control at the 2010 Long Island Regional (at which they also took first place). To learn more about the Vikings Robotics Team or FRC, please visit their website at

For more information on PBC Linear’s Uni-Guide, such as more application examples and detailed technical data, please call 1.800.729.9085, email to marketing@pbclinear.comor visit us at our Uni-Guide dedicated page at



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