Hardware Hooligans: Getting Robots Ready Faster with Creo and Windchill

If you’re a regular visitor to the PTC User Community, you might already know Trevor of the Hard-Hitting Hardware Hooligans. A high school student from Maryland, Trevor has been using PTC products, including Creo, to design and build robots for FIRST competitions since 2012.

As he works with the design software, he visits the forum, looking for advice and offering tips of his own. “The PTC Community is really great,” says Trevor. “Sometimes I’ll ask a question and get a response in 10 minutes!”

I recently talked to Trevor to find out more about him and his team.

The Hardware Hooligans formed just last year as part of a larger county-wide 4-H group called the Mindstorm Maniacs. The youngest kids in the program start at 6 years old building models from LEGOs and motorized parts. In fact, Trevor initially learned his CAD skills from a mentor while participating in a similar group.

By the time club members join the Hooligans, they’re ready to put away the children’s blocks and take on more sophisticated fabrication methods—like machining and 3D printing.

“The Hardware Hooligan’s mentor has access to a milling machine,” says Trevor. “So we design in Creo, then create the 2D drawings, add annotations, show dimensions, print it out, and take it to the machine shop.”

The team’s mentor not only gives the team the connections they need to build physical assemblies, he also teaches the kids to optimize their drawings. “He showed us how to create effective 2D drawings that are easier for machinists to read and move faster through the manufacturing process,” says Trevor.

The Hooligans use CAD software for parts that are destined for the 3D printer, too.  Trevor says he designs the parts in Creo, and his teammate (who owns the printer) modifies them for additive manufacturing. But 3D CAD is not only essential to getting designs printed, it helps with collaboration too. “We’re more effective because we can visualize ideas as a team with Creo,” Trevor says.

3D model of box assembly for 2014/2015 robot, designed with Creo.

Box assembly during printing.

Even though 2014/2015 was the Hardware Hooligan’s rookie year of competition, the boys amassed two PTC design awards, a nomination for a third, and advanced to their state championship. You can see them in action—along with a heaping dose of parental enthusiasm—in the video below (Hooligans wear green hats):

We’re impressed. But Trevor says they could do better. For example, he hopes to design a universal drive train that the Hooligans can modify easily before next season. In FIRST robotics competitions, teams don’t know what tasks their robots will be asked to perform until September each year. Nonetheless, Trevor says the drive train generally doesn’t have to change from season to season. “It’s the things that you mount on it that change a lot.”

He knows the team will need axles too. So he hopes this summer to machine some  that can be quickly cut to size once the next robot is underway.

The team will also enlist Windchill, professional product lifecycle management (PLM) software that creates a central repository for all product-related information. “Using Windchill, I can send designs to other team members and mentors to speed up development next season.”

But don’t expect him to put off getting started with the PLM software until next year—he’s been reaching out for Windchill tips from the user community since February.

Hard-Hitting Hardware Hooligans: Richard, Samuel, Geoffrey, Michael, and Trevor

[Ed – PTC is a FIRST Strategic Partner. Visit our Academic Program website to find out more.]