For our first mentor outside of our home state of Texas, we bring you the coach of one of the most successful FRC teams of all time. Adam Freeman joined the HOT Team (FRC#67) during their Hall of Fame 2005 season. He has been a crucial mentor of the team that has won three World Championships and three Michigan State Championships. Let’s hear from him on some of his favorite designs, what he works on at GM, and how HOT has been so successful for so long.
BSME – Michigan Technological University, 2002
MSME – University of Michigan, 2010
Former Team(s): None
Location: Milford, MI
Hobbies: Tons…Robotics, Mountain Biking, Hunting, Motocross, Fast Cars, Sports (anything but golf).
I’m honored to be selected as one of the first people for this project. I am always interested in learning more about the people in this community. I’m not sure there’s anything that special about me, but we’ll see what happens when I answer the questions.
Some background information that wasn’t included in the questions. I started on the HOT team in 2005. From a design perspective I typically work on arms, collectors, and shooters. I have led the design of:- The flip out “pitch fork” on our 2005 robot
– The shooter and ball storage on our 2006 robot
– The arm and roller claw in 2007
– The upper structure and arm in 2008.
– The intake, ball delivery, and shooter in 2009.
– 2010’s utility shifter that pulled back the kicker and powered the panel that the gas strut hanger was attached too.
– 2011’s second stage of the elevator lift – claw grabber and short arm that hung the tubes. Also worked on part of the mini-bot chassis and developed our window motor shifter.
– Utility arm, gearbox, ball collection, and shifter in 2012.
– 2013’s shooter and shooter rotation mechanism.
From a competition standpoint: I was assistant coach and lead advanced scout from 2005-2008. I advised our drive coach on upcoming matches (opponents and partners), reviewed previous match strategy and execution, and was responsible for developing our pick list and selecting alliance partners. This job basically consisted of watching every match of a competition and knowing every team better than they know themselves. From a scouting philosophy I usually rely on my “gut” and subjective rating of a team more so than a data driven decision. I used data such as OPR, CCWM, points, and win/loss to bolster my decisions.
In 2009, I was named as drive coach replacing our previous drive coach that retired from GM and the team. I’ve been privileged enough to keep the drive coach position every year since.
I am very competitive. As a coach, I get nervous before each match…always worrying about what might happen with the robot, drivers, or what we may experience from our partners or the other alliance. As soon as autonomous ends I get very “excitable” out there. I pace, I yell, I point, I jump up and down, I cheer, I tell other teams what to do or don’t do. And, I’m sure I go over the line occasionally (at least a couple times a season).
From a coaching strategy standpoint, I try to keep things as simple as possible. As a 99% offensive team, my strategies usually revolve around figuring out how we score as many points as possible, and I don’t worry much about how to slow down our opponents. Basically, if we are sacrificing our offense to stop theirs, it’s not really a strategy I would choose. Overall I try to figure out the simplest plan for us to maximize our strengths (or the strengths of the best team on our alliance), then fit our other alliance partners in around that, either as secondary offense or as defenders.
On the field coaching is my favorite thing to do in FIRST. Getting the opportunity to work with our most talented students, other team’s most talented students, and all the other great coaches has been incredible. I have been lucky enough to coach with some of the greatest coaches in FIRST; Paul and Mike Copioli (217/3539), Dan Kimura (469), Jim Zondag (33), Amir Abo-Sheer (1717), Raul Olivera, Kyle “Commander” Willick (1114), Tyler Holtzman (2056), Ricky Quinones (148), Jake Fischer (2826), just to name drop a few. I did get the chance to work with Ken Patton and JVN as well, but they have since retired from coaching…
What inspired you to do what you do?
I joined the team not knowing anything about the mission of FIRST. I was just impressed with the robots and the opportunity to design some cool stuff that would actually be made and used on the robot. That first season was interesting. I had no idea what it meant to be a “mentor”. I worked exclusively either by myself or with Jim during the build season. I was almost just like a freshmen student… no clue what to do and figured everyone knew more than I did.
Throughout the season, I observed the students and learned more about them. Getting to know both the students and the mentor during the season, it was just such a great bunch of people to work with. Take the people, combine that with the opportunity to design cool stuff, and add in the competition aspect…I was hooked.
Some times are easier than other, but I still love doing this no matter how hard it gets.
What is your day job, and how’d you get there?
In 2004 I was transferred to the MPG, in to the Product Usage and Measurement Group. This is where I worked with our Chief Engineer. In this group we created the durability tests that GM uses test durability and validate our vehicle designs.
In 2006 I switched groups to the RedX group as a problem solver. This group works on any type of Warranty, Development, Pre-production, Assembly Plant, etc… issue that GM is having an issue with. RedX is a problem solving methodology of root cause convergence based on strategy and contrast. Using this problem solving methodology we work on any part of a vehicle from “Bumper to Bumper”. I worked as a problem solver from 2006 -2009. In 2010 I was promoted to Supervisor. Either as problem solver or supervisor, I have had the opportunity to work on some of GM’s most important issues.
This is a very cool job. We have our own 6 hoist garage, full of tools. We have basically any type of measurement equipment we need (accelerometers, strain gauges, thermo-couples, etc…). We have a lab setup with a high powered microscope….and we have two talented technicians that can basically build any fixture we need. If I had to describe it quickly, we are like a CSI group for automotive issues. We work backwards from a specific customer complaint or forensics of an issue, all the way back to the specific feature or process that caused the issue.
What is your favorite story to tell about robotics?
So around 6:45pm the last match ends, scores are announced, confetti falls all over… with our robot and 177’s robot hanging on the tower. We all are celebrating out on the field, just like everyone does each year. We keep hearing that we might have a chance to be on CNN that night, with an interview of the winners.
The on field celebration ends around 7:45pm. During the celebration, we were notified and arrangements were made for students and robots to be on CNN. Students were supposed to be on around 10pm. Awesome!
So we returned to pits for teardown. 294 was arranging with the shipping company about how to get the robots back in the crate after the interview. There was some difficulty with getting the robots back in the crates afterward, since the I believe the convention center was supposed to be closed around 10pm. Someone decided no robots were needed. So, all three robots were crated up.
We arrive at the CNN food court around 9pm with the students. As we are sitting there PR Rep comes to us and tells us the decision from CNN is that robots will be needed around 9:30pm, for a 10pm spot. After a brief discussion with her that it’s virtually impossible to have that accomplished, since the robots are crated up about a mile away… 294 decides they will attempt to get their robot out of the crate. We decide if their robot is going to be on national TV, so is ours! 177 decides the same thing.
67, 294, 177 rush to pits to un-crate robots. If you remember the distance from the CNN center to the pits was at least one mile. Most of us just sprinted that distance to get to the robots as quickly as possible. 294 is the only team with any tools available. They un-crate their robot and hand the tools to us. We arrange for our van to transport our robot and 294’s to the CNN center. Robots are turned sideways and stuffed into the seats of a 12 passenger van. 294 also re-assembles their crate and 177 carts their robot to CNN center.
The robots arrive around 10pm. 294’s robot is stacked on top of our robot. The robots are pushed into the CNN center, up one elevator, over and up another, through the CNN offices, and into the studio.
The students and robots appear on the air around 10:30pm.