View Full Version : Pre-Rookie Teams - The How To

Keith Chester
05-15-2005, 01:25 PM
My team has always had a backroom, jam packed with spare parts, poles of metal leaning against cabinets jam packed with old speed controllers, unused sensors or gyros... but what sticks out the most of this backroom is that on a shelf approximately five feet high stands 4 proud robots, armor cracked, dented, nicked; each waiting to have their fifth sister retire and join them.

Every year we would reveal the backroom to freshmen members as an impromptu unveiling of a new frontier for them. They would marvel over the tall shelf and its contents, as each member tells stories of the hundreds of hours spent on each - the all-nights, blood and sweat poured over each, failures and victories that stand out in their history.

Yet still these robots just sit there collecting dust as time goes on. It wasn't until our love of FIRST caused us to reach out and spread the program to every high school, and the idea of a certain Senior Mentor of FIRST, that we realized these robots were not quite dead yet.

After getting three of our prospective rookie teams (pre-rookie, for short) excited over FIRST by inviting them to the NJ Regional, they e-mailed us, craving for more. Save for a few off season competitions or robot demos at their school, there was little we could do. Finally, at the initial idea of Paul Kloberg, we took the infamous Evil Machine from 2003 and our 2004 robot, modifying each to play this year's game. The task wasn't easy- Easy Machine, even with the arm completely out, stands a mere four feet tall. With the help of a few zip ties and a tarp, the robot was an overpower blocker/tetra-dumper. The 2004 robot required a bit more work- a removal of treads, wheelie bars for the platform, and the hanging hook, as well as a modified tetra grabber and added pole, the robot was ready to cap up to ten feet high! And it wasn't us that modified the robot - it was instead Howell high school that would compete under the number 1721 at Montclair Mayhem that drove an HOUR just to modify the bot and practice driving it.

The competition was a huge success- I personally mentored 1721, while "Big Mike" Schroeder mentored 1725. Both of us agreed- the looks on the faces of these kids as they drove a real robot in a competitive round, as they capped or dropped a tetra underneath a goal, as they ran a tetra over to their modified robot as fast as they could - it was worth all the hours of work. The excitement I received from 1721 was unparalleled by any robot demonstration I've done in a school (and I've done many, many, many demos with 25). I can guarantee that not only will 1721 and 1725 manage through their rookie year over every challenge that could be thrown at them, but will come through with the right attitude and expectations of the competition.

The How To

The first step, of course, is finding a high school without a team. Weeks ahead of time, begin e-mail correspondence with the closest off-season competition. Once they give permission (and hopefully a discount) for pre-rookie teams to compete, forward a copy of the complete game manual, one-page summary, and animation for this year's game. Encourage the team to have each of their members look closely to the documents.

If possible, have that high school come to your school up to a week ahead of the competition. Approximately 10 members is appropriate for the job. Have the pre-rookie high school, not your own members, modify the robot. This imparts a sense of ownership of the robot and makes them feel as if they built the robot. Of course, have the tools, experience, and firsthand knowledge of the robot on hand by having STUDENTS of your team working with students of the other team. Remember- the students are the ones you want to inspire, so having them get hands on with your robots is imperative.

Modifications are simple- a modicum of creativity is all that's required to make a robot a successful tetra manipulator. Because of the plethora of different designs of robots from all the years, I can't simply write a "how-to" and modifying the robot. Just remember- an arm isn't required, and a simple tetra dumper is just as fun to use for a pre-rookie team as a complicated arm made to life a tetra.

Be sure to select a single experienced member of the team, preferably still a student or recent graduate of the team. The younger, the better, as they'll be able to connect better with students of the pre-rookie team. This student is to spend as much time as possible with the pre-rookie team, actually becoming accepted as a member of their group. This member will act as drive coach and mentor to this pre-rookie team at the competition.

Be sure to provide two to three batteries, a charger, and possibly a few tools to the team.

At the competition, try and give the pre-rookie team their own area. Hopefully the competition gave the pre-rookies their own table.

Other than the mentor that your team provided the pre-rookie team, leave the pre-rookie in their own area. Of course you can offer help and answer any and all questions they have, but by leaving them be in their own area makes them feel equal to a regular veteran team.

Mentor students- be sure to have your pre-rookie team set up a battery system so that the pre-rookies always have a charged battery come match time.

In the event of robot wear and tear (especially since the older robots have the disadvantage of age), or even robot maintenance such as charging the compressor or resetting aspects of the robot, let the pre-rookie team handle it. As always, needed tools and parts, as well as experienced students from your team, can be provided the pre-rookie in repairing the robot in tight jams or in the event of significant damage, but unless its needed, let the pre-rookie team handle the robot on their own. This is to ensure that the team feels capable and like a real FIRST team.

While on the floor, have the mentor student be the drive coach, teaching human players and drivers what to do during the match. This will ensure that the rules are well known on the pre-rookie drive team, and that the pre-rookies will work easier with their veteran alliance partners. While it is debatable on whether or not the pre-rookie team should select drivers ahead of time (I suggest it, though understand the reason for constantly switching drivers), I highly recommend constantly switching human players. As long as the student mentor has the chance to talk to each of them about rules and penalties, it allows all students on the pre-rookie team to experience the adrenaline of the match.

Also, encourage pre-rookie teams ahead of time to make noisemakers and cheer on their team, no matter what the outcome.

Remember to teach the pre-rookie team the correct attitude- while everyone gets upset over a round lost or a debatable hit, the mentor student must be able to go with it and show the pre-rookie team that it's NOT about winning or losing, but about giving it your all and having a great time in the process.

At the end of the day, I felt as I've accomplished more placing 2nd seed with my pre-rookie team than any competition I've ever won. RINOS (Rookies In Need Of Support, my team's rookie program) will continue to do modify our old robots and provide them to high schools long after I leave now.

Do you have old robots just sitting there? Modify it and provide it to a pre-rookie. Adopt them, train them, and show them the experience of FIRST. After your first adrenaline rush from a round, few can turn away from FIRST.

05-15-2005, 01:35 PM
This is awesome.

I first saw this concept at the 2004 Robot Rodeo, where Harmony High (1604) and Poinciana High (1539, I want to say) each came out with old robots (revolving lights and all) and had a blast. I think one of them took home hardware (read: an award), too.

Keith Chester
05-15-2005, 04:08 PM
"Take a man to a FIRST contest and he's entertained for three days. Teach a man to build a FIRST robot, and he's out of your hair for six weeks a year..." -kmcclary

Exactly my point.

05-17-2005, 03:56 PM
??? but to the Rookies. I mean "Rookie-Teams" I'm really proud of you guys! it's really cool and great that you guys are rookies and make it to the finals. When a rookie team came up to me and told me that they're a rookie team and can't believe they could make it to the finals. whoa, you guys did a great job. not just the ones that made it to the finals to all that did a great job. to start out w/ nothing and end with alot already. *Keep up the great job Rookies!!

Bharat Nain
05-17-2005, 04:00 PM
??? but to the Rookies. I mean "Rookie-Teams" I'm really proud of you guys! it's really cool and great that you guys are rookies and make it to the finals. When a rookie team came up to me and told me that they're a rookie team and can't believe they could make it to the finals. whoa, you guys did a great job. not just the ones that made it to the finals to all that did a great job. to start out w/ nothing and end with alot already. *Keep up the great job Rookies!!

They're Pre-Rookies, which means their team has not formed yet. We modified our last years robot and let them use it for the competiton. They took home[won] a trophy to their school which will hopefully motivate the school to form and support this team.

05-19-2005, 07:34 PM
"Intuitor: (noun) a person with a passion for learning and innovating that is so strong it is often more powerful than the desire to eat, sleep, or seek personal wealth."

A Great BIg Thanks to Bharat, Keith, Big Mike and the rest of Team #25. We have accomplished a lot in two months: We visited the NJ Regionals as guests (All 54 of us), Attended the Nationals with a VEX Team, and competed in Montclair Mayhem as a full FRC team. What a ride it has been !!! I now only think about what to do next and how to make our team better. I hope to overcome all the roadblocks ahead and with the help of Team #25 and the rest of the FIRST Community you will see more of us in the future from the Freehold Regional High School District. (11,000 strong, 6 High Schools and growing !). I can't thank you enough for the opportunities you have made available to us. It has been a life changing event...

Mr. Rich Morgan

09-16-2008, 11:28 PM
a big thanks! this answered a TON of questions my team was asking!:D