View Full Version : Rookie Team Tips!

12-14-2010, 04:03 PM
Hey everyone!

I'm a student of Grand Haven High School, and we finally got a team officially together! :yikes: I would greatly appreciate it if you guys would give us any tips to make our first year a success!

12-14-2010, 04:13 PM
1) Find a mentor team, if you haven't yet.
2) Read the Manual, as soon as it is released (you can start now, even--some sections are already released). There are NO unimportant sections, just sections that you don't need as often.
3) Regarding 2), pay careful attention to size/weight limits. Build 1" smaller than the size, and budget weight carefully to avoid the dreaded "We're 20 lbs over!" at the event.
4) Team Handbook and Team Business Plan. Between the two, they can save you a lot of trouble later and make life a whole lot easier. Also consider putting a Chairman's Award submission together--you can't submit it electronically, and you aren't eligible to win the award, but it does help with Rookie All-Star and future Chairman's submissions. If you have a NASA Grant, I believe that having one of those submissions is also a requirement for that.

12-14-2010, 04:30 PM
A thread discussion (http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=87898) with a member of another rookie team started in CD a couple of days ago and it is providing some great tips, suggestions, advice, and helpful links. Take some time to read it and look through the links, esp. the FIRST website and NEMO. Also, take time to look through the different fora in ChiefDelphi. You can do searches by using key words that will lead you to topics such as this and others that you are interested in. Welcome!


12-14-2010, 04:42 PM
our team 2487 started in 2008 the biggest thing that you have to recognize as a team is the goals you want to accomplish in the competition and how to complete them. also as a rookie team keep it simple. use the kit bot and make simple but effective mechanisms that are easy to fix and simple to build.

12-14-2010, 05:57 PM
Our biggest rookie mistake:

We were so happy about just having it being able to drive around, and we had separate groups to develop and come up with ideas for seperate parts of the bot. We ended up with a box on wheels with ball manipulators bolted to the side of it. Basically, my advise, find a strategy that you guys think you should use, and design your robot to play for that strategy. And design the robot as a whole, with everyone on the same page.

12-14-2010, 06:37 PM
Don't be afraid to ask veteran teams for help! Last year was my team's rookie year and we had no clue what to do. Luckily there was a team that has been around for awhile in the next town over that could help us, and if there are no teams around you there is always here!!

12-14-2010, 07:41 PM
Get to know the how FIRST works before venturing into anything too crazy. Most importantly, embrace the experience that FIRST will give you the first year and have as much fun as possible. Whether you end up 9-0 or 0-9, you guys tried your best during your first year. Trust me, you'll come around and get it one day.

If you guys have any questions ask all of us. Were here to talk about FRC and provide help where it's needed.

Good Luck this Year!

12-14-2010, 07:48 PM
Don't be afraid to ask veteran teams for help! Last year was my team's rookie year and we had no clue what to do. Luckily there was a team that has been around for awhile in the next town over that could help us, and if there are no teams around you there is always here!!

They are in Michigan, so there's bound to be helpful nearby veteran teams!

To avoid problems where not everything is thought out before building and different groups being on different pages, it is always helpful to design the robot on CAD. Even if you only have little CAD experience, it can make all the difference when nobody thought about how attachment A might interfere with mounting manipulator B, and then all you have to do is fix the virtual problem by clicking and dragging before it becomes a real issue and the build is delayed due to lack of planning.

Also, don't take a bite bigger than you can chew. In some games, it is better to do one important task very well rather than many tasks decently. You just might fill in a niche for a very good alliance that allows your team an opportunity to align with some experienced teams who have designed a robot to do everything well.

Pay close attention to penalties as well. It is very important to make sure that your robot cannot commit any infractions that will be of detriment to your alliance, because many teams will pick up on that very quickly when scouting and this can usually lead to your team being left out of eliminations.

Make sure that everyone on your team understands what Gracious Professionalism (referred to as "GP" in many cases) means and how important it is. This is what sets FRC apart from other robotics competitions in my mind; the overall community spirit of teams all around the world working toward a common goal of inspiring leaders in science and technology while competing against and alongside each other to play a game. The FIRST community is held together by this common mission and the GP of everyone who is involved in FIRST.

Focus on sustainability. Make sure that you lay strong foundations for the team to continue in the future. Unfortunately, many teams are unable to continue being a part of FIRST due to lack of resources, so it is important to be aware of your teams ability to sustain yourselves into the future and to work very hard at making sure that your team can participate for years to come.

Good Luck and have a wonderful 2011 season!

12-14-2010, 08:31 PM
Keep a good attitude. This is a big part of the idea of Gracious Professionalism which has already been mentioned here, and if you can get the attitude down, then GP is a really easy thing to do. A good deal of why my team made eliminations our rookie year had a good deal to do with the impression we'd made on team 399, not how good we were on the field (we were actually pretty bad as far as our record went). The would have been absolutely right to have picked another team over us, one who was better suited to playing at that level, but instead they graciously allowed a rookie team to have the opportunity to have that experience

Also, make sure you enjoy what you do. Learn from what you do wrong, don't just dwell on it. It's not simply the number of trophies a team takes home or a winning record that makes a team successful, but whether you can overcome the challenges you face. If you and your teammates can come out of your first season with a feeling of having done something great, and a feeling of community and fellowship, even if you don't come home with "honor and glory", then that'll be all the success your team will need.

I'd also encourage you to get the students on your team out and talking to people at competition if possible, whether that means taking shifts in the pit or whatnot. There are some great friendships to be made at these competitions, and it's hard to find them when you keep to yourself staring at a laptop all day. If you can't get out during the comp time, then at least get out to the social or just talk to teams you share a hotel with. A lot of my favorite experiences in this program have been meeting interesting people from all over the place, something which a lot of us nerd-types don't normally get

I know my suggestions are less logistical and more idealistic, but I'd hate to see a rookie team get so caught up in the logistics of the team that they don't even realize what makes this program so great

12-14-2010, 08:48 PM
Read these:

These will help get you started thinking with an engineering mindset and will set you ahead of many other teams right away making you more competitive. (There is always a very simple but extreamly competive way to play the game. You just have to find it.)




This should give you a general idea of a very talanted team's season:


Oh, and this may help too:


By the way, these are all on this website. Go to the top of the portal and click CD-Media. It's full of great stuff it would benift you to read.

Good Luck in your FIRST Season!

Retired Starman
12-15-2010, 08:26 PM
1. Try to find a close-by team that is willing to give advice. There is a lot to the culture you can pick up from another team, plus they will fill you in on things you need to know that aren't clear in the rules and official papers. (Last year I inspected several rookie teams that did not know to bring a cart to transport their robot from the pits to the field). If you don't have a team locally, find one somewhere else and Skype them every day or so. Discuss your plans and problems with them.

2. Don't be too ambitious building your first robot. Find one thing in the competition you feel is important and that you can do well, and design your robot to do that job. Be a "one trick pony" and you will do well your first year.

3. Plan out your season. Six weeks seems like a long time at the first, but every day not used to its fullest is a day you can't recover at the end.

4. Ask lots of questions, and consider answers carefully.

5. Analyze the game and come up with a scoring strategy, then built your robot to meet it.

6. Aim High! Make your first-year's goal to win the Rookie All-Star Award. Get started on it NOW. That's more important than having the best robot on the field.

7. READ THE RULES! Then read them again. Read them every day.

7. Have a great time, enjoy yourselves, learn much, and look me up in St. Louis.

12-15-2010, 09:00 PM
Something that can really help, if you have the resources: Build part of the field so you can practice on it. Make sure you know the differences between the practice field and the official field; that can give a good strategy idea from time to time.

The other thing is to try to figure out what everyone else will be doing. See, if everyone is building robots to shove whatsits into a goal, and there are also widgets on the field that nobody's really paying attention to, sometimes you may want to build a widget bot. Being the only widget robot on the field can be a real advantage when it comes to noontime Saturday and alliance selection.

For example, in 2004, there was a bar to hang on for 50 points. 5 robots in the country could slide along it and deny it to other robots (a 100-point swing, potentially), and one would just go up and block it. I don't think any of those 6 missed eliminations at any event they attended that year unless they were malfunctioning for some reason. One of them made it to Einstein.

Or be really good at one thing (most of those robots I referenced earlier, or 469 this year), so good that you can't be overlooked come selections.

12-16-2010, 12:39 AM
I don't think that I can add much more to the robot aspect of the competition, so it looks like I'll be touching base on everything else.

Sponsors: Find them, even if you already have some. Money is such a nice thing to have, especially come build season. Even if a business can only donate $50, it adds up. Can drives are also supposedly great fundraisers. Talk to local businesses and see what they can do to help out. Donating products is usually helpful as well. If a pizza store can't help with funding but can provide pizza for the team...that's one less meal to buy.

Competitions: I notice that you're attending a week 3 event (West Michigan). I know that you're a bit far away from Traverse City, Flint, and Waterford (which are locations for week 1 and 2 events), but if possible, gather a few teammates and mentors and go one of those events. Your first event will be a lot less scary, and you'll be better prepared if you see what other teams have brought with them and what other teams are doing. If you don't have a chance to get to an event, look into watching one or two of the webcasts. You won't be able to see the pits or anything like that, but you can still get a general idea of what the competitions are like.

Robot bagging/transportation: Read the rules carefully. Read them twice. Three times. Plan out your un-bag sessions wisely. Know how you're getting the robot to and from the events: will it fit in the back of a minivan? A truck (I don't recommend this - MI weather is rather sketchy, especially on your end of the state)? Will you be renting a U-haul? Know this before the week of the competition. Additionally, DON'T FORGET to pack safety glasses in a very easily accessible location. You won't be able to unload into the pit without them!

Spirit/Image: Everything that the team does at an event reflects upon the team. Make sure that everybody associated with the team knows this. Be courteous and friendly. As Zholl mentioned, be social. Friendships can work wonders, and interacting with geeks that you haven't spent the past 6 weeks almost living with is a really fun experience. Additionally, try to avoid sitting in the stands looking bored (which I see a lot of rookie teams do). Get into the competition. If your team isn't playing, pick a team on the field and cheer for them. Cheer really loudly for your team, at the appropriate times.

Finally: have fun! FIRST is truly what you make it. Welcome to the community, and I look forward to seeing your team at West MI!

12-16-2010, 04:33 AM
Two very important and simple guidelines........

1. Use the KISS method. Keep It Simple Students

2. Decide to do ONE thing and do that one thing the best you can. Remember that you will be in an alliance and if you can do one thing better than others you will stand out from the crowd.

,4lex S.
12-16-2010, 07:14 AM
Do as much prototyping as you think you can fit in. If you can build something out of wood, drill guns and random stuff, and it works well, you have both a clear design (so everyone is on the same page), and a proven design (more so than a CAD model).

12-16-2010, 12:22 PM
-Paperwork for robot shipping is very important...if it is a bag-and-tag event, there is a special procedure to be followed but supposedly bag-and-tag is very popular [our team is looking forward to our first b & t this year...heh]. If it is a traditional [ie FedEx] event, paperwork is also really key: if your mentor/coach doesn't have the right papers on hand, your robot may not be delivered to or from the event.

-Make sure consent forms are filled out. We've had unhappy times running around the day of a regional trying to get late consent forms in....your team won't be allowed into the event without them. Have students fill out the online consent forms!! in STIMS.

-Bumpers: our coach says that bumpers are the single most annoying thing about FRC. There are strict regulations as to how big bumpers can be, whether they can be in one piece or articulated, etc. At our regional last year a rookie team showed up and their bumpers weren't right..I think maybe they didn't HAVE bumpers. It was a big delay and nuisance to the team to get the bumpers fixed.

-Don't be afraid to ask for help at your regional. As you'll notice if you attend an event before yours, the pits are always filled with loudspeaker announcements for teams who need tools or parts. Most teams will take a huge amount of pride in helping another team, especially a rookie.

-Like someone above me said, don't neglect the social aspect of competitions. It is always good policy to get familiar with as many teams as you can at an event. Last year we spent an hour in our hotel lobby chatting with a team who was actually from our area, comparing scouting data and such, and we've been so happy to partner with them in several things since.

-Which leads to scouting, a subject near and dear to my heart, as I started out being our team's scout. If you have even one spare person whom you can assign to watch matches and take notes all day, do it. Scouting teams are usually >4 members but I've done it successfully alone for several years.
Even if you don't wind up 'needing' your scouting data [ie you don't get to pick alliance partners] it WILL come in handy. Before every match, I try to brief our drive team on what they can expect from their opponents and alliance partners. When possible, we also try to arrange a strategy beforehand, based on knowing the strongest teams on each alliance.

-Know your own strengths. If your robot is a lot better at scoring than defense, tell your alliance partners! If your autonomous mode does best in a certain starting position, tell them that too. We have usually found that other teams are very willing to work with us to arrange the best strategy for everyone.

Welcome to FRC! Hope you guys have an awesome first season :D

Robert Cawthon
12-17-2010, 02:04 PM
Just slightly off target, I found that our rookie year was not as difficult as our second year. We actually did fairly well our rookie year and because of that, we set a high bar for the next year and, as the saying goes, bit off more than we could chew. As a result, I have determined that the most dificult part of design and build is to decide that your design isn't going to work and then to figure out whether to modify the design or to scrap it completely and start over. The first year, keep it simple. Watch out for the second year.

Chris is me
12-17-2010, 02:09 PM
Pick your strategy before you do any robot design.

Find the one objective you can most easily do very well that contributes to an alliance and be the best robot you can be. The games have many tasks, but you are not alone on the field. By no means do you have to do all of them to succeed. You will be far more valuable as a master of the "wrong" game task than a terrible juggler of every game task.

Ask for help, early and often. Don't worry about "losing a competitive advantage" when doing so. We're all smart people, we've probably all thought the same things already and made the same mistakes, so learn from your peers.

12-22-2010, 05:21 PM
Thanks everyone for your input! We just finished building are cart a few minutes ago actually :D everyone is getting pumped up for kickoff!

Wayne TenBrink
12-22-2010, 07:03 PM
We are just up the road and would be glad to do what we can to help out. Send me a PM (private message) with information on how I can contact one of your mentors.

See you soon!

12-28-2010, 10:37 AM
As a member of a 2010 rookie team, I cannot stress one thing enough: Learn as much as you possibly can. Surf wikipedia. Talk to other teams. Read the forums. The more you know about robotics before you start building a robot, the less stressful it's going to be.

12-29-2010, 01:38 PM
I have attempted to transfer the salient wisdom from this thread (so far) into a slide show that separates the main topics into about 40 slides. I hope this will be useful for offline presentation at a team meeting of rookies or otherwise interested parties. Bring your own refreshments.

When I figure out how to link the CD media page with it to here, I will do that, unless, of course, someone beats me to it. :cool: meanwhile, search "rookie" tag, or just look for recent stuff.

12-29-2010, 03:03 PM
When NEMO was started I think the first resource paper was "18 Hints for Rookie Teams." Probably needs a little updating, but lots of good information in the NEMO resources section thanks to the collective wisdom of the teams. http://www.firstnemo.org/resources.htm

Encourage one of the adults (technical or non-technical types welcome) on your team to join the private NEMO forum. See the website for more information.

Jeff Pahl
12-30-2010, 10:37 AM
1) Buy a good scale

2) Use aforementioned scale frequently

3) Have someone calculate how many 1/4" holes you have to drill in a piece of 1/4" thick Al to reduce the weight by 1 pound, then ask them if they really think that is the best way to fix being overweight when they get to the event.

4) See #2 above

5) Make bumpers part of the design concept from day 1, not an afterthought.

6) Do not allow the metal shavings created during #3 above to fall into the cRIO.

I really wish more veteran teams would also do the above.

Ian Curtis
12-30-2010, 11:13 AM
3) Have someone calculate how many 1/4" holes you have to drill in a piece of 1/4" thick Al to reduce the weight by 1 pound, then ask them if they really think that is the best way to fix being overweight when they get to the event.

Protip: Buy or borrow a hole saw (http://www.amazon.com/DEWALT-D180005-Piece-Master-Hole/dp/B000HCZ4FW/ref=sr_1_3?s=power-hand-tools&ie=UTF8&qid=1293728965&sr=1-3) and a can of WD-40 (yes, I know it is not a "real" lubricant... but personal experience indicates it gets the job done).

Have the entire team read the manual, have someone who's really into it keep up to date on the Q&A. Ask questions when you get stuck. Have fun!

Al Skierkiewicz
12-30-2010, 11:46 AM
There is one thing that I stress that has not been said yet. As a rookie, have a driving base by the end of week one or at the very least sometime in week two. Once you have a driving base, let your drivers practice with it regularly. Put out objects to practice maneuvering around. Push chairs in front of the base to act like other robots.
As Jeff hinted, make sure your bumpers are firmly attached, at the right height and made out of the materials listed. 3/4" plywood, pool noodles, covered with a heavy nylon fabric, covering the robot perimeter, with no hard parts in the corners. The bumper rules are not negotiable.
Then practice some more.
FIRST provides a lot of info for teams and adds to the list all the time. In addition, there will be weekly (or more often) team updates that change the game and the robot rules. We will inspect for the latest rules changes at each event, so you must keep up to date on those rules.
Ask questions, either on the FIRST Q&A or here. The Q&A is the only official answer but non-specific questions or questions about robot components will get you answers here. Just learn to believe certain posters know what they are talking about, while others might only be opinions.

12-30-2010, 12:32 PM
Listen to the recordings of the FIRST Senior Mentor calls for teams:

If you're sending someone to FIRST Headquarters for kickoff, have them register to attend the workshops held on Friday: http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/firstplace/content.aspx?id=15787 Can't make it to NH? Click on the title of each workshop to register to view the webinar for that session!

If you're going to a local kickoff event, make friends. Networking is one of the most critical, and oft-overlooked, aspects of a successful FRC team. Even if you're not going to a local kickoff event, host a get-together with some light refreshments and invite neighboring teams to stop by. Network, network, network. And then once competition season begins, scout. And plan your marketing strategy. You have to market yourselves; unless your robot is absolutely stellar, you'll be competing against all the other teams to get the attention of the top 8 who will be choosing their alliance partners. So before you bag (or crate) your robot, take a picture of it. Take one of it with the team, too, wearing their team t-shirts (more on that, below). Create a simple Word doc with the robot picture on it along with a list of things the robot can do. DON'T EXAGGERATE. Just state what you can do well. Leave copies in your pit in case a team comes scouting and you're not there.

Create a team identity. Stick with it, don't change it from year to year. Choose a color scheme, a team nickname, a mascot if you want. I don't recommend using a school mascot because if you should decide to include additional schools in the future or become independent of your school, your previous team identity may no longer be desirable... Lots of well-known teams are known by their identity - MOE wears the brightest green known to mankind. Miss Daisy has daisy hats. Buzz is the yellow smiley face. Everyone can easily name teams in their areas by their team identity. Some teams keep the same general color scheme but may slightly customize their t-shirt designs/button designs each year to match the game theme. But you'd still know them at a glance from a distance. This really is a big deal so give it some thought. Whenever I see crowd shots in the FIRST videos I'm amazed I can identify so many teams - strictly on the basis of their apparel and colors. And before choosing a name, Google it to see if any other FIRST teams (especially in your area) have the same name.

Have questions? Contact your local FIRST people - VISTA, Senior Mentor, Regional Planning Committee chair, or Regional Director - they should be aware of your presence but may not be aware that you need help.

Koko Ed
12-30-2010, 04:15 PM
As a lead que at events let me give you a tips when at the event itself.

Make sure and use the pit time constructively. The pit is not a place to hang out or screw around in. Any team members who are not being useful in the pits should be sent to go sit in the stands.
Have two or more team members thoroughly go over the schedule and document EVERY MATCH your team is in and make it a point to be early to each match if your robot is properly functioning. The time you spend waiting in line is time spent strategizing with your alliance partner about what you plan to do that match.
* And on that note: HAVE A PLAN! Don't be like far too many team that hit the field and drive haplessly around for two minute doing nothing of any value or worse costing their alliance a victory with boneheaded mistakes.
* Read and understand the rules.
* Do not allow the drives team to leave the building. If you have to get the, lunch send someone to get them lunch but do not give them the opportunity to miss matches. God forbid your absence cost an alliance partner. Teams are scouting matches and notice more than just how your robot performs on the field.
*Make sure your batteries are fully charged when you come to the field. And try not to have to do any major programming while in line. We are not going to wait for your program to upload.
Please please please please please take care to place your cart in the proper place where they belong. Do not leave it in front of the gates or where the referees stand to watch the matches or anywhere in the middle of the floor. The carts are a hazard and someone could get hurt by them. Be a responsible team and assign a member of your drive team to make sure that the cart is placed where it is supposed to be.
*pay attention to what the field staff tells you to do once you enter the field of play. Particularly the FTA. It is everyone's responsibility to make sure the event runs smoothly. Not just the field staff. Following instructions and paying attention to where and when to line up and cleaning getting on and off the field is paramount to this.

12-30-2010, 07:09 PM
try not to have to do any major programming while in line. We are not going to wait for your program to upload.

If you DO try to do that, expect your alliance partners-and your team-to be rather annoyed at you. Even if it's a change they ask for, tell them "not until we have a LOT of downtime".

12-30-2010, 08:14 PM
Another at-the-event tip: Get inspected early. At Arizona last year, the pit closing was extended by half an hour so the very busy inspectors could get to everybody that was ready (the line was out the door). There WILL be a late rush to get inspected--but anybody showing up at 10 AM got at least a partial inspection right away. Those that didn't...

For the vets and multi-event teams: if you have already been to an event that year, show up as soon as your robot is out of the crate if you have no modifications to make. It makes the inspectors' life much easier--and then you can go hang out in the filler line all day and get more practice. Or, almost as good, show up and tell them the modifications and what will be affected.

Bumpers: Not only do you have to have them solidly mounted, but they must also be readily removable for size/weight checks. This is non-negotiable. If you're spending 30 minutes removing bumpers, you are taking too long. (Hint: showing up to inspection with bumpers off the robot makes the inspector's life much easier--bumpers on the scale, robot on the scale and in the sizing box, and if you pass both, bumpers on whenever you want to after that.)

Pre-inspect. If possible, find your friendly local veteran team and ask if one or more of them can go over your robot with the inspection checklist before you crate/bag the robot. Pre-ship scrimmages should have a few inspectors. While their decisions are not final or binding on legality of X, they can highlight trouble spots for later or immediate work. (Note: "But so-and-so says this is legal" or "But it passed at Y event" does not fly with the competition inspectors. We've heard it before, and pay no heed, especially if the event did not have official inspectors.)

12-31-2010, 12:12 AM
One very important part of any FRC robot is the electrical system. The robots take a beating and the wiring must be robust so your robot doesn't die at the worst times. If you can find a mentor experienced in machine wiring it would be helpful. Al Skierkiewicz did a great presentation that can be viewed by clicking on the "Attached Assets" link here http://thinktank.wpi.edu/article/149.

Before my first year last year I watched a documentary on PBS called Gearing Up that showed 4 teams as they went through a season which helped me understand some of what it is like. It can be seen online here: http://www.gearingupproject.org/watch-online/

Good luck and enjoy.

01-02-2011, 01:07 PM
* And on that note: HAVE A PLAN!
...and stick to the plan during the match. Nothing worse than counting on a team to do 'something' and they don't, because they 'changed their mind'. * Read and understand the rules.
Re-quoted and bolded because it is so true. If your team reads the manual and follows all the rules, you'll be ahead of many teams, even veterans. Note that following the rules is not optional!! These are required, and if you get to competition and even think (much less say) "I didn't know of that rule", well, you will probably get what you deserve.
Pre-inspect. If possible, find your friendly local veteran team and ask if one or more of them can go over your robot with the inspection checklist before you crate/bag the robot.
Yes, yes, yes. Do this. Nothing worse than having a MAJOR rules violation that is first identified at a competition. Read and learn the rules, then follow them.

Ask for help when you need it! FIRST is not a competition where it is an advantage to go at it alone!

01-02-2011, 05:18 PM
As stated before, keep it simple!
We are a veteran team that changed leadership last year. We developed an overcomplicated design that eventually became unsafe in addition to not working. In the end we changed our kicking system and drive train at competition. I would also advice to plan the season, for example: two weeks design, two weeks build, and two weeks programing and testing. If you don't have a good programming mentor or team member that knows his/her stuff, keep that really really simple (I would use labview). It is really easy to develop programming bugs, especially with a complicated drive system. This one is from experience. Most of all, have fun. It can be really stressful when something does not work. Take a break, come back the next day, and always remember you are in this to learn and have fun, winning is just a benifit if you get there.

Julian Binder
Team Captain 852