Go to Post everyone in FIRST has to do the cha cha slide at least once per season to get it out of their system. Now I can go back to doing it in the privacy of my own car (if you see a red Jeep in CT swerving back and forth don't worry, it's just me doing the slide...)! - KathieK [more]
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Unread 05-01-2012, 05:34 PM
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How do you approach Kick Off?

After being in first for two years, let just say that our team's kick off isn't the best that it could be. After attending championships and talking to teams there, I have heard some great ideas to change how our team approaches kick off.

So my question to you is, How do you approach kick off?
If you could please answer;
  • How many students and mentors are on your team? Some techniques work best for a specific amount of students and mentors. What you do with 20 students might not work well for a team like mine with 40-50 students and 4-5 mentors.
  • What do you do during the first two days of kickoff? How do you organize it?
  • Coming out of kick off, how much time do you devote to prototyping. I know it changes year to year, but give an estimate.
  • When is your final design "locked in"? I know it is the day after ship, but when do you have a clear picture of what your robot is going to look like.
And just some general information about your team;
  • What are your hours of opperation durring build season? After talking to teams at Championships, there are teams which are able to meet 4 times a week while still building a competitive robot. We meet everyday and still struggle to finish the robot after 6 weeks.
  • Do you build a practice bot? And if so do you build it in parallel, a little before, or after your competition bot?
  • Lastly, if you could give one piece of advice, something that has worked well for you, or just a great piece of advice, would you give for a team to be successful.
Thanks so much for your response.
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Unread 05-01-2012, 06:39 PM
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Re: How do you approach Kick Off?

Our team had about 30 students this year, and about 6 technical mentors. We usually meet 3 nights during the week, and for about 6 or 7 hours on Saturdays and Sundays.

The day of kickoff, we ask team members to make measurements of what they think is important (i.e. the height of the hoops this year, and the maximum height and angle of the bridge). Then on the bus ride back, we read through the robot rules and the game rules, noting interesting or new things, and sharing them with the team.

When we get back to the build site that day, we review the rules and watch the game video again, then we discuss strategy options. Paying attention to things like Chief Delphi can be really helpful for brainstorming. The important thing to remember for this is to keep your options open, and don't shoot down strategies you consider improbable unless they're blatantly illegal, at least not yet. Avoid making assumptions, such as "Floor loading won't be important" (2011) or "Nobody would ever dump the balls in, that's stupid" (2009).

Sunday, we narrow our choices and get a build schedule up. Theoretically, people will have read the rules more closely the previous night, researched past robot designs, or have come up with new strategies. In general, the goal is to be an effective point scorer. By the end of the day, we try to have a strategy done, and a long list of possible ideas to achieve that strategy. We also try to get a board up with subteam goals for the season, such as Chairman's Team having their drafts done by X day. In a perfect world, we would have a reasonable idea of what the design will look like by the end of Week 1.

After Week 1 is prototyping, and with us it usually goes on longer than it probably should. We don't usually have time to build a practice bot, but we occasionally use our past robots to test.

My biggest piece of advice would be to recognize when you or the team is stuck on one strategy, or one design option, and step back to see the big picture. Most of the strategy failures we have had is when everyone else did something we had never anticipated.
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Unread 05-01-2012, 06:54 PM
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Re: How do you approach Kick Off?

We typically watch the kickoff as a team (~40 students and mentors) and then have lunch. We then answer any questions people have as a group. We divide our group into 4 mini groups and split up so we can generate concepts and strategies. The groups meet again on either sunday or monday and create a presentation. On tuesday we present ideas and only ask questions to clarify. On wednesday we come back to being a single team, discuss the ideas and vote. In a case where we don't know what to choose (ie catapult or wheeled shooter) we prototype those during the next week and as a design team choose the best option. Once the build season starts we meet tuesday-saturday. We try to get the CAD done in the first week and a half. By now we pretty much know what it will look like. Then we start production. We make our practice bot first and when it is completed we start or competition bot. We continue meeting like that for about 8 weeks and then we phase back to 3 or so work days a week. The biggest thing i think that makes us successful is practicing. We practice countless hours to get the drivers better at driving.
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Unread 05-01-2012, 08:58 PM
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Re: How do you approach Kick Off?

-We have roughly 20 students on our team and 2 adult mentors as well as 2 college mentors.
-Immediately after kickoff, we return to our computer lab and begin reading through the rule book, but only the section about the game. While discussing each part, we ultimately decide on how we want to play the game. Then, we begin thinking of different mechanisms to achieve our goal.
-We send the entire first week prototyping different designs for things like the shooter this year, while another team works on CADDing the frame and finding places for electrical/pneumatic devices to fit before beginning to work on it.
-We end up deciding on our final robot design when all prototypes have been tested, the frame is usually done by this point (at least for the drive train) and so we decide on which prototype to use based on performance.

-We meet 5-6 times a week. On weekdays, we work from right after school (3:15) until about 6 (closer to the end of build season, that's more like 9). And on Saturdays/holidays we work from 8am to about 9pm.
-We do not build a drivable practice bot, but rather a board of bot components that our programmers use to start writing code for our actual bot (they do this when everybody else is CADDing or prototyping.
-The best thing that worked for us this year is getting EVERYBODY on the team to actively be doing SOMETHING. "You're not doing anything? I need a 1/8" hole drilled here." This makes sure that we're not wasting time and that everyone is making a contribution to the bot/team.
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Unread 05-01-2012, 09:08 PM
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Re: How do you approach Kick Off?

We usually have the entire team show up to watch the event via NASA TV streamed from one of the computers to the TV up front. Two or three mentors head out to RIT to pick up the KOP. Our rookie year we all went out to RIT as an entire team but after that first year we realized what a pain it was to bring everyone out there - and that was back when we had only like 10 students on the team. This year we had over 40 students, so and at least a dozen mentors.

But yes, we watch the entire event. As soon as it's over we begin brainstorming. We usually split off into smaller more manageable groups and just come up with ideas. We don't do anything mechanical or in detail yet. Just spit out anything we feel is relevant to strategy, design, intent, etc. We have hundreds of ideas that end being written down. Again, this is about as general as it gets. They then get whittled down and separated into the proper categories. The first week or so we spend coming up with the actual mechanical ideas of what of our robot should be doing as well as the strategy. Those two go hand in hand and I would say everyone would agree with that aspect. Can't have a strategy that doesn't fit your robot. "Is it worth giving up high-scoring for triple-balancing?" "Even if we did, is it worth having to rely on having the proper alliance partners to do a triple balance? That would be a problem during qualification rounds." "Do we get a shooter that can hit the 3's and 2's or just go for a pure dumper and consistently and always hit the 2's?" Those were just a small smattering of questions we were discussing during the first week to try and pick the direction our strategy and robot would go in.

After the second week or so we are (for the most part) locked into a particular design. We actually had a design all drawn up, built and even assembled on the base of the robot that would allow us to just glide right over dividing bar. That actually had to be removed as we were a good 10lbs or so overweight and (again) in a strategy session we had to decide what was the least important device we had on the robot - and that device was the one that got axed. This happened around week 4, far later than what we usually modify designs with but lucky because it's compartmentalized nature, it didn't affect how the rest of the base was built (The rookie CAD student who basically designed that thing from scratch was heartbroken though... ). So although we usually lock the mechanical design by week 2-3, this was an exception that had to be taken care of.

The best laid plans...

Edit: I'm sorry, I forgot to answer the last 3 of your questions.

- We usually work 6 days a week. From when school gets out around 2:30 to usually around 6pm. We then come in on Saturdays from 8am to 5-6pm. That's during the first 4 week so. The last 2 weeks can last as long as 8 to sometimes even 9pm. I remember our rookie year a couple of the students actually slept over at the high school in the TV announcement room the last day. Worked till about midnight on friday night, slept back there on the only portion of the tech wing with a rug and then got up and worked from 6am to about 9pm. Luckily we've never had to do that again.

- We do not build a practice robot. We never have and although I'm sure it would help the programming and drive team immensely, we just don't have the time or the resources. As you can see we work nearly all week along and we can still barely meet the time constraints. This year though was probably our personal best as far as the amount of time the programming team got the robot to the themselves. Almost a whole week..

- If you have the man-power for it, design everything up ahead of time before its built. From what I've seen of the CAD organization thread on the other board, this is one of the most difficult things to do because of the 6-week time constraint. You need a good amount of students and they need to be veterans of the field but if you can do it, it is a life-saver. My senior year had 4 drafting students (the most we've ever had at a single time) all with anywhere between 3-4 years of experience each and for the first (and only) time we managed to be able to model up and design stuff in Inventor first, before it was built. It saved so much time having to check everything for necessary space requirements, weight issues, whether the arm and the lead screw had the necessary room to extend, whether the arc it created would clear the bumpers, etc, etc, etc. It provided us with an insight in the operations of the robot we just haven't had since. All 4 of us were all seniors and we weren't able to teach anyone else before we graduated. The team next year, though they made an awesome robot, were essentially flying blind and having to do everything by hand first. And when our CAD team finally got the necessary experience to once again produce the 3D Assembly model, it just didn't have the man-power. And the past 2 years since I started as the mentor, we either haven't had enough experience or enough man-power to once again do what we did my senior year. If we did, that weight issue I spoke about above, wouldn't have become a problem.

Last edited by Solidstate89 : 05-01-2012 at 09:21 PM.
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