A possibly redundant thread with advice for struggling teams

DISCLAIMER: I am a programmer/mechanic/electronics guy, not a miracle worker.
Hi people! I have absolutely no idea why I decided to post this now of all times, but here goes.
A lot of teams are struggling. Though we don’t like it, it’s a fact. Although there is no cure-all for FRCIsHardItis, I thought I would share some advice from my experience that people may find helpful. And feel free to add to it. In fact, please do!

  1. ATTITUDE IS IMPORTANT! I can’t stress this enough. Team 1257 has been through a lot of change in the past few years, but the most important change I have seen is our attitude. Before 2014, we had the attitude that we were bad, and because of that, we were. But when 2014 came around, we had a stroke of luck that boosted our morale. And that has made a world of difference; we have gone from dead last in 2013 to almost making it to worlds in 2014 and 2015. While I cannot guarantee a stroke of luck for every team, I can guarantee that if you change your attitude for the better, your chances of doing well will improve.
  2. You need to fundraise. A lot. Seriously. It opens up doors that would otherwise be slammed shut in your face. People complain about not having money; these people either haven’t tried fundraising yet or just have really bad luck doing it. Because I guarantee you, fundraising WILL get you money. Some just have to work harder than others at it.
  3. Learn from your mistakes. THIS IS HUGE. Every mistake you learn from is one you (hopefully) don’t make in the next year. And the fewer mistakes you make, the better you get. This is how team 1257 has gotten so much better. Up until 2013, we thought we just needed to “keep doing what we were doing, but more.” In 2014, we realized that it hadn’t been working, so we tried something else; we completely revamped how we ran things. We started organizing ourselves. We fundraised (See above). We began scouting and having a spirit chair. We began to cooperate with each other rather than arguing. And we got better. Just like that.
  4. NEVER GIVE UP! To give up is to sign your team’s death sentence. Not much else to say about that.

And that’s that! Again, anyone who has anything else to say about this, please say it. And sorry about the wall of text.

Just to expand on the point about fundraising – it’s not just about the money. There are tons of companies everywhere willing to donate some labor or raw materials time to their local high schools and this can be just as valuable as a cash donation. It never hurts to ask for help, and companies are more willing to help if the request is very specific. For example:

  • For raw materials, ask companies if you are allowed to sift through their scrap piles. Most will be more than happy to offload their scrap, which is out of their spec but just fine for FRC.

  • Every time you visit a store, ask for a nonprofit/student discount. Doesn’t always work but it can save whatever money you do raise

  • Bring parts and CAD drawings in hand when asking for water jet/CNC/powder coating support. Sometimes companies will just throw the part on the machine during their lunch break if they see students taking the initiative to ask

  • Go to your local Makerspace if you have one and offer to run classes or provide other support in exchange for some machine time.

Everything above has worked out very well for us this year, and has allowed us to get through build season successfully despite pretty low cash donation and very little workshop space.

Not every robot can “win”. If every robot “won” everything then “winning” would become meaningless. Not every team can be an all star team that wins every regional they go to: and that’s okay. This is coming from a team who hasn’t won a regional in a 16 year history. Don’t hinge your happiness on other’s validation of yourself. Don’t give up and have fun building robots!

+100 on what the OP said about attitude.

You are also best off if you learn from the mistakes other people make. You don’t have time to make them all yourself. If the OP has made such rapid progress in these last few years, they have most likely figured this out.