Advice for a Rookie Team

Greetings from team 5249,

We are a rookie team and we wondering if there is anything that we need to know before out first competition (we are competing at the Buckeye invitational). What should we need to bring with us that is not common since(and could someone explain what the buttons are)?

                                        Nathan P.

You will receive driver, and coach buttons when you arrive and check in. Your drivers and coach must wear these if they want to enter the field. It’s for safety.

As far as what to know: Bring EVERYTHING you can. If you used a tool on the robot and can bring it you should. Also bring spare parts or materials to fabricate from.

Regarding buttons, there are buttons that your drivers and coach are required to wear and there are also buttons that are given out by teams as a way of advertising themselves. A lot of teams will give away some kind of promotional item (for example, my team gave out SHARPies last year) and a button with the team logo is fairly common.

Anything that you think you could possibly need it would be a good idea to have. We do our best to bring at least a duplicate of all of our electrical components as well as the materials that you would need to fabricate replacement components for portions of your robot that may break (such as replacement wheels). You should also bring a full set of tools as well as any materials that may required to make quick repairs such as duct tape and zip-ties. If you do forget something, ask around. A lot of the teams that you’ll meet will be really awesome and they’ll do their best to help you out. (For example, if you forget to bring a Phillips Screwdriver, ask the people in the adjacent pits if they can lend you one. Just make sure that you return anything you borrow in a timely manner.)

Just as general things you should have:
-Driver Station Components
-Multiple places in which your program is stored just in case
-Parts to fix your robot

Just be sure all of your tools, storage, robot cart, etc will fit in a 10’ by 10’ square. It may be a good idea to prepare a ‘pit setup’ before going by taping off a section of the floor and putting things you need inside of it.

If you plan on charging batteries and laptops, you should also bring a power strip or two and possibly an extension cord.

On top of what was just said, ZIPTIES, they are soooo useful! Also, you need a robot cart, not sure if it was mentioned before, but you do have to have one.

…But do NOT bring any food items as give-aways. These are generally not allowed. This includes stuff like M&Ms.

I could go on and on, but:

  • Remember your robot, driver station, programming laptop, batteries, etc. You don’t want to forget something obvious.
  • Bring your robot lockup form
  • Have fun
  • Safety glasses in the pits, make sure you have them
  • First Aid Kit
  • A cart. Carrying the robot to the field is no fun and isn’t safe or ergonomic

Go and get inspected early by the lead inspector. That is not saying the other inspectors are not helpful, but the lead inspector can and will clear up any illegal or ambiguous concerns on your team’s machine.

Have one person in charge of staying with the inspector the entire time writing down all areas of concern and ways to fix them. Then get help from some veteran teams that have cleared inspections (Thanks again 1816, 2220, and 3023!).

  • Batteries
  • Chargers

You are going to want to change the robot battery after each match. This means you will need to have extras on the charger in the pit ready for use in your next match.

A good overview on the NEMO resources page:

Competition Tips/What to Expect (PDF: 28pp., 2.68M) Updated November 2012

And if you do forget something, don’t hesitate to ask other teams. One of the unique aspects of the FRC is that – especially as a rookie team – there are a lot of your “competitors” that will go out of their way to help you if you ask for it. Feel free to come over and say “hi” when you get to Buckeye.

Here’s my personal suggestion after 4 years of competition

  1. As soon as you get the match schedule, highlight each of your matches, paying attention to which alliance you’re on. There has been many a time that our team nearly missed a match because we were too engrossed in practicing, and it’s always a mess finding the bumpers. Keep them in a clear area, and keep the match listing posted somewhere everyone can see it. My suggestion is on the pole that your team number is based on.

  2. Bring ALL your tools if possible. Or at least the major ones, as well as any specialty tools. You’ll never know when you’ll need it. In addition, some electrical equipment like wire and breakers is a good idea.

  3. Bring your own safety glasses. It makes it a lot easier on day 1. The lines for renting them are HUGE if you don’t do it, and they usually run out fast. Also, I suggest buying the larger safety glasses for the team members with glasses. Wearing the normal ones not only looks odd, but it’s nowhere near as safe as wearing the larger ones. You won’t be the only ones, you’re all proud nerds at FRC ::safety::

  4. INSPECT EARLY. This will give you access to the practice field as soon as you possibly can. That place fills up fast, so you’ll want to get on it to fix any last kinks you may have.

  5. Keep the work station clean and organized. No food or drinks, since not only are they not allowed, it’s a safety hazard. Keep your tools in a toolbox and the area around the robot clear.

  6. Bring ALL your spare batteries and have them charging at ALL TIMES. My dad, one of our mentors, had a strategy to remember if you don’t’ have enough chargers. Simply put a piece of tape hanging off the charged batteries before swapping them out. Nothing is worse than going to compete, and realizing you have a dead battery on your robot.

  7. If you’re having issues with your robot and your match is coming up, send your human player to the field at least. He or she can still do their job, even if the robot can’t. Being a human player down, especially looking at the game this year, is not fun at ALL.

  8. Have dedicated duties for all members in the pit and field. When going to the field, have one team member, preferably the human player, hold the control panel for your team. Have two team members handle the robot, and the fourth pulling the cart. Have the SAME TWO people every time handling the robot onto the field and lining up the autonomous. Human error is easily the main reason for teams missing shots in auto. Once back in the pit, have the students in the pit crew handle the same objective each. One or two remove bumpers, one or two tighten all the bolts, and ALWAYS plug the computer in to charge between matches. It sucks when your computer shuts down in the middle of the match due to this error. By having teams with specific duties through the entire competition, it makes things easier and less hectic, and ensures you won’t miss anything.

  9. Even if you aren’t chosen to be on an alliance for the elimination matches, do NOT pack up and leave. If you aren’t, you can go and pack everything up and leave it in the pits. After that, go out and cheer for your fellow competitors. FIRST is all about the camaraderie and the community. No matter if they’re your rival team, still cheer. Plus, the elimination matches are easily the most exciting matches of the regional. You do NOT want to miss what will happen there. And even after the final score is revealed, don’t leave. Your team may end up with an award. It’s the BEST feeling to be able to walk down to the field, high five all the Judges, and get the trophy.


  1. HAVE FUN! I know it’s cliché, but it’s the truth. No matter what happens, always smile and have fun. Even if your robot malfunctions, even if you’re not picked for eliminations, even if your team doesn’t get an award, keep smiling and have fun. FRC is easily one of the most fun things I have ever done, and it’s the one thing that kept me going through the entire thing despite any failures. If something goes wrong, pick yourself up, fix it, and keep going. If you can’t fix it, then pick yourself up and keep going.

That’s really the best advice I can give. I wish your team the best of luck, and welcome to the amazing FRC community!

My best advice:

Even if your robot isn’t working perfectly, don’t be down in the dumps. You’ll have a lot more fun if you realize you did something in 6 weeks that over 90%of the population couldn’t accomplish. Just being at the competition means you already have a lot to be proud of. The robot is only a byproduct of FRC. Go out talk and talk to other teams and learn from them. See what inspires them. An easy way to start a conversation is to walk around with team logo buttons and ask other teams if they want some. Buttons are like an instant bonding point for FRC teams. Best of luck to you guys!

Hey 5249,

I did some work with fellow rookie 4991 in Pittsburgh this year, and we found 234’s appropriately titled series, **Rookie Videos- After the Build, What’s Next? **to be insanely helpful. I’m a 10 year vet and I feel that the rookies were more than adequately prepared after we watched these videos:

The Pit, Inspection, Judges and Awards videos in particular I thought were very helpful in explaining the next few steps.