Becoming a Successful FRC Rookie

#1

Hello,
My name is Paul Chaguine and I was one of the mentors who recently started FRC Team 5829 the Awtybots. Previously I was a student and mentor on FRC 2587.

This is my first experience starting an FRC team and I wanted to share a document that I created talking about things that we did throughout the year (the team was started in May of 2015) to get ready for the build season and to make sure that we have a successful year (not just building FRC robots).

Here is the link to the whitepaper on my experience and suggestions/useful things for a Rookie (and some useful things… well for any team) to think about when starting up or resurrecting a team in FRC.
http://www.chiefdelphi.com/media/papers/3190?

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#2

It’s great that you put so much thought into this! As a returning captain of a regional Rookie All Star, I have a few things to say.

On Sponsors:

  • Also note that people are usually eager to help rookies. As a rookie team, we did not raise as much money as of December 2015 as we did last year. Part of this, of course, was because we could not get rookie grants, but we also did not receive funding from our school’s foundation, which had chipped in a lot last year (instead they allocated money to a new school science program that started this year.).
  • I suggest sponsor incentives, such as having sponsor logos on the backs of your team shirts or hanging around our pit. You can see my team’s incentives here, or look up other teams’.
  • Sponsor packets are a great idea! Ours last year (and this year) had a letter that explained FRC, introduced our team, and said our past accomplishments and current plans.
    spot-on with school support

On robot stuff:

  • It is always great to have an outreach/demo robot, but that is not always feasible before one’s first season. After that, there’s plenty of time to make a name for yourself in the community. Many teams use previous game robots, but a lot of them, especially in the Knoxville area, have T-shirt launchers (in fact, that was our pre-season project). You want something you can show off, but you also want it to interact with an audience. People respond to that better. Even if you can’t launch T-shirts, I’ve heard of teams launching pool noodles with their robots. At the very least, try to do a service project or some outreach within your school or community. It helps get your name out there, which is important for new teams. Plus, it’s fun.
  • Having a practice robot, or a “copy of the robot,” after build season very useful and also common where we are. It is helpful to have that extra practice, especially if your competition is within the last half of the season (week 3 or 4 and later). You can watch webcasts of competitions to see what strategies others use, but with a robot you can work on, you can actually practice how you would respond to different strategies. It’s preparing yourself to be competitive, and, again, it is common practice here and (definitely) among the best teams, but is not necessary.

Other points:

  • You DEFINITELY need 2 teachers, or at the very least dedicated parents/mentors. In our school, clubs have to have at least one teacher advisor. As we found out last year, the responsibility of advising a team was far too much for one teacher!
  • I like your points on professionalism and “physical image.” T-shirts are ubiquitous among teams, but you can step it up a notch if funding allows and get polos. (or, opt for dress shirts and ties if you’re feeling really snazzy)

Now, I want to share something you left out. It is something lots of teams leave out if they do not know about it. Before you get down to business, you NEED… (drumroll)… BUSINESS! You mention the importance of having a “concrete plan,” but whose responsibility is that? The purpose business teams, divisions, committees, whatever you call them, is to manage relations with sponsors, community members, etc., be in charge of fundraising and all things money, deal with marketing, shirts, buttons, scheduling, etc. Basically every aspect of the team that does not need nuts and bolts, wiring, a battery, and a code. This should be more than one person, and you may want to recruit people for the sole purpose of business. Also, the competition has an entrepreneurship award that any team can apply for. Part of that includes making a team business plan. One of our team parents (mine, btw) had worked on similar stuff for PTA and helped us write ours. While we did not get the award, the competition judges complemented it, saying it was among the better half of the dozen or so that applied.

One final thing to mention is networking with other teams in your area, especially if you live somewhere with a large concentration of FRC teams (usually in cities that host competitions, based on my experience in Knoxville). Veteran teams can give you the best advice and maybe lend you the occasional tool or part. You can also exchange advice and suggestions with other rookies.

Best of luck this season! If you have any other questions, you can PM me or email the team at Bearden.Robotics@gmail.com. We’d love to help.

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#3

Thanks for your reply!

I realized after reading your post that I left out a lot of things and will be making a V2 of the doc just to add some of the things that you have reminded me of and have said.

Sponsors:
I did not put sponsor incentives into the document but should have. We actually have a sponsor packet that we have created and give out to all of our sponsors and have gradations there for different sponsorship levels.

Robot:
I think that we were lucky to inherit a robot that we could heavily modify/ use the parts to build a new one in the summer, but I agree it is hard to for every rookie. I think another interesting idea is to build one from old parts from neighboring teams.
I also did not mention it but we are planning on having a practice robot for after end of build so that we can continue practicing. I completely agree that it is a very useful tool.

Business is a key point I agree but recruiting “separately” for that in HS I have found is difficult. I think teaching our “leadership group” those skills (which is what we did/we are doing) is more beneficial.

We stay in touch with the teams in the area as the mentors for this new team are former mentors from the others. It has helped a lot no doubt as I had never ran a team before but only taught mechanical and programming aspects.

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#4

Great job. It seems that you’ll have a successful season. Best of luck!

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