I decided to base my list on one primary criteria – which robots in the history of FIRST (that I observed) did I feel were best designed and built for a particular game. When I got to a point that I couldn’t decide between a number of great robots, I fell back on the hypothetical question “if I had to pick one robot for one single match and they’d have the same identical alliance partners, which would I pick”. Some won Championships and some didn’t – but we all know some times teams just get some bad breaks at one event while everything might go as planned at another. All listed performed incredibly and were considered by many in the FIRST community amongst the “favorites” to win that years competition. So here are SOME of the robots I would consider the best ever built in FIRST.
2001 Team 71 Beatty Robot - it would be impossible to nail any game any better, all one could do is hope to design and build a robot to play the game so perfectly that you might tie them. It was virtually impossible to beat 71 unless they or their alliance made a mistake. This robot (along with the next one) was as close to a perfect design for a game that FIRST has ever seen.
2002 Team 60 Kingman Robot - the only other robot I’ve ever seen to pull off exactly what the 2000 Beatty machine did – perfect design for the game, basically unbeatable. This robot could not be beaten unless a bad break beyond their control opened the door for an opponent. These two robots (2001/71 and 2002/60) are the only two robots I’ve ever seen in FIRST where opposing teams basically knew that even if they played a perfect match for “their” robot, they couldn’t beat 71 or 60 unless those teams made a mistake or something broke.
2000 Team 47 Chief Delphi Robot - years ahead of it’s time. One the most versatile, impressive, and spectator jaw dropping robots ever in FIRST. Collect balls from the floor or Human player, could score AND unscore, quick, agile, swerve drive, amazing arm – basically what a robot would be if you could genetically breed a crab with a clam.
2004 Team 254/60 Cheesy Poof/Kingman Robot - possibly the most well rounded robot I’ve ever seen in FIRST. Each year a few robots stand out for being one of the fastest, one of the most agile, one of the most versatile, one of the highest scoring, one of the best autonomous programs, one of the slickest looking - but rarely has one robot ever accomplished them all in the same year. (hesitated to list any 254 entry, since it’s impossible not to have some bias based on past affiliation, but after some reflection I still felt this bot belongs on the list even taken with a grain of salt )
2000 Team 111 Wildstang Robot – While excellent arguments could be made to include virtually every Wildstang robot I’ve ever seen on such a list (funny thing, that really holds true for 60 and 71 also), the 2000 robot always impressed the heck out of me. Could collect and score more balls better and faster than any robot I think I saw that year – off the carpet and from the Human Player, could still go under the bar, could still hang, and made what must have been an amazingly complex ball chute system look smooth, fluid, and graceful.
1998 Team 45 Technokat Robot – They say imitation is sincerest form of flattery, and 45 has certainly given many ideas and designs to teams throughout FIRST. Maybe because it was the 1st FIRST Championship I ever witnessed, but this robot has always stood out to me. Might not stand out as “jaw dropping” like some of the others on this list that just perfected certain aspects the game, but this robot did it all, did it smooth, did it smart, and did it well. Fast, agile, great scoring ability, and great versatile design to adapt to however the match was going – offense or defense.
2000 Team 25 Robot – kind of the exact opposite of my review of the 2004 60/254 robot. Didn’t try to be versatile, in fact most teams could do more parts of the game much better than them, but by the playoffs of the championship, they were able to do one thing better than any other team in the country with a design that a few attempted but none perfected (similar to the balance two goals off the bridge aspect of the 2001 Beatty machine). To this day I still can’t look at one of those arcade games with the crane/claw mechanism you drop to try to grab a toy without thinking of that robot.
I can think of 10 or so great robots from the 1999 and 2003 seasons, but can’t really argue any stood out as clearly unbeatable or better than the others in the top tier - mostly due to the design of the 1999 and 2003 games.
In the interest of time, to fill out my top ten just pick a bot from Teams 16, 33, 67, 330, and 469 (now that I count them, I see that makes a “top dozen” list). These teams are consistently so impressive that each have multiple robots from the past 6 or 7 years which would be under consideration for any top ten list. It’s difficult to pick one particular robot of theirs over another but any “top robots in the history of FIRST” list would not be complete without entries from those teams included.
We all know there are MANY other robots from many teams that were so impressive they deserve to be in any discussion of best FIRST robots ever. Since few, or more likely none of us ever see every robot perform every year, the great thing about CD is that many such deserving teams will be listed by different people from different geographic areas in various posts.