Build Season Schedule

This year we really want to have an efficient build season. So, how does your team schedule time during the 6 week build season? Do you have a certain task for each week or just a list of things to do in order?

Also, I believe kickoff day is very important. How much do you get done on kickoff day and how do you organize that?

Thanks! 61 days till kickoff…

I think the most important thing to do is to manage all of the tasks well. If the programming team will need the robot on Tuesday evening, don’t schedule the drive train team to work on it then. That sort of thing. The past few years we have dramatically improved our project management. Having a large team with a lot of component teams, this is important. So we have a board with the tasks for each team on note cards posted on the board. Tasks that will require the robot (either our prototype/practice robot or the competition one) are clearly marked as such. We start and end every meeting there, so we can report on progress and make sure we know what each group needs to do for the next meeting. Each evening the student team leader for each group signs the back of the card with a note as to what was done. When a task is completed it is moved to the back board timeline.

It is hard to set firm timelines at the start of the season, because you spend most of the first week figuring out exactly what components you will need. We have a timeline in back with all of the FIRST deadlines on it, a current day marker and our target dates from completion of tasks. I think that meeting as a team at the start and end, while occasionally a bit tedious, has really helped us stay on track with build. I don’t find kick-off day that filled with activity actually. We verify the KOP inventory and make sure that everyone understands the game well. We try to give people a day or two to think about the game then before diving into brainstorming. Otherwise the veteran team members tend to dominate the discussion and we end up being pushed toward solutions we have used in the past. There is nothing wrong with that, but a little more time to think before we start throwing out ideas has been helpful for our team. Our biggest schedule problem the last couple of years has been helping to host an FLL second level event (between initial competitions and the state championship) on the Saturday after kickoff.

1114 has said they try to build their robot is 4 weeks so they have 2 weeks to change their robot.

I liked reading 254’s build blog to get a perspective how fast my team should be building next year.

The last couple of years, my team wasted too much time in the first 2 weeks. So we pratically built a robot in 4 weeks. So we are pushing hard this season to keep the robot simple and finish assembly at the end of week 4. At the the very least it gives us a 2 week buffer in case something goes wrong.

The key thing for me is how fast the drive system can come together. We could build a kit bot chassis in one day. So when we do our own drives, it has to be built fast and it has to be better than the kit bot drive. Spending 3 weeks on a drive only slightly better than the kitbot ain’t gonna cut it.

I really want all the strategy discussions done on the first day, so we start CADing and building our universal parts right away.

Our build season plan is based on 1114’s, note that the one I’m posting is not our final schedule for build season, it’s still being changed but hopefully it gives you an idea of how to plan your season.

days 1-4: brainstorming, what do you want your robot to do? How do you want your robot to do it? These are the two most important questions that should drive your entire brainstorming process.

day 5: design freeze

days 5-8: prototyping, electrical layout on drive-base

days 5-14: build drivetrain, programmer begin coding for drive train

days 8-14: robot controls, finish drivetrain

day 15: begin autonomous coding

days 8-21: mechanism construction, programmers finish drive train code

days 22-28: mechanism integration with drive base, wiring

day 29: robot finished

days 29-40: testing, driver training, fixing, perfecting

Remember, a good driver always beats a good robot

Note: practice bot construction happens in parallel with competition bot construction.

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Our team splits up into 4 groups during the build season: Mechanical, Electrical, Programming, and Media. Each group has a team leader to keep the team on schedule. We try to have a finished robot by the end of week four but I schedule the timeline for midweek 5 at the latest. Having a set time frame to build the robot really helps our team stay on track, but we have ended meetings early when no work was getting done.

As for Kickoff Saturday we do things a bit different as we hold a kickoff breakfast at our facility. We start the breakfast about an hour before the video stream starts. This way our students are awake and alert. Each student has a paper that they use to write down their immediate views of the game. We then give the students about a 10-20 min. break in order for us to print off the rules. Then I take over the room to give a brief overview of the game. The students then split into groups in order to decide on the strategy for the year. They then present their ideas and the team picks the strategy that we are going to go with. Yes, it feels a bit rushed but it does help set our team up for a great build season.

I think we usually more or less decide our overall strategy on Kickoff. We don’t do any form of prototyping that day, but it’s a brainstorming/envisioning how the game will be played out, and prioritizing tasks.

During build season, we aim to prototype for 2 weeks, build a prototype bot for 2 weeks, and then build the competition bot in 1 week. Of course those are not hard deadlines, they do blend into each other at the transitions, neither has every build season played out like that. But it’s a general idea.

It’s definitely to your advantage the sooner you finish the robot, although it seems obvious, it gives you time for practice, programming autonomous, maybe aesthetics, and other things. I would pretend build season is only 5.5 weeks long, if not less, just so you finish slightly early to troubleshoot things.

I’ve been kind of wondering; how do you build a practice bot and competition bot alongside/at the same time? Especially if you don’t use any/little CAD?

I think there is one piece of advice missing from this thread.

On DAY 1, print out five or six copies of the rules, ALL THE RULES, from every part of the manual, not just from the “robot” section. We keep all these books in the shop, and many students bring laptops to the shop. We spend the first day (kickoff day) prototyping and hashing out loose ideas. We create a list of the things that we want our robot to do, in a prioritized order. We do not, however, define how we are going to do these things, just that we want to do them.

This is all after every single team member READS ALL THE RULES. I apologize if this sounds rude, but it is the truth. Reading the rules is the most important part of kickoff.

Then, the week after, we begin working out the how.

Make sure you order the parts you know you will need as soon as possible. For example, we usually know within a few hours what wheels we are going to use. We order them that day, because it is then one less thing to worry about.

We also start work almost immediately on the CAD of the robot, starting with the drive base. Though we usually have a rough idea of what the drive should look like, different games may require special accomodations, and those are taken into consideration as well.

After the first week, we try to to drive system quickly and effectively. We build an electrical panel out of our usual materials as soon as we know what space it will go on, whether that space is ready or not (made from clear 1/4" corrugated polycarb, 2 sheets woth perpendicular channels, edged in 1/2 x 1/2 by 1/16 thick U-Channel).

for reference, this is the pdf where 1114 outlines their build timeline:

This is what we would like our build season to look like. We haven’t gotten nearly this fast yet, but we’re working on it. We’re getting better and faster at CAD, hope to get better at prototyping, and are looking for faster and more efficient ways to get parts machined.

FIRST does publish a suggested schedule for build season.
It can be found on page 31 of this PDF on FIRST’s web site.

We started with that, and modified it suit us.