Build Season Structure

Hi all!

We are a second year team (Girls of Steel, Team 3504) and we grew from about 20 members to about 60 members now, so we had to revamp a lot of our organizational structure. We’ve already set in stone a board of “managers,” on both student and mentor level, and we created a handbook with expectations on all levels of the team.

Right now, though, we are working on establishing a build season schedule and organization of sorts. We are asking ourselves questions like:
-Do we want to build two robots?
-How often do we meet?
-Do we have two sessions each night, where girls can choose which they attend?
-How many days/hours do we use to strategize and design? How many to protoype? How many to build? How many to practice?

I would love to hear about other team’s overall structure, either vaguely or with detail. So please post back if you have any ideas, new or old!


This is a portion of our rookie packet that sets a basic schedule for a build season. It may help you. If you have any feedback, let me know: we’ve really just started giving this out and it isn’t on our web page yet.

Section 6 - Build Season.doc (2.33 MB)

Section 6 - Build Season.doc (2.33 MB)

The build schedule can be broken down by week. One of the better schedules runs like this:

Week 1: Strategize
Week 2: Concept design/prototype
Week 3: Detail design/finish prototyping
Week 4-5: Build robot
Week 6: Finish robot and turn over to programmers (who have been working on their code the last 5 weeks) and drivers (who can’t wait for the code to finish loading)
Weekend before ship: Scrimmage! Or driver practice.
Between scrimmage and tools-down: Make adjustments based on scrimmage results

I don’t think you want to have two sessions per night. It’s just a bit complicated. But having an open format, where if you need to come later than the scheduled meeting time, you can, or if you need to leave early, you can, will help with scheduling and choosing.

Building two robots: If you have the resources, that second robot can provide a lot of driver practice and strategy drills. If you’re really looking to do 2 robots the “right” way, start the practice robot around Week 2 and finish it around Week 3-4, then start the competition robot with stuff you learned from the practice robot. If you don’t have the resources, put everything towards completing the competition robot before Week 6.

Hi I’m the integration captain (one step below captain, in charge of programming and electrical) on team 2537. I’ll answer each of your questions for my team.

  1. This is our teams fifth year and we are planning to build a second robot for the first time this year (if funding permits). I think having a second robot would do amazing things for our driving ability and for keeping all the new mechanical hands busy. But, I think it’s a much more secondary thing. If you have build season already under control go for it!

  2. We usually plan on meeting on 4 weekdays for 4 hours each and on Saturday for around 6 hours. After a couple weeks (when we’re behind) we start working every day.

  3. All members are expected to go to almost all of our meetings unless they have a good excuse. A few years ago we took attendance before and after dinner because it was considered in driver applications but we don’t do that anymore. If you do split up meetings you probably should have whole subgroups there at the same time.

  4. Because of county rules we can’t work during the week of midterms so that leaves us 5 weeks. We try to have the design completed by the end of week 1, prototypes and drive train done by the end of week 2, and the robot completed with a week left for integration and driving. Before we start design we make everyone read the whole rule book and have a group discussion about strategy. Last year we didn’t compete in a scrimmage but we did send a couple people to scout out the competition. :wink:

As long as you have a dedicated team with clear goals you can be successful. There are lots of different definitions of that.

-I would suggest building 2 robots if you have the resources. We had about 25 active members last year and it worked out reasonable well.
-We have two sessions a day (during the school week) that start after school. The students typically choose or go to both.
-We strategize/design the first few days then we start prototyping at the end of week 1. We typically prototype a part until it seems useful, but we continue to iterate until it is refined. When we make a working prototype we start building 3 competition versions (1 for comp. bot, 1 for backup bot, and 1 spare.)

To me, if you don’t know mostly what you’re building by Thursday of week 1, you’re already late.

As for meeting schedule, we’ll spend nearly all the days and later hours in the first week (and perhaps last week) but in general it looks like this:

Saturday 9am-5pm
Sunday 1pm-5pm
Monday 3pm-6pm
Thursday 3pm-6pm
Friday 3pm-9pm

There is typically additional time spent by folks off-hours or off-site machining parts.

I would avoid the two-sessions thing.

In my opinion, it is not necessary to know what you are building that early. Personally, our team usually figures out the drive train by week 1, but usually does not have the “final” design until week three (and I say “final” because we are always changing things). Last year we didn’t have a claw design until the last week of build season, the robot did not start to come together until week 4, we added pneumatics into the system during week 6, and yet we still had a day of driver practice and code. This really just depends on how willing you are to work. For example, that year we had a meeting that lasted until 5 in the morning and several other that lasted until 12-2 am during the last week.

Some clarifying comments may help.

Week 1, strategize: This means “learn what it would take to win”. We all know what strategies will win a familiar game, say baseball. And over time, some unusual strategies, like a bunt, are well known to work in certain situations. Week 1 - at least part of it - is dedicated to learning how to win the game, all the nuances and tricks and unusual stuff. At this stage, you are just trying to develop capabilities - what do you DO. Then these get prioritized. For example, hitting a single in baseball is more important than being good at bunting, because you’ll want to be doing it more often. Later, when you need to compromise, you know what is more important to expend resources on.

After you figure that out, you start to figure out methods - how do you do what you need to do. This is designing mechanisms with the capabilities you need. This gets into early week 2, with prototypes being developed to prove something will actually be able to do what you think it will do. Several competing prototypes may be developed, and the best is chosen.

Building a second robot is very valuable. We complete our first robot by week 4, and drive it a lot. Building the second robot is far easier, because you just have to “copy this piece”. Improvements are common, but major redesigns are rare and should be avoided unless you know you can get it done in time.

The second robot is done at the end of week 5, it gets tested and bagged.

With the “competition” bot in the bag, the drive and programming team work with the first bot to get great at driving, and tweaking the software to prefect it. This implies that bots 1 and 2 can use the exact same software - that’s important, because having to tweak software to compensate for differences in robot design does NOT help improve the bagged robot.

The drive team drives and drives and drives until they can do it in their sleep - right up to the day we leave for competition. With that much experience, they’ll be great.

The goal is to make the basics - picking up and manipulating an object, moving from here to there, positioning the robot - not the problem to be solved in a match. They can do that without thinking, They instead focus on the strategy of winning instead of wasting time trying to pick up an innertube.

We meet M-F 3:30-9:30, Saturday 9-5, every week.

Hope this helps.

Team RUSH frc27, has a great toolkit you can review.

It covers a bunch of topics, but you’ll find some great info in our build schedule section. :slight_smile:

  • I recommend building two robots if you have the resources to. Having a second robot to practice with after ship (err…bag) date can be a huge help in driver practice, coding (eases some of the pressures of the programmers who now don’t have to code the entire bot in two days - it’s nice, trust me), and other tweaks/fixes. Just remember, if you do build two robots, make sure that both of them are completely identical
    (or as alike as you can physically make them). Then, the software can be interchangeable between the two robots. This year, we had a little issue with mechanical difference, and it was the source of more problems than I’d like to remember. But definitely build two robots if you have the finances/member devotion/place to practice. - Starting with kickoff, this is our schedule:
    Mon-Thurs: 6:30-9 PM
    Saturday: 8 AM - 5 PM
    Sunday: 12 PM - 4 PM
    This will continue until our last competition
  • Multiple sessions? I have no idea… We don’t, but you could make it work…
  • We usually don’t actually start building our robot until around be beginning of week 2. The first few days (maybe sat/sun/mon) of week 1 are spent reading the rules, determining/prioritizing robot functions and stragety - the “what” our robot is supposed to do. We then spend the next few days (about tues/wed/thurs) figuring out a general “how” (how the robot will accomplish the “what”) and getting a rough design started. By the beginning of week 2, we’re ideally starting to build our practice bot, which will hopefully be finished around week 4.5-5. Our competition robot gets built between about weeks 3-6. Then, after ship (bag) day, we finish up our code and practice, practice, practice. This will continue until we start competing. Of course, this is all on paper, and that guy Murphy tends to get in the way of completing goals on time. But this is FRC - we just stay up later, work longer and harder, and get the job done in 6 weeks.

1.) We are building two robots for the first time this year as well. However, we’re cheating a little bit, and pre-building the frame for the first one in the pre-season. It’s a gamble that 6WD will be good for this years game, but it generally is. I hope it pays off.

2.) We meet 5-9 every week day, and 9-5 on Saturday until the robot goes in the bag. We’ve never met after the season was over, considering the sleep state of the whole team, but this year we will be making the drive team and a few subteams meet after the fact to finish stuff up

3.) Strategy is done on the Sunday and Monday after kickoff; the Sunday is a small group of people, the Monday is those people presenting to the team, discussing, and deciding (prioritizing). Next, the entire team (and we have a 60 person team) breaks up into temporary design groups, who pick apart our strategy, and decide what the best way to play it is (drive train, arm vs elevator, etc…), and then we recombine as a team, and pick a final design. At that point, the team breaks up into the three pillar subteams: Control, Design, and Machining

To cut a long story short, the frame should be welded by the end of week 2, and subsystems should be starting to get fabricated. They should be on by the end of week 3, but of course, it gets pushed back; last year we didn’t have our elevator on until the last day. So thats something we need to work on. So in summary:
2 days-strategy
2 days-general design
~7 days-subsystem design

Now that you have grown so large it is important to look at other activities that need student involvement that do not have a ‘hands on’ robot build. Our first week is simply strategy, as Don pointed out, what does it take to win the game. While the majority of the students, mentors and parents are working on those details, the playing field crew has started to assemble objects and playing field parts. In the mean time, our Chairman’s team, our Woodie Flowers submission team, video and animation teams are also working. If we have any real design in the first week, it is surprising. We may prototype during this period but we spend a great deal of time talking over the game and even playing mock matches using students as robots. We start talking the minute the screen goes dark at the kickoff. We continue all through the day until at least 6 PM and then pick it up again on Sunday about noon and go all day. We meet at school each day after that from 5:30-8:30PM until we have a firm strategy and some robot function concepts. During this time, the playing field crew continues to build and purchase parts. We begin building a prototype using 80-20 and the programmers go to town working on the proto as soon as we have a driving base.
As you are a second year team, you do not have a big task in assembling Chairman’s presentation material but you should start working on it. Please do not let one of your mentors miss out on a Woodie Flowers award. Make sure you make a nomination and submit the document. You should have some students thinking about t-shirt designs, give aways, pit setups, tool purchases, etc. With a large team, nearly half of our students will not work on or touch the robot. The students who are strictly strategy needs to plan on data collection methods for regionals, assignments for the events, etc.
The most important thing, be flexible. What works for us or someone else might not work for you. Team dynamics change every year so you will need to change as well. And when you are not thinking about the robot or other related items, please spend some time thinking about what you will do next year and the year after. How will you keep this many students involved, where will money come from, how will travel, where will you go?