Build Season

I’m going to be the team leader next year (maybe… I’m the only one nominated for the position right now, lol) and I need some input from you guys.

How often do you guys meet during build season? For how long? How long do you design for? Do you build a prototype? Does the whole team get to see kickoff? Is there some big kickoff meeting that everyone gets together for? Where do you build? Do you organize your meetings around your engineer’s schedule? Are there subsections on your team (arm team, claw team, drivetrain team, electrical team), or does the team handle all of it?

Also, a couple of other things unrelated to scheduling…

Does everyone on the team automatically get to go to Regionals and Nationals? Is there a selection process? How do you determine who is driver, secondary, human player?


On team 100, we had 2-3 people attend the remote kickoff and then they came back and shared the game with us. We then thought of a basic strategy that would be most effective. The first two weeks we designed the robot, and then we started building it. We were split into subsections, like drivetrain, arm, electronics, but we ended up with a mechanics and an electronics division. We were meeting around three times a week at the start, and then once we really got into the build period we were working every day till about 11:00 PM. Everyone can go to regionals as long as you have a way to get there. We usually decide who will be the driver by having tryouts of all the people who want to participate. We had our two leaders alternate between being coaches, and the human players practiced for a few hours a couple of times. Hope this helps.

Here is a how my team goes about the Build Season…

This is actually the schedule we used this year…

Here is the same schedule but in a different format and layout…


*Originally posted by Gui Cavalcanti *
** How often do you guys meet during build season? For how long? How long do you design for? Do you build a prototype? Does the whole team get to see kickoff? Is there some big kickoff meeting that everyone gets together for? Where do you build? Do you organize your meetings around your engineer’s schedule? Are there subsections on your team (arm team, claw team, drivetrain team, electrical team), or does the team handle all of it?

Also, a couple of other things unrelated to scheduling…

Does everyone on the team automatically get to go to Regionals and Nationals? Is there a selection process? How do you determine who is driver, secondary, human player?

Thanks! **

Wow! Lots of questions! First of all, congrats on your nomination, and good luck! Second - We meet every day during the build. Our schedule: Monday-Thursday, 5-9ish. School ends at 3:10 - after school, we can stay in the tech center and work on our homework and get something to eat if no one is bringing food in. Friday we meet from 5-10ish. Saturday we meet from 8am-9pm. That changes depending how late it is during the build. At the beginning we usually don’t have our materials and stuff so we’ll go home around 5. On Sunday we meet from 1-8 or 9. That’s our unofficial schedule… But it’s very rare that we stick to it. Usually we stay later or go home earlier, again, depending how late it is in the build. For dinner we have parents sign up on a schedule so we don’t have to worry about going home everynight for food or buying it from JDs (a hamburger place down the street). M-F, parents bring dinner. Saturday we get lunch and dinner and Sunday we get dinner. If there is a night no one has signed up for, then it’s an “fend for yourself day” where you are responsible for your own food. Thursdays are pizza night (we get a discount from Little Caesars) and once in a while we have JDs night, where JD gives us something close to 50% off of our food. Ok, onto the second question :stuck_out_tongue:

We usually do build a prototype. This year, we used TOBOR II as our prototype for TOBOR V by replacing T2’s drill motor drive with what would be T5’s drive (atwoods).

The whole team gets to see the kickoff. We send a few reps. to a kickoff (usually Kokomo) and the reest of us huddle around a TV in the tech center, anxioulsy awaiting the satellite broadcast.

We build in our tech center at school. There is a big room, 1/2 is a computer lab and 1/2 has tables. The CAD/aniumation guys work in the computer half and the actual building is done in the half with all the tables. There is ‘the back room’ where we store all of our materials and stuff. Across the hall from the tech center is a metal shop and a wood shop where we can machine parts and build prototypes. Down the hall from the machine shop is the auto shop which is good for testing how the robot runs. Then next to the wood shop is a graphic arts room where we print our team t-shirts. If we can’t machine a part in our metal shop, we go to Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) and use the machine shop(s) there. We are very lucky to have all the facilities we do!!

Our engineers are awesome. Many of them come every night. They get off of work and come straight to East. There even there most Saturdays at 8. They rock. We don’t start our meeting til 5 so the engineers (who work and live 15-20 minutes away) san be there at the start of the meeting. Usually we get started a little later (around 5:30) so mostly everyone can be there. Our engineers rule.

We have seperate subteams to work on different parts of the robot. This year there we had; drive, grabber, caster/brake, electrical, machining, CAD/Inventor, animation, Chairman’s… I think that’s all. During the design stage, one electrical person went to work with the grabber team, one went on the drive team and the other kind of wandered. The CAD people also worked with grabber/drive at the beginning, before they had anything to model up.

Everyone on the team aautomatically gets to go to regionals. But if you want to go to nationals, you’d better have worked hard during the build! We have 30 students on the team (we originally started with 35) and onlt 19 of those students got to go to nationals this year. Last year, almost everyone on the team went (31 people), which was a disaster… the advisors wanted between 15-20 students to go. It turns out that those numbers were excellent. Everyone had something to do at nationals, no one was sitting around doing nothing. It worked out really well. There isn’t really a set selection process for who gets to go. Basically, if you worked hard and deserve to go, then you’ll go.

To choose our driver and human player we held driver tryouts before kickoff. The human player tryouts consisted of trowing floppies into the basket of TOBOR II (for accuracy). The driver tryout was driving TOBOR III to pick up balls. Drivers had to listen to the coach talking in their ear as to which ball to pick up. There was a scoring system for both and whoever scored the highest won. That’s about it. Oh, for our driver/controller… there were 6 people who tried out. Two of the guys tied for first. One decided he wanted to be on the pit crew, rather than drive so the other first place driver (Joey) was our driver this year. The third place driver was to be our controller… he ended up being the human player. So our fourth place driver was to be the controller… he quit. Then the fifth place driver was to be the controller… he quit because he went to another school and couldn’t make meetings. So the sixth place driver wound up being our controller (Dave Belling - the kid who won the $20,000 from MTU!!) and did an awesome job!

Wow. My fingers hurt. I think I’m going to go soak them in ice water now! :wink: Hope this helped!

  • Katie

Oh, one last thing: Our team is student-run. There are no set leaders. No one is elected, people just step up and assume the role of leader… but it is never officially said “Oh, so-and-so is the leader of this group”. This works for our team… but I know some teams that have democracies in place where they vote for who leads which subteam and so on. Do whatever works for your team. We trid the whold democracy, advisors-pick-the-leader-of-each-subteam thing last year, and it DID NOT work for us. But it might for your team. It’s up to you how you run it! Good luck!!

We meet 4 times a week, 5-8 on Monday Wednesday and Thursday, and 1-5 on Sunday. We talk as a team at the beginning of each meeting before we start working. Of course, more time or meetings are added as needed (We don’t leave the building during CrunchTime, the last week, lol). Also we meet once a week for a couple months before Kickoff. During this time, we have MOE University (training for rookies), prep for invitational, and special projects (like building a portable Pit).
We have a big meeting to watch the kickoff, and we start brainstorming strategy immediately after we see the game. During the first week, we decide on a strategy (control all 3 goals) and what components our robot needs to execute the strategy. We break into Subteams lead by an engineer (the lead engineer of the Electrical Subteam appointed me leader before he left) to design and build each component. This year, the subteams that worked on the robot were: Drive, Chassis, Electrical (Wiring & Programming), Wings, Anchors, Grippers, & Pushers. Non robot teams were: Chairman’s Award, Animation, Website, MOE Boosters, Playing Field/Crate construction.
The entire team goes to Regionals. Everyone who pays their travel dues and writes a Sponsor Thank You letter gets to go to Nationals. The Competition Team (drivers/hp) has sign ups for the positions, & the people who sign up compete for the positions. Drivers are usually veterans, & have experience driving in a competition (Invitationals are great for training drivers). Human players have a shoot out. Pit Crew members are selected by the leaders of each subteam.

Yes… everything Katie said is definately recommended…

We do (or did) follow a schedule in order to keep us on track. We are definately glad we did because it allowed us to finish 2 weeks early! Here’s the online January Schedule. Dunno where Feb went, but it’s enough to give you ideas.

One thing I definately have to re-inforce that Katie said, is the lack of any leaders on our team. In our team, this is actually a GOOD thing. The mentors pretty much guided us in the right direction, and kept us on track, but we did everything for the most part. We didn’t really need a leader, because everyone had their own subsystem that they needed to work on. They already knew what they had to do. It also helps that everyone is such good friends, because then there isn’t any tension between everyone. We all share common ground.

We very lucky to have such good mentors that we did. They showed up a lot and it really means a lot to us. It’s hard to thank them enough for everything they’ve done for the team. These people work 8 hours a day, only to drive for another 20 minutes to our school in order to work for another 6 hours of the day. Then they take vacation time to attend MMR and the Championship Event… really great people. The thing that really makes me proud/amazes me, is that they treat us on common ground or anything. They don’t act like they’re above us or anything. In fact, some of them are even… well… “at our level” :smiley:

One of the things that really helps a lot is not having to worry. No, I’m not talking about the “Are we going to have the robot done in time?” kind of worry (if you call that worrying)… but the type of worrying that many teams experience… the “I don’t have anything to build this with” type of worrying. We are very lucky to have a machine shop, a wood shop, and power tools at our disposal. We really do take some of this for granted. There’s no way to thank the biggest sponsor of our team, our school district, enough. They give us so much to use, just so that 30 students can learn about technology.

Wow. some incredibly organised team leadership here. In my experience as team leader, it’s all really quite unnecessary.
What is key, is a small team. really small. we did it with 30 and 2.5 mentors. a small construction group especially. maybee 10 or so dedicated people. no cheerleading team. no strategy team. no driving team. a small PR team.

you should rarely if ever have to call meetings. the idea is that once you delegate your sub-teams, they meet however often they want. whole team meetings are to be avoided. they are boring and they really suck. even if there are doughnuts.

Worst thing you can try to do is get everyone’s opinion on what the robot should do. This is not a democracy, the construction team decides what the robot does since they are builing it.

The harddest part is deciding on the general robot design. Do it quickly. Write stuff on the board or peopel will start repeatign themselves. Don’t listen to someone if they are being stupid, they are wasting oyur time and you don’t need to respect thier opinion. First, decide generally on what it has to do, split up teams to deicde rough how to do each functon and then whoever has good ideas can design the component.

The robot gets built on a volutary basis, everyone knows what neeeds to get done and does it. If they don’t have the initiative or the will, they will give up and go home. More work gets done when there are 5-7 people working.

As far as beign team leader. try to make it so you end up doing as little as possible. If you ever feel like interfeering with your team put your hand in a vice, and tighten it until the feeling passes. If you want some work to get done, do it yourself. If people don’t know what others are doing, then your construction team is too big.

The most important thing to do as team leader is pick the people so you will have to do the least ammount of work possible. this is a small team. Only organise people if it is totally unavoidable. They will generally organise themselves.

As a testament to this method, our team won a regional event. They organised themselves and we build the robot very efficiently. Although I rarely knew exactly what was going on, I always knew it was going as it should.


Here’s my answers:

How often do you guys meet during build season?
Every day after school, and most Saturdays.

For how long?
A LONG time.

How long do you design for?
Too long. We spend a lot of time on design, and usually end up rushing to get finished. Design is good, but don’t spend so long on design that you forget to build a robot.

Do you build a prototype?
No. Sometimes we do mock-ups of individual components, but we don’t prototype everything as a whole.

Does the whole team get to see kickoff?
Yes. In the past we watched it on TV in the school library, but this year, we went to the regional kickoff in Novi.

Is there some big kickoff meeting that everyone gets together for?
We meet the day after kickoff to brainstorm ideas for what we want the robot to do and how we want to do it. Everyone comes up with ideas until they are out of them, and then we work to refine them.

Where do you build?
Most years, we use our school auto shop, but this year, due to renovation at our school, we met in a middle school wood shop across the street, our teacher’s classroom, and a back room at the local Visteon office.

Do you organize your meetings around your engineer’s schedule?
We don’t really have engineers, just a teacher and parents. Our teacher usually can meet any time, but when he can’t, we usually schedule around that.

Are there subsections on your team (arm team, claw team, drivetrain team, electrical team), or does the team handle all of it?
Our team is small enough that we can’t really split into exclusive groups. We have designated electronics, pneumatics, and programming people, but most of the work is shared among the whole team.

Does everyone on the team automatically get to go to Regionals and Nationals?
In order to go to regionals and nationals, teammembers have to demonstrate commitment to the team, as determined by our 2 adult team leaders. That basically means they have to show up and work, fundraise, and so forth. This year, since we hadn’t pre-qualified for Nationals, we were buying plane tickets knowing who was selected, so everyone who went to regionals got to go, but last year, we already had tickets and had to choose people based on how many tickets we had, so the requirements were tougher.

How do you determine who is driver, secondary, human player?
The drivers were determined ahead of time. We do a local off-season league called OCCRA, and our drivers had done well there, and were allowed to drive for FIRST, too. I was selected as the coach, because I was a second-year member, knew the game well, and wanted the job. The human player was selected in a tryout of sorts on Thursday at our first regional.

I hope those answers were helpful to you.

our team meets everynight during the week and we say that we will work from 5:30 to 8:30 but it usually goes longer than that. we have to do the meetings that late becuase our engineers dont get off until about five so they cant get to our school any earlier. and then we work usually on saturdays from about 9:00 to 2:00. and we dont work on sundays until we get to the end of the six weeks and really need to work.

we start the year off watching the kick off at a room at our university and then for that first week we really talk about different ideas, make prototypes, designs, and finally decisions. then we start building it and finishing our designs. we get to build in our shop at our high school. it doesnt have real new technology but it all works for us and we still get the job done.

our team tried dividing into different groups for kinda the first time this year. we had a design group, animation, electronics, publicity, and building groups. it worked out for some and not for others.

on wednesdays we have the parents bring in dinner for the whole team at 5:00 so that we can be more like a family and get to know each other better.

for regionals and nationals anyone on the team can go as long as they had a good attendance record. to go you had to have like an eighty percent record but most everyone got that. but i think it might be a little different this year. also for the drivers and human players, its really who has practiced with the robot and who is good at it. we really dont change drivers but we do change the human players just about everytime and anyone can do that you just have to ask.

i hope this helps you out any.