Desing process in Build Season

Hello everyone, these last years we have improved our robot construction process with a schedule that we developed but we still have not been able to complete in time, form and efficiently our design and prototyping process, so we want to ask you: How do you handle prototyping and design in your teams, what points are important to achieve them quickly and efficiently?

  • The more typical mechanisms your students and mentors have seen, studied, and understand, the quicker you can converge on ones that are likely to be successful
  • Mentors with more engineering knowledge are going to be better and faster at coming up with specific mechanisms or mechanism details that are effective for the game
  • Make sure your CAD team is ready to go making sketches to test mechanism geometry/size/positioning virtually before you start cutting physical materials
  • Be ready to prototype out of wood. Laser cutters and CNC routers help create high-fidelity prototypes
  • Be ready to prototype with aluminum tubing. There are lots of prototyping “blocks” available for 3D printing to let you join tubes and mount bearings, motors, and gearboxes.
  • Have portable electronics boards or other devices ready so you can run motors at variable speed on your prototypes
  • Have a drive base or two already assembled and runnable. Mount prototypes on these bases to do things like test intakes
  • Have as large a stock of parts on hand as the team can afford. Nothing slows down prototyping more than not having parts to test and build with. A variety of sizes of wheels, gearboxes, pneumatic cylinders, and belts are some of the most helpful items.
  • 3D print pullies and gears to test with. Sometimes these items can even be used on the comp robot
  • Make sure you team is dedicating enough time to development. In the first few weeks when design and prototyping should be taking place, it is easy to think that competition is still a long way off and robotics can have lower priority.

These are just a few stream-of-consciousness thoughts.

P.S. if it is possible to edit your title, you should change “Dessing” to “Design”. Your topic might get more attention with this fix.


Great points and I’d add

  • the catch phrase “Fail Fast” for the prototypes. Quickly discard the ideas that don’t capture enough attention by the team and nobody wants to prototype then get as many crude mechanisms as possible in somewhat working order.
  • everyone - programmers, strategy, marketing, build, design, etc. - participates in generating ideas, deciding which ones to pursue, and helping build prototypes.

Decide on drivebase as soon as possible and get it built and running. We’re hoping to have ours together and running by the end of the weekend after kickoff.


Karthik’s “Effective FIRST Strategies” videos are very helpful for choosing the appropriate goals for a particular team based on their capabilities.

The “Strategic Design” videos from Citrus Circuits are a good complement to Karthik’s video.

It is also good to build in time to practice with your scoring mechanisms as well as playing defense, if it is going to be part of your game plan. If possible, get together with other teams in your area and scrimmage to learn how to interact with other robots. It may give you better results in competition to spend time practicing with your robot than spending the same amount of time to add another function to it.

I re-watch these videos every year before Kickoff.

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