Do you think a practice robot is needed to compete?

So this has come up in several topics as of late. So I’d like to post a poll for it and see what kind of response we get. Do you think you need to build a practice robot. These are used: after the bag day when you normally would loose access to your robot and before your first competition appearance.

One reason we build more that one robot is because we have so many students and building more lets you engage the students more during build. With the big influx of members this year we have decided to build three robots. At the end of it our students will have more hands on experience and a higher level of involvement.

  1. We’re tired of building robots by the middle of February

We started building practice robots for the 2014 season, and I can say that it helps a lot. Especially this year. Every day we would have our driver practice stacking, and it’s one of the reasons we made the improvement that we did from week 1 to week 3. Only modification we made to the robot was a cardboard box with a slanted top for a ramp, but the practice bot helped a lot with driver practice. It was actually so dead from all the usage that at off season events it couldn’t make stacks of more than 2 or 3 totes without the lift trolley coming off the guides :P.

I don’t necessarily think it is necessary to compete, but it would be necessary to be really competitive.

  1. We have the resources and the drive, so we build it. We’re always working to improve.

Of course you don’t need one to compete. There are Regional Winners, Einstein teams, and (in many seasons) even World Champions that don’t build them.

What a practice bot buys you is (a) extra practice time for your drivers and programmers, (b) the ability to test out and develop improved versions of mechanisms to swap onto your comp bot, and © some measure of insurance on your season if after 6 weeks the robot isn’t done due to unanticipated design issues, weather, sponsor delays, work travel, etc.

If you design the right robot for the game and for your team’s abilities, are able to finish it on time to practice and tune it, and don’t encounter any performance issues that you can’t fix at an event, you might not need a second robot.

But most (I’d argue all) teams are not good/lucky enough to ensure that all of that happens season after season. For this reason, building a practice robot is one of the first pieces of advice I give to a team that is looking to increase the effectiveness of their robot. It can rescue your season from early mistakes, and even if you nailed it on initial design, your drivers will only get better.

7: It depends on the team’s geography.

I don’t think they’re necessary at all to be competitive at Minnesota events, but I’m pretty sure there are regions where that might not be the case.

If you have the money, then go for it, but honestly I think the money and materials could be much better spent. We never use practice bots and we fare fine with out them.

Practice robots? What’s that? :rolleyes:

Nothing more than a (single) toaster on wheels (or whatever a kitbot-plus-nothing-else is called in your neck of the woods) is needed to “compete”.

In this thread and the parallel one, folks keep talking past each other by using different definitions of “compete” and of “competitive”.

Using the word “competitive” when you mean “performs well”, “performs very well”, or “good chance of winning a banner”; is a mistake because the people you are trying to communicate with are unlikely to define that word the same way you do.

The term “compete”, and its cousin, “competitive”, are far too imprecise in discussions like this one. They are words that looks good on a PowerPoint slide, but that don’t help you much when you try to get down to brass tacks.

[EDIT]To be more precise, any (immobile) lump the inspectors will let you put on the field for a match “will enable you to participate in an FRC competition”. In other words, “will enable you to compete”.[/EDIT]

At a lower ny event you could probably win with an Ri3d build. In fact I believe in all of lower ny (around 100 teams) only one team builds a practice robot.

Now if your talking winning svr, or dallas, or waterloo then yes to win you pretty much need a practice robot. Less with dallas because of the time but you get the point.

This year we are making a prototype bot so we will have something to drive around after bag day but, Idk if I would call it a practice bot. If however we have a simple robot we might change stuff up and have a full fledged practice robot. The biggest obstacle is money especially since we will have to buy another kop drive train (missed the opt out period).

Overall no at most events.

You don’t need it. But if you can afford it than it will only help you improve.

For all possible definitions of “compete” and “competitive”, a practice bot is not a strict requirement.

For all possible definitions of “compete” and “competitive”, a practice bot is likely to have a high ROI.

Just beware that the Investment might be a big step up from not having a practice bot. Not so much in money, but in time, and mostly in management. Having two robots that are different can be a detriment…it seems to take some teams a few seasons to really be able to take advantage of a practice bot.

Our practice robot is a key part of our prototyping process. It allows us to test our designs before building the final product. Over the years we have worked to make the practice robot as similar to the competition robot as possible with varying success. Building a practice robot is as much of an exercise in engineering as it is a competitive advantage for our team.

Since building a practice robot for the first time in 2013 we have become a decent team.

Written based on experience on 1318

Sure. It is more work, and many aspects of team management are impacted by building a second bot. The Investment part of the ROI might start out being pretty large for the first year or two. But the Return part can likewise be enormous.

If only there was a way to get the same Return without the Investment of building a second robot…


I agree on this part of management. FRC 4607 started to build a practice bot two years ago, but many of the reasons that we continue with it is because we have a large team - 51 students last year and 68 as of right now (including our HS FTC team).

We have found that the price is really not much more because we initially used the pre2015 components and used it to test and prove/improve our manipulators. We typically competed in a week 5 or 6 event so to keep our fab kids interested and motivated, it was a great tool.

We are by no means a big budget team - and this year may be a bit of a struggle because we have seemed to have lost one of our big sponsors (fingers crossed that we can get them back into the fold). But the second bot is a great way to keep the younger kids engaged in the development process throughout the season. Many of our experienced kids mentor the young’uns after bag and tag and show them the ropes.

Again, the biggest component to all of this is managing the build and the team. Without an ample supply of students and mentors, this effort would not be worth it.

My two cents!

There is definitely more than 1 team that builds a practice robot for NYC/LI. More like a handful do, and while I agree that you don’t need one to win either regional, it says something about the program when even at such low scoring events such as those, there are teams that still build practice robots. shrug

Some people like it, I personally think it creates an uneven playing field.


To my knowledge 694 doesn’t build one and neither does 2601 arguably the 2 of the highest funded; best teams in nyc. On li I’m pretty sure only 329 builds one which makes sense since they have an 80% practice field.

558, starting in 2014, builds at a minimum a second chassis. Given the withholding allowance this allows us the ability to iterate our superstructures while not breaking our bank. As a smaller team with limited resources and funding we are working to expand our abilities but living within our current limits.