Failure: A Reflection on 5 Years of FRC

When walking into my 9th and final event as a student in FRC my teammates are excited and hopeful for the 3 days ahead of us, maybe we can fix our robot so we don’t have to play defence this year? As the most senior person on the team I do not feel such optimism, I just feel despair, as I look upon the couple dozen robots streaming in which I know, will be better than ours in almost every way.

My point of view seems to be vindicated when I see that history is repeating itself as I look at the scoreboard and with us ranking 2nd last with only 2 matches with our defence bot left. At this point, I got up and left the arena, an anticlimactic and cowardly way to end my time in FRC and tenure as team captain.

I had failed.

So how did I get here?

I joined the team only a few months into my freshman year and am quickly put to work on software, given that I said I had a passing familiarity with JavaScript. They had little choice given the previous programmer had left on less than good terms a few weeks before kickoff. I frantically read through documentation trying to work things out, the team captain gave a rousing speech about how we would do well this year and told me I would have a lot of work cut out for myself with all the mechanisms we would have. When the weeks rolled passed I was able to finish the code, but the robot wasn’t done. We faked the bagging of our robot since otherwise we would turn up with nothing at comp. We were able to scrape something together by the beginning of the first match, but all hell broke loose: the driver, who had never driven before, broke the intake almost immediately; and poor software made the robot crash during autonomous breaking our electronics. We were playing defence, but in most matches, we would score half a dozen fouls making it so we would be better off now playing at all.

After the ordeal, we all blamed the captain: “it was their poor planning and selfishness which was our ruin” and we all blamed the school: “if only they gave us more money and workshop hours we would be on our way to Houston”. We all proclaimed that we would never make the same mistakes again.

Yet we were left lost, our only mentor was leaving and the only people left were freshmen. We would have to forge a new team.

We decided not to elect a team captain as we felt that as a small team of less than 10 we didn’t need one. However, I had some big ideas and people seemed to follow. I sketched out a new robot and taught myself Solidworks (at the same time as a few others), this would be how we would win during the offseason. Skip forward a few weeks, the CAD was never completed as we didn’t really know how and the manufacturing was weeks behind as none of us really knew how to organise things. Frustrated our new mentor pulled the plug and sent us home one afternoon saying that we were just wasting his time and the school’s money as they saw that nothing had been done.

Maybe next year.

When my second season began there was a new face, an old team captain (in their second year of university) was returning to become a mentor. This, along with a new system I had devised to organise and review CAD using GitHub, would surely bring us success, but we arrived at comp the same as in the previous year with a robot that could only play defence even though we tried to go small (we designed a robot which could do low hatch panels and cargo only).

The particulars of the year began a rift that felt small at the time but would soon grow, the new mentor wanted us to have a passively centring intake (it would mechanically interface to the field to ensure the hatch panels lined up), a request we eventually caved to. This was despite my stark opposition citing how every other team would use vision, but they said they just didn’t trust the software and it would be easier their way.

The years rolled on and I attempted more ill-fated reforms of the team:

  • offseason training and recruitment, which failed as I couldn’t teach very well and people were not motivated to attend during lockdown;
  • different CAD programs and techniques, which failed as we didn’t have the skills to use them;
  • stocktaking and organisation; which failed as we didn’t have the knowledge or drive to follow through with it;
  • under the table ways to get more build hours and funding, which failed as the school found out and disapproved;
  • simplifying the robot, which failed as we always caved to the temptation to make it just a little bit better.

During this time, our mentor saw the downwards spiral of our team and decided to put their foot down and take a bit more control. I was extremely frustrated as I saw it as my unofficial team captain role being taken from me. The back and forth tension between us began to grow and led to some rather unprofessional exchanges online. All of this while we kept bringing defence bots to comp (getting more bitter about it every time), it seemed as though each time we just needed a few more hours to get the robot working.

This leads us into this year. I thought that things had finally started to come together, but little did I know this would be my worst year yet.

The day after kickoff we met to discuss strategy, we rapidly came to a consensus. We would shoot high and climb to high, a rather ambitious goal. We began to do our CAD.

Tensions began to brew when disagreements over our initial design surfaced, the mentor become convinced that it would be too hard to shoot high (for reasons which were not logical to me, I can’t get too specific but I was right) and we should go low. At the same time, they were made since they perceived I had gone behind their back when I designed a climber which could do traversal; I maintained that this was a happy accident, but in reality, it was an act of rebellion to make it so I would go out with a bang (since I had never seen any of the dozen mechanisms I had designed actually working on the field, and if one was to work I wanted it to be this).

I desperately wanted my final season to work out. We had the recipe for success: access to a CNC machine (for the first time), the ability to purchase any part we needed (for the first time) and the most skilled team in our history. So I worked day and night 12-16 hours a day for 3 weeks designing, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere. I lost my temper at many of the other designers, saying that they were incompetent and that it would have been easier to do everything myself. This had some kernel of truth as a significant portion of my time was devoted to supporting the other designers, by teaching them, reviewing their work, fixing their CAD and integrating things together. I was admittedly very pedantic about the CAD wanting it to be 100% accurate as I want the robot to just fit together the first time so we wouldn’t waste time searching for parts or fixing things as we had in previous years (given that we still had very limited build time). We did, however, limp to the finish line with our CAD (even though it was a week late).

A few weeks into manufacturing we were seriously behind, we were a week out from the planned finish date and the drive base wasn’t even done. We then realised that a few parts were CNCed out of spec and we didn’t have the time to remake them. So we had to do the unthinkable: a couple alumni from our team would redesign the robot over the weekend to be much simpler, we would ditch the climber and ditch the shooter and only score low. I was completely gutted by this revelation, but unlike in the past when I would fight with the mentor who suggested the idea, this time I was in too much shock and I was too exhausted to do anything. But a sense of despair began to build inside of me.

We diligently tried to build the redesigned robot, but we ran out of time; our fate was sealed history would repeat itself again, bringing us back to the start of this tale.

Things didn’t end when I walked out of that arena though. In the following days, I spent hours oscillating between crying and lying motionless in bed. I felt as though it was my fault that we didn’t win, that I had wasted tens of thousands of dollars, that I had wasted two dozen people’s time and that I was worthless for not even being able to achieve something basic in a competition designed for high school students. When I forced myself to go to an exam a few days after I had a panic attack and was not able to do it since I was so scared of failing even more (and I had not prepared for it since I put all my time into FRC). I have only just been able to catch up on all the work I missed due to the sacrifices I made for FRC (a few weeks on). I visited a doctor and psychologist about these issues, all I wish to say about that is that robotics had some lasting consequences.

When I began to compose myself I began to reflect on my mixed experience in FRC and ask others about my tenure as a leader.

A general theme seemed to stick out to me for the latter: “you were pretty good, but you expected far too much of us”. Was I expecting too much? Is it not appropriate to expect people to put in at least a quarter of the work I did so that we could do well? Was it delusional to think that we could succeed?

For the former, I felt as though I did end up learning some valuable lessons. However, at the same time, my final season had given me the darkest period of my life and I feel as though I have missed out on amazing opportunities and experiences by never achieving the implied goal of FIRST (yes I understand inspiration is the goal, but having my soul pounded into oblivion over 5 years wasn’t very inspirational). However, that may just be an issue with me as other team members didn’t have such problems with the program and seemed to enjoy the ride. Maybe I wasn’t cut out to lead, maybe I was on the wrong team, whatever the case it is too late now.

Sorry for the wall of text. I just wanted to share my experiences, but I know I am probably just screaming into the void. Maybe this story can relate to people who aren’t on a very good team and who haven’t come within 100 yards of a blue banner.

Now I have a parting question: If Kamen’s vision is to have an FRC team in every school how does that square with the limited capabilities of the average school? As I have seen firsthand how diluted and demoralizing the program can be without proper support and direction (yes I know how loaded I have made this question).


Thanks for sharing Liam. I can relate to your experience; the teams I was on in high school fought hard and lost big. (In fact, almost every FRC team will end their season in a loss.)

It appears to me you have taken from this experience the kinds of things that I got out of it too: a feeling of needing to reckon with how I relate to other people as a leader and a team member, a stunning realization that my peers are the protagonists of their own rich internal stories filled with wins & losses of their own, and a deep hunger to find a way to make an effective team adopt my personal goals as their own mission. In this way, I think my experience (yes, chock full of failure) was a success.

I wish you the very best. I hope you will be able to look back at the darkest time in your life and see ways it has helped you to become a better person.


Liam, your feelings are not unusual and your story is one that I have seen almost every season.

FRC is hard. Failure is hard. Learning from those failures, also hard but really important.

Take some time and reflect on what you personally have learned (and hopefully will continue to learn from this experience). What hard skills (CAD, programming, etc) have you learned, and even more importantly what soft skills (teamwork, mentorship, etc)?

Remember this program was designed for inspiration, on the backs of volunteers, and as Nate said, the majority of us wont get blue banners.


I’m sorry you had such a rough time. It sounds like you’ve learned a lot and grown very passionate about the program and engineering, which is a huge positive that you glossed over.

One of the biggest problems we have running teams is defining success. There’s the obvious metric: winning a blue banner. But that one can only happen for a small set of teams each year, and if it’s your only defined success criteria, there’s a reasonable chance of failure. It’s hard, as a student, to view your learning and growing as a success. It’s hard to see just showing up with a working robot as a success. Heck, it’s hard to see raising enough money to register each year as a success - yet these are all successes.

I hope you can find the time to reflect back on your experience and identify the successes you had, and let the failures fade. All the same, keep pushing yourself, and you’ll go on to do great things after high school!


I’m sorry. Being on a team which doesn’t share your goals and ides is really disheartening and a big part of what led to me leaving for a different team. Yet I managed to learn lessons from both. My old team taught me to work within my means and that sometimes simpler is better. And my current team taught me to dream big and work hard and that this would be the key to success. Somehow both of these lessons managed to ring true despite them feeling contradictory. I hope you do get some valuable lessons from all of this, even if they’re not the ones you had hoped for.


I’m sorry about your experience. It sounds like many things went wrong and many people had a hand in that. But all of the things quoted above would be successes for our team. In fact I’d love it if our team limped to the finish line with our CAD even once. I think you can dwell on all the ways your team failed (competitively) or look back on all the skills (even if only partial) you developed and helped develop.

It sounds like you succeeded in some very significant ways then! And if it’s affecting you that deeply and that personally maybe there’s someone outside of chiefdelphi you can talk to?

I think there are several threads dedicated to this question in one way or another and many would agree that it doesn’t.


I’m sorry you had this experience with FRC. You aren’t alone and this kind of frustration filled experience is a lot more common than most of us care to admit, but I hope one day you will be able to look back and take away some positives from your experience, even if you don’t necessarily see them now. It’s ok to do FRC without winning, most of us won’t be blue banner holders. It’s the experience, the fun, and the friends that are the real prize.

I know that your teammates not sharing your drive and commitment can be really frustrating and it really sucks when it feels like you are the only one who cares. The reality we have to reckon with is that FRC is an extra-curricular at the end of the day, and not everyone will want to treat it as a priority and that’s ok. Is it awesome to have a driven, passionate, and well resourced team? Of course, but that’s something we can’t all have and sometimes we just need to make the most of the resources we have, even if that means reducing scope, scoring low, etc.

You do raise a very important question here and I look forward to seeing how others in this thread respond to it. I personally believe that the goal of FRC in every school is not always in the student’s best interests as it tends to dilute the resources for everyone in the area and overall makes having a driven and well-resourced team much more difficult and dependent on individual school funding and resources. Would it be awesome to have FRC in every school? In the city I live in, that was basically the case for a few years, and while it has its upsides, it also has the very real downside of making it so that most of the teams simply do not have the resources to go around to achieve everything they may dream of, and I personally believe that having fewer, more community-based teams that don’t have to cannibalize resources over each other is a far more effective way to run the program on a city level but I know others who disagree with me with valid points as well.


A team in every school is going to be tough.

I would aim that every student has a FIRST team be made available to them.


Echoing what others said here, your story is very relatable even if the team I was on in high school had it’s successes. We still had many failures, and unfortunately those failures landed while I was team captain on team 11 in 2009 and 2010.

Perspective is really important in this program. I felt as angry and upset as many others even though my team back then made eliminations and won awards. I didn’t think about teams who miss eliminations on a yearly basis or struggle to field robots. From what you wrote, you learned a ton more skills than I did by the end of my senior year, and honestly I envy your drive.


Hey! You’re me!
Look up the record of 4549 some time. I believe we seeded 12th one year, mostly by pure luck and never got picked for playoffs. Usually we’re in the last third of the rankings

I was also a mentor on another team their second year where we actually cheered for the highlight of our event. Crawling 12ft over the entire teleop period to climb the Stronghold 3" ramp for endgame points.

You like myself may be a bit delusional to think that you could compete with the big dogs. Just like you we lack:

  • available build hours,
  • a large team to pull more “dedicated” members from (dangerous word there)
    machining capability, (we also just got a desktop CNC this year (Feb) that we only got a couple parts on)
  • a nice budget
  • enough experienced mentors.

It is a hard wall to hit. When I joined FRC years ago, it drove me nuts. I came close to quitting as a mentor early on because of it.

Why didn't I?

Well first I was taken back a couple of times by the teams reactions at competitions. I would be sore about our performance and my “failure” as a mentor when I would overhear students talking about an awesome match where the robot didn’t break or talking to a judge about an issue we were having and what they were learning from it.

Let's start with the team

Not everyone IS going to be as dedicated as you. And that’s going to apply to everything in life. I love fishing, but I’m not spending $70k on fishing gear and boat like my cousin did.
I’m very dedicated to designing/building a robot, but not every student on the team is. They do seem to like the stuff they do though.

Look at your team. ARE they doing CAD? ARE they trying out new tools? ARE they working to solve problems? (some big, some small) Then to me that is a success. Highschool is not a career. I had no idea what exactly I wanted to do after school. They are seeing that something other than a min wage job is achievable though.

Let's move on to you

You did Solidworks, programming, teaching, some real hard troubleshooting.
I didn’t do 3D CAD until collage and limited programming until FRC. I got lucky, I was almost on academic probation in 9th grade, changed schools and a chemistry/physics teacher somehow got through to me.
Like I said, I didn’t do any of the things you did until later in life. So long as you don’t let high school be your all-in-all, I believe you have one heck of a success story.

How have I changed?

Well, for starters FRC is no longer about “winning”.
Like I said, we don’t have the resources to compete. But after that realization, now I SEE the students. I’m so much more focused on what they are getting out of this program. Before I could easily step over another’s idea because “I knew best”.

Now I’m more of an advocate for them and much more for showing them ACTUAL engineering stuff.

Our goals for this year:

  • Finish in the top 1/2
  • Climb to the traverse bar
  • Have a clean looking robot

I don’t know whether or not we’ll hit those. We have a slick looking drive base, but our climber is still being assembled and we leave for our first comp tomorrow :sweat_smile:

So far I think I hit MY goals for the year though:

  • Convince students to try out CAD
    • We even have one that we’ll be cutting out his designs tonight on the CNC
  • Teach students basic hand tools and measurements
    • Yes, they still break stuff all the time, but I’m learning to account for that
  • Introduce students to java
    • We have 5 students either fully or partially doing programming this year
  • Be a better advocate for the team
    • Got the school to donate 2 laptops to replace the outdated crashy ones we had before
    • Worked with the team captain and a sponsor to get an X8-2200 donated to the team (albeit late in the season, but we got it)

I STILL fail all the time at work designing pump parts for firetrucks, it’s just that now I have better resources at my disposal. Engineering team that helps to catch my mistakes, proper budgets to do prototyping/testing, a quality control department that ensures parts being made are correct, an amazing shop crew that went to school for machining and the like.

Treat high school robotics as the introductory to STEM that it is and move on to your real life that you’re building.


Thanks for helping me remember in more detail why I do this despite it being hard.
And as always for good measure :wink:


I’m very sorry your experience in FRC was not a good one. The problems you encountered have been here for years, and you’re not the first and won’t be the last to struggle with them.

You probably shouldn’t have done this. As bad as it felt on your end - how do you think it felt for your teammates to watch their captain bail when the competitive results weren’t there?

A lot of your post centers around seemingly-unilateral actions you took to try to improve your FRC team. FRC teams are teams. You can’t do this kind of stuff alone; especially not as a student. If there isn’t enough buy-in and know-how from the rest of the team to make things like this stick, then all of this is wasted effort. You can’t drag a team to victory.

One thing to keep in mind: your fellow designers are high school students without formal training in engineering. Losing your temper because they’re not competent engineers is not appropriate or fair.

No, it is not appropriate, especially given the circumstances of your team. Other students have entire lives to keep track of. Not everyone can drop everything and attempt to bootstrap a low-resource, unsuccessful FRC team up to competitive viability - more importantly, not everyone knows how.

Not necessarily, but it may have been delusional to think you could succeed in the manner you were originally imagining given your team resources.

It doesn’t, and you have to decide for yourself what you want to get out of the program if you don’t have the resources to be competitively viable.


As harsh as this sounds, it is spot on. A lot of us who were in this position felt the same way because we hold the “well, I did it” mentality when wondering why others aren’t learning the same things, setting the same goals, or generally aligning to the same motivations. Wanting to do well on the field in FRC is a good thing, but it certainly isn’t everything to everyone who participates in this program.

You didn’t get a choice in this as a student, but as a mentor in the future you’ll have the freedom to seek out teams who share your goals and ambitions and you can help their students learn what you learned.

If you ever get the opportunity to run your own team, a good place to start building the team culture you want is by creating a student and mentor handbook with a “Roles, Responsibilities, and Expectations” section for members and team leaders. This is where you can define that leaders on a team are expected to learn certain things, and then as a mentor, create the team structure which enables them to learn those skills.


Oh, I 100% agree. The issue is it’s difficult to ignore the impact that that mentality that Kamen instilled has had on certain FRC dense areas. I think that goal can be harmful to a lot of places and I believe that a more holistic approach based on access, not quantity is more deserving of FIRST’s attention. It’s also very hard to convince people away from that mentality once it begins to spread in an area. I know it’s a very real goal for some places as well as some teams who - whether for chairman’s purposes or not - have made it their goal to spawn as many FRC teams as possible.


I want to pick out one thing:

FRC isn’t actually “designed for high school students” in the same way a lot of high school-level competitive endeavors are. The marketing and general public image of the program downplays this for fairly obvious reasons, but FRC is hard. It’s really hard.

The general difficulty level of this program is not calibrated for a random group of high school students to succeed on their own. It’s designed for students and mentors, working together. There are plenty of teams with mentors that have literal decades of robotics experience reviewing and helping build every single component of the robot. This is not a bad thing: in fact, it’s the point of the program! But even those teams crash and burn spectacularly all. the. time. The robot construction process has thousands of opportunities to make hard-to-catch errors that are potentially season-ending.

This isn’t to say it’s impossible for a group of students to be successful with fairly limited mentor guidance. I would know! But even with an experienced (if hands-off) mentor, 10-20 extremely motivated and experienced teammates with lots of time on their hands, and a very well-equipped shop, the experience still took a lot out of me and my teammates every year.

The difficulty is part of why I, personally, did robotics—it’s incredibly difficult and has a functionally infinite skill ceiling, and I’m the kind of person who tends to throw 110% of my energy into one thing. I put 35-40 hours a week into robotics because I loved it, and because it’s a sort of high that I haven’t found anywhere else. But it came with a lot of stress, anguish, burnout, disappointment, and conflict. Overall, it was a positive experience for me, but I would never expect any given person to follow in my footsteps, and if I hadn’t been lucky enough to land on a team where we had some modicum of success I’d probably feel the same way about the program that you’re feeling right now.

I guess my point is that absolutely nothing in FRC is basic. It seems easy when you look at the final product—“just build a robot and don’t screw up.” But it’s not! The game manual is about 130 pages. The PDF version of the WPILib control system documentation is 1,376 pages. A similarly comprehensive resource on FRC mechanical design would probably be twice as long. And there’s plenty of things that can only be learned through experience, and not the quantity of experience you can feasibly acquire while still in high school. Based on what I understand of your situation, just showing up to competition is an accomplishment. Not everyone—probably not even most people—can do the things you did. And while your feelings on this are obviously complicated, I hope that at some point you can look back and feel some sort of pride because none of what you did was easy.


I’ve been a mentor of 6933 for five years, and I honestly think MOST teams struggle in exactly those same ways based on the robots I’ve seen. It’s easy to be jealous of the big-money teams. I do it myself.

We’re a tiny Vermont team. Less than a dozen active members. No school association at all, just fundraising scrambles. Donated workspace. No fancy parts or tools. We have a drill press, a chop saw, and some hand tools. We make robots out of spare parts, cheap substitutes, salvaged polycarb, and lots of 8020, no doubt earning scorn from teams that can afford and know how to make custom space-age laser-cut/milled parts.

And yet…

We just finished as 4th place seed at the last event, winning a quarterfinal match and advancing to semis, possibly earning a spot at the New England championship event if the numbers hold up. With a robot made with no precision machining, no limelight (that’s a cheap Microsoft LifeCam with a ring of green LEDs around it!) no vision coprocessor, and a bunch of cheap 775 pro motors, a canned mecanum drivetrain from Andymark which we could only afford because we opted out of the kit-of-parts, and a canned climbing arm from ThriftyBot.

So for all those teams who struggle and are reading this, I’ll provide some specific advice:

  • OUTREACH – 2370 (iBots) has been a great source of advice and encouragement. We took a field trip there for a scrimmage and it was incredibly helpful. I ask a ton of questions on ChiefDelphi, and I get fantastic answers. Most teams and mentors are happy to help. Don’t go it alone. Network. Ask questions.

  • SIMPLIFY – Figure out what your team can handle; don’t overreach. You can do well at a regional event with a just plain WORKING robot that does one thing well (not defense!) We went to the World Championships our rookie year with a robot that couldn’t shoot high and couldn’t climb. At all. It was just VERY good at low goals, with an outstanding driver/operator. This year, a lot of low-goal everybots did really well.

  • KEY COMPONENTS – Some things are worth spending a bit of money on. Really good motors and/or controllers, for example. I am probably unreasonably fond of TalonSRX controllers. Cost-saving hint: For dual motors, you can use a cheap VexPro controller for the second motor and put it in “follow” mode following the more expensive smart TalonSRX. There are a number of cheap substitute tricks like that available.

  • SOFTWARE, SOFTWARE, SOFTWARE – I’m the coding mentor. I love writing software. Been doing it for decades. It is VERY DIFFICULT. However, it’s also one place where the cost is zero. It’s the most important thing in the robot, and it costs literally nothing. Except time, effort and expertise. There are a TON of coders here in ChiefDelphi ready to help. Code can solve soooo many problems. Limit switches are cheap and easy to code. Ultrasonic range sensors are cheap and easy to code. Take extra time and help your driver/operator. Don’t let them break the robot, and drive and operate it for them whenever you can. Our driver is now leaning heavily on the magic “don’t miss” auto-target driving button after initial skepticism. Autonomous period is my favorite. I kind of wish there were some all-autonomous matches available. I think we could be very good at those. And we’re not even using the Pathweaver library (it’s not great with mecanum wheels!)

  • PID TUNING – Get good at this. Again, this is software, whether it’s on the controller, such as with the talons, or on the RoboRio with the WPIlib modules. I am STILL learning how to do this correctly, and I’m sure I still have a long way to go, but I’m starting to be able to get the motors to do what I want with precision. Thanks again to everyone in ChiefDelphi who has answered my questions and pointed out when I was completely misunderstanding key concepts.

  • DO SCIENCE – Figure out what will NOT work. A lot of science is about making a bunch of measurements and experiments specifically to try to falsify a hypothesis. We took hundreds of shots and made a spreadsheet. What was the biggest determining factor in shot variation? Ball inflation! Even more than small variations in shooting speed. (Our shooter uses a locked angle. Variable angle hoods are, once again, really hard, so we skipped that.) Look at the Phoenix Tuner to see what your motors are REALLY doing. Use encoders. Take measurements. Don’t guess at what’s going wrong, prove it with real data. (Also, turns out we were wrong about backspin being good. It’s horrible in this game. We hit the target nearly every time in our first competition, and HALF of them bounced out from all of the extra kinetic energy and that infuriating spinning wheel at the bottom of the target. Added a backspin removal axle/wheel combo for our second competition and you can see the results. But how to precisely control the backspin removal? I just told the controllers to follow the primary shooter wheel so they synchronized. LOL! Worked great. Sometimes the solution is easy.)

  • USE VISION – If you can make it work, a cheap LifeCam and a GRIP profile can do surprisingly good vision (setExposureManual(0), ring of green lights to get the retro reflection, screenshot the ShuffleBoard screen to make a bunch of samples and use GRIP on the still images.) Just know the limitations. The RoboRio will choke if you overtax it. Our formula: LOW resolution slideshow, 160X120, 10 frames per second. Spend lots of time with GRIP figuring out an image processing profile. Even beginner team members LOVE playing with GRIP and tuning basic vision processing. There is a ton of really good advice here in ChiefDelphi on doing that. Take measurements to figure out how accurate you can get. It will be somewhat coarse and somewhat slow. Work with that. This year’s target is HUGE! But I tried to add a red/blue ball finder to the intake camera, and NOPE! RoboRio couldn’t handle both, so I took it out rather than beat my head against a wall.

  • STOP DOING THAT – “Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this.” Sometimes, I tell my software tech support staff, “That’s a ‘doctor, doctor’ problem.” If something doesn’t work, don’t force it. Find a better solution. Prototypes are great. Test code is great. Personally, I rather like 8020. New, inexperienced team members can be taught to tinker with 8020 almost as easily as Lego blocks. Great! Make something work as quickly as possible, then refine it. Don’t overengineer something that might not even work at all.

I could probably come up with dozens more, but if there’s anything I’ve learned about FIRST, and this applies to so many things in life when you have to work with other people, it’s that performance is more about process than content. Even a tiny team with cheap parts can be successful if they work together, know their limitations, reach out for as much help as possible, and concentrate on making a solid, reasonable robot that just plain works.


As a starting point, I’d say these are in direct conflict. If you learned valuable lessons, you didn’t fail.

I read every word and feel your pain and where you’re coming from. I’m curious about this bit:

Is that all you asked? Or, did you also ask about THEIR experience and what they saw as wins and losses in their time?

FIRST is an interesting beast. There are some very competitive people (and it sounds like you’re one) that will define success almost entirely around robot performance and ranking. Others will define success by pushing their boundaries (shy before robots, etc). Some will look at wanting to move towards awards. Some will look at personal growth. Some will focus almost entirely on those valuable lessons you cited.

When you’re able to step back from the heartbreak, you’re likely going to value those lessons more than you do now. I know it’s hard in the moment and aftermath.

I’ll ask a question back. Let’s take a look at 1218: SCH Robotics - Team 1218 (2019) - The Blue Alliance They were the last team to win a World Championship without playing a single playoff match in their division or a single match on Einstein. For someone with your competitive mindset, would this have been a pure win for you or do you see potential for disappointment here as well?

254 in 2018 didn’t lose during the season (they lost 6 matches in an off-season). Wire to wire, every match, every regional, every divisional match, every divisional playoff, every match on Einstein. Every single match that year was a win. That’s as far as you can get competitively to be successful. For someone that wasn’t driven from a competitive standpoint, do you see anywhere someone could have been demoralized by not having their hands on the robot as much as they’d have wanted?

When we look at those, I ask because I can see potential for frustrating/demoralizing experiences even with support and direction.

I’d also ask you now. Looking back on THIS season, what would you have done differently?


As a mentor I know what your going through we were last in out rookie year even though we played every match and some time you just get the short end of of the stick. Every since then we have decide to create our own path and it has been pretty successful.

You start slow and make sure you can walk before you run. Out of the 3 or 4 tasks if you can do one that efficient It’s a win. The point of robotics to me is teaching life lessons. You’re going to fail at some point everyone does. It’s what you do after the failures is the key to success.

Every year we pick 1 or 2 things we would like to learn how to do in the following year. Do research watch videos and FUN behind the bots gives lots of ideas. Don’t be afraid to dream big yes it sounds like you have failed the team but how much time and effort did you put in compared to the team. I’m sure you learned lots much more than regular school can teach you.




Not to nitpick here but I see a few relative points.

You went big and did a big design up front, but it didn’t sound like your team had the build and experience to pull it off.

I saw that a lot as a software engineer. Big plans with unseasoned engineers and then poor execution.

I different tactic we like to take now is to identify smaller goals and then work to incrementally achieve bigger things.

If you get trapped/stuck along the way you have at least accomplished the smaller goals.

We did this and we ended up with a bot that could track cargo, pick it up, line up automatically, shoot the low goal and climb to the mid-rung.


To touch on this real quick - probably not.

I’ve seen this frustration a number of times over the years, typically from exceptionally brilliant & mature students who just don’t understand why their peers can’t do what they do. Or even a quarter of what they do. I’ll tell them it’s not realistic to expect freshman to walk in the door, find themselves something productive to do, and stay focused on doing it for the next 3 hours with no guidance, and they’ll respond “But that’s what I did when I was a freshman!”, never understanding that they were in the 99th percentile for focus and initiative for their age. Most other kids just don’t have the capacity yet, regardless of how much they care or how hard they try. I don’t know you enough to know whether you’re one of those kids, but hopefully that perspective is helpful either way.