first year team needs help

Hello. This is the first year my school has participated in the FIRST competition. I go to a small school, so participation is very limited. Also add on the fact the there are only 3 seniors(me being one), and we’re the only ones who have any… skill, work ethic, or education in engineering. To put it bluntly, we’re extremely far behind. The other two seniors are working on the programming/electronics, and are making decent progress. I’m the head of hardware, as I’m really the only other competent student. The engineers at our sponsor have been very helpful in getting things built, however designing things is our fatal flaw.

I’m asking if anyone had some suggestions for a very easy strategy that we might be able to pull off. As of right now, we have nothing. Building complex things is going to be virtually impossible, so please keep it simple. I have no experience in the competition, so I don’t know what works and what doesn’t. Thanks in advance.

Make a very simple robot that will run everytime you put the robot on the floor. Don’t worry about anything else. If your robot does run then think about pushing the balls to your human player.

Just that should be enough fun for your team.

simply from the potential points perspective, getting the release ball to drop, and then getting those 18 balls on the floor can get your team the most points for doing ‘one’ thing - herding the small balls.

you can get 18*5 = 90 points just for doing that, if your human player can toss them in your goal

and since there are 6 freebee balls behind the wall when you start, thats another 30 points. So you would have a potential score of 120

all you need to knock the release ball over is a pneumatic cylinder - If your programmers can get you in the right spot in auton mode, that should be a piece of cake.

To gather the balls off the floor and get them to the human player, you could build a base frame using the transmissions that first gave you - one wheel on each side - like the one on the kickoff video - and have a plow shape on the front to push balls across the floor.

you will want to do some testing on this - pushing the balls with a pole or piece of alum is not trivial - you have to have your ‘plow’ the right shape and push the balls in the right spot, or your robot will try to climb over them, or they will get wedged infront and you wont be able to move at all.

If you get that working, and have time left, you might make something like a jousting pole that springs out, or unfolds with a pneumatic cylinder, for knocking the 2X ball off your goal (so you can toss balls in it)

or another simple addon would be a hook for snagging the lip on the portable goal, so you can drag it closer to your human player.

and dont forget, this game is not a race against the clock - its 2 teams playing against 2 teams - you can come up with some defensive strategies, to get in your opponets bot ‘face’ and keep them from scoring more points than you.

also remember you will have an alliance partner in each match you play - you are almost certain to be allied with teams that can get the release ball, manipulate the 2X ball or climb the bar

so as long as you are able to do one function well, between you and your alliance, you should do great.

What I would do:

Make a simple drive train, then build a simple little V-shaped piece that fits the outside of the goal. Attach this to one end of the robot

On the other end, make a scoop or wings, or something to semi-contain and gather balls - like a snowplow, but for balls.

Out of the top of the robot, a simple pole or arm to knock the ball down of the tees or off the goals.

The end result: a robot that can knock the ball down in autonamous, push goals around, and gather balls.

That would be an optimal design, since it is very multifunctional and would be well suited to offense or defensive playing.

This about sums it up - if you can do one thing (I suggest gathering balls, since they are the primary source of points this year) and do it well, you will be very successful on the field. The large balls are tough to work with, and hanging on the bar is as well. I’d stick to pushing the goals and gathering balls.

Though, from past experience, it is the drive train that is the most important part of the robot - make sure it is very robust and reliable.

note that the 2X ball is sitting on top of 4 foot high pvc pipes, and you are allowed to make your bot 60" (5 feet) high - so it would be very easy to make a pole or arm that twists around or springs out to knock the 2x ball off the top of your goal.

Thanks for the suggesitions. We already have a rectangular frame that is almost to the size limit, so adding on a plow will be difficult, but I’ll think of something. We did plan on making a hook arm, so i’m glad that someone else thinks it’s a good idea. Our programmers are good, so I’m not concerned about the autonomous part. Again thanks for the help.

this is what you can put on your robot. you don’t need steel you can use something light

Pneumatics, Pneumatics, Pneumatics!

Pneumatics are very easy, reliable, tollerable. They don’t fail as often as a motor because they aren’t relying on gears or sprokets or whatever. Anyway, I could suggest using pneumatics if you can for some of the simple mechanisms you add to the drive train. You could easily make a plow with some pneumatics - just have little arms/wings that swing out and then put a cylinder on them. If you need help with the pneumatics, don’t forget to check out the manual posted online on FIRST’s site - it’s very good.

Best of luck - to you and all rookies! Keep with it guys - the best feeling is seeing your robot move on the field the first time (even if it is July instead of March!:slight_smile: ).

that valleytech photo is a good start, but Im pretty certain (due to some prototype testing we did wed nite) that with the arms that high the balls will wedge under them (make sure you test it on carpet - these balls have very high friction surfaces).

(ok its time to deploy the FIRST secret weapon)





(you are having a team meeting this weekend, right?)

Just build something that runs with a simple plow in the front. Maybe simple hooks in the back to control the mobile goals.

Yeah, if a veteran team would like to just come check us out/help us, let me know. I’ll get you the info you need. I’m not sure if we’re having a weekend meeting, but I’ll find out tomorrow. P.S. We’re actually working in Sutton, but it’s only one exit farther on 89.

The earlier suggestions for things to do are all good. But some of them left out important aspects, probably because the vets that proposed them didn’t think to mention them. They fall into the “Of Course!” catagory.

So here are two hints from a veteran team that learned the hard way:

  1. If you can aquire it you need to be able to get rid of it.
  2. If you deploy it you need to be able to retract it.

I’d love to come out and visit, but 3000 miles is a little far…

Something else that really helps out rookie teams - if they can establish a hotline - hook up with a veteran mentor who they can call or email and get a quick response, esp when they are at the work site and are dead in the water.

“Shower the rookies with love, people. Show then the way that FIRST feels! things are gonna work out nice if you only will!” -James Taylor (paraphrased :c)

even us veteran teams - I cant tell you how many times Ive called the Xcats, or the Kodak team, or one of the other locals when I was in a pinch at 2PM on a saturday afternoon. (it helps that the xcats site is only a mile from our site too :c)

Hey guys!!!

The SINGLE THING that will help you more than ANYTHING ELSE in the competition is PRACTICE driving!! For a new team it is imperative to get the robot driving around and get your drivers to practice practice practice practice with it… Don’t worry about much else than a drive train and maybe something to push with. I guarantee you that you will have fun and contribute to your alliance every single time if you have a working drive train and the ability to scoot around the field with dexterity.

I have seen quite a number of robots that were fantastically designed fail in competition for many reasons. Get a solid robust simple drive train and drive the heck out of it. Make a barrier that you can safely push against or run into and ram it and push against it (within reason) Find out if your drive train and chassis will hold up or break it and then reinforce the areas where it is breaking.


You will do fine!! I wish we were in New Hampshire… we would love to come over and help… but I am sure some of the other teams will!!!
You have joined a fraternity … we are all brothers!!! (sisters too!!!)
Good luck and don’t ever hesitate to ask for help from anyone!!

a few ideas regarding the plow design were memntioned…pneumatics for the ACTUAL plow could be bad because once they get bent, they become completely useless…and it’s not that hard to bend something like that…it’s also possible that you could start with the arm plow thing raised up at a 90 degree angle at the edge of your robot controlled by a pneumatic piston and drop them when you need to…if you build the arms long enough, you could also knock the 10pt ball…though arm stability can be a problem too…the pneumatic piston for that 10pt ball is a good idea…just shoot it out when your in proximity in autonomous…

a mentor at our team also mentioned that we could have built a simple drive train within a two week period of time using only the kit parts and then we’d have the following 4 to learn to drive it like no other. that seriously isn’t bad advice to build a bot that owns in driving…just driving…

If you do decide on pnuematic anything, make sure it is not just the cylinder rod moving the part. If it could get hit, have the cylinder inside some square tube or extrusion. That way the piston rod does not get bent.

I realize this isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, but as far as strategies goes, this one works pretty well.

The best advice I can give, for your team as a whole, is you’re only as strong as your weakest player. If you’ve got someone on your team (a senior, freshman, whatever - it doesn’t matter) that doesn’t understand what’s going on, or what the team is doing, then that’s how much your team, as a whole, understands. Try to take the students who don’t know what to do and teach them. Spend a couple of minutes showing them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

Another thing - pass on the knowledge. Say you’re a expert on using the mill, the only one on the team who can do it, and the kid next to you can’t tell the difference between a mill and a drill bit. Teach them. Take an hour and show them how to do square up a block of delrin. Once they’ve got that down, show them how to machine something a little more difficult. Not only will you have taught someone something new, but you doubled your machining capability!

Good luck!