FRC 8604 2021 Team Startup & Build Thread

Hello All! I am very excited to announce the startup of a new rookie FRC Team at Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Lexington, MA. Chief Delphi, meet FRC 8604!

About Minuteman
Minuteman is a vocational school with students coming from over 12 different districts in the greater Boston area. Our school has 19 different career majors for students to choose from, including Engineering Technology, Robotics & Automation, Advanced Manufacturing & Welding, Carpentry, Automotive, Multimedia Engineering, Biotechnology, Environmental Science, among many others!

I was hired as the new Engineering Technology Instructor at Minuteman this past summer, and have been working throughout the fall to get the team off the ground and registered for the 2021 season. I was recently selected as the faculty advisor for the team so I will be the lead mentor!

For those unfamiliar with vocational education, the way our school is structured is students rotate between academic weeks and shop weeks. Every other week they spend the entire week, M-F, 8AM-230PM, in their career major shop. Students in the Engineering shop participate in Project Lead the Way courses, as well as custom curriculum I have been developing surrounding the many engineering disciplines students can choose to study after high school. Some of the engineering disciplines we are diving into include mechanical, civil/environmental, chemical, biomedical, aerospace, electrical, architectural and aerospace engineering.

Since Minuteman places such high value on project based, hands-on learning, FRC is a perfect fit for our students. We are lucky to have a full wood shop in carpentry, a metal fabrication shop in advanced manufacturing, as well as an Omio X8 CNC router, 3D printers and lots of power and hand tools in the Engineering shop.

About Me
Some of you may know me from FRC 6328, as I helped co-found the team back in 2016-2017 and have been managing the team since. With my recent career change I have stepped back from 6328 as team manager, but remain on the team as an outreach/chairman’s mentor. I have also been an FLL Coach since 2015, and have established 9 teams in MA since I got involved in FLL.

Since Littleton and Lexington are close by, 6328 and 8604 will have a unique opportunity to share resources between the two teams, as well as team up on outreach efforts. This will help expand our reach since 6328 is a community team and 8604 is a school team. We are calling ourselves “sister teams” and I am very excited to see where this awesome partnership takes us!

About This Thread
Following in the footsteps of 6328, 8604 will be publishing our robot build publicly here on Chief Delphi, and all the craziness along the way! We will also publish work on the other components of FRC this year (game design challenge, innovation challenge) - more details to come post Saturday’s announcement.

In addition to sharing our robot build, we will be sharing information on the start-up of our team, and best practices I have found through the development of 6328 and now 8604. This is a very broad topic, but we have a unique opportunity to document step by step what goes into FRC start-up in a school setting, which will serve as an incredibly valuable resources to future teams taking on the daunting task of starting up an FRC team. Some topics we will cover are team structure, technical and non-technical student and mentor trainings, fundraising, sponsor outreach and generally how to manage a build season with all the crazy COVID-19 restrictions.

If there are specific topics you would like to see covered, please let me know. It is going to be a crazy ride but I am beyond excited for it!

-Dee/Ms. Clark (low key don’t know what to call myself now as a join 6328/8604 mentor!!)


Ms. Dee, for sure.

Very excited for this and excited to help out, will be a great resource for those interested in starting a rookie team to see what it takes. If anyone has anything they’d specifically like to see and learn more about during the development of the team, please just ask!


Congratulations Dee! What an exciting opportunity. The Students of Lexington are lucky to have you.

Joe Derrick
FRC 8046 - The Lakerbots


I am thrilled to see there will be real time support for rookies and the Game Design “build”. I am so appreciative of being given the opportunity to follow along beside you.

We will be meeting in a virtual manner only. I would be interested in your kickoff day plans - how much time you plan to allot for going over the game design rules and then the direction you will take. Do you, at this time, have a general “plan of attack” in comparison to the normal plan of 1) Read the Rules 2) Decide the Whats 3) Decide the Hows? (phrases borrowed from Citrus Circuit’s Michael Corsetto)

Thank you.


Always great to see another local team. Best of luck to you from 5735!


I am so glad this will serve as a useful thread for your team!

This year for kickoff we are joining FRC 6328 on a Zoom call to watch the broadcast together. After that myself and some 6328 mentors will be running a rules overview and strategy planning session for how we will attack the three components of the FRC challenge this year. We will mainly be focusing on Infinite Recharge at home, however, and determining what our strategic priorities are.

The first part of the strategy discussion will involve breaking down how the game rules and how the game is played. What are the major constraints? The main constraints I always look for first in any FRC game is how many game pieces can you hold at once, frame perimeter restrictions, height restrictions, frame perimeter extension restrictions, game object collection points (floor and HP station for this game), and any major field obstructions (the rendezvous bumps, color wheel tunnel, climbing rig in middle of field). The students will also complete a rules test. I assume FRC 1678 will post an updated version of their rules test as they usually share that on Chief Delphi after kickoff, so I will likely use that for my students. All students must pass the rules test to participate on the team. My student team captain is creating a rules overview resource that we will post here after kickoff as well.

Then we look at how the game is played. How do we score points? How many points is each task worth? How do the points change in auto and teleop? What are the game rule updates for 2021? Did any point values change? What are the main roles robots play on an alliance? What might a typical match look like? It can be helpful to estimate times for how long it will take to get from one place to another on the field, how many seconds it takes to shoot 5 balls, how long it will take to line up for a climb to better understand how many game objects could realistically be scored in a match.

Once we have a solid understanding of the rules and how the game is played, we will begin a discussion on strategic priorities. What role do we want to play in this game? What are our strategic priorities in the game? What is reasonable for us to accomplish given all of the constraints (time, money, skill levels, experience, meeting schedule, etc.) As a new team we will definitely be making strategic compromises to ensure we do not overreach beyond our abilities. During this discussion we look at the robot as a “little black box” and try to not discuss actual mechanisms or designs. Once we have a list of strategic priorities, then we can begin thinking about how the actual robot will look.

I expect to get through the strategic priorities on Saturday and plan on tasking kids with completing some research on robot designs from 2020 so they can see what is out there. I think one of the biggest challenges with rookie FRC students is that don’t know what is out there for them to use materials wise. Sometimes I find they don’t even know where to begin because the newness of it all can be very intimidating, so I highly recommend checking out reveal videos and design resources teams have shared over the past year. Going through the VexPro website can be really helpful too. In my classroom I use Vex Pro materials in all the hands-on projects (bearings, shafts, spacers, etc.) so my students are pretty comfortable using the website, finding the parts and importing them into Onshape, which seems like a minor skill but it is so critical in FRC. It may be worth just having your students look through the various FIRST vendor websites (vexpro, andymark, rev, west coast products, thrifty bot, etc) so they have a better idea of what they can build with.

I will likely have students develop concept sketches as well of mechanism ideas they have for the game after kickoff as well. Normally this would feed right into prototyping but we likely will not be able to do much prototyping at all this season since the only in person meeting time we have is 2-230 M-F during a advisory period (and that is only 1 grade per week). We are going to have to be very mindful about how we use that in person time because it is so limited. I will go into my plans for how we will actually build the robot later, because it is going to be logistically very challenging. As a virtual only team I highly recommend finding inspiration from 2020 robots, so you can see what mechanisms work well for this game. No reason to reinvent the wheel when teams did a lot of prototyping of mechanisms last year and we can use their findings to guide our design decisions.

I linked an academic virtual learning resource I created that guides students through the process of strategic design in Infinite Recharge and I attached it here. Feel free to use any and all parts of it if you find it useful.

I hope this is helpful! Don’t hesitate to post additional questions or comments you may have!


Intro to Strategic Design.pdf (290.1 KB)


Good morning CD!

8604 has been busy figuring out the best ways to tackle these challenges. I know for me being so used to a typical FRC kickoff I have had to change the way I approach the 2021 challenges with my students.

One thing I have been working on a lot as a new teacher is how to best reach all types of learners, and I think this is really key when approaching this year’s challenges, especially with rookie students. I know for many of my students the game manual is extremely daunting and it can be hard to know where to begin. At the end of the day we all learn in different ways, and as educators/mentors, it is our job to make sure we are doing what we can to cater to all types of learners. One student may find the manual easy to understand, while another student needs to hear it in presentation format to best understand. Others will need to start applying the knowledge with hands-on tasks to best understand. Knowing how your students learn will not only make them more successful with FRC in the long run, but it will also make your team as a whole more successful! Don’t underestimate the value in trying to get to know all your students on a more personal level, you will learn and grow a lot together as a result (and the inside jokes and memes will just slap on a whole different level, see straight fire meme examples from 6328 below)

I have found through virtual learning this year kids process the information best when it is:

  • Broken up into smaller chunks
  • Processes or lists are displayed via SmartArt charts rather than text lists
  • Action items/to-do lists are clearly spelled out, in either a table or SmartArt chart

I have been using the PPT Slide Designer tool and it autogenerates SmartArt charts for me from bulleted lists which is really nice. I highly recommend using this tool when developing content for your teams.

To make the 2021 challenges easier to understand, as well as create a nice reference guide the team can use throughout the season, I created a 2021 Challenges Overview PPT and I linked it below. This PPT covers the following:

  • Infinite Recharge at Home challenges
  • Game Design Challenge
  • Innovation Challenge
  • Student Leads Team Structure for 2021

The information is pulled straight from FIRST’s manual, and I broke it up into smaller chunks and used visual aids wherever I could to make the information easier for students to understand and process.

Challenges Overview PPT:

Please feel free to use, modify or adapt this PPT in any way to best fit your team’s needs!

We also discussed how we want to structure the student lead positions for the challenges, as divide and conquer is going to be key this season. We ended up going with the following for student leads, and will be creating a job description packet and application (will post here when it is complete).

I want to note because of the extremely limited in-person time we have, the manufacturing & assembly lead will mainly be focusing on preparation of drawings and parts ordering lists. We are going to be sending parts out to be made, either to our school’s shop, 6328’s shop or I will strong arm my boyfriend to make last minute parts for us :rofl: on his beautiful CNC mill he bought (and is housed at 2168 HQ right now). In a normal year, the manufacturing team would be a lot larger and include students actually running the machines themselves, but it is just not feasible for us this year.

Our immediate to-do list is as follows:

  • Team members are ranking challenges themselves at home, researching 2020 robots and developing concept sketches/preliminary CAD in preparation for weekend meeting
  • Rank Infinite Recharge at home challenges strategically as a group during weekend meeting
  • Decide basic robot architecture and layout during weekend meeting
  • Assign sub-assemblies to students to be design leads on and start the CAD process!
  • Use in person time next week with in-person seniors to build kit-bot and start wiring

We will be using the kit-bot as a code testing system as well as for driver practice later on. We are also going to be framing the 30-minute sessions we get during the advisory period as “competition pit practice.” The idea is to prep all tools/supplies needed before the meeting, and challenge ourselves to get as much done on the kit bot as possible in those 30 minutes. If anyone is missing the rush of fixing your robot in the pit with only 30 min before your next match, this could be a fun twist on your in-person time! I think it will be a lot of fun to simulate that environment with the kiddos, especially when there isn’t a real life match to get to! :smile: If things go awry it is a good learning opportunity for how to work more effectively as a team next go around. We will also use this when building the actual robot. I will post about how this goes, it may just be a dumpster fire but we are gonna find out!

Lastly, as a rookie that got a pretty late start this season, we are also still recruiting students and mentors to the team. I have been holding virtual information sessions for students, and developed a slide deck that I linked below. As with everything I post here, if you find it useful, feel free to use, adapt and/or modify in any way to best fit your team’s needs.

Information Session PPT:

That’s all I got for now, more updates coming soon!

-Ms. Cook (as the juniors have named me :sweat_smile:)


Things have gotten very busy but I found some time this evening to sneak in a blog post update! We finally have a team name! Introducing FRC Team 8604…


And you know what this means? GALAXY BRANDING!!! Our student marketing lead has been busy designing logos and merch and we will have updates soon (:

Here is a summary of what else we have been up to:

Infinite Recharge at Home
We have spent the bulk of our time focusing on Infinite Recharge at Home and how we want to approach this challenge. We decided to prioritize the teleoperated challenges over the autonomous ones to start in order to not stretch ourselves too thin. If we have time at the end to add in autonomous routines we will. We created a spreadsheet of strategic and functional requirements of our robot based on these 3 challenges, pasted below.

We then ranked the functional requirements in order of priority to ensure we focused on the critical path pieces first, which in the case of Infinite Recharge at home, is driving!


Once we had our strategy well planned out, we started CAD. We are using Onshape, and we have not gotten too far yet, but once we have some more progress I will share our CAD link on this thread. Here is a pic of a preliminary west coast drivetrain model Cam from 2168 made with our kiddos! Thanks Cam! We are going to be using a very similar style, and the students are looking into designing in an H-drive as well. After watching videos of robots with strafing abilities, we decided that we think some lateral movement, especially in the Hyperdrive challenge, will be very beneficial. However, this is our lowest priority at the moment as we are being extra careful about not overcommitting. Our general strategy is to move the drive gearboxes to the back wheels and leave a cutout in the belly pan where a future H-drive module could go.

We also made a lot of progress on the kit-bot! We are assembling and wiring the kitbot so we have a full robot for the programming team to use for testing. The seniors were in person last week and we made crazy good progress, although we were only able to work on it for 30 min T-F. It honestly did feel like being in a pit at competition, we had a blast!

Kit Bot Work Time Lapse

This week the freshman are in person and finished mounting the support churros to the frame and installed the wheels. We goofed on the support churros a few times and placed the belts above them and had to take them out, but after the first installation of the self tapping bolts it wasn’t too bad to take those in and out. We are also going to start laying out the electronics and getting the belly pan cut and mounted. We are using some thin plywood I found laying around my shop.

Team Structure Updates
We have student leads assigned to all of the positions previously posted, woohoo! We definitely felt very chaotic prior to having a leadership structure in place. In the remote environment it became clear right away we needed more structure, and the students really stepped up to get all of these filled. I am working on getting our students on Chief Delphi so they can start posting updates here as well, so look out for posts from them in the future!

I linked the leadership description packet we created so the students would know what they are signing up for.

FRC 8604 Student Lead Descriptions_2021.pdf (113.5 KB)

Game Design Challenge & Innovation Challenge
We have two freshman students who will be the project managers for the Game Design Challenge and the Innovation Challenge, so we will be diving into those ASAP. I am very excited that our younger team members are getting involved in leadership!

For the Innovation Challenge, we are likely going along the lines of incorporating relaxation stations into the Minuteman classrooms and or/shops. We feel this is small enough that we can tackle it, but will also make a big impact on our students. I have a small relaxation station set up in my classroom, and part of my classroom rules are if you need a break, take it! Any student who is feeling stressed can grab some Play-Doh from the front cart, and take a short break to refocus.

Adapting to COVID
We are all learning as we adapt to doing FRC in a remote/hybrid environment, and it has not been easy! One struggle the students expressed was the lack of social interaction. We ended up all just chatting after a meeting for a while and we didn’t even realize how much we missed that until we had some time to chat. We decided to add social hour on Friday’s, where students from 8604 & 6328 can come and chit-chat, play games, etc. It is a small detail but I think it will go a long way!

That’s all we got for now!
-Ms. Clank


Happy Friday CD!

Another busy week down for 8604! I am not sure how other teams are feeling, but we got into a bit of a CAD rut this week and things felt very chaotic. To solve this we are holding our first ever…drum roll please….CAD-A-THON! (*insert airhorn noise here) My students were told to stock up on snacky snacks and get ready to CAD like crazy all day tomorrow. We are very grateful to have design assistance from mentors on 2168 & 6328, so we are hopeful to make a lot of good progress tomorrow.

What have we done so far though? We have been through many iterations on the drivetrain and it is starting to take shape nicely.

We are going with an H-drive for Infinite Recharge at Home as we feel the ability to move laterally will provide a strategic benefit and reduce time to complete the driving challenges. We also included mounting spots for a middle wheel so if we want to switch to 6-wheel traction drive (which is a better fit for the actual game of Infinite Recharge - maybe we will get to play in the fall??). Overall the design is pretty simple and uses mainly COTS components. I will have my student CAD leads write a post with all the technical design details after this weekend. It has been pretty incredible to see the students take charge of the CAD, even as rookies. Our student drivetrain CAD lead was able to model this drivetrain himself (with guidance from mentors along the way of course), but he did all the CAD work! This was not the case when we started 6328 as we had to work CAD training into our offseason technical trainings over the course of a few years, so it feels very different this time around. I was lucky to be able to be many of the students’ CAD teacher this fall so I was able to adapt my curriculum to include FRC elements. I think this helped a lot!

Our control systems team has been working on getting up to speed with FRC programming and electrical basics, and are just about ready to dive into the code. Our electrical lead also took the kit-bot home. We prepared a bucket of tools and supplies needed to wire the bot, and it is currently in the middle of being wired in this student’s living room! I attached the latest control systems PPT, feel free to use and/or adapt to fit your needs.

Control Systems Intro_02.03.21.pdf (2.9 MB)

The marketing & community outreach team has also been busy, working on creating sponsor outreach materials, our team logo, fundraiser ideas as well as launching our Girl Up club! Our first Girl Up meeting is next Tuesday, and we plan to focus on the Advocacy Club Challenge and how we can tie this into the Innovation Challenge. You can learn more about Girl Up and this challenge here: Advocacy Challenge - Girl Up Community

We had our first Social Hour last week and honestly it was a blast! We played a bunch of Jackbox games and it was a great end to the week. I would definitely recommend trying this out - it is a small thing but I think it will go a long way during COVID! Some of our students have set up a Minecraft server now so they are going to teach me how to play tonight! :rofl: Maybe I will actually be able to learn now that I won’t be playing with bullies who just keep leaving me at half a heart over and over… @rtomp :angry:

We also designed our practice day shirts during Social Hour! We really feel the design speaks to who we are as a team.

That is all for now! We are definitely behind, but it wouldn’t be an FRC season without a little panic right?

See ya later fellow robot nerds!


Don’t forget about all of the glorious bridge ones lol

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much later

Uhhhhhhh…so this whole document as you go process didn’t go so great for us, huh? We got WAY too busy to keep up with the blog, turns out trying to build a rookie robot in a global pandemic almost exclusively remotely is pretty hard! Who would’ve thought!

I will have a nice long post after we get our skills challenges scores in tonight, but I’d like to share an image of our completed machine!

More updates and a JUICY reveal video dropping soon…


Sick bumpers! Robot looks great too!

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THANK!! I have never made bumpers before but I am very happy with how they came out! And yeah, robot isn’t too shabby either! :sweat_smile:

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I am proud to share with you all our 2021 robot reveal video! Told y’all it’d be ~juicy~


Gotta admit, I went from “eh, another FRC team” to “I wonder if that school is hiring” pretty fast as I read the first post.


I am proud to share the 8604 season recap video! It also features some of the fun projects completed in my Engineering class as well, including turning the FLL game Trash Trek into curriculum which was really fun.

Although I have loved my year with 8604, I got an incredible offer to teach robotics & FRC at Choate Rosemary Hall starting in August, so I will be moving on to work with FRC 7407 - Wired Boars! This is truly my dream job and I am so excited to see where it takes me. I can’t wait to get started.

I had the best year at Minuteman with some of the best kiddos I have ever met. They will always have a special place in my heart. Today is my last day and you bet there will be tears!
Here is my job listing at MM if anyone is interested :eyes: