We’re starting a little earlier than in previous years for a few reasons.
First, we would encourage other teams to start their own build threads! We’ve learned a tremendous amount and helped a large number of teams with our build threads. More must be better, right? Please consider publishing your own build thread, we’d love to read it!
Second, I’d like to share a few things about how we approach kickoff, rules, and brainstorming before it actually happens.
In the last couple of years we haven’t been treating the rule book as a set of “rules.” Instead, we’ve been treating it as a product definition manual. This does a few things for us. It puts us in the mindset of working with FRC rather than against them. Just like working with a customer in the professional world, it has been beneficial to approach the FRC product definition manual in a constructive mindset and not an adversarial one. It can help with justifying those occasional weird rules (it’s what the customer wants) and explains a large number of other rules. When asking questions of the product definition manual it’s about clarifying what the customer wants so that we can make a better product, not seeing if we can exploit some twisted version of what is written.
As a side note: I’ve started writing product definition/requirements documents like FIRST rule books at my job and it has been tremendously effective. Vendors like the style because they get maximum creative freedom to solve the problem, and my bosses like the style because the problem gets solved.
During kickoff and the few days afterwards we talk about ‘how to play the game’ i.e. what functions should our product have to meet our customer’s requirements. Like 1678 notes in one of their many excellent videos, there is no discussion of ‘how’ things are done, just ‘what’ things are done. We assume that no matter what we chose to do we can figure out how to do it later. This has proven to be a good assumption.
We then use a weighted decision matrix to pick a particular strategy. I won’t go into how a weighted decision matrix works, that’s been done ad nauseum by numerous great sources. We consider categories like scoring ceiling, growth-over-season potential, technical difficulty, independence from alliance partners, and rarity factor. We aim to go for a competitive design, but with some sort of creative twist or feature that few other teams have. This has usually guided us well in selecting the right strategy to pursue.
As for how our build will go this year, we have on-boarded our first fabrication sponsor in many years, if ever: Progressive Manufacturing in West Lebanon, NH. They do phenomenal sheet metal work and will be making a majority of our sheet metal components this year, freeing up our time to test, develop, and design. We have a preseason chassis with components made by Progressive MFG that I will be publishing soon.
Thanks for reading!