I recently restarted an FRC team at my high school and I was wondering what equipment everyone usually has in their pits.
At the start of the year, we bought a cart for the robot and the necessary tools. However, after going to an off-season event, I felt our pits were woefully underprepared.
Currently, I am looking for:
A stable surface to mount tools onto and work.
Preferably portable and light
Something solid to prop up the robot while working on it in the pits.
Some of our team kept getting lost, so I would like someplace to hang a banner and look more recognizable.
I saw a lot of other teams use trusses, but I want to know if there are any alternatives.
How do you usually get everything to and from venues? We have a truck, but if we get any of the above items we will definitely run out of space.
Any particular trailer models that are better than others?
Feel free to let me know if I should include anything else. Otherwise, item names and/or purchasing links will be appreciated.
Lighting definitely makes a huge difference in the pit. Our pit was super dark last year and was hard to use until someone ran out and bought some cheap lights that completely changed the feel of the place.
If you just went to an offseason they may not have provided the pit table. All official events have a pit table, usually something just a tad above a cheap folding table. We always used it because it was good enough and if it happened to get dinged up a bit more than it already was…¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Those aren’t the most portable, but does portability matter if it’s already there?
I’d pick up a folding table or two just to have as team property for whenever they’re needed.
Better lighting is good on its own, even without a canopy. Many events have dangerously bad pit area lighting.
For some of these things it depends on how much your team is willing to spend. I have seen some incredibly nice pits that cost upwards of $20,000 total to construct, and other nice pits for a fraction of the cost. So the way you go about your pit might change depending on the amount of funds you want to invest into it. However it’s always safe to start small and keep improving over years.
The team one of my sons was on built a flat-deck cart out of wood. They intended to build a removable stand for short robots but never got around to it. At a competition, they ended up putting one or two of the totes from Kickoff on the deck and put the robot on top. The totes had been used to bring parts and materials to the competition and were taking up space in the pit. If the robot was tall, the totes would not be used so it could all fit through a doorway.
Build it! 1293 has three main work surfaces: a custom-built pit cart with a workbench surface, the robot cart, and a 4x8 table custom-built for a Kevin Bacon movie being filmed outside their old shop some 15 years ago. (Honestly, I’d prefer it if it was 3x8 but they didn’t ask me.)
We use our robot cart for this. An alumnus welded ours up years ago and we built a wood topper for it, but there are many options out there. If you can design in a way to hold the robot propped up so the wheels are in the air, all the better. (Also, design in room for your driver station, whatever set of bumpers you aren’t using, a spare battery, and some bottled water.)
I don’t like to do a ton of decoration in the pits. Our pit cart and robot cart are wrapped in our logo pattern, and I’ll make some space for a hard-won blue banner. But as a doctrine, we don’t do that. Past teams I’ve been on have done backdrop stands to hang a banner up, which is cheap and lightweight.
Add me to the chorus of people talking about lighting in the pit. Even without an overhead canopy, I’ve been left disappointed on that at venues. You don’t have to spend a ton–even this cheap Harbor Freight lantern was helpful while working on the robot at Championship. Do pay for LED lighting, though–we have some older halogen work lights that are fine, but get super hot. I’d also put a mild premium on USB recharging–we never seem to have the right number of AA or AAA batteries on hand.
Also, plan for cooling both humans and robots. Water storage is important, and we’ve used fans to cool off hot motors after matches (or when we did have enough motors on the robot, to cool down humans after matches). We like these USB-rechargeable clip fans off Amazon; they’re a pretty generic thing to private label, so look around if that one is out of stock or gets past $36 or so.
Advanced game is to integrate a legit ceiling fan into your pit–it wasn’t uncommon in the days when the old Florida Regional had pits in tents. But that has a prerequisite of “a pit structure where you really built it well”, and you do lose the ability to cool stuff down while in queue.
We share an enclosed trailer with the band at one of our schools, since our scheduling doesn’t overlap. Everything we bring is on wheels, so we roll it from the shop into the trailer, and from the trailer into the venue. For Championship 2022, we rented a box truck with a powered liftgate.
Accept no substitutes–if you’re walking in totes, you will spend hours unpacking and still not know where stuff is.
As others have mentioned, all in-season events will supply a heavy-duty folding table similar to the one pictured below. A small (~3") vise can definitely be clamped to them in a sturdy manner (other options are given by Eric below). In my experience, they’re typically around 6’ - 8’.
Our team uses a collapsible photography background stand like this (IDK if this is the best one or not, just an example) to hang our banner from. Compared to a tent, it’s cheaper, less bulky, & doesn’t get in the way as much.
Our (and a lot of other teams) use a U-Haul cargo van to get the pit supplies and robot to competition.
Some other misc. stuff:
A small/medium-sized rolling tool chest will make a large difference in organizing your tools while also being transportable. Harbor Freight’s stuff is pretty economical and good for this role.
We’ve found that foam floor tiles are a phenomenal way to make the pit not only safer (fewer slips) but also softer on the feet. I linked Harbor Freight, but there are a lot of good options at a lot of prices, I’d do some looking for what’s right for your budget.
This style of plastic shelving is awesome for easy assembly and transport. Useful for storing all sorts of random tools and parts.
One thing you could use for a pit structural element (to hang a banner off of) is a canopy tent. This is what we’ve used for a while now, and could be something that you already have available. Ours is custom (so we don’t actually have a banner, but I don’t see a reason why you couldn’t hang one on it.
Definitely this lol. I can’t imagine the horror of seeing a team intentionally drilling into the venue tables. We’ve personally never found the hassle of a larger vice to outweigh the difficulties of getting to and step up at competition, but I can see the utility in it.
I have edited my post accordingly.
Team 2869 has a very old pit structure which is a bunch of 1x1s and some connector pieces. We usually hang some 10x10 team logo banners on the outside and back sides of the pit so it’s easier to find using zip ties.
Here’a a photo from last year
Start practical - Milwaukee packout system with drawers and the dollie are great for transporting tools. Find someone with a 10x10 tent (farmers market vendors) to use, get a local signmaker to donate material and use a Cricut to make a sign.