In FTC/VRC you generally get more than one roll of the figurative dice.
If you budget your time well, you will have many opportunities (before any tournaments, and between them) to iteratively improve your robot. On the surface that is obvious, but (proper) FRC habits might cause you to underestimate just how big the difference is between the FRC and FTC/VRC timelines.
I always recommend initially building something simple that consistently does exactly what it is supposed to do; and then improving it over time using experience as your guide (instead of using hunches).
Try-before-buy, KISS, and practice/practice/practice will take you far in FTC (and VRC).
Find a team in your area or keep in contact with a team over email. The only way to learn from mistakes is either to make them yourself or have someone else make them for you. If you talk with a team, they can help you with all the really stupid mistakes (like forgetting to power on the robot before matches) and how they fixed them.
If you don’t know a team, get this book instead from our buddies at Pope John Robotics. Actually, get it regardless.
@gblake: Thanks for the tips. We’ll do our best to use our time wisely!
@jasonbrooks: More than they recommend. We have roughly 14 right now. We’ll see if they all stick with it and can follow the rules to attend competition.
@normalmutant: I’ll have to check out the FTC website and see what teams are in our area. Thanks for the tip. I checked out the book on Amazon. Looks amazing. We’ll definitely grab a copy or two at that price.