[FTC]: Tips for rookie teams

My and 2 of my friends managed to start a rookie team this year at our school. The team will consist of 3 members. SO we were wondering what are some tips that you guys have. IT could be anything from making the robot to designing it or anything you can think of.

Over this past Summer, we made some youtube videos which may help to get you started. Here is the link. http://www.youtube.com/user/robogamersonline
We will be launching more videos as the season progresses - there are about eight out so far.
Our website is www.robogamers.org and we have a lot of resources listed on on it as well. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions as well.

As a veteran team, we have gone through quite a bit. In past years, our team has been about your size, ranging from two people to 5 people. This year is the first year that we actually have 10 people on the team.

The first and most for most thing that sticks out to us is the fact of money. Money plays a huge role in your team. Depending on the funds that you have, means what you can really build and compete in. Fundraising is a huge part. Each team seems to be different in how they fundraiser. Find your little “nook” and try and get that money.

Then comes the building side of it. As you are a rookie team, I would stick to the Textrix pieces. You dont have to go custom everything right away. Our teams rookie year, we made a very simple robot, with very little custom work to it, really the only custom work was our bucket for the FACEOFF year. That year, we placed “11th” at the WORLD Competition!

That’s another thing. Simple is better. In the robot and everything else. Its better to have a simple robot, with as little moving parts as possible, for those times that something might go wrong in competition. Placement is also key to success as well. After our first two years as a team, we finally made it a point to put the most important things in hand reach, without having to disassemble most of the robot to get to it. The major things that we have on that list is the block boxes, the NXT, the Samantha, Battery, and of course the on and off switch. A BIG NOTE: Protect the on and off switch. To many times do i see rookie teams put the on and off switch down low on the robot, unguarded, where it is as easy as running our robot along side of yours to simply turn the switch off. Don’t make that rookie mistake.

To go along with being simple. Your scouting at competitions. You need to be able to do scouting. I can say from my rookie year, where we didn’t do ANY scouting, and then ended up in 2nd place from the Qualifying rounds, and not having a clue who to pick, I can say it sucked. Haha. My team though now, we have found that making your scouting as SIMPLE as possible is the best way to go. For instance, this year. I’m not rally going to care who scores on the ground. Some things for competitions, you can just forget. I don’t want to be looking at over 10 sheets of paper for ONE team, when there is about 20+ teams at the competition. 200+ Papers, just stupid. My team, we have ONE sheet of paper per team. So say there is 25 teams, I only have 25 papers, (even less than that when you factor out the teams that don’t do much), that I can now look at in the 30 minutes or so I have to pick an alliance for the FINAL rounds. There usually isn’t much time between Qualifiers and FINAL rounds to pick a team. Another thing that my team has eliminated is the scouting even before qualifying matches start. Every team, even our team, will and likes to stretch the truth on what they can actually do. And the fact that we wont say everything we can do. We just find is stupid to waste time on something, that wont even be used after we scout the matches. Catch my drift. Haha.

The most vital things of your robot are the black boxes, NXT, Samantha, and battery. They are also prone to shock. Static shock is a huge problem every year. To minamalize the problem, place plastic of some sort under the vital pieces. Don’t have the vital pieces touching any metal. Also, with the Samantha, support the wires that you have coming out of it. There are multiple videos on you tube to help you with that.

A list of rookie mistakes I see very often: (Some very stupid)
-Power Switch in bumping distance
-Forgetting to put a battery in the robot/NXT
-Forgetting to plug battery in
-Forgtting to turn robot on. (REALLY!)
-Vitals touching metal
-Moving a robot/robot on, with hands inside of it next to crushing gears
-Mesh your gears right
-Don’t direct drive your motors, they don’t last as long.
-Protect the servos, they are not strong at ALL.

Back to the Samantha, do not have your power wiring come from the black boxes, there are guides on you tube, and the FIRST website(I think) showing that you should connect those wires into the main wiring before it even go into the black boxes. The boxes have a tendency to lag, causing dropouts of the Samantha module.

Another big factor that comes into play is the field. Try and build parts of the field. THEY DON’T have to be to the specs. My rookie years, we went dumpster diving for pieces that we could modify to have resemble the field. Also, try to get at least one game piece, this year a box. Many rookie teams come to competition, never being able to see a real game piece, designing a robot they “think” will work well with the game pieces.

WORK HARD, and you will get it. Our team now builds a full field every year, custom builds our robots, little to no tetrix, and competes in mutiple competitions. We have been to Worlds mutiple times now.

If you want more help on a certain subject, message me, or contact our team. ftcteam2844@gmail.com or www.valleyx2844.com. We are more than willing to help out!

Matt
Alumni/Mentor of FTC Team 2844