Fundamental skill sets for FTC / FRC


I’m new to mentoring FTC/FRC, and am a non-engineer (I am a physical scientist and programmer in C++ and similar languages, however).

The teams I am helping have a coach / teacher, but not many existing outside mentors (if any at all)! I want to help them make the right connections so that they can learn from experienced professionals or others who reasonably understand the processes. From my observations of FRC and FTC the last couple of years, I am guessing that these skills are the basic requirements for those two programs (some more in FRC than FTC) if you want to have a successful team:

  • Understanding of the engineering process
  • CAD design
  • Electrical / wiring
  • Engineering (chassis / manipulator)
  • Programming, including sensor feedback
  • rapid prototyping ability
  • machine shop / general tool skills
  • media / social media
  • marketing / fundraising
  • web site design
  • scouting / strategy
  • awards preparation

What am I missing, or have I over-emphasized? We’re putting together a multi-year strategy to improve the robotics program, so we want to convey all the important areas to our school leadership as well as have a firm idea of the types of mentors we should be looking for.

Thanks in advance for your feedback!

I’d say that there are a fewFRC competition-specific skills. For example, many newer teams overlook the strategy that goes into robot design. How is your machine going to play the game? Where will it score from?

IMO, it’s good that you some of the more technical skills down, but a good thing to remember is these are still team-based activities. Therefore, it might be beneficial to add requirements such as interpersonal skills, public speaking, making compromises, and anything else that doesn’t “seem” like a skill, but is crucial to having an effective team.

Good points from both of you. So, there is also the non-technical list of traits desirable in team members (and mentors, for that matter). Thanks!

Any other technical skills? And how would you rank them in importance? It seems to me that an ideal technical leader would be one who understands how the FIRST games are played (and thus how to design an effective robot) and also has the engineering design and hands-on building skills to pass along to the team members.

Currently, because our team is part of a class at our school, we have started to require some knowledge in the areas involving the robot directly (Mechanical, Electrical, CAD design, CNC, and Programming) and it would be nice if this could spreed so that others can know a little of these and the other areas you have mentioned.

“Know What You Don’t Know So You Can Know What You Can Know”

I think you guys have covered the technical aspects pretty well. While the website is a useful tool to have in robotics, it is not necessary to have a website group, so you may want to consider waiting a year or two before focusing on the website.

Another branch of robotics that is not technical but is important is community outreach. A team does not need to do outreach in order to field a robot, but one of Dean Kamen’s goals in creating FIRST (For INSPIRATION and RECOGNITION of Science and Technology) is to get America more involved in engineering, inventing, and innovating. With this in mind, community outreach should be a big focus of any FIRST team, not just the robot and competition. Community outreach is also important if you are hopeful for receiving the Chairman’s award (FRC) or the Inspire award (FTC). Keep this in mind when you are mentoring the team.

Agree on this - although with our younger teams having a web presence has been tremendously helpful for sponsorship / fundraising purposes.

Thanks - I left that part out, partially because one thing the teams do great at are outreach / community service. They have not done a good job at documenting and presenting this fact to judges, though. For instance, for FTC last year they didn’t fill out an engineering notebook (including info on the massive amount of outreach they did) – which is required for most awards… so that is the first thing they are fixing this year.

This is good info to know. Our school (that these teams represent) has a robotics class as well, and from what I can tell there has not been a clear focus on teaching these things in the past. I could be wrong. However, I know that this year is the first time they have ever tried using CAD as part of the design process, and I’m not sure how much planning and strategy has gone into previous year’s robots.

So that brings up the question - does anyone have a FIRST robotics curriculum that they like that incorporates both FTC (Aug-Dec) and FRC (Jan-May)?

I think that first you have to define what success means. For some teams it’s having a working robot. For some it’s making the eliminations at their local event. For some it’s winning events. And for some it’s winning the culture awards.

  • Understanding of the engineering process <–Helpful, but not actually required.
  • CAD design <–Also helpful, but also not required. People underestimate the value of quick sketches and manual drafting.
  • Electrical / wiring
  • Engineering (chassis / manipulator)
  • Programming, including sensor feedback <–I suspect that a majority of robots do not use sensor feedback in a beneficial way. If anyone has actual data to the contrary I would love to hear it.
  • rapid prototyping ability
  • machine shop / general tool skills
  • media / social media <–May help recruitment or fundraising but not required.
  • marketing / fundraising
  • web site design <–May help recruitment or fundraising but not required.
  • scouting / strategy
  • awards preparation <–Applying for awards is optional unless you have a specific grant that says otherwise.

We have BunnyBots from September through December, and while that’s not FTC, we think it’s a better way to get new members up to speed for FRC in the fall, since they’re building FRC-class robots instead of FTC robots. Nothing against FTC, it just makes sense to build an FRC-class robot when you’re trying to learn how to build an FRC-class robot.

One thing to add to your original list - outreach. I see that you have marketing and fundraising on there, but I think outreach falls outside of that - marketing is about advertising your team and making it sound as good as possible to outsiders, fundraising is about funding your team (duh), and outreach is about getting out into your community and making culture change happen. That might fall under your definition of marketing, but I think it’s worth clarifying - there’s a difference between the two, and both are important for becoming a better FRC team.