jump start build

This year at the Bayou Regional in New Orleans I noticed that several of the rookie teams (and some veterans) were still building on Thursday morning. We plan on trying to reduce this problem by inviting all the rookie teams to the “Bayou Regional Jump Start Build”. The first Saturday after the kickoff all the teams will show up at a high school gym with their kit of parts. We will have all the engineers and mentors there along with the materials (wire, chain, etc.) and tools necessary to build the robots. By the time the teams leave that night we plan to have all robots programed and running/driving.

This will give the teams a tremendous advantage by having a robot to show at their school and a working platform to prototype and test the various manipulators. The teams can then modify and upgrade the robots to suit their specific needs.

We plan to have crash courses thorough out the day in pneumatics, electronic board fabrication and design, programming, transmission and drive train design and tool safety.
We also plan to use the event as veteran team training in how to mentor rookie teams. The teams will have several robots from past years to look at and also be able talk with members from other teams. I am looking for additional comments and suggestions

That’s certainly ambitious. I’d be afraid of freezing a design prematurely if I tried to have a driveable robot so early. Our design groups don’t even present their concepts to the whole team until the middle of the second week.

What about doing something similar during, say, Week 3 or 4? That will give teams enough time to hash out their designs, and possibly have a mini-competition for any team that wants to test stuff out. Then, just before ship, have a full-fledged mini comp to test, get the robots working, help repair them, etc. The SCRRF Pre-ship Scrimmage usually runs that way; often, one or two teams need help, and they get it.

The SoCal method of doing this:
-October/November or so: Fall Classic/Battle at the Border (draw new teams, train new members)
-November/early December: Fall Workshops (one day of training open to all teams that register; covers all topics)
January/February: Build Season. If you need help, ask another local team.
Last Sunday before Ship Date: Pre-Ship Scrimmage. Bring the robot and/or any parts you want to work on; to compete, get in line, to work, just get to work. You are not required to pass inspection, but you may be inspected by the regional inspectors to have problems called out.

And yes, we still have some teams building or rebuilding their robot at the event. I suspect that that’s mainly because they didn’t really participate in the full range of events beforehand. (Or, they didn’t pass inspection.)

Oh, and for the record: Teams with non-kit frames would still (probably) not have their base undesigned and/or unwelded. We have been known to wait until Week 4 to cut out frame metal–we only did that once, but we rarely, if ever, cut metal before the start of Week 3. Some teams are like that…


This is certainly a rather gutsy strategy, one that I would hope will pay off well for the teams in the area. As an inspector, one thing I always enjoy seeing is a team that can uncrate and get inspected earlier on Thursday, practice well, and sit back towards the later evening with a bought-in-the-venue lemonade. (Unless, of course, someone else needs help.)

I can’t help but wonder if having the robots driving and programmed the Saturday after Kickoff might cause a problem or two with manipulators. It might be a non-issue in a game like Triple Play (flat field, only one real way to score), but it may be a bigger issue if we get a game like FIRST Frenzy (field with stairs, at least three or four valid strategies for scoring). Getting teams familiar with the basics, along with some inspiration from old robots, may be a better goal to aim for than a driving base.

Last year, I presented a workshop at the South Carolina kickoff. Granted, mine was on marketing, but I can definitely see how knowing the game could help tailor the more technical workshops to help more. (I bet anyone who spent time learning about arms in 2006 would agree with me.) If you’ve got enough teams close enough, you might be able to try something like Eric’s suggestion of a couple of smaller get-togethers to get teams rolling in the right direction (and ask for help if they need it).

Best of luck with this–anything that gets teams moving in the right direction is a good step.

While I am sure this would help some rookie teams, and it is possible that from my read of your post that I am missing some essential element of the concept… it is just that this idea seems a bit too… “cookie cutter”, or homogenous, to me.

While the intent is good, each rookie team is going to have (hopefully) a different strategy in mind, and will be designing a different drive base, and hooking up their electronics in a slightly different way and slightly different location. Some may still be waiting for the wheels (or other parts) that they have ordered to arrive.

I think it is also fair to say that building the drive base is not always the time consuming part of the project… manipulators, mechanisms, and system integration and testing is. That is a somewhat more organic process that takes place over the entire build period.

Based on my experience… which may be different from yours… what rookie teams seem to appreciate most is someone who can help them out over the course of build, with ideas, insight and helpful tips. Visiting the rookies, in their shop, regularly throughout the build… and making suggestions that will *help *them build *their *design… is usually appreciated. If you can show up with a scale that can actually weigh their robot, that is often even more appreciated.

Perhaps a way to really kick-start build would be to do something like you describe… but in December, and walk rookie students through the processes of wiring, programming, and such, so that they are ready to go with their own designs.

There are certainly some teams who might benefit from what you describe (and naturally those who don’t think it would be a benefit would certainly not be obliged to come), but I would be worried that it may also distract rookies from the bigger picture of building a team, and a robot as opposed to just a KoP drivetrain.


I know I sound like a broken record but please don’t forget to include some non-technical workshops also, and any teams who are considering mentoring rookies next year, point them to the resources available online EARLY IN THE FALL - NEMO, MOEmentum, RINOS, Team-in-a-Box, to name a few. There are lots of presentations from past FIRST kickoff workshops as well as the FIRST conferences on the FIRST website also. Every spring I hear from rookie mentors saying they wish they’d found NEMO earlier in the season…

Thanks for you input. All your ideas and suggestions are good. Having a running robot in week three and four usually leads to the problem that I am trying to solve. The sooner that you have a working platform the better. Most rookie teams have only seen may be one robot during the recrutiment and have never driven one. The parts that are included in the kit are very adaptable and flexible. I don’t feel that the teams would be “locked in to a design” by having a running robot at the start of week two. Changing the basic design of the robot and upgrading is made easier when you have a working robot to change and experiment with. I have found in my experience that the rookie teams take far to long to get to up to speed in the design build process and this hurts them in the end. I would really like to start the teaching process early in the school year but the majority of my team recruiting does not get on track till November and trying to organize the teachers and students is hard to do when I am still trying to recruit engineers and mentors. We do workshops (technical and non-technical) but this does not start till after the kickoff.

The “Bayou Regional Jump Start Build” hosted by Team 1912 North Shore High School on January 12, 2008 was a huge success.
10 teams (2 rookie and 8 veteran) showed up for a marathon all day build session. Teams brought their kit of parts and with the help of engineers and student veterans, seven of the teams had running robots at the end of the day. Team 364 Gulfport provided 2 engineers and 4 student veterans and Team 1912 provided 4 engineers and 20 plus students and were a huge part of the success of the event. Engineers for both Lockheed Martin and Intralox provided the technical build expertise and the crash course training. The day included building a full size practice field and a shipping crate. Crash courses during the day included safety, pneumatics, “easy-c” programming, frame build, transmission assembly and electronics board design and fabrication and they were all compressed into the day. A class was given to help the teams to approach companies and corporations to get permanent funding and support. The day started at 8:00 am and the last team finished the build at 7:30 pm.
Plans are already in progress for the next years “Jump Start Build"