As has been mentioned before - make sure everyone understands the rules.
This is my mental worksheet:
List every possible way to score points in this game:
Are there any opportunities to directly reduce your opponent’s score?
What forms of defense are disallowed?
How many phases of the game are there? What is their order and general significance?
What are the game pieces? What do you know about their size/weight/geometry/material?
What can the human player do? E.g. do they assist the robot in collecting game pieces directly or indirectly?
Is there a maximum possible score?
What ways are there to get a penalty?
What rules don’t make sense? Use the Glossary and the Find feature on the PDF to find related rules until it does make sense.
If everyone understands these, then your Strategy discussions will be much more productive.
Important strategy questions include:
What are the necessary steps for scoring? E.g. Human player introduces game piece, Game Piece collection by the machine, traversing the field, placing/scoring the piece, returning to human player
What are the variations for each of these steps? E.g. human player loading vs ground loading
Estimate how much time that each of these variations will take - act out the operations and time it
Using these time estimates, you can get an estimate of the total time that it takes to score from start to finish. This is a crucial number because it gives you a ballpark for a lot of useful info: how many scoring cycles will probably be in a match, what a typical match score total will be, the point/time efficiency of variations, etc.
That’s my first pass at a sort of worksheet to get through the first day or so. From there, it’s up to you to identify different strategies and evaluate them.
When you have a handle on good strategies -and not a minute before - then you can start talking about robot design.
The teams that I have been on have wisely banned discussion of particular robot designs until at least the second day - ensuring that students (and mentors) don’t get swept up in their brilliant robot ideas and miss crucial rules or other strategies. I suggest that everyone have plenty of paper handy so that they can save robot design ideas for later discussions.
I would suggest looking at the Simbotics Strategy Seminar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ysSvxR-tAs You could probably take their slides on the subject and basically turn that into a checklist.