Kickoff day

I was just interested in hearing what people do on the kickoff day both as a team and on their own. Using myself as an example, I participate in 3641’s game evaluation process where we dissect the game from about 9am to 4pm. However, as any seasoned robotics person knows, it doesn’t stop here. Personally I read the manual all the way through ::rtm:: and then do some reading on Chief delphi :smiley: and then come up with a few ideas. I also leave a paper and pen on my desk in my room the first few nights after kickoff because I tend to wake up sometimes in the middle of the night with design ideas. :smiley: :smiley:

What is your process??

I was pretty much responsible for the kickoff meeting on my old team (2791); here’s how we did it.

We attended a local Kickoff viewing at RPI as a team, waiting to see the game announcement like everybody else. We then broke off into an empty lecture hall on campus and began reading the manual while eating lunch. I would project the manual on screen and we would as a team read every word of the Game and Robot sections, and also skim the Arena and Tournament sections. Students would ask questions as they come up - veterans would try to answer them and anything we were unsure on we would write down for later. Reading the manual as a team is absolutely mandatory before starting any work in the build season, and this is the only way we could actually guarantee everyone read it.

Afterwards, we would do a brief simple strategic analysis - listing all of the game actions we thought were possible within the game, and making a brief priority list of those actions. We establish this priority list immediately in order to decide where to direct our resources to for prototyping and design, and in order to resolve any conflicts for where to put our attention.

We do not talk about any mechanical design on the first day of build season. Everyone’s wheels are already spinning thinking about what robots could look like for the game, but we don’t worry about that until Monday. We don’t want mechanical design ideas influencing our strategy.

We go to a local kickoff about 45 minutes away so while we are waiting for the bus to come we drop some ideas. Then while on the bus we independently read the manual. Once we get back to the school any one who actually red the manual a few times has a good idea of what is going on.

We then have a few hours of game analysis followed by a couple of prototypes.

We now try to have a full CAD model of vital assemblies done in the beginning of week 2 so going fast week 1 is a necessity.

We host a local kickoff in our school’s Auditorium, and we watch the Game Release as a group.

After watching the release and everyone has the Game Manual unlocked, we move out and break into small groups to discuss our thoughtson the game, with each group consisting of a mix of students in each grade. Generally we dismiss students to head home around 2:30 PM, so that they can think about it independently and mull over their ideas.

Giving people the night to think over their own ideas before doing a team-wide discussion lets them think about what THEY want the robot to do, and it often leads to innovative ideas for discussions the next day.

First thing I do after the kickoff broadcast is start typing in my credit card number…

Yeah, our policy is write down any idea you have with drawings and descriptions, but take no action on it for a few days. Usually you can rule out any a lot of ideas but the good ones stay, already with drawings and descriptions.

My favorite time of year to be honest! But usually as a team we attend a locally hosted kickoff. We watch the broadcast and afterwards we break into groups with the other teams there and start talking about the best strategy and design for the game. Then the following morning each person should of read the entire rules and start to have a design. The Sunday works where the team splits into groups and designs a whole robot. Then the best qualities from each design are chosen and then prototypes.

We haven’t yet settled on a well-defined procedure yet, but we’ve been making improvements each year. While we’ve always done some sort of high level strategy as part of the design, in previous years the two processes were intermingled and the strategies were not properly correlated to the actual rules, but the kickoff video. Our first three years, we spent too much time on design (two to four weeks before we decided what the robot would look like), with too little time for construction, but last year we went too far (high level design selected on kickoff day).
competition robot lagging by a few days to a week.
We did one mock kickoff on 7 Nov (based on FIRST Overdrive), and will spend our meetings the week before kickoff going over our procedures for kickoff day through design week and a rough timeline through build season and competition season.
This year, we are inviting two rookie teams (and perhaps other local teams) to join us for kickoff day in our school auditorium; we plan to send a minimal contingent to the kickoff at Stennis so we can get started as soon as we get the password to unlock the game manual. We have a group of self-starters who have been studying strategy and who are committed to an in-depth reading of the rules to determine viable strategies. Meanwhile, other groups will be doing quick prototypes and rough-designing mechanisms and perhaps whole-robot drawings to determine the resources (time, money, weight, current) needed and estimate the capacity to do various tasks.
Around the middle of the first week, we will then select a strategy (with a possible backup), and begin evaluating the mechanisms and designs against the resources and payoff for the selected strategy to select high level design (again, with possible backups). Our plan is to have transitioned to detail design and specific prototyping by the Saturday after kickoff. We will then begin ordering components we don’t have, refine the design details, and begin construction of the practice robot, with construction of the competition robot lagging the practice robot by about a week, so we can incorporate lessons learned. The goal is to have the practice and competition robots be functionally equivalent, varying only in decorations and whatever holes we drilled and abandoned on the practice robot.

Just curious, how do you make an exercise like that effective? I would imagine that most highschool students would have a tendency to daydream and end up not paying attention to something as dry as the manual. We usually do independent readings to try to avoid that, but if your way works well I would love to hear how you do it.

In the past, our team has attended a local kickoff about 45 minutes away. This year we are just going to do it at our school.

While going to Kickoffs with other teams is always fun, out team seems to get separated and nothing really gets accomplished there, particularly with the new members. We also do not get cell phone service in the building where it is held, and there isn’t any wifi so we are unable to look at Reddit, CD, and download clean copies of the game manual.

At our school, while we do not have service, our district implemented a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) last year, so there is WiFi. We will be able to walk through the design process as a team together, and will eventually split off into groups.

Another disadvantage of our team attending a kickoff, we lose around 4 hours to take pictures, eat, get there and back. Our team members could get 30 minutes of sleep that they wouldn’t get for the next 6 weeks.

The only real disadvantage to having it at our school, when we break into groups, friends go with friends, subteams go into subteams, and new people go with new people. If everyone goes into their own subteams group, then that’s all they brainstorm for.

We are looking forward to hopefully correct some of these errores either way.

Just wondering we usually go to kickoff at a college but if we decided to just stay at our school how would we get the KOP.

You could send a small group of a couple people to pick up the KOP at the local kickoff and then do your thing at your school while those few people drive back to join you with your KOP.

Pearadox did a kickoff at our school last year with a visiting team as well. We had a parent that was kind enough to drive the 60+ minutes to the local kickoff and pick up our kit and bring it back. Alternatively you can have it shipped - but if you’re within a reasonable driving distance you should definitely just go pick it up. Additionally it’s too late this year to have it shipped instead of being picked up. Another option is to have a team be a surrogate and pick it up for you, there’s some paperwork that will be available if you have another team pick up your kit for you.

Last year a veteran team joined us and we had a guest speaker, did some interteam ice breakers, and did a quick analysis of what we saw in the kickoff video before the other team went back to their school.

This year we’re inviting a few more local teams (one veteran that we’re friends with and two rookies). We’ll do something similar - guest speaker, what did we see in the kickoff video, etc. We’re inviting the rookies to stay for a lunch that we’re trying to get a local grocery store to sponsor, and talk through the game a little more in depth with the rookies and answer any questions they may have.

Unrelated to that, we’ll probably have a mentor or two look through the team drawings Saturday morning to get a BOM together and go purchase wood for building major field elements. Around 3 or so we’ll probably start building the field with the intent being to visually look at the field so we can get an idea of how big/far certain things are before we make any major decisions on our game play strategy.

We head over to our sister school for kickoff (like 5 minutes away). Once we get done with that, we usually break for lunch and come back to our lab at like 1 pm and spend the whole day there breaking down the rules and coming up with design ideas. It feels like we spend the whole day there. I going to try my hardest to read the whole rule book that day if possible. I always find the rules interesting.

I recently gave a talk on this at the Minnesota SPLASH event. I’m not sure if the presentation was recorded, but the slides can be found here:

To quickly summerize

Saturday, game release to around 1-2PM - Lunch + Going through the manual in small groups. Come back together as a team and highlight all critical rules. Answer any questions or clarifications. Brainstorm any Q&A questions, if any
Saturday, 2PM to close - Robot task list. Highlight every single function a robot can perform in the game. Careful attention to word these such that it doesn’t shoehorn you into a single design (e.g. score ball instead of shoot ball).
Sunday, Monday, Part of Tuesday - Game simulation
Rest of Tuesday - Robot function priority list
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday - Conceptual work, base level prototypes (just answering if concepts are possible, not finding specific details).
Saturday, Meeting together, debate various concepts, find final overall robot concept, split into subsystems and start more detailed prototyping and design

Great Timing.

Our team is having our ‘Week-in-a-Day’ exercise – A mock Kickoff and First Week activities – this Saturday. We have done these in the past and they have been very useful especially for those who have never been involved with FRC before. I will pick a previous game and the team and mentors (I haven’t told them which game either) will work though the process. I usually tweak the rules slightly in order to make them more relevant and to eliminate any issues seen before with this specific game.

On the actual Kickoff we normally meet very early (like 6:30AM – our Kickoff starts at 7:00am with the broadcast at like 8:00) since we are on the West Coast (I always feel bad for those folks even further West of us). We meet with about 10 or so other teams in a auditorium at the local university to watch the broadcast.

After the broadcast the teams break apart to head back to their respective locations. A small group will then head off to pick up the KoP and bring it back with them. We do have a couple of teams that just send a couple of folks to the event just to pick up their KoP for their teams who are watching remotely.

After getting back to the school with the K0P we have a small group (3-4 folks) go to another small room to inventory the KoP and get the game piece(s) (if any) to the rest of the team for review. We also take over anything ‘special’ to review as well (like last year we took the control system stuff over).

In the meantime the remainder of the team is gathering together, eating breakfast, and then re-watching the game animation while the mentors are busy printing up the manuals. We usually print up like 5 copies of the manual so that all the small groups can have a copy.

The remainder of the day is usually spent in small groups going over the rules, dissecting the game, and making up some charts with high level game strategy details (like “how do you score and how many points”, “what are the different sections of the game - autonomous, teleop, endgame” and how long are they?). These charts are left up around the room for the rest of the season for review at a glance. We also take the time to note any major changes in rules (like the ‘travel perimeter’ last year) for our veteran members.

As others have said, we focus first on the game itself - no robots! We look at the game play, strategy. We try to figure out what should happen when. Only when the we truly understand the parts of the game do we start to outline what things on a robot (systems) would be required to do them.

Our who process probably takes 3-4 days with strategic analysis usually taking the whole first day.

I hope this helps :slight_smile:

My team is hosting a kickoff stream at a local University. And then game analysis. And then design. And then it’s already the next morning.

Since the kickoff location for the state of Hawaii is on Oahu. The teams from the outer islands must come up with a localized version.

Here on our island (the big island of “Hawaii”) we decided a few years ago to help our local teams by creating our own kickoff day.

We open our shop to all the local teams to come spend the day doing various workshops.

Actual kickoff video is shown at 5am here. Due to the very early nature many of us watch it from home prior to coming in to the workshop. Gives us mentors something to watch while having our cup of Kona coffee since we all know we gave up sleeping long ago. :rolleyes:

Then we will spend the day working with everyone to help with game analysis and more.

We break down the day into various workshops with the attending schools.

Watch Kickoff – We show the video, which many student miss as sleep is still a thing.

Read Rules - Break out the participants into smaller groups and read the manuals. We like to mix up the groups as much as possible. A great time for students to meet and work with each other. During that time the mentors will meet up, read the rules, then create a game rules test.

Rules Review - The students and mentors will review the rules and discuss any concerns.

Rules Testing – Everyone tests on the recently read rules. Discussion to follow if needed.

Game Analysis Part 1 – Discussion on various scoring scenarios, choke points, etc.
Human Robot** – Setup of mock fields for small groups to “play robots”. Participants will “be” a robot with one to two tool functions. Such as; hinged arm, pickup, shooter, object sorter… Once “designs” are picked the game will be played multiple times. Each time the players can and select or refine tool functions as the game play reveals.
Game Analysis Part 2** – More discussion on the game analysis after Human Robot. Surprising on the revelations after “playing robot”
Design Labs** – We have been using Stanford Design Thinking for many years in our design process and have a trainer on staff. We will give a class on the SDT method and then break out to small groups again. We set up the groups into design stations. Each station will have a portion of design that will act as the point of design with lots of materials for crude prototyping if the design is better explained this way than the usual sticky note.
Some sample groups are: Drivetrain, object collection, object scoring, robot interaction, etc. These groups we (the mentors) will determine. Labs will run roughly 15 minutes before each group rotates to a different lab. Once everyone has gone through all the labs we will all return to vote on the 3 best solutions to each of the labs. This gives many of the smaller teams designs ideas to work directly from.

For more information on Stanford Design Thinking you can visit:


Or if you would rather, you can contact me.


– We have been using Stanford Design Thinking for many years in our design process …
For more information on Stanford Design Thinking you can visit:

The five steps of SDT are (from your web site):

  1. The first step is empathy; we see how others feel towards a specific item. Interviews are used to gain insight to human nature.
  2. The second step is to define. In this step, we use the information gathered from interviews to find the user’s real problem.
  3. Ideate, the third step in design thinking, is where the group finds solutions to the problem.
  4. The fourth step is to prototype. Once an idea is decided upon, groups work together using random materials to construct examples of their product and explain how their product works.
  5. Testing is the final step. Groups rebuild their prototypes and create a working product. Once built, testing begins. Testing identifies problems with the item, so the product can be modified to better suit the user.

With the requirements already specified in the form of rule books, what to you do for step 1 on the first round? The other steps correspond roughly to our planned engineering process; not quite how we think about it, but it makes sense.
Edit: Our mnemonic of the engineering cycle is DRIPPER:

  • D
    efine the Problem - R
    esearch known solutions - I
    magine possible solutions - P
    lans (blueprints and schedule) - P
    rototype/Build - E
    valuate/Test - R
    epeat as necessary (meaning not always back to Define)

Looking this over makes me also wonder if and how you review known/previous solutions to similar problems in your process.

This is something that I think all teams face. Unless you have a core group of a few people, there are bound to be those who get bored and are not as engaged and care about the subject as others. We make sure everyone has the ‘opportunity to succeed’ by letting them be in the discussion. However, it’s like the saying goes, ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.’ Those who are leaders and are engaged excel and stay focused, those who aren’t focused are setting themselves up to be behind the rest of the year.