Kickoff strategy to building

How do other teams go from kickoff strategy to start design and building of a robot. Looking for ideas to aid my team.
Thank you

YMMV, but for our team:
First step: read the rules!
Second - fifth steps: read the rules again!
Once we have a good understanding of the game rules and a scoring analysis, we determine what we want the robot to do, i.e., strategy. I assume this is the step where you are asking how do you go forward? Now that we know what the robot is going to do, how does it go about doing it? Brainstorm. Throw ideas around and see what sticks. Try to design within your build capabilities. We also try to keep the KISS principle in mind. Borrow ideas from other teams. Watch the Ri3D videos. Look at the Everybot.
I’m sure other teams will chime in and might have an actual step-by-step of how they do it. The first step is always the rules and scoring analysis. Then “what” (strategy), then “how”.

We’re pretty similar.

  1. What is the game?
  2. What are the possible ways to score points?
  3. What ways of scoring points are easy or hard?
  4. What ways of scoring points do we want to prioritize?
  5. What are best technical solutions for scoring points in that manner?
    …build robot…
  6. Does it actually work?
    …go to competition…
  7. What are the best ways to score points in this match?
    … ideally achieve success …
  8. What are better ways to score points next season?

It’s possible to cycle back to previous steps, but the further you get the harder/more-expensive it becomes. Work toward tighter iteration steps.

This year 6045 is creating a strategy paper with predefined prompts to help guide our initial strategy discussions.

You can find the paper here.

Essentially we start by defining our team goals for the season, which can be done without knowing the game. Next, we define a set of critical questions that we will ask ourselves as we make key decisions. From there we define our general build season philosophy, and start to get into game specific strategic analysis that will need to wait until we have the game manual.

This type of process has been highly effective for me in previous years!


This year we took the time to document our kick off process and created instructions for each activity. Our team breaks down into small groups, completes an activity then meats with the full team to discuss and present what each group found. We have four major activities, Rule Reading, Ways To Score, Scoring Analysis, and What the Robot Must Do, Could Do and Won’t Do.

We have a larger(for us) team this year with 50 students so we’ve had to make some changes to the team discussion format to keep it interesting. The plan was to have each group present their list from each activity. This has worked previously when we’ve had ~4 groups. With double the groups we’d be covering (mostly) the same thing again and again. Eyes in the room will quickly glaze over and people will stop paying attention.

Our new team discussion format will have each group selecting a representative still. However instead of presenting their entire list at once each group representative will say one item on their list. The next group representative will say a different item on their list(no duplicates allowed). This continues until a group runs out of items to talk about on their list. Eventually only one group will have anything left to say. We’ll call this group the “winner” and give out some candy to the group.

You can find the instructions and expected outcomes for each activity here. This also has our schedule for the first two days of the season.

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Determining what sort of robot NOT to make is probably more important than what robot TO make. Towards that end, I re-watch the most current version of the following videos before Kickoff each and year.

Kartik Kanagasabapathy’s “Effective FIRST Strategies”

Citrus Circuits “Strategic Design 2022”

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These are a really great resource. Citrus Circuit’s 5 Golden Rules are a super starting point. Paraphrased:

  1. keep it simple (stay within your team’s limits, function over form)
  2. steal from the best, invent the rest (no need to reinvent the wheel)
  3. use a proven (to you) drivetrain (a good driver beats a good robot, get yours working asap)
  4. touch it, own it intakes (make the driver’s job as easy as possible)
  5. fail faster (find problems before comp)

Always a good place to start. “We want to try for a win,” “We want to be a captain and try for a win,” “We want to be 1 seed and try for a win,” and “We want to seed as high as possible” can all involve very different robots and strategies depending on your team for instance. Making sure your team is onboard with your overarching goals for the season will help steer the strategy/design discussion once the game is revealed.

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The above is great stuff. What I would add to it is to be disciplined about documenting what your team comes up with. You’re essentially reaching a team consensus on the operational parameters for that season. Don’t let it get lost on the marker board.

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Thank you for these great ideas

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Spend Kickoff tearing apart the manual and analyzing the game, how you score points, and what you need to do to get those points.

Then ask yourself, “What is the best robot our team can build in 4 weeks”.

Give yourself ample time to test code, test the robot, and practice. Be very critical of yourself and find ways you can focus on the four weeks build schedule and make upgrades in the future when you get the core of your robot done. We shared some of this in our Build Blog.


We spend kickoff in our lab, so we can get right into brainstorming as soon as the game is announced. We usually will watch the stream, and as soon as it ends we share our preliminary ideas. Then, once we get the manual, we start reading to get a better understanding of the game. Depending on the game, we may start building game pieces if we can.

The first few days for us are mostly filled with reading the game manual a dozen times over and jotting down whatever ideas we have. You can never read it too many times. Understanding the rules and potential strategies for the game are key to having a successful year. Our team keeps our old bots in tact, so if there’s a similar game piece, we’re able to bring bots down to reference designs that worked for us (or didn’t) in the past. For what I imagine to be most teams that don’t have 20 years of robots on a shelf, videos of old games and robots can be found on YouTube for inspiration.

On my team, we always try to go with students’ ideas first. There’s something much more rewarding for students to have their own ideas come to life instead of being told to build someone else’s. Sometimes, ideas come easy. Other times it’s pulling teeth. Sometimes you’ll have to go through it piece by piece.

“I think we should make an arm” is an idea, but it doesn’t do much. What do we want the arm to do? How should it interact with the game piece? How will it move? Once you start asking these questions and making your students think, things will start coming to fruition. Occasionally ideas are just not feasible, but it’s always important to help students understand why, whether it be due to rules, resource limitations, or physics.

Once we have an idea that is ready for a prototype, we’ll use some plywood and put it together with some rough measurements. We might do some light CADing, but sometimes it’s not necessary for proof of concept prototypes. Generally this will be towards the end of the first week/start of week 2. By this point we’ll have an idea of what drive train we want to use, and we can start putting together a chassis, too.

As prototypes start working, then we start finalizing designs in CAD and start making our first attempt at a final product.

Obviously this is just the way my team TRIES to do it. It doesn’t always work out that way. Every year is different, and sometimes things take longer than expected. We’d all love to have a fully designed robot in week 1, but that’s just not realistic for most teams.

One last thing I will suggest is to not leave the electronics until the end. Nothing is worse than having to mount a battery in an impossible spot that nobody can access because of a lack of planning.

We start KO about an hour late (thank you very much Twitch) and watch it on youtube together which is not blocked at the school.

The rest of the day is reading the rules, writing down rule questions and hopefully having them answered right there or through CD by our next meeting.

We also import the gamefield to Onshape and have each of the students create a basic model of different size robots to see how cluttered the field may be and include the following info with each:
blue-starting config
red-max height
green-reach allowance

Otherwise we follow a lot of the same that has been discussed here. We’ll also do some simple ideas with Spectrum Protopipe

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happy cake day

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