Steamworks was a fantastic season, and our team had a great time this year. We’re a rookie team, and we didn’t have much experience with FIRST until this season. Here are some of the lessons our team learned this season:
I founded the team in November, and we had missed the deadline for many grants and sponsorship opportunities. We had a month to fundraise $6000 for registration, and had to raise an additional 2000 for parts and other expenses. We were unsuccessful in fundraising on time, however FIRST was gracious enough to let us pay at a later time. We received our kit during the 3rd week of build season, and everyone was panicking.
Talk with other teams
Our school had no equipment, so we had a hard time initially building our robot. Thankfully, 1418(Vae Victis), and 620(JMHS Warbots) reached out to us and let us use their workshops.
Mentors are important
We had no mentors this season, and that really set us back from all the other rookie teams at our events. We also had little experience in robotics, and were very confused about everything. If it weren’t for 1418 and 620 guiding us, we wouldn’t even have a drivetrain that worked. Many parents did not want to mentor, since they had no experience with robotics, and we didn’t realize that they could help us in other aspects.
Communicate with the Parents
We had a lot of issues with the parents, particularly due to the sheer amount of time our team members spent working on the robot. In the beginning, we did not effectively communicate with the parents, and this resulted in us gaining very little initial support. Some of the parents changed their views about our team once they began to see our efforts come into fruition. We started having parents willing to volunteer and fund us once they saw our drivetrain driving around in our school parking lot.
Don’t wait 'till the last three days to build bumpers. We were lucky enough to build a decent set during that time frame, but I do not recommend waiting until the last week to build bumpers. We originally had two sets of bumpers that we would attach to our robot by using T-Nuts and screws, but we were worried that the constant replacements of the bumpers would result in the T-nuts coming out of the wood, so we made a quickly made a new set that used reversible covers with Velcro during our second district event. The match before we mounted the bumpers on, the T-Nuts on two of our bumpers fell out.
It’s better to be really good at one or two tasks, than be mediocre at many tasks
Initially, our team split up into three groups that developed manipulators for each task in the game(balls, gear, climbing), but this was a terrible decision, because we were a small team(10 people). We made no progress at all, and our designs did not work well. We changed strategies and had the entire robot redesigned during week 5, and had a decent gear mechanism and a climber that was almost finished(We never got it to work until the last two games of our second district event)
Other teams are willing to help you
When we were at the district events, our robot was in no state to pass inspection. Two teams noticed, and came to the rescue. We had to redo our electrical connections, and our bumpers didn’t mount properly. Special thanks to 2363(Triple Helix), they helped redo our electrical connections, polish our code, and lent us their tools.
In the end, despite the stress and issues we had during this season, this was my best season so far, and our teammates had a great time. We learned a lot, and went on to win Rookie All Star and Rookie Highest Seed Award at our second district event. We hope to do even better during our future seasons. Thank you all for such an amazing competition, and an amazing season.