I was on a rookie team last year. We also tried to decline help to not bother other teams. PLEASE don’t do this. Other teams genuinely want to help you, because they are invested in FIRST and want to see every FRC team succeed. Don’t be the rookie team that foolishly tried to do it all by themselves, like mine was until we finally gave in and got help. The assistance you receive from a veteran team will be invaluable and it will make it much more likely your team will stilll exist next season.
If teams have offered their help, take it. Especially if they have enough students. Teams really like helping other teams, it’s what FIRST is all about. But if you don’t want to bother them more than you are than you can always reach out to others. Chief Delphi is one of the best resources for you to use. There is also an FRC discord that you and your team can use to ask questions ( discord.gg/frc ).
As others have said above, use the sources around you to learn. Whether it’s the Blue Alliance, youtube, team websites… there are so many sources for your team to find. FIRST also has a youtube page with a bunch of workshops that teams host at the World Championships. There are workshops for EVERYTHING!!! Other teams also do similar workshops that they post on their own channel.
My team went through a similar situation shortly before I took over as a mentor. You’ve gotten a lot of good advice in this thread already that covers most of what I’d tell you, so just a few things:
- Don’t feel bad about taking help from the local teams that have offered to help. I promise you that teams that offer to help you are sincere in their offer. You’re not bothering them, and helping you will also help them with awards and with training their own students. It can also be a great way to get to know people and make friends. If you really want to thank them, consider nominating them for gracious professionalism at events, and when your team is in a better position, pay it forward by helping other teams.
- Everybody on your team should be familiar with the rules. If they don’t know the rules yet, make sure they learn them.
- Use the kit chassis. A lot of good engineering already went into it, and using it frees your team up to take on the challenge of playing the game.
- Keep it simple. You don’t have to do everything, and you’re better off doing something well than everything poorly.
- Bumpers probably don’t seem like a big deal right now, but teams tend to leave them until the very end and then end up struggling. Bumper problems are probably the biggest reason I’ve had to fail teams during inspection at events.
I totally agree with what everyone is saying about accepting help from other teams and looming at resources like the compass alliance. I would also suggest looking at the everybot that team 118 puts out. It run on a kit of parts drive train and is supposed to be a reasonably priced, fairly simple competitive bot.
Look at builds from last year. Pictures, designs, and CAD models are a great help. Cheezy Poofs won 53 games last year and lost none. Al of their designs are online. With instructions. This year is overall not the most complex challenge. Look at cube grabbers from last year. Most can be used for the cargo this year. Use C channel with simple motors and any wheels for the intake. The community is so helpful, always just ask if you’re curious. Good luck!
Keep an eye on this thread: The Robonauts 118 - 2019 Everybot
118 makes a wonderful MCC robot that anyone else can make (and many teams wish they had) that is inexpensive. Draw heavily from this.
As a veteran team: we wish more needy teams accepted our offers for help and collaboration. Do not stop yourself from seeking help.
When you’re hesitating to ask local teams for help, I want you to consider that helping you helps them – you may be their alliance partner in a few weeks, and they want you to be functional. Teams will generally let you know if you’re asking for more help than they can afford to provide, but helping you is good for them on multiple levels. You are their potential alliance partner, teaching others is as educational for the teacher as it is for the students, it’s good for awards, and it’s good professional development. Everyone in this program wants as many teams as possible to succeed in building the best robot they can.
Do you have any experienced programmers? What language are you planning to use? (I can remote-mentor a bit if you’re using Labview, and I’m confident someone else on here will be willing to do the same in the other languages if that’s a thing you need.)
Other random advice: remember to leave safety tolerances on inspection items. You’re allowed a 120" frame perimeter, but design to 119. Your starting height maximum is 48" - design to 47" or 47.5". You’re allowed 125 lbs, design below that – robots gain weight really fast, and fasteners add up. Weigh everything and always consider whether there’s a lighter option that would be strong enough to do the job. Bumpers have to come in at least 6" from the frame corner (not the corner of the pad, the corner of the underlying robot structure), maybe build 6.5". Those four things are some of the most time consuming and painful things to have to fix on practice day at your regional. If you can get an experienced robot inspector or your LRI to have a look at your bumpers while you’re still in build season, do, and don’t leave it to the last second. As a long-time inspector, I’d say 80% of the teams I’ve worked with who have had a hard day on practice day had either misinterpreted the bumper rules or had other bumper issues.
When I was a rookie a lot of teams tried desperately to get us to accept help because they could see we were struggling, and we kept saying no. I really wish we’d said yes.
Our biggest mistake during our rookie year was not taking advantage of the community of local teams willing to help.
One other thing: Make sure you put together a priority list for FIRST Choice, before the January 10th deadline for round 2. A lot of rookie/inexperienced teams miss out on hundreds of dollars worth of product donations this way.
One of my favorite quotes at work is:
“It’s better to ask dumb questions than make dumb mistakes.”
What you learn this year will inspire you next year.
What your team learns this year will inspire them next year.
It’s a vicious cycle of learning and inspiring.
In St Louis, MO
The 118 EveryBot will be coming out soon so you could take some inspiration from that. You could also look at all of the Ri3D designs that have come out. There’s a lot to learn from them as well. As a “rookie” team, try to build a robot that will get picked rather than get more points. This year at least, if you can climb to level 3 quickly rather than do the 3rd rocket level, some teams will take you into condsideration more. Just remember that the goal is to have fun! There are some teams that have resources available as well. Also READ THE RULES! That will make sure that what you are building is legal. Making a list of robot requirements to check every few days to make sure that nothing is illegal. Good luck and feel free to lmk if you have any questions.
I am trying to chat with The Compass Alliance. Hoping they can point me in the right direction.
Thanks a million!
I wish I knew what to order. I just found out how to even find this area on the website.
Thank you for reaching out!
I have reached out to FIRST about a dozen times. I emailed a local rep and my email has gotten sent back 14 times. I read that FRC has many resources. The most I have gotten back was a generic email stating that resources are available with a link to the FIRST site. Starting to freak out.
Thanks for reaching out!
I have reached out to the parents. I just wish there was someone to help with anything mechanical.
Thanks for reaching out!
All the advice given thus far is good. Like others said don’t be afraid to ask for help. FIRST teams are awesome in helping each other. My advice is to use the AM kitbase chassis as others have said. its easy to put together so you can focus on other mechanisms like those on the 118 everybot or mechanisms inspired from Ri3D.
Has your team taken a look at what you have from previous years and this year’s KOP? If you see anything in the KOP that is confusing, the KOP page will help you find out more about it.
This is going to be a little long, but since what you’ll want to order will depend on what you have, I want to help you figure out what you have and what you need.
You already have a chassis kit in the Kit of Parts (KOP) you got at kickoff. That kit came with motors, belts, and all the mechanical parts you need to make a simple moving platform.
To make your chassis move, you’ll need a control system and programming. You should have the necessary control system elements for a basic robot already. There’s a really good summary of the necessary hardware on FIRST’s website. The RoboRio, PDP, and VRM are necessary for controlling things and distributing power. You need motor controllers to make your motors run - one motor controller per motor, with some exceptions you don’t need to worry about right now. You don’t need to have all the different types of motor controllers, but you should make sure you have motor controllers of some sort.
- First, make sure you have a RoboRio, PDP, and VRM. You can compare to the pictures in the guide above - you can’t compete without them. You can’t currently get them in FIRST Choice, so you’ll have to buy them if you can’t find them.
- Next, look for motors and motor controllers.
- The KOP had two of what we call a CIM motor. See if you have at least two more sitting around from previous years. You want a total of at least four of them, because although you can use the kit chassis with just the two CIM motors in this year’s kit of parts, it will work a lot better with four motors. There are other motors out there, but for ease of use and compatibility with the kit chassis, use CIM motors for your drive train. Here’s a link for more info, pictures and specs for comparison to what you already have, and ordering more if needed. For making other mechanisms you may need more motors. There were some in your KOP and you will hopefully have more sitting around from previous years, just make sure the motors you use are legal according to the rules. Ignore the Neo motor for now - it’s not compatible with any motor controllers you currently have, and documentation at the present time is minimal (it’s brand new and you won’t be able to get much help).
- The KOP also came with two Victor SPX motor controllers. You’ll need a motor controller for each motor in your drivetrain, so you need at least those two, but probably two more for the other two motors you’re hopefully putting into your drivetrain. The Talon SRX and Spark Max are the only motor controllers you can get from First Choice right now, but there are others you can buy (listed in the control system guide I linked above).
- It seems like a minor thing, but make sure you have an RSL. Once again, you can’t compete without it. If you already have one, you don’t need another.
- Beyond that, get tools, consumables, or things that might be useful for mechanisms. If you run out of stuff to get, get stuff that seems cool, or ask for suggestions from local teams that can visit your shop to get a better idea of what you have and what you need.
- Not First Choice, but make sure you have RoboRio, PDP, and VRM. If you don’t, buy them immediately. You can’t have a FIRST-legal robot without them.
- Make sure you have enough motors and controllers for your drivetrain. If not, get more CIM motors and motor controllers. This can be done with First Choice or can be purchased.
- Consider whether you need motors and motor controllers beyond that for controlling mechanisms. You might not, depending on what you decide to build and what you have on hand from previous years.
- If you don’t have/can’t find an RSL, make sure you order one.
- If you want to make a cargo intake, consider the flex wheels to make a roller intake.
- Get tools (like a multimeter), or consumables like glue or the battery wires.
I just want to clarify, the SPARK MAX can drive BOTH brushed motors (CIM, miniCIM, 775, BAG, etc.) and the NEO Brushless motor.
Wow! Thanks VERY much for this post! I can’t wait to share it with my co-mentor! I needed this information in a serious way.
Thanks a million for reaching out!