Second year team ans we were wondering what other teams do in the off season to help prepare for the next competition
Oh gosh where to begin.
Taking the results of what you did and taking the impact of the season now is a very good time to go network and find potential sponsors. Financial security is a must and keeping robotics relevant throughout the rest of the year is something you should definitely do.
If you have anything left maybe continue tweaking and messing with the robot keep skills sharpened.
Most importantly tone down the intensity, make sure eveyrone has a chance to relax.
We have a small team: 10-15 students and about 6 mentors. EVERYONE is putting in 110% January through April. For that reason we have a very low intensity summer. September starts some prep work for a local fall off-season event, some learning workshops (mechanical design, java, control system, chassis CAD, etc) and safety training for the first time students. We also do some fundraising and networking.
Cardinalbotics is a very large team (100+ in the fall, dwindling down to 50-60 in the spring). So we do quite a lot in the off season.
- Manufacturing workshops
- Design workshops
- Programming workshops
The fall is where we get the all our new members. We spend the first couple weeks going over basic safety training and maybe some hand tool training. We attend around two off season events, last year we went to Chezy Champs hosted by 254 and CalGames hosted by WRRF. However the epitome of our off season is the IRC (Internal Robotics Competition). We divide the team into 12 groups and each group is responsible for building a small scale robot to be controlled by a RC remote, and code for the previous year’s robot. We have 2.5 months to work and then compete in December.
Good ol’ build season. Nothing like the fires of the inferno to test the fledglings.
We spend most of this time relaxing and maybe trying to work on a low key robot project. Might build a t-shirt bot, mess around with drive trains, repair an old FRC bot. Our fledglings who weathered build and competition seasons have now become full on Cardinals and can reap the fruits of their labors by working on slightly more relaxing projects.
All the time
All year we run fundraising and out reach projects hoping to earn new sponsors, and to spread the word of FIRST and STEM throughout our community.
Absolutely continue to raise funds. It is so much better to reach 1 Jan with enough money to be able to build and compete and be well-positioned to fund a championship trip than where we have been most years.
Do community service, robot demos, and other outreach. As well as all the good reasons why FIRST teams do these things, you may wind up snagging some sponsors and mentors and members along the way.
Take on a robot or construction project (or several). Last summer, we built an air cannon to shoot t-shirts and foam footballs into the stands. Search CD for advice on air cannons - there have been at least three threads about them since this build season began, and dozens more going back. This spring/summer, to improve our sensor capabilities, we may build an autonomous robot to track down and return tennis balls to a tote. We also have a trailer to build out - we just received a grant from Ingersoll Rand Foundation to purchase and outfit a large covered cargo trailer, to include solar panels, shelves, graphic wrap, and more. We got the money just in time to buy the trailer itself in time for Bayou Regional, and we have a long way to go. The off season is also a great time to build shelves, carts, pits, and the like. Another popular project is to build that fancy drive train you wanted to do this year but decided that it was a step too far to work out the kinks during build season.
Workshops! Last summer we did a six-session “robot camp” on Saturdays that started with powerpoints and culminated in a mini-FRC build season; two 18" square robots competed to “capture the cubes” on the classroom floor.
It’s important for us to continue during the offseason because it solidifies the foundation of our team as well as sets us up for the next competition season. Many of our offseason activities are focused on rookies, but some are focused on getting us into gear for potential new game challenges.
- We hold an annual open house in May. This is when we open our lab to anyone interested in joining or learning about our team. We demonstrate our robot, walk through what it’s like being on the team, talk about the schedule and different positions, and how to join the team. Our team in particular emphasises that any
high school girl can join because we have workshops that will teach them skills from the ground up - This leads into the next point, which is workshops! In the fall (Sep thru Dec) we have tons and tons of workshops for all different experience levels and areas. We have business ones for awards and social media, electrical, pneumatics, CAD, mechanical from the most basic hand tools to prototyping to fabrication, programming ones for absolute beginners to extremely FRC-specific workshops.
- Outreach events! Many of our sponsors invite us to demonstrate at outreach events, most of which during offseason. This gives us a chance to reach new potential team members as well as spread the FIRST message! We often set up our own outreach events as well. Good for our team image + volunteers often get free food
- Projects! Over the summer, we’ll choose several interesting projects to work on, both mechanical and business. Depending on what we think will be useful for next year, we’ll do different things. For example, we worked on a swerve drive last summer. We considered building an elevator, but alas! This keeps old members in shape and improves our robot for offseason competitions (which I will get into later), as well as gives rookies a chance to see how we work on the robot and help do stuff themselves.
- We select our leadership in the beginning of summer. Before we do this, we review our team constitution in a team-wide meeting that makes us face what we did well and where we need to grow. This process takes several meetings but is very important to us in terms of organisation and healthiness of the team.
- Raise funds! We get most new sponsors over the offseason. We send out a summer and a fall newsletter to our sponsors as well as thank them and in general maintain good relations. And we don’t get money from just sponsors; we hold a garage sale as well as sell nuts (we’re a Girl Scout troop as well as team).
- Offseason competitions! During the fall, we attend CalGames annually, sometimes Madtown, and last year Chezy Champs. Offseason competitions are very rookie-focused because it shows them a taste of the competition vibe and how we function during competition so they aren’t totally caught off-guard when they get to a regional. But they also let us work through the new things we added on the robot during the summer. This is when we train our new drive team to get them ready for competition.
tldr; open house, workshops, outreach, side projects, and offseason competitions are all great ways to keep the team in shape while you’re not competing. I’d actually say that although we work less during offseason, it’s important to reflect on your past year and make plans for improvement.