Pit Crew

How do other teams pick pit crew? Do you try to include students of all grades or do you restrict them to upperclassmen? Are there more members of a certain subteam? Do you have pit crew rotations? If so, how long are the shifts?

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I like to have students who know how to fix the robot, in the pit. So…if you spent a lot of time building the robot, you’re a likely candidate. Coincidentally, you’ll probably be good at talking with judges, about the robot, since you’ll know all about it.

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Generally speaking we don’t. The people that are needed in the pits usually know who they are. If a freshman shows up, we let them watch or if they are willing to help then we give them a job to do if there is a job. We tend to have someone from each major aspect, pres, mech lead, electrical lead, etc.

This year we’re looking to change it so we have a schedule so that newer members feel more welcome.

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My team generally likes to have a pit crew with students from all grades to encourage them to stay on the team. We have rotations, but they sometimes don’t get followed if a specific subteam is needed in the pits. We also have a few members(usually leadership) who stay in the pits longer than everybody else.

We have a loose rotation. We want to have a few capable hands on shift at any given time, but also want to give new members a chance to work in the pits. Plus it means we can free up people for scouting rotations so we don’t stick some poor kids on scouting all of everything forever.

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Over the past years, we’ve lacked organization as we’ve had about 3 random leaders working on the robot with a few mentors. And then there’s the two software leaders working in a dark corner in the back. Freshmen, of course, are huddled around a snack section of our shelves (we should not have snacks in the pits, but who cares).

This year I hope to bring a bit more organization to the team. The pit crew is pretty much established by anyone who worked on the robot during build season, and the software leaders will continue working in the back. I hope to add a scouting team for the stands and for the pits. Lastly we plan to implement multiple tests for our drive team.

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Our team is a bit different than most as we have historically had 24 or more students on our Varsity team. Almost all students on 4607 are 10-12th grade unless they have been accelerated as per our HS rules (7-9th graders). This year we do have a single 9th grader as we were in need of more staffing in our STEP (Safety) Department. We are now working to have our Quality Control dept trained in to also act as Safety Captain in the pit when needed.

We see our pit as the epicenter of competitive events - and we schedule the most knowledgeable and capable students to lead this area and are in heavy rotation throughout the majority of the event. Per team safety requirements and to avoid burnout/fatigue no person is in the pit longer than 3 hours at a time - this includes mentors.

We make certain to have the following roles filled at every point of a competitive event (in no particular order):

  1. Quality Control (FMEA, Pit Checklist)
  2. Electrical - Experienced members that can troubleshoot and properly wire the robot.
  3. Programming - Experienced, understands our program/code.
  4. Build (2) - Troubleshooting, build and fabrication experience required.
  5. Safety Captain - STEP or QC Dept.

Please understand that all of our pit team has gone through significant FMEA training and understand the importance of the pit checklist. This is paramount as our team leans heavily on these engineering processes to get a functioning robot back onto the field.

No members of our Drive team can be a part of our pit team. The reasoning behind this is that we want the pit to concentrate on their tasks and the drive team to concern themselves with the next match at hand. Only the technician is allowed to communicate with the pit team - the rest of the drive team heads off to meet in an isolated area.

Our pit team is supported by two mentors most of the event. Even these roles are rotated through at 3 hour intervals. The mentors are there to observe, direct, assist, and aid in the troubleshooting process. Even though students are expected to do most of the heavy lifting, there are times that the mentors have to grab a tool and work alongside the students.

After a 2 year hiatus, we will again be using Trello this season as we have the student resources to enable this tool.

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Death match. Thunderdome rules, of course.

Alternatively, trial by combat with those with the most logged lab hours getting to choose weapons (No clubs though - that’s a personal rule).

Lastly, Survivor tribunal style, with everyone getting to vote members out until only enough remain to fulfill the roles.

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For our Pit Crew team year in and year out we like to educate all our students at the beginning of the year about what toolboxes are the competition toolboxes, where tools go, and what tools are used for.

During build season, we then keep track of who is in attendance, their attentiveness to the robot, and knowledge of where the tools are and how to use them. Before each competition the team is briefed on all working systems of the robot and asked to identity potential failure points that could happen during a Regional.

Those students are the ones that are allowed in the “Pit Crew” throughout the competition. They have the innate knowledge to diagnose the problem (if needed-with help from the mentors), find the tools needed, and fix the problem in a timely fashion.

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We typically have 7-12 students on our team. (Seven this year).

Our drive team is, by and large, our pit crew, with the rest of them scouting.

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We got them small team vibes (around 10-12ish kids this year) so drive team usually ends up as our pit crew .

Also small team vibes, drive team tends to be most dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled members of the team. Which means that we also have our most dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled members in the pits to work on the robot. We usually have a mentor in the pit to supervise and assist when needed.
Rest of our members serve as scouts for the competition

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We typically travel with between 40 and 50 students. Our pit crew towards the end of the season last year was made up of 2 build students with 1 extra on call build student, 1 electrical student with 1 extra on call electrical, and 1 programmer, along with a mentor or 2 to help with the flow of students in and out of the pit, to make sure everyone is drinking water and eating lunch, and to help keep the pit clean. The idea behind the on call student is that in case something bad happens with the robot, we can pull in the on call students quickly, without having to wait to find a scouting alternate. This also allows for pit students to rotate to take a break, check out the merch store or innovation fair, and just decompress as needed. Also, if there is an issue with 1 specific subsystem, we can pull in members of that subteam from whatever their regular competition role is to help. This system worked really well for 1023 this past year, and I’m hoping to see them try to follow this again.

During matches the pit crew (including on call students) typically sits together to watch robot performance closely, so in case something seems to not be working right they pick up on it, and make a plan of action together while walking back to the pit. After every match, the pit crew meets up with the drive team to receive the robot from them, while the pit mentor checks with the drive team to find if there were any performance issues in the previous match. Then they do a systems check, which is running the robot, making sure all sensors are reading as expected, making sure no cylinders are bent and the pneumatic system is holding its charge, and making sure nothing is obviously wrong while watching the systems check. From there they do their regular pit checklist, and one more systems check before handing the robot back to the drive team.

As a rule of thumb, we do not allow the drive team to be on the pit crew. We prefer that the drivers get to spend time between matches decompressing, staying hydrated, and reviewing match video and strategy for the next match.

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Thats exactly what we do. And roughly our team size as well. We always make sure we have people doing something. The pit crew is whoever has the most experience in the mechanical and electrical departments with this years robot.

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On the first team I mentored, we would choose three students for pit crew. Between drive team and pit crew we wanted to have at least one software expert, one electrical expert, and two or three mechanical experts. Usually of the three pit crew, we’d have one mechanical expert/safety captain and one software (to minimize how often we had to call on the drive team), and one freshman or sophomore who we wanted to train.

Last year on my current team, we tried something new. We had our programming captain and CAD captain (who doubled as manipulator and technician) as the pit crew leaders, and made a schedule giving nearly all team members at least one shift in the pit. Our shifts were “before lunch”, “after lunch - 4pm” and “4pm - close of pits”. Most of the time we’d have one software student and one mechanical student working with the captains, and at certain times (such as installing the withholding allowance) we’d schedule a few more of one or the other. A few of the students who knew the robot best were given more than one shift. We only had one electrical student, and he was the safety captain so he was always in the pit (and could lend a hand with mechanical fixes as well). We made it clear up-front that the shifts were a flexible situation, and anyone could be swapped out at any time if we needed the expert on a certain mechanism or part of the code. This worked really well for us - working in the pits was a fun break from scouting and made our new members feel valued, and having less-experienced members in the pit didn’t hurt us.

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We have two mechanical captains , they rotate as our human players, and are always in the pit to attend to the robot should it need repairs. Drive team is also in the pit as well as our technician so the drivers can meet with our scouts and alliance partners.

Our software team alternates between the pit and the stands, usually a more quiet area depending on the venue, and only come to the pit if they need to test code. We have implemented a requirement that any software changes need to be tested at least 10 times prior to going onto the robot, so we don’t change code much if at all at comp.

Scouts are typically meeting with the drivers and alliance partners either in our pit, or somewhere nearby.

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Usually two mechanical, two controls (electrical/pneumatic) selected by those subteam leads as those who know the systems best and can work on them promptly. They tag out, usually on an informal basis, but sometimes they’ll set up a schedule. Someone from programming is always “on call”. Most commonly juniors and seniors, but in 2014 both of the controls pit crew members were freshmen.

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The lead mechanical mentor usually dictates the Pit Crew size, but it usually runs along these numbers:
2 mechanical members
1 electrical member
1 programming member
1 safety captain

If needed, he will pull additional members to fix a problem.
He and the two mechanical captains determine who will serve in the pit crew. Usually the more experienced members are selected.
We usually have two pit crew teams. Each having 4 hour rotations (1 in the am & the other in the pm).
After a match, the drive team usually will debrief the pit crew of any problems with the robot.

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Our pit crew is relevant personnel only. Team captains, strategy lead, drivers, safety captain, and a few people to work on the robot. They all are upperclassmen this year but that’s just how it shook out.

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We work more on a competence level rather than a who the person is but this breaks down to how we divide work as as larger team. We are broken up into 6 categories; design, assembly, manufacturing, electrical, and programming. Because of this its not easy to just have one of each system. So we work on one electrical, 2 mechanical people (Assembly manufacturing, design) because they know the robot and that is the goal, and than our programming lead will come and go with the robot to assess that everything is working good. I am what we call the Pit boss which means I head up the pits. We do not really have a mentor that stays in the pits because we want to keep as few people as possible in the pits at a time.

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This is almost exactly what we do.

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