Rookie, Seasoned, Veteran Robots

Hi all,

One of the benefits of being a teacher and a coach is that I am up at 6AM thinking about robots while I get ready to teach Social Studies. With that in mind, an interesting discussion occurred to me that I’d like to offer for discussion.

Panthrobotics is not necessarily what I’d call a veteran team. While technically we are, I’d like to think of us as seasoned. Yes we’ve been in a number of battles as it were, but there is still much we have to learn. I’m sure that many of us find ourselves in that same category. One way, I think, that we can judge the maturity level of a team is to determine how well they design and implement strategy in regards to their robot.

So my question for discussion:
Please discuss what you think separates a rookie robot from a seasoned robot and further a seasoned robot from a veteran robot. What makes the difference? I’d love to have both design and implementation discussed here. Many times, I think that rookies would benefit from having a specific and set goal to work towards as they begin to grow.


First, I’d like to comment on the veteran vs. rookie team. I consider a veteran team one that is successfully executing a business plan, has strong sponsor support, has a well-versed mentor base, is known in the community, and continually improves where it needs to. I don’t count the robot as part of the equation, rather a output/function of the quality of the team.

A veteran team should know that the well-performing teams operate year-round and are not “build season teams”. Again instilling this point: FIRST is more than just the robot.

That being said, a veteran team should have a good strategy and a good robot. The question in the OP is very complex and has many variables, so I’ll focus on the robot aspect.

I think what separates a rookie robot from a veteran robot at first glance is the level of complexity. A rookie robot could be a simple as a box that drives. In fact, this is what a rookie team should be setting as a threshold. Once you get driving down, then you can focus on manipulating the game piece and scoring.

After the mentors and students have become familiar with the FIRST Kit of Parts; the software; and FIRST as an organization, the team is more adept and on the learning curve. Now the risks can become acceptable to tackle larger objectives, such as more adaptive manipulators, better game piece collectors, advancing autonomous mode, and improving scouting and gameplay strategy.

I find that veteran teams know where not to advance technology year-after-year. One of these areas, I believe, is drivetrain. There’s only so much you can do with drivetrain. Keep it simple and functional - being able to reliably drive and traverse the field is the number one priority. Iterate designs for weight and durability.

Then you can use more build season schedule to game piece and scoring manipulation development. The build season is only 6 weeks. You want to be done fabrication of the robot no later than week 4. Test and train the last two weeks. This rarely ever happens, as the up-front planning and schedule management planning takes more time than actually building the robot. You also have to do it a few times to understand how to plan a robot build.

Another key point is to iterate designs and avoid redesign if at all possible.

If it is feasible for the team, build two robots. One being your bagged and tagging competition robot and an identical one to train your drivers. Most all the power players have two robots and train right up to their competitions.

This question can easily be split into two parts: team versus robot, and the answer may be different for the same team!

For teams:
A rookie team is one that doesn’t quite get FIRST yet. they show up for the build season, put together a robot, and do their best. They can win a competition, but their team hasn’t advanced much beyond any first year team.

A seasoned team focuses on more than just the robot. They do the community outreach and are working their way towards Chairman’s. They don’t have things perfected, and they don’t have the experience or organization behind them to be a veteran team.

A veteran team has established all aspects of their program. They know what they’ll be doing, when they’ll be doing it year round. They really understand that it’s not all about the robot, and they’re able to clearly show the impact the program has had on its students, school, and community.

For robots:
Rookie robots come in many different flavors. Some are as dead simple as you can get. Others try to get complex, but fail in a crucial part (mechanism is too slow, an overly complex drive train impedes their ability to compete, etc). And of course, some need help from other teams to just make it to the field!

Seasoned robots exemplify learning from past games. They find a way to play the game successfully, with a study robot, while avoiding the pitfall of complexity exceeding their ability.

Veteran robots are the ones that show up and blow everyone out of the water. They’ve figured out how to build a robot that not only works consistently, but does so better than most other robots. We’ve seen this in our scouting data year after year… there will be 2-3 robots at a regional that do significantly better at scoring than other robots.

You can have a veteran team, one that’s been around for 20 years, won Chairman’s at Champs, and has a great program set up produce a rookie robot. Turn over in students and mentors really does mean that teams are different every year. Likewise, you can have a rookie team that ignores what all the returning teams “know” about playing a FIRST game, and comes up with an veteran robot that blows everyone else out of the water.

Stinglikeabee that has to be one of the best ways I have ever heard this question answered and it is asked a lot more often then just this post.

To add though one of the things that I feel separates Veteran Robots is the ability to take risks with a design or a game strategy. Not that it always works but most teams that take the risk are what I would call veterans some notable ones that I remember:

148 (2008): Making a quick robot that couldn’t handle the trackballs was a huge risk to take but they made it work
86 (2010): The Rolly Polly bot that was designed to tip over and roll was awesome to see and the fact it never broke was even better
179 & 118 (2012): Both were risks and really tell what I mean by risk one was deemed legal and the other not but luckily for 118 the rest of their robot overcame that slight issue

So just a summary I feel the ability to successfully make a robot that takes risk with the game or strategy is a symbol of Veteran status but not necessarily a requirement

For me, I believe the thing which separates “successful” teams from “not” is PROCESS.

There are teams who have 15 years under their belts who charge blindly into each season, and use “hope” as an engineering strategy. Then again, there are 1st and 2nd year teams who methodically attack every aspect of their experience. The results show, in both of these cases. :slight_smile:

If you see a very successful robot on the field, 9 times out of 10 it is the result of a team with a great process.

Now… what makes for a great process varies from team to team.
I’ve posted one take on it. Karthik has provided his thoughts.