Rookie Team Advice

Hi FIRST community, my name is Josh, and I am a member of the rookie team Spectre 8753. The team is based out of Sarasota, Florida. The team consists of an eclectic group of students. Some students have done VEX Robotics since middle school (like me), and others have had little to no experience with robotics.

I am trying to reach out into the community and ask for some advice. Such as, what is something you wish you would’ve known walking into your rookie season? How should a team format and structure their engineering notebook? What about CAD? Are CAD drawings a necessity? How are interviews conducted? How large should a FRC team be? I have a myriad of questions, but I do not want to make this thread too lengthy.

Thank you to everyone in advance, I look forward to having a great first season, and am excited to read everyone’s responses.

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Number one advice I would give to rookies nowadays: build the everybot

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Try to keep your team fairly small your first year you all are new and confused the most helpful thing is a small hroupbof people that works well together. Cad is great if someone wants to try go for it but don’t let getting stuck in cad stop you from building a robot. If you are struggling to model something you can build it and come back to cadding it. Cad is difficult and takes the right type of person and a lot of time to learn and that’s okay you will get better. The most important thing is to have fun and learn that looks diffrent for everyone and will be hard at times but you will get through it. If you have more questions feel free to ask.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RvdKeMS1wkVLHaUc11IBtTkn5HzPLMnt/view?usp=drivesdk

While the wording makes it seem like an application that can be denied it’s really just a list of things that may have value to teams.

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Engineering notebooks are not a requirement for FRC. That being said, starting a strong culture of documentation and history on your team will prove to be a valuable asset going forwards. It doesn’t have to be in a notebook format, but finding ways to preserve your lessons learned and information for future seasons is valuable.

Not a necessity, there are still teams that operate with minimal or no CAD knowledge. Particularly during your first couple years or for teams focusing on simple robots built from the kit of parts chassis and COTS (off the shelf) components, it’s possible to just prototype and do basic math/geometry to figure out how to build your robot. There’s also resources like 118’s Everybot that you can follow.

However, knowing CAD will raise your design ceiling a great deal. CAD tools are more accessible than ever and can be run (to a great extent anyway) off of student laptops. While you may not need it immediately, I would start having students learn and train on CAD resources. Even if its CADing what you have already built.

It varies slightly by award, and there’s a good chance that this process may change according to COVID safety protocols at events.

Generally - the Chairman’s and Dean’s List awards are conducted at times you schedule at the event, and the presenters go off to a different space to present for these awards. These may happen over Zoom/Microsoft Teams this season as part of COVID precautions.

All the other awards are judged in your pit. Judges will come around and ask questions, and whoever is available in your pit can answer them. Usually there’s two sets of judges, one for robot-questions, and one for team-attribute questions. They may make follow up trips (or other judges working on the same awards may follow up) to get additional information. Once again, this process may change due to COVID.

This depends entirely on how much mentor/teacher/parent support you have. It’s really up to them how many students they can facilitate.

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I can’t recommend Team Spectrum’s resource page enough.

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Steal from the Best, Invent the Rest is a term coined in FRC that applies to this situation. Check out engineering notebooks released by teams like 254 and 3476 for good examples. A more recent trend in FRC is having build blogs where teams post daily updates as part of the #openalliance. Check out 3874 and 6328 2020-2021 build threads.

CAD is not a necessity, but it’s a really helpful tool for designing more complicated assemblies like the ones you’ll find in FRC. If you are looking to adopt a CAD program, these days Onshape is most likely your best bet for a variety of reasons.

This is highly dependant on the specifics of your team like mentor pool, build space area, ect.

Ask away, and use the search function; it’s how you learn!

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Based on how you described the experience of your students a smaller team around 15 - 20 would probably be better for your rookie year. We were in a very similar situation on experience and having a smaller team, which we did not plan on, helped a lot as the following year when we doubled in size.

As for a robot, everybot is 100% the way to go. If you do not go the everybot route, like us, really think about what would be the capabilities of a robot that could be the ultimate helper bot for a top team. Then think about the most practical and simplistic ways that you can go about accomplishing those tasks, so you don’t overburden yourselves and have a working robot for competitions.

At the end of the day, for whatever robot you build, the best advice we got is make sure your robot runs every single match and get a lot of driver practice, playing at least defense at a minimum. A good driver with a modified or stock wcd can really do some damage to another team.

Good luck on your rookie year!

After Kickoff in January, have everybody on the team (students and adults) spend a week studying the Game Manual to fully understand all the rules relating to the game itself and the rules relating to the robot design. Consider how some of the rules “interact” since there may be restrictions that are not obvious and sometimes, some “hidden freedoms”.

After about a week, you can start to “Steal from the best” and study and build the Everybot as @Nick.kremer and @Aurgia suggested. The Everybot is a simple yet effective design developed to allow rookie and low resource teams to field a competitive robot by alumni from several of the most accomplished teams in the community. Analyze the design to figure out what the designers did and why. That is how many engineers start their working career. Reach out to them via this thread to clarify anything you don’t understand.

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Just a note here, depending on your current team makeup, 15-20 may even be two big. On 6995 we started with 6 members and two dedicated mentors, we are now at 21 and that is our limit due to space and mentorship constraints. I definitely recommend talking to your mentors and seeing what they are comfortable with

The Compass Alliance Pathways are a must read. They are going to guide you through the basic things you should know really well.

You might hear some people stay to stick with the kitbot chassis or the everybot. Why? Because, at your state, it’s probably the biggest reward for the least amount of effort. Reward/Effort ratio is huge. Starting more basic will allow you to improve quicker.

The following video on goal setting is also helpful.

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During 7457s rookie season the first thing we did was make choices about what we were NOT going to do. The more items on this list, the better. Things we didn’t do at the start of the 2019 season.

  1. Score Cargo in rockets.
  2. Place hatches in medium or high rocket
  3. Pick anything up from off the ground.

Eliminating these things, along with using a KOP chassis, gave us the ability to really focus on what we were going to do (run cargo from the loading station and climb the hab), and have time to make mistakes and iterate after testing. Also, less things to break during comp.

Keep it simple. Once you decide how simple you want to make it, consider making it simpler. Our Cargo mechanism from our rookie season might be the mechanism I am most proud of because it was so simple. Fixed top rollers and powered bottom rollers with a curved pieces of polycarb behind it. It never failed, and probably scored more cargo than anyone else in the district that year.

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Holy cannoli their website is awesome! Definitely going to use to train new kids.

Do one thing very well rather than attempting to do everything and doing it all poorly.

Decide on your #1 priority and once you are satisfied with the performance then consider adding additional functionality.

I’d also recommend not paying any attention to everybot or Robot in 3 Days, until you have developed your own strategy and explored ways to achieve that. Once you have done that or if you just get stuck then look at those resources.

I’m not saying don’t look to others for inspiration, but that you owe it to yourself and your teammates to explore and develop your own ideas first, without outside influences.

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My personal inclination is also that you should ignore Robot in 3 Days, Everybot, and other published designs at first, but realistically this is a philosophical decision your team needs to agree on ahead of time. Will you all have more fun building your own design, even if it’s very simple and has limited functionality? Or will you have more fun copying a “complete solution” like Everybot, and having a robot that is able to do more (potentially a lot more) but isn’t your own design? I think either can be valid and a fantastic learning experience for your rookie year, it’s just a question of what the particular students and mentors on your team would enjoy more. (Personally I find copying other teams pretty joyless, but as you can see farther up in the thread many people disagree, which is why it’s a decision your team has to make for itself)

Either way you go, my other bit of advice is to set very realistic (i.e. low) goals for your first robot. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of kickoff and dazzled by all the cool things your robot could do, but in reality if you show up to the first day of competition with a robot that 1) is finished and 2) drives consistently, you’ll be miles ahead of most rookie teams. Add on 3) able to score any points, in any way, and you’ll most likely be the top rookie seed at your event.

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One last thought, choose a simple design concept (following the advice that many have given) and aim to finish 2 to 3 weeks before your first competition. Then go and practice, practice, practice. If possible, contact some local teams and scrimmage with them. A good machine is only good if your drive team can use it fluently.

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In 2019, something called the Open Alliance was formed by some teams that have really great build season documentation: Introducing The Open Alliance

I don’t know if it will continue post-COVID, but if it does, it’s a fantastic resource during build season to browse through and see what other teams are trying, what’s working and what isn’t. There’s some very interesting and varied processes the different teams use to identify and solve problems, to fabricate and assemble, and testing. I’m hoping more teams will join (including my own, when we feel competent enough to do so). It’s a great resource in the midst of all the craziness of the build season. And again, reach out to team, post here on CD with questions, browse team’s Youtube channels. Welcome to the party, and have fun!

You have a lot of good advice here. I always consul rookies to build a driving base ASAP so that you have something to practice with while you build the rest of the robot. When you are at your first comp, check in with the LRI and they will help you and point out other teams to give you advice or help with problems. I know that this might sound weird, but all teams are pledged to help you no matter what. Most teams will give you parts, help you build, and give you advice when they are able. Some teams might not be able to help due to low numbers, or lack of parts. Believe me they would help if they could.
Do your best and learn something new everyday.

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