Rookie Team, Any Advice?

Hi everyone! This is our school’s first year with FIRST and I just wanted to see if anyone had some advice for a rookie team? Any help is appreciated, thanks!

Who’s your nearest veteran team, and are they mentoring you? If they aren’t, they should be…

Also, I would use the kit drivetrain as a starting point.

One other important item: The rules were released one week ago. There have already been two updates, and some questions about the rules. Updates are released on Tuesdays and Fridays, and yes you will want to stay on top of any changes.

Split your team up into sub-groups (build team, electrical team, programming team, etc), but make sure that the sub-groups have a full understanding of what’s going on before they do their thing. If they just go off on their own, the subsystems that they create might not work nicely with one another.

Make sure that everyone’s happy. If there’s some conflict between two members of the team, try your best to resolve the conflicts fairly. A team can only really work well if everybody is happy with, and respects, one another.

I would recommend taking the Kit of Parts chassis and getting it to work. Put it together exactly like the instructions say, stick an electrical board on there and get some experience driving it around. While you’re building the KoP chassis, talk about a mechanism that you can use to do your desired thing. This mechanism should be simple, should work well, and should not break any rules (be sure that you look at the FRC manual before starting the production process).

Have a program that allows you to move during autonomous. This is often something that new teams don’t do, but it is the simplest way to net points. There is no reason why you shouldn’t get this done well before bag ‘n’ tag day.

Above all, have as much fun as you possibly can, and be sure to remind yourself as much as possible that what you are doing is really cool.

Hope this helps -

I advise your team to look for people that have experience in engineering or specifically FIRST. The most helpful thing to do would be to ask a veteran team near you for help: learn about their team and how they function. On our team, we mentor rookie teams, help them engage in events, and teach them the different aspects that will contribute to an efficient team. We showed them how our team runs, specifically the organization of our programming, electrical, mechanical, and business team. Recently, we let a rookie team borrow our practice robot for competition. While doing so, we explained the specific functions and purpose of each feature to show them the different factors that must be considered to build a robot.

On the other hand, be sure to network with people around you because it is a great way to get sponsors and mentors - to establish a stable team.

For your first year, design wise, I suggest you go for simplicity with something that you know will work, and work on maximizing its efficiency. If you don’t think you can compete with top teams, build a robot that can assist these top teams, thus making you a great alliance pick if your robot compliments theirs.

There’s lots of resources online, especially at the FIRST website. See

Check out the various white papers on CD too.

  • Reach out to your local teams! They can often help you through any problems you encounter. Also reach out to your community.
  • Find out the easiest and most efficient way to play the game, and then build your plan around that.
  • Don’t think your robot needs all these bells and whistles to be a good robot. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to get the job done.
  • Be a Generalist. It’s better to be able to do more when other robots can’t provide.
  • Take advantage of online resources such as Robot In 3 Days, Build Blitz, FRC Designs, The Blue Alliance, and (obviously) Chief Delphi. Look at past competitions and see if you can draw inspiration from it.
  • Keep in touch with your sponsors; keep them updated so they know they’ve put their support to good use!
  • Make a flag.
  • Show spirit! Make signs, come up with a cheer, get your team pumped up at your competitions!

As Dean Kamen said, FIRST is more than just robots. It’s about good sportsmanship. It’s about the bond you make with your team. It’s about getting up at 7 AM to go to a build meeting and working past noon. It’s about cheering as your robot plays on the field for the first time. It’s about making friends with members of other teams that you’ll keep for a lifetime.

So have fun with your first year. It’ll be a learning process, but you’ll make it through!

Good luck from The Gems!

Welcome to FIRST!

I would recommend someone on your team reading The New Cool, by Neal Bascomb. It is a fantastic read that details many aspects of FRC.

Definitely find your nearest Veteran Team and ask them to mentor you, if they are not already.

Good luck, and we’ll see you at the competitions!

Star with a simple working drive train. Once that works start building the mechanism. Just remember you don’t want to be stuck with no robot. Worse comes to worst you can make a noodle bulldozer I’m sure other teams would be happy

When designing don’t reinvent the wheel

Three steps to success for new teams and/or teams with a small budget/few resources:

  1. DO NOT OVER-COMPLICATE THE DESIGN!!! My team can currently play this game well (6-tote stack & recycle bin) with 1 motor and 1 pneumatic piston (excluding drive train). If your design calls for much more than that, you’re going to have a bad time.

  2. It is better to do 1 thing awesome than 5 things crappy. No one wants to pick a mediocre robot for their alliance. Excel at 1 function.

  3. Try to finish 1-2 weeks early so you have time to trouble shoot, and so you don’t have to rush at the end.

Have fun and enjoy the process.

Additional Notes:

  • Everyone in the vicinity of the robot/power tool/sharp object should be wearing safety glasses.
  • BE SAFE!!!
  • Don’t pick up the battery by the cables.
  • Measure multiple times before you cut/drill; swiss-cheesing is bad.
  • Use the KOP frame. It’s actually really good.
  • Ask for help. Don’t struggle silently.
  • Don’t “wing it”. Make a plan. Establish a schedule so you know if you’re behind that schedule.
  • Use your parent resources! They want their kid’s team to succeed just as much as you do. And parents are great for food, carpooling, etc. Just ask.
  • Make sure you have minimum 4 batteries and 4 chargers for competition. You’re going to need every last one.
  • Competitions are free. Bring as many friends/family to cheer as you can.

This is just off the top of my head. There are countless more things.

Heres a little list of mistakes I see teams make.

  1. Bring safety glasses to your competition. I know its a long way away but please do this, you wont be allowed into the pit without a pair and its better then wearing the ones that are provided (no disrespect yo). As someone with prescription glasses I had a few years where the provided safety glasses were a bit wonky.
  2. Ask for help. Seriously do it and your cool we all are here to learn and we are all willing to help each other out.
  3. KEEP UP WITH THE GAME UPDATES. Yeah I know the rules came out but they change as time goes on cause some cheeky students/mentors find loop holes in the game.
  4. Network: Get to know your local teams, most of em don’t bite. The ones that do are usually vegetarians so they wont bite you anyway.
  5. While FRC holds a special spot in a lot of peoples hearts on here (coincidence I think) do not neglect school work.
  6. While technically no questions are stupid questions, make sure you use the right lines of communication when asking things. If you asked this on the Q&A system it would be kind of silly but utilizing the network of resources you have is key to doing well.

Your rookie year you shouldn’t be building a robot as much as you should build a team so have fun!
So have fun!

P.S Have fun!

This is what I recommend. Don’t even bother about what the game is until you have a robot that can drive around.

Start with kit drive. Divide and conquer tasks. Read some of the stuff on organizing teams that is everywhere on the web. Make sure you can move. A moving robot, even in this game, can be very useful; you can push around noodles and get totes to your teammates.

Thanks everyone for your advice! I’ll definitely be passing all of this on to my team!

Everyone else had really good advice, but I really only have one major one.

Be creative, feel free to think outside of the [strike]box[/strike] tote! and Have fun! It seriously is the hardest fun you will ever have.

Aside from the general design/build/programming advise, it’s important to keep in mind some other important components:

  1. Stay calm. Your patience will get tested and you will go through the same rookie struggles as everyone else. They are a part of life.
  2. Keep your head up. It will get better. Just think ahead to 3 or 4 years down the road when you have the experience under your belt.
  3. Have an open mind to all sorts of ideas. Every team will develop their own style.
  4. Make sure to have fun with it, because it’s a blast:D

Everything I’ve read here is spot on. Get local help. Keep it simple. Have a project plan. Finish far enough in advance of bag-and-tag to have some driver practice. Consider designs “not invented here”. Keep everyone working on something useful. Build field elements. Go COTS (Commercial off-the-shelf) whenever you can afford it.

I’ll go on a bit more detail on the chassis and materials and strategy about strategy:

We used the KOP chassis our rookie year and again this year. We opted out of the KOP chassis the other two, and in both cases we would have used the KOP as a starting point and modified in much less time and headache than we had. Remember is to think any changes to the chassis through before you pick up a saw or drill. Our rookie year was Rebound Rumble where you had to pick up nerf basketballs, and we cut open the front of the chassis to bring them into our feeder. We never did get the frame square again!

Watch the weight limit. That slotted extrusion is great for prototypes, but it just gets too heavy for competition. We use 1/8" aluminum stock for most of our framing and 10-32 bolts to hold it together, with steel angle braces from the hardware store at junctions which must stay square.

Use hex shafts for your gearboxes and other shafts if you can afford it - we’ve lost several matches and many hours due to missing or lost keys. Buy twice as many shaft collars as you think you’ll need - at $4 a pop, you don’t want to have to wait for it to be shipped to you at the last minute. Buy spares. High-end teams run their motors and parts hard, and need to have enough spare parts on hand to build two more robots, but most teams can only manage about a quarter of that, so we have to be more careful.

Do the math. Find someone who can read a motor performance curve and understands a gear ratio - two would be even better. Use the motor calculator and other resources on this forum. If you can’t figure it out, or want someone to check your math, start another thread here - it’s a rare question that doesn’t get a useful response within a day, especially during build season. Story: Our rookie year, we built a device to push down on a field element (bridge) that was underpowered by about a factor of ten because no one calculated the weight of the bridge until we got to our regional and it didn’t work. We also built a ball launcher that could throw a ball full-court, but never put one in a hoop because we reached WAY too far in finesse.
Don’t use pneumatic pistons for something that needs to stop at various points along its travel. It’s possible, but you could work weeks getting it right the first time. Don’t use a motor to hold something in place; motors are designed to spend most of their time running fast at fairly low torque. Figure out how much current you’ll draw with each motor and other device to make sure you won’t trip that breaker, or the main at 120A. The standard compressor is designed for a 7% duty cycle - if you’re running it much more than that, find another compressor with the same cfm rating, but a higher duty cycle. Assign a battery manager - without fresh batteries, robots brown out, causing computers and other parts to shut down.

READ THE RULES! After you have a design, read the rules again to make sure you’re in compliance. Any time you come up with a strategy that you intend to use, check it against the rules.

If you’re in a regional that isn’t the first week, watch some video the first week or two. See what does and doesn’t work, and you may decide to adjust strategy before your regional. You may also find out that some of the rules are being judged differently than you read them. For example, we read the rules last year (3.1.4 C)

A BALL is considered SCORED in an ALLIANCE’S GOAL if
A. a ROBOT causes one (1) of their ALLIANCE’S BALLS to cross completely through the opening(s) of one (1) of
their ALLIANCE’S GOALS without intervening human contact,
B. the ALLIANCE ROBOT last in contact with the BALL was entirely between the TRUSS and their ALLIANCE’S
C. the BALL is not in contact with any ROBOT from that ALLIANCE.
to mean that pushing the ball into the goal at ground level did not count as the ball was in contact with the robot as it passed through the goal. It did count; I can only presume that A and C were intended to be sequential rather than simultaneous.

I agree with almost everything you said except for the pneumatics.

We’ve had good luck with pneumatic pistons that need to stop at locations other than the ends. In our 2005 robot we had an arm that was raised and lowered to various heights by a single huge pneumatic cylinder, and it took no special programming or driver practice to control. We were also happy using an intermediate location to aim our 2013 robot. I think they’re easier to write software for than a motor because they don’t burn out when you tell them to do the wrong thing.

Also, I think most teams can safely ignore the pump duty cycle ratings. Matches are short.