Second year pitfalls

We had a great experience in our rookie season last year. I credit a large part of that to heeding the advice collected from the local teams around us and the not-so-local teams found on the interwebs.


What are the mistakes to avoid as a second year team?


As a team that qualified for worlds as a second year team, I would say focus on doing the game tasks that the high performing alliance captain teams would delegate to a second pick. Don’t think you can do everything; you can’t.


Not that our second year was poor or we made massive mistakes in any aspect of our process but if you are a bubble team (for districts) dcmp or worlds to make it in your rookie year. Have an award of target (at least one) that you could expect to win at your events this will replace the many points from those rookie awards and that plus ten as well.

From the robot side you do not have to over extend your self to build a season year team robot. Have your goals, have your plan and put to it and learn from the things that did not really pan out of you last year and you can focus your efforts on the things that work for you. Hope this helps.

1 Like


2815 made Championship off Rookie All-Star, with Bayou semifinal and Palmetto Regional finalist runs as a kicker. The next year, they collaborated with 1398 as they were low on mentors, then went custom 2-speed drivetrains and made lots of iterations on a cam-actuated kicker that still ultimately couldn’t hold up to the loads. Missed the playoffs entirely at Bayou chasing control system gremlins, then made the Palmetto semis as a first-round pick. Still alright, but clearly a step back.

4901 won Orlando as rookies as a second-round pick, a simple defensive robot with an autonomous shot and just enough inbounding ability to get the assist. The next year, the Palmetto robot was a clever air-based stacker atop an H-drive that couldn’t hold together, couldn’t stack, and couldn’t drive well. The stacker was completely overhauled for Orlando to run a conventional motor-driven lift and the flap-based stackers that were doing better, but it still had limitations and missed playoffs rightfully.

So yeah, beware that.



The biggest thing to remember year to year (whether it’s the second or twenty-second) is to have a balance among changing what you did wrong and keeping what you did right, and [hardest of all] finding the wisdom to understand where you lucked out vs doing the right thing, and determining what it actually was that you did wrong (was the problem that you used chain, or tried to build beyond your abilities, or missed a key strategic point?)

And to avoid pitfalls in later years, be sure to teach what you learned to the underclasses.

If your team changes size by more than about 25% (up or down), strongly consider scale changes in your team organization, even if it worked perfectly last season. Larger teams need more structure and usually benefit from more focused individual expertise; smaller teams need more flexibility in organization and broader expertise from individuals. (Not just year 2!)


I would figure integrating new members. Keeping all the keep people well-informed. Communicating well between everyone.

Then there is a eyes-bigger-than-your-head moments. Making sure that your wants stay within your abilities.


Year 2 is a momentum game. As others have said, one of the biggest mistakes is thinking “oh yeah we can do that.” The first one is iffy. The second and third time you say that? Spread too thin. Watch out for it. For example my team focused this year on keeping the robot relatively simple (just an arm for level one scoring locations in Deep Space) but we went “who needs the kitbot? CUSTOOOMMM!”. Mistake. Big, fat, mistake. The number of matches you should drop due to your drivetrain should be 0. Ours was significantly higher.

I’d look at treating year two in the same way you treated year one. Keep the bot simple, keep the goals simple, execute on those goals. Don’t chase swerve. Probably don’t chase crazy awards (but obviously be proud of the things that you are doing!)


Specifically for your team, which did amazing because you choice a couple game tasks and did them great, be wary of adding more abilities unless you can do them at the same level of awesomeness as your first year.

1 Like
  1. Don’t make the mistakes you made last year.
  2. Make more mistakes this year.
  3. Learn from the mistakes so you don’t do them next year.

Someone told me this: if you arent a strong team (captain/ 1st pick), you better hope you have the KOP chassis for 2nd pick. I know I’m probably gonna have some backlash on this so the explanation of the KOP + 2nd pick.

The KOP Chassis is a well tested, well made, reliable drivetrain that most (if not all) powerhouse teams are able to help fix easily. Usually the 2nd pick bot doesn’t focus on scoring too much (especially when the serpentine is headed back toward 1). That’s where the drivetrain’s importance comes in- MUST be able to drive 100% no failure. If something goes wrong, the chances of fixing is probably easy enough.
A custom chassis is something only your team is most familiar with. Who knows if it’s reliable? And could your alliance partners help you fix it as easily as the KOP?

It comes down to the drivetrain when there are teams very closely related- scoring wise, and maybe defense wise.


I think in order to be successful again you need to identify why you were so successful this year. Most rookie teams don’t have the level of success 7457 had, it’s very rare.

In my opinion as a total outsider / fanboy, you all did the following -

  • Nailed the #1 and #2 most important aspects of Destination Deep Space from a qualification ranking perspective. You had a reliable, fast level 3 HAB climb and could fill up the cargo ship on your own very quickly. This goes back to identifying these aspects at some point during build season - maybe it all didn’t happen from day 1, but by the time you were competing you were scoring a lot of points compared to many teams that focused more on the rocket.

  • Consistency is key and 7457 was solidly consistent. From what I saw you always did your job - filled up the cargo ship, later in the season also working on low level rocket & always climbing successfully to level 3 from day 1.

  • You continued to iterate between events. Many teams don’t realize how vital this is to a successful season, especially rookie teams. You didn’t start with a strong hatch game but by states and worlds you were putting them up with ease on the lower levels.

My suggestion would be to identify areas that you thought were weak this year and pick a few to focus on for improvement. Methodical, continuous improvement are what make teams great year after year.

And just because you had a great 1st year doesn’t mean you still can’t reach out for help :slight_smile: Indiana teams are always willing.


I think the best advice for a second-year team is the best advice for pretty much every team: don’t overreach.

Overreaching is for off-season projects, to work on until they’re not an overreach, they’re new capability. Build season is for what you know you can do, and do well.


Thanks for all the input. It’s sounding like what I was thinking, which is to intentionally pick a few areas to level up, being mindful of our time and skills.

I’m thinking certain areas are lower risk than others. Devoting time to vision tracking via Limelight isn’t as risky as a custom drivetrain, because we can always bail and go full driver control, whereas a failed drivetrain can’t do anything.

We are adding a CNC router to our shop, but won’t have any time to learn before build season, so maybe we’ll just try to CNC things that can also be bought COTS (gussets) or fabricated with our other tools if need be.

I’m really proud of our game analysis last year, so we’ll try to keep a similar mindset come Jan.



My sons and I have been on three teams a year or two after they won Rookie All-Star or Rookie Inspiration. All of them had an overinflated sense of their abilities from it. All of them were overly ambitious in their robot designs and couldn’t make it to playoffs. Some of them lost mentors due to the hubris that the team members exhibited. Only one of them has survived. Not all Rookie All-Star winners go down that path.

Set some long term goals for your team and make a plan for working towards those goals. Learn from the other successful teams that you meet up with at competitions.

1 Like

7457 had an excellent approach to the 2019 game given the context of the team (being a rookie in a district, etc). I recommend you spend some time (at least yourself, and probably include the team) looking at the manuals of past games and considering what 7457 might build as a second year team in those games.

This exercise may not help at all, or it may highlight some areas that you think you might need to prepare for - I’m not really sure, as I’m not on 7457. But I think having a similar approach as you did in 2019 will yield fantastic results for you guys again in 2020.

My biggest piece of advice is always “don’t go for the 4th RP.” But it’s up to you to decide which RP is the 4th. (The teams that can go for the 4th RP don’t need my advice.)

If you are looking for some help on a basic Limelight-assisted scoring algorithm (is that the right word?), feel free to shoot me a PM. Happy to share our code.


Fundraise like hell.

Rookie teams have the benefit of having several funding sources available to them. Many quickly realize those safety nets drop off in the 2nd and 3rd years.

Build your sponsor and grant base now while you still have access to NASA and other grants.


I’m going to have to steal this for the future. Probably the simplest explanation I’ve seen for what it means to make sure your team doesn’t overreach.

For a lot of teams this could be amended to say “don’t go for the 3rd RP, either.” We should have followed that advice this season.


It’s fun to look back. Our rookie year was in many ways exactly how you should not do things. It was crazy, improvised, nobody had any FIRST experience. Our robot was a bunch of welded together steel that raised eyebrows but not interest at our first event. But darn it all we ended up being alliance captains and won Rookie Inspiration. In retrospect it was great driving and a bit of luck here and there not least in going with a design that turned out to be ideal. We were simply too dumb to outsmart ourselves.

Of course the next year we figured “hey, this is easy”. No, FIRST is not easy. Don’t try two events on back to back weeks. Pay meticulous attention to the design of your practice elements. Leave yourself a few ounces of extra weight cushion.


1 Like

Very similar to what I tell new teachers:
You’ll make every conceivable mistake your first year.
You’ll make all of the mistakes your second year that you forgot to make your first year.
Your third year is when you realize that mistakes are part of teaching and are unavoidable (but, can be minimized with experience).


I found the third year to be the most difficult. Second year teams are still relatively new, you’ve got teams checking up on you periodically. Third year teams are a bit forgotten; they’re old enough to know what they’re doing but not necessarily how to do it, and the veteran teams’ energies are focused on the 1st and 2nd year teams.
Do Future You a favor. Keep up the connections with local teams, make sure the communication lines are open and well-used. You’ll need them even more next year.