SMR Vault - A Student Media Group for FIRST Robotics

Hello, and welcome to the preseason of the 2016-2017 FIRST Robotics Competition season! We hope you’re just as excited as we are to dive into the sport for the mind this winter and to witness the progress that occurs within FIRST robotics in the coming months!

Now, allow us to introduce ourselves: we’re SMR Vault. You may recognize us from the update series we created last season, but for those not familiar with us, or for those who haven’t been introduced to our history and our mission, we’d love to fill you in!

SMR Vault (“Smoky Mountains Robotics Vault”) was established last season as a side project of Blount County Robotics. Its premise was simple: to serve as an information hub for East Tennessee robotics teams. As a starting point, we began collecting video content from teams in East Tennessee and compiling them into weekly update videos during the build season. The goal of this series was to allow robotics teams to observe the strategies and techniques of others, thus facilitating the spread of ideas and enhancing communication within our area.

Today, we are proud of the connectivity we’ve set out to establish, and we plan to ambitiously pursue the following mission in the coming year:

** “Our mission is to enhance the connectivity of and serve as an information hub to the robotics community and to provide real-world experience in marketing, journalism, and media production for students in East Tennessee and throughout the country.” **

We see this endeavor as a unique way to embrace FIRST’s concept of “coopertition,” or the synthesis of cooperation and competition. As a mentor from Blount County Robotics once pointed out, “you never see football teams exchanging playbooks with each other, but with FIRST, that’s basically what’s happening.” SMR Vault is a new medium for this exchange, and we look forward to seeing all teams work together through this to advance the innovation that FIRST has set out to inspire.

If your team is interested in appearing in future videos, or for any other business inquiries, feel free to contact us at [email protected]. Also, check out our YouTube channel at, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @SMRVault

This season, we at SMR Vault are expanding on our regular line up of videos! We’ve planned a new series of videos with the objective of providing teams with advice that will help them structure their team and strategy going into the 2017 season. These videos feature exclusive interviews with influential veteran teams in the East Tennessee region! The title of the series is …(drum-roll please!)… the “All Star” series!:yikes:

So far, 2 videos are set to release, the 1st featuring the Hardin Valley RoHAWKtics (set to release Wednesday, December 28th, 2016), and the 2nd featuring Blount County Robotics (set to release Monday, January 2nd, 2017)! The two teams had a lot to say in terms of team structure, community involvement, and the development of successful robotics teams!

So whether your team is rookie or veteran, we think you’ll find the All Star series very valuable when it comes to preparing for this next season! Feel free to give us feedback on on this thread or by emailing us at [email protected]! Also, check out our YouTube channel at, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @SMRVault !!!

Looks awesome! So how are you going to reach out to teams other than on here?

Glad you like it!

Our biggest outreach is through our YouTube! The idea behind the channel is to stimulate the flow of ideas, and in doing so we hope we’re doing a service to our community! By producing these videos, we have the opportunity to interact with so many unique teams in East Tennessee. We made appearances at the Smoky Mountain Regional, and in our latest interview videos (the All Star series), we were able to meet with other teams in person to experience their unique work environments, so we’ve been making great efforts to get other teams aware of and on board with the project!

Thanks for the reply! Hope that answered your question, and if you have any more, or if you have feedback on our channel, feel free to contact us!

And if you’d like to subscribe to our mailing list, you can email us at [email protected]

Happy New Year, and good luck in the coming season!

Hey everybody!

Recently, we released 2 videos that we feel will benefit robotics teams across the region going into the 2017 season. Both videos are part of our “All Star” series, and they feature leaders from the Hardin Valley RoHAWKtics and Blount County Robotics. **We interviewed these leaders with the intention of relaying some valuable advice regarding subjects like team structure, scheduling, and leadership that other teams can use to inspire their own strategies. ** We’ve summarized some highlights below, but we encourage you to check out the videos for yourself!

Alexis Longmire, captain of the Hardin Valley RoHAWKtics, has emphasized outreach, ranging from integrating sub-teams all the way to running a foreign exchange student program to promote FIRST internationally, throughout her leadership. Our biggest takeaway was HVA’s regard for the well being of students; this has been highlighted throughout their safety program, which extends beyond the realm of FRC, and their outreach to other teams during competition and throughout the season. Alexis had sound advice to offer in regards to kickoff strategy and team structure, so definitely check that video out!

Alijah Lawson, business lead of Blount County Robotics, places a large emphasis on student leadership and learning from experience, as evidenced by the unique student-mentor relationship, which differs greatly from that of HVA, and the simplistic team structure that allows students to drift in and out of sub-groups to find where they fit best. The team also has a very straightforward, yet effective method of managing priorities, and we think teams will find this particularly helpful this season!

The most relevant subject that both teams touched on was kickoff strategy! Both HVA and BCR take a relatively similar approach to beginning the season, and both strategies are certainly noteworthy.

We’re very excited to have released these videos, and we look forward to seeing them fulfill their mission of preparing teams for the fast-approaching build season. Though lengthy at some points, both videos are packed with valuable information. For this reason, we encourage your team to incorporate them into your kickoff meeting. Have a team-wide discussion of the two, in which members take notes and analyze the viability of the strategies of HVA and BCR, and consider how some of these may be translated into your team’s strategy!

You can watch both videos on our channel at Thanks for reading, and we wish all teams the best of luck this year as we all embark on the mission of spreading innovative ideas throughout the FIRST community!

Sorry I wasn’t more specific when I first asked. This specifically is what I’m curious about. How are you reaching out to the other teams to let them know about this?

No worries!

A lot of our outreach last year came simply by word of mouth. We also ran a marketing campaign at the Smoky Mountain Regional, in which we had a big “billboard” in the lobby of Thompson Boling Arena that teams could sign. The idea was to show people how much potential there was to connect such a large number of teams!

We’re really trying to up the ante this year. We’ve established a fairly active presence on Twitter, just so people know we’re there, and we’ve created the mailing list we mentioned in our last reply to you. We started the list by literally emailing every team whose email we could find, again, to spread awareness. We keep up this mailing list by sending out routine updates regarding videos we have planned, how teams can involve themselves in our videos, and other happenings in our area that teams should be aware of!

Chief Delphi is something we’d like to really involve ourselves in this year. We plan to use this site by not only advertising our videos, but by actively participating in robot-related discussions. We’re doing this to show others that we’re not just a business group, we’re a group of students who actively involve themselves in the engineering world, and by doing this, we think we can establish ourselves as a really legitimate source of information in the FIRST robotics world.

As a side note, Reddit is another source that we’re very interested in involving ourselves in. A surprisingly large number of robotics members are on it!

Thanks for your questions! Again, if you’d like to subscribe to the aforementioned mailing list, email us at [email protected]!

It’s that time of year again! The build season is here, and it’s time for our weekly update series!

Each week during the build season, we compile valuable information from our community into a news-style update on what’s happened in the past week. Local teams submit videos of their progress, and we incorporate it into our broadcast!

This week we released an update of weeks 1 & 2 of the 2017 build season. Morgan Harbin, Head of SMR Vault, reviewed some key strategies for this year’s challenge, Steamworks, and how local teams are implementing them.

You can check out the video at, and remember to subscribe for more updates throughout the build season!

Week Three’s update is here!

Additionally, we’ve revised our submissions process, so if your team would like to be featured in an update, follow the steps below!

  1. Film some quick footage on a phone highlighting the progress of your robot and other endeavors your team has taken on!
  2. Email videos to [email protected]
  3. Fill out Week Four’s Google Form at

Don’t forget to submit all content by 6:30 PM each Friday!

Week Five’s Update is here!

We think Week Five is one of the most exciting weeks in the build season, since it’s the week where teams kick on the afterburners and start integrating shooting, gear, and climbing systems onto the chassis.

You can see this reflected in the progress of Blount County Robotics and the Secret City Wildbots in our coverage of Week Five of the 2017 build season!
Check it out at

BCR is in the process of installing the shooter, which was first tested last Friday, and they’re moving on to perfecting their basic climber design. Their programming team will be busy this next week perfecting the vision of the robot and wrapping up all other coding!

The Wildbots seem to have a fairly finalized robot, with some troubleshooting and perfecting required, most noticeably with the shooter feeding system. All in all, though, the team appears to be set up for yet another really successful season. Thanks Wilbots for sending in footage this week, and we can’t wait to see the final product at competition!

If SMR Vault could have one wish this year, it’d be that the whole East TN robotics community contributes to Week Six’s update! It’ll be the last one before competition, so if you’d like your team to be featured, follow the steps below!

  1. Film some quick videos on a phone and send them to us at [email protected]
  2. Fill out Week Six’s Google Form questions at

Thanks for reading, and we look forward to seeing the progress of your team!

It’s the final week! To commemorate it, we did more than film our regularly scheduled update. We went to Farragut High School, where the Wolfbots (5508) and Farragut Flagship (3140) were practicing with their robots! You can watch the video at

This video is intended to give teams an idea of what they can expect from other teams going into competition this year.

Some highlights of our trip to Farragut include witnessing the surprising variety of designs that can be birthed to do a seemingly simple task, interviewing team captains from Farragut and the Wolfbots to witness the reactions of members to the performance of their robots, and the opportunity to experience a true full-scale model of a FIRST Steamworks field (hint: it’s awesome).

Enjoy the video!