Starting Teams: What is important?

Just heads up before getting into this, I am brand new to the Chief Delphi thread posting so I may have done some things wrong.

Mini Introduction: //redacted at request of poster//

Our team has decided for the off season to begin a series of videos to upload to YouTube to help new teams start their journey. We have started planning our first video but I am trying to find new ideas. So what I am asking is what do you guys think is important to note to new teams when starting up a team? Like what should be important for the new teams to know as they startup their journey?

I hope you guys can help me out with this, anything helps. :slight_smile:

Robots are VERY expensive. In addition to the cost of registration and the $4000 limit, consider the cost of event travel, potential future event qualifications and travel, access to a shop space and adequate tools, laptop and driver station costs, the costs of spare parts, things that are considered but don’t ultimately go on the robot.

Make a team budget and (try) to stick to it. Raise all the money you need BEFORE the season starts. There are a ton of grants offered to rookie teams (and teams in general), but you have to go out and find them and write them. Look for sponsors. A good place to start is local businesses. Often times the amount of money you’ll get from a single sponsor will be less, but if you start early, you won’t be competing with as many other charitable causes. Develop a sponsorship presentation and hone it. Create a “rewards tier system” for sponsors, where sponsors who give a certain amount get to redeem a certain (free to your team) award, such as getting their logo on your t-shirt/robot/website, a tour of your workspace, a postseason visit to their business with the robot. Local business are also very likely to become repeat sponsors, since they get a great chance to see where their money is going. Keep them updated on your progress!

And be realistic about what your actual funding level allows you to achieve when choosing designs and events. Aim high, but make sure you can afford to follow through.

I would be to check Youtube for videos made by other teams. I’m sure many teams have done something close to what you are attempting. See what they made and try to fill a gap in their content.

Most people want experiential descriptions. They want the “Here’s what it was like for me…” stories to help them understand what they’re about to go through… especially mentors. So once you find some topics that are not currently represented well, try to develop some content that is informative in both a procedural and human manner.

My experience is that FRC is pretty impossible to grasp until you’ve actually done it - or at least that was what my experience was starting 6844 this last year. I can’t tell you how many times I would do my best to describe how a robot or event or something else worked, and they’d get it conceptually, but it wouldn’t ever really click. But after the UT regional, my students grokked it. I can’t tell you how many of them were like “wow, scouting makes way more sense now.”

Those experiences have led me to three beliefs about starting new teams:

  1. Focus on what they need to do to get to the competition and have a positive experience. If they have a good experience there, that will do more good for them then you could ever do via YouTube video.
  2. Develop relationships. Teams need someone who they can call when they have questions. Reach out and see how they’re doing. Invite them to team meetings in the offseason before kickoff. If you can get them to an offseason, even better.
  3. Connect teams to other local FIRSTers (other teams, past mentors, alumni, etc.). The only reason 6844 got off the ground was because a group of inspired alumni made it happen.

I’d also suggest reaching out to 1678. Their Citrus Service folks are legendary, and have a great grasp on common rookie mistakes/issues.

  1. There’s so much you (as an FRC rookie) don’t know you don’t know. Find someone to help you through the first year at least! If there’s another team a few minutes or a couple of hours away, try them first. If not, make some phone/internet contacts (Chief Delphi is a great place to do this). Find out what other teams are doing, because a lot of it is also what you should be doing.
  2. Get your resources well together BEFORE the January kickoff - money, build space, mentors, students, tools, materials. Even if you’re going to day trip it to your competition(s), you really need a minimum of about $10k to make this happen - $5k to register, and $5k for robot parts, tools, and incidentals; $15k, $20k or more is even better. Recruit widely. Don’t accept “but I don’t know anything about robotics” as an excuse - FIRST winds up training practically all of the students and a vast majority of the mentors.
  3. Keep up with the communications from FIRST HQ and your events. There’s a lot of chaff in there, but there’s a lot of stuff in there that matters. If you’re not sure, go back to your support network (#1) and ask. In particular, keep up with the team updates (rule changes). If you can also watch the chit-chat on Chief Delphi, even better - you can find out what other teams are thinking and doing.
  4. Watch the clock (calendar) - keep your robot simple enough that you can start practice driving around week 4. Then, even if you miss by a week, you’ll still have a week of drive practice.
  5. Learn your available resources - there are plenty of white papers on ChiefDelphi.com, videos on youtube and other web sites, and also on [list of other resources].
  6. If you still have the energy and $$ for it, do some team branding - develop a logo, print team t-shirts, maybe even adopt a color scheme for your pit and/or robot. Recruit someone who can lead team spirit (e.g. from your school’s cheerleading squad) and get them to doing that. If you have access to a mascot outfit and have someone to wear it, do so!
  7. Make sure that your team has some team bonding experiences before build season starts so they at least know each other. Watch some movies together (Short Circuit, Princess Bride, War Games are a good place to start); play paintball or dodge ball or ultimate frisbee or quidditch; have a big video game night - whatever works for you.

Don’t start teams without including school administration, parents, and sponsors all in the same room when an experienced team or mentor is explaining how big of a commitment an FRC team is and how much support is required from each of those sources.

This is probably the biggest conversation teams don’t have starting out and it snowballs into many issues that impact team sustainability.

Start planning at least 1 full year before kickoff.

Create a team sustainability and business plan before you start and get sign off from school admin so everyone understands expectations.

Take this seriously, you are playing with thousands of dollars your community is pouring into your future, don’t waste it. Act responsibly and make something worthwhile.

FRC is all about partnerships within the community. No team should ever be started without at least two other FRC teams partnering to support them.

I recommend Rookie teams give TCA Pathways a read, especially the Rookie Pathway!

https://www.thecompassalliance.org/pathways

-Mike

Look for partners in local experienced teams. They can and want to provide all types of support for new and existing teams. This isn’t like a typical sports league where teams are independent entities competing against each other–this is a cooperative enterprise focused on educating everyone while using competition for motivation.

Also, try to attend an off season event in the fall (or even compete using another team’s practice robot). That will help students better understand the conceptual approach of the program.

Finally had a chance to check out The Compass Alliance website. Awesome collaborative resource made by some awesome teams of course! By far the best resource I have seen over the years and FIRST Nevada will be sending the link out to all of the teams (old and new) in our state, asap. With the recent support of Tesla, our growth rate has jumped and we expect many new teams to be added to our state this season. Exposure to this resource now will aid in our effort to jump start our teams and lay some foundation for the workshops we will be offering around the state October and November.

A thousand thanks ( or at least 987 of them) to all of you who put this resource together!

This - all of this. We (4607) struggled out of the gate in finding our way. However, we reached out to some strong teams - and some strong teams reached out to us (2175, 967) at our regional. We were fortunate, but we were also open-minded on how to perform as a rookie.

Fast forward 6 years and we have mentored a bunch of teams - and have mentored 10 rookies. Last season, the three rookie teams we worked with all won ‘Rookie All-Star’. One of these rookies (7193 - the Unit) reached out to us. 7193 is based out of Florida, we are in Minnesota. However, they listened to everything we stated, took what we taught them, and then made it their own. They were RAS at their first event and then were the 8 Alliance Captain in their second regional. They would have been great even without 4607’s help, but they made the move to reach out - and they are the next big thing in FL! As for our other two rookie teams, I am excited to see what they do in the coming season as they are not just a second year team anymore, they are veterans with World Champs experience behind them.

So as a Rookie - reach out to the experienced teams in your area. Don’t reinvent the wheel, learn from their experience.

Here is a good topic for a Rookie Team video. Most will have absolutely no idea where to start and probably not even know what a budget is!

As as as I’m concerned, a Rookie Team budget, unless it is mentored by someone with prior FRC experience, is one huge shot in the dark. Once it is laid down, it must serve as a guideline, but one must not be too religious about sticking to it to a “tee”.

In that Rookie budget, there must be some contingency money planned for the unforesseeable.

+1

Another great resource is the FRC Survival Guide put together by alumni of 4468. Fantastic job compiling many great resources in an easy to use format too.:smiley: