I did this once before last year and I found it helpful for myself to help process the lessons of that year, so I decided to do it again. This year was by far the best year I’ve had in FIRST, admittedly it’s because it’s my first full FRC season but getting to go to competitions and experience the events with a wider lens than I had my freshman year (2020). I’ve got so much I could talk about and nowhere near the bandwidth to write it all down so without further ado here I go.
it is a whole team effort
On the day of load-in for Texas district champs our main driver, who’s also our chief engineer, told us he wouldn’t be able to compete for the rest of the season for personal reasons. That was shell-shocking news because he had been to every meeting except for the machining-only meetings we had and in addition to that we knew that our human player who was our systems engineer and integration lead was also going to be gone for DCMP to tour colleges. This meant that we competed at district champs without the two most senior robot leadership members, leaving me as the pit boss and shop manager to try and run the rodeo with an almost completely new drive team (our technician and drive coach were the only ones who didn’t get their position moved). Just to be clear I don’t hold any ill will toward either of them, they both had their reasons even if I don’t know them.
The best part is we crushed it. Looking at the data we didn’t drop in performance much if at all from our district events and we ended up exactly where we wanted and expected to be. This is more clearly than anything has demonstrated to me and the team that it’s not about the individual person. It’s about the teams’ willingness to push ahead, and fill the gaps left by these people. It was incredible to watch the new driving team which now consisted of 3 sophomores and a senior step up into this role and perform as well as they did and the whole team is grateful that they did that.
As you are aware this year was another shooting game, if you didn’t know that where have you been? I covered burnout last year and I thought it appropriate to revisit. I was made shooter lead mainly because there wasn’t another person who wanted to and eventually, I had to step up and take the role. It was a lot of fun to actually be able to machine and test designs and that helped me a lot with keeping from getting burnt out. In addition to that, I took time away from meetings for myself to do other things that I liked. Sure, it did mean that I missed sometimes where I should have been prototyping, but it turned out all right in no small part due to the open alliance, I can say for certainty that our robot would not have been possible without the help of open alliance teams. Special shout-outs go to @Nick.kremer from 3512 for all the help over discord sharing compression numbers and to @AllenGregoryIV from 3847 for giving pointers about how to make our top rollers better and walking me through their shooter when they visited my team during the season. You made our victories possible this year.
Respect is king
This season one of the most startling things is how much people look up to me. I have no idea why they do it because I’m an idiot, but I find myself working alongside people or leading people, who in my freshmen year seemed like they would be in charge for their whole time on the team. I even had an open sophomore who was trying to organize a party in his hotel room during DCMP and he came up to me and said, “hey peter how do I spread the word about this, you’re like the most popular person on the team.” I have to say that moment was a huge realization and a humbling experience because I have the social skills of a chalkboard. I can’t wait to see where this takes me and what lessons it will teach me.
High school needs a class for planning ahead. That’s the biggest “hard skill” I’ve learned this year, there are so many features that we wanted to add late in the season that would have been trivial had we considered them in the early days or weeks of the season. That extends beyond just robots to things like pit layout and trailer packing. Knowing how you want your pit set up beforehand is a lifesaver, for worlds we tried something we have never done before which is to put everything in KOP totes and on dollies and just load those stacks into the trailer. This sounds trivial but means that you have to do a non-zero amount of preplanning, but it made our life soooooo much easier it’s not even funny. That in addition to bringing the exact same stuff to every competition means that by the end me and my load crew of 3 to 5 could load the trailer in under 30 minutes from when we opened the loading bay door to our room, provided everyone had given me the things they needed to be packed beforehand.
Where do I even start? Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were incredible. The seniors on the team had described words to me before but it was nowhere close to what I expected, it was so much more. I got to meet a lot of teams and people that I had only ever seen on the internet. We had 1323, 1690, and 254 come to our pit. The people from 254 were even asking questions about our robot which is insane and nearly caused the pit crew to miss lunch that day. We also ran two events at worlds that were on the official conference calendar (Being Brilliant and Black in STEM and Girls Get Together) which was super cool, and we had over 200 people attend GGT from what people tell me. As part of those events, we had some VIP speakers who got tours of the pits and between that, our school district, sponsors, and judges. Coming to our pit I probably ended up talking to about 50 VIPs. At one point I was confused for a NASA employee and almost snuck into a photo with 118 while touring some NASA VIPs around. I had pit speaking down to an exact science by the end and even had to answer questions about how the FMS works. All in all, I had a blast the first 3 days, unfortunately, we didn’t get picked for playoffs, so I spent the first half of the day sad. At one point we had 15 team members in our pit watching matches or sleeping on the floor.
Looking back on the season I see so many challenges we faced and so many things we realized after the fact it makes it hard to write about it. I’m writing this the Sunday after worlds, and I can already tell the team is hungry for the offseason and next year. The attitude some of the freshman and sophomores have displayed to me has given me hope for the future of the team. Of course, not getting picked has left my mind plagued with questions of what we should have done differently. I know that I shouldn’t do that, but I can’t help myself.
Recapping my points for any people who don’t want to read everything. I’ve been inspired by my team more than anything. Watching people step up into roles that they didn’t necessarily see at the start of the season has shown me that FRC is truly a team effort and gives me hope for next year, the team wants to do well that much is obvious, but we have a long offseason ahead of us to plan our and navigate if we want to succeed in 2023.
The team had tons of fun this year and is already hungry for next year. I’ll leave you with a video of what I think is a new tradition for the end of the season where we quite literally shelf our robot.