"The Little Things" - Helpful hints for all


You’re more likely to win pushing matches if you have lower bumpers than your opponents. Part of their weight will shift on to your robot and you will gain traction and they will lose it. It also helps to have stiff bumpers that don’t move up and down at all.

Lower bumpers also normally make it harder for your robot to tip over since your at less of an angle when your bumpers hit the ground.

While I can’t speak for Bryan, I can say that the reason our team would like to do this is that lower bumpers are advantageous for CoG reasons, pushing match reasons, and avoiding tipping.

The lower CoG is quite obvious. However, less obvious are the pushing match advantages. During a pushing match, normal force is quite often transferred between the robots. Consider 2 robots with equal weight and traction capabilities, both at 145 lbs with bumpers and battery but different bumper heights. When they engage in a pushing match, it is possible that the one with higher bumpers may transfer some of its weight to the robot with lower bumpers. Now you may have the high bumper robot with 130 lbs of normal force available to “turn into” tractive force, while the low bumper robot might have 160 lbs of normal force to “turn into” tractive force. This means the robot with lower bumpers could have more pushing force due to the increased normal force on its wheels. The ground still supports the total weight of both robots, but not necessarily equally at all points. In addition the robot with higher bumpers may tend to get up-ended in this situation.

It can also help in avoiding tipping. If the bumpers are lower, they will “catch” the robot as it tips more quickly than if they are higher up. I have also seen robots tip such that their support polygon is the frame and the bumpers, which is way less probable with lower bumpers.

Swarf is the devil. Protect your electronics.

Tug-test all crimps.

Program manual overrides for your fancy code so that when a sensor fails or the mechanism ends up in an unexpected state, the drivers have a way to recover or work around the problem.

Remember your robot is going to have to go through doors in the bag. Plan bumper transportation accordingly.

Focus on a strong feature of your robot and just try to make it consistent.

You’re more likely to get chosen in alliance selections if you have even one feature that makes your robot stand out. Our team’s success this year was largely because we had a very consistent 5-disc autonomous. A team we work closely with generally seeded higher than us last year, but didn’t have one particular feature they could “sell” to other teams.

Plan for locations for electronics, compressors, batteries in your design, not as an afterthought.

Good scouting wins matches, great scouting wins competitions.
and related:
Good scouting is not a replacement for a good robot.
But a good robot is also not a replacement for good scouting.

Also in the thread of scouting: if you don’t have the resources to scout, because you’re a rookie team or have a small team, some other team does, and they are likely to accept the addition of two or three scouts into their scouting team in exchange for data.

And of course, always be graciously professional. GP in winning, GP in losing, GP on and off the field. It will get you further than any robot-related item in FRC.

I’m sure I can think of more, but a post in the thread reminds me of a major misconception most new teams have.

Playing good defense is not about ramming or pushing your opponent. It’s about preventing them from accomplishing what they want to do for as long as possible.

Avoiding defense well is not about out-pushing the defending robot. It is about evading them ask quickly as possible and continuing on to scoring.

  • Talk to people. Talk to people from other teams, talk to people on your team, know what is going on at the event, know what is going on in your own shop. Building connections with other teams can be the difference between playing on Saturday and not. Building connections within your team is the difference between existing and not. People like to work with people they know.

  • Welds are light. Rivets are light. Nuts and bolts are heavy. Consider which you prefer on your robot.

  • For mechanical: Programmers are your friends.

  • For programmers: mechanical are your friends.

Make electronics very easy to access because you never know when you need to change or replace something.

Evaluate your needs each year. Don’t expect to be able to use a similar setup to a previous year just because it worked then.

  • Label everything you take to competitions. A pen, a few pieces of paper, and some tape can really help. You can easily check which box has what you need and can make other notes on the labels.

  • Always take raw material to competitions. You never know what can break. At IRI, our shooter support welds cracked and we had nothing to fix them. Thankfully, 67 had some 1/8th inch thick sheet metal and was awesome enough to let us have some. Even after Battle at the Border, the shooter is still going strong.

I would have have failed you at inspection when I used to inspect regularly.
See full text of the rule below for everyone elses reference.

  • Listen to peoples’ ideas. REALLY listen.

  • My ideas are not better than OUR ideas. No matter how good I may think they are, *we *can make it better.

  • Ask questions, don’t make assumptions. Then listen to the answers to the questions you ask.

  • Don’t let your drive coach and best asset go to Texas.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help with the fear that it will “reveal your design”. Honestly, there aren’t a lot of unique ideas in FRC, and it’s extremely rare that an FRC team would have been able to dominate with an idea if only they had thought of it. The help you need is far more valuable than the imaginary competitive advantage you get revealing that your shooter uses a bucket or that your hanger is passive.

  • 4 CIMs is the minimum for a competitive drivetrain, excluding some edge cases that probably don’t apply to your robot.

  • In many years, the specific design you choose isn’t as important as the amount of development, iteration, and practice time you put into perfecting it.

1.) Have tight, well built bumpers that match the FIRST logo color scheme. Use stencils to paint the numbers on so that they all match. Take time to make sure that said numbers are on straight. Does this necessarily make your robot function better? No. Do I consider this necessary? Yes.

2.) Have at least one “cool”, “unique”, or “ridiculous” looking component of your robot. Anything that identifies you is automatically going to put you a little higher in people’s minds. It seems wrong in principle to think that a RI3D robot with spray painted parts is more likely to get picked than an equally performing RI3D robot without them but its true.

3.) Maintain athleticism in the robot. This is a sport, the robot is an athlete. Try to accomplish tasks smoothly and consistently rather than violently. The best teams this year pulled into the feeder station gracefully and quickly to load as opposed to crashing into the wall coming in and slamming on the joysticks pulling out. Don’t make a weak robot, but sometimes more power is not what you need.

4.) Be friendly and talk to other teams. If everyone knows your name, you’re doing a good job. Like point 1, does it make your robot perform better? No. Will talking to other teams and learning about their robots and how their team works in general benefit your team more than looking like a buffoon dancing to cotton-eye joe (credit to Karthik on that one)? Yes. If you have no assignments or jobs at a competition, watch some matches, cheer for some other teams, make friends. Create a team presence at the competition.

Here’s a couple actually helpful ones:

-Inform the students to never talk to the drivers about their driving at a competition. Criticism from the other students will destroy your driver’s confidence and they will question who to listen to. Let everyone know that your drive coach is the only person to make any driving comments to so everything is filtered and clear when it gets to the students.

-Never be afraid to break out the sawz-all. Most top teams have at one point realized they headed down the wrong path and were smart enough to admit it and srap everything to become competitive. If you aren’t willing to do this be prepared to get left in the dust ofthe teams that adapt and improve every event they go to.

-Don’t reinvent everything, LOOK AT OLD DESIGNS!!!

The build season isn’t really six weeks long, and your withholding allowance is your best friend. Use it to continue iterating on a mechanism, or add a new mechanism to your robot. It can be difficult to keep yourself motivated after the six weeks is over, but you would be amazed how much can be changed between events. Never stop improving.

  • Networking, Networking, Networking. I know other have said how it’s important to talk to others in terms of competition, and this is totally true. People tend to work with people they know, so make those connections, they will come in handy. Even if they don’t help you for the event your at, I’m sure that connection will be useful at event later in the season or in future years come Saturday afternoon.

Also for both students and mentors sake, networking is extremely useful to help you at competition but also for your team outside of competition and for you personally. By talking to other teams, volunteers, and planning volunteers, you might just find a new sponsor for your team, discover new outreach opportunities, make contacts to carry into your career, or land an internship for the summer.

There are so many great people involved in FIRST, so try to reach out and meet a lot of them.

  • Standardize your parts, drivetrains, materials, tools, pneumatics, everything. The FRC season is already a pain when it comes to manipulation systems, DT specs, packaging, etc. so, why make the game harder than you have to?

  • Experiment in the off-season. I see too many teams that want to ‘try item X’ in the FRC season. Now, if it’s for a manipulation system, that’s understandable, but trying something fancy during the FRC season is unnecessary.

  • Set realistic expectations of the game. That is to say that when it comes to guessing how well your opponents will run, always aim high. Overestimating your opponents is always better than underestimating them.

  • Talk outside the team (aka network). Often times, a group of people can get a scary case of group-think, where the group tends to follow the ideas of one person or tends to stick to one idea. Talking to a 3rd party (parnets, other mentors, etc.) will give you new perspective and help you to break out of that group think.

  • Learn from the past (games and teams). Look into similar games, look into why teams made the decisions that they did. The past is a window into the future.

  • Sunny G.

-When designing, look at old designs that worked really well and modify them to your needs. Like our OCCRA team looked at many 2012 robots for this years game which requires shooting a ball.

-Floor pick up is not that important. The good teams in the 2011 season and 2013 season never picked up from the floor