Tips for first ever FIRST competition?

Hello! Because of COVID, my rookie team (#8590) has been unable to compete in person. This Saturday will be our very first in-person competition as a team (at the Blue Cheese Robotics CHSy Champs Competition). What should we know? Any pit/alliance/setup/troubleshooting tips? Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Edit: Thanks for all of the great advice! On a similar note, what should we bring to set up in the pit? What kinds of tent/poster/whiteboard/tables etc things do we need?

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Make sure you pack what you need - robot, batteries, chargers, driver station, bumpers, spare parts

Make sure you drink plenty of water

Have fun

You never know when you might be an alliance captain (even as a rookie), so be prepared to scout (or at least have some kind of pick list prepared if you are ranked highly in quals)

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  • Water.
  • Deodorant.
  • Ask around if you can scout with some veteran teams in exchange for getting the data. You’ll get a better appreciation for what’s important compared to trying to guess your first time out. (Word of caution, scouting isn’t as common at off-seasons as it is for official events so you may strike out.)
  • Water.
  • Your red bumpers.
  • Your blue bumpers.
  • Batteries (plural–anything less than four is begging for trouble)
  • Battery chargers
  • Water
  • Tool batteries
  • Tool chargers
  • Not sure if your event is doing inspection, but if so get done early. You’ll either be unstressed or you’ll have more time to fix an issue–either way, you win. Get to the field queue early too, you’re going to want to get a feel for how you line up.
  • Don’t miss the driver’s meeting; they’ll cover a lot of information you need to know for a good event.
  • Your alliance partners for each match are going to want to talk to your drive team, ideally before you queue. This is not a rule, but I would strongly advise taking the policy of “partners talk to the drive coach and nobody else”. Obviously drivers should be in the discussion too, but going through the drive coach and not, say, your awards person or a pit crew member greatly reduces miscommunication.
  • Your best patience, because we’re all going to be shaking off some ring rust at these first events back.
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Don’t forget water

That was just a joke but it made me think of this: having a plan for food will be nice, if its just your drive team + a few others its probably gonna be a lot easier to just get psyched into a comp and to forget about the fact that lunch will come around eventually, and people tend to be bad at choosing what to eat in the moment.

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Decent shoes. You’re gonna walking a good chunk of the day, esp if you are on drive team.

Water, too.

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The lists above are good, a few other things to bring that will keep things smooth at offseasons:

  • Something that can move your robot around so you’re not carrying it by hand to the field
  • at least 4 chargers
  • at least 6 batteries
  • Updated firmware on your RoboRIO
  • Long USB cable to connect the driver’s station to your robot in the pit
  • Whatever joystick/gamepads you’re using to control your robot

Things to do ahead of time:

  • Verify compliance with height, weight, bumper rules
  • know the protected zone rules, human player rules, how alliance selection works
  • Have everyone who plans to drive get some stick time/control familiarity
  • Watch another offseason online so you know how the event structure works
  • Write and deploy an auto to drive off the auto line (easy 5 points)

At event

  • Flash your radio right away
  • If you have a LimeLight/other camera that detects retro-reflective tape, check it against the arena goal to make sure there’s not background noise that will screw up your shots
  • Don’t worry about bumper color for practice matches. Get as many practice matches as possible by waiting in the fill-in line (if one is available)
  • Have at least one person in the stands to watch and take notes on teams, both for if you’re in the top 8 and to help with qualification match strategy
  • Ask for help if you need it. Many teams will give away needed components for free and/or loan them for the event. This applies especially if stuff breaks – many teams have very experienced troubleshooters that can help you
  • Try to stick to match strategies where you + your partners are operating in different areas of the field
  • Check out the other robots – you’ll get some good ideas for future years
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Oh, that reminds me of a job someone has on 1293: make sure everybody eats. Our standard approach from the Before Times is to send someone to Sam’s Club for breakfast stuff and sandwich materials, then do the former at the hotel and the latter out of the team’s trailer (using some coolers and equipment borrowed from the band). Venue food is fine too, it’s just usually more expensive. And certainly adapt this for the health and safety measures in your situation.

Also, make sure you have space on your phone. Don’t just gawk at other robots, take photos and notes. Heck, record video while you’re asking them how they did something.

Also, water.

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I cannot say enough how right the previous posters are. Here are my $.02 FWIW. Sorry that it us a bit stream-of-consciousness laden.

  • If you have any parts that require special tools, bring the tools and a spare of each if possible.
  • Get the schedule as soon as possible, and realize the times will change
  • If you have enough people, have one of the jobs be to keep the pit clean and put tools away when people leave for the field
  • Rotate jobs if possible
  • Remember for everyone to take a break (this includes mentors)
    *Ask for help if you need it. Many teams will lend a hand (or supplies, or expertise)
    *If you have time, check out any info 254 or any other teams are lending. We have learned a lot from their videos durimg Covid. Also, we learn so much from all of the incredible teams around us (New England) every time we go to a competition (even the remote competitions. The BAE challenges were incredible)
    *Enjoy it
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As a suggestion on these two:

  1. Ask for a FULL standard inspection. You probably won’t need to fix anything other than safety issues at the offseason event. But, it’ll give you a pretty good idea of what to expect next year, and anything you missed. You might not get one (might not be a veteran inspector at the event) but it can’t hurt to ask.
  2. Ask questions at the drivers’ meeting if you have them. If you think they’re stupid questions, feel free to hang out afterwards and ask the Head Referee directly. (Or just chat with the Head Referee if they’re in the mood and the protocols allow relatively near proximity.)

As a rookie team, you’d ordinarily be going in at a bit of a disadvantage. This year, you’re as close to an even playing field as you’ll get, and your first event is an offseason, so there’s no pressure. Next year, the pressure can build up a bit. But for now… relax, soak up knowledge, and enjoy the event. Take the time to figure things out, as you’ll see them again in about 7 months with a different game.

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Hi,

Team 340 will be at the competition this weekend, if there is anything you need let us know we will be more then willing to help you out. An offseason competition is a perfect opportunity to learn as much as possible about events so you are prepared for the actual thing. See you all in a couple days!

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Establish a few fun traditions. It can be whatever just happens. At our first ever comp somebody decided to draw end of day cartoons on our pit’s whiteboard. Good Night Robots messages, smiley faces for the custodial staff that works nights, whatever. You’ll have plenty of chances to be serious. Find a bit of pure levity.

T.Wolter

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I highly recommend making a check list for pre-match in the pit, pre-match at the driver’s station and post-match in both spots as well. This will avoid mistakes but also tends to calm nerves of a young team.

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Looking forward to it!

I didn’t think of that! What kinds of things should be on a pre or post match checklist?

Pre: things that are quick to fix and critical to a successful match. Some things that come to mind:

  • Fresh battery, zip-tied connection
  • Wires all connected / connections tight (e.g. battery and PDP lugs)
  • In the starting volume
  • Pneumatics charged

Post match: potentially longer repairs

  • Full functional test
  • Tread / wheel replacements
  • Major mechanism repairs
  • Lubrication / preventative maintenance

Prioritize both lists so that you address the important and long-to-fix things first!

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Checklist

  • Fill air tanks
  • Put robot mechanisms back in starting config (i.e. raise intake, lower climber)
  • Find charged battery
  • Swap to charged battery
  • Put used battery on charge
  • Strap in battery
  • Are the correct bumper colors installed / showing
  • Make sure nothing is broken / missing from robot
  • Set up robot in correct location on field
  • Turn on robot

Post match

  • Carefully remove from generator switch (if climbed)
  • Turn off robot
  • Remove game pieces from robot
  • Return to field
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My favorite is requiring the entire team to eat lunch together on day one of competition. People will argue they’re too busy. They are not. They can wait. Don’t glamorize a culture of burnout.

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Label your batteries and keep track of which ones you used in each match (like on a whiteboard). Ideally you are cycling through all your batteries before reusing them. You could use labels like 1 2 3 or A B C, but I recommend fun names - I suggest names related to your team’s theme (for my team, that would be types of tea) or just fun names, “Does anyone know Frank’s charge? When did we last use Billy? Why isn’t Pauline on the charger?!”

Take lots of pictures: of the robot, of the pit crew, the drive team, the stands, the entire team, etc. Photos are great.
If anyone on your team likes making videos, take lots of video too - wrap up videos for events/seasons are really fun for everyone involved.

On a similar note, record video of your robot during the matches and after each match have the drive team review the video. Required? No. Will see improvements? Yes.

If you have team buttons or stickers, consider bringing some to hand out. It’s a thing.

Debrief with the team after the event (as in a few days later). Talk about what went well and what the team can do to make the next event better. Did you need more snacks? Did you have enough water? Were there robot mishaps that could have been prevented with an item on the checklist?

Not sure if this was mentioned, but make sure everyone is hydrated :wink: It’s very easy to forget to drink water in all the commotion - I remember how dehydrated I was at my first event :grimacing:

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We name our batteries after a different theme each year so we immediately know how old they are: One year might be Pokemons; the next year, cheeses, etc. The students vote, first on the theme and then on the names in the theme.

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I’m constantly asking this about @Pauline_Tasci but I never seem to get a clear answer

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