Tips for Rookies at Championships

We found in Week 6 that we’re headed to St. Louis as an All-Star Rookie award winner in NC – we’re all very excited!

However, with a 100% rookie team, it feels overwhelming with needing more funds to get to St. Louis than we had available for our entire build season, figuring out travel arrangements (which we were lucky enough to have not had to do as our Regional was local), traveling together as a team (which we hadn’t needed to do before), thinking about affordable food options for team/mentors/families, coordinating 10 families in terms of driving 15+ hours/flying in/leaving, etc.

Many of the students and mentors are reading CD daily but it’s hard to get some of the logistics down until we’ve gone once.

So, we’re looking for some tips would be great for Championships. Specific random questions we’re currently trying to figure out are:

  1. Do we need to bring paperwork again? (Team Roster, BOM)

  2. Compared to Regionals, it looks as though we’re going to be spread very thin with our already fairly small team. We’ll have only 10 students there. What are the major “extra’s” in terms of people needs or things we shouldn’t miss? (conferences, FTC/FLL, talking with other teams, mentor breakfast, NEMO get together, more people scouting/fewer people scouting?)

  3. By staying near the airport, what are some tips for these very early morning and very late night logistics of moving team members/mentors/family members back and forth? We’ll have some minivans but also younger siblings and family members who don’t need to be there the same time.

  4. Other than planning logistics around Pit opening/closing times, what other activities do we need to consider outside of those hours? (especially later)

  5. How are teams planning to handle the 5 people limit in the pit on Wed pm? Our NEMO who can set up and register the team can be there at 5:00 but we won’t have a technical mentor until 7:00. Looks like all 5 people have to go in at once with one load each. We do have some modifications that need to be made on the robot and would like to knock those out Wed. pm.

  6. Inexpensive food options and tips for the team/mentors?

Any other things we don’t know we don’t know?

First of all - Congratulations!! We hope you have an amazing time at championships!!

  1. You dont need the team roster, but you will need your BOM. You will need to pass inspection again, so you need to turn it in again.

  2. Extras… we found it helpful to make up a gigantic spreadsheet that has all of the schedules and every single person on it. Its a bit cumbersome and sometimes overwhelming, but it helped us fit in all the extras we wanted. I will address a few specifically.
    Scouting - if your team is small, you may want to see if you can pair up with a team in your division. Someone else may have a large team, and be willing to share data & some of the legwork. Doing 88 teams of pit scouting & 100+ matches can be overwhelming for 10 kids. The match scouting is more important than the pit, so prioritize that.
    Conferences - You can sometime squeeze in some of the evening (wed evening & thurs evening) ones. Karthik’s is always an excellent one, and depending on your students the Hibner ones look good too. I’m putting on a presentation skills & running Offseason/Preship/FLL/FTC events (shameless plug). But if you find yourself overwhelmed, all of these are presentations that should be available afterward (or at least from the presenters).
    "Wandering" - Give every member of your team some time to wander and check out some of the FLL/FTC/PTC/Scholarship/etc. Each should pick a target area (what they are most interested in) and at the very least go check that out. There is some great stuff to see, but with a small team, your focus should be on not getting to frazzled… “having” to go to these things.
    Rookie Meet & Greet - ok this is sort of another “plug” :slight_smile: But it provides a great opportunity to meet other Rookie teams and get some advice from some more seasoned teams. Plus its after things end so it might be a little easier logistically :slight_smile:
    PM or Email me if you want a copy of our logistics schedule from past years. I will see if I can get it uploaded and linked on our website.

  3. I don’t know St. Louis yet, but in terms of general logistics, we always put the main focus on our drive team. We set their schedule so that they can optimize sleep, but make sure to be places on time. After that comes our scout team/seat setup (they are usually the super early-crack-of-dawn crew). Pit crew schedule is the next most important - the pits are generally open at the same time as the stands, but you want them there right when it opens, and often they stay until pits close (though its not important to be “in front” of the line like it can be with seats/scouting setup. Everyone else can fill in/get there as needed.

  4. I think the only thing not mentioned in 3 is if you are planning on going to the team social, and getting dinner for your team members.

  5. I am not 100% positive, but with my read of everything so far, I don’t think the 5 have to go in together. You usually sign for your wristbands outside the pits, so 4 could go in to uncrate and load in, and someone could hold the 5th wristband for your technical mentor who comes in at 7pm. That would allow you to get started and take care of logistics and some basic things first. (others here might be more certain, but from when I have done it in the past in Atlanta, that seems to be what would work in your case).

  6. Again I dont know St. Louis, but one of the ways we have saved money is to have an adult go out on the first day and buy bagels/cream cheese/fruit type stuff at a grocery store for breakfasts. Your hotel reception could probably help you find a place (assuming your hotel doesnt have free breakfast). I have seen teams try and do this for lunches (bring sandwich stuff), but thats often logistically difficult - station someone with the food, need a cooler, etc… so you might as well just make lunch the “expensive” meal (unless there are some fast food places outside the convention center nearby). And then you can do something cheaper for dinner, either near your hotel or near the arena.

We usually try and have 1 all team meeting every evening, though that sometimes depends on how late things run. It helps to have the next days schedule lain out and who needs to be where when so that everyone is on the same page.

Hope that helps, I’ll see if I think of anything else. Drop me an email if you have any other questions :slight_smile:

That’s extremely helpful. Thank you!

I can’t recall the name right now, but there is a grocery story near the venue that you can order sandwiches and other food items.

When I went for FLL, one family made Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches each day for us and packed chips and juice/water/soda. You don’t really need a refrigerator for it!

For scouting, some teams actually post their scouting data available online. (Correct me if I am wrong, but Cheesy Scout may be up for Championships.) I can attest that scouting 80+ teams is not fun.

[5] Just bring the team members best equipped to start the work, and do what you can. Be sure someone has everything needed to get the robot out of the crate AND (if necessary) properly un-bag it (=lock-up form, know & follow proper procedure, etc.). Someone can get the radio WEP set up (just carry the radio there). Don’t sit around doing nothing! Mentors are great, but students need to know how to do this stuff.

Unlike regionals, teams are placed in the pit according to team number so rookies are grouped together at the end of the pit in each division. You won’t have the close in support you had at regionals. If you need something check in with the LRI on your division.
As always, small problems become huge if you wait. Don’t wait! It will be harder to figure out when and where you need to be for a match. Make sure at least two people are assigned to keep the team on task as to when you need to be in the queue and on which field you will be playing a specific match. Remember that the divisions will move from field to field each day. Don’t miss a match.

  1. SCOUTING. I can’t emphasize how important scouting is at the championship. That being said, since you have a small team, and may not have enough students to be reliable scouters, ask other teams in your division for help. Likely there is a veteran team that has a scouting database set up and they’ll probably share their information with you. If you can, set 6 students in your stands and have them do nothing else but scout. If you can’t, send at least 3 and have them bring a notebook to write key facts about each match.

Come to the web hug if you have time:
It’s always nice to put a face to the name, and it’ll be a chance for you and your students to network a bit - you never know when that will come in handy!

You’ll find a surprising amount of time to talk to other teams - in the pits, waiting in line for food, in your hotel, etc. While this is certainly different than your regional, you’ll still get a well-rounded experience without trying very hard. In past years in ATL, teams have played soccer or frisbee during the lunch break, so send your students out to meet other teams during that time, or encourage them to walk around the pits for an hour on Thursday just to see all the cool stuff other teams created/brought.

The conferences/NEMO meeting/mentor breakfast are all great things, but in my opinion, they’re just extras. The nice thing about NEMO is that, while it’s great to meet some other mentors, all of their resources are available online or through contact with Jenny Beatty & Kathie Kentfield (And they’re both on CD!) I would recommend the mentor breakfast, however, if you’re looking for an opportunity to connect with other mentors and help build new partnerships.

  1. Give yourselves at least 30 minutes + travel time. When our team travels we set our wake-up call to 1 hour BEFORE we have to leave. We give ourselves an extra 30 minutes, just in case students are running late or there’s traffic, etc. Getting to the arena early is better anyway, you guarantee yourselves better seats. And while this doesn’t SOUND like a big deal, for your scouters, it matters. Take the students you NEED first, then send the rest later. Ideally, the students that need to be there when the doors open are a) your drive team, b) your pit crew, c) your match scouters.

  2. See something! One of the things I am most disappointed about in regards to my trips to Atlanta the past few years, NOT touring the Coca-Cola factory. Plan time on Wednesday/Sunday to take your students to see something that’s memorable in the area. We also try to schedule a team dinner on Friday night, just as a chance to de-stress and have some fun. If you’re going to do this, make sure you make a reservation! Generally, your kids WILL be tired - whether they know it or not, so we tend to do in-hotel activities. Suggest that they bring video/card games to play, but remind them to be respectful of other hotel guests.

Other Stuff:
Before you leave: Check out the public agenda & other relevant info on the Championships site:

Team 1208 put together a really good pdf on things you can do / need to know in St. Louis:

Spend some of Wednesday night learning the route between the pit and the field, both for your robot AND your spectators. Sounds dumb, but when you’re in a rush and being queued, knowing where to go makes a BIG difference.

If you need help, you’re going to have to ask for it. DEFINITELY have pit admin make announcements for you. Don’t rely on pit admin alone however, work with the veterans in your division. Get to know a few of them on Wednesday night/ Thursday evening and let them know that you might need their assistance. They’ll tell you the best way to get their attention/help. They were rookies once too!

Remember to HAVE FUN! Championships is HARD, but it’s also an AMAZING experience. If you feel overwhelmed, stop, take a break and just breathe it all in.

The venue is REALLY busy. Suggest that your students don’t wander around alone - have them always walk in at least pairs, and make sure that one adult/chaperone knows where they are at all times. Exchange cell phone numbers, and send text messages. The venue is loud - students are more likely to notice their texts than hear their phone ring

Last but not least - SEND ME A PM! I will be attending Championships with my family & two of my students. Our team isn’t competing, which means we’ll have some free time. Scouting/strategy are my expertise, but we’ll also have mechanical/technical support, programming/sensors/electronics help, non-tech/judging help, and more. I’ll happily donate some of my time, and some of the time of my other team members to make sure you have a successful championship!

Best of luck!

Scouting is important, but can be scaled back/shared with another team. If you have parents/siblings that are interested, there are your scouts. Another smallish team (330) has recruited mentors/NEMs/siblings as scouts for a while.

Travel: If you can get to the airport’s Metro station, there’s another one on the same line by the America’s Center. I know the trains can run until midnight or so; not sure when they start up again. Make sure any students traveling this way are in a group and have a mentor or two along–it’s better to travel that way. Or, you can have one or two minivans for team students and the rest for family/supporters/siblings that are along.

One thing:

Try not to get to overwhelmed and HAVE FUN :slight_smile: