Tips for Rookies attending 1st Event

We are looking for any extra tips that experienced teams are willing to share to finalize our preparations for our 1st event. We have a checklist for tools/supplies. We are bringing extra water.

I have been to competitions as a parent before, and we have one student who has competed with another team, but we are looking for any advice on how to make our 1st event go as smooth as possible.

Try to have someone always in your pit for judges. Have somebody minding your batteries. Go through a checklist pre and post match. Get a board to list upcoming matches on in the pit. Have fun however the robot performs. Let the students socialize. Don’t burn out students scouting. Make sure to cheer for your alliance. Do the cha cha slide. Make sure to invite parents, sponsors, admins. Be enthusiastically yourself. Go to other pits and ask lots of questions. Have at least one student try to cover themselves in button. If Woody is there, sign his shirt.

Adds: Everyone eats lunch, especially the kid that has drive team, chairman’s and Dean’s list. Sometimes implement a buddy system and stress that kids shouldn’t go off alone. Have medical releases on your phone. Keep your pit clean, especially when leaving it.

Keeping everyone fed and watered is the easiest way to make an event be enjoyable. You can have a great robot and a miserable time if the food situation is not taken care of. And you can have a terrible robot and an awesome time if it is. We’ve overlooked it a bit in the past, but really the people that run the food are one of the most valuable assets.

Everything that can break will most likely break, so get spares and get tools and equipment (duct tape) to fix your robot before matches. Also, focus on trying to meet other teams, and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Hey! welcome to FRC!
This last year was our rookie year and we learned A LOT of what to do and what not to do! Like what ngreen said, have someone dedicated (or mostly dedicated) to batteries!
Another thing that we do is keep our most popular tools in the robot cart itself. (Like 5/16 T handle, or tools to get bumpers off) as sometimes you barely have time between matches to go to your pits and have to switch bumpers or tighten things up in que. Final thing is just relax. We were super stressed out when we got to our first regional and it led to mistakes, so if you just relax, it will make everything easier on everyone.

Hope this helps from a recent rookie team! good luck!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or assistance from other Teams and event staff. One of the most incredible things about FRC and FIRST in general is the concept of “Coopertition”, where even through your competing against other teams, many of those very teams will bend over backwards to help you in every way they can from fixing your robot, to helping you with programming, to lending you parts, ect. It’s one of the reasons I love this program!

Last pro tip: Make sure to have fun!

  1. Battery person. Ideally armed with a Battery Beak, though if not ask if your neighbor has one you can borrow.

  2. Judge whisperer. The person that can talk at length about the robot, the outreach efforts, the information packet you assembled, things like that.

  3. Be ready to compromise with alliance partners, especially if something on your robot is iffy. Our gripper in 2007 was marginal at best, so we often talked with our partners and said “we want to try one tube, and if it’s not coming fast we’ll break off and play defense”. That was fine by most of them.

  4. Focus on “not dying” in your pit activities, from charged batteries (see above) to shakedown runs.

  5. Focus on fast pit setups. The sooner you do that, the sooner you can…

  6. Get the robot inspected early, and get one or two kids pushing on that effort. If it’s an easy approval, you can use the filler line for extra practice and shakedown time. If there’s an issue, you can get started on fixing it early.

Definately bring more batteries than you think you will need, never know what kind of situation your team will end in throughout playoffs. Last year we had to play 10 matches back to back in playoffs due to ties and other circumstances so always expect the unexpected to happen.

Dont be afraid to ask neighboring teams for help or extra tools if you dont have exactly what you need.

Make sure all the kids get enough sleep since this is an all day/multi day events. Everyone is dead by the end of the day. In addition to this, at least where our events are held, the pit is all concrete so on your feet on concrete all day. If you have pads to put down on the floor this is very helpful.

How many batteries are we going to need. Looks like 43 teams will be at Heartland. We currently have 4 batteries and 2 chargers. Do we need to pick up more?

Thanks for the insights thus far.

Four batteries and two chargers should get you through qualifying matches, if you make sure that someone is keeping an eye on them continuously, so they are all being used fully. That means that as soon as one finishes charging, get the next one plugged in and charging. And figure out a method to use each battery, in turn. We number them (there are number stickers in the VEX PRO motor box), and use them in numerical order, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2…

When it comes to elimination rounds, if you get to play, ask your alliance partners for additional batteries as needed.

We do fine with six batteries and three chargers…we usually play in elimination rounds.

BUT: After you run a battery in a match, you should let it sit 20-30 minutes so the internal components cool back down before charging. A cheap kitchen timer (or having your battery boss go “Hey Siri, set a timer for 30 minutes”) will work well for this.

  1. Don’t burn kids out scouting. Scouting can be very simple or very complex. You can get overwhelmed with the data some teams collect. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t do it.
  2. Make sure everyone eats - even assign people to get lunch for the rest of the team so that there is food ready at the lunch break and the entire team doesn’t stand in line.
  3. have a dry erase board in the pit with match number, alliance color, match time for at least 3 matches in advance.
  4. Have fun.
  5. If everything works as you expect it to, play the lottery. If nothing works as you expect it to, welcome to FRC. Nothing is hopeless, ask for help at the pit admin. If your robot is dead for a match, make sure you send one drive person to the field without the robot to stand at the field for the match. If by some chance your alliance wins, you will get the points credited for the match to your team.

Good luck. Have fun.

Hydrate. The venues that these events tend to be held in are fairly low humidity, so you can be sweating and not notice because it evaporates. I tell my drive team “every time you get back from a match, drink some water”, and the pit crew “every time the robot rolls out of the pit, drink some water”. In my early seasons, I saw both students and mentors (and me) get into trouble because they’d let themselves dry out.

Inspect early. The earlier you come for inspection, the less likely you are to have to wait for an inspector to be available. If you want/need to make some changes later, reinspection tends to be pretty fast. You want to get the initial inspection done as soon as you practically can.

Heartland/Greater KC-specific advice: go to lunch earlier rather than later if you’re sending kids out to the food trucks. They sometimes run out of popular items if you wait too long.

As an LRI, please, please, please do this. Even if you aren’t ready to be inspected, heck especially if you aren’t ready to be inspected ask us take a quick look at your robot. If you pass great, if not the RIs and LRI need to know so we can provide help if you need it.

Next, if you need help, please ask for help, and accept the help that is offered. It seems like every year there are one or two teams that show up with a robot with major problems, and they won’t accept help until the last minute, and as a result they only get to play one or two matches. Don’t be that team, it isn’t fair to your kids and it isn’t fair to the other teams who had to play with only two robots in all the qualification matches you missed. We all want everyone to play and we are all there to help make sure that everyone plays, please let us.

p.s. This isn’t limited to rookie teams, one year one of the teams that didn’t play most of their rounds and didn’t accept help was a single digit team.

Tips for Heartland:

  1. Mentors go to the hospitality room at least once. Sit for a couple minutes and don’t do anything.

  2. Students, if you are stressing, there is a room to go to.

  3. Don’t forget to send the female members to the SWE lunch (assuming there is one this year)

  4. If you need extra parts or assistance, come to 1108’s pit. No robots left behind NRLB.

  5. If you don’t need anything, come by anyhow and say hi. I’m Nelson.

Have some form of scouting… even if it’s just 1 person taking notes and ranking teams entirely subjectively… We were 7th seed alliance captains at our rookie event with no scouting. Alliance selections could have gone better. :stuck_out_tongue:

Two approaches on this:

Approach 1: 2815’s first-ever event was Bayou 2009…which was about as shallow as a kiddie pool. We were the first pick of Alliance 3, and the second pick was literally a box on wheels. We were on the alliance captain bubble for much of the event, and Lunacy was very hard to scout objectively. So by Friday afternoon, we (mostly parents and college students, since we were small) were scouting by exception (mostly “did it die?” and “was it pretty good?”) and assigning letter grades.

Approach 2: For most of 4901’s FRC run, we would double-team scouting with somebody. Sometimes SPAM, sometimes 1293, sometimes someone else. If you can commit some bodies to the task but not enough to avoid burnout, this can be a valuable route to run.

And remember that a team you’re competing against in one match may be a team you’re competing with in your next match.

Additionally, if you’re unsure about an Inspector’s ruling, or have any questions, don’t be afraid to find and ask the LRI (Lead Robot Inspector) for a second opinion/further explanation.

This may be some of the best advice I’ve seen on CD.

Everyone else has posted some excellent advice so far. Some more I thought I’d add:

Unsure about why a penalty was assigned? Have a drive team member (must be a student) go to the question box and ask the Head Ref. He/she will explain why the penalty was assigned. If the Head Ref is talking to someone else, just wait in the box and he/she will answer your question.

In addition to having someone tend to the robot batteries, also have someone (maybe the same person) tending power tool batteries if you have any.

Keep track of the Lock Up/Unlock Form; put it in a safe, but easily accessible place. Don’t put it in the robot bag.

Bring some extra safety glasses, in case someone loses or damages theirs.

If you have a fire extinguisher in your pit/on your robot cart (which you should) make sure that it’s not one of the recalled Kidde models. Ideally you’ll never need it, but if you do, you’ll want it to function.

Similarly, have a properly equipped first aid kit in your pit. Replace any items that are used.

Have a battery spill kit. Interestingly, this was the top non-ad result for a Google search of “SLA battery spill kit”.

Consider a second box of baking soda to just have in the pit, outside of the battery spill kit. In addition to neutralizing battery acid, it can be used to treat bee stings, put out small fires without the mess of an extinguisher, absorb spilled liquids, and hundreds of other things.

Cat litter or Oil-Dri can also be handy to have around.

Set up a team meeting location outside of the venue for the team to assemble in the event of an emergency/venue evacuation.

Remember to bring plenty of spare parts, especially if they’re custom made or not easily obtainable near your event. You’ll never know how many you’ll need, but it’s always better to bring too many than not enough.

I’ll post again if I think of more. Best of luck to you and all other teams competing!

A couple of comments on above:
–On the Lock Up Form, make sure that that form is WITH YOU when you travel to the event. Have someone carrying it who is on the load-in team. Also, have someone on the load-in team take a photo. Just in case…

–On the LRI, you’re looking for the yellow hat in a black vest. At the Driver’s Meeting on the first day he’ll probably say a couple of words. Great person to know, because he’ll probably know where all the resources are to help you get legal.

–On the Question Box: There are actually 2 of them. Head for whichever one your alliance was in the last match. BUT, bear in mind that speed is important if you want penalty info, because memory is short, and penalties aren’t necessarily noted down. 1 match, pretty good odds. 2 matches, you might get lucky. 5 matches? You’re better off reviewing video and watching for flags. (And no, the Head Ref won’t review the video.)

A couple more:

–The Practice Field can be really helpful. Make sure you have a long Ethernet or USB cable for use there.

–Remember that volunteers are there to help you. We want you to compete too!

–Keep an ear out for pit announcements. You might be being called to your next match, and if you don’t hear it, don’t blow off the runner if there is one, git goin!

Our rookie year we decided, on a whim mostly, that we would have a team member stationed at the entrance to our pit all day Thursday and most of Friday. His job…just keep talking. He talked to judges, to other teams, to casual bystanders, to the venue staff who swept up in the evenings. You couldn’t keep him quiet.

I think they gave us Rookie Inspiration award - which we did not merit on the published criteria - just to make him stop talking!

On a somewhat serious note this person should also be reasonably conversant with the robot and have at his or her fingertips the ability to summon anyone needed…drive team, builders familiar with interesting subsystems, safety captain etc. This person “tells the story” of your team, whatever it may be. Mentors at events should do very little of anything, and certainly none of the talking…

T. Wolter