Triaging Lost Teams

So its that time of year now where you have the teams that have found the light and found the keys to success… and the ones that have know its really dark out, they are scared, time is ticking away, and not sure what to do.

Here is the scenario: a random team just approached you for help, they may or may not be a rookie team. ** What do you do first?** What questions do you ask first, and then how do you prioritize?

For sake of the conversation lets assume they have the full kit and limited tools. They might be able to find $500, but that is a lot to ask of a team that is still stumbling around in the dark.

Get them driving. If they only show up as a rookie and can drive around, that’s still a great first start. Have a business-centric core group work with them on fundraising for next year.

Hopefully they have the kit bot available. Get this built and get them driving. Explain to them how much the kit bot can contribute to game this year.

Next, show them the MCC from West Coast Product and suggest they improve what they can contribute to an alliance by working on one or more features of this robot. Best option is to help them to be able to move the ball through the low barrier and score in the low goal of the tower.

Getting them a running robot and a way to score points is a HUGE benefit to a team like you described.

For this game I would suggest 2 steps.

  1. Get a robot driving ASAP
  2. A simple device to control a ball

If they can get a lot of driving practice in and can go over some of the obstacles they will be quite useful in competition.

What is MCC?

Stands for Minimum Competitive Concept. Its based on what the simplest/easiest manipulator you can build to make a contribution to your alliance.

I think often times, especially young teams see the whole game and think they need to do everything. So the MCC pares that down to the minimum amount of requirements for a robot to be competitive at the competition.

Here is link to the WCP MCC robot…

First question I’d ask is what are their goals.

Start with making sure they have a kitbot up and running - and maybe see if you can scrounge up some raw materials to add a wedge similar to the one andymark had to be able to go full tilt over some of the open air defenses and like others said - just get them used to driving a robot anywhere between right next to them and 54 feet away with obstacles preventing you from seeing the robot clearly. Get bumpers that are legal on the robot. If there’s a LRI or inspector volunteers in the area, see if they can come by and do a preliminary check.

From there I’d probably try to get some goals that are achievable that don’t have to do with competition performance. It could still be robot performance based - say make it over (EDIT: as impressive as it’d be, I did mean under) the low bar twice every match. Be able to push one boulder into the courtyard. Something. But definitely set some goals not related to the robot. Make sure they have a logo, a color scheme, something that could make their pit stand out (even if it’s just some flyers printed on some kind of big posterboard), etc. Maybe put together a business plan that can be submitted. Can they get a local area to donate $ towards shirts to feel like a team at competition? Start building a group of students and mentors into a team so that in the summer and fall they can go out and fundraise. Note: that doesn’t mean give up on this year.

A team with experienced mentors and/or students can probably turn a build season around at the halfway point from a robot performance standpoint - maybe even later. But I would think that a team without that experience should focus on setting the right (read: achievable) goals.

As someone who was on one of these teams 2 years ago, the most important thing is to get a robot driving soon and give the drive team lots of practice. A slightly modified kit bot with good drivers can still be pretty competitive, but any robot with inexperienced drivers won’t do very well.

I’m sure you meant under the low bar, but it brings up a good point. Once they have a driving robot and are getting ready for competition, make sure they understand all of the fouls. The “safe zones” and Secret Passage are going to cost more than one team that doesn’t understand the rules.

Ha! I did mean under. And yes - identifying the rules that would be easy to break would be a great thing to go over.

Step 1: Get driving. Probably something skinny, 6WD, thick plywood bellypan. Not going to fuss with pneumatic tires at this point, let’s just get them running.

Step 2: Probably order the AndyMark wedge front piece, for a little more help with the static defenses.

Step 3: While shaking that down, add a short, low-bar-clearing arm (like Team Cockamamie did on Ri3D, though maybe not with the window motor depending on what’s around) to manipulate the Portcullis and Cheval de Frise.

Step 4: Coach them up on playing smart D, the importance of the tower capture, and get them running drills over the defenses.

Step 5: Get it all super-clean, so they can get a fast inspection and start hitting the filler line at their event.

Congratulations, you just built a robot that can attack 7/9 defenses and would be a worthy second pick at most smaller events if you drove it well. Leave the ball handling to teams that have been thinking about it for three weeks.

If I had still time and a little more resources, I’d probably figure out how to make that arm in Step 3 reach the floor so it can help boost the drivetrain over defenses. I like pneumatic tires for this game, but with the current supply situation I probably wouldn’t steer a team this far in the weeds to them. That does put you one notch down from the pneumatic-tired teams, but I don’t think it’s insurmountable.

INVITE THEM TO IHOP infinite pancakes yo. If a team is willing to approach you and put themselfs out like this then I respect that. First things first make sure they are aware of all the rules and everything they have done up to this point follows said rules. There is a lot of administrative stuff is done behind the scenes that I’m not aware of so. Not point in having a kitbot if they aren’t allowed into competition right? After that just get a robot driving and leave room for them to stick prototypes on top. This way they can spend the rest of the season with a drive base that can be programmed, a robot they can practice with, and they can spend the the time learning how to effectively prototype. Finally familiarize them with how the pit works, get a pit going learn the rules of the pit, teach them not to yell ROBOT. The usual. Always before leaving establish a strong line of communication!

Just thought to mention that since we are talking about rookie teams, be mindful that vast majority of them will not know plethora of acronyms.

Alex and rsisk thanks for the info