What makes a good pit?

As a Team who has never had a decent looking or extremely organised pit, I am coming to you all To ask, What makes a good pit? What are some common issues you experience with the pits. And If you would please post pictures of your favourite pits.

Our pit is far from perfect, but I’d suggest the following:

  • Plan your pit in advance. Even sketch it in CAD.
  • Practice the complete pit setup back at home, from start to finish
  • Pit flooring is extremely nice when you’re spending the better part of 3 days standing up
  • Keep the number of people in the pit as low as possible.
  • Use space efficiently with shelving
  • Have a robot cart that allows you do to most of the work on the robot while it’s on the cart, thereby saving space
  • Skip the huge TV’s and flashy displays unless they are compact and won’t get in your way
  • Have a simple and neat setup for battery storage and charging.

These are just the basics - those with really nice pits can surely give some additional insight. At events I’ve been to, some of my favorites are 696 and 254 - utilitarian yet very nice looking. I’m sure others can share great examples and photos.

This link http://1334.ca/resources leads to the resources page on our website. You’ll see a pdf file there on the construction of our pit. It’s had some minor modifications this year but the structure is the same. It takes under 15 minutes to put the frame and curtains up. We get a lot of compliments on it and it was a major factor in us winning the safety award at Waterloo last year after the safety guys watched us put it up without the use of a ladder.

We set ours up with a few main elements to keep it simple and organized:

  1. All the tools are kept in or on two large tool chests. The chests are wheeled for ease of transportation. They are placed on either side of the pit. We built charging stations into one of the chests so the batteries are kept tidy and out of the way.

  2. We lay down puzzle piece style foam matting (nice to walk on and prevents slipping or damaging dropped items)

  3. The robot always stays on the cart and is on a platform at arm level, it’s wheels can spin freely, so we can test the drive train and autonomous (without frisbees of course) without having to take the robot to the practice field.

  4. We have a fold-up felt board to serve as the backdrop for the pit, we hang various marketing posters on it.

  5. The tables provided in the pits are generally very large, we have a smaller table that we bring with us and we return the provided table to the venue. This allows for more walking space around the robot.

When you’re working fast to make repairs, it’s easy for tools to pile up on work spaces. This decreases efficiency because it’s harder for others to find those tools and they take up coveted work space. Be sure to put back all tools immediately after use.

Hope this helps

What makes a good pit? In order of importance (IMHO):

One that is safe
One that has room to work on the robot
One where tools and supplies are organized and easily found
One that is easy to keep clean, and is kept clean
One that is easy to ‘move’ (e.g., from trailer to pits, and back again)
One where visitors feel welcome to stop and ask
One that unambiguously identifies the team

The trick to organization is…training. Train the pit crew to put things back as soon as they are done, and work in that configuration throughout build season, so everyone knows where everything is (or should be). And have your safety captain (or battery Frosh or whomever stays behind all the time) learn to constantly be tidying up, putting stuff away, sweeping, and so on.

It’s not a natural thing for most high school kids, but it can be learned.

Just because you are neat as a pin at robotics does NOT mean you have to clean up your room!

The biggest thing I have noticed about nice pits is that they are always well kept and organized. Our pit is a 10x10x10 cube made of 80-20 and in some of the corners we have 1 foot segments which can be removed to make a 9x9x9 for venues with space constraints. We built two pit carts with racks for the totes we store hardware and what ever in with drawers for other things. The carts also serve as our counters. The pit itself has a book case style shelf with our buttons and PR materials on display along with a video feed or virtual trophy case, next to that is a long shelf that runs above a pit cart where we mount LEDs to for light. In the back we have a projector that runs a video banner on the front of our pit it takes up little space so it’s perfect for our needs.

You don’t need to go super fancy, but I would definitely invest in good storage and a good robot cart. Also keep as large of an open space as possible, a crowded pit is a dangerous pit

Depending on your team’s recourses, you might want to consider building and actual frame for your pit. This should take as little time to setup as possible and should take up as little space in your pit as possible. This is nice to help the image of the pit but it does very little to improve the safety or efficiency of you pit area. Our team has a very nice pit frame, we should have a design up on our website, core2062.comsoon.

What any team can do to improve their pit is to set standards for organizing and maintaining your pit. Something that’s very helpful is to install foam flooring in your pit, this is less slick than the concrete that’s usually at the venue and makes standing and kneeling much easier, make sure to sweep this floor regularily. Another thing that is very helpful is to plan where items will be stored in the pit and to mark this on the pit floor. It’s also very helpful to develop a system of how and where you will charge batteries. Finally, develop a system to control access to the pit, on CORE, we have a chain that goes across our pit when we are doing maintenance on our robot or when our pit is closed. When the chain is across our pit, we either restrict access to FIRST officials or to pit crew members.

The real key to having an efficient pit is to set standards for its organization and upkeep and to have buy in from your pit crew about these standards.

We almost always have someone constantly putting tools away. That helps us to keep everything neat. We keep a few key items on the cart itself (wrenches, specifically 3/8 and 7/16, cable cutters, #2 and #3 screwdrivers, 8 inch black zip ties, a spare battery, a flashlight). Everything else goes back. We have two freestanding tol/part boxes, specifically the Stanley Fat Max mobile workstations, and two desktop toolboxes, as well as a box for electrical. We keep two sets of shelves n the pit to put spare parts, raw material, and various boxes of parts from our shop, such as nuts, bolts, washers, pneumetic fittings, bearings, and everything else we could possibly need. The shelves really help. They’re portable too, so you don’t have to bring a huge pit setup.

A good pit is clean, organized, easily assembled and must represent your team image well.

This is our pit from this years season.

Here is our pit design guide. We have won the Pit Safety award at nearly every event we have attended the past two years with this pit.


Having recently participated in a full redesign of my team’s pit, I can tell you what we prioritized. I’ll spare you the full history, but over the past half year or so, my team has had the fortune of working with one of our sponsors on a full pit redesign.

Above all, our primary goal was to keep everything clean-- your pit is both your work area and your face at competitions, and a dirty, disorganized, or otherwise unappealing pit doesn’t reflect well on your team. We tried to keep as much as possible off of the floor at all times possible. This was achieved through cabinets hanging on our back wall, storage on the robot cart, and two rolling workbenches. The drawers on these workbenches were labelled with exactly what goes in them, in order to manage where our tools are and make it easy to find what we’re looking for. The cabinets were primarily used to keep personal items such as backpacks and jackets, as well as the computer driving our display off of the floor and out of our way. There is nothing as irritating or unsafe as tripping over wires, so our pit has a truss system that keeps all of our cabling (lights, monitor cables, battery power) our of the way. We run two powerstrips, one of which resides inside the truss while the other lives attached to the side of our battery cart.

Our second priority was easy of setup-- if you can’t set up a pit, no matter how good or functional it looks in your shop, it is of no use. We use a custom truss system developed by our sponsor, Skyline Exhibits, but many other teams use PVC pipe, aluminum extrusion, or other like materials. Another possibility is a tent-like “roof.” We used to use one of these, but we had to modify it to let in enough light to work safely in. If an inspector has to pull out a flashlight in your pit (no joke, I’ve seen it happen), you aren’t safe and probably need some sort of lighting. We cut holes in our awning, and that worked well. As a subpoint of this for the love of Gaff, if your pit is in any way complicated, set it up beforehand at home. In addition to the practice you get, you can also see what will and will not work at competition. Plus, more practice means getting it all up faster at competition, which is absolutely huge. If you need a ladder(s) do not count on the venue having them; bring them yourself.

Our tertiary priority was making it look good. Part of this was covered in our first goal, but we have some extra considerations-- our team’s motto is “Lighting up robotics,” so we have large light strips on the front pillars of our pit. It is really good to make your pit somehow reflect your team’s “theme,” if it has one. In addition to being cool to see, it also makes your team seem more professional (and makes it more likely that you’ll win something like the Imagery Award). Our team has three 9’ banners for each the front and sides of our pit, as well as a large flat-screen TV on the front showing a slideshow of our sponsors and team activities. We would not have any of these things if they got in our way when working on the robot-- the only reason we keep them in our pit is that they are 10’ in the air, and far out of our way. That being said, if you want flashy things, you will pay for it in setup time, so be prepared and, as earlier mentioned, practice.

Here’s an imgur album of our pit (excuse the shaky cam, they were taken on my phone. hopefully we’ll be able to do a more comprehensive write up on our pit later-- it certainly has generated quite a bit of interest at our regionals!):

These were all taken late on Thursday, if I remember correctly, so things aren’t fully in position and I don’t have a good picture of the robot cart. Like I said, hopefully we’ll be able to get some good pictures of it after the season ends (or before St. Louis). This pit (along with our theme of lighting things up) contributed to us winning the Imagery Award at each of the Regionals we attended this year (Lake Superior and North Star).

If you have any further questions, I’d be happy to answer them!

Love the trussing…I know 254 and others use similar. I have some in my living room at home - that stuff is expensive, glad you found a sponsor.

We won the Industrial Safety Award sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories at the Phoenix regional, with a very simple, spartan, pit. One shelf unit, one rolling tool box, but we also have a trash can, broom, dustpan, and battery powered vacuum.

I personally like a pit that has room to work on the robot, since that’s what the pit is for. The more stuff you have on the floor (shelves, tool boxes, structures, tables, walls etc), the less room there is to work.

I’m probably in the minority here.

This brings up a really good point when it comes to pits-- it really comes down to team/ pit team preference. Do fancy pits look good? Yes (usually). Are the necessary? Heck no! KISS applies to pits as much as it does robots.

How did this goal go for you guys if i remember correctly it took over 3 hours to get the pit setup at northstar. Were you missing some stuff or just needed to fix the robot first. Great pit though, my team is redoing our pit this offseason and definetly will use some ideas we got from your pit. Also love the rolling stools you guys had

It goes a lot nicer when we don’t have to perform shooter surgery. I’d like to think it was mostly worth it :rolleyes: . Most of the “set up” time was waiting for the robot to get out of the pit (preferably in one piece). Once it got out, we had the structure assembled in less than an hour.

Needless to say, we may need a bit of practice before St. Louis, especially since we’ll be doing Thursday surgery again…

Thats what i figured made it take so long. One of our goals with our new pit is for it to go up in <15 minutes by 5 people

One important thing that I think more people should think about is population control. You should only be in the pit if you’re working on something, or will be in the near future. If you’re just standing around talking about non-robotics stuff, get out and go watch some matches or go collect buttons or something. A crowded pit is a dangerous one.

Here is a presentation I’ve put together on this very topic.

Our pit this year at the VA regional.


We like spacious, easy to locate pits. We work with a great company who rents out lights and truss for stage shows and they let us borrow the trusses in the corners. They are sometimes a pain to travel with but we usually find ways to make it happen.
The orange box on the right is our mill cart during the build season but during competition it turns into an everything cart, with space for all of our totes and spare parts. We use the table that the regional provides for all of our handouts and promotional materials as well as a place to charge our batteries, and we keep the robot on our cart during maintenance. We also have our toolbox on the cart to save space.