What's your optimal build season?

In terms of the six weeks you are given, how do you organize each week on what you want your team to focus on?


6 weeks? Uh… Before we continue, you ARE aware of the actual length of build season being between 1 and 6 weeks longer than that, depending on when your first event is, yes? If not, we’ll refer you to that discussion.

That said, a lot of what I’m going to say can be scaled to the length you need. And I do suggest trying to fit most of the work into the 6 weeks if possible.
Week 1: First 3 days or so, strategy and field build. Immediate decision is to go with our “standard” drivetrain or do we need something else. Remainder of the week is early-stage prototyping, finishing the strategy, and starting a practice robot.
Week 2: Lock in strategy, get enough of the CAD of the practice robot to actually cut metal and try to get the practice frame DONE. Finish field build if necessary. Emphasis on manipulator prototyping.
Week 3: Start cutting for the real robot’s drivebase near the end of the week. By now we should have a full and complete idea of what we’re building, and drawings coming out for the machine shop.
Week 4: If we didn’t do it in Week 3, shut down for finals. CAD should be nearly complete.
Week 5: If we did it right, we now have 1 running robot and 1 robot under construction. Target for the end of the week: Have both robots able to drive, start bumpers.
Week 6: If we really did it right, drive practice on practice robot, finish the competition robot.
Week 7-C1: Drive practice. Iterate slightly. Watch any competitions before ours for pre-scouting.
C1: Compete. Win (we hope).
C1-C2: Iterate. Practice. Repeat.
C2: See C1.
If we win, repeat iteration/practice until we have to crate for Houston.


When are the pre-season scrimmages going to take place? Feb 22? The Friday before that should be the end of our build season, right? Although we can continue to work on the robot (ie. to fix all the problems we discover at that scrimmage), program, test, practice, improve aesthetics, etc for the next week or so before our first competition.

But yeah…it’s nice to have a workable robot concept by the end of the first week, be seriously designing and building subsystems by week 3, and have something moving and scoring by the end of the 4th week.


Your 1st paragraph leads me to believe that there will be many more “veteran” teams unprepared for their 1st competition, since the hard deadline of bag day is no more.


I’m curious as to how you draw that conclusion.

I was commenting on the apparent lack of knowledge of the OP that there was officially no 6-week build. If you read the rest of the post, I use the 6 weeks as a template.

And my team actually GETS 6 weeks this year. See the Week 4 comment.

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Clear and cohesive strategy day 1 that best fits the team’s resources and abilities with realistic performance and goals.

Drivetrain design done and manufacturing started day 2.

Assembled drivetrain end of week 1.

CAD done / robot manufacturing started middle of week 2.

Assembled robot end of week 3.

Wired by mid week 4, code tested and tuned by end of week 4.

Driving and scoring by beginning of week 5.

Practice, tune, iterate, and auto until first competition.

These are my goals for 2020.


The schedules above are about right [Andrew_L’s snipe of my post is more aggressive]. One additional thing that has worked well some years is to have a drive base with a mocked-up manipulator (passive or simple) around week 3 so the driver can get used to lining up on pickup and scoring. Works great for STEAMworks (gears) and Destination Deep Space (panels), but not so well for open-floor pickup and shooting tasks.

Added: oh, wait, even with open-floor pickup and launching. In 2014 (Aerial Assault), we had a prototype robot with a lumber chassis (“Woody”) that stuck out of the frame perimeter in several places which was great driver practice while the aluminum “Buzz” was being built, and again between bag and competition. A bonus was that I got to bring Woody to a picnic at my work on the eve of competition and try to recruit mentors for ourselves and other local teams.

Dang dude. DT design done on day 2!!! That’s nuts. Aren’t you afraid of designing yourself into a corner? I’d be wary of boxing in our other mechanism design possibilities with constraints like that so early in the season… We usually don’t lock our DT design in until the end of the first week as we wait to see how our other mechanisms develop through prototyping and CAD.

Would you still stick to this kind of schedule if we got say a 2016 style game with extraneous drive train situations?

Let me begin by saying….blah, blah, blah…excuses and qualifying statements (a bit of shade thrown for evil measure).

Week 1 – brainstorming & prototyping
Week 2 – Drive-train determined, goals & design features finalized, field construction begins, begin drive team practice with an old chassis that matches this year’s design
Week 3 – Field construction ends, CAD mostly complete, begin build on chassis components, order waterjet parts, programming begins work on code with mockup parts.
Week 4 – Begin drive practice with practice chassis, robot build continues
Week 5 – Complete mechanical portion of robot build, electrical team takes over
Week 6 – Electrical team complete, programming team gets 2.5 days to load code

Compete during week 1.

We also hope to have the DT design done by day 3 or 4 (the Tuesday after kickoff at the latest).

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We usually have a similar plan, but the week 3 assembled robot usually slides into week 5. This is mainly due to off-site work being delayed. One company kept delaying the expected completion date (we were a paying customer).

We know we’re doing a wcd, probably near max perimeter unless strategic value is worthwhile otherwise. Ideally COTS gearboxes. While I’ve definitely found myself in situations where later on in the design process it would have been useful to change the sizing a bit, the advantages of being done sooner outweigh the costs of having to be a little more creative to make things fit (at least for me, my team, and where we’re at right now). I cannot think of any situation I’ve been in where I was completely boxed in from a potential mechanism or design with no way out because the drivetrain couldn’t be changed, but that’s just me.

Same, but that can always be traced back to things we could have done better or decisions that could have been made differently on our end. For us at least, there’s no legitimate externality that can get us off schedule - no excuses there. If we’re off schedule, it’s our fault, and we could have done better (and strive to do better in the future). When I was younger I would always chalk up delays to externalities, and because of that nothing ever changed. It happened every year. Now if I really wanna be done sooner, I make decisions that I know for certain I will be able to execute on time without relying on outside forces. There’s no reason we can’t hit the goals we set for our team, we just need to be smart and honest about it.


My comment was basically that since there is no “official” hard deadline (bag day) there will be many teams that will procrastinate (“work fills the time allocated”) and not follow the 6 week template.

I plan on keeping the 6 week schedule and using any ‘extra’ time as driver practice.


My optimal build season: (starting this year with no Stop Build Day)

– Kickoff: all students read the Manual, eat their peas, brush their teeth, and go to bed. No talking about the robot until Sunday afternoon.

– Sunday afternoon: let the debate begin. No idea is bad, and ALL ideas are bad; i.e., no idea is selected today. We listen to each other and sleep on our thoughts. And don’t forget to eat your peas and brush your teeth before going to bed.

– Monday after school: all students who want to, and have finished their homework, join the ROBOT strategy discussion. Outcome: one design and gameplay concept that is mature enough to start cadding and building two robots, which will be the basis for continuous improvement (aka iteration) for the rest of the season.

Then, let the iteration commence. Outcome: test game play strategies by build-and-try, working quickly and efficiently enough to provide time for at least one significant iteration per week.

The build season plan is aimed at one overarching target: arrive at each event with a robot and drive team that we KNOW from practical experience are ready for inspection, ready to play competitively, and will not miss matches.


Fair enough. I know we’ll be pushing for earlier on key stuff. Last year we had some minor issues with that sort of thing.

Thought for a second you were commenting on my team directly, but it was more general. We can’t procrastinate much because we play Week 2.

I wish I could post multiple hearts on this, except that the strategy discussion could start Sunday afternoon.

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Yeah, this is a thing. What works best for us is trying to limit the Sunday afternoon debate to GAME strategy, and postpone ROBOT strategy until Monday afternoon. It is very hard to find the best game strategy, and jumping onto pet robot concept too soon makes it even harder.


OK, got it. Sometimes strategy is easy and you can be ahead of that, more often it’s difficult and you should be a bit behind.

One that doesn’t include Flu week or 10 to 15 days of snow days or polar vortex days.

We already loose week 2 due to finals, usually very low student turnout. Good grades before robotics.

I like AndrewL’s timeline but we are usually one week behind at week 4 due to the above mentioned events.

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