By: Kate Huelskamp
- Don’t Attempt All the Challenges
- The game generally includes several challenges of varying difficulty (and points!), one good strategy is picking several challenges to focus on in the beginning and mastering those and then adding a few more. This can help to make sure that your robot is as strong as possible.
- Don’t Change Your Field
- When you’re assembling or building your field keep your field as similar as possible to the fields you saw at Kickoff. If you didn’t/don’t have a chance to get to Kickoff follow the game manuals instructions exactly. Use the same materials, dimensions, and everything as the game manual.
- Learn Something New
- This tip is easily the most important. Your rookie year is the best time to try all the different jobs on a robotics team. Just try them all and if you find one or two you enjoy then get really good at those fields.
- Be Creative
- This one needs very little explanation, but it’s good to try out different ideas because you never know what will work best. It’s good to get inspired by what other teams have done, but try to keep your robot your own.
- Apply For Grants
- Building robots are expensive and costs can rack up fast what with purchasing the field, the hardware, and licenses for the software. Luckily, there are lots of grants out there that can help cut some costs. Most major tech companies have grants for both rookie and veteran teams and the applications are fairly simple to fill out,
- Try an Online Notebook
- It might sound trivial, but an online notebook allows you to move stuff around during the middle of the season. It’s easier to transfer code and you can just screenshot your CAD or code over. As well, your entire team can work on it at the same time and everyone has access to it 24/7! A feat impossible with handwritten notebooks. Judges prefer being able to read one font instead of having to decipher 8 different handwriting styles.
- Create a Team Email and a Website
- This way other teams can find you and contact you for whatever reason. Maybe they want to invite you to a scrimmage or a demonstration, and if they can’t contact you they can’t invite you. You don’t even have to pay for either! Most teams use either a Google site or a third provider (Weebly works well) for their website and any email organization for their email.
- Do Some Outreach
- Outreach allows you to be a contender for more awards and it’s a great way of spreading the news about FIRST! It might seem a bit daunting at first, but it’s really quite simple. Try asking your school if you can demonstrate your robot at a school assembly or pep rally or ask a sponsor or another outside organization if you can demonstrate your robot at their company.
- It’s Easier to Qualify at an Earlier Tournament
- If your team can get everything performing well, you are more likely to qualify for State because most teams are not ready yet and so don’t perform as well. In the beginning, there are more spots open for qualifying, so that helps increase the odds, too. Of course, there are no guarantees because who knows what’s going to happen.
- Share Your Code and Your CAD Designs
- This is an inter-team thing. But, if you share your code and CAD, everyone has the most recent version which is helpful if somebody's sick or their computer crashes at a tournament. This way everyone can edit stuff at home without having to worry if their code’s old.
- Bring Extra to Tournaments
- Guess what? When you get to the tournament everything -and I mean everything- is going to break down, so us veteran teams like to bring robot parts and tools to our tournaments, so we can fix our robots between matches. It’s generally a good idea to bring extra of everything on your robot from screws to motor controllers. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask other teams for help fixing your robot or for spare parts (if you need them for your robot).
- This is another tournament must. Scouting is helpful to know what another team can do. Teams usually do two types of scouting: match scouting and team scouting. Team Scouting happens generally in the beginning of the competition and when representatives of each team go talk to other teams and ask them about what they do during autonomous and teleop. This can also give you an idea of how your two teams would collaborate. The one problem of team scouting is that every robotics team talks up their capabilities and that’s why we have match scouting. Match Scouting is just when a representative of your team sits in the stand and records what happens in a match: how many points are scored and by who.
- Create a Pit Display
- Only do this if you have time, but a Pit display can help make your team look professional and help other teams locate you for scouting. Some teams do a poster board of their accomplishments, others have a banner, and some have tents. Most teams include pictures of themselves and their robots, their sponsors, and the outreach they have done in their pit display. Quite a few teams leave candy or business cards for people to take, but it’s not necessary.
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