It is important to discuss and agree upon how your team will view the FIRST kickoff event.
You may have representatives traveling to New Hampshire and/or team members participating in a regional kickoff event. This information was due to FIRST in early December.
- TIP - It is important to have a number of students at a regional kickoff event, if you can arrange it. Your team members will get a chance to interact with other FIRST fanatics, share in the excitement, see the kickoff broadcast, and interact with components of the playing field for the new game.
- TIP - If your team members are attending a Regional Kickoff event, each person will need to complete a FIRST Release Form. This form is available on the KICKOFF link on the FIRST website.
OBTAINING KIT OF PARTS
You should agree upon how your team will obtain your kit of parts. You will probably be picking it up at a Regional Kickoff or having it shipped to your school / location. Typically, the quickest way to get hold of the kit is to pick it up at a Regional Kickoff. By doing this, you will not need to pay extra money to have the kit shipped to your school or work area.
NASA is webcasting the event for individuals and teams who are not attending any official Regional / New Hampshire kickoffs. The webcast information is available from the KICKOFF link on the FIRST website. Those who can pick up NASA Satellite Television (NASA TV) can also view the webcast without the delay problems of buffering.
- TIP - MOE suggests you plan to videotape the webcast if possible. Information flies by quickly. If you have the capability to do so, it will allow you to review important information with your team later.
Keeping Connected with the FIRST Community
WHAT'S GOING ON
Once the kickoff hits, an army of roboteers will be mobilized in the Americas and overseas trying to determine how they can best build a robot to play this game. Lots of ideas and questions will be floating around. It will be advantageous for your team to be connected to this information barrage.
- TIP - Assign at least one team member to check the Chief Delphi site daily (or even multiple times per day) to process all the information which will be shared in the FIRST forums. This resource will be invaluable to your team going forward. All team members should know this site very well.
- TIP - Sign up multiple team members for the FIRST E-Mails Blasts which are sent. These will include the infamous TEAM UPDATES sent by FIRST to clarify rules and provide additional information. If only one person receives these, they may not be communicated to your team in the most efficient way. The TEAM UPDATES are archived under the DOCUMENTATION section of the FIRST Robotics website.
- TIPS - The competition documentation should be available immediately or not long after kickoff. Make sure your team members know where to find it. Ensure someone on your team reviews the rules thoroughly. The time spent doing this will be worth it later.
FIRST WEB SITE / TEAM UPDATES
- Check the site frequently. Make sure someone is obtaining and communicating Team Updates to the rest of the team. Ensure someone is checking the Question and Answer Section of the website.
- Check the FIRST documentation for modifications, especially prints for the playing field components
- TIP - Team Updates are communications directly from FIRST to update teams on the game, rules, and competition plans. It is critical that your team obtains these and shares them with the whole team. Multiple team members may obtain the Team Updates from FIRST via e-mail. See the FIRST website for details.
- Feel free to post your questions as soon as you have them
- Determine if you have time and/or resources to use new technologies. They may provide an advantage, but the game may also be played effectively with out them.
- VISION SYSTEM - Confirm operation of camera using the standalone software and PC. If camera hardware is suspect see troubleshooting at the end of the camera manual for a diagnostic tree with LED indications. Also check Chief Delphi threads for others experiencing similar problems.
- OPERATOR INTERFACE / ROBOT CONTROLLER - Confirm proper operation. Set team number in OI, connect to RC. Then load program into RC and confirm proper LED indications on RC.
- Discuss needs of various mechanical subteams for motors and control functionality. Order additional parts for operator interface (toggle switches, LED's, encoders, etc.)
FIRST SENIOR MENTOR
You have probably been contacted by your FIRST Senior Mentor. Utilize him / her as you need to get the help your team may need.
TEASER PHOTOS ON CHIEF DELPHI
Another way to keep your student team members engaged is to view the teaser photos, which are being posted on the Chief Delphi Forums site (www.chiefdelphi.com). These teasers are fun and also give you a glimpse into the minds of other FIRST teams.
SUBMITTING ENTRIES FOR FIRST AWARDS
The deadlines for these awards are coming up soon. Detailed information can be found at the FIRST Calendar of Important Deadlines. Of particular interest are:
Chairman's Award: (Recommended for Rookie All-Star Award): submit entries online
Woodie Flowers Award: submit entries online
Deans List Award: submit entries online
Autodesk Visualization Award: submit through the Autodesk FIRSTbase site
Autodesk Inventor Award: submit through the Autodesk FIRSTbase site
Website Design Award: submit entries online
Check for grammar and spelling before you submit your entries - especially the correct spelling of Woodie! In fact, stop reading right now, go to your word processer, and add "Woodie" to the dictionary.
DRIVER TRAINING / ROBOT TESTING
Driver training is possibly the most worthwhile investment of time that a team can make during the build season. Once you have a chassis on the floor, whoever you have selected as driver should be driving it every minute that it is not being worked on. In FIRST, driver skill is one of the greatest differentiators. A good, experienced driver can make an average robot great, and a poor, inexperienced driver can make a great robot average. This has been proven many times over. So once again, practice, Practice, PRACTICE!!!. It will help your team more than you could possibly realize.
If you are having problems finding time to drive to robot, schedule separate times for just the drive team to come in and practice driving.
Driver practice also is extremely helpful with regard to the actual robot. If you get in enough practice time, you will have a relatively good idea of what is breaking on the robot, and how to fix it. You then can strengthen those areas, thus improving your robot, while your drivers improve their skills.
RUN THROUGH MOCK MATCHES FOR TIMING
Once the robot has neared completion, the question everyone wants to know is: Will it do what we built it to do? Often, the answer to the question on the first try is no. But don’t be discouraged. Analyze what happened, and figure out how to fix it.
Once you have things working, try accomplishing the objective, while watching the time. Make sure that you will be able to do what you want to do in the time that you have. Many times, teams will simply not be able to achieve the required task in the match due to time constraints. Plan for this. Give your drivers practice, so that they get a good idea for how fast they have to do things to get them done. When they can do that, start adding a few complications, block parts of their line of sight, place small barriers in the middle of the field for them to maneuver around. Mainly, just try to get them comfortable with thinking on the fly.
PREPARE YOUR PIT CREW
Preparing the pit crew for competition is like preparing an army squad for battle. The pit crew must have plans, hierarchy and discipline in place. The key elements are:
1. Have a plan to check out the robot each time it comes back from the competition field. (damage assessment). Each student on the pit crew should have a specific area of the robot to assess.
2. Report damage to the pit boss so that a decision can be made on what tasks needs to be addressed first, which activities can happen in parallel and which ones need to happen in series.
3. After the robot appears to be able to run properly, the crew must have a plan to do a check to assure that all components are operational (pre-flight test).
RUN THROUGH THE FIRST INSPECTION SHEET
Have the students on the pit crew who are responsible for pneumatics, controls, electrical, drive, and unique component mechanisms review the inspection sheet. Have mentors be mock judges and do a pre-run through of the inspection sheet. This should occur after shipping and before the first competition.
PREPARE LIST OF ROBOT MATERIALS AND ALL ASSOCIATED COSTS
If you haven’t kept a list of all the materials used on the robot as you built it, now is the time to prepare it. If you wait until after it ships, you will not have the physical robot to refer to when ensuring that you have everything captured on the list. Having this list is a requirement for getting the robot certified as acceptable for competition at each event.
ATTEND A LOCAL “SCRIMMAGE”
Find a local scrimmage in your area to test your robot on a practice field. Ask veteran teams where one might be. Scrimmages are usually held the weekend before shipping. This year, many will be held on the weekend before shipdate.
The next best thing to practice at a competition venue is a local scrimmage. Try have a functioning machine by the date of the scrimmage. Whatever practice you get will be valuable driver training time. You will also get a first glimpse at what robotic marvels other teams designed.
OBTAIN INFORMATION ABOUT COMPETITION VENUE
The FIRST website will have current information available on each competition venue. Read this information and start thinking about the logistics of getting your team to the event and then to and from the event venue and where you will be lodging. If you are lucky enough to have a competition in your own back yard, begin working on carpools.
DEALING WITH THAT FEELING OF LOSS
Reaching your destination means that your journey has come to an end. Be aware that your team members might be experiencing a variety of emotions. A crated robot on a shipping dock is and end to one phase of
NASA WEBCASTS / NASA TV BROADCAST OF COMPETITIONS
The first weekend of competition is March 3-4. Check the NASA Robotics site to see what competitions will be webcast and if any will be broadcast on NASA TV. Determine if any teams you will see at upcoming regionals are participating. Scout via the web or broadcast, if you can.