Break Robot. Re-engineer. Repeat!
Every problem contains the seeds of its own solution.
The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it.
Week five should be devoted to making everything work as designed, or as desired. Program code should be nearly debugged, drivers should be starting to train on the robot, the weight of the robot should be under control, and you should select your pit crew. Your parent team should start building the crate, complete the FIRST yearbook page, and continue monitoring the Team Updates, FIRST Q&A, and Chief Delphi.
After the robot has been painted (with your team colors, of course), and you have all of the major assemblies installed; make time to take pictures so you can post them online later.
Your team has been through five weeks of intense interaction. By now you should be able to find reasons to celebrate all your hard work. Take advantage of every opportunity. Make sure you recognize key individuals for their accomplishments and/or extra efforts also. We all like to receive recognition for a job well done.
Usually, by week five, you have some tired and cranky people. Acknowledge this and make sure people are taking breaks to get some rest and to manage their life outside of robotics. There is still a robot to ship, but try not to do it by leaving a trail of spent team members.
Depending upon your progress and the size of your team, you may need to schedule specific times when the electrical sub-team needs time on the chassis to wire up the electrical board, or when mechanical needs to install a functional component. By planning for some “shiftwork”, your team may be more efficient these last few weeks and avoid the “I never get time on the robot” syndrome.
HANDLING NON-CONTRIBUTING TEAM MEMBERS
Though difficult for many to do, addressing team members who are not contributing is very important. By now, most people know who works hard and who hardly works. Have one-on-one conversations with those team members who have not participated fully or have not met the expectations of team membership. Make it clear what your expectations are and what the consequences are. Some teams reserve team travel to competitions for only those who have met these expectations. Require performance to improve in a certain timeframe. Be firm if you need to carry out corrective action.
However, if you have not set team member expectations early in the season, you may have more difficulty dealing with those who are not meeting expectations now.
TEASER PHOTOS ON CHIEF DELPHI
Continue to enjoy the photos and discussions on Chief Delphi. Post a photo of part or your entire robot when you are ready. MOE often will post a picture of the outline of our full robot on our web site, then post the complete picture and robot specs after we ship the robot. If your team has a person who is proficent in Photoshop, or another photo editing softwear such as GIMP, see if they can do it.
ROBOT DESIGN / BUILD
TESTING FULL FUNCTIONALITY (Break that Robot!)
Test all of your robot functions over and over. Put your robot through conditions you would consider very grueling. Have your drivers work your robot hard. It is much better to break a component now and re-engineer it than to wait for your first practice match at your first competition.
ROBOT VISIBILITY / ELECTRONICS PROTECTION
Review the requirements for Robot Visibility in the Competition Manual, The Robot. Robots must display their team number, sponsor, and school names and/or logos whenever the robot is on the field.  Review the requirements for this season and ensure your team complies.
*DOWNLOAD* MOE v2003 Robot Panel Graphics
Consider closing off portions of your robot, especially the electronics. A stray arm or appendage from an opposing robot in your electronics can cause serious damage.
Many teams create polycarbonate panels to close off parts of their robot and then use stickers or vinyl printed numbers and letters to display the required information. This is relatively easy to do yourself, but you may be able to secure a sponsor at a local sign shop.
Keep checking that weight.
Every few days, measure the volume of the robot in starting position. Ensure that the robot will fit within the starting envelope (28 inches by 38 inches by 60 inches).
ROBOT COMPUTER PROGRAMMING
TIME FOR AUTONOMOUS PRACTICE
Determine when the autonomous team can have sole use of the robot for testing code. If necessary, negotiate this beforehand so everyone knows who get the robot and when.
For a well-functioning autonomous routine, practice must occur with the actual, fully functioning robot on a representative portion of the playing field.
ROBOT CONTROLLER / OPERATOR INTERFACE
At this time the electrical and programming teams should have made input/output assignments for both the robot controller and the operator interface. This is especially critical for the programming team so that they can begin modifying the programming code to control the motors, relays, servos that comprise the mechanical systems on the robot.
A review of the wiring rules should also be done at this to assure that sufficient wire of the proper size is on hand and that the rules for special circuits and proper fusing are being followed. Construction of the custom interface box should also begin at this time (these are the special switches not on the joysticks that allow the robot drivers to control the unique functions of the robot during competition).
MAKING SPARE PARTS
Spare parts are a fundamental part of building the robot. Due to the fact that the rules on when to make spares changes every year, reading and re-reading the manual thoroughly, not to mention all of the team updates still remains the best way to keep up to date on not only the rules, but their interpretations. We try to make spares of any part that requires special equipment to fabricate as well as parts that we expect to fail during a match. The best time to start building spares is during weeks 5 and 6. The robot is essentially complete by this time and as students are available, they start building spares. Take advantage of the completed robot you have availble to you now!
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.
The next best thing to practice at a competition venue is a local scrimmage. Try having 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.
COMPLETE THE FIRST YEARBOOK PAGE
FIRST requires all teams to complete what they call a Yearbook page for your team. This page contains team information such as student and adult makeup, schools representing your team, and percentage of women and minorities involved. The yearbook page also includes a photo of your robot and the awards which your team believes are the most applicable. Ensure you have this completed on time, since judges and competition personnel during the competition use this document and your robot photo. This information is usually due at the end of week 5 or during week 6 of the build and is input via FIRST’s Team Information Management System (TIMS).
SELECT A PIT CREW
In theory, there is no set number of students for pit crew; however, there's not much space for innumerable roboteer bodies in the pit. Your team should decide how many students are necessary to get the job done, without flirting with over crowding. Being a part of pit crew is an honor that should be earned. The members should be selected with care by the sub team leaders and pit crew boss. Looking for people that fit the following criteria is a good place to begin.
Has an excellent knowledge of how the component that the student worked on was designed and fabricated
Needs little direction after a task has been assigned to him or her
Gets along well with others
Can use many tools well
Is committed to staying in the pit
Puts the robots needs as #1
Can work under pressure.
Being creative, when it comes to solving problems, is an extra bonus.
SHIPPING THE ROBOT
We are all lucky that Federal Express is a major sponsor of FIRST. You should have received FEDEX airbills for the shipment of your robot with your kit of parts.
Do not lose these airbills!!!! These represent a significant expense you will have if they are lost.
Depending upon the competitions you will attend, develop a shipping plan. Determine how you will use the airbills you will receive and when you will need to pay for robot shipping. Keep this plan handy during competitions. With the District event format it can be easy to transport a robot in a rented truck.
*DOWNLOAD* MOE Shipping Plan 2005
BUILDING YOUR CRATE FOR SHIPPING
Ensure this is ready by the end of next week. See WEEK 4 for more details.
SUBMITTING ENTRIES FOR FIRST AWARDSAward deadlines are approaching rapidly. Detailed information can be found on the FIRST website.
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.