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  • Determine where you will store all your parts, those from the KOP (Kit Of Parts) from FIRST and those additional parts you will use to build your robot and will need for your team.


  • Create an inventory of your KOP and ensure the inventory and any additional purchased materials list is up-to-date


  • Label your parts as you see appropriate. Some veteran teams label their parts by year so that they can tell them apart from previous years' kits. You should not have this problem initially, but you still might want to label your parts anyway.


  • Identify a team member to weigh all motors and parts you believe you will use.
  • Keep these weights handy as you work through your design in order to estimate your total bot weight.


  • Do not hesitate to purchase parts you will need for your robot design / construction. Use the FIRST vendors in the current year documentation. Determine the lead time to purchase parts and how your school / purchasing department works to acquire materials. If you need to expedite your orders due to your internal processes, do it ASAP.
  • TIP - Determine who has the authority to expedite this process and engage him/her/them early, preferably before the build season starts.


The transition between the autonomous code and the remote control code happens asynchronously.  In other words, you will not know which loop-through of the autonomous code will be the last loop.  If the autonomous code leaves a mess behind for the remote control code, chances are good that your robot will behave erratically for the remainder of the match.  If you choose to tackle the autonomous part of the game, a logical division of effort is to have a remote control programmer and an autonomous programmer.

The autonomous and the remote control programmers must decide early one which variables will be shared between the two sections of the code.

These shared variables are usually what are referred to as state variables.  They contain information about the status of various components of the robot.  For example, did the autonomous code close a gripper?  If it did, the remote control code needs to know this when it takes control of the robot or it needs to have an initialization section where it sets every state variable to a known and correct value.

If you have decided to have more than one autonomous routine resident in the controller memory – usually a very good idea – you need to provide a mechanism for the competition team to select which routine will be run.


Putting mode switches on the robot is the most straightforward way to do this, but it takes away the ability to make a last second change of strategy.  Mode switches on the robot can be read at all times by the robot controller.  Mode switches on the operator interface cannot be read by the controller during autonomous mode.  The radio link is disabled.  If you want your autonomous mode selection switches on the operator interface, you must write your control program so that it continually reads these switch settings before the match starts.  Once the match starts, the autonomous program will read the last value.


The cart seems like a simple thing that can be left to the last minute but a well designed cart is worth its weight in gold.  It is not only absolutely critical to have a cart to move the robot from pit to field, but we also use it as a stand to hold our robot during repairs.  Here are some things that we think about when designing a cart. First we design it so that the robot is supported in a way that allows the wheels and other functions, such as arms, to be fully tested on the cart.  We keep the overall height low enough so that the robot and cart can go through a standard doorway.  

Try to use the largest wheels possible, as they will make it easier to climb over the uneven surfaces that you will find at the competitions.  

Two of the wheels should be casters, the other two fixed.  This provides the optimum in maneuverability. If possible, wheels with locks may be options to consider. Also, you should have a shelf on the cart for all the tools you will need to fix those last minute repairs we always have to do while waiting on line for a match.  A cup holder is not a bad idea, also.  :-)


Spare parts are an important part of building the robot.  The rules on when to make spares changes every year so be sure you read the manual thoroughly and keep reading all of the team updates.  We try to make spares of any part that requires special equipment to fabricate or of parts that we expect to fail during a match.  The best time to start building spares is during week 5 and 6.  The robot is essentially complete by this time and as the students become available we put them on building spares.  Having the robot there to copy from is a good reason to start on the spares before the ship date.