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SHIPPING THE ROBOT

Although it is a few weeks away, it is important to begin to think about shipping your robot now.  The robot must be out of your hands by the proper time on Tuesday, February 22nd.  Your must ship the robot; you are not permitted to transport it yourself to your regional competition.

BUILDING YOUR CRATE FOR SHIPPING

It's time to plan your shipping crate.  Build it to the max dimensions specified in the competition manual.  Even if this year's robot does not need all that space, next year's robot might.  Try to keep the total weight (crate, robot, two batteries, packing, etc.) at or below 400 lbs to save money on drayage.  Our crate is 1/2" plywood over a frame of 2x4's.  The total weight (including MOE Green paint and accessories) is right at 400 lbs.

Robot Crate Closure Robot Crate with Fork Lift Inside the Robot Crate

CHOOSE A SHIPPING COORDINATOR

Choose a robot shipping coordinator who will arrange shipment before each competition and on Saturday at the competition.  This is preferably an adult with a credit card (for any payments) and a fast car (to escape the angry hordes if the robot does not arrive at the competition).  He or she should assemble a file or 3-ring notebook to include:

Shipping labels and "Nonspillable Battery" labels in the format required by FIRST as posted on the competition websites.

A list of key names and phone numbers, like the shipper and drayage company.

A cover page with your team number, mentor names, and cell phone numbers so the notebook will get back to the team if it’s misplaced.

The Robot Transportation section of the competition manual.  The shipping coordinator should read this thoroughly.

SHIPPING THE ROBOT

FEDEX AIRBILLS

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.

SHIPPING PLAN

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.

*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.

SHIPPING THE ROBOT

Whether you're ready or not, your robot must ship by the deadline.  We'll pack our robot the night before. (Or the wee hours on Februray 17th!)

PREVENTING DAMAGE DURING SHIPPING

Many robots have been damaged in the process of shipping.  It would be a shame to struggle with robot repairs and miss valuable practice sessions at competitions due to shipping damage that can easily be avoided.  Simple methods to avoid damage include the following:

1. Secure every item in the crate, light or heavy, big or small.   Use common sense. Imagine it is YOU in that box because, if fact, it is a big part of you and your team!

2. Secure your robot's "appendages" such as arms, hooks, cables, bars, etc, to the robot itself so they do not flop around causing damage. Bungee cords or shrink wrap film work great.  It is also an option to remove these items and pack them separately (in the crate, of course) as long as they can be easily and confidently reassembled at the competition venue.

3. It is best to secure the robot itself, or cart and robot combination, to the bottom of the crate by the frame or wheels. Eye hooks, bungee cords, nylon strapping, rope or combinations of these are appropriate.  These crates are knocked around quite a bit and will be frequently tipped for loading on and off of trucks. If only the robot's upper frame is secured to the sides of the crate the robot could get twisted or bent out of shape, especially if your robot is tall.

4. Remove the battery from the robot and ship in the crate according to the special instructions in Section 6 of the competition manual.  Or transport the batteries separately, if allowed.

5. Securely bubble-wrap fragile items such as the control station, laptop computers or other peripherals.  Or, transport those items separately.

6. Be conscious of the amount of weight going into the crate, you might want to weigh each individual item before packing to assure that you do not exceed your weight limit.  Our crate plus robot weighs about 380 lb, so we'll be able to stay under 400 lb, saving us some drayage charges.

What is packed in the crate is limited only by size, weight (FedEx limit is 600 lb per crate) and obvious safety factors (no perishables or dedicated team members, please).  Other items that can be included are items a team does not want to carry separately to, or through, the competition venue such as carts, spare robot parts, extra batteries, hardware, fasteners and accessories or hand tools.  It is best if only pit essentials are included in the crate. Items such as banners, flyers, give-aways, or other items that may only be used for team support in the stands only add nonessential weight and may also require attention in what we can guarantee will be a very crowded and active pit situation.  Safety is FIRST.  

Besides the perishables and potential breakables, also leave out robot items that you may need for practice or training in preparation for the competitions.  Strategy books, build plans, specialized tools, software and computer items fall into this category. In summary, plan ahead. Create a packing list if necessary.

TRACK YOUR ROBOT SHIPMENT

Even though your crated robot was picked up at the loading dock, you will want to ensure that the shipment made it to it’s final destination (the drayage location for your regional).  Use the shipper tracking numbers to track the shipment until you are confident that the crate has been received at the proper location.  There is nothing worse than your team showing up to a regional event, when your robot does not.