Lessons Learned In Rookie Year
In the team's rookie year of 2015, members identified some lessons learned to share with other FRC teams - both rookie and veteran. Many of these lessons were learned because the team began all preparations from scratch for the entire season literally in mid-November, just over a month before the start of the Six-Week Build.
The poster illustrates the many beneficial and challenging components of the FIRST Robotics experience that students and mentors encountered and learned to deal with for the first time.
The following suggestions are made with hopes that another team can avoid similar stress experienced by beginning preparations just before the Kick-Off in January:
Prior to the Game Reveal in Early January
- Fundraise by approaching small (e.g. local businesses) and large organizations for sponsorships. There are many online resources available to support your efforts. Many large corporations accept requests for financially supporting community projects near the beginning of the year when budgeting is determined.
- Learn and practice skills necessary (e.g. AutoCAD, electrical, gear ratios, pneumatics) for designing and building robots. During the Six-Week build, time passes quickly, unplanned events are encountered, and revisiting initial design plans WILL be made.
- Watch videos (e.g. Simbot Seminar Series - (1) Running an FRC Team; (2) Scouting and Match Strategy, (3) Drivetrain Design, (4) Effective FIRST Strategies, (5) Chairman's Award, (6) Controls).
- Watch videos of past FRC matches. Practice design and strategy by examining and analyzing purposeful designs of robots that played previous FRC games well.
- Begin recruiting new student members by tapping students for invitation and organizing a school-wide assembly.
- Begin recruiting adult volunteers (e.g. parents and school staff) to support supervisory staff and mentors however possible.
- Begin recruiting mentors, including FIRST alumni students and professional engineers.
- Establish Executive Members on the team. Ask them to establish the agenda for meetings during lunch so that meetings can run efficiently after school.
Feb. 2015. Completing the robot in the Robotics Shop at David & Mary Thomson Collegiate Institute.
During The Six-Week Build
- Attend the Quick Build session if available where experienced mentors can help brand new rookies to build a working drivetrain by the first day of the Six-Week Build! Having a physical robot motivates team members to focus on FRC.
- Watch the video series titled Robot In 3 Days. Very soon after the Quick Build, experienced teams implement their great ideas of designs for a competitive robot.
- Ask questions for assistance. Many teams are more than happy to offer time and resource to support successes of other teams. Gracious Professionalism and Co-opertition are fundamental ideas of FIRST that are highly valued and practiced.
- Utilize the FIRST Drop-In Centres.
- Ask (and ask again) for locations of local suppliers. I learned in Week Five (early February) of Metal Supermarkets, a chain of stores selling metal bars, minutes from my school. Before then, I ordered metal bars internationally, which was expensive due to extra costs shipping across the CAN-US border and high rate of CAN-US currency exchange.
List of Suppliers Approved by TDSB (Updated Jan. 2016)
Balluff (Mississauga) - offering complimentary sensors (three per FIRST team) on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please see e-mail thread directly below.
- Contact: Thomas O'Connell. Phone # 905-829-2000. TDSB SAP Vendor #2417.
- Contact: Dave Lawson. Phone # 416-498-9755. TDSB SAP Vendor #13144.
- Toronto Phone # 416-293-9550. TDSB SAP Vendor #749. North York Phone # 416-411-2012. TDSB SAP Vendor # 5562.
- Contact: Joanne. Phone # 905-625-4805. TDSB SAP Vendor #10524.
- Phone # 1-888-522-8665. TDSB SAP Vendor #2911.
- Phone # 416-289-3193. TDSB SAP Vendor # 96.
- Toronto Phone # 416-645-1383. TDSB SAP # 21202. Toronto Phone # 416-297-8971. TDSB SAP # 21216.
- Phone # 647-253-5600. TDSB SAP # 22652.
- Ensure that key members of the team somehow continue working on projects during Weeks Three and Four during Final Examinations. Thomson is a semestered school, meaning that it is challenging to focus students on FRC when there 30% of final grades in four courses are determined during those two weeks.
- Sometimes the design and structure of a particular component on the robot may need to be changed so that it does not exactly resemble the plan on the drawing. For the sake of saving time, this is sometimes okay!
- A role may not necessarily be assigned to a student only because s/he is senior or closer to graduating. It can be assumed that senior students have more experience and skill sets, but that is not always the case.
- Recruit adult volunteers who can drive to pick up parts for relatively-immediate availability to students. Teachers are very busy after school in addition to supervising students directly in the work room.
- Manage time. Inform teachers of student members of the team who are stressed by balancing FRC and summative evaluation timelines. Given the heads-up, hopefully teachers can be accommodating if possible.
- Remind everybody on and enforce the concept of team. A team, opposed to a group, consists of members who will step in to continue a role of another member so that goals continue to be achieved.
- Practice driving! Allot the final week to practicing driving. A few FRC teams will have Practice Fields constructed and available for use by other teams. A well-built robot may not perform as well if driving is poor.
Feb. 2015. Practicing driving at Victoria Park Collegiate Institute, Home of Team 4914 of FIRST Robotics Competition.
Apr. 2015. Participating in Carson Division of FIRST Championship in St. Louis, Missouri.