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FIRST® Things FirstWhat is FIRST?
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FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®)
Start a Rookie Team
Each school year, FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) teams are formed in the fall. Emphasis is on a competition-based cooperative experience across teams. Competitions take place in March and April. FRC Regional events are typically held in university arenas. They involve 40 to 70 teams cheered by thousands of fans over three days. A championship event caps the season. Referees oversee the competition while Judges talk to teams for awards in design, technology, sportsmanship and commitment to FIRST principles. The Chairman’s Award is the highest honor in FIRST and it doesn't care where you finish in the standings.
What is unique about the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) program?FRC is a mentor-based program that bears more similarity to the Westinghouse Science Award where students work hand-in-hand with renouned researchers, rather than a local science fair where students are expected to work alone. FIRST encourages many different approaches to building a team. An all-student driven program can work just as well as the more typical student-mentor co-operative, but remember that the FIRST Robotics Competition is a professional mentor-based program, so recruit and involve mentors to consult, advise, and directly work with the students as much as possible. We're striving to expose students to the professional working world and make heros of the engineers responsible for designing the technical world we live in.
FRC rewards students for building partnerships that last, excellence in design, demonstrated team spirit, gracious professionalism and maturity, and the ability to overcome obstacles. Scoring the most points is a secondary goal.
- It is a sport where the participants play with the pros and learn from them
- FRC makes designing and building a robot a fascinating real-world professional experience
- Competing on stage brings participants as much excitement and adrenaline rush as conventional varsity tournaments
- Every student can turn pro in this sport.
- The game rules are a surprise every year
Where to Begin...Just Thinkin' About It
Here are FIRST resources on:
Probably the most enlightening documents are:
- Starting an FRC Team
- FRC Handbook an overview
- FIRST Mentoring Guide to handout to new mentors you enlist
Test The Waters...Talk About It
Your second most useful contact is the Senior Mentor if your area has one. Senior Mentors work to recruit and support FIRST Team Mentors and FIRST Event Volunteers.
These people can arrange for administrators, students and prospective mentors to experience an event or even a whole season by shadowing a veteran team. In addition to the official competition events, a large number of smaller team-run off-season events take place where teachers and students can get a real feel for just what it is FIRST does. Off-season events encourage "pre-rookies" to join a team for a day or enter your own "team" by using an extra robot that veterans will loan you.
Take the FIRST Big Step...Form a Team
Team Information Management System
TIMS for short. Registration can be done beginning at the end of September and the registration fee is not due until December, but the important thing is to get registered early, so you can begin receiving help.
TIMS will have entries for these team positions (you may fill most of them at first) - these positions are described in a section of the annual game rules that covers basic Team Organization- FRC Team Organization .
The people in these positions may receive targeted communications from FIRST, but not many.
- Main Contact - responsible for the team and team communications
- Alternate Contact - backup for Main contact
- Shipping Contact - responsible for robot shipping (if any). This is the person FIRST contacts when the robot gets lost.
- Less critical positions to fill:
- Technical Contact
- Scholarship Contact - usually the school or class guidance counselor
- Travel Contact
- School Contact
- Public Relations Contact
- Corporate/University Contact - if you have a major corporate or university sponsor
And for the students there is the Student Team Information Member System (STIMS)
This is where:
- Students officially register for their team
- Parents & students electronically sign the FIRST consent & release (a paper version is also an option, but some version must be submitted to attend any competition)
- Select student officers submit awards entries
Apply for Grants and begin fundraising.
Here are some FRC targeted grants:
- NASA Grants - generally open the beginning of October and close before the end of October, grants awards are announced late-November. FRC NASA Grant Writing Tips
- jcpenney grants - not handled directly by the store, your Regional Director coordinates these, so ask him/her if one is available.
- BAE grants - apply directly to BAE, usually due in September
By the time the season Kickoff happens you will also need to identify student positions:
- (3) student leaders authorized in TIMS for awards submission (submission itself is through STIMS)
- Game rules monitor - rule book, team updates to rules, and FRC game Q&A interpretations of rules
- Safety Captain
By the time competition event rolls around you'll need (to varying degrees):
- Drive Team - 2 drivers, 1 human player, 1 coach-(can be a student or adult)
- Pit Crew - organizes and maintain the pit, manages the battery charging, knows what tools and materials you have and where it's kept
- Scouters - watch and record other team performance, rank teams by how good they are, how well they complement your robot, how easy they are to work with as an Alliance.
- Spirit - cheering section
Other sources of information and human contact:
- FIRST Team Support email or by phone (800 871 8326, press 0) - FIRST Team Support has all the administration answers.
- FIRST Web site - www.usfirst.org
Connect with the FIRST Community
A basic FIRST tenet is teams working cooperatively. Here are only a few of the main sites, but many, many more resources are made available by teams, organizations, and individuals as part of their program.
- Chiefdelphi FIRST Teams Forum a massive forum frequented by FIRST teams from around the world and your neighborhood. Active discussions on topics anyone feels like asking about from technical issues to game rule interpretations and strategies.
- NEMO the Non-Engineering Mentor Organization is a FIRST group that discusses topical issues and develops resources in support of all those non-engineering tasks that have to get done for a team's operation - travel arrangements, fundraising, etc.
- FIRST Workshop Presentations on many topics
- FIRST WorldTube Promo videos
Many region-centric groups operate year-round. Team leader meetings occur periodically. Workshops and off-season events bring people together.
FRC Communication Chart.ppt
Critical Information During the Season
- FIRST Bill's Blog - A behind-the-scenes look at FRC by the FRC Director. Posted most Wednesdays during the season and more often when interesting things happen.
- FIRST eMail Blasts - Deadline reminders plus timely links to news, information and opportunities. Sent to team main and alternate contact's email addresses as provided by teams in TIMS. Sent weekly during the season, every other week during the off season.
- FIRST Important Deadlines
- FIRST Competition Manual and Related Documents - in addition to robot and game rules you will find out about all the other non-robot awards your team can compete for.
- FIRST Team Updates - OFFICIAL changes to the game manual, often a result of discussions on the Q&A. Posted Tuesdays and Fridays during the season.
- FRC Q&A - the Game Design Committee answers questions from teams to clarify this year's game rules. Get in the habit of reading posts as they can dramatically change your idea of how the game is to be played and what is legal.
- FIRST Grants - NASA is a big source of first-year team grants. Information about these grants become available in the Fall.
- FRC Facebook .
- FRCTeam tweets - the FRC Director's random personal observations & blog post announcements.
- FIRST Acronyms - a list of common acronyms used in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) specifically.
- Hook up with an experienced mentor or veteran teams to find out how it all really works and just what is important and what isn’t.
- Start working immediately with your experienced mentors and mentor teams
- Get training in all aspects of FIRST robots. Borrow a past robot from a mentoring team. Take a field trip to their shop.
- Start with Teambuilding Exercises
- Tool up Basic Tool List, $1500 Machine Shop , $10K Machine Shop
- Collect raw materials (donations, dumpster diving, purchase):
- Wood for practice field and prototyping
- PVC for prototyping (pipes, connectors, glue)
- Aluminum (flat, right-angle, c-channel, square-tube) for robot superstructure & mechanisms
- Minimal steel for high stress joints, wheel axels (weight is a limiting factor)
- Nuts & bolts in a standard set of sizes, e.g., 8-32, 10-32, 1/4-20 (avoid a larger size selection as it means maintaining more stock and adds confusion)
- Electrical wire (6 ga., 12 ga., 22 ga.)
- Expanded pvc or similar lightweight panel for mounting electronics
- Lexan for see-through protective covers so electronics status lights can be seen (not plexiglass)
Basic Build Schedule to get you started
Here are some practical suggestions from FIRST.
This is where the season really explodes into action!
There are local Kickoff locations in many Regions where the Kit-of-Parts can be picked up and a webcast of the game unveiling is shown to groups of teams. You can also watch the Kickoff webcast from home or as a team at school or someone's home, however, arrangements must be made to have the KOP picked up or shipped to you.
Some local Kickoff locations are able to pre-construct playing fields (under strict secrecy), but the main Kickoff event and playing field is in Manchester, NH, the home of FIRST.
If you are lucky enough to be within travel distance of NH, there are:
- Rookie (& veteran) workshops conducted at FIRST HQ the day before (Friday) Kickoff (Saturday)
- A Founder's Reception held at Dean Kamen's mansion for adults-only mentors on Friday night
- A join viewing of the Kickoff webcast (sometimes live) on Saturday morning
- A chance to walk on the real field, play with the game elements, and talk to the Game Design Committee (GDC) members in person
- KOP pickup at FIRST HQ
At Kickoff we get our Kit-of-Parts. The Rookie KOP is more extensive than the veteran Kit, as some of the parts are expected to be reused (primarily the control system). But that's not all!
- Usually, starting Monday some additional KOP parts are selectable online through FIRST Choice
- Bimba offers (3) free pneumatic cylinders
- Sometimes Gates offers free pulleys and belts
- Additional Kit items can be purchased through National Instruments (cRIO), AndyMark (other control system electronics, Kit chassis, motors, wheels, transmissions, etc.), and any third party suppliers you choose.
Things to Do During the Season
There are tons of jobs to get done, but there are many you can afford to skimp on as a rookie. Here are a few you shouldn't ignore:
- Robot Design & Construction
- Game Strategy
- Drive Team
- Pit Crew
- Marketing, Public Relations, Publicity
- Awards Committee - Only 3 teams out of 50 will take home first place trophies, so the odds are better that you can grab one of the other 20 FIRST trophies.
The judges can't give you any awards if you don't let them know what you've done!
Awards-2011.pdf - description of the 2011 Awards from the game manual
- Judges info - entered in TIMS
- Woodie Flowers award - you've got great teachers, advisor, mentors, so here's your chance to tell them what an effect they've had on your life. It's a short essay that only students can do. Entered at firstawards.org
- Chairman's award - Okay, you won't win this your first year, but you need to get started and it's a great way to get focused.
Entered at firstawards.org
- Rookie-Only Awards - you really need to be taking a strong look at these. Your chance for the first two comes when judges visit your pit to talk to your students about their overall program. Here's where it really pays to get off to a strong running start as a new team.
- Rookie All Star Award
- Rookie Inspiration Award
- Highest Rookie Seed Award
- Awards in general - very few teams go for them all, so pick a few to focus your efforts on and form subteams around.
- Regional Engineering Inspiration Award
- Autodesk Visualization Award
- Chrysler Team Spirit Award
- Delphi "Driving Tomorrow's Technology" Award
- General Motors Industrial Design Award
- Johnson & Johnson Gracious Professionalism
- Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Entrepreneurship Award
- Motorola Quality Award
- Rockwell Automation Innovation in Control Award
- Xerox Creativity Award
- Imagery Award
- Underwriters Laboratory Industrial Safety Award
- Website Award
- Judges Award
At the Event
(Note: Michigan events operate on a unique 2-day schedule)
- Thursday - Check-in/Setup pit-Unpack robot/Practice/Inspection/Final fixes/Driver's Meeting
- Friday - Opening Ceremonies/Qualification matches/Judges Awards
- Saturday - Morning: Opening Ceremonies/Qualification matches
- Noon: Alliance Picking
- Afternoon: Elimination rounds/closing Ceremonies/Judges & Competition Awards
FRC Event Volunteer Descriptions
Who's Who in FIRST
FRC Organization Chart.ppt
Major Considerations When Starting a Rookie FIRST Team
- Sample Budget
- Where is the majority of your funding coming from?
- Fundraising ideas
- How are you going to spend (credit card, check, etc)?
- Travel expenses
- Administration (if school based Dept Chairs, Business Dept.)
- Main Advisors (teachers, etc)
- Mentors (parents, sponsor engineers)
- Boosters (parents)
- Students (officers)
- Where are you going to meet for preseason?
- Where are you going to build?
- Do you have access to fabrication machinery, i.e. lathe, mill, TIG, CNC, waterjet… (just wistful thinking...)
- Do you need keys/special access?
- Are there time/security constraints?
- How is shipping & receiving handled (incoming parts & materials, outgoing FedEx crate shipment)?
- Where are you going to get parts – having local suppliers is ideal, or web-based McMaster-Carr is good for receipts/no sales taxes
- Are there local companies who would be willing to donate supplies – a great way to create community synergy
- Set Info Session Dates
- Bring in other teams to demo robot to potential recruits
- Start with an active meeting, free food, roving robots, etc
- Cross-dept teacher recommendations/help in recruiting
- Emphasis on diversity women/minorities/etc
- Recruiting parents and unattached mentors is just as important as recruiting students
- Do you have local engineers or machinists who are willing to help out, retirees are a great source of mentors.
- Officer meetings
- Booster club meetings
- Events for fundraising, recruiting, community outreach such as parades & homecoming, lunchroom
- Weekly team meetings – preseason
- Use preseason for teambuilding & learning
- Other teams can help do presentations/activities
- See if you can go to an offseason competition
- How often to meet during build season? (6 weeks)
- Official meetings
- Unofficial times
- Are you going to supply food at select meetings?
- Subteams (non-robot & awards also)
- Student leadership?
- Mentor structure?
- FIRST Roles (main, alternate, shipping, guidance, etc). Assign in TIMS.
- Support logistics -- food, fundraising, travel arrangements, chaperones, transportation
- Parents who are engineers are an amazing resource
- Get them involved EARLY
- Develop an image early, team name, uniform, chant/cheer, mascot
- Arrange for Tshirt printing, Buttons, Sweatshirts, hoodies, jackets, etc.
- What is your main form of Communication?
- Email, PA announcements, phone, Instant Messaging, flyers, posters, Facebook, Twitter, team website, meetings, word-of-mouth
2. Support Personnel The first thing you must do is find people to delegate all these jobs to.
Develop a schedule for preseason, build season, competitions, community events.
7. Team Structure
8. Parent Boosters
9. Team Image/Uniforms
10. Team Communication
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