Remember to Celebrate
You’ve got your robot, or some portion of it, in the bag. Or, if your school was closed yesterday, you will shortly. You may still have some programming to do, and more work on the 45 pounds of fabricated items you can bring to your events, and more driving with your practice robot if you have one, but now is a good time to take a breather and celebrate. Bake a cake, or fry up some bacon (or both) and have a few minutes of just being together as a team without worrying about looming deadlines. You may not have accomplished everything you wanted to before Stop Build Day – and for teams in weather-challenged areas this is very likely the case – but you’ve probably accomplished a great deal, and that’s worth a party. FIRST really is ‘not about the robot’. Really.
We want to thank our fine hosts, Team 166, Chop Shop, from Merrimack, NH, for putting on a great Week Zero event Saturday. The FRC staff was in attendance and brought a field and full electronics with us. FRC uses these Week Zero events to make sure our systems, and the game, work as expected with real, team-built robots.
About 20 FRC teams from the New England area participated. I was personally impressed with how complete many of the robots looked. Despite setbacks from the weather, the robots seemed closer to competition ready than I’ve seen before at the several Week Zero events I’ve attended over the years. In most matches, we had six robots on the field and driving around doing their thing. We even saw several catches, which were big hits with the spectators.
We do have some tweaks we’ll be making to the field mechanics and electronics. Nothing major, and nothing that should result rule changes.
If you’ve seen the team update from last night, though, you’ll see we made change to field border-crossing rules for both robots and humans. You can find the update here, if you haven’t seen it: http://frc-manual.usfirst.org/Updates/0 . Click on ‘Team UPDATE – 2014-02-18'. At the Week Zero event we saw many instances of robots accidentally going a few inches outside the field. It’s easy to do, and we don’t want the game dominated by these nuisance penalties. At the same time, we’re determined to not allow humans and robots in the same area at the same time. So we created a safety zone, giving the robots a little more room, and the humans a little less room. It seemed a reasonable compromise.
Speaking of safety, please pay attention to the update’s note about stored energy. At least one robot at Chop Shop’s Week Zero event had a mechanical lock preventing their ball-launching mechanism from firing when the robot was being transported. Inspectors will be looking to make sure you can move your robot safely, and a mechanical lock is a great way to do that. If you expect to be moving your robot with energy stored in it – beyond what is in the battery of course – you can expect to be having this discussion with the inspectors at your event.