I had the opportunity a few days ago to spend some time with some long time friends team 340 in Rochester NY. We got into a conversation about building to your team’s resources and how that can effect how you interpret what is important about the game. I have been fortunate in my 11 years with FIRST to be on many teams and see things from many different perspectives. I have been on teams that had everything you could ask for (money, machining, space, supportive parents and teachers) and I have also been on teams with no more than $500 in their account where we built the robot in a garage with parts from dumpsters (yes, literally I have been dumpster diving for robot parts) . What all these different situations has taught me is a very important lesson, not only for FIRST robots but for life.
BUILD WITHIN YOUR MEANS!
This concept can be difficult because I believe it is everyone’s deep desire to be the best at very scenario, and sometimes building within your resources means making choices which can limit your potential. Yet even limited your robot actions can actually make you a better competitor since you will be more optimized.
I had a conversation with another 10+ year mentor a few days ago about drives, and how difficult it was going to be without 2 speeds this year. He was struggling with the fact that on his new young team they really can’t afford the ~$640 for a set of shifters but without them the team would be at a huge disadvantage at the competition. While I agree that having 2 speeds would be a benefit this year I can condone spending almost half his robot budget just on transmissions.
This is exactly the type of thing I wish teams would realize that if you don’t have the money for fancy robot parts, or you don’t have access to heavy fabrication equipment, you should approach the game in a different manor. For example I know that many teams think it would be totally awesome to build a turreted top basket shooter, with camera tracking that can shoot from anywhere on the field and have a mystery device that can guarantee a 3 balance every time, and a drivetrain that can drive through defense while having excellent acceleration and top speed. While this robot is possible for all teams is it feasible for most teams? I am not trying to discourage teams from pushing themselves, yet I am encouraging teams to take a hard look at their resources to they can make the best decisions. Is it worth spending all of your time and money on a single portion of the robot while hurting the other subsystems.
At this point in the season, I am sure many of you are far along the path for whatever you decide, but when you run into issues or feel overwhelmed, take a step back and see if what you want to build is what you are actually capable of or if you are over reaching.
And now for your moment of zen.