2017 PCH Power Rankings

If you recall, before the 2017 season began, we did a fun little pre-season power poll of the best FRC teams going into the season. While the survey was a bit of a popularity contest, it turned out rather well and produced a very strong list of the top 10 teams going into SteamWorks.

However, now that all of the 2017 PCH qualifiers have come to an end, we decided to run another power poll before the upcoming PCH District Championship. The results are as follows:

Rankings
1. 1746 - Otto - 266 Points
2. 4188 - Columbus Space Program - 256 Points
3. 2974 - Walton Robotics - 220 Points
4. 2415 - Wiredcats - 195 Points
5. 4941 - Robobibb - 131 Points
6. 1648 - G3 Robotics - 114 Points
7. 4910 - East Cobb Robotics - 97 Points
8. 4468 - Fernbank Links - 70 Points
9. 1683 - Technotitans - 52 Points
10. 6340 - Marist Screaming Eagles - 36 Points

Full rankings and aggregate raw data can be viewed by clicking here.

From our perspective, we think the rankings are, once again, pretty solid. The creme de la creme of the district have risen to the top and deservedly so. We’re also pretty happy to see the middle tier of the district is joined by some new faces, notably team 4941 from Macon and rookie team 6340. However, there are a few good teams, such as 6705 and 1002, who didn’t seem to make the cut. Whether it was a true lack of performance or perhaps lack of name recognition that left some teams out of the top 10, everyone will be playing on an even field at the PCH DCMP.

Expert Opinions
As a fun little addition to these rankings, we reached out to members in the community to provide their opinions about the 2017 power rankings, and they have shared their insights below:

“The rankings look reasonably solid to me. Most of the best teams in the state right now are shown in the poll in some order. However, I think 6340's ranking is particularly low. While they may not provide the strongest gearing and may not have the fastest climber, their low goal scoring in autonomous provides an added dimension for an alliance that has yet to truly be matched in the district. Two teams that stick out as being ranked a little TOO high to me seem to be 4941 and 1648. While both teams have been strong, neither has truly executed to the level of a couple of the other teams on that list, particularly 1648 at Columbus. In terms of teams missing from the top 10, there's no doubt in my mind 6705 is the biggest team missing, which can probably be attributed to an earlier-than-expected exit at Dalton and a long break between then and now. “ - Trevor Davidson, 1648 Mentor

“Any power ranking in Georgia right now runs into an interesting issue; the teams sort into ‘tiers,’ in which, with exception of the top tier, robots are basically interchangeable.  The top four teams, making up that top tier, have each done something unique to stand out and are candidates to compete at the World Championship level.  The next eleven will be competitive at the State Championship level, and will almost certainly be alliance captains or first picks, but will need exceptional strategy or luck to be able to beat out that top tier.  In that second tier, though, a few things could be rearranged.  The Marist Screaming Eagles, 6340, and East Cobb Robotics, 4910, could be ranked higher.  They've taken out alliances featuring strong competitors like 1683, 2415, 4188, and 1746, and if there are any teams that could steal the show at States, 6340 and 4910 are shaping up to be the kind of teams that could do it.  The shocker for me with this list is the absence of 4080.  After an early exit at Dalton to the future winners, they made a splash at the, admittedly weaker, Albany event. They sustained a six-round brawl in the semifinals, and came within a few climbs of a win over 4188 and 2974.  Expect them to make a strong appearance at the State Championship.  In the end, Georgia will likely come down to a climb or two, and the tightness of this second tier foreshadows an exciting playoff tournament.” - Brandon Zalinsky, GA FIRST MC

“At first glance, the teams I see in this year's top 10 are pretty much as I expected. Many of the same familiar team numbers we see dominating the state are still running strong, but it's awesome to see a rookie team, 6340, breaking into the top 10 as well, after finishing a powerful season as Dalton Finalists and Winners at Columbus. Another new team appearing in the top 10 this season is 4941, who came so close to winning their first blue banner but came just shy at Albany Finals, and saw a close Semifinals exit as the #1 alliance captain at Gainesville. 2415, 1746, 4910, 1648, and 1683 have all shown that they have what it takes to compete at a high level in Georgia, and all have brought very strong machines to the table for FIRST Steamworks. This may be slightly biased, but I actually would have placed 4188 and 2974 as the top 2 competitors of the year thus far, followed by 1746. Walton has 3 wins out of 3 events, including their dominant "visitor" showing at the NC Asheville event, where they seeded #1 and charged to yet another blue banner, representing the Peachtree District well. Columbus Space Program started the season off a bit slow; they were the #1 overall pick at Gainesville, but fell in Semis to the eventual winners, and lost by just 3 points in Columbus Finals. However, they ended the regular season out strong with a #1 seed and Winner banner at Albany, and are hungry for more at State. CSP also happens to be the only team in GA to hold one medal of each color: blue (Winner), red (Finalists), and orange  (Engineering Inspiration). Judging solely on their performances at 2017 events, I would not have placed 4468 in the top 10. While they do have an efficient gear-scoring robot and an experienced driver, they did not get the finishes they were hoping for this season. I would have placed 4026 just inside the top 10. They have a very strong robot this season and although they came just shy of winning at Gainesville, they are owners of one of the very few effective shooters in Georgia as well as a unique active gear mechanism, and could compliment a good alliance at State. It also would have been no surprise to see another strong rookie team, 6705, crack the  top 10 this season in the PCH Power Rankings.” - Brandon King, 4188 Mentor

 

“In aggregate I think the rankings are pretty accurate. My top three votes aligned with the top 3 results (alright, maybe I had a slight bias towards the 1 rank) and just about every other top 10 finisher was on my list somewhere. It seems like the top 10 here represents a good mix of teams who have consistently been top performers in the district this year. Every team on this list (and many who just barely missed the cut) deserve to be here and are working towards making PCH a more competitive district.

Conversely, that doesn’t mean I think every ranking was perfect. There were several teams who missed the cut who have performed very solidly, and there are teams within the top 10 that I think were under or overrated. To begin, while I believe 4188 has a slightly stronger robot than 2974 I am a bit surprised that 2974 was only ranked 3rd. After 3 event wins and 4 blue banners, 2974 is tied for most event wins and most blue banners of the season. They are certainly no slouch and might have deserved to be a spot or two higher. I am also a bit confused as to how 6340 was only ranked 10th. After a trip to the finals at Dalton and a win in Columbus, this rookie team looks like they are going to be a contender for years to come. (I might also have a sore spot after their 10 ball, low goal auto was ultimately what kept 1746 from their second blue banner at Columbus). Additionally, I am pretty shocked 6705 didn’t crack the top ten, after a really strong initial showing at Gainesville and a near repeat at Dalton 6705 showed they were ready to come out swinging as a rookie team. Also noticeably missing: 5293. In my opinion, they had strong showings at both Gainesville and Dalton seeding 2nd then 1st. I wonder if their week 1 and two 2 performances were just too early in the season to be fresh in people's minds.

On the flip side, I think 1746’s ranking might be a little inflated. Don’t mix my words, though; I am confident that 1746 is ready to own that top ranking at DCMP and Half Champs. However, I am surprised that they were able to clinch the top spot despite a rocky first few qual matches at Gainesville before finding their stride.  

From everything I can see these top teams are going to make 4 rotors a common occurrence (and maybe we'll even see some 40 kpa matches) in Athens; and I for one am excited to see who will ultimately deserve to be in the top 10.” - Trent Callen, 1746 Mentor

 

“The rankings are fairly accurate, but some teams seem to have been placed unnecessarily high due to wins (2974 ranked 3 and 1648 ranked 6), while other teams are underrated (2415 ranked 4, 1683 ranked 10, and 4189 ranked 13). Granted, we haven’t seen fuel become extremely useful in the PCH district yet, which will most like change come State Championships when the only way to break ties will be fouls and fuel.

At the point where fuel is used, teams such as 1648, 2974, and 1746 (already ranked #1) will prove their worth an eliminations alliance moving them to the top of that list. Though they will definitely remain useful, teams that only gear (4188, 2415, and 4941) will most likely fall below those top tier teams, but hold the backbone of the alliances. I just think it’s important to keep in mind that these rankings are only based on the performance of teams prior to the realization that they will need fuel to win elimination matches, and as a result certain teams become over or underrated. Also just because a team get’s lucky doesn’t mean they are good and should place high on a leaderboard. There are definitely teams on the list that deserve banners for their performance.” - Gabe Kupersmith, 4941 Mentor

PCH Check In - Team 1261

We’re happy to bring you our fourth installment of PCH Check In, a series where we invite FRC teams from around the district to share their statuses, updates, and thoughts on the game.

Today, we'll be checking in with FRC 1261, the Robolions. The Robolions have had an incredible amount of success, which includes a win or finalist finish in each of the past three years, and if you look over the past decade, you'll be hard-pressed to find a team that has more consistent on-field success. With that all that being said, they're not a slouch in the outreach department, where they took home their first Chairmans Award last season. 

Team Number: 1261
Team Name: Robo Lions
Location: Peachtree Ridge High School (in Suwanee)
Team Age: 14

At a high level, how do you guys feel about Steamworks? 
Overall we’re really excited about Steamworks! We love the game because it’s more complicated than a normal shooting game, but it does have the shooting element that allows us to do some really cool things on the robot!

Strategically speaking, it’ll be an interesting game to drive in because budgeting your time properly is key, and every match will be very different, but it should be a fun game to play!

What do you guys think is the most important objective in the game? 
We think that the most important objective in this game is shooting. While gears are worth a lot of points, we anticipate that generally during playoffs (especially as we get later into the season), most or all the gears will be scored in playoffs. Since fuel is essentially the only unlimited source of points in the game, we think it’ll become key to be able to shoot a great deal. We also think it’s more feasible for a single robot or two robots to score enough fuel to earn a ranking point than it is to score enough gears to earn the ranking point. 

What do you guys feel is the most challenging part of the game? 
The most challenging part of this year’s game so far for us has been that there’s a lot going on on the field that you have to build for. It’s a lot of subsystems to fit into a small space and get coordinated properly (especially since bumpers are part of the frame perimeter now). Getting the whole robot to work cohesively to play every part of the game is a complicated challenge.

As we progress into competition season, budgeting time during each match and deciding how much time to spend on each part of the game will become more challenging. Match to match quick strategy decisions will have to be made on how gameplay should go each time. Essentially it’s just the variety of things happening on the field at once that make this year’s game complicated.

What objectives is your team building for? 
We’re focusing on high goal shooting first, followed by scoring gears and climbing. We’re hoping for a versatile robot this year! One of our biggest goals revolves around our programming, as we want a robot that can vision track the goals and shoot in autonomous as well as teleop.

It’s currently week 5, what’ve you guys been up to so far in the season? 
We’ve done quite a bit more CAD this year than in the past, so we’ve spent much of our season designing, prototyping, and CADing. Last week we started the build of the robot and our practice bot, and now as parts come in, we’re continuing to build other components, as well as detail a plan for our electronics. The programmers have been working on some of our more complex plans, like motion profiling and vision tracking for the robot.

1261 KSU Fabrication

What kind of challenges has your team faced so far in the season? 
One of the key challenges we’ve had is simply managing the space on the robot properly. The allowed sizes are pretty small this year, and retaining enough empty space inside the robot to hold a good amount of fuel has been more difficult than we initially thought.

Incorporating CAD at a much higher level than we ever have before has also been a challenge this season. It’s proven to be a difficult leap to make, logistically speaking, but we’re glad we did it as much more energy went into planning beforehand and precision than ever has before.

One of the major challenges we faced in the programming team this year was motion profiling. We've started working with motion profiling to build highly accurate autonomous movements, but we've had to fight through many problems to build this system. Issues like path generation and trajectory playback have presented significant challenges to our programming team, but we've learned a lot about how to be successful doing this.

Is there a message that you’d like to send to other PCH teams? 
Most importantly, don’t forget that bumpers are a part of the frame perimeter. Don’t get to competition with a robot that’s too big! Also remember that you can’t ever extend outside of whichever dimensions you pick.

Since we’re nearing bag-and-tag, our biggest piece of advice is to prepare well for competition. Make sure your robot is legal and running, always tighten your screws, and have replacement motors, etc. at the ready! Once you get there keep your batteries charged and work on forming relationships with other teams: if you’ve never scouted before, this is a great time to start.

If you need a platform to collect scouting data with, we invite you to use our scouting app: it allows you to create teams, add individual members, and create your own questions that you can export the data from after your scouts collect it. It can be found at https://scouting.prhsrobotics.com. Feel free to contact us (robolions@prhsrobotics.com) if you have questions about it’s usage. 

PCH Check In - Team 2974

We’re happy to be bringing you our third installment of PCH Check In, a series where we invite FRC teams from around the district to share their statuses, updates, and thoughts on the game.

Today, we’re going to be checking in with FRC 2974, Walton Robotics. Regardless of how you look at it, Walton has the best all around FRC programs in the district. If you look at their outreach program, you have to look no further than the four consecutive Chairmans they’ve won over the past four years. They’re not a slouch in the robotics department either, with Walton laying claim to 2 finalist appearances and 3 event wins, which, by the way, includes the title of reigning PCH State District Champions.

Team Number: 2974

Team Name: Walton robotics

Location: Marietta

Team Age: 9 years

At a high level, how do you guys feel about Steamworks?
Steamworks is an interesting game that has elements that can be approached in many many ways. Each element of gameplay can be made as simple or as complicated as the team wants. The gear mover can be fully passive or fully autonomous. You can push balls around and be a defensive robot, or you can shoot into the high goal. There are also a wide variety of ways to get balls into and out of your robot. Overall, Steamworks is a varied game that has ample space for teams to generate out-of-the-box ideas.

What do you guys think is the most important objective in the game?
We believe the most important objective of the game is placing a gear during autonomous. Based on our game analysis, this action generates the most points for least effort and time. We’re confident our mechanism to deliver gears because it relies only on the drivetrain. It is a fully passive system that will allow us to devote more resources (i.e. space, time, electricity) to other aspects of gameplay.

What do you guys feel is the most challenging part of the game?
We feel that maximizing the utility attained by each mechanism while remaining within the volume boundaries is the most challenging aspect of this game. We are using CAD in order to design the mechanisms to fit together in a more condensed fashion.

Another aspect of this challenge is maximizing our ball storage while keeping them in a useful configuration. As many teams must have already discovered, the balls do not like to be funneled, and will clog up very easily.

What objectives is your team building for?
Our team has designed a robot that can place gears, pick up balls from the ground, shoot into the high goal, and climb in end game. We’re working towards an autonomous that will place a gear and then shoot the 10 balls into the high goal in order to maximize our points during autonomous and give us a great start to the match.

We want to be able to do it all, both as a way to perform well in the competitions and as an engineering challenge.

It’s currently week 4, what’ve you guys been up to so far in the season?
We have modeled 75% of our robot in Autodesk Inventor. We have also finished our ball intake, gear intake, and shooter subsystems. Now we are in the process of putting it all together on our practice robot. We will begin building the competition robot within the next week..

We have finished writing the long and short essays for Chairman’s and are currently working on the Woodie Flowers essay and Chairman’s video and presentation.

What kind of challenges has your team faced so far in the season?
One of the greatest challenges our team has faced so far were the icy snow days that occurred during kickoff and the following days. This took away 3 full days which the team could have benefitted from brainstorming and designing. This necessitated having only the core build team design the robot. Even then, the actual construction of the prototypes was delayed. The snow days completely threw off the whole build schedule. Our team has benefited from having full team brainstorming sessions in the past because it allowed us to gain ideas from people not directly involved in build.

During brainstorming it is incredibly important to have as many perspectives as possible so that the outlandish ideas that would never even be considered otherwise can surface. It is these very ideas that result in a winning robot.

In order to maintain some aspect of this process, we implemented a google drive folder which acted like a suggestion box. Team members were able to deposit any idea they had for the robot, and we used some of the ideas generated during this process in our final design.

The snow days have also created challenges regarding awards, specifically Chairman’s. The awards crew was unable to meet up during the snow days to work on the essays and video for Chairman’s and the other award submissions. However, the awards team was able to catch up somewhat considering a lot of the work such as writing the essays can be done offline.

Is there a message that you’d like to send to other PCH teams?
This year, defense will be crucial, so you should plan on making your robots robust enough to handle rough robot to robot contact. Make sure your bumpers are solid and that they will be able to hold up during matches. Also, if anything is protruding from your robot, it would be a good idea to make sure that is structurally sound and is of robust construction.

Quick reminder: this bumper rules have changed this year so make sure to familiarize yourself with the new rules and construct your bumpers accordingly.

In regards to awards, make sure you keep up with the different deadlines. All of the award submissions are not due on the same days. For example, Chairman’s and Woodie Flowers are due February 9th, but Dean’s List and the business plan for the Entrepreneurship award are due February 16th.

With financial support from GAFirst, our team members and parents have spent over 600 hours building field elements so teams can come to our build site to practice. We have one steel airship that will have the capability to allow robots to climb. We have two boilers and multiple ball dispensers. We are excited to offer open field hours on the field and hope many teams will take advantage of our field elements. This will make Georgia teams more competitive at Worlds!

PCH Check In - Team 1648

We’re happy to bring you our next post in the PCH Check In series, where we invite FRC teams from around the district to share some of their insights on the game and their progress in the season.

Today, we’re going to be doing a check in with FRC 1648, G3 Robotics. G3 Robotics has been a cornerstone in the larger Georgia FRC scene since its rookie year in 2005. However, over the past four years, G3 Robotics has become a dominant force on and off the field. Among a multitude of judged awards, which includes a brand-spanking new Chairman’s Award, G3 Robotics’ conquests include a regional win in 2015 and a couple of finalist finishes in 2016.

15822787_1464274920279149_4596001927211342030_n.jpg

Team Number: 1648
Team Name: G3 Robotics
Location: Atlanta, GA
Team Age: 12 Years

At a high level, how do you guys feel about Steamworks?
We are all very excited to play Steamworks. We feel it’s a well-balanced game with super exciting features. Steamworks comes with many challenges, though, and we’re looking forward to see how teams will creatively tackle them. For example, scouting this year, as we’re sure many are aware, will be extremely difficult.

What do you guys think is the most important objective in the game?
Getting enough gears to the Airship is going to be the most important task in Steamworks. Turning all four rotors will be key to seeding high and winning in the playoffs. While it may seem easy for three robots to deliver thirteen gears to the Airship, the task can be extremely challenging from a strategy and design perspective. Climbing and scoring fuel are also valuable in qualifications and playoffs, but gears will always come first.

What do you guys feel is the most challenging part of the game?
Many of the tasks in Steamworks require fairly simple mechanisms to complete. It’s easy to build a robot that dumps balls from the hopper into the low goal or make a simple passive gear system. The real challenge comes in building these mechanisms well enough to be competitive.

What objectives is your team building for?
As anyone can probably guess, we’re focusing on everything. High goals, gears, and climbing. The whole enchilada.

It’s currently week 3, what’ve you guys been up to so far in the season?
This year we built a test drive train during week one, and having that around has helped out out a lot. Programming and driver practice have both been made a million times easier by having it around. Plus, it’s got a pretty sick bellypan design. That design is, sadly enough, almost impossible to water-jet, so it’s been simplified.

We are so close to starting build on our competition robot. All the field elements we want are built, and we’re practically done with prototyping, coding, and even our CAD models.

What kind of challenges has your team faced so far in the season?
Things are surprisingly going really well so far. The biggest challenge we’ve faced would probably be the construction of our gear mechanism. We started prototyping two weeks ago, and we’ve only just finished. It took a lot more fine-tuning than we thought.

 

Is there a message that you’d like to send to other PCH teams?
If your team is looking to build a robot that will win, build for gears and climbing. Defense will be huge this year, so be fully versed on the rules, and prepared to be on either end of defensive plays. With human players being such a huge part of an alliance’s success this year, be sure your pilots are prepared for the huge task they’re about to undertake. Don’t drop the handle!

Do you guys have any other pictures or videos to share?

 Early version of G3 Robotics' Climber

Early version of G3 Robotics' Climber

G3 Robotics' Week 3 Shooter Prototype

G3 Robotics' first runs on their plasma cutter

G3 Robotics' Week 2 Prototype

PCH Check In - Team 4188

We’re proud to introduce our new series titled ‘PCH Check In’ where we’ll invite teams from the PCH district to provide some insight on the season, help us understand how they’re attacking the game, and much more. 

Today, we’re excited to kickoff our series with FRC 4188. The Columbus Space Program is hardly a secret in the PCH District and sport an incredible resume. Over the past two years they’ve won the Peachtree Regional and the Columbus District, were finalists at Albany and the Rocket City regional, and a whole array of awards to top it all off. 

Team Number: 4188
Team Name: Columbus Space Program
Location: Columbus, GA
Team Age: Currently in its 6th season*
* Although 4188 was started in 2012, Columbus High School actually started FRC in 2009 (FRC 2967). We basically ended up becoming a rookie team again when we decided to form an alliance with six other schools. So the team is technically in its 9th year!

At a high level, how do you guys feel about Steamworks? 
We feel like this game is pretty good overall. We are expecting to see a lot of high-speed collisions and plenty of defense. In the PCH District, we are also predicting that more teams will be able to score game objectives than last year, and we hope that some newer teams see more success in eliminations.

What do you guys think is the most important objective in the game? 
It depends. In qualifying matches, it will be important to get as much RP as possible. It’s looking like the most reliable way to do this is by focusing on gears, while trying to win matches. However, later on in elimination matches and certainly at championships, scoring all the gears will likely become so common that the only way to win will be by scoring as much fuel as possible, and most importantly, being able to hang consistently. Robots that can’t hang will be much less appealing for alliance selection. But when it comes down to it, the most important objective will vary depending on your alliance each match, and the alliance you are facing.

What do you guys feel is the most challenging part of the game? 
The most challenging part of the game will be using the right strategy in all of your matches. None of the objectives in this game are very difficult to score, but what many teams will have difficulty doing is working together to get the most out of every match.

It’s currently week 2, what’ve you guys been up to so far in the season? 
So far, Columbus Space Program has been strategizing, prototyping, and designing as many unique ideas as we can for each objective of the game. 

We have also been working hard to get the Columbus DE field elements built and ready to practice on so that once we, and other teams, finish building, we are able to practice on a field that is as realistic as possible.

What kind of challenges has your team faced so far in the season? 
One of the biggest challenges our team has faced this year, and has had issues with in the past, is making big decisions about the robot design/capabilities. What tends to happen is one group of people think idea “A” is best, while another group thinks idea “B” is best, etc., and we end up wasting valuable time and resources trying to pursue every possible idea. 

When it comes down to it, the #1 thing that a team can do to perform better at competition is practice, practice, practice. Try not to use up too much of the 6-week build season actually building; reserve the last 1-2 weeks for testing/tweaking code and letting your drivers practice with what you have. Sometimes this means you may have to make decisions sooner than you may like, but if you end up saving a few days by doing so, it will be worth it in the long run.

Is there a message that you’d like to send to other PCH teams? 
Whether you’re on a new team to FRC, or even if you’re an experienced veteran, use online resources as much as you can when trying to design your robot. ChiefDelphi and YouTube may be the 2 most useful places on the internet to find ideas that other people have already tried and tested. You don’t have to start from scratch every year!

Another piece of advice - if you want to make it into eliminations and be useful to your alliance, being able to hang at the end of every match helps a lot!

4 Things You Can Do to Get Into Eliminations

Welcome to the 2017 FRC season! We’re just as excited as all of you to playing FIRST Steamworks this year. However, while everyone is analyzing and breaking down the game, we’ve gone ahead done a very basic analysis for one goal; helping your team get into eliminations. 

It doesn’t matter if your team is a rookie, a veteran, has low resources, or a ton of resources, if you follow the 4 tips below, we can almost guarantee that your team will be making it into eliminations. 

Use the Kit-Of-Parts Drivetrain
If we had a dollar for every time we saw a team try a new, fancy chassis and just fail to execute, we’d have enough money to buy a new KOP chassis!

The KOP chassis was designed by a team of engineers to be modular for your designs, be competitive in the game, and be easy to easy to build and program. With that being said, the kitbot only takes a few hours to assemble and a few more hours to wire up and program. All-in-all, you can have the KOP chassis running at the end of week 1!

Ultimately, having a drivetrain assembled early in the season means that your team can working on developing mechanism for scoring game pieces, developing autonomous modes, and practicing, all of which will play a critical role in getting into eliminations.

Cross the Baseline in Autonomous - 5 Points
Many teams come to competition with very little autonomous testing done and many more come to competition without a simple autonomous. Alliances of all strengths are looking for teams that have consistent autonomous modes that can help during eliminations, and while a 5 point boost may not seem like much, every point matters.  

So if you’re following this article, chances are that you’ve decided to use the kitbot. After you get your kit assembled and wired up, give your programmers a chance to write and test an autonomous routines that drives forward and crosses the baseline. This simple action will net you 5 easy points and put you on the list for nearly any eliminations alliance. 

Retrieve and Score Gears in Teleoperator Mode
In our analysis, it’s evident that scoring gears provides a lot of benefits and bonuses. In teleop, just scoring a couple of gears can get you 40 points for turning the rotors. Furthermore, if your alliance manages to score enough gears, it’s a cool 1 RP during qualifications and an whopping 100 points during eliminations. 

Scoring gears is going to be essential for any alliance hoping to go far in the playoffs, and if your team can manipulate gears, you’ll definitely be playing in the elimination rounds. 

Practice, Practice, Practice
Last, but not least, you should practice. While it may not seem like much, the difference between a fresh driver and a well practiced driver is like night and day. As such, you should take every chance you can to get your driver(s) some practice. 

Waiting for the intake to be done? Practice. Programmers taking the day off? Practice. Have a couple hours of unbag time available? Practice. 

Practice is the secret sauce for a lot of powerhouse teams, and if you spend some time seriously practicing, other teams will surely notice.



As always, we’re here to answer your questions. So if you have any questions about strategy, design, or anything else you can think of, don’t hesitate to submit your questions here

Connecting with Other Teams

During the season, teams have two options when it comes to sharing information and asking for help.

The first option is complete isolation; where your team will not talk, share, or communicate with the outside world. In practice, this is easier said than done, but the point remains that, for one reason or another, you’re trying to do this all on your own. 

The second, and more popular, option is to share information and ask for help. Now, it’s up to your team to decide exactly how much you want to share, but the PCH community is open and helpful when it comes to asking for help. 

To help our teams get more connected and find the resources they need, we’ve compiled a small list of “places” where people can go to get connected. 

Chief Delphi - Districts Discussions
Chief Delphi is a very popular forum for teams across FIRST, and it’s frequented by people who have been around FIRST since its inception. Chief Delphi plays host to discussions that range all the way from season strategy to specific threads about local events.

Additionally, the PCH district has a bit of a presence on the forums, where people discuss the season, upcoming events, and much more. There is already a thread for the PCH 2017 season, and the event-specific threads will pop up in the district discussions area. 

Click here to go to Chief Delphi.
Click here for the PCH 2017 thread.
Click here for the districts discussion area.

Facebook - FRC Georgia Alliance
The FRC Georgia Alliance was created with the explicit purpose of connecting different teams from the PCH district. As such, this Facebook group is a great place to ask your questions, arrange meet ups, or even share some of your more exciting designs. 

Please note that this is a Facebook group, you’ll have to ask permission to join. 

Click here to visit the Facebook group. 

Slack - PCH Mentor Roundtable
For those aren’t familiar with the current trend, chat apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Discord allow teams and communities to have discussions in topic-based channels. For example, all discussion about your team’s website may end up in the ‘website’ channel. 

To piggyback off this trend, we have created a slack for mentors around the PCH district to connect and communicate with each other. We hope that mentors can use this space to connect with each other, share findings and insights, ask for guidance and help, and maybe sync up for in-person practices.

The PCH Mentor Roundtable requires a direct invite. Please email Kellen Hill (kellenwhill@gmail.com) with a list of full names and email addresses of the mentors you would like in the slack.

Discord - PCH FRC
Very similar to the mentor roundtable, some folks on G3 Robotics have started a discord (similar to slack) server for the sole purpose of connecting everyone (students and mentors) throughout the PCH district. They’ve even gone ahead and set up the discord with rooms for discussions about kickoff, design, and programming, among others. 

Click here to join the PCH FRC discord.

PCHQA
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our own little platform. PCHQA was founded with the core charter of helping teams by answering their questions. 

For the past few months, we’ve been writing fun blog posts and tips, but if you have a question about a design, or the season, or want to see a post about a specific topic, feel free to drop us a question. 

Click here to submit a question.

2017 FRC Kickoff

Question: What questions should I ask during/after kickoff to ensure the best results for the 2017 competition season?

Each year the kickoff event leads to the release of a brand new game for thousands of FRC participants around the globe, including our 75 teams in the PCH District. While we have to wait until March and April to see how successful the teams of our district will be, most of this success is determined by the questions these teams are asking after the game is released.

Here are a few of the most important questions teams can ask themselves before designing a robot:

What are your team’s goals?
List out your team’s goals and objectives. Be sure to focus on building on past successes while keeping your team’s capabilities in mind. These goals will dictate the strategy your team chooses and will be unique from team to team. 

For newer or less established teams, good goals would be building a consistent drivetrain that works every single match, play in eliminations, and/or earn a qualification the the District Championship event. More experienced veteran teams might establish goals to win a district event, be an alliance captain at District Championships, and/or qualify for the World Championship event. 

Again, make sure you focus on building on past successes and expand your skill set gradually. It is also important to set team goals for expanding these skills. Adding the capability to design your own parts, program an autonomous mode, add camera tracking, or gaining a manufacturing sponsor will add serious potential to your team.

How does ranking work?
Examine the game manual to learn how ranking works for the new game. Some years, ranking is very straight forward. The standard ranking metric is linked to winning a match. In this format, you would earn 2 ranking points for winning a match, 1 point for tying, or 0 points for a loss. 

Every so often, there will be bonus ranking points made available through particular tasks within the game. These would be tasks such as Breaching or Capturing in the 2016 game Stronghold. If your team set goals to win an event or be an alliance captain, understanding these ranking points is crucial to your team’s success.

How are points scored?
If it is found that ranking is directly tied to winning matches, the next question is, how do you score enough points to win your matches? Again, examine the manual to learn how points are scored. There are commonly several ways to score points with higher point values being assigned to more difficult tasks and lower point values for easier tasks. Do an analysis to make your best estimation of how long it would take or how difficult it would be to score the points available. 

At this point, it is important to factor in your team’s capabilities. Take the 2016 game for example. Many teams identified that the high goal was worth more points, but failed to identify how difficult it was to score those points. Only a few teams in the PCH district were capable of scoring multiple high goals in a single match. Most teams would have found more success via scoring multiple goals per match through the much more accessible low goal. Point being, focus on the easy points unless your team has the capabilities to consistently succeed at the more difficult scoring functions.

How do I begin to design a robot to accomplish these goals?
After determining how ranking and scoring work, start to develop list of specifications for your robot. These should be categorized as Demands, Preferred, or Wish. 

Demands are things your robot absolutely needs such as a control system, drivetrain, etc.. Preferred specifications are those that would be very useful to have but are not required for basic function. For the 2016 game, Preferred specs would be the ability to cross the more difficult defenses or score goals, either high or low. Wish specifications are those that are not crucial, but would be nice to have. For the 2016 game, this would be the ability to hang. 

Check out a paper written by JVN from FRC 148. This article, Using the Engineering Design Process for Design of a Competition Robot, provides a great overview of how to implement the engineering design process with your team.

Now that I know how the game works, and the type of robot I want to build, how do I go about building it?
The most important thing to do is keep things as simple as possible. The best teams in the world, along with teams just getting started up, are best served by avoiding overly complex robots. Whenever possible, try to accomplish multiple game functions with a single mechanism. As the build season goes on, focus on the priorities. The six week build season tends to fly by. Reassess during the build season as needed to ensure all high priority items are addressed.

As your team prepares for the upcoming challenge of FRC STEAMworks, remember that there are thousands of other teams gearing up alongside you. Look to them for help if needed and provide help and assistance to other teams as you are able. 

Another paper we recommend is the 2010 build season journal for FRC 148. This is a thorough paper that provides great insight into the build process of one of the most successful teams in the world. Use this paper as inspiration and as a resource for the upcoming season.

As always, should you have additional questions, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

PCH Power Poll Results

We would like to get started by thanking everyone who voted in our very first PCH Power Rankings Poll, which was created as a fun little way to get people involved and maybe even get a little hyped for the 2017 FRC season. As such, we were glad to see that everybody from hardcore students and mentors to parents and volunteers took the time to make some quality submissions. 

Housekeeping
Before we get to the results, we would like to make a few housekeeping points:
- Any submissions that were obviously against the rules were discarded. 
- The team’s point total was calculated based on the rankings in the submissions. A first place vote received 10 points, a second place received 9 points, all the way down to a 10th place vote receiving 1 point. Summing each team’s points across all the submissions gives us the team’s total.

Results
Without further ado, the top 10 rankings are as follows: 
1. 1746 - Otto - 324 points
2. 1261 - Robolions - 279 points
3. 2415 - Wiredcats - 256 points
4. 2974 - Walton - 223 points
5. 4188 - Columbus Space Program - 214 points
6. 1648 - G3 Robotics - 199 points
7. 4468 - Fernbank Links - 194 points
8. 5332 - Toaster Tech - 74 points
9. 4910 - East Cobb - 63 points
10. 1771 - Electric Phoenixes- 38 points

Analysis
Despite this poll basically devolving into a popularity contest, we believe this open power ranking has done a pretty job in capturing the competitive ranking of our district.

Based off the poll results, we can see three, very healthy tiers forming in the group. The top tier (1746, 1261, 2415) represents accomplished, powerful teams who know how to deliver results week in and week out. The middle tier (2974, 4188, 1648, 4468) is a cohort of teams which delivery strong performances and consistently seek to challenge the top tier. The growth tier (5332, 4910, 1771) is a small group of teams that made their way into the limelight last season and are going to have people’s attention right from the get-go. 

Due to the competitive nature of the poll, we were not surprised to see that many people had voted their own teams as best in the district. However, many other people submitted an entirely objective list, which meant putting other teams in first place. So, that naturally raised a question, “If people didn’t vote for their teams in first place; who did they vote for?” The answer to that question is below: 
1746 - 10 first place votes
1261 - 3 first place votes
4188 - 2 first place votes
4468 - 2 first place votes
2415 - 1 first place vote

Summary
Overall, we really enjoyed conducting this poll and seeing what different people thought of different teams around our district. While we were a little worried about conducting the poll openly (i.e. everyone can vote), we were pleasantly surprised by how good and true these rankings actually turned out to be. 

If you want to see the raw rankings data (no raw votes; just how many votes a team received), you can see the spreadsheet here

And if you enjoyed this little activity, we plan to hosting similar polls and posting similar rankings during the 2017 FRC season. While we’re still working on finalizing the details, make sure you go like us on Facebook to get information as soon as it’s ready. 

Meet the DPC: Connie Haynes

There’s a really popular blog series titled “This is How I Work” which is organized by FRC Team 3847. In these blogs, famous FRC mentors from around the program answer some questions about their lives, their work habits, and their teams. 

Inspired by their example, we’re starting a new series titled “Meet the RPC,” where we will introduce our readers to the member of our PCH Regional (now District) Planning Committee.

Today, we’re excited to be kicking off our series with Connie Haynes, who, among other roles, is the Executive Director of Georgia FIRST.

Name: Connie Haynes
Position: Executive Director, Georgia FIRST

Alma Mater: Brenau University (Bachelors) and University of North Georgia (Masters)
Degree: Bachelors in Elementary Education and Master of Education, Gifted
Hobbies: Robots! Hiking, Movies, Traveling, Reading, Scuba Diving
MAC or PC: MAC
Favorite Song Right Now: Can’t Stop the Feeling, Dance Dance Dance (Justin Timberlake)

What inspired you to get involved with FIRST?  
Being a teacher, I was impressed by the level of hands on engagement FIRST offered students. The mentor piece was the icing on the cake. Being able to bring together mentors (industry) with the educational experience has always been a logical choice for meaningful collaboration to me. And of course, how can you resist the opportunity to build a robot!

What is your most memorable experience at a FIRST event?
Honestly, there are so many. One that I will never forget is the year CNN was following one of our rookie teams (100 Scholars) for a documentary they were producing. The crew was at the Peachtree Regional to get footage of the team and event. The 100 scholars did not make it into the finals but the film crew decided to stay to get footage of the winners of the event. We were into the last match of the event. It was tied - Blue Alliance 1, Red Alliance 1. We were playing the tie breaker that would decide the winning alliance. We were in a 15 minute break to allow for the teams to switch batteries, code, etc. During this break, a robot on the red alliance discovered they had a broken chain on their drive system. After a mad dash to their pit, they discovered that they did not have a replacement. Neither did any of their alliance partners. However, a team on the blue alliance did have a chain that could be modified quickly to fit. They offered their chain, it was replaced and the match started. The red alliance won. The crew from CNN immediately went to the blue alliance and ask the questions, ‘Aren’t you just sick that you gave them the chain and they end up winning the entire event? If you had not done that you would have won.’ The student from that team looked at her and said, ‘We would have never wanted to win the event that way. The match would have been unfair. We are happy with our performance and happy that we could help another team reach their goal.’ He then walked away. The CNN reporter looked at me and said, ‘I will never understand this game!’
I was never so proud of a team and their response.  They embody all that FIRST strives to be.

What is your schedule like during the FRC season?  
If you can imagine the craziest week of your life, still working at your desk at 5:00am, without going to bed that night and multiply that by 10, you would get a glimpse into my schedule. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The reward of being able to offer this program to students of our state far outweighs the lack of sleep.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? 
‘You are not better than anyone but you are as good as everyone!’  This advice has served as a way to always keep me grounded and able to see my self worth in any situation throughout my life.  It has given me a servant's attitude toward helping and serving others in the best way possible.  It also keeps me from making the statement, ‘Somebody should do something about that!’  I always know that that someone should be me. 

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing our district? 
As always, the biggest challenge any non-profit faces is funding.  We are no exception.  We are at the mercy of our stakeholders belief in the mission we are trying to accomplish.  As we continue to expand our model, bringing on more events, more teams, etc., we will continue to increase our need to fund our program.  Another challenge we will face as we move forward will be our volunteer pool.  Without the dedicated people that give of their time and talent to make our events happen and mentor our teams, we would cease to exist.  Honoring the men and women that make a commitment to FIRST is a main priority.  

What are some big improvements that you’ve seen over the past year? 
Without a doubt, access to FIRST within our state and team quality.  When we ask the questions, ‘where are we needed most?’ undoubtedly the answer is always - where ever there are youth throughout our state. This includes the inner cities, the rural areas and the suburbs. In order to offer access to any student interested in our program, we have to continue to make the commitment to bring the program to their area. The reach we now have within our state, through the district model, is one of our greatest achievements. And of course, having 12 FRC teams attend championships in Saint Louis is not bad either! 

What would you like to see improved about the PCH district in the next couple of years?
My goal is to have the state of Georgia make a monetary commitment to FIRST that would allow for team support and teacher stipends.  We have been working on this issue for several years and continue to make progress in this area.  We are asking the state to designate a line item budget to support FIRST. This commitment has been achieved in other states and we feel that as a technology rich state, committed to attracting high tech industry with needs of a highly qualified workforce, investing in FIRST is a win-win for Georgia.

What are you looking forward to the most about this upcoming FRC season?
Working with the new rookie teams (expansion), collaborating with the veteran teams (sustainability), bringing new stakeholders to the mix and of course, the game!

Who would you like us to feature next?
I would suggest Dr. Bob Tate. He gives countless hours to the operation of FIRST and has been around since the creation of Georgia FIRST.

GA FIRST Symposium

Question. Which presentations should my attend at the symposium? 

If you don’t already know, GA FIRST, in partnership with the Georgia Tech Robotjackets, is hosting its very first symposium this Saturday. The symposium will contain presentations about wide-ranging topics that include everything from social media management to robot strategy. These talks will be given by individuals, teams, and GA FIRST representatives who have extensive knowledge in their respective areas and are extremely well suited to answer your questions. 

For more information about the event, please click here. 

However, with over 27 presentations happening throughout the day, it’s kind of hard to narrow these down. As such, we’ve taken the liberty of choosing our 5 most promising seminars.

Leading FIRST Leaders - 9 AM - Mike Shearin, GA FIRST Planning Committee

Most great leaders know that you don’t need a title to be a leader. In their own way, everyone can be a leader and help their team and program achieve success, regardless of if it’s on or off the field. 

Mike Shearin will speak about what it takes to lead in FIRST and what you can do to lead your team to victory. 

Communications for Effective Fundraising: What donors and how to give it to them. - 10 AM -  Karen Judd, GA FIRST Planning Committee

It’s a part of reality that an FIRST teams need money to operate, and money usually comes from sponsors, big and small. In order to make sure you can continue to operate in FIRST, you need to make sure that you constantly working on and improving your relationship with your sponsors. 

Karen Judd will speak about managing the sponsor relationship. 

How I Became an Engineer - 11 AM - Panel of GA FIRST Board Members

It’s always really fascinating to hear how people got to where they are now. In this session, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from real engineers about how they got interested in engineering and their story. 

Money Ball - 2 PM - Kyle Fender (GA FIRST Advisory Council)

Scouting is a critical part of every team’s competition. Even if your team doesn’t scout, you can bet that other teams are doing all they can to get to know your team and its performance a little better. With that being said, scouting always plays a critical role in a successful competitive run. 

Kyle Fender will walk you and your teams through the basics of scouting, what your team should be doing to scout, and an example using FRC 1648’s 2014 scouting system. 

Strategic Decision Making in FRC - 3 PM - Kellen Hill (GA FIRST Planning Comittee)

In FRC, strategy can make or break your season; so much so that some teams seal their fate before even designing their first part. Strategy isn’t just critical during an event; it plays a key role in how your team designs, prototypes, and eventually builds your robot. 

Kellen Hill, mentor of 1746, will walk through the basics of strategy and how to pick the best strategy for your team.

GRITS Preview

Recognizing that the above is not really a question, we wanted to do a bit of a preview post for GRITS. 

What is GRITS?

Simply put, GRITS is the primary offseason event for the state of Georgia. 

 Photo from the very first GRITS.

Photo from the very first GRITS.

In 2009, the first GRITS event was held in the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robbins, GA, where teams traveled an average of two hours for a chance to compete in the previous year’s FRC game. 

This year, GRITS is scheduled for October 22nd at the Riverside Military Academy, where 25 teams will try, one last time, to breach defenses and capture towers to victory. However, even though everyone is there to compete, teams come to GRITS for a variety of reasons, including everything from recruitment to pure competition.

Competitive Preview

In the past, the competition at GRITS wasn’t very strong. Heck, we were lucky if enough teams signed up to run 4-alliance eliminations. However, this year, things are a bit different and GRITS is gearing up to be one of the most competitive events in our district. 

Of the 28 teams attending GRITS, 22 were at the state championship. This number includes 2 out of 3 state champions and 5 out of 6 teams that played in the final round. This fact alone is enough to convince us that GRITS is gearing up to be an amazingly competitive event, but let’s not forget two things; teams are making improvements to their machines and GA FIRST has made changes to the game. 

Game Changes

GA FIRST often makes changes at GRITS to make the game more interesting and fun for local teams. With that being said, the most notable differences are the changes in the climbing rules and the new defense. 

 The Log Roll

The Log Roll

The climbing rules at GRITS have gone through a little bit of a tweak. Long story short, if your robot can get off the ground, you’ll get points for climbing. No more worrying about getting up to the pesky line. This change not only makes climbing insanely easy, but it also ensures that most teams can complete the climb nearly instantaneously. We look forward to seeing if these lax rules manage to convince more teams to throw together a simple climbing mechanism. 

GA FIRST will also be introducing a new defense at GRITS. Dubbed the Log Roll, it features two angled, horizontal rollers that are sure to give even the most veteran teams a tough time. Because the Log Roll will replace the portcullis, it will help improve cross-field visibility, but the increase in difficulty of crossing could prove to much for a majority of the teams at GRITS. 

Team Changes

If the changes are GRITS weren’t enough to contend with, you have to consider that teams at GRITS will be adding their own improvements and additions to their machines. The following is just a sample of the changes that teams will be bringing. 

1746 will be featuring their shooting-optimized machine that they introduced at IRI. This tall behemoth can put up 7 goals without dropping a sweat. 

 1746 v1 (left) and 1746 v2 (right)

1746 v1 (left) and 1746 v2 (right)

4418 has figured out the secrets of vision had has put together a nifty auto-aim and auto-fire routine that works flawlessly from the outer works. 

4468 is working on adding a shooter to their beast. If they’re able to capture even a portion of their on-field success last year, their shooter could be something to contend with. 

1648 is taking a brave step and fielding a robot that is entirely built and will be entirely operated by its rookies.

When you take into account these changes along with changes from other teams, the already competitive robots running around the state (shout-out to 2415 and 1261), and a brave team from Florida (we see you 2556), GRITS is gearing to be a competitive showdown. 

17 PCH District Teams Will Go to Worlds in 2017

Question. I heard 17 teams from the PCH District will qualify for Champs. What impact will this have on our district?

It’s true. Based on estimates from FIRST HQ, the Peachtree District will send an estimated 17 teams to the Houston World Championship.

The increase in spots is a direct result of FIRST choosing to host two championships for the 2017 season, one in St. Louis and one in Houston. For the 2017 season, 17 PCH District teams will get to represent our state at the international level and even maybe even appear on Einstein. However, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s digest this announcement.

What does this mean for the PCH District?

On the surface, it’s pretty simple, our district will send 17 FRC teams, 5 more than last year, to the world championships. However, if you look a little deeper, you’ll see two immediate benefits.

First, the PCH District will be sending 17 teams to the world championships, more than we’ve ever sent before. Ultimately, this gives our district more exposure on the world stage and a better chance of even getting onto Einstein.

Secondly, 5 more teams will get the chance to take an amazing trip to worlds. They’ll get the chance to rub bumpers with the best of them and come with an amazing, inspirational experience.

 Crowd at the 2015 World Championship

Crowd at the 2015 World Championship

Which teams would’ve been able to go last year?

    This is an good point of analysis. Assuming that we had 17 slots last year and the championship qualifications remained the same (see following point), the following five teams would have qualified for worlds: 5132 - RoboClovers, 4516 - Hyperion, 5632 - Asimovians, 5608 - Lassiter, and 5536 - Titans.

How will the spots be allocated?

 Members of FRC Team 1311 After Winning the Chairmans Award

Members of FRC Team 1311 After Winning the Chairmans Award

    Now, this is an interesting point to consider. Remember that Georgia FIRST will have some flexibility with respect to how they can hand out awards and how they can divvy up the slots.

    Specifically, we’re talking about the Engineering Inspiration Award and the Chairmans Award. FIRST HQ imposes a limit on the number of each of the aforementioned awards that GA FIRST can hand out. Last year, the limit was 2 EI awards and 1 Chairmans award, but with the increased number of teams going to worlds, those numbers could possibly change.

    The number of EIs could go up, but what’s really exciting is the potential for there to be two State Championship Chairman’s Award winners for the PCH District next year. While we’re not in any position to officially confirm that, just the idea of two teams carrying the Chairmans torch into worlds is extremely exciting.

Why you should go to the MAC Meeting

Question. What is the MAC? Should my coaches/mentors/teachers attend?

 The KSU Engineering Technology Center

The KSU Engineering Technology Center

The Mentor Advisory Council, or MAC, is a yearly gathering of FRC and FTC coaches and mentors from teams in Georgia. Hosted by Georgia FIRST and Kennesaw State University, the purpose of the MAC is to bring together mentors and coaches to discuss best practices for your team. You also get to hear directly from Georgia FIRST leadership about any updates for the upcoming season along with details about the event calendar for competition season.

This year, the MAC meeting on September 17th and starts at 8:30 AM. More details from Georgia FIRST can be found here:  Georgia FIRST MAC

Starting with a light breakfast, that also serves as an opportunity to network with fellow leaders of Georgia teams, the day moves into a presentation from GA FIRST, which provides helpful updates about the state, the district, and many other topics of note. The day wraps up with an open discussion for attendees to learn from others. This discussion typically includes tips on fundraising, recruiting, and other topics such as how to best structure your team. To best address team needs, Georgia FIRST is also seeking input from teams on what they would like to discuss at the MAC. Topics should be sent in by September 10th, so be sure to submit any ideas to Ed Barker (edbarker@kellrobotics.org) as soon as you can.

There are many things teams can work on throughout the offseason to get ready for a quickly approaching competition season. Participating in this conversation is one of the best ways to learn from others so that you might improve your own program. Networking with other teams from around the state also helps to build a strong FIRST community in Georgia.

Finally, any teachers, mentors, or coaches that plan to attend need to RSVP by September 10th. Please email Connie Haynes (chaynes@gafirst.org) to RSVP.

4 Things Every Team Should Do This Offseason

Question. What can my team do to have a productive offseason?

While some teams wait for the 2017 FRC season to begin, many teams have already realized the truth; the 2017 season started last May.

With that being said, the offseason presents a perfect opportunity for teams to prepare for the upcoming season. Whether it’s technical training or fundraising, the offseason can play a critical part in a team’s success.

For that reason, we’ve compiled a list of 4 things, in no particular order, that every team should do to take advantage of this offseason.

Training

Training is a really good way to sharpen your team’s technical skills for the upcoming season. While training can include everything from a simple workshop on tools to a full build of a new machine, you should cater training to best suit your team’s needs. 

 FRC students working with pneumatic parts at GRITS.

FRC students working with pneumatic parts at GRITS.

For example, if your team did not use CAD last year, it would be a good idea to run some training sessions in Autodesk Inventor. 

To provide another example, if your team felt like your design missed the mark last season, you may want to consider redesigning your machine for an off-season competition, like GRITS. 

Training is a critical part of a team’s development and it will directly contribute to your team’s on-the-field success next season. As they say, practice makes perfect.

Fundraising

Whether you’re just paying off registration fees or working towards a new trailer, all FIRST teams need money. As such, it’s much easier to fundraise during the offseason when you’re not dealing with the stresses of building a robot. 

In FRC, fundraising can be broken down in two basic categories; sponsors and events. 

 FRC 1771 students during a fundraiser

FRC 1771 students during a fundraiser

Sponsors are one of the cornerstones of the FIRST program and the offseason gives teams a perfect opportunity to thank and renew existing sponsors as well as cultivate opportunities for new sponsors. New sponsors can come in all shapes, forms, and sizes, so prepare your sponsorship documentation, get out into the community, and fill out those grant applications.

Fundraising events are a good way for students to show off their robots and provide the community with a service in exchange for money. Fundraising events can include things like FLL tournaments, game nights, lawn services, and much, much more. There’s really no good substitute for rolling up your sleeves and getting out there.

Outreach

Outreach is extremely important and required for some of the most prestigious accolades that FIRST has to offer. As such, the offseason represents a great opportunity to get out into the community and talk about your team, FIRST, and get more people involved.

Outreach events can often be broken into a few categories, and we’re just going to touch on a few of them here: 

 Future FRC student with demo robot.

Future FRC student with demo robot.

Demos - Demos can be small, personal events with tens of people to large conventions with thousands of people. While it’s nice to have a large audience, the goal is to get your team and FIRST out in the community. 

FIRST Activities - You can create an effective outreach program by helping other FIRST programs and FRC teams. FLL, FTC, and FRC teams can use mentors, resources, and training to help them through their season, and if you’re really feeling up to the task, you can even host a FLL or FTC event in the fall. 

Creative Outlets - We wanted to mention that some of the best outreach efforts can’t really be categorized. They’re creative, outlandish activities that require teams go the extra mile, but the reward is an unparalleled level of inspiration. 

Recruiting

Last, but not least, you have to recruit; the future of your team literally depends on it. 

Your team can use demos, school orientations, etc. to get your name out there and recruit members into your program. 

But don’t wing it; it’s not enough to get rookies through the door. Your team has to be willing to spend the time train and engage new members. This can involve creating an on-boarding program, hosting training sessions, and maybe even having rookies compete in fall competitions (VRC, FTC, GRITS, etc.)

Rookie members are, literally, the future of FIRST, and your team must spend time to recruit, training, and engage every new member possible. 

Welcome to PCH Answers

Welcome to PCH Answers, where our goal is to provide all Peachtree District FIRST teams with resources and answers to help them improve their program.

What

PCH Answers is first and foremost a question and answer platform. We will take questions from you, the community, and try and answer them as thoroughly and as completely as possible. All questions and their respective answers will be featured on our website for future viewers.

We welcome all questions; everything from robot design to marketing strategy.

Who

Our direct team includes a group of FIRST mentors with over 30 years of combined FIRST experience, which is spread across engineering and non-engineering aspects. As such, we can probably answer nearly any question you throw at us.

However, if we can’t answer your question, we have contacts and contributors across the nation, and we’ll do our best to get you the most comprehensive answer possible.