• In any project of this size, there are always areas of surprising importance which are overlooked
  • Remember, this project is probably bigger than it seems


  • Building a FIRST robot requires various materials and parts
  • A local supplier of parts is essential
    • Stores such as Canadian Bearing and Metal Supermarkets should be approached early
      • Develop a good rapport with the owners. Many tend to give discounts for educational projects like FIRST
  • Walk through the aisles of Home Depot
  • Ordering online
    • McMaster-Carr and SDP-SI have almost every robot part you could dream of
      • Beware of the costs of shipping and duty
      • High value of the Canadian dollar is very beneficial


  • More important and difficult than it sounds
    • If you show up at a regional, and your robot isn’t there, you aren’t going to do too well
  • Put one adult in charge, who will track the robot shipment with vigilance
  • Know all shipping regulations, especially those involving weight and dimensions
  • Leave extra money in the budget in case of an emergency
    • Trust me, they happen…


  • Much like shipping, if you’re not careful it can become a huge difficulty
  • Book all hotels and flights early!
    • As soon as you qualify for Atlanta, start phoning airlines
    • It’s cheaper to fly out of Buffalo than Toronto
  • Bussing to St. Louis can be cost effective
    • Bus pool with another team
  • If you’re commuting to a local event, consider hotels for the key team members
    • Drivers, human players, coaches, key members

Driver Selection

  • FIRST is like auto racing, events are not always won by the best robots, rather the best drivers
  • Too important to be left to the last minute
    • Drivers need time to practice, and adjust to the pressure of the role
    • I prefer to have drivers picked before kickoff, but never any later than day 14

Field Roles

  • Driver (x2)
    • Responsible for all robot operation
    • Roles are usually divided with a Pilot and a Operator (Controls arms, pickup systems, etc)
    • Overlap can exist
  • Field Coach
    • Responsible for planning match strategy, and communicating the strategy during the match
    • The overall decision maker on the field
    • Needs to understand the game inside and out

Driver Qualities

  • Maturity
    • FIRST competition are stressful events, with loud music and thousands of screaming fans – the pressure is immense – your driver must be able to handle pressure
    • Dependability comes with maturity. You cannot afford to have a driver who will bail on you at the last minute
    • Consider students who’ve been through high level competitions – e.g. varsity athletes
    • Remember, maturity cannot be taught
  • Communication
    • Must be able to listen to instructions from the co-driver, and more importantly the two coaches
    • The inability to follow pre and in match strategies will result in losses
  • Skill
    • Driving a FIRST robot requires top flight hand-eye coordination
    • A good understanding of spatial relations
    • Aggression – you cannot be afraid to mix it up
    • Notice how skill comes after maturity and communication?
  • Fast Thinking
    • Driver’s have to be watching the robot at all times, they can’t watch the whole field
    • It is up to the coach to be aware of everything happening on the field
    • Like the offensive coordinator of a football team, the coach calls the plays
    • Needs to be aware of and calculate the score quickly
    • Many matches have been won and lost by good and bad coaching

Field Coach Qualities

  • Authoritative
    • The field coach must have the respect of his/her drivers
    • The drivers have to listen to the field coach without question – this is crucial in short 2-minute matches
    • The field coach must be able to get the team’s point across in the pre-match strategy sessions
      • Teams are very pushy in these sessions, without a strong field coach, you’ll end up with a plan that does not suit your team
    • I highly recommend that you choose an adult as a field coach
      • The only alternative is your most mature, strong willed and intelligent high school student

Other Tips

  • Have more than one teacher involved
    • FIRST is a huge project, it can be too big for one teacher to administrate
  • You don’t have to do everything
    • Know your limits, do not try and exceed them
  • Ask for help
    • There are many very able and willing people out there.
    • The FIRST community is very tight knit, and loves helping
  • FIRST is a year round program
    • Fundraising, prototyping and promoting can and should go on 12 months of the year
  • Stay healthy
    • The 6 week build is incredibly exhausting, if you overwork yourself, you will suffer
  • Read the Rules
    • Not knowing the rules is a great way to shoot yourself in the foot with a grenade launcher
  • Have fun!!!