Written by TechBrick's founder after shooting more than 100 JrFLL, FLL, FTC, and FRC events!

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Team Tips

New Coach? Overwhelmed by the process? Here's seven key motivational points to remember.

  1. Anything worth doing is worth doing…

    Let's get this straight: Participating in a FIRST program is worth doing. You're part of a global program with more than 100,000 students and thousands of adult mentors and coaches.  You're part of program that is recognized as one of the best training grounds for young engineers. You're part of a program that has dozens of colleges offering scholarships to participants and hundreds of local and international corporations providing support. Finally, you're part of program that will challenge, stretch, and educate  your team members in more ways than they can imagine and in ways they will never forget.
  2. Complete the research in general

    If you're a first time coach it all seems a bit overwhelming. The goal is to have something prepared the meets the challenge guidelines. Plan to have a presentation. Make it modest, but make it complete. Dream big, but work realistically. Your team will be happy to have presented well. This is one area that even young rookie teams can excel because it is, essentially, a creative research report.
  3. Get a few missions down cold…

    Each year's board poses unique challenges and strategies. This year, more than ever. Yes, some experienced teams will score well. However, every team should score acceptably. The mistake is to try to solve the entire challenge at once. For a new rookie team (and coach), pick the three or four tasks that are obvious and effectively score substantial points (satellite, windmills, etc.) and get them working. Not only will your team be encouraged, but makes sure they will get an acceptable score. Need help? Scour the web for building and programming tips.

    Follow our four-point methodology for all work:
    1. Simple: Less parts, fewer problems. Less steps, fewer points of failure. And, make sure you can easily change the battery.
    2. Reliable: Make it strong. Drop test the robot (yes, every year at least one robot self-destructs like this). Put pressure on it while changing attachments. Stretch and bend your components. Make sure everything is strong.
    3. Repeatable: Make sure you solution works over and over again. Drill, film, analyze. Remember, it doesn't matter if it worked once or even fifty times if it doesn't work at the competition.
    4. Precise: Here's a secret you'll only hear from us: "LEGO robotics is an inherently imprecise system." Okay? We said it. That means that no matter how carefully you aim a robot it's not likely to cross the board in the same way every time. You make sure that your robots does its tasks with precision and purpose.

    Bonus Point: Don't forget the 'A' factor. That's Adrenaline. It works like this: Whatever works consistently in practice is not likely to work that way in competition. The solution: use our scoring sheet and do run after run using a timer. Turn on really loud music and get some applause tracks from the web and crank them up. Replicate the noise and confusion and a tournament. And, do everything you can do to get to a local scrimmage or trial competition.

  4. Plan on being here…

    This sounds too simple. But every year many teams that have registered, bought equipment, and met for months, drop out of their state competitions at the last minute. Just plan on being at your state or preliminary competition no matter what you've completed. It's part of the learning experience.
  5. Remember the adage of the early days of stock car racing: “Run what you brung…”

    Yes, there will be some amazing robots. But your's will be amazing too because your team built it. Make sure your team members are proud of the work and run it well.
  6. My third rule of consulting: “Nothing takes an hour…”

    (First two rules don't apply here). What does this rule mean? Nothing you do with your team will take an hour. Rather it will take hours of work, thinking, re-working, analyzing, and planning. Just don't expect solutions in minutes.
  7. Be there and be square…

    You want your kids to be square (not look square). This world needs sensible, clear thinking students who know how to get work done and done well. Students who will come away from the work with an appreciation for the order and design of the universe and raw materials with which they will work. We are doing nothing less than cultivating the technologies of the future (and hopefully, a transporter).

That's it for now... See you at the competition!

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