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Build Season

Bill of Materials

All teams are required to show a BOM (Bill of Materials) to the inspectors at the event.

A Bill of Materials includes the part number, quantity, units of measure (pieces, feet, etc.) and the costs. It is best to create the BOM as you build your robot, so you can keep an accurate count of items and costs.

FIRST has published a template for teams to use and it identifies the categories needed.

Design Process

Utilizing a formal design process will help provide a solid foundation for your design work and your team learning from year to year.

A presentation on Cyber Blue’s Design Process can be found here.

One basic design process has 7 steps. / 1. Innovation and Opportunity / 2. Concept Development / 3. Preliminary Design / 4. Critical Design / 5. Product Realization / 6. In Service / Competition /  7. Lessons Learned

1. Innovation and Opportunity – This is the time to identify new needs and skills and develop new capabilities. This step is done in the summer and fall, before the build season begins.

2. Concept Development – Once the game and rules are known, through a process of brainstorming and determining the most important aspects of the game, a general concept can be created.

3. Preliminary Design – In this step, more detailed designs are created. Modeling, sketches and drawings allow the move to a final design.

4. Critical Design – This is a near final design step. The design is reviewed with external ‘experts’ for input, and a thorough, critical assessment is completed.

5. Product Realization – This is the step of building the robot and putting the design into real materials.

6. In Service / Competition – This is the true “test” of the design and the finished product. It is comparable to the “marketplace” for a production product.

7. Lessons Learned – This step is a look back and a review. What was good, what could be better, and what can be documented and learned. This step leads the team back to Step 1.

Building the Robot

Designing and Building the robot is an exciting part of FIRST.

When you are ready to build, here are some basic guidelines to consider.

1. Do some planning and design work in advance, so you have a good feel for the general layout and organization of the robot. If you have the skills and capability, the more of the robot you can draw (Computer Aided Design, such as Autodesk Inventor, SolidWorks, ProE) before you start to build, the fewer headaches you will have as you begin to assemble the parts.

2. Measure twice, cut once. Be sure measurements are accurate and the part will fit where it is intended.

3. Be sure the parts you are using are legal. There are limits on some materials. Some parts can be used, but in limited quantities (such as motors, batteries, compressors). Some parts are not allowed at all, and some must meet specific standards (pneumatic components, electrical components.

4. Follow the robot rules when wiring the robot. Wire size, breaker size and the use of some controls components are very well defined and will be verified at inspection.

5. Focus on building a robust machine. Think about how your robot will move, contact the field and  contact other robots.

6. Standardize fastners. Consider using only 10-24 or 1/4-20 nuts and bolts for everything. This will simplify the need for tools and spare nuts and bolts since you will only need a few wrenches. If absolutely needed, use a different size, but work to standardize.

7. Work safely. Wear safety glasses. Use tools as they have been designed. Get help with difficult areas or heavy components.

8. Think about repairs and maintenance. Components that may need replaced or adjusted should be easy to access.

Field Elements

A major part of the FIRST game/competition is robot interaction with the field elements. Ramps, towers, tunnels, bars, and the game pieces themselves are an integral part of the challenge.

Having access to the field elements can make a significant difference in how you approach your design activity and the effectiveness of your robot. Here are some options to get access to the field and field elements.

1. Build your own. FIRST provides detailed drawings for you to build lower cost field elements. In the past FIRST has also supplied game pieces in the Kit of Parts.

2. Build partial sets. Building part of a goal or sections of the Pyramid can give you benefits and allow you to practice.

3. Find a local team that has built the game elements and see if you can visit.

4. Attend a “Week 0” event (un-official event near the end of build season).

5. Attend an event during one of the competition weeks before your scheduled event. While you won’t have your robot, you will be able to see the field and the way other robots interact with the elements.

6. Computer Models. Computer models will allow you to “virtually” interact between the robot and the field elements to check sizing, clearances and general size and scale of the game elements relative to the robot.

Pit Design

When you attend a competition, your “Pit” becomes home to your robot, students, and mentors during the event. Toward the end of the build season, between Stop Work day and your first competition, are good times to begin to develop your pit ideas and pit design.

Competition pits will range in size from 8 feet x 8 feet to 10 feet x 10 feet, with most being closer to the 10 x 10 size. There is no guarantee of pit size or placement, so your designs should be flexible to accomodate the space you are provided.

In your pit, you should be provided a work table and a power outlet. The rest is up to you. Competition pits can be as simple as the work table, a tool box, and a robot. They could also be elaborate structures with computer monitors, banners, and special lighting.

One idea is to make space in your classroom or build area and mark off the floor for the size of pit you expect to have. Then bring in a work table, your robot, and any tool boxes or cabinets. Then, decide what space you still have available and work on your design.

Ideas for incorporation into your pit –

* Team Flag

* Team Awards

* Displays with Team Information and Outreach Activities. Displays could be computer monitors, posters, pictures, or other articles.

* Give-Aways for Other Teams and Visitors

* Special projects completed

* Sponsor banners, Sponsor names, Team Mascots.


The rules for the FIRST game and robots are very well laid out and strongly enforced at the competitions.

Robot rules are part of the inspection process and a robot that does not pass inspection cannot compete. It is important to remember that the robot rules are rules, not just suggestions.

The rules change every year, and some parts, movements, and robot actions that were legal in one year, are not legal the next and the same in reverse. Be sure you read and understand the rules.

If a rule is not clear, post a question on the FIRST Q+A or ask when you get to the event.

A link to the 2019 “Destination: Deep Space” game manual can be found here.



STOP BUILD day is Tuesday, February 17, 2015, at Midnight for whatever time zone you are in.

On Stop Build Day, you have to stop working on your robot and put it in the bag provided by FIRST. There are specific instructions provided in the FIRST Manual in what you have to do and the process for securing your robot and completing the paperwork. The official information for 2015 is here.

You will transport your robot to your event on your own, so you will need to plan ahead for how to get a robot of whatever size and shape and weight you have to the competition site. Remember, you cannot open your bagged robot at the competition site until the inspectors tell you it is OK.

You will need to provide the inspectors a copy of the signed forms for your robot bagging, so be sure to save it and keep it in a safe place!

In the “Recycle Rush” game you do not have to have bumpers. If you do you must bag your robot and your bumpers, but the bumpers can be in a separate bag.

T-Shirt Design and Ordering

Your team T-Shirt is your “advertisement” for your team at the event, in your school, and in your community. There are several questions for you to consider when getting ready to order shirts.

Does your school have a preferred company to use, that might give you a discount? Or is there a company that would be a sponsor and donate the shirts?

How will you do the design? One student do it? Ask the company to do the design? Have a team or whole school contest?

What information do you want to include? Your team name, team number, school, major sponsors, all sponsors, your robot name or picture, the FIRSTlogo?

What are good colors? Is the color choice acceptable to most team members, or just a few? Remember each color of printing adds to the cost of the shirts.

How many shirts? One per member? Two per member? Parents? Do you want extras to give away at events?

What quality? Do you want a shirt to get through one season? Or some that will last for several years?