To properly go through the engineering process it takes at least two weeks, but realistically I would say a month is a good amount of time.
Get group together
Review game related material
Define the budget
Brainstorm gameplay strategies
Fixate on certain strategies
Define the required criteria for the robot (what does this thing have to do for X strategy)
Brainstorm SEVERAL crude designs (whiteboard or pencil/paper work)
As a group review said designs, settle on one based on reliability, speed, complexity, cost, etc. (just use variables that are somewhat measurable or at least debatable).
Sleep on it, come back ready to refine that design. Creating some more detailed sketches or doing some of the numbers is a good idea at this step in the game.
Consider how your team could modularize the design so parts can be altered or replaced more easily.
Where are the sensors going? Figure out this one now!
Next consider weight and center of gravity. Is your robot going to be tipsy? (yes, that’s a half joke). But seriously, nothing stings more than getting toppled by a Canadian team at the world championship (which happened to us, eh).
Next check yourself for overcomplexity, can this design be accomplished with less moving parts? If yes, do it.
So now comes a time for a little game. It’s called, when this thing breaks, where? Basically every system will fail at it’s weakest link, try to find yours. If something is going to break, what’s going first? Point it out and discuss with your group how you might be able to fix this potential problem. Stronger gears, more power, less power, more structure, wire managements, etc. If needed, this could call for a redesign.
Next, see how you can add some spice to this thing. A good looking robot gets selected for an alliance. Plan some time to add some bling, and do it in the design phase. If your team has someone who’s into graphics, grab them and let them take a look at what’s going on. They should be looking at a nice drawling of the robot at this point in time. Take their input and (so long as the bling isn’t going to weigh you down or potentially disrupt an important system), integrate it.
Now take that awesome looking beast of a robot design and digitize it! This is the dreaded CAD phase. If you don’t have the software, well it’s free stupid so go get it. if you don’t know how to CAD, then you can grab some nice engineering grid paper and go to town but CAD is way better. The CAD doesn’t have to be complete or entirely awesome, CAD is just a tool, so model the important stuff and ignore the not so important parts if you like.
CAD should determine things like the superstructure, the modular parts and how they attach and wire placement.
Now review the CAD. Those renders might look sweet but that doesn’t mean that your robot will preform sweet, check yourself. Is this going to work? Are there weak points and can this play the game with the strategies that we previously discussed? If so, awesome.
Put together a bill of parts and fire it off for review (by whoever pays for the parts). Don’t forget replacement parts!
Did we blow the budget? Hopefully not.
Order those parts and wait for the UPS guy to arrive. Maybe now would be a good time to hit Photoshop for those fancy graphics or check out what other teams are doing. Perhaps a freshman could learn a thing or two or, if you must there’s always Halo (hey it’s teambuilding, now show that n00b who’s boss).
All joking aside, if a team has parts from a previous season, building a test bot, a programming base or training some of the new kids is a great idea at this point in the game.
Inventory the parts as soon as they arrive! Also store them in bins so that they are somewhat organized.
Hopefully you designed a nice modular robot so groups can split up and work on each component of the robot individually. Then those components can be bolted together to form your beautiful robot.
Now the programmers get the robot. They need time to do their job, so don’t bother them, but be there when they break it. Your robot is going to break, having time for that to happen before competition is a good thing.
Continue programming, work out tele-op first so that drivers can take some time getting used to the bot.
Now programmers and drivers take turns using the bot. Autonomous should take extra time, so while the programmers are working all that out the drivers can play around. The team lead should allow all the students a good chance to play with the robot but he should be looking for a pair that operates particularly well together, that pair should drive the bot at competition.
Once that pair is determined they get dibs on driving, it is now their job after all but they still have to share with the programmers.
Ok, so the programmers come to the team lead and they say that the autonomous is done. Ok, run it ten times, how many times did the robot hit it’s mark? Try for 8+ out of ten. A robot that hits it’s mark half of the time is bad.
The day before competition you will want to go through and check every part of the robot for wear and tear. Replace motors that are questionable, check wires, look for anything that looks like it might fail.
A checklist of procedures to be done before and after every match is a great thing to have, and materials for scouting are fun and a must.
Anyway, so to answer the question, however long it takes to do all that is your answer, I say a good team can get it all done in a month.