What am I missing?

This is our very first year on a low budget to compete in Vex Robotics. 2 months ago I would said it was impossible that our 7-8th grade students would be able to build a robot that works and actually performs to task! We have that. But what am I missing? I feel like a fish out of water. I do not have a engineering notebook or anything like that. Is that required? What should we bring? I feel like since we are on the bottom of the pole with A LOT of better and larger schools we will not be picked for alliance and that everyone will be upset if we do not do well for “our team” during matches. Any advice, tips, words of encouragement, or thoughts about your very first competition? What should we bring with us? I do not have a lap top for programming there. Is that a huge disadvantage? What tools do we need? Do we bring all the other materials we have like extra metal and building materials?
Thanks in advance,

Our very first tournament last year was a learning experience.
We did not have an autonomous program or an engineering notebook, and our robot was shoddy at best. We had barely practiced driving and had no form of strategy. We had a chain-driven forklift, and the chain snapped about every match. But we didn’t give up; we used defensive strategy to help win when we couldn’t score.

We got picked into an alliance with two teams from Cranbrook (the elite school in our area), and although we were eliminated in the Quarterfinals, we won the Judges Award for perseverance (ironically we were packing up during the award ceremony, having given up on an award). But we went back and fixed all of the problems with our robot and improved for the rest of the season.

In our last tournament of the season, we were the 2nd-Seeded Alliance Captain and won the final round 58-6, and we also won the Excellence Award, double-qualifying us for the World Championships. At your first tournament you shouldn’t focus on winning, but instead on learning from your own mistakes. Also pay attention to the other teams; you may be able to pick up some useful ideas from them.

Not having a laptop or building materials is not a big disadvantage unless you want to modify your robot heavily or write a new program in the middle of a tournament, and those are both very bad ideas. I do recommend bringing a few alan wrenches to tighten screws, because those tend to fall off. Also bring lots of batteries. It also helps to look on your match schedule to see who your allies are in advance during qual. rounds to work out your strategy. That impresses higher teams in Alliance Selection. Also the more skilled teams might interview you for Alliance Selection. If your robot breaks a lot, don’t tell them.

Hope that’s helpful!

Thanks Raptor: So can you compete in Gateway competition more than once? I thought once you entered one in an event that is all you have. If you can do more than one that would be great to know for next year!!! Well we are a title one school and this is our first experience. We are VERY excited. Anything else to know? Glad we are not going to be the only ones w/o a notebook. We are from Paris, Texas (10 miles north Grant, OK) and have hardly any money to build much… But we have done our best. Thanks for the encouragement.

you can enter as many competitions you want.

WOW, that is good to know… Man wish I would have known this earlier!!! Next year I will know. Thanks for the information, keep it coming.

Even if you don’t get into finals, stay for finals (to see the best bots, and how strategy changes), and stay for the awards. Its good sportsmanship, and you might get one.

If you don’t have a laptop to do programming, at least save your program to a flashdrive and bring it with you. Some can loan you a laptop, or help you reprogram your bot if needed.

Charge your batteries all night, and bring all your batteries and battery chargers and a plug strip. Put a tag or sticker with your school name on your joystick (and batteries, etc), in case it gets lost or misplaced.

Bring your own safety glasses! (so you don’t get swine flu from shared glasses)

Bring a camera and take pictures of the better bots.

I remember my first FTC competition, I walked 15000 steps, just circling the gym nervously. Everyone had huge great-looking robots; but most of them didn’t work well.

Get your drivers as much practice as you can.
General driving is fine, but its better to practice real on-field skills like pickup, matchload, score, repickup. Practice pickups facing toward you, instead of just away.

Competitions are typically $50-100 each.
Sometimes you can get a discount by providing volunteers or a field.

keep up to date with the forums is always a good idea

i may not be known on the forums for posting a lot but i read almost every single relevant thread and have benefited from it

just the talking going on can be enough to inspire you with a new design
dont be scared to take ideas from other teams but avoid screw per screw copies like cleen sweep there were a dozen clones of the cheesy poofs while my team took one of their ideas and morphed it and ended up doing better than the cheesy poofs or any of their clones

Actually, it may not be too late to enter a second tournament this year. Tournaments usually accept new teams up to a week before the event. And if you have seven people, each team member could pool $10.75-ish and you’d have the 75$ needed to register.

Also, are there any universities near you with a K-12 outreach program? Our school, like yours, is small and compared to the schools around us we don’t have an abundance of money. But Michigan State University has a K-12 Engineering Outreach program and fund our team as well as all of the other teams in our area. You could get more money for robot parts through a program like that or by talking to businesses in you area (example Radio Shack, your local hardware store, etc.) and getting sponsorship from them. The Demmer Corporation, an engineering firm based near Lansing, MI, gave us some funding and we have their logo on our robot.

Last year was our first year competing in robotics and we found out quickly that even if you dont have things like tools parts laptop or anything along those lines that other teams are very helpful in this and not to really worry about it. We never won a match our first tournament and used it as a learning experience and got 2nd in the next one. All you need are your upkeep supplies like a few bolts screws hex wrenches batteries and stuff like that. Other teams will be accommodating in whatever you may need. The more you watch and more tournaments you go to the better off you will be. Good luck!!

Sounds good guys… We will be at UT-Tyler on Feb 18th and I registered us for the Flower Mound competition on March 3rd. My students are very excited as I was, to learn we can compete in more than one.

There are no HUGE colleges around little ole’ Paris Texas. We have A&M-Commerce and that is about it. They sponsor tons of schools for the BEST Hub, not the vex. We have enough donations this year to make a run at it, but I don’t know how much they will be able to for next year.

Thanks for the support guys.

I had NO idea about anything to do with engineering or robotics when we started our team in 2010. I am a homeschool parent and my son wanted to be on a robotics team so we found other kids who were interested, we purchased the parts and started competing when he was 11 years old. Now he is 12 and has been to the World Championship with his team from last season!

Our kids were very enthusiastic though. I couldn’t believe it when they actually built a robot that scored. We had no idea how to make an engineering notebook, but we put something together for our first competition. It was very simple. You could just have your kids write about your team and how you got together, take pictures of your robot and write about its features and how you built it. You don’t need an engineering notebook though. Many teams compete without them, but it does disqualify you from certain awards like the Excellence Award.

We found everyone involved in VEX to be amazingly positive and helpful. You don’t need to worry about anyone getting mad at you for how your robot performs. It is all about learning. Just go and have fun. Cheer for the teams that do have amazing robots and study them and your kids will learn how to do better the next time. Bring a camera and take lots of pictures of robots that work well.

Good luck!



Thank you for the information. Look forward to seeing some good robots and see how we stack up. We do Best Hub in Commerce, Texas. Have you tried that? Look it up. Usually it is a 100% free and they provide everything. The local hub that is. We took home the integrity and innovation award this year. It is always fun and challenging. Cant wait to gain knowledge at the first competition and use it for the other one we signed up for next month. We can make improvements in the meantime.

I just found this awesome webpage today, and I think it warrants a good read through for everyone in VEX, old or new:

Having a engineering notebook is not required, but it is a good idea. I am a “journaler”, builder for my team (1200B). Speaking from experience, I know that if a person doesn’t make it to a meeting and no one else is at the next meeting, you can always look back at the journal and know exactly what they did.

And if your wondering what to put in the notebook, just describe what you are building, what you are trying to accomplish, steps to how you built it, problems you had with what you were building (hopefully there were none), etc. If you describe in-depth what you are building, you can fill up a page or two very quickly. Pictures and hand-drawn diagrams are always a plus!

It also helped our team during a competition once where we had to rebuild our chassis during a tournament. We could refer to the notebook to see the build sequence of all the axles confined in the chassis.

And as for a tournament, always just stay focused and work quickly to fix problems. And, if you need help, just ask! Some teams are willing to help out.

The best way to get picked for alliances is to scout, not for the highest-ranked teams, but for the best teams to work with your robot and your strategy. Once you know who you want to work with, it is a matter of advertising and explaining how you will contribute to the alliance. The tournament doesn’t always go to the #1-seeded alliance. It goes to the best alliance. The numbers don’t always speak the truth.

Some ideas here:

and this is a GREAT resource:


I read through it. It is pretty good.

lol. I have felt that way before. I think we all are upset when we lose :smiley:
But, as they say (I think), you gain more by losing then winning :smiley:

You said the second tournament you were entering is on March 3rd? Unfortunately, tournaments after March 1st won’t qualify you for the World Championships. If Worlds is your eventual goal, I found you a tournament relatively close to you on February 25th. It has 4 WC qualifying spots.


This is not true. March 3-4 is the last weekend for WC qualifying at “normal” tournaments, and there are a handful of very large WC qualifying tournaments on the weekend of March 10.

I am not that interested in WC qualifying. I am just trying to get my feet wet so to speak. Now next year that would be great! Now that I know you can enter more than 1 or 2. I have 1 “dumb” question and 1 okay question. We have the 7.2 volt batteries that are the “long” style, is that okay to use? For my “dumb” question: Do or can you as a team bring a desktop computer/tower to use for programming? We do not have a lap top, I need to switch programs from skills challenge to the competition challenge do to having autonomous. Anyone help me?