what separates the good robots from the great robots?

Its all good. I just remember you posting how VEX showed you how much you appreciated law and so as someone with similar interest I thought I would show you some counter examples. In my experience just because most teams have a lot of people that doesn’t mean most good teams have a lot of people. Feel free to prove me wrong but I think that is money more than what they believe to be the perfect number of members on a team.

The one man teams get more practice because they keep the fields and the parts at their homes. Look at the driver skills. Do you think that came from 2 few hour meetings a week or from 20-30 hours a week just driving not to mention tweaking and optimizing?

Biggest thing I will stress for good teams is
Enough time will make up for lack of skill or lack of experience most of the time because over time you can optimize performance and reduce friction.

I can testify to this, our arm in Sack Attack was made conveniently, rather than with the best parts available. Its reliability suffered more and more as use made the parts warp and cause friction, and eventually the arm would seize up on itself and refuse to move.

Before Worlds we figured out what the problem was, and we switched to much stronger bars on the arm. It ran so much more smoothly and reliably!

Good point, by all means start over, or take a step back here and there. I kind of automatically do this without really planning it now. I delete, rework, redraw, you name it. H5’s modules when through over five iterations in less than two weeks.

I guess the recipe needs work but the idea is there. -Cody

I probably changed specific aspects of our design more than 15-20 times over the Sack Attack season. We had a chain lift on a rack and pinion, but that had too much torque and was big so we went to compound sprockets, then changed the table from lexan to conveyor and went to a four bar, wheelie bar, etc…

 Like Tabor said, you just need time. Start in the summer, go through like 20 design concepts, that's how it works :P I know I did... then go to like 5 or 6 competitions, see what works, pick the most efficient and conservative design and you'll do well. I want to stress documenting the design process and team dynamics though. Designate A driver and coach, have a leader ect. We were able to win a divisional Excellence award by just doing everything that was required and putting ***time and effort into it***.

It’s hard to properly delineate what makes a good team. Different good teams often have different factors contributing to their success. Here are some of the big ones I personally have seen:
Luck: Though this is probably the least common, there is always an element in randomness in a competition such as this. I have never seen it personally, but I feel sure that there are some teams that chance upon what will become the dominant design really early in the season and do really well just because of that. Though my team definitely had other things going for it, sometimes I feel that we got lucky when we chose the design we chose. Vice versa, there have been good teams that happened to pick a bad design and got screwed by it.
Efficiency: Teams that are run better perform better. Team leaders need to set goals and concentrate on achieving them within team meetings. Too often I have seen teams of friends or people who have discovered a common interest fall apart because the meetings become less about robotics and more about socialization. Ideally, of course, robotics IS socialization. Organization of information and people really helps; in fact, many of the awards we won this year were due to things we developed to help us become more efficient (database, online notebook, etc). A big thing with efficiency is the Engineering Process. Sitting down and doing a decision matrix to decide on a design was a very structured, time-efficient way to do it. Methodically solving problems was very useful, as was recording our progress in a notebook. Our design came from a series of very reasoned decisions, and that’s what made our robot so good.
Experience/Intelligence: The longer a team participates, the better it’s going to get. Pretty logical. Veteran members are more comfortable with the VEX pieces, driving, etc., so they tend to have better ideas for designs and know best how to implement ideas from anywhere. Also in terms of clubs, older ones have better infrastructure and more history to learn from, even if the students are inexperienced.
Money: It’s what makes the world go 'round! Teams/schools with more money can afford more parts, mentors, workshops, robotics rooms, and so on and so forth. Poorer teams, regardless of skill level/intelligence, often have a tougher time getting into VEX because they are limited by pieces/software.