By Bunny Sauriol, Captain, Team Malice
You’ve built a robot! Now what?
My first event I got so excited I got physically sick the night before, and I still had a ton of fun. Though there isn’t a thing I would change about my first experience, there are a few things I could’ve done to make it go more smoothly.
If there’s one thing I recommend that will make the most difference in how frantic and stressful the event can be, it’s getting an organization system that works for you in place before the event. Nothing is worse than having the pit runner telling you to be in the arena now and not being able to find the tool that turns the switch on, or your top plate because you set it under your robot and you can’t find it. Sit down at a small table at your house and set out everything you’ll need at the event, and make sure it works pretty well for your needs.
One of my favorite tips is to make sure you label your hardware (nuts, bolts, washers) storage. This can be done by just ripping a piece of paper and writing the size and type of hardware and taping it to the storage area or being fancy like me and vinyl cutting them! If there is only one organization tip I can pass on to everyone else though, it’s to bring a magnetic bowl. It keeps all the bits organized while you’re frantically ripping your robot apart to change out the motor that just got blown up but you still managed to pull a win out though. They cost $2 at harbor freight, and save you thousands in medical costs from reducing your stress.
Planning ahead for food/drinks
One of the things I think is often overlooked by first timers is the lack of time to get snacks or lunch during the event. You’re going to be busy charging and looking at all the other amazing things. If you tend to need snacks throughout the day normally, pack a few of your favorite easy to eat items. Budget for dinner with your friends if you can, because often a few builders will go out for dinner when the event ends if they have time, and some of my most enjoyable memories have been chatting about how to improve your robot at a Denny’s across the street from the event. Always pack a big water bottle if you can. There’s not always access to water, and often these events are held outside. No one wants to be rushing around dehydrated and trying to solder a tiny motor.
Important things that may not be available at the event
Many events don’t provide extension cables or power strips, so make sure you’re bringing a good power strip as you’re going to need to plug in your charger and everything you need to get your robot ready for it’s match. If you have room in your car, you can bring chairs and a table. Most events usually have tables available, but chairs are often in short supply. There’s nothing worse than the stiffness you get from sitting on your toolbox for 12 hours because you didn’t get a chair! Often, small robot events are held outdoors, so you need to make sure you have sunscreen and water readily available.
What I bring to the Fairy/Ant Events
For small robot events I overpack, so take my list with a grain of salt. If you asked my fiance, David, loading up my tools is the worst part of going to events with me. David would go to the robot events with a pair of robogrips, a soldering iron, his robot and a battery charger. I can’t rock that lifestyle, but there’s nothing wrong with it either, you’ll figure out what works best for you. In the meantime, I think bringing more at the beginning is helpful, because you won’t have a ton of time to run around asking to borrow tools. Make a list of what you use at your first event, and try to bring those items at the next event. With time, you’ll figure out your optimal setup!
Here’s a general list of what I bring to the events:
- Folding table - I get the small 5 ft ones that can fold in half for easy storage
- Folding Chair - a regular small camping chair is fine
- Octopus power strip, because I like more flexibility than the standard straight ones
- Spare robot parts
- I always have a full spare frame, but most people only bring the parts they think they’ll go through first like the wedge or the lifter arm.
- 2 full spare sets of batteries. The biggest consumer at the event is charging your batteries. If you only bring spares of one thing to lower your stress, make it your batteries. One set in the robot, one set charging, and one set charged and ready to go.
- Spare drive & weapon escs
- Spare drive & weapon motors
- Spare switch
- Spare tires
- Spare hardware
- Magnetic Bowl - nothing is worse than chasing down the tiny screw on black asphalt or a concrete floor
- Wera bit holder grip, wih MIP quick change grips - I like these because it takes up a lot less room in my toolbox than having a set of screw drivers and t handle hex keys.
- L handle wera hex keys
- Wire snips
- Hub removal tool
- Battery charger
- Soldering Iron/Solder
- Hot Glue Gun
- WEAPON SAFETY - This is in caps, because it’s probably the most obvious one on this list that always gets forgotten. It’s so easy to get caught up building your robot and forget that these can be and are very dangerous machines.
- Dremel/Rotary tool
- Battery Tester - this is super helpful when you have multiple spare batteries for your robot
- Electrical Tape
- Scissors - Because ripping electrical tape is annoying.
- Sharpie/Pen - because it’s super helpful to be able to write things on your robot
- Team Stickers!
Remember to have fun
The events can be a bit overwhelming so please remember to take a breath, look around, enjoy the community. There's nowhere I’d rather be, and I hope you can love it as much as I do!