Dealing With The Crunch

So, Valentines Day is coming up.  What does that mean for a large number of you reading this blog?  Thats right!  You’ve got a hot date with an unfinished robot!  (And in some cases, a grumpy significant other.)  Crunch time is the part of the season we all fear.  It’s “make or break” time…make the robot or break your spirit.  Have no fear, today we will go over some simple guidelines for surviving the crunch.

 

WEIGH THE ROBOT…LIKE NOW…NO, SERIOUSLY, NOW!

It is high time to account for every little bit of weight you have.  Finished parts, rough material, motors, electronics, etc…get it all on a scale and get a weight plan together.  If you neglect your weight four weeks into the season, be prepared to be drilling holes at 3am on bag day.  Make sure to account for sneaky things like wire and hardware, it all adds up fast.  The worst nightmare for any team is a forced system elimination due to weight.  Stay ahead of the game so you don’t have to lose anything.

 

EXTEND THE HOURS

Four weeks is about the time that you want to start extending your robot building periods a little.  If your team runs a limited schedule, you may want to tack on an hour here and there, or even add a day.  Teams who only work Saturdays on a weekend, may want to consider Sundays.  Weekend days are the most valuable because they are long and uninterrupted…take advantage of them.  Remember, if you wait until week six to extend your schedule, you will be squeezing in a lot more tasks in the end.

 

SCHEDULE SUB-TEAM TIME ON THE ROBOT

Working on the robot is stressful.  Much of that stress results from in-fighting between subgroups over work space around your small cube of a robot.  This all can be avoided by proper planning and time allowances for each subgroup working on the robot.  Each day when you arrive, quickly meet and plan who needs to do what task, then qualify a time for each group to work on the robot alone.  It is important to hold each group strictly to that time, and for each group to maximize their off-robot time so that they can work fast once access is granted.  The less team members you have around the robot at one time, the more efficient the build

 

TEST AND IDENTIFY ANY PROBLEM AREAS BEFORE AND DURING ASSEMBLY

It is important to get power to your assemblies as early as possible, preferably off robot.  Make a good power control for your team members to hook up to their assemblies so that they can test in a separate work space when possible.  Run the assemblies, check for flaws, and get them fixed before they become a problem during full robot testing.  This gives you less to worry about when you are testing in your final week.  There will be problems, every team has them.  The key to overcoming them is early recognition, repair, and constant testing.  Don’t be afraid to break it.  Better to find the fail points now instead of on the field with ten seconds left.

 

TALK LESS, DO MORE

Other than your initial planning meeting when you first arrive, any other meetings or discussions should be held to a minimum.   Quick discussions during lunch and a constant communication through a robot integration representative are the best way to maximize your time.  It is extremely easy to get carried away in conversation, especially robot related, and waste precious time when you don’t have to.  Keep all troubleshooting discussions pointed, and come up with a plan as soon as possible.  Time wasted talking, is time lost fixing the robot in the pit.

 

Hopefully your crunch time goes smooth, but be prepared if it doesn’t.  Whatever you do, don’t forget to eat, breathe, and have a little fun in the process!

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