When you are starting up a FIRST robotics team it is fair to say that you are making things up as you go. Sure, you can read how others have done it, but everyone has different circumstances. You have to go with your strengths.
Our fledgling team has several, including a really great work space. One of our sponsors is a place called Machine Tool Camp.* They refurbish huge, complicated CNC** machines. But as a...well a hobby I suppose, they have created a Maker's Space.
Our robotics team will be the first real users of the work space as it by happy coincidence is being finished off just in time for us.
It is what I call Robot Building Disney Land. In addition to the necessary creature comforts (bathroom, coffee machine, kitchen) it has computer work stations and most importantly for our purposes a serious metal fab shop.
Rookie FIRST teams do not, as a rule, finish high in the standings. So our goal will be to exceed the low expectations of first timers and to look darned good in the process.
So, if you have access to software and computerized milling equipment that will allow you to do fancy, complex and artistic metal fabrication, what do you do?
You start a pre-build season series of classes for students and coaches. Lets make fancy stuff out of hunks of metal!
And I have to say, some of these kids are Scary Smart.
* Of necessity my blogging on FIRST robotics will have a bit less anonymity than my usual bill of fare. Being as I am semi retired I guess that is OK.
** For the uninitiated CAD is Computer Assisted Design. CNC is Computer Numerical Control. The first term is essentially designing things on computer. The second refers to feeding the design parameters into a computer that can control metal fabrication machines and build the part for you.