#1: Expect the robot to catastrophically fail at least once per season.
A coach has been heard to say that it’s best to get this over with early. This is why you should be relieved when it happens on the first run of your first tournament.
#2: It only has to work once!
Victims of Rule #1 should remember that there are three chances. Keep trying until the end of the last round. Success is not guaranteed, but respect is earned by never giving up.
#3: Memorise the phrase: “I meant to do that!”
Best said with a straight face. How else can you explain that an out-of-control robot can careen around the field and bounce, bash, or ricochet several missions into a “success” state.
#4: ALWAYS use two hands on the robot.
The sound of a MINDSTORMS robot hitting the ground is unforgettable. Especially if you’re the one that dropped it. Take no chances.
#5: Offer help to teams in trouble.
FLL teams help each other. Sometimes a panicked/stressed/rookie team won’t think about this. Offering a helping hand can make a huge difference.
#6: Sometimes the only explanation is that the robot hates you.
OK, we all know there’s something else that’s really to blame. However this explanation is surprisingly therapeutic.
#7: Threatening the robot is perfectly rational. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Project Bucephalus had a pre-game tradition in their rookie year: prior to each match the (nervous) operators had to threaten the robot in a new way. Threats could not be re-used. By season end, threats had escalated from “sledgehammer” and “microwave” through to “nuclear-powered chainsaw” and “the fires of Mount Doom”.
Surprisingly therapeutic, and great for calming nervous operators.
#8: There are always three approaches to a Mission: The Obvious Way, The Creative Way, and The Crazy Way.
During development, consider each mission from each of these perspectives before deciding on a final solution. All are valid! Consider sharing “Crazy” solutions with Scott Evans. He needs a good laugh from time to time!
#9: Build your robot to survive “the Drop Test”
Robots often attempt to escape captivity. Usually by leaping to the floor from a great height. Particularly as they’re unpacked before a match. Build robots well, and see Rule #4.
#10: LEGO is not unbreakable.
Tyres wear down. Axles warp. Pegs crack. Inspect robots regularly and replace worn parts.
#11: Be kind to the referees, judges, and officials.
They want to enjoy the day as much as any team member.
#12: Expect the Robot’s tournament score to be at least 30% lower than the best score at home.
If this doesn’t happen – CELEBRATE!! You’re either very skilled or very lucky (See Rule #3).
#13: Be happy for the success of another team.
This may sound like a cliche, but it’s not easy – particularly if your own team hasn’t done as well as was hoped. Do it anyway. Cheer louder. “Gracious Professionalism” isn’t a concept that comes easy to everyone, but this is a fantastic way to show it.
#14: Competitive robot runs are the most effective way to discover new bugs or defects.
Murphy’s Law for robots. This is why you should test extensively BEFORE getting to tournament. Try to do some testing on tables other than your own.
#15: Always have a second team member check each mission model after it has been built for the first time.
It’s surprisingly easy to have a mistake you don’t notice until you get to a tournament. It’s even easier for this mistake to drastically alter your robot performance.
#16: Interact with other teams during the season.
Teams don’t have to give away all their best secrets, but they can still offer encouragement, share knowledge, and visit each other during the season. An opportunity to run a robot on another team’s table can be invaluable. In addition to other benefits, it gives both teams an excellent chance of spotting any “little mistakes” on their field (See Rule #15)!
#17: Don’t be a Squirrel!
Stay Focused! It may be an American animal, but it’s applicable to all teams.
#18: This is a Sport
There are things that are out of your control. There are good and bad days. Referees and Judges make mistakes that help or hinder. Sometimes teams do everything right and it just doesn’t turn out! The best teams are those that accept this and then just kept trying.
#19: Read the rules.
…and don’t forget to check the updates. Yes, this actually is an official rule, but it’s worth repeating here!
#20: Remember why you’re doing this.
This isn’t about beating another team, moving to the next level of the tournament, or taking home one of those cool LEGO trophies. The FLL isn’t meant to be easy, and your primary opponent is yourself. If you’ve made it through to the tournament, then you’ve already won – all that’s left to do is have fun!