How To Prepare for a Robotics Competition?
Robotics competitions are not just about winning the top positions. It is also a good way for students to learn how to work as a team, apply important STEM concepts to problem-solve and even make pleasant memories with like-minded students.
Here's how to prepare for a robotics competition.
1. Familiarise and master the robotics set/tools you will be using
Regardless of whichever robotics tools you are using, your whole team needs to be as familiar as possible with its usage and potential issues that may occur.
Even if your team has mastered the tools, some competitions may require you to purchase additional parts or competition kits that you may need to familiarise with before the actual competition day.
Make sure you aside enough time to practise if your team is new to competitions.
2. Get to know your team mates well
Being able to work well in a team is a very valuable skill to cultivate, especially if you are thinking of a career in STEM in the future.
Everyone will have their own style of working and communication and it's best to understand each other's styles as early as possible. Play ice-breaker games, take quizzes or even have a nice chat to get to know each other.
This way, your team will be able to solve problems quickly and with as little conflict as possible.
Also, find out your team members' to maximise your team's abilities and weaknesses to cover each other's backs.
3. Practise virtually
Experienced teams usually practise virtually at the start, especially if there were big breaks between competition seasons, to help the members warm up and refresh their memories of the robotics basics.
For example, you can create a free account on Thaka to practise on your LEGO Education EV3/SPIKE Prime robot programming.
4. Practise physically
Physical practise is the best way to learn and plan as students get to try out their ideas in real life.
Spend as much time you need for the team to find the best solutions for the competition missions. Some teams have bootcamps closer to the competition so that teams can spend long stretches of time working on their robots and test programming.
This is also a great time for teams to bond with each other and practise their social skills when it comes to a working/project setting.
5. Have friendly internal contests to cross-evaluate weaknesses of strategies
If your school has multiple teams participating in the competition, you would benefit from a friendly competition with those other teams.
This way, you can evaluate what works and what didn't under competition environment.
6. Take as many photos/videos to use as impactful content during presentations
If your competition has a presentation element, then it is highly recommended for you to appoint a team member to be in charge of recording your team's learning and planning processes.
Judges love when teams SHOW instead of TELL during their presentations, so include as many relevant content as you can.
Even if there isn't a presentation requirement, remember that your robotics competition journey can make for a very good interview story or portfolio content (for school entrance or talent programmes).
7. Test out as many theories and different strategies
If you have spare time left, go ahead and test out any wild theories of strategies that you may have. Don't leave any stone unturned! Your weird ideas may end up being the most creative and efficient way to solve the missions presented to you.
8. Prepare for emergencies with backup plans
Don't be too overconfident once you have your plans all set. Always prepare for life's curveballs!
Here are some examples of emergencies we've witnessed:
- Corrupted Coding Files
- Missing Hardware Parts
- Sick Team Member on Competition Day
- Corrupted Presentation Files & other presentation technical difficulties
9. Clarify ANY uncertainty you have with the competition organisers/Chief Judge
Innovation is great but sometimes it may be going against the rules of competition. If there's any part of your strategy that may be in the gray area of the rules, you may want to email or call the organisers to clarify.
Don't assume they may be accepted. There's nothing worse than a team being disqualified after months of preparation.
10. Practise your presentation individually and as a team (if presentations are involved)
Robotics competitions are no longer just about having the best robots! The best teams in competitions put in a lot of effort making their presentations as fun and memorable as possible.
You can read more about presentations here: 10 Presentation Tips to Make Judges Go Wow! (For Pri - Sec Competitions)
The prep steps are non-exhaustive, of course! It is meant as a guide for you to plan your competition season.
How do you prepare for your competitions?