top of page

FRC 2016-2017 Season Blog

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

Are you debating whether to take the step and join the FIRST community and the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC)? If you are struggling to take that first step for whatever applicable reasons, whether it be lack of confidence or fear of failure, I went through that exact same phase before taking the leap of faith to join my neighbor’s team and I felt it would be nice to share my thoughts about my journey in FRC now that I have just finished my freshman year in college. Just a couple disclaimers, I’m not going to pretend that I wholeheartedly believe every high schooler should jump into FRC if given the chance because that’s simply not the case. Everyone has their own path to walk, whether that be with FIRST or not. There are many different paths to explore your curiosity in science and engineering beyond robotics so don’t join an FRC team unless that’s what you really want to do. While my story with FRC will be unique to myself, I feel like it would be nice to get a picture into the good, bad, and ugly of FRC. This will be the first part of a three part blog which will cover my three years in FRC from a high school sophomore to a high school senior. I’ve never been great at expressing my thoughts and keep in mind that most of part 1 was written by junior me after I had just finished my second season in FRC, but we all start somewhere, so here goes nothing...

It is quite surreal, from my perspective, to see how much I’ve changed and grown since joining Team 6560, the Charging Champions. I am grateful for my experiences with the team and FIRST overall as I have learned to expand beyond the known quantities in my everyday life. Initially, I was very insecure about joining the team as I had a lack of confidence in myself that I felt would impact my ability to work with the team. Naturally, my greatest fear was that I would fail the team members and coaches. I think it’s important to note for many aspiring engineers out there like me that it’s alright to not know anything. THIS IS FINE. What is NOT fine, is being too scared to take those first steps to learn by trying a new experience. As a teenager, applying for these clubs or teams is the equivalent of applying for that coveted internship of full-time position; interviewing is a very nerve-racking process and I don’t think people are ever totally free of the anxiety leading up to an interview. Again, it’s also natural to feel that you failed your interview (I’ve certainly bombed interviews many times throughout my life) because who doesn’t feel that way unless you aced it. I can remember being nudged on by my neighbors to join the team and their work did pique my interest enough for me to decide to venture over for a peek several times. No one ever likes to talk about their vulnerable moments and I have to admit that I didn’t share this with anyone, but I can remember sitting in the corner of the garage, a high school sophomore with no idea what I was watching, fighting the urge to doze off as I observed the team working on their preseason robot. I’m not going to beat around the bush, it was very uncomfortable and I felt out of my element. At this point, I didn’t even know if I wanted to become an engineer, there was the option of becoming a financial analyst or quant at some investment firm, a lawyer, a doctor, a professional golfer, a musician, and so on. After a week of these awkward interactions, I finally decided to take the first steps and formally apply to the team. As I previously stated, I’ve had many interview bombs and this was definitely one of those “bombs.” I was so nervous that I think my interviewer could hear me tapping my foot. Building a chassis out of modular C-channel frames should be straightforward, but heck I was at the “WHAT? We need two points of contact?” phase. I quickly fastened together the frame material into something that resembled a chassis. At that point, I would not hesitate to classify myself as mechanically inept. I spent the following week chastising myself and regretting my decision to apply. However, at the end of the week, I was given a chance to join the team, and all I can say is that I could not have imagined how that one window of opportunity could bring about such a dramatic change in my life.

In hindsight, I’m quite disappointed that I stalled on joining for a relatively long period of time. Throughout both this season and the last, I realized that the only way forward is either winning or learning by making errors, and with this mentality I was able to grow and become better prepared. By taking that initial step to join the team, in spite of the fear and diffidence within me, I gradually overcame the fear of leaving my comfort zone and failing. This growth is something that I will take with me into my future, way past any adolescent experience I’ve come across. Furthermore, participating in FRC has opened up a door for me to an opportunity that not every teenager has experienced. In case you were wondering, that experience would undoubtedly be the chance to work with peers your age in an intimate, united, and inspiring communion. The pressures and challenges I have faced are tests that I can hopefully learn from and apply in my future vocation. With so much at stake in his competition, the need for people to communicate, to collaborate, and to cooperate is imperative in order to ensure success. I feel that in the highly competitive environments teenagers are being thrust into, individualism has become the norm, with every student looking for the best way to guarantee themselves admission to their dream school or to alleviate some mental burden of feeling inferior. When you are part of a team, you are not accomplishing anything just for yourself, if you possess this philosophy of individual glory or selfishness, you will fail regardless of how hard you strive to succeed. As a group of people collaborating to achieve a common goal, there needs to be a sense of trust within the team that every part can do its job so that the whole can benefit. A team is there to not only provide support, but to combine the qualities of talented individuals into something where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For any individual interested in joining a FIRST competition and being part of a team, it is crucial to know that the team work qualities you extract will benefit you for the rest of your life. Finally, being part of this team has made me realize that my initial, ignorant view of this experience as just another extracurricular was short sighted, living the multitude of experiences with this team have made me realize that it is a great commitment, but one that is totally worthwhile and unforgettable.


Ok. I won’t pull anything out of my “insert that part of the human anatomy” and come clean that I didn’t really write anything at the time to recount the memories of my first season. So, I’ll just go over the memories I can remember now. Also, I’m going to focus less on the technical material, and more on the experience as a whole.

The very first thing I got to work on was a prototype for an end-effector to collect the 2017 Steamworks gear. I really feel like this process of continuously iterating to get something that works is what really hooked me on FRC in the first place. It was really fun to be able to “move fast and break things” (thanks Mark) while learning new ideas along the way. This stage of the build is the time where your imagination can really run wild with all the possibilities for wack end-effectors and mechanisms. Also shoutout to coach Srini for being a great mentor and helping me learn the ins and outs of building things with my hands. As a rookie team with no CNC machining capabilities and a lack of adequate power tooling or manufacturing methodology/good practices, it certainly wasn’t always a pretty sight to see us hack away at our robot.

Also, I have to admit that there was a learning curve to catch up with the rest of my teammates as I had to read over the infamously long FRC rules manual and get up to speed with the robot’s design at that stage. I decided after a rough first few days, that my solution to this problem was to come earlier and stay later (typical FRC stuff if you know what I mean). If it required putting more time in, sure, I could do that instead of going on youtube, playing fifa, or studying more than I needed to get that “good grade”. It did bite into the time I set aside for practicing the viola or going to my local golf course to iron out my game on the range, but I was at the point where I was realizing that, yes, it’s very fun, very fun to try out new things. As a little aside, even though I’m still very young, I am starting to understand why many older people choose to invest their extra dimes into unforgettable experiences rather than material goods. Unlike most material goods, the memories from your experiences will last with you for your entire lifetime. Ok that’s enough of a tangent, let’s get back to robotics. If I could just soak up the necessary knowledge by asking everyone else questions and staying longer to make sure I understood how things worked, eventually I would be more effective. I don’t think I really reaped the benefits of this approach until after our first regional, Ventura, where we captured the Rookie top seed and All-star awards.

We also copped 1st seed overall for a couple matches so I guess that's something.

The energy at the venue and the constant drive exuded by everyone in the pits was something I wanted. In the image of the late Kobe Bryant, it felt like my inner “mamba mentality” was awakened after that regional. I wanted to be the guy in the pits working on the robot endlessly while skipping lunch. I wanted to feel the pressure of the crunch time between consecutive matches. I wanted to be next to the field cheering my team on with all the passion inside me. I wanted my work to matter and to make a difference. Most of all, I wanted to win.

Gradually, my increased understanding and knowledge of the robot allowed me opportunities to work on more subsystems. Obviously, I would fail when first trying new things, but I made sure that I stayed late to understand the working principles behind every foreign actuator, gearbox, fastener, pneumatic circuit, and so on. I still made blunders that made me think to myself, “why are you like this?” However, once again, THIS WAS FINE. I just had to keep my head down and continue to learn from my mistakes today so that I could be better tomorrow. Of course, when you’re working out of a garage without professional training and using extremely dangerous, power tools, there’s always a risk of getting hurt. This brings us to the next regional competition, Orange County (let’s go home regional that we only went to once in my three years on the team), where I got my first taste of what happens when you get a little too much adrenaline in the pits. Drilling out rivets is fun and very straightforward if they were properly installed in the first place. It becomes less fun if the remnants of the broken stem remain, making it difficult to align your bit concentrically with the center of the rivet. Now add on the fact that I was extremely energetic, I wanted to finish some mechanical rework asap, and that I didn’t have a great grip on the bracket I was drilling out. Yeah, recipe for disaster. Next thing I knew, I had what was effectively an angle grinder with an abrasive wheel that was rotated 90 degrees beating the daylights out of my right hand (not my writing hand thank god). That was definitely a down moment as I really felt good coming into the competition and now I lost one day with having to go bandage and ice my hand. I went to the hospital to get a scan done and thankfully there were no apparent fractures to the metacarpal bones or the nerves. There was definitely a lot of swelling which only served to cut off the blood flow and impinge my nerves, which made my hand extremely weak (that was a brief goodbye to viola and golf for the next couple of weeks). This didn’t do anything to hinder my desire to keep working on the robot and compete in more competitions. Fortunately, our rookie all-star award from Ventura booked us a trip to the world championships, so there would be more to come.

On a more light-hearted note, some of the best moments that season came from the team lunches during build sessions and the evenings back at the hotel after competition days. Why? The camaraderie and shenanigans, obviously. Our lunch breaks involved activities that ranged from intense card games (using VEX Pro playing cards lol) such as texas hold’em, 13, egyptian rat slap, and cambia, to driveway soccer games using that year’s hanging field element as a goal that would eventually leak out into the street and cul de sac. The post-competition day, late-night meetings at the hotel pool, gym, or party-room (some poor unsuspecting soul on the team would donate their room) were even better. I can remember jumping into the pool with my clothes on alongside my fellow mad lads, playing group games at the sauna, which honestly really helped to bring us together as an absolute unit. This was also the start of a worrying trend I had begun to notice...I was struggling to sleep. I openly joked about it with my teammates, and for a while I thought it was just the build-up of anxiety and excitement that would fade away with every competition. The effects really didn’t become a major problem until my second season, but we’ll get to that later. Now, back to the team shenanigans. Considering that most of us on the team were either sophomores or freshmen, we were pretty immature with our jokes. On several occasions this involved becoming temporary mixologists by mashing together weird combinations of different food/drink items at souplantation or thinking of ways to customize our costco pizzas. It was moments like these outside of the competitions that made me realize why I had become hooked on FRC.

Just a little fun fact/tangent, our robot was affectionately given the name "Sketchy 2.0." You can probably guess why lol.

My first season would end with a trip to the world championships, where we promptly had our “insert part of the human anatomy” handed to us by vastly superior teams. We didn’t really care about the losses in all honesty; we were simply enamored with the spectacle of the FIRST World Championships and the variety of teams from around the world, all with their own unique design footprint. Personally, I was running out of steam and wanted to just enjoy the whole thing. The decision to leave a day before anyone else along with my friend, Albert, and a couple coaches to do some early setup was exciting (got to skip an extra day of school so like why not), but it certainly didn’t help my energy levels, although eating Raising Canes after a day of setup was a partial consolation prize.

We obviously didn’t make it to the playoffs or win any awards, but we did our share of exploring Houston, although we did make some unfortunate mistakes with our food selection. We were deciding where to eat for lunch and settled on italian food, unfortunately we opted against using Yelp or even looking at any reviews and just settled on a price point that worked for us. This is where you put in a good ‘ol “Top 10 moments before disaster” warning. We walked for several blocks and eventually reached a “different, but unique” part of town. The food, to put it bluntly, was not great, and I mean “not great” as in a long number 2 once we got back to the hotel. Moral of the story: use technology to make better, more informed decisions. On the last day of the event, we did the whole spheal: taking photos, memorable speeches filled with pride and emotion, and bidding goodbye to the fanfare of our first season in FRC. We took our remaining hours in Houston to visit the local scene such as Nasa’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Rice University, and (to no avail) Minute Maid Park, where the Einstein finals would be played. As a little side story, on the flight back, the seat number on my ticket just happened to be one number away from that of my teammate, Arjun. Since Arjun and this unnamed lady (had the Karen look so we’ll leave it at that) both had aisle seats, I was confident she wouldn’t mind switching seats. Long story short, I had to wake her up several times to go to the bathroom, so sorry, but I did try to make it easier.

And that’s a wrap on my first year of FRC. This year as a trend was a nice exponential growth curve with minute drops or plateaus, but it wouldn’t be an understatement to say that this season really pushed me to pursue engineering and team projects in general.

8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page