Guidance of starting a RoboMaster Team
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1. Form your Core
RoboMaster is a team sport; You need a group of dedicated people to get through your first season. Try to form a group of 3-4 core members, and look for the following key people:
Preferably with previous coding and/or robotics competition experience
Keep in mind that these people’s majors don’t need to align with their role on the team. In our first year, our main designer was a Computer Science major, our main programmer was an Electrical Engineering major, and our business manager was a Chemistry major. While majors usually align with roles, be aware that it doesn’t always work out that way.
—— by Isaac Wilcove
2. Set your Goals and Expectations
Make a long term (2+ year) goal for your team. Discuss how you’ll balance competition, learning, and fun. Appoint a president and create a leadership structure.
Once you have an idea of how your team is going to work, create bylaws for your organization.
3. Make your Team Official
Register your team as an official student organization/club at your university as soon as possible. This will make you eligible for school funding and give you access to school facilities. You’ll also want to find at least one faculty advisor, which will help legitimize your team. The advisor doesn’t even have to advise your team from a technical standpoint; they just have to act as a liaison between your team and your university.
Once you’re an official club, you’ll want to find a workspace as soon as possible. Asking your school’s engineering department for space is a good place to start. Sometimes, schools have a public maker space that you can reserve for meetings. If possible, choose a space where you have access to a machine shop. Most universities have machine shops, so getting access to that is a must. Once you have a space, start having recurring meetings at that space. Most RoboMaster teams meet twice a week.
After the basics are set up, create some team materials. You’ll need a team name, a logo, and a website. Use these materials to start recruiting more members. Aim to have at least 15 active members by the end of the season.
4. Start Fundraising
Competing in RoboMaster requires funds to finance robot materials, tools, and travel. You’ll need some way of handling your money: Most teams use either their university’s finance department, or a team bank account.
Create a budget so you know how much you have to raise and in what time frame. Here are some good overall budgets to aim for, depending on your competition:
1v1 (RMUL): $5,000
3v3 (RMUL): $12,000
7v7 (RMUC): $20,000 to compete with the minimum of 5 robots, $25,000+ for the whole fleet
These budgets factor in travel and basic tools to take with you to the competition. If your school will lend you tools and/or your school pays for travel, you can subtract $1-2k from the numbers above. This should give you enough money to build competitive RoboMaster robots with some leftover spare parts.
If you were unable to get access to a machine shop at your school, you’ll need to buy tools. Some essentials include:
Measurement tools (Measuring tape, gauge tool)
If you have some extra money, consider getting the following:
Benchtop Milling Machine
The overall cost of tools varies greatly depending on what you get and what the quality of the tools are. If you’re looking for bare-bones essentials, you’re looking at around $2000, however for everything else it can cost upwards of $10k. This is why it’s important to get access to a university-run machine shop if at all possible.
Most of your funds will come from two sources: Your university, and corporate sponsors. Apply for any and all school grants that your club is eligible for, as those are the most consistent sources. To get the rest of your funding, you’ll need to reach out to companies.
Create 3-4 sponsorship “tiers” with set dollar amounts (We recommend starting the lowest tier at either $500 or $1,000) and different benefits at each tier. Once you have your tiers, create a graphic showing those tiers, as well as a one-page summary of your program. Form a generic email asking for a partnership, and start sending it to local companies. You’ll need to send hundreds of these emails, as the majority of companies will either say no or not respond altogether. If you or any of your team members have personal connections to people at companies who you think might sponsor, write them a custom email instead.
5. Design and Build
Designing and building your robot will be the easiest part of your first season. Read the rulebook and consult with veteran teams about your design. Make sure to prototype and iterate early. Also keep in mind that DJI is headquartered in China, so any materials you buy via the discounted “Offline Purchasing” option will take over a month to arrive (in our case, it took 3 months for our order to make it to our doorstep). For this reason, order your DJI parts VERY EARLY. You can also buy some parts without their discount on the public RoboMaster Store, which are shipped from the US and arrive in a normal timeframe.
Design wise, focus on a specific function you think will give you a competitive advantage. As a new team, you won’t be able to be a jack of all trades. Focus first on the basics, and add flashy features later. In RoboMaster, consistency is key, so make sure your mechanisms are sturdy and work 100% of the time first and foremost.