Team 166 Parents' Survival Guide

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MHS FIRST Team 166 Parents’ Survival Guide

Team 166 introduces Merrimack High School students to the world of science, technology and engineering through delivery of the FIRST robotics program founded by Dean Kamen in 1992. Students, working closely with adult mentors, will learn and then employ many skills that will be valuable in their adult lives.

Fall (Sept thru December)

Training and team building activities are the focus of the Fall. During this period, team members are required to attend at least one subteam training session, and are encouraged to attend as many of the training sessions as possible for many reasons: to become familiar with how the team runs, to become familiar with the veteran members and mentors of the team, and to discover what building a robot in six weeks really means. There’s a lot of hard, fun work to be done and lots to learn.  What you take away from the program is entirely up to you and what effort you put into it.

Build Season
(January “Kickoff” thru Ship day in late February)

The “build season” is the meat of the program. On Kickoff day (usually 1st Sat. of January), teams around the world learn what the game is and see the field with simulated robots playing. From this point forward, the team will derive a strategy for play, develop a set of requirements that the robot must have to be able to play the game effectively and then work to implement those requirements.

Six weeks is not a lot of time, therefore it is essential that all team members be as productive as possible. This is not unlike a real-world engineering company on a tight production schedule.

Competition Season
(March thru April)

Competition season is in March. The team will compete at 2 District Events. The “Pit Crew” is tasked with ensuring that the robot is fully functional and within specification prior to formal inspection. All team members that are on the Pit Crew are expected to know the rules that govern the construction of the machine, from maximum dimensions to the number and kinds of motors used.  The game is played with two opposing sides comprised of three teams’ robots and drivers.

During competition, judges and inspectors will visit every team’s pit area, and will ask questions about the robot and the team.  It is not the mentors who will provide these answers, it is the students. Also during competition, other teams will send representatives around the pits to gain information about other robots’ capabilities.  Again, the Pit Crew is responsible for providing these bits of valuable information to potential alliance partners.

During the competition, the robot is handled by human operators known as the "Drive Team". The Drive Team is predetermined based on tryouts and testing during the build season. This group usually consists of two drivers, a human player, and a coach. The task of the human player changes according to the game. Aside from driving the robot during competition, the drive team is responsible for meeting with the scheduled alliance partners before the next match and determining a strategy for that match.

Students not involved directly with the robot will be responsible for scouting the other teams’ robots and for showing team spirit. Scouting is an essential task that is used by the drive team to help plan strategy when alliances are developed. During qualification, alliances are randomly set. During playoffs, alliances are selected by the top 8 teams after qualification matches are done.

(May thru August)

With the completion of the formal competition season, Chop Shop typically participates in several off-season competitions where the focus shifts slightly. In the past, the team has chosen to use these mini-comps as training for rookie drive teams and pit crew members, The goal is to have fun, and if a win comes out of it, so much the better.

One highlight of the off-season is Chop Shop’s own mini-competition, Mayhem in Merrimack. This event is not only a competition, it is also a fundraiser. It is a way for the public to come and see a real event and learn what FIRST is all about.  As you will come to see, the program really cannot be described in words.

By the end of classes in June, the formal program has come to an end, but there are other events that we may be asked to attend.  Robot Demonstrations may be shown to potential sponsors in the hopes of gaining financial assistance or mentors and to spread the word about FIRST. The 4th of July Parade is also a highlight of the summer.  The Chop Shop also sponsors a FIRST Lego League Camp as a major fundraiser and team members are encouraged to volunteer as camp counselors for fundraising credit.


There are several mechanisms the team uses to communicate.  While school is in session, there is a team meeting on Fridays in Room D124 right after school.  During this time, the team captains, with the guidance of the team advisor(s) and any mentors present, will conduct the meeting and let everyone know what’s being planned.  The team secretary collects the minutes and then posts them to “the group.”

What is “the group”?  There is a Google Group used by the team to transmit information to everyone.  In order to receive messages from or post to the Google Groups, you must become a member. These groups are not open to the public.

Joining the Google Groups is easy and REQUIRED!!!

Go to and follow the instructions. Your request to join may take some time to be processed. Please be patient, your request will be processed.  Be sure to clearly identify yourself (student, parent, etc).  Also, it is highly recommended that when you choose the mail delivery option, you check off the “daily” mail option.  We often send time-sensitive messages that need immediate responses, so by having a digest form or no email you risk missing an important message.

To contact Chop Shop Team 166, send an email to