Helpful Principles and Hints

Credits: Ray Sun
If you aren't new to robotics, you would know that a lot of fun and stress that goes along with it. Here are a few principles to keep in mind when in robotics.
  • The first rule of robotics: never waste your teacher’s money.
  • The simpler design concept is always superior to the more complex. Always.
  • On physics:
    • You can’t beat it.
    • You can’t cheat it.
    • You can’t leave the game.
  • Nothing is free in robotics; a gain always comes at a cost.
  • Think multifunctional.
  • You cannot truly triumph without learning how to lose.
  • Rome was not built in a day. Neither was Sparta- nor was the Spartan brotherhood. Nor will your robot be.
  • Analyze before assumption.
  • The engineering notebook is a powerful tool if you use it well.
  • Even if you specialize in one area of robotics (building or programming), learning about the others will improve your abilities in the one.
  • Take advantage of the numerous resources VEX provides you, particularly the VEX Wiki and the VEX Forum.
  • You can never have too much time to build. You can never have too little time to improve.
  • Be open to compromise and debate. A fight with robots is far better than one with humans.
  • No engineer is ever too skilled for improvement.
  • A robot of a thousand points in competition begins with a single piece of metal;
  • An autonomous of a thousand points begins with a single line of code;
  • A driver of a thousand points begins with a single hour of practice.
  • Even if it’s 8 o’clock at the night before the championship and your robot is a literal steel brick, never lose hope. Miracles happen.
  • Always remember to have fun.


  • Sort often; a tidy work area equals an efficient team. You are not above sorting things.
  • Don’t forget the sandpaper or file after any cutting.
  • The bin into which everything gets thrown- that bin- is quite a black hole. What goes in does not come out easily.
  • Do not pack tools with parts. Keep them in the separate, designated bin.
  • Keep your notebook in your backpack; if, by chance, some excellent idea occurs to you, write it down!
  • When in doubt, check it out.
  • Do your robotics homework. What homework? You always have robotics homework.
  • Remember to turn off your robot. Remember to turn on your robot before the match starts.


  • All motors and servos, especially those bearing a heavy load (lift, drive, etc.), should be supported by two or more points (bearing blocks).
  • All chassis wheels on full-size competition robots must be supported by at least two mounts. It is highly recommended that the wheel be positioned between them.
  • When building an arm, bolt the arm directly to the “driven” gear to reduce the effects of torque on the motor.
  • Small wheels grant faster acceleration than large wheels, while the latter have higher maximum speed.
  • For actuating a claw, pneumatics work best - not motors or servos.
  • “Nothing is free in robotics”- except rubber band tension. Use it well.
  • One does need aluminum to be competitive.
  • Learn from observation. Not from assumption.


  • A good program is at least half green. Code without comments is useless, unless you are in a desperate hurry.
  • If you get stuck, don’t hesitate to ask for help from a mentor or more experienced robotics teammate.
  • If your code doesn’t work, the compiler is never at fault.


  • There is always a better robot; There is always a better program; There is no absolute measure of robot performance; There is something called luck;
    • Be satisfied with what you can bring to competition- don’t focus too much on the downsides of your robot: You don’t need to win the tournament to go home with something.
  • The incredible can always happen, as it did to Damien’s first team during its first year at its first league championship.
  • Remember that “robotics” is only part of robotics; there is also engineering. Good engineering practices are not only beneficial in themselves- they can help your team win Judges’ Awards.
  • Your matches are not won with your robot. If you think your robot is smart, don’t forget about the humans.
  • An immobilized robot is a losing robot. So is a sessile one.
  • It is better to play at your robot’s strengths than to play at your opponent’s weaknesses. Make your robot do what it was designed to do.
  • There is no evidence that robots ever liked humans. Always be prepared for mechanical failure. Always be prepared for electrical failure on top of that.
  • Try not to mercilessly grill your driver about tactical blunders after the match. Not only does he or she already have enough stress, but what happened is what happened and not wouldn’t have happened. Furthermore, conscious decisions are made for reasons.
  • Always keep a spare battery and a set of tools handy.
  • There is no finer principle for match strategy than teamwork; do not forget to strategize with your alliance partners.
  • Pay attention to the issued match timetable!
  • Don’t forget about yourself and your body during competition (especially at multi-day tournaments). Eat enough, stay hydrated, and relax.
  • The “best” robot- or the one that ends up winning the tournament- is not always the one that everyone uses. Think outside the box.