As I write this, Hurricane Sandy is poised and ready to pounce on us here in the northeastern United States. Everywhere I turn there's a reminder. The wind picking up outside, the rain, the constant media buzz of impending doom.
The one theme in all of this noise is preparedness. The morning news anchor telling me to remember fresh batteries for my flashlights (check), the Facebook messages reminding me to charge my phone and have food and water to last a couple days in the event of flooding and power outages (check and check).
This idea of being prepared got me thinking about how FTC teams need to be prepared for the events they plan to attend. Just like preparing for a natural disaster, there are certain things that need to be accomplished before ever setting foot in a tournament (other than building and programming a robot).
The most important thing on your list of tournament preparation is finding an event and registering for it. Each FTC tournament can only host a set number of teams, so be informed on when registration for your planned event opens and register as early as possible. On tournament day, you don't want to wind up in the situation where you've invested hours and hours into your team and robot and then your team has no event to attend.
Every year, we hear from teams who waited to register and then missed the opportunity to compete. Maybe you think you're not ready. Maybe you want to stay on the wait list for your favorite event. Here's our most important tip for you: just play! Don't wait for all the stars to align. Sign up early and make the most out of every chance you have to compete. FTC is growing rapidly and our events are filling up faster than ever.
Now that you've gone out and registered for your event, confirm the event dates and start times and note any special instructions (i.e. some tournaments may have robot inspection the night before the tournament). Make sure all of your team members have filled out and had a parent/guardian sign Consent and Release Forms. Also, if you're associated with a school, be sure to check any rules and regulations they have on transporting students and make sure all of your drivers are properly insured.
For a more detailed overview of things you should do to prepare your team for a tournament, review the Tournament 101 section of the FTC Mentor's Guide (Pp 46). It has all the details you'll need to be ready for tournament day. It's also a good idea to check with the FTC organization or affiliate partner in charge of your event for any event-specific details.
And for all of you FTC'ers here with us on the East Coast, be smart and stay safe as Hurricane Sandy plows through.