So you want to host your own MiniFRC event! We are so delighted to hear it. We know it’s a lot to take on, and the TerrorBytes are here to help. If you haven’t already joined our MiniFRC Discord server, what are you waiting for?
This is a quick outline to share what we’ve learned from our many years of experience (and mistakes along the way). These instructions are for a “MiniFRC Classic” event, in which there is a kickoff, a game reveal, a multi-week build period, and a competition day as a finale. If you are interested in hosting a MiniFRC SE (Summer/Special Edition) camp, please contact us directly.
It helps to be able to show people how much fun a MiniFRC game is. We have a couple short videos to get you started:
Our YouTube short:
You Could Make This in MiniFRC
Note: MiniFRC is literally an FRC season on a smaller scale. Prior experience with FRC is not absolutely necessary, but it will make everything here make a lot more sense.
Resources to get you started
Prior game manuals
Prior field CAD
A document of many useful resources.
A programming guide for the NoU-WPILib software tool.
There is no requirement that you use Alfredo Systems’ infrastructure for MiniFRC—all you need is a way to build and drive table-top bots. You could do MiniFRC with RC cars, if you wanted (and it has been done).
If you don’t want to spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel (or the software to drive it), Alfredo Systems has developed hardware, software and tutorials to support MiniFRC.
Alfredo Systems resources:
- Alfredo Systems website
- NoU2 robot build tutorial video
- GitHub tutorial for “Robot Programming with AlfredoConnect-Receive”:(AlfredoConnect-Receive is the program that allows you to drive your bot via either keyboard commands or a controller.)
- Instructable (2018) for “Dumpy McDumpster”
You will also need a permission form of some kind if you are letting people into your build space—when working with students and electricity and power tools, this is a must. Here’s what the TerrorBytes use.
Picking your level of difficulty
Any MiniFRC event can be run at one of three levels:
- Entry level: You’re building bots from cardboard and Lego bricks, and you’ll be happy if on competition day you get a bunch of people together having fun with robots. This is a totally achievable goal!
- Next level: You’re putting in a little more work for a little more reward. You’ve made Kits of Parts and designed custom awards.
- Next-next level: You’re either using Alfredo’s FMS or you’ve designed your own. Your competitors are gonna be contenders in the MiniFRC World Champs! (Once we get enough teams to have one..)
Phase 1: You want to host a MiniFRC event
1. Get partners to share the load.
It takes a village. Prepare to put in 50-100 hours before you even hold kickoff, so recruit your team of MiniFRC enthusiasts early. The tasks that need to get done are Event Organization, Volunteer Coordination, Food/Logistics, Awards, and Fabrication. More on these in Part 2.
2. Pick your game.
All MiniFRC events are based on prior FRC games. Some of them are easier to pull off than others. Games that require elaborate on-field scoring sensors can be done, but that’s probably next level. A great one to start with is Stronghold–it was the first MiniFRC game we ever played, and we have field CAD, the manual, and a field management system (FMS) that we can share with you.
3. Pick dates for Kickoff and Competition Day.
The key to a successful event is to pick a time window that allows enough time for building, but not so much that people lose interest. To really recreate an FRC build season, there has to be an element of stress!
Recommended time window: It’s great to allow at least two weeks between kickoff and competition. Three weeks might be needed during a school year. With four weeks or more, it’s easy to lose momentum and enthusiasm. Try to minimize the amount your inner circle starts building ahead of time, so that all players are on the same level.
School year vs. summer: We’ve done both, and they both work, they are just different experiences. During the school year (Kickoff sometime in early November) we see a mix of students from our team, our school, and to a lesser extent other FRC teams. During our summer events (usually June), we typically get more participation from other FRC teams.
4. Recruit sponsors.
It doesn’t cost a lot to host a MiniFRC event, but you will need to make some investments. You’ll need a place to host the event, whether that’s your school or an outside venue. Just like with a regular FRC season, you can offer sponsors prominent displays at your event. Look for companies who can donate hardware, build space, or just some cold hard cash to help kids build robots, learn lots, and have fun.
5. Finally, once you’ve got your team, your game, your dates, and your sponsors: book your venue!!!
How to select a venue: You’re looking for some place big enough to set up a quarter-sized FRC field, with room for queuing, drive teams, judges/referees, and spectators. You’ll also need space for pits—usually one small table per team. Our school is not ideal—no auditorium or gym, and everything is spread out in hallways in the basement—and it still works just fine. We love it because it is free.
Phase 1.5: Things to think about sooner rather than later
6. Plan public relations/marketing.
Who is your intended audience? If this is your first event, maybe you want to keep it small and focus on FRC students. MiniFRC is a great way to pull students from local teams together. If you’ve got some experience under your belt, maybe you’re ready to reach out to your broader school or local community.
Now spread the word—flyers, social media, email lists, whatever you got. TerrorBytes usually try to have our summer dates set by our first district event, so we can advertise directly from our pit.
7. Decide on team communication strategy
The TerrorBytes use the MiniFRC Discord server, which is available for any team hosting a MiniFRC event. We love the shared community and near instantaneous troubleshooting. If you post a question, someone will answer.
You will also need a website, shared Google Drive, or some other strategy for sharing the Game Manual, Field CAD, and other documents.
Phase 2: Time to put your plan into action
1. Start the Game Manual (see templates and examples above)
2. Design the quarter-scale field (or borrow pre-made CADs from TerrorBytes)
3. Organize KoPs (if using). The typical KoP from Alfredo Systems includes an ESP32, a NoU2 (motor shield), 4 TT motors (includes gearbox), 4 wheels, and appropriate game pieces.
4. Create a mechanism for team registration/sign-up (i.e. Google form)
5. Implement your public relations plan. Advertise, advertise, advertise! Get the word out, let people know what is coming. Include the dates, the venue, and the link to sign up.
That’s it! Sit back and relax; it’s almost time for Kickoff.
(Next in the series: How to Host MiniFRC: Part 2, which describes Kickoff, Build Season, and more details about Planning for Competition Day)