Season Timeline


The preseason lasts from September through December. During this time, teams recruit new members, develop technical skills, and raise money to fund the rest of the season. This part of the year normally involves a couple meetings per week, but it is much more relaxed than the build season and the competition season.

Build Season

The build season runs from January through April. This is the time of year when teams actually work on a robot for competition.

The build season begins with kickoff on a Saturday in early January. At kickoff, FIRST livestreams the year's game animation, which gives a brief overview of the challenge for robots that year. FIRST also releases the game manual, which is a long document (normally around 135 pages) that explains the game in great detail. As an example, here is the 2020 game animation, and here is the 2020 game manual.

Immediately after kickoff, teams work to prioritize what challenges in the game they want to address. Then, they begin designing, prototyping, building, wiring, programming, and testing. This part of the season requires a large time commitment. Our team often meets five days each week at the beginning of the build season. By the end, we sometimes have to meet every day to get ready for competitions in time.

Competition Season

The competition season goes from early March to late April. This overlaps with the end of the build season, so after a competition, a team can improve its robot to better prepare for the next competition.

There are six weeks of official competition prior to the world championship every year. These run from early March to early April. Most years, our team competes in two regional competitions. These competitions normally involve traveling on Wednesday, practicing on Thursday, and competing on Friday and Saturday. We return Saturday or Sunday depending on how long it takes to drive home. Some common destinations for our regional competitions are Cedar Falls, La Crosse, and Duluth.

Teams that win certain awards at regional competitions (such as winning the event or winning the Chairman's award) qualify for the FIRST Championship. There are actually two championship events that take place in different weeks at the end of April: one in Houston and one in Detroit. The championship a team attends depends on where the regional at which they qualify is located. Our regionals almost always qualify us for the championship in Detroit.

Worlds is slightly longer event than a regional competition. We normally travel on Tuesday, practice on Wednesday, and compete on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

*Some places don't have regional competitions. Instead, they have district competitions, which are shorter. Then, teams advance to the district championship based on a complicated point system. The best teams at the district championship advance to worlds. One place that uses this model is Michigan, but since Iowa does not, it is not directly relevant to our team.


After the stress of the competition season, the offseason is much more lax. This part of the season takes place from May to August. Our team meets once a week, and we use the time to raise money, organize outreach events in the community, and plan summer camps.

In addition, we sometimes attend offseason competitions. These events are unofficial, and they are shorter and cheaper than regional competitions. They give us a chance to train new drivers and keep people engaged over the summer.

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Iowa City Robotics 2024