STRATEGY / COMPETITION TEAM
- Continue to discuss the game and your strategy. Focus on what you plan to do and what you believe your opponents will do. With many robots on the field each match, it will be critical to understand many possible permutations of the game.
SELECTION OF COMPETITION TEAM
- If you have not already done so, determine how you plan to select your competition team. Who will be the coach; how will you select drivers; what will the criteria for selection be?
*DOWNLOAD* Competition Team Evaluation Matrix
COMPETITION TEAM SELECTION
So you have a strategy, a robot design, and the team is frantically prototyping, coding, etc. Now, you need to start thinking seriously about who is going to be operating the ‘bot out on the competition field. The earlier you have this team identified, the more time these students will have to ready themselves.
NOTE: Some teams may have determined this group much earlier in the season.
The competition team is comprised of those team members that perform out on the competition field with the robot. Typically, this is a chassis driver, a features or robot function operator, a Human Player, and a coach. The coach role can be filled with a student or adult mentor. All other roles must be students.
Beyond desire and ability to operate the robot, the “comp team” members should know the robot, game rules, and your team strategy inside and out. They should also be cool under pressure and be able to communicate effectively with other teams in their alliance.
MOE has selected team members in the past by using an eligibility matrix, which tracks what we believe to be the key criteria
*DOWNLOAD* Competition Team Elegibility Matrix
Although you may not have a robot running on the floor yet, the earlier you select the competition team, the earlier those students can begin mentally preparing for their roles. Encourage selected candidates to study the game rules. You may even want to pull together a Game Rules exam as a way to inject some objective criteria into your selection process.
Select comp team alternatives in addition to your primary team. You never know when an illness or other personal situation may prevent one of your primary team members from fulfilling his/her role.
COMPETITION TEAM AVAILABILITY
We covered competition team selection last week. It is important, now that time is fleeting, to schedule training time with competition team members (or hopefuls). Talk with each member and determine when he / she is available between now and robot ship. When the robot is on the floor and ready to drive, make sure one of the competition team members is available to drive. Simply testing functionality allows drivers to get their hands on the joysticks.
FIRST RELEASE FORMS
Before your initial competition of the season, be sure to have each of your team members complete the official FIRST Release form. Detailed information can be found at the FIRST website. You must hand in these forms as you check in at your regional. If you do not have these forms, you will not be able to practice or compete with your robot. We forgot our forms when we arrived at the Chesapeake Regional in 2003 and had to call to have them faxed to the event so we could compete. Learn from our mistake -–remember your completed sheets!
Pit supplies should consist of all the tools used to build the robot and the material to recreate components that you anticipate might sustain damage during the competition. In reality, bringing an entire machine shop is not practical.
So at a minimum, at least one hand tool of every type used to build your robot should be packed. Keep in mind that hand cutting tools are an essential (drill, electric saws, hacksaws, etc. In addition, spare motors, gears, chains, cylinders, valves and electrical components (fuses, motor controllers, joy sticks) for your robot are a must to have.
RUN THROUGH THE FIRST INSPECTION SHEET
Have the students on the pit crew, who are responsible for pneumatics, controls, electrical, drive, and unique component mechanisms review the inspection sheet. Have mentors be mock judges and do a pre-run through of the inspection sheet. This should occur after shipping and before the first competition.
*DOWNLOAD* 2009 FIRST Inspection Checklist
PREPARE LIST OF ROBOT MATERIALS AND ALL ASSOCIATED COSTS
If you haven’t kept a list of all the materials used on the robot as you built it, now is the time to prepare it. If you wait until after it ships, you will not have the physical robot to refer to when ensuring that you have everything captured on the list. Having this list is a requirement for getting the robot certified as acceptable for competition at each event.
OBTAIN INFORMATION ABOUT COMPETITION VENUE
The FIRST website will have current information available on each competition venue. Read this information, and start thinking about the logistics of getting your team to the event and then to and from the event venue and where you will be lodging. If you are lucky enough to have a competition in your own back yard, begin working on carpools.
Another way your team can distinguish yourself is via a team banner. These banners can be displayed in certain areas of the competition venue. Banners can contain your team name, team number, robot name, special cheer, and a list of your key sponsors. This is a great way to thank your sponsor(s) for the assistance that made this whole experience possible.
Tip -> Make sure that you can hang a banner in the arena. You don't want to make a banner that is too big, or illegal to hang.
An exciting mascot can add a lot to your team spirit. There are often opportunities for the mascots from various teams to get out on the field during a break in the action to interact and dance to rev up the crowd.
Give one of your really outgoing team members a great costume or a puppet to represent your team. Maybe your school already has a mascot costume you can use.
Keep in mind that the mascot costume must be very portable and not too hot. Many of the venues get real warm and you don’t want your mascot keeling over from the heat!
Competing as a TEAM in FIRST Robotics competitions is FUN as well as rewarding. Team spirit establishes a team’s identity in many different ways. The FIRST organization encourages and, in fact, flourishes on teams who make Team Spirit part of their culture.
Start with selecting a team name or acronym, one that characterizes your teams mission or school, sponsor, regional roots, attitude, purpose … any number of sources can establish your teams theme. Stylize with logos and team colors that can be printed onto T-shirts, buttons, hats, costumes or uniforms … You are limited only by your creative imaginations.
Sounding like fun yet?
Then there can be team cheers, dances, songs, cheerleaders, banners, posters … anything to make your team more fun and recognizable.
At competitions it gets even better and more fun. FIRST competitions are sporting events. All teams are there not only to seriously compete, but also they recognize that the competition itself is FUN.
A lot of work went into the design and building of the robot and preparation for the events. Celebrate your success! Win or lose, it IS how you play the game! Show your pride and your colors, be visible and be heard. Let all of the other teams know that YOU are there. It makes the events much more memorable and rewarding.
Your competition team should plan to stay closely together during the competition. Your coach should understand the competition agenda and know where each competition team member is at all times.
During Team #365’s first year of competition at the Nationals (as they were called then) at Disney World, our main drivers could not be found prior to a match. It turns out they had fallen asleep on the grass somewhere. We had to put in our back-up drive team, who, fortunately, won the match for us.
Although you may have practiced with one set of drivers, you never know when fate will require someone else to drive. Determine who your back-up team will be beforehand.
COMPETITION TEAM BUTTONS
FIRST will provide your competition team with buttons, which will identify them and allow them access to the playing field. DO NOT LOSE THESE BUTTONS. Ensure that either each competition team member is responsible for his/her own buttons or have the coach collect them at the end of each day.
BE PREPARED TO STRATEGIZE WITH OTHER TEAMS
Your competition team will be the first line of communication with alliance partners. Part of a successful alliance is truthful communication and another is the ability to communicate clearly and professionally. Discuss this prior to the competition.
Be truthful about your abilities when strategizing with other teams. If you are not sure that you will have a function repaired in time, tell them. Your team credibility will be much greater in the long run if you are honest.
Be prepared to reconcile differences in strategy with your alliance partners. You will not get your way every match and should not expect to. Every team wants to strut their stuff each match. Your partners are no different.
Always ask if your partners agree with your suggestions. Open up the discussion for their input. Who knows, they might be in a position to select your team going into eliminations.
Plan to have key scouts or a strategist meet with the competition team prior to their match and before they meet with their alliance partners to summarize scouting information. Be brief and relay information obtained from the scout sheets. Talk about possible strategies based on the strengths and weaknesses of your alliance compared to your opponents.
POST MATCH DEBRIEF
After a match is over, meet with the competition team to review performance. Be honest, but supportive of the team. Discuss what went well, what could have been better, and what to do to improve next time. Try not to assign blame.
One way to visually assess performance is to have someone videotape the match, focusing on your bot, and then review the tape with the competition team.
ELIMINATION ROUND SELECTION
Be prepared to select partners for the elimination rounds. Even if you are ranked last going into Saturday’s Qualification Matches, you never know when you will be selected and may need to assist the team selecting you with their next choice.
Maintain a list of teams ranked in terms of compatibility as an alliance partner. As elimination round selection is occurring, cross off teams who are already chosen.
A number of teams are not prepared to select alliance partners and do not pay attention while teams selecting before them make their choices. This may lead to embarrassment as the team chooses a team already selected.
Have your alliance captain or team representative chosen beforehand and ensure he / she understands the selection process (and has a list).
A ROBOT CART IS A NECESSITY
Due to the greater distances, teams are queued even earlier. This leaves even less time between matches and less time to work on your robot. Plan for this up front.
With the added distance of travel for your robot, if you do not yet have a robot cart, it is definitely the time to make one. Ensure that the cart has enough space to carry some tools, a spare battery, and a cup holder for beverages (not kidding!).
PREPARE A TRAVELLING TOOL KIT
Due to lack of time between matches, be sure to carry all your critical parts and tools with you. You may not have time to go back to your pit between some of the matches. Bring along a spare battery for the same reason.
TRAVEL BETWEEN GWCC AND GEORGIA DOME
Although it is only a 10-minute walk for the competition team, the walk from the pits to the competition fields, spectators should expect the walk to be longer. There will also be multiple escalator rides in-between.
Plan to do a fair amount of walking. Wear good sneakers, shoes and remember that no open-toed footwear is allowed in the pit area. Travel lightly to/from the venue. Leave the jackets, sweaters, and large backpacks back at the hotel.