Week 0 Observations and Stop Build Day

Blog Date: 
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 15:23

On Saturday, February 16th, FRC staff supported two ‘Week 0’ scrimmages, one in Connecticut and one in New Hampshire.  These events were run with official fields and electronics that will be put on the road during competition season.  FRC supports these events so we can test out our systems and see how the game plays with real FRC Teams.  We carefully review what we see at these events, and work to improve our systems, and if necessary, the game, in preparation for competition.

Here’s what we learned about which we thought you’d like to hear:

  • Field reset can be fairly quick, although it will require more coordination than in past years. Provided there’s a plan and organization about collecting and staging discs, it’s pretty manageable. Practice day will be a huge help in getting everyone on the same page and running smoothly.
  • The belay system is effective at helping remove robots from the pyramids, but it will require much communication and collaboration between the team and the field staff to make sure it’s done safely and effectively (thanks to Team 811 for giving us several opportunities to try this out!).
  • To mitigate cost and complexity and maximize access for testing and troubleshooting, the goals are designed to be fairly open. Because the FMS calculates the score based on the weight of the discs in the goals, it’s important that teams not touch any of the goals (over their head or the low goal). We’ll make sure this reminder is covered in the Drivers’ Meetings and we’ll be labeling the goals with “Do Not Touch” stickers.
  • The netting on the sides of the field was helpful, but we still had significant issues with discs leaving the field during the match. During the last 30 seconds, when feeders are allowed to enter discs onto the field over the feeder stations, discs were going everywhere.  This period was described on the forums as a ‘blizzard’ and it ‘raining’ discs.  These are accurate characterizations.  There are several issues with this, the most significant being safety.  While discs thrown by robots for the most part stayed within the confines of the field, many discs thrown by the feeders did not.  This is understandable – feeders are attempting a difficult shot at an awkward angle.  This makes it exciting when a disc goes in a goal, but also increases the chance that a disc will leave the playing field and potentially strike someone.  We noticed that during the last 30 seconds of the match, many folks closest to the field had their heads up to make sure they weren’t going to be hit by an errant disc, rather than enjoying the action on the field.

This last bullet is particularly compelling and, unfortunately, was serious enough that we felt the need to modify the game to rectify the situation (the official rule change is in today’s Team Update). As we hope we conveyed in the Team Update, we don’t take significant rules changes lightly as we know that teams carefully study the rules and invest hours or even days coming up with the best strategy they can within the framework of those rules.

We know that the robots we saw at these events were still works in progress, as teams still had three days before they needed to bag up. Even so, we were impressed with and excited by what we saw and can’t wait to see more. We’re so grateful to the event planning committees and the teams themselves for giving this opportunity to do a couple of dress rehearsals. We hope it was a fun and valuable experience for all participants.

Stop Build Day

In case you lost track of time, today is Stop Build Day!  Robots must be bagged up by the stroke of midnight – your local time - tonight (when today, of course, turns in to tomorrow).

 

I’ll blog again soon.

Frank

Comments

It would seem that such a major change to the rules, while necessary, would spur some thought toward consideration for teams, such as mine, whose major strategy was based on picking frisbees off the floor. For example, I would suggest that the game might start with more frisbees on the floor or perhaps some other idea since this rule change has come so late (our robot is actually already bagged) and a major tennet of our entire strategy has been nullified before our first moment on the field. Thank you.

The human player aspect of the games in the last few years are supposed to be fun, and a way for some non-robot scoring. With flight time and chaotic paths, I doubt the GDC foresaw a large percentage of teams relying on human-thrown discs for picking-up. I always assumed that pick-up robots were hoping for rebounds, not thrown discs. This is especially apparent since most teams who plan on climbing will use those last 30 seconds to climb.

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