Rookie Mistakes: Competition

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Problem

Solution

Neglect drive practice

  • Drivers unfamiliar with robot

  • Robot reliability untested

Constant driver training

  • Drivers comfortable with controls

  • Proven and tested robot

No game strategy

  • Lack of contingency plans

  • Weakens alliance strength

Strategical driving

  • Only purposeful actions taken

  • Efficient and effective driving

Fully driver-controlled

  • Less efficient

  • Requires more practice

Partially automated tasks

  • Relieves stress on driver

  • Removes human error

Neglecting driver practice to Constant driver training

Important

A persistent problem with new teams is neglecting driver practice. Drive practice is to be done throughout the season, not the week before competition.

No matter how good your robot is, the robot is only 50% of the equation. The driver(s) are the other 50% which determine the success of the team as a whole. Even if your robot is the best in the world, an inferior robot with a competent drive team more than likely will beat your robot with a poor drive team. By April’s world championships, most top teams have run hundreds of practice matches.

This gives some obvious advantages compared to a team with lesser practice.

  1. The driver(s) are totally familiar with handling the robot in every situation.

  2. The robot is proven to be reliable enough to survive hours of operation.

  3. The immense data that teams gather from test runs are used to optimize every element of the robot.

Driver practice not only familiarizes the driver(s) with the robot and serves as a test of robot reliability, it also simulates in-game conditions. Learning to push the limits of your robot should be done in practice, not at competition. This way, drivers will become more comfortable driving under stress and pressure. Teams with intensive driver practice will purposely make things more difficult (such as placing a disabled robot in the middle of the field or unplugging a drivetrain motor).

While this may seem extreme, it is really just a form of preparedness. If your driver doesn’t know how to react, then you need more drive practice.

No game strategy to Strategic driving

Similar to drive practice, this is something that many inexperienced teams ignore. A sports example is handy - even with the most talented players, a team won’t go far without good game strategy.

Important

A less capable team with better strategy execution can often pull off an upset. Planning a strategy ensures that every second in the 2:30 game time is used to maximum efficiency, which yields maximum points.

For example, drivers should know exactly where the robot needs to be positioned after the autonomous to tele-op switch. Practicing this switch will save a couple of seconds when drivers have to think “what do I do now?” In very competitive matches, these few seconds may be able to gain your team an extra cycle. Knowing when to transition from a tele-op to endgame objective is equally important (hint: perfect one first) and will save valuable time. Strategy should always be used to maximize points - whether this is a positioning strategy to access the game elements, or a defensive strategy to hinder the other alliance from scoring.

Tip

In most seasons, denying the other alliance 10 points is the same value as scoring 10 points in every match; however, in the Ultimate Goal season there is no advantage to denying the other alliance 10 points, as ranking is based off of the number points your alliance scores as opposed to how many wins you have. However, denying the other alliance points is still a powerful strategy in elimination matches.

However, it is not advisable for rookie teams to play defense due to the specific rules surrounding this strategy. If a team wishes to execute a defensive strategy, be sure to read all the rules as defense can easily incur penalties/cards if done improperly.

Fully driver-controlled driving to Partially automated tasks

Important

Autonomous should not be limited to only the autonomous mode. Automating simple tasks can be a real time-saver and efficiency boost to teams.

  1. Automating tasks can save time and reduce the need for driver multi-tasking. Drivers should always be controlling the robot with as few button presses as possible. For example, automatically stopping the intake mechanism when game elements have been collected saves a button press.

  2. Autonomously operating some mechanisms has the advantage of eliminating driver error and relieves stress. For example, if a lift has to extend to exactly 30 inches, a motor with an encoder can complete that with 100% accuracy at full speed, compared to a human driver’s minor error.

Note

Autonomous functions should be able to be overrided by manual input in case something goes wrong (e.g. encoder is unplugged, a part breaks, etc.) to prevent damage to the robot and to be compliant with game rules.