PDA

View Full Version : [moderated]: NASA/VCU field problems


Stephen P
03-03-2006, 08:15 PM
After the first day of competition here at VCU, I am a bit dissapointed with the amount of problems that have plagued the scoring system and field system in general. For a while, the blue alliance station seemed to be malfuctioning. During one of our matches, our robot's autonomous was completely out of wack and our bot was uncontrollable during remote control. This same problem happened to (to my knowledge) at least two other teams on the blue alliance, and probably more. We, along with another team, tried to talk to the technical guy about the problem but they kind of just shrugged us off and blamed the problem on us. Shortly thereafter, they fixed the field and had no re-do's of the botched matches.
Throughout the day I believe the scoring sensors were not working properly in at least the center goals; on at least one of our matches, our alliance scored six in the center during autonomous and the system registered that we had won autonomous; however we still did not receive the ten point bonus, and in all our score was drastically undercalculated. Our alliance complained but was shrugged away in a similiar manner.
I believe the scoring problems swayed the game in favor of the red alliances; it seemed as though the large majority of the games were won by red (anyone have statistics?).
I know that this is a very complex game, but I really wish they had worked the bugs out of it before the competition.
Is anyone else experiencing similiar frustration?

edit: This should remain a seperate thread from the original VCU thread since it is specifically about the field problems.

Kyle Love
03-03-2006, 08:39 PM
Please remember, FIRST can only test it in certain situations. Kind of like how car companies test cars, but they always have some problem that they didn't find before they were released. The week one regionals are prone to field problems due to the lack of real-time pressure that they are put through during the actual regional. Look for the fields to be amazing by a week 3 or 4 regional, and an AMAZING field by time The Championships come around!

Kyle A
03-03-2006, 08:45 PM
Remember it is week one. And it is really the first test for the fields, and most everything that you test the first time has some kind of bug. And like Kyle said in time they will have everything up and working perfict. Just give it some time.

sanddrag
03-03-2006, 09:11 PM
Sorry but I don't see it that way. I've said this before and I'll say it again.

We are customers of FIRST. We pay good money to play on a well functioning field. It should be a well functioning field. If I order dinner at a nice restaurant, and it comes out wrong, they fix it. Why, because I'm paying for it. If it comes out wrong again or if it is taking too long, it is free.

We spend six weeks building robots. There's no reason FIRST can't spend 6 weeks perfecting their field.

The fact that it is a first week regional is no excuse. Everyone who is there payed $6000 to be there. They should get the proper service they payed for.

Some of you may say we get more than $6000 value for our $6000 which is probably true. But that is the price they charge and that is ther price we pay. In any case, we are still customers, and customer satisfaction is key to keeping any business or organization alive.

So don't go easy on FIRST because you feel sorry for them. If you do, what incentive will they have to make it better next time if they know we always are so forgiving?

FIRST is a great organization. I'm not out to get them. But I don't expect any less of them than I do any other business/organization/person that I pay good money to.

EDIT: I forgot to note that FIRST is not entirelty to blame. There are also a couple 3rd party companies as I understand. But that just means that FIRST needs to get on them for not delivering a working product.

Joe Matt
03-03-2006, 09:12 PM
Is this your first time to VCU? Because this has become a regular occurance for the first day usualy to debug the system. While I understand your frustration, it's impossible for FIRST to test this system out before implementing it. They are doing a much better job than the past two years.

sanddrag
03-03-2006, 09:14 PM
They are doing a much better job than the past two years.So as long as each year we do a little better than last year it is okay? That's like saying little we are so proud of little Timmy because he got a D in math this quarter when he got an F last quarter. That's like saying we seeded 47th last year so our goal is to seed 46th this year. That's like getting served spoiled milk that has been sitting out only one day instead of two. Regarless of the improvement, it is still not acceptable.

FIRST (and the rest of us) should strive not just for improvement, but for perfection.

EDIT: I forgot to note that FIRST is not entirelty to blame. There are also a couple 3rd party companies as I understand. But that just means that FIRST needs to get on them for not delivering a working product.

Billfred
03-03-2006, 09:21 PM
So as long as each year we do a little better than last year it is okay? That's like saying little we are so proud of little Timmy because he got a D in math this quarter when he got an F last quarter. That's like saying we seeded 17th last year so our goal is to seed 16th this year. FIRST should strive not just for improvement, but for perfection.
Perfection would indeed be a good goal. And it would be awesome if FIRST could get a couple more fields out the weekend before ship for some shakedown scrimmages.

That said, does anyone keep track of field downtime across regionals and seasons? It would be interesting to see where the Aim High field falls in relation to the Triple Play or (perhaps more interesting still, given the different control setup that year) FIRST Frenzy field. Know what screws up on a field, and you learn either how to fix it in action or avoid it in the game design.

Zach Purser
03-03-2006, 09:26 PM
Sorry but I don't see it that way. I've said this before and I'll say it again.

We are customers of FIRST. We pay good money to play on a well functioning field. It should be a well functioning field. If I order dinner at a nice restaurant, and it comes out wrong, they fix it. Why, because I'm paying for it. If it comes out wrong again or if it is taking too long, it is free.

We spend six weeks building robots. There's no reason FIRST can't spend 6 weeks perfecting their field.

The fact that it is a first week regional is no excuse. Everyone who is there payed $6000 to be there. They should get the proper service they payed for.

Some of you may say we get more than $6000 value for our $6000 which is probably true. But that is the price they charge and that is ther price we pay. In any case, we are still customers, and customer satisfaction is key to keeping any business or organization alive.

So don't go easy on FIRST because you feel sorry for them. If you do, what incentive will they have to make it better next time if they know we always are so forgiving?

FIRST is a great organization. I'm not out to get them. But I don't expect any less of them than I do any other business/organization/person that I pay good money to.

Last year there was also a problem with scoring at VCU. The team that was seeded #1 was incorrectly seeded due to the fact that they played one more match than the rest of the field, and that match was included in their total wins. It is very frustrating, especially for teams like us that can only afford to go to one regional, and I agree that it shouldn't happen. At this point I am going to recommend to our team that we don't attend the first round of regionals.

scitobor 617
03-03-2006, 09:48 PM
I agree that these field problems are unacceptable. It is one thing if you can afford to go to several regionals but for a team than can only afford one regional, like mine, things must work correctly the first time or it is over. Luckily the botched matches we had today were re-played but it is outrageous that there are other teams had incorrect scores used for seeding.

Mike o.
03-03-2006, 10:14 PM
As a volunteer this year, and a student for the past four, i know that the scoring gets annoying when it doesn't work. I do have to say though, that this year, it has greatly improved. A few things that you need to remember are this: the scoring during autonomous stops after the green light goes out, now that computer does give a few seconds to let any balls in motion try to finish its motion and then figure out who scored the most. Granted it sucks that if your team scored and it wasn't able to count it, it sucks. this same leeway happens in between the two Off/Deff rounds. As for the ten point bonus, i means if it didn't get added, there is a reason, either being no one scored the most or no one scored at all. Working as a manual counter, I haven't really seen the scores skewed too much, except maybe for one or two matches. Everyone just needs to give them a break, there is only soo much FIRST can do to test the field and such before it gets used in its true environment. They can only simulate what they know would go wrong, or what they think would go wrong, using these fields is pretty much expanding their knowledge of what else would be capable of going wrong. We are all in this together and we are all learning together.

As far as red winning more matches, i dint think that one side is necessarily better than the other, Ive seen alot of teams win on blue.

Covey41
03-03-2006, 10:36 PM
"Last year there was also a problem with scoring at VCU. The team that was seeded #1 was incorrectly seeded due to the fact that they played one more match than the rest of the field, and that match was included in their total wins."

The FIRST Rep. at last years event, pointed out to the announcer, Woody Flowers, Dave Lavery, Head Ref, and the event manager, that the rankings were wrong. The 1st ranked team should have been ranked 4th. They did not want to listen to him. The event was running 2 hours behind for lots of reasons, and they just wanted to get it done! (Frankly not caring, that it was wrong, Woody even made a mistake in how the selections were done, and when pointed out by the FIRST Rep that it was wrong, the comment was "Woody said to do it this way".)

As someone who has written a lot of software, I would like to know how many people have written a complicated piece of software (Such as the scoring system.) and had it work correctly the first time it is used. Just look at Windows and most versions of Linux. Everyone of these has had major bugs that were only fixed over time. As was said before, there is no way to test a system as complicated as this, without testing it at an event such as a regional. Scrimmages are good, but they just don't put the same load on a program as a regional.

When you think about it, most programs are tested by using beta versions, with 100's of people testing them. The scoring system working after a couple of weeks of testing is actually quite amazing, and says a lot about the people who wrote it!!

In the next couple of days, people will be putting down the scoring system. Just remember the GDC takes 6-8 months to develop the game, then expect someone to write and test a scoring system, that works 100% the first week. Maybe the solution is having the DC working a year ahead of time developing the game. That would give everyone, including FIRST a chance to have great fields, and an 100% scoring system!

Just my $.02, probably not even worth that much!
It was not my intention to upset anyone, just to point some things out.

Conor Ryan
03-03-2006, 10:40 PM
There are always problems with the field, and FIRST always makes an effort to work on them, this year they offered some of the most in depth training to date. That being said, a very wise man summed all of this up for me on Thursday, and I agree completely.

"NASA, IFI, Hatch Technologies, and who ever else is involved out there continually produce a better field and scoring system, however FIRST keeps producing bigger idiots."

Nuttyman54
03-03-2006, 10:41 PM
one of the main problems i have with this is the fairness. As a number of people brought up, some teams attend only this regional. If their scores were botched for 2 matches, that could potentially drop them completely out of the running for finals. Now, it's impossible to make week 1 regionals completely equal, due to the fact that the scoring system gets debugged, among other things, but I think all teams are entitled to get their claims thoroughly reviewed. There are numerous complaints that ramped robots were not scored. Seeing as they have real-time webcasting, I don't see why a ref couldn't look at the video and see if the robots were on the ramp at the end.

sanddrag
03-03-2006, 10:59 PM
As someone who has written a lot of software, I would like to know how many people have written a complicated piece of software (Such as the scoring system.) and had it work correctly the first time it is used. Just look at Windows and most versions of Linux. Everyone of these has had major bugs that were only fixed over time. As was said before, there is no way to test a system as complicated as this, without testing it at an event such as a regional. Scrimmages are good, but they just don't put the same load on a program as a regional.I completely disagree. It is not the teams causing the problems. It is not the teams' controls causing the problems. It is not even the robots causing the problems. It is the field setup. Whether or not there are 60 teams in the company of the field should not have an impact on whether the field is testable or not.

Many people say, it is the first time they've run it; give them a break.

Well, there's your problem. The first week of regionals should not be the first use of the scoring software and field system. Those first-week teams deserve a good regional just like everyone else. FIRST should be testing the arena and scoring software several times well before hand so it runs well the first time it is needed.

If that means rasing the registration fee so FIRST can hire a couple more peope to test out the arena before the regionals, then so be it.

EDIT: I forgot to note that FIRST is not entirelty to blame. There are also a couple 3rd party companies as I understand. But that just means that FIRST needs to get on them for not delivering a working product.

Joe Johnson
03-03-2006, 11:06 PM
I am almost always a big defender of FIRST, but I have to say that this doesn't look good for the folks in Manchester.

I know that they have a difficult job but after last year's issues with scoring system and the field computer, it seems almost impossible to believe that it was not addressed again this year.

This year's scoring system is a huge challenge, I am not discounting that, but it really does have to work and that includes Week 1.

I don't know any of the details or who is responsible, but I am disappointed.

Well, let's hope for improved performance tomorrow and certainly in the upcoming weeks.

Joe J.

P.S. If anyone knows what sort of help is required to make improvements, let us know, there are many many talented folks out here who can help if they're asked.

Covey41
03-03-2006, 11:08 PM
I agree Sanddrag, 1st week teams deserve to have as good event as everyone else, but until the way the game is developed is changed, the 1st week events will always have issues.

pyroslev
03-03-2006, 11:20 PM
First week regionals are the lab rats. They test the new stuff on us and we can't help it. Everyone watches first weekend regionals and the last weekend ones as well.

So i agree, until a solid game exists we are at the mercy of luck.

ChuckDickerson
03-03-2006, 11:42 PM
I think the problems with scoring this year are due in large part to the game design. The scoring system this year must be "real time" due to the nature of the game. The balls are scored and then recycled back onto the field. This makes it impossible for spectators and game participants to keep score during the game. Compare this years game to 2004. They both used balls but in 2004 it was pretty easy for everyone (spectators and people actually on the field playing the game) to see who was winning. In 2004 a bunch of balls fell on the field, were scored in the goals on the field, the goals were capped, and robots could hang from the bar. A lot more scoring options than last year and this year. Back in 2004 it wasn't such a problem receiving the loosing score for your RP because it was pretty easy to know during the game if you were trouncing your opposing alliance. It is my understanding that the whole point of receiving the lowest score for your RP is to keep teams from completely beating up on their opponents. You want to "win" by one point. If the FIRST GDC continue design games like last year and this year where the players on the field basically have no idea what the score is until after the match is over then what is the point of receiving the loosing score for your RP if you win? Why not just do like any other sport and give you what you earn. I personally prefer the way the 2004 game was scored. It is easier to watch from the stands and you don't need real time scoring systems. Just count the balls in the goals, multiply by the caps, and add the bots hanging.

Joe J.
03-03-2006, 11:56 PM
Reading through this I read someones argument that FIRST improves the bugs in the system as the Competition Season progresses, or that the system works great by the time we get to the Championships. All this is true but my thought is this: some teams may only go to one one regional and may not go to the Championships, now if a teams only competition is a week one regional that has problems that effect the outcomes of matches there goes their season. I don't think thats fair to teams in that situation.

I understand that week one regionals is often the first real test of these systems but the only thing week one regional teams should have to worry about is how they are going to set the bar for the rest of the season.

Matt Krass
03-04-2006, 12:07 AM
Your robots, they all worked perfectly right? Those failures I saw on the webcast, those were my eyes and ears malfunctioning right? Because I don't think so.

I doubt every team came up with the several thousands required to fund their teams either, so they had some kind of sponsors.

Your sponsors didn't pay for a buggy robot. They didn't pay for their logo to be sideways all the time, so since it didn't work the very first time, you get one more, if it doesn't work in your second match, you'd better cough up the money for everything on it and refund the sponsors.

Give it a break people.

You're being ridiculous, honestly, it's not perfect, it couldn't be, it's brand new and this is the first chance to test it. Just as it's the first chance to test your robot in competition conditions. You think your robots are the only systems that behave differently in competition than the shop it was developed in? Seriously, enough with the ragging on FIRST.

You say they should have tested it earlier, how were they going to do that? Pre-ship scrimmages? How many of you had completely functioning robots by then? What makes you think a single day would have done that much anyways?

Why didn't you test your robots sooner? Didn't have time? Well neither did FIRST. When did you expect them to test this system? Did you expect them to build a bunch of robots and test it? Hundreds of times over while handling multiple other systems, some of them that are arena specific?

We don't build perfect robots the first try, they don't build perfect fields the first try, get over it. You paid $6000 to have an opportunity most people wouldn't get. Life isn't fair, and people aren't going to bend over backwards because something got fouled up, deal with it and move on. If your alliance partners had a nonfunctional robot would you demand they paid your regional fees? Would you demand extra points to offset it so the match is 'fair'?

I really hope not.

It's not perfect, it's not ideal, it's not something I would wish on any team, but it is reality and until somebody comes up with a better plan, we're stuck with it. And by better plan I mean something fully worked out with a solution to all the logistics problems that I bet most of you didn't think about it.

When somebody comes up with a better plan, I'm sure the GDC would love to hear it.

santosh
03-04-2006, 12:32 AM
Thankfully everything got sorted out. However, seeing match 10 about 3 or 4 times was fun. Quite a few people got extra time to fix their robots.

Wetzel
03-04-2006, 12:35 AM
I'd like to start by apologizing to any teams that feel slighted by the problems we are having at VCU. I am one of the scorekeepers and have been trying my best to help get and keep the field running.

I'd like to give a bit of explanation. There are three separate systems that come together to control the field. The robot communication parts from IFI, the counting system from National Instruments, and the field control/match generator/ranking/everything else from Hatch Technologies.

The robot communication has been great. Some teams have had issues (and always do) and IFI has helped them to resolve them. The IFI guys are awesome.

The counting system was initially problematic. This was resolved on Thursday by hard work by our FTA and crew. Today we have been getting good counts from the NI system. There were both calibration and physical solutions developed.

The integration system from Hatch had some bugs and idiosyncrasies, but by the end of the day Thursday when we left at 9 I was confident in the system. We had been on the phone with a Hatch rep during the day reporting issues. Friday morning we got a patch to fix most of these. However, we got a bigger problem with the patch which we tried to work around but decided to revert to the previous build that we knew worked. That was the delay around match 9. By about 2, I was confident in the system again. We ran matches straight through lunch, and that got us within 15 minutes of schedule. The field reset crew was AWESOME and we ended on schedule.

As far as the rankings go, during the day, we thought it was wrong, but didn't have time during match play to examine it in depth. So we just didn't show them. When we did, we saw that the system was confused and were able to fix it after a quick call to Hatch. We were able to put the ranking display up before the pits closed and they will be up when teams come in at 8 Saturday morning.

I am confident in the scoring and ranking system right now. Can it be better? Definitely. Will it work as we have it? Yes.


Wetzel
VCU Scorekeeper 2005-2006

PS If I was brisk with you or just brushed you off it was because I was really busy trying to figure out what was going on or just busy running the matches. Come find me after the awards on Saturday and say hi.

Jason Morrella
03-04-2006, 12:41 AM
It is true, it hard to do a new field and game every year, and it does typically get better each week. While I do appreciate the efforts to defend us/FIRST in this regard, I do think the issue is fairly simple - and I will repeat what a few others have stated:

We charge teams/customers a price to participate in the program. The teams in week one pay the same amount as the teams in week 5. Every team, at every event, deserves to have the same quality experience. It is not good enough for us to be pleased that we get everything fixed by week 4 or 5 - it is our/FIRST's responsibility to have it working correctly (not perfect, but close to) in week 1 and every week after. In my view, there is really no other issue at play here. While we can list many valid ones, the reasons and excuses really don't matter - our customers deserve a working system every week, and it is our/FIRST's challange and job to make sure we can start to make that happen every year, at every event. (getting off soap box now).

I can say that everyone in FIRST is aware of the issue, and there are some very capable people who have joined FIRST recently who do seem committed to getting these issues addressed immediately and in the future. We do anticipate having the glitches from today fixed much quicker than in years past, and hopefully the events tomorrow will run very smooth.

The scoring system issues aside, I have been completely wowed by the teams and students I have observed in this first week. The quality of the robots is great, and more importantly the quality of the people, the gracious behavior, the sportsmanship and the atmosphere at the events is as impressive as ever and reminds us all why we are doing this. (based primarily on the 46 teams I've been able to observe in Portland, but also on reports I've heard from people at the other three events).

Keep up the great work teams, have a great time at your events tomorrow and in future weeks, and be proud of what you have accomlished.

Wayne Doenges
03-04-2006, 04:31 AM
You're being ridiculous, honestly, it's not perfect, it couldn't be, it's brand new and this is the first chance to test it. Just as it's the first chance to test your robot in competition conditions. You think your robots are the only systems that behave differently in competition than the shop it was developed in? Seriously, enough with the ragging on FIRST.
I've been reading this post and I have some observations.
You say that this is the first time FIRST has been able to test the equipment. Do you mean to tell me that FIRST couldn't set up the field, start the timers and throw balls into the goals using real people? Wow, what a concept.
Also, I think if FIRST wanted to try out the robot controls, in real time, they could probably find a few teams, in the area, that would be willing to loan them there robot. Than they could install the current RI and play the game. They wouldn't need the robots to score, just run around to test the systems. The aforementioned rel people could again throw balls into the goals.
*dons fire suit and gets off soapbox*

Jack Jones
03-04-2006, 04:42 AM
Your robots, they all worked perfectly right? ...

But the teams had no RC, could only ponder - not program, and were not getting paid!!

Ken Leung
03-04-2006, 06:03 AM
Also, I think if FIRST wanted to try out the robot controls, in real time, they could probably find a few teams, in the area, that would be willing to loan them there robot. Than they could install the current RI and play the game. They wouldn't need the robots to score, just run around to test the systems. The aforementioned rel people could again throw balls into the goals.
*dons fire suit and gets off soapbox*

Allow me to interrupt the soapboxes for a moment. I wonder what do folks think of this idea:

After the build period, what if FIRST ask a couple of FIRST teams around the area, instead of shipping their robots to a central storage area, ship them to FIRST place?

I am not quite sure it would be fair to ask the teams for their robots during the build period, because every team need every minute of the 6 weeks to finish their robots. Besides, can teams really have the option to say no without seeming selfish, when in fact they just needed time to work on their robots?

But, do you think it would be awefully unfair if FIRST ask a couple of teams to let borrow their robot for a few days after the build period, if FIRST can utilize them to get the scoring system and field electronics running flawlessly, and provided that the teams don't get to work on their robots other than showing up at FIRST place and help test the system?

We have in the previous years team mentors going to Manchester to help FIRST come up with game designs. With that precedent, would it be entirely out of line if FIRST ask for a little help with the Field and scoring system? Would you be willing to let a few local New Hampshire teams a chance to touch their robot, even if only for a brief moment, for the good of the community?

That's something to think about.

Joe Johnson
03-04-2006, 08:23 AM
Well... ...that was a great discussion.

I think there were a lot of good points made.

I am especially happy to hear Jason's response that FIRST is aware that this is a problem and that we hope it will not be repeated in 2007.

My favorite radio show, This American Life (http://thisamericanlife.org/), had a show (http://207.70.82.73/pages/descriptions/04/261.html) a while ago that included some research on Married Couples and what behaviors indicated that the couple was going to break up or stick together.

One of the best indicators of a couple that was going to break up was when arguing people stopped listening and began summarizing themselves.

I think that this thread is in danger of starting to fall into that mode.

I don't want us to here to break up, So... ...I am going to close it for the rest of the day until after the competitions are over today.

At that point I will re-open the thread, but when I do, I ask everyone who posts on this thread to


listen our partners
be respectful (which hasn't been a problem in this thread, but it is just generally good advice ;-) and
try not to give in to Summarizing Myself Syndrome.

Thanks for your cooperation.

Joe J.

Joe Johnson
03-04-2006, 05:02 PM
Opened as promised.

Please read my message above.

Joe J.

Nuttyman54
03-04-2006, 05:21 PM
so toward the end of VCU it looked like the real-time scoring system was working, but the score and ranking displays weren't keeping up.

TubaMorg
03-04-2006, 06:56 PM
As a mentor for a very small underfunded team, I can really sympathize with the teams that have only one shot at a single regional. Phrases like "for the most part scoring was good" and "only a couple of matches were scored incorrectly" are statistically relevent, but are poor consolation for the teams where things went wrong.

One post tried to compare teams' robot preparations (or lack thereof) with that of FIRST. Of course the comparison is completely invalid for many reasons:
1. Robots are designed and built (for the most part) by HS students in the span of 6 weeks.
2. Sponsors of these teams are aware of who/what they are sponsoring and generally sponsor the effort rather than the product.
3. Organizers of FIRST have been aware of the field design requirements for MUCH longer and are unconstrained by the rules that govern the robot build season.
4. FIRST is comprised in large part of adults (presumably mainly engineers).

Some other observations. Scoring problems seem to be a result of field design rather than any effects from robots. This is an important observation, because that means the field scoring system could/should have been tested prior to week 1 regionals. How? How could this possibly be done with all of the robots stored up in crates somewhere? Well an earlier post pointed it out: with human substitutes winging balls around trying their best to over load the system. Maybe I just don't understand the scope of the problem, though. Was the software unavailable for testing before week 1? Or was there just a general lack of desire to test the system before hand? I really must be severely underestimating the complexity of the problem, because aside from the scoring system (which seems to be the trickiest part of the problem) I'm not sure why the team scoring and ranking system is so hard? Is it networking issues? How is juggling <100 team data so hard? Can someone PLEASE explain where the "complex" comes in here? It just seems like all of the issues could/should have been tested and debugged sans robots before the first regional took place. My heart goes out to the single regional week 1 teams!

Covey41
03-04-2006, 09:48 PM
1st - In case you did not hear, the field problems that occurred on Thursday and Friday were caused by too slow laptops (Not the software!) with not enough memory. Friday Night they went out and got more powerful laptops, and at the end of today there were very few problems. The only issue left seams to be the NI ball counting system, and that worked better than anticipated. Keep in mind that laptops being used were donated last season, for use with last years scoring system.

Should the system have been tested using last years laptops--yes. But things are not always what they appear to be:

2nd - Just like the teams, FIRST Engineering has 6 - 8 weeks to build 9 fields. The field that you see at kickoff is for the most part a test field. This field never sees any competition. This is for many reasons, but the main reason is that the GDC lots of times is making changes right up to kickoff. One year the name was changed the night before.

Yes - the basics of the game are pretty much decided by the 1st of December, but changes are made, that seam pretty simple by the GDC, but cause major changes in engineering. If you think the build season is hard on the teams, you should be at FIRST. They work late nights and weekends just like you, and the shipping deadlines are just as real. If they are late getting a field ready, there will be no field for your regional!

The software is tested using human players, and a scrimmage. Unfortunately it looks like it was tested using powerful laptops, (Developer laptops.)
and not the regular scoring laptops. Also keep in mind that software developers are all alumni of FIRST teams, graduates of top schools, with years of experience. And yes all the testing can not take the place of a regional, not matter how much they try. (Does Windows work every time you use it, what service pack is current now?) Go back to your teams, look at all the people there, Engineers, Students and Teachers, these are the same people that are developing the scoring system. People who love FIRST, and should get the same amount of respect that you show your team.

Next year, take a week of vacation, fly to New Hampshire and volunteer to help get the fields ready. I promise you IT WILL be an education! The 8 people that are FIRST Engineering would love all the expert help, that all you posters are offering to give.

The moral to the whole story: Have the GDC design the game the year before. Right now they should be putting the final touches on the 2007 game. So that FIRST Engineering has enough time to do their job.

Joe Johnson
03-04-2006, 10:19 PM
<snip>

Next year, take a week of vacation, fly to New Hampshire and volunteer to help get the fields ready. I promise you IT WILL be an education! The 8 people that are FIRST Engineering would love all the expert help, that all you posters are offering to give.<snip>

Again, I am not usually quick to find fault with things, generally, and FIRST, specifically, so it pains me to be on the side I have found myself.

I appreciate the backstory as to what happened, but at least with respect to problems with the field/scoring/ranking system, this is getting to be a trend. I think there is some justifiable disappointment in the results (though not perhaps with the effort).

Finally as to the bit of your message I have quoted above, as far as I know nobody ASKED for volunteers to help do this. If they had, I suppose that folks would have stepped up to the challenge.

Joe J.

Wayne Doenges
03-04-2006, 11:23 PM
My team and I watched allot of the games today between jobs of building robot cart and getting our 2005 robot ready for show.
Did the scoring get better in the finals? I saw numerous times when the autonomous scores were wrong. In one match only two robots moved in autonomous mode (1 red and 1 blue), The blue bot dumped it's load of balls and scored 12 points :ahh: I thought you could only hold 10 balls max. I would like to think they could have someone watch the score and adjust accordingly.
I wonder if putting a lighter chain in the center goal would keep balls from bouncing out. I lost count of how many balls bounced out of the center goal. This can really remove the wind from your sails to nail the 3 point goal and receive nothing :(

dlavery
03-05-2006, 12:53 AM
I appreciate the backstory as to what happened, but at least with respect to problems with the field/scoring/ranking system, this is getting to be a trend. I think there is some justifiable disappointment in the results (though not perhaps with the effort).

Joe -

Don't be so quick to accept the backstory - particularly when it is not correct, and delivered by someone that was not there.

Everyone needs to read Jason Morella's message again. The bottom line is that the excuses from the software developers, FIRST, or anyone else don't matter. Every team deserves to have the same quality experience, whether it is the first week of competition or the last. FIRST's customers - the teams - all have a reasonable expectation to participate in a high-quality event. The software developers customer - FIRST - deserves a quality product for which they have contracted and paid. There is no reason to expect or accept anything less.

The FIRST leadership has this same belief. They know there is a problem. I believe they are committed to fixing it, and ensuring that it does not happen again. Excuses don't matter. Stepping up and doing something about the situation does.

-dave

Wetzel
03-05-2006, 01:01 AM
My team and I watched allot of the games today between jobs of building robot cart and getting our 2005 robot ready for show.
Did the scoring get better in the finals? I saw numerous times when the autonomous scores were wrong. In one match only two robots moved in autonomous mode (1 red and 1 blue), The blue bot dumped it's load of balls and scored 12 points :ahh: I thought you could only hold 10 balls max. I would like to think they could have someone watch the score and adjust accordingly.
I wonder if putting a lighter chain in the center goal would keep balls from bouncing out. I lost count of how many balls bounced out of the center goal. This can really remove the wind from your sails to nail the 3 point goal and receive nothing :(

We can not change the score during the match. We saw early on the discrepancy and figured out where the extra points were coming from by Friday. It was a physical issue and should be corrected by next week.


The software from Hatch is better than last year, but in my opinion still at an unsatisfactory level for release.

Wetzel

TubaMorg
03-05-2006, 02:03 AM
1st - In case you did not hear, the field problems that occurred on Thursday and Friday were caused by too slow laptops (Not the software!) with not enough memory. Friday Night they went out and got more powerful laptops, and at the end of today there were very few problems. The only issue left seams to be the NI ball counting system, and that worked better than anticipated. Keep in mind that laptops being used were donated last season, for use with last years scoring system.

Should the system have been tested using last years laptops--yes. But things are not always what they appear to be:

2nd - Just like the teams, FIRST Engineering has 6 - 8 weeks to build 9 fields. The field that you see at kickoff is for the most part a test field. This field never sees any competition. This is for many reasons, but the main reason is that the GDC lots of times is making changes right up to kickoff. One year the name was changed the night before.

Yes - the basics of the game are pretty much decided by the 1st of December, but changes are made, that seam pretty simple by the GDC, but cause major changes in engineering. If you think the build season is hard on the teams, you should be at FIRST. They work late nights and weekends just like you, and the shipping deadlines are just as real. If they are late getting a field ready, there will be no field for your regional!

The software is tested using human players, and a scrimmage. Unfortunately it looks like it was tested using powerful laptops, (Developer laptops.)
and not the regular scoring laptops. Also keep in mind that software developers are all alumni of FIRST teams, graduates of top schools, with years of experience. And yes all the testing can not take the place of a regional, not matter how much they try. (Does Windows work every time you use it, what service pack is current now?) Go back to your teams, look at all the people there, Engineers, Students and Teachers, these are the same people that are developing the scoring system. People who love FIRST, and should get the same amount of respect that you show your team.

Next year, take a week of vacation, fly to New Hampshire and volunteer to help get the fields ready. I promise you IT WILL be an education! The 8 people that are FIRST Engineering would love all the expert help, that all you posters are offering to give.

The moral to the whole story: Have the GDC design the game the year before. Right now they should be putting the final touches on the 2007 game. So that FIRST Engineering has enough time to do their job.


Although I note the sarcasm, I still appreciate the post :) You have shed a little more light on the problem, although I am unclear how well people flying from all over the US to come help set up the field in NH would be received.

Really, though, I understand the tone of your post. No one wants to work that hard and be criticized. I know I don't. But let's face it, there ARE two words in gracious profesionalism. By all accounts there seems to be trend in not getting the fields fully functional for week 1 regionals. There is no doubt in my mind that the people involved in this love FIRST and are doing their absolute best to get things working. It would be easy if it was the same game every year, but since it isn't , things have to be done from scratch....every single year. A professional would be remiss, however, if he/she noted flaws in a process and said nothing (see the Space Shuttle program). A professional would be even more remiss if he/she heard about these flaws and did nothing to correct them.

I am not making any claims to being an expert in this particular problem. The reason I am not is because the only information I have comes from this forum. The process of field design from the minutiae of nuts and bolts to software is never published or open sourced(that I am aware of). Note all of the question marks in my previous post. There is a lot I don't understand. Clearly there is a problem, though. As a person that is "in the know" is the solution really to design the game a year ahead of time? Maybe you only need an extra two weeks, as most of the problems seem to be worked out by week 3. But if it is true that there is no way to test the field until a real competition, with real robots, then an extra year wouldn't help either. Again, I'm sure I don't understand the full scope of the problem, but there IS a problem.

It cannot be deemed acceptable to let a few teams be penalized while the "kinks" are worked out. Anyone who loves FIRST should be able to agree with that statement. The entire premise of the meticulously designed set of rules is to level the playing field for ALL teams. Wouldn't it be wrong to randomly pick 3 teams at a competition and DQ them?

So the point of all this is to try and find a solution. It isn't quite working the way it is. You mention that the field WAS tested before week 1 which is good, but the computers they used during the test were better than the ones used at the competition. Are the conditions that were used for the test published? In other words, to use your example, if the field is tested on using WindowsXP professional machines with 3.2 ghz processors and 1 gb of RAM with 120 gb hard drives, then that would have to be the logical minimum requirements for a reliable system. Another question, are all of the fields constructed de novo at each regional? I am presuming that lessons learned are passed along as the problems seem to decrease as the season progresses. But are the computers different at every regional? It just seems that if the test field worked correctly, then each of the regional venues should replicate the test field. Well it is too late to think clearly any more, so I am just going to post.

TubaMorg
03-05-2006, 02:13 AM
Joe -

Don't be so quick to accept the backstory - particularly when it is not correct, and delivered by someone that was not there.

Everyone needs to read Jason Morella's message again. The bottom line is that the excuses from the software developers, FIRST, or anyone else don't matter. Every team deserves to have the same quality experience, whether it is the first week of competition or the last. FIRST's customers - the teams - all have a reasonable expectation to participate in a high-quality event. The software developers customer - FIRST - deserves a quality product for which they have contracted and paid. There is no reason to expect or accept anything less.

The FIRST leadership has this same belief. They know there is a problem. I believe they are committed to fixing it, and ensuring that it does not happen again. Excuses don't matter. Stepping up and doing something about the situation does.

-dave

This, folks, is what I think of when I hear "Gracious professionalism!"

Joe Johnson
03-05-2006, 09:57 AM
I am thankful for both Jason's and Dave Lavery's comments. It think that it shows that FIRST owns the problem and will address it.

I think at this point we are in danger of just summarizing ourselves.

So... ....I am going to move this to the moderated forum.

If you've got something new to add, by all means, fire away with a response. But potential posters and all moderators should know that the bar is going to be pretty high with respect to approving posts.

Joe J.

dk5sm5luigi
03-05-2006, 01:28 PM
What amazes me about the software is that it was written by the same company as last year. This gave them a huge advantage over last year since they already had something to work off of and only needed to change how the scores are tabulated. If I heard correctly they also had to write the software to count the balls as they entered the goals. This I can see having bugs since vision processing is a very hard task.

From a programming point of view I can accept counting issues in the software although I would prefer not to have them. What I can not accept is the the other issues there were with the software which should have been exactly the same or very similar to last year. There is no excuse for the rankings not working. This is a very simple sort with very simple rules behind them this year.

I have written scoring software before and I know how hard it can be but some of the biggest problems with the software FIRST is using is from things that should be working. I would rather have a system which works than looks good.

Jack Jones
03-08-2006, 06:19 AM
I also think it’s good that FIRST “owns the problem” and intends to take corrective action. I wouldn’t expect anything less.

However, that is not the way the real world works. When two or more parties enter into a contract there are expectations from all sides that the others live up to their end of the bargain from day one. Eventually is not good enough. There are consequences for every day that one side is in breach of contract. The teams who paid their $6 by the 9-Dec. deadline had every reason to expect that FIRST would live up to their end of the deal. Especially since FIRST has rigorously enforced the team’s requirements – W9, ship date, etc., and etc.

If my rental car broke down and they told me to hitchhike back and they’d rent me another, I’d be seeing them in court. I don’t see a whole lot of difference between that and this. Week one broke down and FIRST is saying bear with us, but do so at your own expense.

In my opinion, FIRST owes EVERY first week team at least a partial refund. If the fault is that of a third party, then it’s up to FIRST to recoup from them. The same goes for this week #2. I think we’ll see results much faster when it starts coming-out-of-pocket for the ones who are at fault.

Katy
03-08-2006, 09:04 PM
While I also understand the sarcasm implied...the time in which the field is made appears to line up with my winter break. I would be quite happy to spend Christmas working on those fields in doing anything that could possibly be helpful. It is an embarrassment to FIRST to not have these fields be functional but I believe I don't have a right to criticize unless I'm also offering to help.

If the problem really comes from the time constraints of building a field why not put another week between ship date and the first week of regionals next year? The game can't change during that time...

Pretty much every team brings a computer to a regional. I am sure one of them would have been willing to temporarily trade (or if they brought two just flatly lend) laptops with the scorekeepers for the good of the regional. Did anybody ask? If it was known that that was the reason why didn't anybody? If the problem was fixed Friday night then it must have been found sometime on Friday. Matches after that time could have been fixed with a computer trade.

As to the size of the task? The difficulty of the challenge? I'd rather quote Woodie Flowers on this:

"So that's why we've tried to give you a problem too big, a time too short, a budget too small and a team too large. The reason we do that is that's the way things happen. That's a very realistic set of constraints. That's the way we make progress."


Originally Posted by Covey41
Does Windows work every time you use it, what service pack is current now?

Many people (as I am sure you know) avidly hate Windows for this and many other reasons. If FIRST holds itself to standards no higher than Windows it is very logical that in many places it will be received with equal warmth. If this is the standard FIRST decides to be held to then it has no understandable reason to be upset about these complaints.

Why isn't this stuff open source? I am sure many teams would love the chance to practice on a more realistic field and you could have bugs being reported (as well as suggested solutions) firing back at you all season...even from real robots as time goes on. Once the game is released there is no need for secrecy.

People talked about lending FIRST robots to test the field. Is there really anything a combination of last year's robots driving donuts on the field with humans throwing balls in the goals from the sidelines would not properly simulate?

Raul
03-09-2006, 03:47 PM
We at team 111 are ready to help contribute in any way we can to solve this problem. I encourage FIRST to call us and ask if they think there is any way we can help. Whether that involves flying to Manchester to help build fields as someone suggested, or lending a robot as others suggested or anything else, we are willing to help if we possibly can.

I know we are not the only ones that feel this way. Just ask.

Joe Johnson
03-09-2006, 07:59 PM
I am closing this thread. I have opened a new thread (http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?p=467726#post467726) to discuss field related issues.

Thanks to all who shared their thoughts.

I think it was a good discussion.

Joe J.