2014 Lessons Learned: The Negative

Work with youtube? They’ve only muted like 3-4 of my 100+ videos I uploaded from the KC regional this year.

Just stream the MC microphones.
Any decent audio mixer should have multiple outputs in addition to the main mix. Send a feed with just the MC mics to the steaming equipment, and the full audio to the main mix.

First Choice. Not the idea, not the selection - both are great. I’ll even excuse the issues experienced with 2 site crashes (never did see that report on why, though). But the “OMG Who is faster to the trigger” aspect, making me have to be at a computer at that very instant. It was good that once you ‘had’ the item it couldn’t be taken away, but I think a better system could be devised.

The game, specifically the inconsistent refereeing caused by high referee workload. WAY too much going on to follow easily. I understand that it couldn’t really be automated, but way too many matches were won or lost by referee actions.

I am very much against the de-facto extension of the build season by the 45 pound rule (that’s a whole robot!). Repair parts are one thing, essentially unlimited upgrades create an uneven playing field for resource-poor teams. In the Crate days, your first event was where you got to see your robot again, so it really really needed to be finished on Ship Day. Not anymore.

I have 2 view points this year 1 was being an alum of a team who made it to Newton, while my other one was being a “mentor” of another team here at my college. This year we finished our second best in team history (26th at KC). I believe this game REALLY benefited those mediocre teams, while hurting those powerhouse teams (like the one I’m an alum of) where they were paired with teams that REALLY hurt them – although Titanium had a SWEET strategy that I absolutely LOVED where they passed to every team.

The rules DEFINITELY need to be set in stone & all calls need to written down to be set in stone to allow for consistency.

I would like to see the Dean’s List regional/district interviews held on Thursday rather then on Friday.

This year 1114 nominated both of our drivers for the award, and it was extremely hard to get a interview time slot while we weren’t going to conflict with any matches. We also needed to hope that matches were held on time, which they were not (as the scorekeeper I will take some blame for that).

I know that judges don’t usually come in on Thursday, but finding a few that will come in Thursday will be very helpful for the drivers being nominated.

  • Aaron

This year we got a full field setup, though low resolution, of North Star up and running using a GoPro with a wide angle lens. Since then we’ve done a little research into ways to make this cheaper and more portable. The GoPro (or similar) provides up to a 170 degree field of view with a special lens, which can see the full field from only 3 feet away. It also streams in HD over its HDMI output, but this requires an HDMI capture card, bringing the price tag up to around $500 for camera and capture equipment. We ended up finding this camera with a 120 degree field of view (full field coverage from 15 feet away) and HD streaming ability over USB, all for just $40. We use the powerful open source OBS streaming software, which supports chromakeying for the FMS scoreboard overlay, multiple layers for multiple video inputs, selecting between audio channels, and many other options. OBS also supports most standard streaming hosts: we have so far used it with Justin.TV with success.

While we haven’t tested any of this new equipment yet, we hope to in the offseason and next season. There are also several others (1678, FiM, etc.) who have developed their own full field streaming. I am hoping in the next year we can develop some standard set of equipment and software that could possibly be shipped with each FRC field and staffed by event volunteers in order to make HD full field coverage a reality for every event.

  1. Championship webcast was pretty bad

  2. Pedestal: Perhaps it didn’t need to be automated. Perhaps game should have paused and given it time to light if it became an obvious problem. Would make for less replays.

  3. Replays were (in my experience) handled poorly.
    a. I want a ruling from the GDC on whether replays are supposed to happen only when the winning/losing of the match is affected, or just any time there’s a field fault.
    b. If theres an obvious fault, stop the match. No need to have the robots go through all that wear before telling them to start over.
    c. When there’s a replay, let the teams know ASAP, not immediately before the match when their already set up.

4.Refs/scorekeepers overworked. :deadhorse:
a.Rules were super subjective
i.Called differently not just between events but between quals/elims, and even sides of the field.
b. Too many things to watch: Bring in more refs

  1. That thing with the balls bouncing out in week 1. That ruined team’s seasons who could only afford one event, and it happened to be week 1. I think some sort of beta test of the game is a really good idea.

  2. Low level play was very boring. Herding needed a more defined, easier to do definition, and it could have become a legitimate strategy, making low-level scores at least rise.

  3. Not nearly enough calls for damage inside frame perimeter. Those bent cylinders I saw in the first few weeks were really scary.

  4. Game, though fun, was too complex. I could not explain to my friends not in robotics what I was spending so much of my life on. It was hard for spectators, and even teams to grasp. “You get points for that(assisting)?”, “You can cross the field?”, are some things I heard from alliance member drive teams. Maybe there should be like a smaller, even less lawyery manual with just super basic rules, so drive team can read it without reading a book.

  5. Dean’s list interviews were a good addition, but it was very unclear what was going to be done there. It varied from event to event as well. Maybe there needs to be a defined set of questions, or maybe it should be asking questions to clarify the essay. Whatever it is, it should be predefined. Also, yeah, drive team and dean’s list interview was hard. Super stressful.

I have to disagree on this one. Due to the bad weather this year, our team lost 10+ days during the build period. The 45lbs was crucial to us actually being able to have a shooter this year. I’m actually really glad that FIRST was able to notice this problem, and address it.

  • Human player - at regional events some teams were not prepared, had not even identified a human player at the start of match play on Friday. This doesn’t require special technical skills or manufacturing equipment. Coaches - read the manual and prepare the kids. Experienced teams - when you ask teams if they need help with anything, don’t forget to talk to their human player.

-Computer access at events, especially champs - having a few kiosks with internet access available for quick use would be very helpful. Had a couple of occasions where adults on the team just needed to access something for work and a smartphone wouldn’t do the trick. In one instance we stopped in the business center, but having a few kiosks scattered around would be great.

-How do you notify FIRST of issues at events - for instance, on Archimedes after lunch on Saturday something changed with the sound. Became very tough to hear our field but Newton was very loud. Nice message periodically on the screens would have been helpful - “Have an issue during event text XXXXX or tweet @XXXX

-Agree with the comments on playtesting the game by select folks ahead of time. But also wonder about collaboration with some of the folks in the community who are doing so much with game data and statistics, etc. Hope their insights are being or can be leveraged in some way - resources like FRC Spyder and FRC Mega and The Blue Alliance are such a help to teams and mentors. I hope FIRST already has or finds ways to tap into their creativity to strengthen and extend both sides of the equation.

In the crate days, we still had at least 30 lbs each year of withholding. In fact, in the last crate year (2010) we had 60(!) lbs, due to poor weather in the Northeast. Repair parts and upgrade parts are identical for the purposes of the weight limit brought in to an event.

A multiple event model is the one that gives lower-resource teams the chance to learn something from competition and come back and improve. The huge success of district models spreading across the country is a testament to this. However, if there is no opportunity to continue development after bag and between multiple regionals or district events based on lessons learned, teams can’t learn these lessons that make multiple events so valuable.

It’s hard to debate that the most successful programs, both in terms of robot performance and in terms of student and community impact, run year round. The 6 week build forces mentors, students, and other team supporters to burn themselves out in a short period of time to beat a fictitious deadline.

Practice fields at regionals really need to be more to spec. The one at Midwest didn’t even have a correct auto line marked. The one in Milwaukee had too short a ceiling to really do truss shots. The low goals were not nearly robust enough to support the strategy where you ram into them to line up.

Actually, back in MY crate days, we had unlimited and no withholding.

Replacement parts were pretty much unlimited. Upgrade parts were limited, I forget just how. However, the TIME you had to make 'em all was limited (at least for a few years) by this thing called a Fix-It window. Think a district event unbag time without robot access. (And yes, folks complained about the fix-it windows.)

My biggest negative that I haven’t seen yet: Catching was undervalued by the GDC. Another 5-10 points, and I think the game could have been even MORE exciting. As it was, very few teams even had the capability showing, and even fewer tried it.

While we are talking about streaming - can the default score screen please be updated so the remaining time is legible to those without a telescope? I think there is more than enough room to put another large time box between the red and blue score boxes.

Also adding a large format LED count down clock visible to drivers behind the wall (but not in their way) would be very useful. In years past I have seen robots ready to score but stuck with a game piece because time expired (instead of the hail mary shot I want to see!)


Timer Size.jpg

Timer Size.jpg

There is one. There are 4 LED displays on each end of the field, visible from the other end of the field. Three are team numbers. One, as close to the middle as possible, is a countdown clock–auto, teleop, timeout if there is one called.

That is true, but not what I was going for (very hard to glance at while driving). I was thinking it would sit on the surface where you set your driver station or down low somewhere on the plexiglass wall facing into each driver station (6 total - 1 per team).

We need better standings publishing.

This is just my opinion, but I like the clocks at the end of the fields. I can look at them without having to take my eyes off the field; it’s a smaller change to look at the robot, across the field, then back at the robot than robot-driver station-robot.

Definitely going to second this, teams should be able to know match results and rankings at any time (Especially at Championships).

FMS/FTP Problems are painful.

Sort of related: Anyone know what happened to Spyder for Archimedes on Friday night? Somehow about 100 of the matches got deleted and there were only 22 teams in the division… Kind of threw me off.

The song they played (“you’re beautiful…” or something) to introduce Lynn Tilton during the Championship closing ceremony was unacceptable.