2015 Lessons Learned: The Negative

FIRST, if you are reading this, please do this. I was probably hit in the back of the head by ten paper airplanes, and there was someone in front of me who was hit even more. This was my first time at CMP, and saw a paper airplane land on the field before a good portion of the matches were just about to start. What if someone decides to throw it during a match, and it lands in a team’s lifting mechanism or drive train, rendering them useless? Of course they might call a replay, but if someone is throwing the Championship pamphlets (like I saw a few times), it could actually damage their robot.

Yeah, I think it’s pretty rediculous that you can win a match in a robotics competition without doing anything autonomously. They need to force teams to do something - anything - during autonomous. I would be in favor of there being some trivial autonomous task that is worth so many points that it is obvious on a first read of the rules that you can’t win without doing it.

This would decide some matches during autonomous though.

Programming controls is boring. trivial.

I don’t think you understand what “controls” means…

please, I am begging you FIRST with all my heart, please have a professional company do the stream and the audio. For those of you that were not watching the stream you have no idea what it was like.

  1. Awards for so grainy and washed out you didn’t even know who was talking
  2. we were lucky if we got audio at some parts
  3. During Einstein, we saw more of the human players and drivers than the actual robots
  4. the cameras kept cutting back and forth between individual robots and missing the action so when it was over your like “huh, when did that happen”
  5. please for the love of “bot” just show us a full field view that’s what the people want
  6. You were lucky if you got a whole match without it freezing.

I could continue in with this list but you get the point. Even if you didn’t get pros to do the audio and video at least get the kids from PNW that were doing it. Shout out to the PNW A/V crew you guys were the best. High quality streams and never missed the action.

So let me go through this in order of the season:

My team hosts a kick-off where we usually build a team built field for others to come and look at. I understand that FIRST does not want to give teams like mine an unfair advantage but the rate in which drawings and instructions for kick-off teams come out is really irritating. My team did not receive the final field drawing till Friday at 10:30 pm due to “a miscommunication” with when that drawing should have been released.

The webcast was ok from what I can remember, but I think that is going to be a big factor in my negatives this year, this game did not lend itself to memorable events.

Build season:
Please do not mock our intelligence, how did you honestly not think we were going to figure out the noodle agreement? Why are game pieces always more expensive than diamonds? FIRST should really hint to suppliers about things that may be needed to be stocked up on for certain games (Mecanums this year, ANY wheels in 2013). Why is there still not a q&a for “hypothetical or design based” questions? If I am going to ask you a question it is because either a) My robot will do a thing that then may cause another thing will I be penalized? or b) My robot is built a certain way that the rules are ambiguous about can I receive clarification on if I will be allowed to compete?

South Florida:
I do not like week 1’s. I said it. We have no time to reflect on our design or finish any components, or even really fully utilize our withholding allowance. The setup for this game was unacceptable with an increase of teams we need a better seating setup as there was no way to actually watch the game unless you were in the top quarter of the seats or standing at floor level.
This is in bold because of all the parts of this game (and it beats Luncay as my least favorite) this is beyond my least favorite part of the season. I learned at the Bayou Regional that a Woodie Flowers Finalist from an out of state team was told he would not be coming out to present the award with the rest of us as it was for Florida Winners only. Who ever made this decision you are a detriment to our organization and do not deserve the power that allowed you to make that decision, while some of you may not like my bluntness their, the first ever Woodie Flowers Finalist at South Florida was from Massachusetts, and at Orlando for several years in a row was won by mentors from Pennsylvania, so it’s not like their is a lot of us.

Load in should have been a little clearer. Pits should really, really, really, be done numerically, a scavenger hunt does not make for easy scouting or communicating will alliance partners. For pictures of awards winners your photographer should have chosen a better location.

The Game Itself:
Since Bayou was were my competition season ended I will give my feedback of the Recycle Rush here. This game sucked. I have never immediately disliked a game so much, and then continued to dislike it more and more as the season went on. I dislike any game with a lack of defense, I really dislike any game where I never interact with the other alliance. The ranking system honestly resulted in some more anguish over certain matches, what I mean is in the previous win/loss system if I had the “weaker” scoring alliance we could play defense and make the game closer or even win it, in this game if I have a “weak” scoring alliance sometimes that one match is enough to drop me out of top 4 or top 8 all together. The playoff structure was even more unforgiving and really punished teams for lack of consistency but it also meant if you had a bad first match in quarters it didn’t matter what you did in the second because you were already done. I dislike the all or nothing autonomous, and really hate that at the highest level the game was decided in the first 5 seconds. Litter is the worst game piece ever actually that isn’t fair, litter is the worst scoring system ever. In a game called Recycle Rush why am I being rewarded for throwing trash in my neighbors lawn?(Credit to 180 SPAM for that) Also why is 3 pool noodles thrown over equal to 6 Totes? Finally as I said/implied above this game was BORING, I do not remember a single one of my teams matches or a single play from any of my events where I thought “wow that was impressive”, try to make a highlight reel out of this game then compare it to ANY of the previous ones from the last 10 years, tell me which is more entertaining.

The 2017-2020 Championship Announcement:
Why? Just why? I have answered every survey that FIRST has asked of me for 10 years and never once has the question of 2 Championships been posed. Based on Geographical distribution I will never play at Championship with any member of my 2007 or 2014 Championship alliance partners. I am not so much upset about the split I am more upset with how it was handled

2015 Championship:
I did not attend Championship for the first time since 2011 because I did not like the game that much. I also did not watch until division eliminations, which I only did in order to support the teams who I am friends with. I really really really did not like the interviews done on Einstein, they felt forced, repetitive and awkward. I REALLY REALLY REALLY did not like the treatment of the Chairman’s award especially from watching at home as there was not mention of it at all.

I love FIRST, it has shaped my entire adult life, given me life long friends, and memories I will cherish forever. That being said if this is what the new FIRST looks like I am not worried about leaving FIRST as I think FIRST may be on the track to just leave me. Please don’t let Recycle Rush and the entire 2015 season be a sign of things to come, let it just be a small bump in the road to a much greater future.

Suggestions (from one of the scorekeeper/field power guys on Hopper):


-Paper airplanes need to be discouraged, not encouraged (as they seemed to be at least during opening ceremonies).
-Makes the opening ceremony in the evening if possible, or else have an afternoon load in with an evening ceremony before actual qualifications.
-Announce chairmans before Einstein matches, and give the winning team field side seating like was done in the past. It feels like chairmans has been kicked down a notch.
-The audio during the first half of-of ein-ein-stien-stein was-was bad-bad and-and echo-ho-ey-ey. Didn’t somebody do a mic check, or at least have a spare mic in case there was a problem?


-Bring back defense, in a 2013ish way, not a 2014ish way (2013 IMHO was the last really good game pre-IRI)
-Don’t make autonomus the game deciding (or close to it) factor; this was 2003 all over again, and I don’t just mean the use of totes as a game piece.
-Cheesecake in moderation, please. While it was consensual on both ends, I felt the amount of cheesecake was “gluttony” this year, especially during sub-division playoffs.
-Make the endgame where a new ability is added, not removed. While the committers of litter entering penalties should have known better, due to the lack of litter processing by most teams, it was a stupid rule.
-Bring back W-L-T, even if the quarters and semi’s are matched up round robin.


-When making big changes to long term strategy, ASK the community, at least those who are known to be knowledgeable and/or experienced (HOF mentors, WFA’s, etc.). Sure one can’t divulge venue bids and whatnot… but the split championship concept probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day (at least in its current form) had such people been consulted before venues were being chosen in the first place.

The audio during Einstein was terrible, at least in the upper levels where I was.

Have judging start on Thursday, not Friday.

More details on the event schedule, like what was happening next during Einstein, after Einstein so people can be in the right place at the right time (show it on the screens occasionally if nothing else)

FIRST really needs standards for livestreaming. This year, they had so many technical problems, streams crashing, horrible angles, and horrible sound quality.

FIRST needs to set standards for webcasts. Some teams can record all the matches better then they can. By having better webcasts, we can help grow FIRST by getting people excited (like in the closing cerimonies)

Keeping to a schedule at CMP was a bit of a problem. I understand that a lot can offsest the schedule, but Recycle Rush had an extremely long reset time

There’s a reason why control systems is one of the toughest subjects in mechanical and electrical engineering, and why controls engineers are heavily sought after in the job marketplace. Controls is definitely not trivial. As RC said, you may not understand what “controls” means. I suggest you look at some of the code 254 and 1114 have released previously.

  1. Everything that was wrong with AA is right in this game, and everything that was right in AA is wrong is this game. I think FIRST underestimated teams’ ability to make can pullers, and they overestimated teams’ ability to make cooperative autonomous modes. I think some facets of RR came out of an overreaction to how last year’s game was played.
  2. moving to the other side of the stadium for closing ceremonies took away from the significance of the ceremony. Many people didn’t get to see the Einstein finalists and winners receive their award, and people were already leaving as the championship chairman’s award winner was announced.
  3. the paper airplanes need to end. They are nothing more than an irritation and a mess. They get stuck in the robots. They hit the people on the floor. They encourage immature, wasteful behavior, which is pretty ironic for a recycling-themed game.
  4. take the money used to get the DJ and use it to hire the PNW media people.

I don’t really want to talk about my opinion on the game because honestly, everyone has said it already. It was just awful. The tether idea is neat, but not one EVERY team just takes another team’s idea and uses it on their own robot. At least in 2014 if you were going to add something it had to be somewhat complex, not just a ramp attached by a piece of string.

The championship webcasts - What the hell were you guys thinking? 240p? Really? The footage itself was so grainy that you could feed a family of 5 cows with all of it. The sound quality was better than the video, even with that there was constant echoing and voice amplification which hurt the viewers ears. Please do **NOT **raise the the volume unexpectedly! I sat there for over 1 and a half hours waiting for Einstein, and what did I get? A sub-par viewing experience WHERE I COULDN’T EVEN SEE THE WHOLE FIELD! Half of the time the can races weren’t even being shown. But that can race in finals 2, that, was crazy.

Oh, and thanks for not telling anyone about the chairman’s award. We sat there looking at the logo for 45 minutes, bored out of our minds. Then, you cut the stream when the concert comes. I thought you wanted to give the championship experience to everyone?

If you want people to “get into robotics more” maybe have a viewing experience where I can see the whole field.

Please, don’t do round robin if there is any appreciable defense. It will only incentivize the weaker alliances to gang up against the most powerful alliance.

It might be small, but load-in was really confusing. I have no clue whether registration contributed to the lack of volunteers there. The only volunteer we found co-ordinating it was organizing buses and let 2 vehicles stay parked directly in front of a door for 2 hours. Please set up lines if you want teams to abide by them, or have more solid limits on how long a vehicle can be parked.

Thanks for the compliment; I feel like I have been hearing this a lot, but it would never work. We usually have 15 people max for one event and even then it is tough. Kids get trained on the spot and our most knowledgeable members use all their time off from school and work to attend our local events. Heck, we barely did IRI last year because so much was coming out of pocket and the adults used up vacation days.

Flaws of RR:

  1. The bins were basically a chokehold this year. This made matches at the high level pretty boring because you know, provided no one broke, who would win based on how many bins they got. I prefer 2010, where the “Unbeatable” blocking of balls could be countered, but still gave an alliance a HUGE advantage.

  2. The litter was way too powerful. Alliances could basically dominate early events with a terrible robot but amazing noodle thrower.

  3. Basic bots could barely add to an alliance due to lack of defense. I mean, they can at least play defense most years!

  4. The streams at world champs were disgusting. I had a friend interested in the program who was planning to watch it with me, but left because the quality and camera angles turned him off (FULL field view, PLEASE)

  5. The strategy this year was very basic, because of a lack of defense.

  6. The game really lacked a WOW factor, an edge-of-your-seat feel. There was no end game that could change the flow of a match, nor defense to stop scoring.


  1. Make autonomous less powerful, the cans decided EVERYTHING.

  2. Make defense a thing again, PLEASE.

  3. Set up a better stream at champs, I understand this is too expensive for regionals, but champs deserves this.

I couldn’t have stated it better. Streams were horrific. In the closing they stated its our job to grow FIRST. How can we do that with crappy webcasts. We need to use webcasts as draws to FIRST. First is all about Tech, so let’s get techy.

Some teams have scouting programs (like mine). We need tools to train scouters. Such as FULL FIELD view from the stands.

I agree with a lot of whats being said except for the cans and match outcome being decided in auto.

Even when 1678 and 118 got 3/4 cans, (I believe it was in semi finals on Einstein) 987 and 2826 still pulled out the victory scoring well over 200 points. Winning the can wars definitely helps, but it doesn’t mean instant win or loss. You still have to stack them. In addition there were barely any matches this year where one alliance got all the cans off the step. (I can only recall two) And again in one of the two matches, the alliance that got all the cans only put up 4 very sub optimal stacks with cans, and was eliminated. There was only one match that I can think of the whole year, where the outcome was decided in auto. I think I can live with that.

I’m curious: which divisions were you guys watching on the stream? I watched Curie, and while the resolution was pretty bad, I generally found the camera angles and split view to be pretty nice. That said, I was generally not focused on a particular team, but rather trying to take the whole thing in as an un-invested spectator. Einstein was notably worse, with its focus on players and such (although I will say that, for those in the dome who could see the physical field as well, it may not have been as bad)

I had all of them going, on 3 monitors and a TV, so two per screen. I was not impressed at all. I hated the split. I would more rather see the whole field, the entire time.