A Tip of the Cap to the GDC and FIRST HQ

The giant coat hanger box/UFC arena begs to differ somewhat. We haven’t had a game that was “nice” to build accurate field elements for since 2015. (Or 2017 if you ignored fuel)


I don’t think they’re part of the GDC, but the person working on the KOP that got MK to donate batteries this year also deserves a shoutout. It’s nice to have a battery that we’ll want to use on the field this year after last year’s KOP battery issues.


The UFC arena at least has the advantage of being made of parts that are commonly rented for trade shows, it seems.

2014, actually. The platforms for 2015 were rough due to the angles.

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What I like about this game is there are a lot of subtle challenges with this game. Like they give you vision targets for 2 point shots, but to aim at 3 point shots from an angle, you can’t use the middle of the vision U, you have to project the gap back where the hole actually is. 2 point shots were really forgiving.

Or the color spinner, you can’t use an encoder to spin it on the top because the encoder distance is different from the edge vs middle (depends how close your drivers get to it). Also, I wonder how the 60rpm “limit” will be enforced, the further up you put your motor, the slower you have to spin it.

Or the match color, the field asks for color under the field sensor, not under your sensor, and if you show up on the left vs right side of the wheel, your target color to make the sensor match will be different.

I’m also waiting for how difficult climbing will be with multiple robots. Fast climbs might not be the best, as the quick jerk up can knock off a partner on the other side. Or weight differentials cause a robot to slide, causing balance changes and falls. I was disappointed we didn’t get the climb apparatus done with FIRST Capital RI3D to play with it more. (and yes, the balls are super sticky, watch your intakes and indexing)

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It’s still a climb though. When students start say, “I wonder what the climb will be this year” instead of what the end game will be, that’s a little too much in a row for my taste.

I still love it though, it will be tons of fun to watch… I’m such a hypocrite.

Everyone loves shooting and climbing. And everyone hates pick-and-place.


One thing that I noticed in the most recent blog–and this I think necessitates more of a doffing of the hat than a tip of the cap–is that HQ is issuing translations of the Game Manual in multiple languages. Not the Updates…but the original manual.

That’s HUGE, probably more from a symbolic point of view than anything else, but it means that the non-English-speaking teams have one fewer item to worry about. (Team Updates will still be an issue–but if they’re just a few things at a time, that’s much easier for unofficial translators to handle than a 130-page document followed by a bunch of smaller ones.)


I was initially concerned with the size of the Switch Generator, but after slapping some 2019 chassis’s on and learning how to render in Inventor, this year looks to be the best year for watching streams since 2014/15. Assuming the camera is placed properly (straight 45 degree angle blocks far trench), you can get fairly unobstructed view into the whole field. The only concern would be climbing, but I think the only thing you’d really miss out on is the hooking itself.


Even a single field side camera during endgame would make watching climbs amazing. I’m sure plenty of events will do something like that, though probably less than I’d like.

That is my thought as well, if you do the 3 camera split screen. with a single full field, and one camera on one side of the field filming the blue generator switch/trench and one on the opposite side filming the red generator switch/trench. You’d be able to see nearly everything and the loading stations aren’t in the corners this year so they shouldn’t be cut off like in some full field views.


I’ve been going through the Real vs Team Version field pieces for the last few days, and there’s a lot of little things that this year’s field does to make it extremely easy to build team versions for.

Specifically, the field pieces are mostly custom sheetmetal, so they got to pick their own dimensions on a lot of things… that match common lumber sizes!

I’ve been able to plan things like putting out four milk crates for the trussing, slap some 2x4’s together for the trench run, plan on building the upper generator switch almost entirely unmodified… and I don’t feel like I’m cheating my students designs out of some key difference that will bite us at competition. Great work.

I think 2015 was the last time I built a “Team Version Field” that’s this similar to the original plan set. (caveat, I didn’t build in 2018, no data that year)



Another measure of success this year is the relatively low rate of meaningful Q&A questions.

I think back to “rope” and shudder.


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