Alliance Captains Requesting Robot Modifications

How much can an alliance captain request their second, or even first picks to alter their robot for playoffs?

At a fairly recent event, my team was captain of an alliance and, after checking in with our second pick, a team of a few students and a mentor identified some concern points on our alliance partner that we pointed out to them and asked them to fix.
This included some pretty standard stuff like zip tying down their air tanks and tensioning chain in their butterfly drive modules. The team assured our members that everything would be fine and waved us out of their pit.

We knew we couldn’t make them change their robot if they didn’t want to, but we felt like our requests were pretty reasonable. If our alliance partners were resistant to this, imagine how they would have felt if we had asked them to cheesecake a part onto their robot, a practice that was pretty common pre-covid. Is this sort of thing dying out?


I think teams with an intent to cheesecake will talk to potential picks beforehand to figure out if they are amenable to making modifications. They may also ask about things like specific robot abilities. I know we were asked if we had the ability to keep our arm in frame perimeter during the match this year.


It might also be slightly relevant to mention that this team had several members that were making slightly snide remarks about our team, complaining of us being a “big-shot team” that was over-resourced, and that “they think they’re all that” due to our sponsors. That may have potentially played a part in how amenable they were to our suggestions.


Not only is this reasonable it should be expected. Now before some suck the air out of the room obviously there’s a right way to ask and the wrong way to ask. It shouldn’t be seen as rude.

As far as cheese caking. FIRST has tried their best in the rules to prevent this. But if there’s an easy suggestion that could be added to a robot that’d give them an advantage. I can’t see a problem with suggesting it. Though, I wouldn’t be insistent with this one as the previous “hey that may become a problem”.


Consider that as you get to the end of quals if you’re likely to be a captain you can take a look at likely picks and go check in with them to see what their robot status is and ask about anything you either know was broken or they seem to working on to gauge how they respond. That information will also be useful on its own in forming a pick list.

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It was our second pick, so the potential teams were a bit hard to predict. That particular instance happened to occur right as alliance selections started, coincidentally right before we picked them haha
However, factoring in their overall opinion/attitude towards our team is something that we hadn’t really considered before, and could be useful at future competitions. Thank you for the suggestion.

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No problem, also I’d recommend thinking about how you’d deal with your responses when other teams are pit scouting you, even if you don’t think they’d be in a position to pick you.

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1902 through quals and elims match 1 of Orlando:

1902 through the rest of elims in Orlando:

Before we selected 1902 we went to them and asked if they would be willing to remove their elevator and add ballast. We received confirmation they would from both their lead mechanical student and mentor in the pit (it is important to get both because sometimes the adult you talk to will say yes then you get upset students who have no idea there robot is about to get a brutal haircut, or sometimes you get enthusiastic students who just want to get picked and mentors will say they can’t/don’t want to due to something in that system being way more complicated to reattach/make work for their event that starts the following week).

We went to several teams asking them how much they weighed, would they be willing to add ballast or remove components, or ziptie something to no longer move. Some people were like 1902 and were 100% whatever we asked. Some were ok with adding ballast but not removing components, and others were not ok modifying at all. We didn’t try to sway anyone from their choices and we adjusted our picklist based on the robots that those teams were willing to field.

For the stuff OP specifically listed (Securing airtanks, loose chain in the drivetrain) these are done during our evaluation of everyone on our list before elims. We will ask them to secure this stuff during a quals match so we can make sure they can do it right, or so we can get feedback on why something is loose. Also if someone has a loose chain in their drivetrain and no issues have happened from it yet 9 out of 10 times I would leave it alone.

After a selection is done we do a deeper dive into the alliance partner and we have never gotten any pushback or people upset at us for either re-routing wiring (you can see 1902’s radio was on their elevator so that needed to be moved) or just using a liberal amount of hot glue on their electronics. It is about 50/50 on us asking for this or doing it ourselves and it has always been up to the team in question who does it. We have also had teams ask us to help them revert their changes after elims and so long as the venue is not upset (we are always done well before the field is done being broken down) we will accommodate.

Now @stefano_r you do not list what team you are on or what event this took place at or the team in question and that is fine, but I do have to ask was the team you asked to modify actually “fine”? If nothing happened relating to the things you wanted them to fix then they were right that everything was fine, but if something did happen then I am interested if a similar thing happened in a quals match or not.

Similar thing happened during practice day in Orlando with us. There was a team seated fieldside that started saying much worse things about my team. I was down on the field not in anything that signified my team affiliation because I was recording stuff for First Updates Now. During one of these matches the mentor acting as the media badge holder came and sat next to me to watch a match we were not in. The back of his shirt has a giant logo of our team you can not mistake him for being on any other team. The team sitting field side still was saying and wishing horrible things on my team. A little later one of our alumni who was attending the event came and sat right next to said team, he was wearing a hoodie once again with a big logo on the back, and on the arm is SWAMPTHING in big red letters. Still same team saying horrible things.

To quote one of our seniors who heard this same thing while grabbing lunch:

As opposed to getting placed on a DNP list until we saw a shift in attitude (The typical thing that happens when teams make bad impressions repeatedly at an event) the vote from the students was to leave them on the list and potentially pick them and change their attitudes about us however when we broke down the pick list this team fell just outside of our evaluation list so they did not make it into elims.


Roboticon 2022 flashbacks

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I’ll give you a flip side. How much should an alliance partner be able to dictate alliance strategy? At Macomb we lucked into 8th seed captain and we needed suitable partners that could do the advanced scoring for us. So we had 4779 as our veteran ally and they were suggesting we try to add back our arm mechanism. We did try and they helped but it shows that it should be a partnership. If 2/3 want to do it and it’s the last event before the state or regional championships I say what’s the risk of not trying? You’re more likely to succeed if you try and you lose not much if you fail in that try.

If you don’t try you’re probably not gonna move on anyways so again… It’s better to try and fail than it is to sit there and not try to improve.


Before picking 3216 this weekend, 115 went to their pit and asked if we could do a full QC on their robot - tying down wires, implementing systems checks, and generally trying to make sure they were going to work every match every way we could. They were one of the only teams with a 3 piece autonomous and had a very strong cube game, but had broken in several matches. They agreed, and we picked them as our 1st pick, before taking 4598 as our 3rd.
For 2 matches we managed to take it all the way, beating even the winning 1st alliance by a good margin. Our luck finally gave out in match 3 and 4, where we lost to the 1st and 2nd alliance respectively. I was honestly ecstatic, and there was no other way I could have seen 115 going to the 3rd place alliance spot from the 5th alliance. We ultimately lost due to wires that got unplugged (breaking a ziptie) and a bad RoboRIO power cable (we didn’t check it properly, my guess is no tug test). I am ensuring that 115 brings a hot glue gun to all future events and uses it liberally on our partners.

Moral of the story: 3216 and 4598 were extremely happy that we had helped them fix up for elims. This was a critical component of our success, and there really was no other way we could have made it that far. Ultimately we weren’t able to do enough to get to finals, but frankly, the 1st and 2nd alliance deserved it anyway. I think the experience has taught all three members of our alliance a lot, and I will continue to encourage 115 to help teams with QC in the future.


Wow, I applaud the maturity and patience of both you and your team.

And to answer your question, during elims, they popped off that very same chain that we had originally pointed out. Twice, actually. Luckily, that didn’t make much of an impact on the outcome of any of our matches.

However, we did have a mini “I told you so” moment lol

Others have posted some in depth and very good anecdotes/advice, so I wont go in too far here.

When I have the time (eye roll, I never have enough time at events) I like to go through the “diamonds in the rough” teams that I have identified through practice and the first half of elims, Especially if they have had marginal reliability on a mechanism.

I always like to check bumpers, look for loose wires that could be an issue catching on something and look at the radio connection, last thing I want is a dead/disabled bot in elims. Any concerns here I give to the team for free, most are very receptive of this (big teams and small alike, sometimes things slip through the cracks and an extra pair of eyes catches something). If I have specific concerns about a mechanism I will get the team to tell me the quick story of the mechanism - This is often a good litmus test for how willing they are to modify, make more robust, or remove if necessary (it has been a long time since I have asked for removal or major modification, 2017 maybe?).

In the cases of resource limited teams: the fact that I am on a higher resource team may be of benefit as I can just give them a component to help them along on their season. (i.e. extra shield(s) to keep gamepieces out of robots, longer runs of chain, or even a nice big dalop of hot glue on that critical radio connection). This is one of the single best ways to counter the sentiment of:

Unless it is a major component, never ask for it back at the end of an event. I tell the team they can keep it. Well resourced teams can easily absorb a 12x24" piece of .063 polycarb, a versaplanetary slice or 3 feet of chain, if it helps them through the event, at their next event, back at the shop, etc. this is a great outcome.


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