Autonomous Dilemma

Recently, the team and I (being one of the programmers) were thinking about Autonomous. We went to the FRC 2015 Game Manual, and found this:

 Seeing that we only have 15 seconds to score, and the only way to score is by having all alliance robots cooperate with one another, we were thinking about a way to tell everyone about this problem. 

 We (as FIRST teams) NEED to come together and make a strategy for this autonomous, so far, the easiest thing to do is drive all the robots forward and get the robot set points. 

But, the ideal thing would be to have all the robots grab a tote, and move them into the auto zone. But not all teams will be able to do this.

Please feel free to strategize here, and bring this post to the eyes of all FRC teams, because if one team has no autonomous, then the hard work that went in to making an autonomous of all the other teams (paired with them in each match), will be for nothing.

I guarantee you that there will be robots that can make an auton stack entirely on their own, without help from their alliance partners.

You don’t need all three robots to have an autonomous to get those points at all. You’re just limiting yourself artificially if you think so.

If a team wants to consistently score autonomous points through all their qualification matches, they could grab 2 recycle bins for a bin set, 2 totes for most of a tote set, or if particularly ambitious, 3 totes for the auto stack. Keep in mind that you can start autonomous with mechanisms in contact with the game pieces!

We have designed our robot around the goal of interacting with multiple game pieces in autonomous mode, among other things.

You have to program multiple options for autonomous, and be able to pick which one at the time of the game.

The basic options I see are:

  1. Move to Autozone
  2. take RC with you to Autozone
  3. Take tote with you to Autozone
  4. Take RC and Tote with you to Autozone

#1 is the minimum any robot should be able to do.

#2 is useful if there is a robot that can get all the totes. It clears the way for them.

#3 is the low risk if other bots can take totes, but not the RC

#4 is if the other bots can do the same.

There are more advanced options:

  1. Take RC to Autozone, and get an RC (or two) off the Step
  2. Stack the totes and bring them to the Autozone.

You also need to think about multiple starting positions. Not just which one, but which side. Two bots can’t take up the same space, so you may need to be flexible.

You don’t even have to score in auton. What stops you from going and scoring totes or positioning to stack totes in auto? I’m sure you may be able to potentially score more if you are able to position a recycling container to save time during auto mode than pushing 2 other robots with you into the auto zone…

Note, the bold face is my addition:

I haven’t checked the Q&A, but I read this as disallowing the ROBOT SET points due to alliance partners pushing alliance partners into the AUTO ZONE. I fully agree that every robot should have that “auto drive” function, unless they have some killer strategy that makes them immobile and compensates for the loss of the robot set later in the game.

The CONTAINER SET, TOTE SET, and STACKED TOTE SET can be performed by one, two, or all three teams. My team is planning to execute a STACKED TOTE set on our own, and to participate in a ROBOT SET. A robot that can pull three (or four) containers off the step and into auto zone during autonomous (scoring a CONTAINER SET, and enabling those big RC points during tele-op) would have a big leg up on being selected by us as an alliance partner, especially if they kept them upright, or were prepared to make them so during tele-op. My belief is that this preference is mutual; I expect most of the EINSTEIN alliances to consist of robots with complementary specializations.

Funny. I only just figured out that interpretation in the rules and submitted it to the Q&A at 8:25pm, only to find out ChiefDelphi beat me to it by 5 minutes. [sigh]… I need to up my game.

I predict that a number of really good teams are going to write autonomous code for all three of the robots in their match, so that the other two robots can fit into their plan.

This might be something like:

0:00 Robot 1 starts moving towards first tote. Another robot (let’s say Robot 3) moves to push the bin opposite Robot 1 into the Auto zone.
0:03 Robot 1 has reached tote and is lifting it up into the air. Robot 3 has pushed its bin and is coming back for another that Robot 1 missed.
0:07 Robot 1 is lifting second tote. Robot 3 has the second bin.
0:11 Robot 1 is lifting third tote. After Robot 1 leaves the second bin, Robot 2 sweeps it into the Auto zone. Robot 3 has pushed the bin into the Auto zone.
0:15 Robot 1 drops off its stacked tote set. Robots 2 and 3 are happily sitting in the Auto zone, exchanging anecdotes and drinking root beer. The crowd goes bonkers.

Maybe this doesn’t make sense. It’s clear enough to me but it’s not the easiest thing to communicate.

Our robot is currently trying for a stacked tote set. We’ve got a fast enough stacker, but it will be difficult, considering possible interference from other teams… which is where writing code for them comes in.

One thing to keep in mind is that any team with the capability to drive forwards during autonomous can also push in a tote, provided their robot dimensions allow them to fit behind it at the start.

As for teams not having any autonomous, I know that my team (and others) have come to competition and offered to help those teams without autonomous capabilities at least get a basic routine working. I would encourage teams who have a number of programmers that aren’t directly needed for scouting or their own robot to send out those programmers and offer to help teams that may not be able to drive and complete a robot set on their own. For veteran teams and programmers it’s a simple thing to do, but it can make a competition so much more fun for teams when they feel like they’re able to participate in all aspects of the game instead of being limited from autonomous.

We intend to score a tote stack without any help from our alliance partners. By our second event, we hope to get all the recycling containers, too. (We might pull that off for our week 2 event, but we’ve been focusing on everything else.) So, as long as our alliance members are okay not “helping” to score autonomous points, we’ll be fine. We figure it will free them up to do something else (landfill? RC’s on step?)… We’ll also have other routines, should we be paired with a team with similar abilities as our own… The way we saw it, it would be crazy to design an autonomous routine that relies on very specific movements by our partners.

My plan is to talk to the other teams about what they can do and orginize the auto based on that, the prefered plan is to pick up 2 totes and a recycling bin and align to the 3rd tote that one of the other robots put in the zone and stack on top of it. So yes vision system is crucial this year

Exploding Bacon’s plan is to be EXTREMELY flexible in terms of what our autonomous does and where it starts/ends, in order to be able to work well with almost any alliance. Our autonomous will be able to do whatever is needed for the alliance, such as grab a tote and/or RB and drive into the autonomous zone, grab multiple totes and drive into the autonomous zone, or something else entirely for a specific situation (i.e. assisting/staying out of the way of another team’s autonomous).