Drive Team Eligibility

Hello everybody,

Our team is currently in the process of revamping our drive team selection criteria. I have seen a few other threads about this but I had some more questions I would like to ask other teams about in terms of how you select your drive team members (specifically the driver and operator).

  1. Is it important for your drivers to have at least one offseason competition of experience before they drive in an official season competition? How do you determine if the driver is skilled enough?

  2. Do you have any rules regarding people with leadership positions trying out for your drive team? Do you think it is possible or even beneficial for a department lead to also be a driver (such as being able to debug problems on the field)? Do you have any department leads in your drive team currently (and from which departments)?

  3. How important is it for the drivers to be knowledgeable in all aspects of the robot? Do you rely on your driver’s feedback/diagnosis from the driver station perspective if something goes wrong during a match?

  4. Do you think it is better to select new drivers every year or to keep the same drivers until they graduate or otherwise leave the drive team?

  5. How much driving practice do you think is reasonable for a driver to get during build season? Should they practice during offseason and/or what can they do during the offseason to prepare for build season without knowledge of the game?

I’m curious to hear your responses to any of these questions. Thanks!

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  1. It’s certainly helpful. Our 2017-2019 drive team’s first event was 2016 IRI, and our 2020 drive team’s first event was MAR DCMP (!). Skill is seen through demonstration of effort, known competency in high-reaction time effort, and willingness to adapt.
  2. Nothing hard and quick as far as I can recall, but we very much like to have technical competencies in drive teams, but that usually happens as a result of being deeply involved with the robot already resulting in being willing to adapt and pivot a bit.
  3. They don’t need to know the nitty gritty (except as shown in #2,) but they should know how to make it shine.
  4. Mostly B with a hint of A. Use the drive team while they’re there to help guide and train the next generation. We’ve taken to doing “old driver” as drive coach for potential recruits to see how they do.
  5. As much as humanly possible without sacrificing sleep and academics too much, practice with old robots, racecars, GTA, Rocket League, anything that keeps their muscle memory fresh and their reaction time low.
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I’m currently a driver for team 2102

  1. The first competition that I went to was a offseason event. It’s very helpful for your driver to see what a competition is like before the actual season, its lower stress which is good way to start.

  2. Our drive coach is also our engineering president. Our technician is our lead programmer. It makes fixing the problems during competition easier, I would not recommend having one of the actual drivers be in another high responsibility position, they will have alot to do which might be hard.

  3. Pretty important. If your drivers dont know alot about the robot in the beginning they will definitely learn after seeing it break, showing them how to fix it or just having them know how it works means they can fix it which really saves time. Dont rely on them but use them.

  4. The way my team has been doing it is we get new drivers every 2 years and they start as freshman, then are drivers sophomore year. The previous driver 1 becomes the drive coach. It works well because you have an experienced drive coach to teach them. If we did it every 4 years then all the driving knowledge would graduate with them.

  5. AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. There is no such thing as practicing too much, the more they practice the more comfortable they will get with the robot. During offseason practice is still important not as constant but still useful so they dont lose their skills between seasons. Practicing the previous years game is still useful, it might be some different skills but the basic skills of a drive team are still in use.

Hope this helps

On 1836 we do our drive team selection on merit, we also take chemistry into account.

I was part-time human player my freshman year, feeder station- 2017
Operator sophomore year- 2018
Driver junior year- 2019

I typically those who say “I wanna be driver!” on my team, to start out with human player before thinking Operator or Driver. The human player can experience 1/2 the amount of stress the D&O get. If they cannot handle that then, they shouldn’t try D/O.

For our team, (since it’s so small) whoever does the most work, is the most willing to learn, gets the leader. Typically, drive team goes to them, since they (should) have been working with our mentors closely (this is due to the nature of our team, you do the work, you become leader, you automatically help out with the mentors).
Beneficiary… It really depends on what they know about the robot. The Driver should know the robot inside out (though, it wouldn’t hurt for the Operator to too), to not accidentally break anything. S/he needs to understand that anything following the match is literally in their hands. If they break the robot so it cannot be repaired, welp, you might not be able to go on. Most teams that I talked to use technician for a programmer. We do not have any other sub-teams.

Extremely. Both the D/O are your info speakers from the match. My mentor usually goes over the robot with me as the robot is getting finished (when stop build was still in existent) so I would know what to and not to do.

Both have ups and downs. Keeping drivers let you know that you have good experience. The longer the experience, the more “easier” it is to the driver. I’m pretty sure teams who do not build second robots choose to keep drivers. New drivers gives everyone an equal chance to try out. You never know who’s a good driver until you let them try it, right?

Honestly, teams who are able to, have gotten well over 100+. I personally got about… more or less 30, before stop build. We do not go to offseasons typically because we
A. cannot afford it
B. mentor doesn’t have the schedule room
Offseasons definitely help teams if you use it as a practice. Bringing new students to offseasons give them a feel as to what they’ll experience in March. I would say to not stress too much about driving hours, but the quality of how they drive. Defense and counter defense has been a hot topic this year, maneuverability, and dodges should be things a driver should work on.

  1. We tend to, but just because we try to let people try it out at offseason. It really doesn’t enter my selection thoughts too seriously other than it shows they want to be involved. We know they are the most skilled because we measure their performance in challenges versus their peers.

  2. New is the no Chairman’s members on Drive Team. While I’d preferred that, I also believe to put our best forward. With smaller teams, sometimes one person is that (though the time management is hard). I’ve not had the main driver on both, but have had a coach or operator be our Chairman’s presenter before.

  3. Less important than you’d think. I can teach about any student to setup themselves for drive practice and they will get the mechanics with enough practice. At least starting out, I wouldn’t sweat it. If they have the skills the team needs, utilize them.

  4. Drivers thrive on competition. So create it. If they know they are always top dog they won’t work as hard. That said, you should get an idea of who the top 2-3 are earlier and progressively move toward them getting the most practice. Someone who has driven and wants to, usually is pretty high to start.

  5. I can’t speak for the best teams, but we have issues having capable practice robots sometimes. Like we are working on our robot, but I also want to practice with it. I find even the few extra hours of practice is harder than expected on the competition robot. I am having 6-8 sessions (1 hour) this Fall for pre-offseason practices. We go over offense, defense, strategy, scouting, alliance building, decision making, rules, etc. We try to have mini-competitions and I post the winners each time. I could probably double the time but also I’m just trying to keep it fun in offseason. I hope to run two practices during regular build (6 weeks) and then ~6-10 hr/wk after the robot is finished up until competition. Just use last years game during offseason, and they will still learn and gain experience.

Thank you all for the replies! So far this information has been very helpful. I would like to make more of a shift of focus towards the question on should department leads be allowed to run for driver positions since that is the main topic of debate on our team as of now. What are your thoughts on allowing a department lead to be a driver/operator (assuming the person thinks they are capable of doing both well) and do you think it is possible to succeed at both? A topic that comes to mind is this one from 2009: Should a programmer be a driver too?, about programming leads as the driver. Feel free to continue to respond to any of the previous questions however, any added input helps!

It may be better if your Technician is the co-driver/operator. At some venues, the Technicians and the robot carts are parked where they do not have a good view of the field, especially the opposite side. Also, they cannot talk with the Driver during the match so they have to be briefed afterwards.

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If they arent, it’s ok. The D/O should be reporting about the match anyways. Then if they want to have something changed, they just talk to technician.

Having a senior programmer (not necessarily the lead programmer) as one of the driver or operator allows them to collect valuable information that is difficult to convey after the match. The human memory is not perfect, especially in the heat of battle.

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  1. Nope. We select the best drivers based on a driving test performed with that year’s robot, centered around activities associated with that year’s game. Off-season events with previous robots and different game objectives aren’t always comparable.

  2. Nope. We select the best people for each position… but that includes all significant event positions, not just the drive team. Having the best drivers is important, but so is having the best pit presenters, the best chairman’s team, quality scouting. We’ve had mechanical/electrical/programming leads on the drive team in the past, and we’ve had them not be on the drive team in the past. With the Technician role, you have the opportunity to sub in whoever you need for any particular match without impacting the on-field performance of your drive team.

  3. They need to be able to provide useful and accurate feedback, but that doesn’t mean they need to know how everything works. That means training them in how they relate that information - coming back to the pit and saying “the arm’s broken” isn’t good enough. Saying “the arm wouldn’t go up more than halfway, here’s what we tried during the match…” is. It gives the pit crew the information they need to (hopefully) reproduce the issue, letting them determine the exact cause (which you most often can’t determine from behind the glass).

  4. We select the best drivers based on a test - both written (rules) and practical. That has often led to having the same driver for 2-3 years at a time. By the time such a person is a senior, they have the most experience driving and can most often translate that experience into the best performance on the driving test. But they still have to work at it, as anyone could come in and do better.

  5. As much as possible. They need a robot to drive with, first and foremost. That means one with the same drive train, same weight, and roughly the same center of gravity as the competition robot. If you can get two robots driving so someone can play defense against them, it can really help. It doesn’t need to have the mechanisms on it (at least, not at first), as the biggest task is figuring out how best to get from point A to point B, for almost every game. After that, you need the mechanisms so they can figure out how best to utilize them in placing game pieces quickly.

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6443 doesnt have any restrictions for leads being on the drive team. However other than the technician I dont want drive team to be on pit crew. Drive team is strategizing next match, pit crew is preparing the bot. We also dont have a restriction the pit crew needs to be leads. (Mechanical led may not always be part of pit crew.)

You’ve gotten good responses to most of your questions, so I’ll add something you might not have considered… grades.

We have fairly strict travel requirements around grades. In short, if you don’t meet the requirements at the defined time, you don’t travel.
Obviously you don’t want to travel without your driveteam. We have backups, but they don’t have the practice time that the primary drive team has.
Students who have shown that I won’t have to worry about grades receive extra consideration and drive practice early on. I ask all students interested in driving for the last semester’s grades prior to getting drive time on this year’s robot.

The OP mentioned having read some other threads on this topic. Many of those threads also discuss how the Drive Team is the most visible part of the team. With this in mind, the OP may want to ensure that the people chosen will project a positive image of their team.

I’d say people in leadership positions are fine to be on the drive team as long as you watch out for power dynamic. For example, if your drive coach is a student and another student in a higher leadership position wants to be on the drive team, one must ensure that their role on team leadership does not play into their role on the drive team. Your drive team members should not be using their “higher” position to override the decisions of the coach.

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Just adding onto this a little bit from a mentor’s perspective on 2102:

  1. Ditto

  2. My preference is that engineering leadership isn’t on the drive team. We’re a large enough group that we should be able to “spread the wealth” on the high profile positions on the team, and I’d like the person in charge of the robot to not have to be spending dozens/hundreds of hours on drive practice. However, if the best person for the job happens to be the engineering president, then I can begrudgingly accept that.

  3. I really like the idea of the drive team designing the drivetrain. That way the driver can directly see how and why their design is working or not working. The scheduling works out nicely because the drive team can’t do any drive practice until the drivetrain is done, and one the drivetrain designer is done, they need something else to do. By combining those roles, you get a pretty efficient schedule.

  4. I feel like there’s an ideal schedule here where you have your drivers follow a driver 2 -> driver 1 -> drive coach path, so that your driver 1 is never inexperienced, and your drive coach knows every role very well. That’s hard to pull off properly though. More experienced drivers are better drivers though, and having kids drive multiple years in a row is generally a good idea.

  5. Ditto.

  1. Offseason driving experience is a plus, but not totally essential. The drive team coach (whether mentor or student) has primary selection.
  2. No; being in a leadership position is irrelevant to being a driver or human player or (2017) pilot or (2016) jester (I think the official term was spy).
  3. Usually, the “second driver/operator” has filled this role for us, even (or especially) if [s]he had no drive/operator role.
  4. This is going to be team-individual. If you find an awesome freshman or sophomore driver, let them drive as long as they beat the competition! (Do make sure to let the second- and third- place drivers get some experience off-season!)
  5. Yes - they can’t get enough. Have them drive-practice a prevoius game and robot; it’s way better than no practice at all.

The following is all my own opinion on the questions being asked:

  1. Is it important for your drivers to have at least one offseason competition of experience before they drive in an official season competition? How do you determine if the driver is skilled enough?

Yes. Drivers should understand that by becoming a driver, they are signing themselves into a competitive atmosphere and that they may be blamed for any problems that happen during a match. Someone who may be the best driver may not be the best when under this immense pressure. In addition, competitions include many aspects which may not be able to be properly assessed (i.e. communicating with other teams, playing positions which they are not used to, being able to communicate technical mishaps during a match, etc.). To determine if a driver is capable of the position, assessing driving capabilities should not be the only factor. Other factors which play an equally important role is the ability to work well with cameras (if the competition relies heavily on vision), working well with other members on the drive team, and/or having a level of responsibility (actually caring about whether the team wins or loses).

  1. Do you have any rules regarding people with leadership positions trying out for your drive team? Do you think it is possible or even beneficial for a department lead to also be a driver (such as being able to debug problems on the field)? Do you have any department leads in your drive team currently (and from which departments)?

A mechanical/programming/electronics department lead should be on drive team especially if the robot has not been properly tested / dry run-ed beforehand. These members normally can assess issues during matches which not only affect their own team’s work but the works of the other departments. Not being able to properly debug issues on the field will lead to the same issue being replicated in the next match.

  1. How important is it for the drivers to be knowledgeable in all aspects of the robot? Do you rely on your driver’s feedback/diagnosis from the driver station perspective if something goes wrong during a match?

At least one member should be knowledgeable in all aspects of the robot. This will probably be a programmer as they can understand if it is a bug or something mechanical without the need to consult another individual. Feedback from the driver station is imperative as they are the only ones who truly will be able to give an honest decision on the factors that played during the match instead of wasting time with logs.

  1. Do you think it is better to select new drivers every year or to keep the same drivers until they graduate or otherwise leave the drive team?

It may be better to have two drive teams for continuity, although during the opening matches of any competition, the more experienced driver should drive in order to ensure that all is working fine.

  1. How much driving practice do you think is reasonable for a driver to get during build season? Should they practice during offseason and/or what can they do during the offseason to prepare for build season without knowledge of the game?

A driver should practice until they feel confidence in their own abilities. Practice during off-season is a must as long as they have another bot to play against whether this entails practicing maneuvers, scoring, etc.

Currently a 2nd year Team Captain and 2 year Technician (going for technician again) for team 6032 Pirate Robotics. I’d love to answer your questions!

  1. It’s not a bad idea to do it, at least maybe let them take the robot out to a practice field to get the controls down and compete during practice matches so it doesn’t affect your team during qualifications where you have experienced people during quals and learners in practice. Mostly what we do is the mentor evaluates how well the performance, speed and accuracy of the driver is after playing with it in our shop, and he finds who is the best person for the role of each drive team member, (drive coach gets to do an essay and speech, technician you can actually make a fun test) as for the technician role you can do something fun like the technician testing I came up with being you send the person around a course with hidden people throwing things like boards or objects at or under the cart, if you hit the object subtract points, the person with the most points and fastest time wins (including high drivers coach score)

2.No we really don’t you just need to know the game, what you are doing and ultimately score high on the tests. We do have a fair mixture in our drive teams including programming, mechanical, marketing and leadership

3.Is it important to know basic parts of the robot such as length width and height? Yes, all drive team members should know that for references, as far as the technical stuff really as long as the technician can fix the mechanical features you’re good based on my experience, at least have someone that knows programming well on the drive team as well.

4.No it’s really not better to have the same people until they graduate, at least five other people a chance every year but let the returners have the same competition for the position as well even if they have gotten the same spot every year before for some fair play

5.Driving practice should be as much as possible during build season but during offseason maybe not as much at least every now and then throughout the weeks

Thank you for asking!

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