Drive Team Members

A discussion with one of my mentors brought up this topic, which was whether or not to have an operator this year.

When is it ok to not have an operator (2nd driver)? What are the advantages, and what are your experiences in the past with 2 drivers/1 driver?


We have had the driving and operating separate all 5 years.

Excluding 2013 (I am unsure how we worked that year, was not a part of the team) we had one person focus solely on driving, and one person controlling our mechanisms (shooters, forklift, ball intake, etc) on another controller. This helps offset some of the load and stress onto two people instead of only one.

An obvious disadvantage is that if your drive team isint very coordinated or if they dont work well together this driving style falls apart quickly. Extra drive practice getting timings down and making sure the chemistry is there is essential in this situation. While you can scrape by without, to be truly competitive they need to be able to work together if you want to go this route.

We have been having a similar discussion on our team as well; traditionally our team has been running a driver and an operator as far as I can remember. Typically the driver and the operator (as well as the drive team as a whole) is expected to have good chemistry in order to work efficiently as a team during the stressful environments of competition.

It is beneficial to have an operator (even if they only perform one or two tasks such as actuating a piston or lowering an arm) because it allows the driver to focus on the field and the movement of the robot (and being aware of other robots). To have a driver that both drives and operates a scoring mechanism efficiently usually places a great deal of responsibility (and the stress that comes along with that) on one person, and there’s a level of skill required to be able to focus on scoring while being aware of surroundings.

My team always uses one driver (whose primary job is to drive the robot) and one operator (whose job it is to operate the devices). While we generally separate the tasks like that, it’s not without exceptions. Last year we had a climber in the works that we never completed and IIRC, we were planning on putting the controls for that on the driver’s controller. I’ve tried my best to block out all my memories from the 2015 season, but one thing I do remember is that we had the controls for our can burglar on the driver’s controller.

What those two devices have in common that made them viable for us to give to the driver is they are only used for a short period of time they aren’t very complex from the driver/operator standpoint. Last year we had a ginormous arm on our robot that we moved around for intaking/shooting balls, squeezing under the low bar, manipulating the cheval and sally port, and controlling our CG over terrain defenses. That required just as much focus as driving the robot, so having one person do both wouldn’t have worked. In 2015, we had two elevators each with their own claws, so we needed one joystick for each elevator. With our driver driving tank, we needed a total of four joysticks that year. Given the fact that one person can only reasonably control two joysticks at once and each Xbox controller only has two joysticks, we needed to have two people controlling the robot.

So in my experience, there have been two main reasons to have a driver and an operator: 1) driver focus, and 2) physical limitations (of both humans and controllers). Those can be weighed against what are IMO the two main benefits of just one driver: 1) not having to coordinate between two drivers/operators, and 2) an extra human player. If your device is simple enough such that neither of the above reasons are significant problems for you, then I think having one driver could perhaps be a good decision. If you read the previous sentence and thought to yourself “Why did he assume we only have one device? We have multiple devices,” I’d probably suggest having two drivers/operators.

There is certainly no hard requirement for an operator/second driver.

Even when one person can control all of the robot functions, we usually put someone from programming or who really knows the robot systems well into that slot, because they can monitor robot and battery health, watch for problems and patterns, suggest workarounds, and coordinate with the pit crew while the coach, driver, HP (and pilot this year) work strategy with future alliance partners. Somewhere between Gene Krantz’s white flight control team during Apollo and Jackie Chan’s rple in Cannonball Run.

This year our team is trying an alternative to the driver/operator model. As this year’s challenge consists of two distinctive games (gears and fuel) one driver will do everything related to the fuel and the other will do gears and climbing. Both joysticks can drive, but one is the master and can toggle between which joystick is enabled. We’re hoping that this allows each driver to specialize on different skills. Gears and climbing require precision while shooting requires accurate judgement of distance.

It is OK in that it is nominally legal, but please consider driver workload. If the driver is too busy driving to watch the rest of the field, they are too busy.

Whether you have an operator or not depends upon your team, your drivers, and their “chemistry”. Our team works very well with the driver controlling everything about the robot, and focusing on only the robot. It is the drive coach’s job to watch the rest of the field, and tell the driver about (last year) where the next boulder is located, where the next defense bot is coming from, how much time is left etc. This approach allows a driver to get very comfortable with the bot, and be able to do actions quickly without too much practice. Having a driver and an operator successfully requires a great deal of practice time with the bot to get communication and synchronization with each other precise., something a team like us generally doesn’t have.

I will say however, having 1 driver also has negativities. It means a lot more stress on one person. If you have only one driver, he/she should be someone that doesn’t balk under pressure, thinks clearly no matter what, and is very comfortable with the bot etc.

I’ve driven three seasons with an operator and one without. Personally, I preferred going with one. Having an operator makes it so I can keep my eyes on the rest of the field more than on our robot, and I cannot understate how important this is in years with tough defense (which I see this game having).

The only game I played without an operator (well, only game without an operator for the entire season, but more on that later) was Recycle Rush. In this case, our robot was literally just a forklift (with nothing to guide the stacks). The combination of simplicity, the robot’s only function requiring precise placement of said robot, and the lack of defense just kinda made a solo driver make sense.

For the past few seasons, we have only had one driver that did it all. We did send the full drive team to the field. the other 3 people gave “vocal suggestions” to the driver on what to do.

This year, with the number of motors to control (fuel pickup, shooter, shooter aiming, gear placement, climber, camera selection, etc.), some of the functions are being offloaded to a 2nd controller and/or switch box. Then it is a matter of the Driver telling the Operator to turn on/off stuff.

Turning on/off something is easy to coordinate. If you have a shooter that can be independently moved, then that is more difficult. The Shooter guy doesn’t know when the Driver will change direction/speed, which may affect where to point the shooter relative to the robot.

We always field an operator for a number of reasons.

In the event that it is not 100% necessary to have the robot’s functions in 2 people’s hands, we tend to avoid it. Even drivers who know each other and the game extremely well can suffer from communication issues. Especially in circumstances where the robot won’t be driving and manipulating game pieces simultaneously (for us, instances of this were 2013 and 2014), we leave both functions in one drivers hands. If the robot’s functions require too much multi-tasking, and we cannot automate functions to assist with this, then we split the robots functions for two people.

On top of that, we always field an operator because it is honestly a waste of a body if we do not. The operator doesn’t have to control the robot; they can be another set of eyes to watch the field or clock or score or whatever. Additionally, they have the task of setting up the driver station so the driver and coach can focus on getting the robot set up properly. That space can be so much more than just controlling the top half of the robot.

Wait so do you have a second driver or not? I’m a bit confused sorry

While I don’t know that this will work as well as most of us envision, with the right drivers and plenty of teamwork it will be interesting to see! Please keep us updated!

I’m sorry! My point is there will always be someone in the Operator spot. Whether or not they control the robot is based on the robot and our team’s strategy.

We always send out two people. One who focuses on driving, and the other who focuses on external mechanisms(arm, shooting, etc…) This only really works if your drive team can work together well and efficiently. Me and a very close friend are on the drive team, so we can communicate pretty well.
Hope this helped

Others may feel differently, but my personal opinion is that your main robot driver should have no more than ~4 control functions to deal with on top of just using the joystick(s), anything beyond that and the driver can get disoriented with the controls. The one thing you never want is for your driver to take eyes off of the robot to look down at the controls.

It’s also beneficial to give drivers control over only things related to the motion of the robot, such as gear shifting and intake, and in some cases shooting. Basically anything you need to do on the fly where split-second decisions are required and communication with the operator (2nd driver) would take too long.

Anything else should be delegated to an Operator.

Individual results may vary of course.


We usually run a driver and an operator, similar to majority of the teams that commented on this thread.

Going on what cbale2000 mentioned, we usually give the driver control over intake and anything else that relates to the drivetrain. Meanwhile, our operator focuses on the other mechanisms and they relay info back and forth on how to lineup and such.

My team usually runs one driver and one operator. The driver mainly sticks to controlling the chassis and maybe a couple other small things. The operator typically controls the movement of the other mechanisms. This obviously is going to require the two to be in communicating with each other through match, but with drivers practice it helps so one person isn’t forced to do everything.

It is almost always useful to have the second person their even if they don’t have a lot of mechanisms to control. They can help the driver to watch the field and the other robots. When I was a student and driving for 2137 this was my favorite method.

This also frees up your field coach to pay more attention to the whole alliance as opposed to standing over your shoulder. I think this way you can help to keep your alliance on track and maintaining whatever strategy was agreed upon in the pre-match discussion.

I would suggest having an operator there, if to do nothing else but act as a second pair of eyes on the field. Have them watch other robots, watch the cameras, etc. If you have to give them another function, you can, but you don’t need to necessarily do so. Whatever you do, have your driver pick your operator. It should be someone who is mature and they’re comfortable working with. Source: am former driver on a team that just put out a pushbot the last couple years.

For my team, especially during Stronghold, we always had a driver and an operator. We not only find that the many controls are much better when split up between two people, but we also find that another set of eyes on the field and another opinion on the situation is always useful. That is, so long as the drive team gets along.:smiley: