Driver Skill

What are some basic, intermediate, and advance driver techniques and skills that would greatly improve a driver performances. Also how do your drivers train?

“Drive it like you stole it”

No, seriously, if it breaks its pit crews problem. Also design teams problem for building a drivetrain/mechanism that breaks.

The one thing you shouldn’t be while on the field is sheepish. If an opposing robot is in between point A and point B, don’t be afraid to get rough. Within the boundaries and spirit of the rules, of course.

I’ve never really actually classified driver skill into categories. We just decide if they’re good enough to compete. It’s difficult to describe technique in text for me. I have to physically show it.

As for training, we prefer using a full sized carpeted area, whether or not it is a full field, or the bare minimum.

I have my drivers practice the basic scoring maneuvers for that year, I have them sometimes go in circuits around the field, go around obstacles, and my favorite part is counter defense training. I think that this is the most crucial part of training.

When I do counter defense training, I push a cart that has about the same perimeter size as a regular robot, and I get in the way of the real robot as best I can. I have the drivers try to get out of being blocked and pushed, so they can prepare to avoid spending too much time getting through defenders. My philosophy is to not bother pushing back, but evading the opposing team. Spending more than five seconds pushing back is usually a move that I believe more experienced drivers should avoid. Ideally, I think pushing against another robot should be avoided completely, unless the circumstances call for it, or if your own robot is the one who is the defender. Getting away from a defender while progressing toward a strategic objective is a huge time saver, but takes some skill. Pushing back with other robots of comparable strength can also wear away at tread in the long run. Avoiding this keeps the pit crew happy!

The reason I push around a cart is so that I have better control of where it goes, and so I can react and move faster than most FRC drivers can, so my team is better prepared for actual robots who may not move as quickly.

I emphasize counter defense, because this is what I find to be the most difficult thing to do as a drive system operator. It’s not extremely difficult to pick up a controller and drive around a field from point A to point B if one gets used to it for a while, but the maneuvers to get out of the way of a good defense bot when bumper to bumper takes experience and skill on a controller, and that comes about with lots of practice and prior competition experience.
The unpredictability and diminishing of control make counter defense very difficult, and a great exercise when training. It also improves overall drive skill too.

If you have another working robot base and a cart of similar size, try doing some counter defense training and figure out what moves work best for you. If you have a main drive team and a backup team, and if you have two drive bases available, try practicing one team on counter defense while the other practices defense.

The drive bases can be from prior years’ robots, if they’re similar systems, of course. You don’t want to practice, say, a 6 wheel tank drive base when your competition bot has mecanum for instance. That would be silly!

Usually our drive team consists of most of the pit crew. Irony.

I’m not sure this is the effective way to think about driving: determining whether your drivers are “good” uses, I think, a holistic evaluation, as opposed to a test of specific skills.

That said, you can make many “ATs” out of effective use of code. If you program certain features to help your drive team deal with stressful or careful situations easily, then your drive team will love you. A simple Drive Straight button, or a forward/backward toggler, is very useful.

It’s not so surprising that this is the case though, is it? Drivers are often the students who put the most time and effort into the team and are most invested in it’s success. They know what the robot is doing, what it should be doing and want/need to know what it’s going to do in the next match. It stands to reason that they’ll often be the most familiar and capable of servicing the robot.

It may or may not necessarily be ideal but, for a lot of teams, it’s a reality and one you roll with. I don’t think helping in the pits has nearly as big a negative impact on drivers as it’s sometimes made out to. Driving isn’t that stressful, unless you make it so.

Drivers should be able to do all the routine moves easily, with little thought: Stops, turns, go from “here to there” and stop precisely, line up with something (like the feeder stations last year), drive around a defender, and so on. The way to do that is practice, practice, practice.

One thing that’s helpful is watching match footage and coming up with a good game plan. In a lot of matches you will see drivers waste time on the field because they can’t decide whether to defend, score teleop points, or in past years at least, prep for endgame.

A good driver must be able to keep calm and never fall to pressure when on the field they must also be willing to admit they messed up and take responsibilities and learn from their mistakes. For practice our guys get the practice matches at the competitions and that is it.

Seriously there is no such better advice.

Learn how to control your robot without thinking of it. In call of duty, you don’t think to go and jump or duck or shoot, you just do it. That’s the level you need to be at. The robot should be an extension of you.

Don’t go through people, go around. you don’t realize how much time you waste in pushing matches. That’s the defender’s goal. He wants to waste your time. Unfortunately I learned this late and this year of the first year I really get to unleash that.

You also need to learn how to juke. Robots take a long time to turn, so take advantage of it.

Learn to shoot without looking at cameras or indicators. I can move and shoot with our robot and it makes ask the difference. Especially because you want to complete the cycle this year.

Have fun. Seriously, you do better when you have fun!


If you’re like me, your number one priority from as soon as you step on the field till when you roll the robot off it is to win. If winning requires us to break the robot, I will make the decision to break it 100% of the time. We also try to select drivers that will not hold back under any circumstances.

Once I step into the pits, then the priority becomes getting the robot ready for the next match.

Luckily, the games that FIRST designs and the robots that we make rarely require us to make that kind of decision.

Could not agree more. be as aggressive as possible.

At the off season event (Panther Prowl) the #1 seeded alliance 180,1523,1065 had to beat the formidable cycler 1902. our defense bot was no match for the 20 fps of 1902 so we proceeded to slam intro them at our top speed of 25 fps. It made for a great show and a warm up for the finals. It also proved that mechanum drive can beat a wcd in a pushing match.

Be unpredictable: This is huge. Even of we had to go out of our way we would take a different feeder station so we could give a full speed slam into a top scoring robot. If you do not want to slam into robots directly try slamming into there objectives. We faced SMASH in the finals and knew they had to be exactly lined up to climb. We also knew slamming into them meant there climber would break as well as destroying our electronics, so we slammed into there pyramid delaying them the few precious seconds they needed to get there 50 pts.

Here is our montage of what happened. if you look closely you can see the aggressive driving style coming into play.

Overall, if your are on offence drive FAST and with authority. Don’t let defense slow you down. Let them know that playing defense signs you up to be on the reviving end of over 350 foot pounds of force. Also, if you are stressed out slamming into something can help (try it. it rely works). Just remember to have fun while you do it and, just remember if it breaks there is an army of people ready to fix it.

Like everyone has said, drive fast and maneuver out of the way.
Don’t waste time doing petty tasks. If your intake is having trouble picking up a ball in a corner (not really relevant to this years game) you should try and see if there is another ball that will be easier to pick up to save time.

If the robot is mecanum, one good practice maneuver for agility is circle strafing. In circle strafing, you strafe around an object. Although you may not use this exact move in comp, it helps with getting around other robots by strafing to the side. It also helps the driver develop more control over the robot.

Midknight Mayhem 2013 - Finals with 11 against 225. Told my drivers to hold nothing back. We didn’t win, but it was close. We walked off the field with a robot signal light that hit the pyramid and exploded, a broken wheel, and a frame so beat up we decided to retire the bot for the rest of the season instead of putting the money in for a new frame.

First thing I said to him after the match: “Now THAT is how you drive a robot.” Also learned our lessons on how not to build a frame and what wheels to not use again.

The above posts are good for offense.

Here’s my suggestions for playing defense:

1> Always make them go around you. Never give the offensive robot a straight path to the goal

2> Get into them (Offensive bots hate contact). Alway get into pushing matches with the offensive robots. Even if you cannot win the pushing match, your goal is to slow down their recycle time.

3> Match their aggressiveness with your own. Do not be afraid of high speed collisions. Force them to pay attention to your robot and not their goal.

4> It’s their responsibility to pull back their extensions that are beyond their bumpers. Do not be afraid to hit the offensive bot at any time.

And for this years game:

5> there is only 1 game piece on their side. If they can only eject from 1 side, lock that side of their robot down. If they must extend an arm to fire, lock that arm inside their robot. Your goal is increase their recycle time, if you can make them miss, force them to chase the ball down (with you still defending) or be unable to fire from their ‘optimal’ position then do so.

Start off by identifying what kind of drive system you are using, what the benefits and disadvantages are of it and then designing activities that reinforce good use of the benefits.
For example with tank drive one thing I have drivers do is practice moving turns while a tank drive can turn on a dime with proper control you can do gentle curves just fine. The most basic level driver starts by doing figure 8’s in a circle of cones without knocking over any cones while we make the circle smaller. The most advanced drivers get moving turns incorporated into courses where we do things like block vision to simulate another robot obstructing your vision.
I am currently writing up some drive activities for my team and if you are interested in seeing some of them please contact me.

We have a dedicated driving mentor who happens to be a former team member who now works for our sponsor. He built a dedicated robot for driver training only–it’s a beast! All students who were interested in driving had to try out. There was a driving test after a short familiarization period. This was a way to filter out those who “You NEVER want to drive behind on the highway!” The rest were given a longer period to practice and drive. We are down to at least 4 potential drivers who each have over 2 full hours of drive time on the robot. All through this drive time they are given challenges and routes to drive and are assessed by the mentor. He also creates a highly stressful environment during various testing times. This, we feel most accurately simulates what driving conditions will be like at regionals and St. Louis (positive thinking).
The most important trait can’t be taught, however; thinking on your feet and being able to assess the game as it plays out. Coaching can only go so far. In '06 we had a driver who could win a match driving a potato–he was amazing, and yes, he drove it like he stole it. We’ve tried to teach others since him to react, respond and drive like he did but we realized, and most coaches I think will agree, that kind of driver doesn’t come around every year. When you get one though he will make you able to get a win with any robot you give him.

I am very interested in seeing your drive activities if possible :slight_smile:

One very important thing for drivers to be able to do is drive in any orientation relative to where they are standing. This needs to be done without even thinking about it in order to minimize the time it takes to do things.

  1. You gotta let your driver pick their own driving method, if you’re like me and were on programming that’s easy to achieve. Its needs to suit what they want to do, and how they want to do it.

  2. Speaking from experience, your driver HAS to be comfortable driving as fast as your robot can go both forwards and backwards. In most cases driving backwards is a bit weird for most people, but in 2014 at least when you’re dodging people you couldn’t expect to only be driving forward if you wanted to actually get around people.

  3. You’re drive train has to be agile and controllable, give a bad drive train to a new driver and its not going to end well.