Driving Practice


This year I was the operator and for the next two years I’m going to be the driver. I plan to do some driving practice over the summer and next year. What are some things that I should practice? Any tips?


The biggest thing our team looks for in our drivers is the ability for them to stay calm. Maybe you could do something around that? Other than that I would do:

  1. Put cones on the floor in a tight 9x9 grid. Try to navigate around without touching any as quick as possible
  2. Practise lining up - say have a model portcullis and try to line up right ahead, or go through something fiddly like the Cheval
  3. Some other stuff. Be creative!

I don’t know if this is helpful, but you could try some of that stuff. But also, come up with a way to be better at staying calm. Meditating, driving in stressful situations, IDK but that would help.

If you have other people, what we did is have these people constantly distract you from driving, block your vision, bump the control table, and yell your name. It is a very stressful environment and really models driving during competition. Also having very loud music is helpful too. Combine this with a good obstacle or objective to do and this is a great driver practice!

Practice/improve your depth perception. It may be easy to see what your robot’s doing from 10 feet away but the same can’t always be said from 50 feet away.

There are several ways to do this, I like to put something like a chair down around 50 feet away and practice driving at it and stopping as close as you can to it without hitting it.

Practice your turns especially common ones like 90, 180 or 270 degree turns

Drill several times per week as-close-to-as-possible field conditions (timed drills, etc) and attend several off-season events.

Not sure you need our help, though. Whatever you guys did this year was honestly really, really good.

Someone had posted Team 2168’s Drive Team Training Manual a few weeks back: https://team2168.org/images/stories/OrganizationDocuments/Driver%20Training_8.22.11.pdf

Congrats! Driving is very challenging and very rewarding. Good driving takes good robots and makes them amazing. We have our drivers learn how the robot works, practice scoring with it, and also do drills.

Figure out what you are having trouble with, and practice that. For example, drivers were struggling to line up with our new hanger efficiently, so I had them line up 50+ times from various places after shooting a ball. This drill was to simulate the end of the match where they needed to hang efficiently and quickly. They got a lot better at it by the time they were done.

I also like to make sure our drivers practice listening to each other and to their coach. There should be no confusion between the two of them. Sometimes they try to not communicate and guess what the other person is doing, and while that works sometimes, it doesn’t always work. Occasionally, I will switch things up on them, telling them to do a defense that doesn’t make the most sense, or something different. In the heat of the battle, the coach will be monitoring the larger situation that the drivers may be missing while controlling the robot, and may see something larger. They need to be ready to take commands, and the coach needs to have built up trust with the drivers so they will not question the command and will trust that the coach is right.

After each “match” while practicing, step back and try to figure out what is and isn’t working, and how to do better. Have your coach watch you, and watch how you and your manipulator are interacting. We will also do “split” times for ball scoring, and collect other metrics to figure out what is and isn’t working. Practicing is also a time to try different strategies, and see how they work. Goofing off while practicing is fun, but won’t have nearly the benefits as focused practice.

Grab a second robot and have people play D on you. It takes a lot of practice to figure out what to do under defense, and is very hard to figure out in a match. It also turns out that people love to play D, so this is a great experience for others as well.

95% of our driver practice consisted of this when I was a student:

  1. Set the timer on the driver station to match timing
  2. Enable the robot in practice mode
  3. Drive if it were an actual match
  4. Repeat 1-3.

Once you’ve gotten enough time on the sticks that your performance starts to stabilize and become more consistent, you can establish a baseline of which to compare future trials to. Note that these performance will often greatly exceed what you can do on an actual field with 5 other robots around.

As Austin mentioned above, once you’ve reached the point where your performance starts to become consistent, add a defensive robot as well. Try to push your performance back to that baseline value with the defensive robot added.

Now this is usually a bit controversial, but we also used pushups as a driver motivator. Performed under the that consistent baseline that we usually hit? Pushups. Fouls/penalties? Pushups. Not following directions of the drive coach? Major pushups.

Also, you can get your driver’s arms ripped for working the joysticks/controller as fast as possible. :smiley:

Let me start off by saying you and your team did an incredible job this year. Almost making it to Einstein as a first year team!
On to your question. As has been mentioned above, the most important thing, for me at least, is to simulate the conditions of actual matches as best you can. For our team, this meant building a mostly full practice field. I think what lethc from 1806 said above about depth perception is very important and having a field like setup can help with this. Finally, what works for us, run practice matches using the practice feature of the driver station over and over. Also, try to simulate as many of the things you could feasibly encounter in competition. This year, for example, we put the drawbridge and portcullis in the way of the driver station. Whatever you do, getting very familiar with how the robot acts in many different situations is very beneficial. If something goes wrong in competition, you’ll have a much better chance of knowing how to work with it.
Out of curiosity, what did operating entail for your robot this year? What systems did you control?

Thank you! As a secondary driver I had a joystick that had “Plan B” buttons. So for example, if the shooter was taking too long to shoot and it was the end of a match, I had a button to send the ball up to the flywheels. Also, another button I had was a priming button. That button would start the flywheels in advance so that by the time we got to where we wanted to shoot, it would shoot quicker.

Yes Yes and Yes again. This is the best way to practice. I was primary Driver for 3 years and i have to say that the year that i learned the most about driving was recycle rush. We had a completely manual robot with no auto stack at all. Every tote had to be stacked with 4 discrete commands and then the whole stack was carried on the from of our mecanum drive train making it very front heavy.

Me and my secondary driver probably did around 500 practice matches, i think we tried to do like 20 a night or something like that. By the end or the season in just felt like the robot was working by itself and we were just watching it. It was fun. I think a large part of this was repetition. This really help to develop muscle memory for things lie compensating for an out of balance robot, or not lining up for a high goal shot.

Personally i believe that the best robot to practice with is a mecanum drive-train. this is because how it drives is so very-able. if the floor is not level it will try to turn, if it is not balanced it will just be plain weird, however if you learn to position a mecanum drive train were you want it easily, then you can drive anything well.

I suggest having your mentors dance around in their underwear while you drive, if you can focus while that is occurring, you will have no problem remaining focused on the robot during matches.

Sounds like an interesting strategy…pretty cool if you ask me.

so cool you will need a jacket

So are we talking about something as cool as a refrigerator?

yeah… you may need to hop in the dryer afterwards

Really? I was thinking more like the grill or something but that’s just me I guess.

I suppose that could be another option… it is a matter of preference

what ever works best for you