Well, another year has passed, the offseason is just a day away. I figured to spice up conversation I would hand out a report card. As everyone knows, FIRST made alot of changes to the structure of the game this year, some of the changes were good, some weren’t so successful. In the following, I summarize the aspects of this years game and what I feel should be kept and tossed.
Disclaimer: The following statements are of my own opinion and do not reflect the opinions of my team or any of my old teams for that matter! Take it with a grain of salt, as I am just a dopey little guy who loves to mouth off
The Playing Field:
This years playing field actually was pretty cool. The ramp brought an excelent dynamic to the game in forcing teams to have to design a robot to deal with multiple surfaces. Some of the most exciting things happen when games have ramps (i.e. Aztechs Sommersault). The only problem I had with the field was the fact that the driver stations didn’t have a lip or anything to protect controls from falling when the drivers were standing behind the line during autonomous mode. Other than that though, great job. Oh, and the colored carpet was great!
Scoring in this years game was kinda rough around the edges. The theory behind this years game was excelent. At first look you would think, wow, robots driving around trying to stack these big boxes very high while other robots make last second dives to take out the stacks. Sure, that happened from time to time, but overall, it didn’t work that way. The main reason for this, being the fact that the ramp was worth 25 points. If you change the ramp points from 25 to say like, 5, this is a whole new game. But, the points were as they were, and because of it, the game became chaotic. Robots took on uses beyond their design. And unfortunately, it was hard to follow, and most of the time you had no clue who was winning. Can’t really blame FIRST for that at all, like I said, in theory this game sounds amazing!
Qualifying and Elimination:
Qualifying was nothing new, we’ve been there before, still not a huge fan of it. The co-opertition qualification tends to vault teams into the higher seeds which you would normally not see anywhere close. I still think that any type of scoring system pre-2000 would be perfect with alliances. As for the elimination rounds, in my opinion, it was a definate miss. Advocates of the system say it prevented wear and tear on robots so that they could go all the way to the finals. Those against say that it took away from the excitement of the game, and also many times made the eliminations one match finals. Both sides are right, but when you look at the big picture, there was alot taken away from the game with the elimination point system. It was hard to understand, if you won round one, and were smart, there was no possible way you could lose the series. No doubt, the system needs rework.
At the begining of the year, I was against autonomous mode. I thought it would be a complete failure. I am happy to say that I was wrong. Autonomous mode actually added some interesting depth to the competition. Some of the things that teams came up with were amazing, and alot of fun to watch. The only problem I had with autonomous mode was the fact that, yes, it did kill some rookies or teams without strong programming engineers. I would suggest to FIRST that if they were to keep autonomous mode, to keep it short just like they did this year, and maybe have Innovation FIRST modify the on-board computer so that it has a clock on it, so that I would be easier to understand. Sample codes would a positive too.
The Robot Rules and Kit:
This years kit really didn’t have anything extremely earth shaking added to it. The drills were stronger which made me happy. The breakers were still a little too weak. The leniency on the materials rules were great, especially on the controls. The whole controls system was a major sucess. Being an electromechancial student, I enjoyed the fact that we had so much freedom to build our own circuits. Pneumatics, I am finding, are becomming pretty useful to many teams. I guess all I really would like to see here are better breakers…if thats possible.
Lots of new competitions added this year, as well as some old ones getting new venues. Of course I only went to two of them so I can only judge from what I’ve seen myself and heard from other people. The New Hampshire regional was absolutely excelent. The after parties still had cold chicken, but hey…its tradition! Even the New England Regional being back at the Meadows seemed…right. I guess that place is growing on me. Plus factor in the New Jersey competition being at a new arena on the Rutgers Campus…great move!
Well, I didn’t actually get to go, so I can only grade by what I saw online and what I heard from others. The major concensus tends to say that the arena was great, the surroundings didn’t compare to disney. To be expected. Give FIRST credit for the fact that they pulled the whole thing together last minute. The finals being during the awards ceremony I personally didn’t like. But seeing most people enjoyed it that way, I am going to wait to pass judgement until I get to see it myself in person next year. On a webcast standpoint, it looked really cool at least! And the webcasts were awsome!
FIRST did do a fairly good job with things this year. Though there definately are some problems that need to be addressed, such as rules clarifications, the current elimination/qualification system, among some other small things. Should be interesting to see where FIRST goes next year with everything that has happened. It was definately one for the record books.
Anyway, thats my rant. One thing is for sure, FIRST gets an A+ for effort because making the game is so hit or miss, its impossible to get it perfect. I am looking forward to next year, and I hope to see you all in the offseason!
p.s. Drop by and say hi at the announcers booth in Lebanon this weekend, I always love hearing from everyone!