FIRST Report Card 2003

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 :smiley:

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!
Grade: A-

Scoring:
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!
Grade: C-

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.
Grade: D

Autonomous Mode:
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.
Grade: B+

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.
Grade: A-

Regional Competitions:
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!
Grade: A

National Competition:
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!
Grade: B

Overall:
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.
Grade: B-

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!

Congrats!
-Andy Grady

p.s. Drop by and say hi at the announcers booth in Lebanon this weekend, I always love hearing from everyone!

Before anyone starts, I’d like to say please do not make this a collusion or ref-hating thread. This is a great thread that will benifit us all if kept on track.

I don’t have the time to answer all of them right now but I have to say that The Kit Rocked! Including the drill motors too It allowed for easy of assembly and fabrication for rookies but still allowed for great innovation by the veterans. You could go by the kit or go custom. I loved it. And the motor couplers and mounts were a big plus too.

EDIT: I also liked the freedom in purchasing parts. I thought that part of the rules was perfect. I hated those material size restrictions of 2002.

My main beef with this years game is the game design itself.

I think one of the things FIRST didn’t realize is it takes half the game to get a good stack going while only three seconds to knock it down. As a result, the winning bots were the ones that were fast and able to stay on the top of the ramp. I really don’t think this year’s game was played the way the game designers envisioned it would be - compared to the alternatives of just knocking things down, the technical strategy to the game just wasn’t worth it for most teams.

From the Evil Overlord list::

One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.

I think that if there were about 1/3 of the bins going around, and if the scoring for the number of bins in a stack was something like 2^(n-1) or even n^2 for ALL stacks (even if you have several on a side), then stacking would have been much more important. Also, a 15 second HP time limit would have been more interesting.

This year, as the game kept getting played more and more, it seemed as though it was more and more of a bulldozing competition :frowning:

*Originally posted by Caleb Fulton *
**This year, as the game kept getting played more and more, it seemed as though it was more and more of a bulldozing competition :frowning: **
And bulldozing we did!:cool: Now, did you mean bins or robots because we did both.:smiley:

*Originally posted by Andy Grady *
**National Competition:
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!
Grade: B
**

I only have one complaint about nationals, the walk between the pits and the fields. Personally, because of the walk I think the grade should be a B- instead of a B.

The only thing that I didn’t really like about the playing field was how hard it was to shoot video of - the ramp obstructed a lot of angles. I can’t imagine how hard it was at times for the drivers…

Not that this is a bad thing necessarily, just a pain…

Aaron Knight
Webmaster and Videographer
Team 891: Neverending Chaos…
SEE YOU AT BATTLECRY!!!
http://first891.topcities.com

*Originally posted by sanddrag *
**And bulldozing we did!:cool: Now, did you mean bins or robots because we did both.:smiley: **

Please keep the thread on topic. This isn’t a topic about who’s bot is best suited for the game. There are already threads for that. The topic at hand is how FIRST handled game development and logistics.

Now back to the topic.

Overall, I do believe FIRST has improved over last year. The rules are a lot more precise, but a little vague in areas. Actually, I believe that loosening some of the rules actually made them easier to follow.

FIRST still lacks in the area of referee coordination, although it is a little bit better than last year. The major improvement needed is that some rulings made on the forums were repealed. If a question is controversial, it should be moved into another forum where a more definate ruling can be made by a qualified professional. A false ruling made early in the game can seriously hurt a team’s robot design.

As for the events themselves, I’d say they are about the same as last year, if not, better. We went to MR and it was a lot of fun. The music was great, and the event was coordinated well. The screen that shows rankings was painfully slow though.

Lastly, as for the game itself, could it be better? Sure. Could it be worse? Sure. The challenge is to take what’s given to you and make something of it. Some teams did realize that their stack will have to be defended, and they made a mechanism that carries it with them. Then they deposited it in the final seconds of the match. The scoring system was still a little confusing, although the game was easy to understand.

The biggest problem I had with the field was the carnage (for the wheels/treads) on the ramp. I saw some wheels with chunks taken out of them all the time. I liked the layout, but the ramp was like a cheese grater.

The KIT rules were outstanding. This year’s robot build phase was a lot less stressful due to the elimination of many of the quirky additional parts restrictions.

Areas for improvement:

  1. Better rules governing springs.
  2. Enforce the “light visibility” and the robot team numbering rules.
  3. Add McMaster Carr to the list of vendors

According to all of our on-field people, the game was a blast to play.

Some matches were exciting and fun to watch. Some weren’t. I think this falls onto teams’ game play more than onto the game design. I saw matches play out exactly the way the game designers intended, and those matches were awesome.

Autonomy was superb. It will get better each year as teams develop technology. The new electronics rules allowed teams to include sensors that had not been considered before. FIRST should include the Grayhill mechanical encoder in the KIT (or some other plug-n-play wheel rotation measurement option). Measuring wheel rotation will become essential in autonomy of the future. Using the optical sensor requires teams to design a custom circuit for pulse counting, which is probably beyond the grasp of many rookies. Unless IFI gives us access to the BS’s counter?

Giving the human player access to the playing field was a bold move. I would love to see this expanded. Although putting a human player in a cage in the middle of the playing field is probably too extreme.

my only personal complaint for this year was the absence of motor specs. if i recall correctly, motor specs for fisher price and drills were not released until 2 weeks into the build period. our team even tried calling the manufacturers, and offered to pay for spec sheets, but they refused to give them to us. this put our drive train person under a lot of stress, and well behind schedule. he could not design even a prototype without knowing the capabilites of the motors :confused:

By the way the kickoff made the game sound, they wanted to make it easy to understand. I think that this game was hard to understand and even harder to explain. I learned this when I tried to explain this game to my parents. This last Thursday our team attended an exhibition for high school students. The man in charge did a very good job explaining the game to the students, but I believe that it was very hard for them to understand. You could see it on there faces. The one thing that I found interesting was the use of the Auton. Mode. This is one aspect that I believe will still be present next year and for many years to come.

Good Luck To All You Guys at you’re Invitationals.

Well, I’m going to agree with most of the report card, except for the playoffs section…

I’m personally going to have to give than an “F”

In Pittsburgh, in the playoffs, we where smoking anyone and everyone. No one could stop our alliance and our auton mode. We beat a few teams 80 to 1. We where great. Than we ran into some trouble the second match in the semi-finals. We won the first match by ~50 points - i think. That second round, we (as in our partners and us) ran into some controller problems, and that cosed us the top of the ramp, plus their bins. That cosed us to loose the semi-round, and maybe even that regional. No, i’m not sour, i just think that FIRST should of thought of the playoff format before they implemented it.

If anyone has video from Pittsburgh, please let me know…

I like the different factor. When they unvailed the field this year it was pretty cool and made a bunch of us kinda go WHAT?!?!?

*Originally posted by T967 *
**I like the different factor. When they unvailed the field this year it was pretty cool and made a bunch of us kinda go WHAT?!?!? **

I agree, when they unvailed that ramp, we were shocked at kinda woried at the same time. We all were thinking, how are we gonna find a way up the ramp in this game.

Good Luck at the Invatationals

I was hoping that at Nationals they would have someone come on stage like last year where they had Mandy Moore come on… I threw my room key at her but she didn’t get it… lol

*Originally posted by Aaron Knight *
**The only thing that I didn’t really like about the playing field was how hard it was to shoot video of - the ramp obstructed a lot of angles. I can’t imagine how hard it was at times for the drivers…

Not that this is a bad thing necessarily, just a pain…

Aaron Knight
Webmaster and Videographer
Team 891: Neverending Chaos…
SEE YOU AT BATTLECRY!!!
http://first891.topcities.com **

not to mention trying to take pictures of the field side view when the lexan was all scratched up us short people can’t stand very tall nor can we see at long distances to shoot a good video shot or take a decent picture

*Originally posted by Andy Grady *
The breakers were still a little too weak.

yeah, but only if they actually broke. we managed to draw WAY more power out of em before they actually died. :smiley:

Both this year and last year I liked the idea of having slightly different scoring methods during qualifications and elimination. It really encourages variety, as you can either design for high-scoring rounds that shoot you to the top of the standings or you can design an aggressive bot that may not seed well but will perform in the playoffs. Additionally, it really puts a premium on scouting.

Again folks, Let’s keep it on topic, this isn’t about robots, it’s about the game.

The walk wasn’t so bad, if you wanted to lose some weight before the match. It was about a 1/2 mile each way and seemingly uphill both ways (Pushing uphill, pulling downhill so robot cart doesn’t smash into the wall).

There was no way to prevent this at that venue but it was still a pain.

Something that hasn’t been mentioned has been the food, I know it’s pretty much the same every year because the venue controls the food, but it’s just too darn expensive. This isn’t a baseball game, I don’t want a $2.00 hot dog or $2.50 Pizza or $1.50 for a 12oz sodapop. It’s like extortion, get hungry from working hard, not allowed to bring in food, better bring the ATM card.

The kit was neat this year, with some good ideas like the premade gearbox housing for the drill motors. I saw a lot of teams (including non-rookies) using the premade housing. Then again, I saw a lot of shattered pieces of the housing. I’d give the pre-made gearbox a B- because of it’s failures ruining matches for so many teams.

A lot of excitment was lost for spectators this year. The only really exciting moments happened in the first 15 or the last 15 seconds of the matches (if it happened). There were a few cool things that happened around the field, but those were rare. This years game wasn’t too spectator friendly and the scoring made spectators whom understood the concept lost in knowing who won. (Especially in Elims).

Best of 2 Elimnations… We never made it to these, but from what I watched, they seemed to largely be Win the first one and you move on. Only a few teams ever came back from a Match 1 loss and advanced.