[FRC Blog] Zebra MotionWorks™ for FIRST® Robotics Competition at the FIRST® Championship

Posted on the FRC Blog, 3/1/23 by Asher Kaufman and Matt Boehm, Zebra Technologies

Zebra MotionWorks™ for FIRST ® Robotics Competition at the FIRST ® Championship

Written by Asher Kaufman and Matt Boehm, Zebra Technologies

At Zebra Technologies, we’re laser focused on empowering organizations to thrive by making every front-line worker and asset visible, connected and fully optimized. Our innovations help our customers sense, analyze and act in real time. Recently, we’ve expanded our portfolio to robotics and increased our machine vision and AI capabilities.

So, how does Zebra work with FIRST ® Robotics Competition?

We at Zebra have worked with FIRST ® in the U.S. for over 20 years and globally since 2019. Along with many of our colleagues, we serve as team mentors while the company sponsors tournaments and provides the Zebra MotionWorks™ real-time location solution to give real-time visibility into gameplay during local and regional competitions. The latter is the heart of what we’re hoping to share even further and wider this season.

As FIRST alumni ourselves, we’ve always wondered what it would be like if we could combine the solutions we innovate at Zebra with our passion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and FIRST communities. We catalyzed that wonder into action more than five years ago when we ideated and created Zebra MotionWorks™ for FIRST Robotics Competition. Read on to learn all about it:

What is Zebra MotionWorks™?

Before we get into what Zebra MotionWorks™ for FIRST Robotics Competition is, let’s start by defining our enterprise technology. Zebra MotionWorks™ is a real-time location solution used to track assets and inventory. The solution leverages ultra-wideband (UWB) hardware, which is a radio-based communication technology used for fast and stable transmission of data.

As the Official Real Time Location Solutions Provider of the NFL, Zebra uses this solution to fuel the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. The technology captures the real-time location data, speed, acceleration and other metrics of every player on every inch of the football field. Sensors throughout each NFL stadium track RFID tags placed in the players’ shoulder pads, charting individual movements within inches. The insights enabled by our data provide an informative look into the game for fans, media and teams.

What is Zebra MotionWorks™ for FIRST Robotics Competition?

Zebra MotionWorks™ for FIRST Robotics Competition has three main components: active RFID tags, interconnected sensors, and software to process and display collected data. Two tags are assigned to each team and affixed on the left and right sides of their robot. The sensors are set up around the competition fields.

The matches are where the magic happens. Our sensors determine where a robot is at any point of a match within 4 inches of accuracy. As our solution is integrated with the official FIRST Field Management System, data collection and uploading to the cloud is automated. This means that teams and spectators can access match data within seconds after completion.

What kind of data does the solution gather? How can it help FIRST Robotics Competition teams?

The solution collects information about location, kinetic energy, acceleration, and robot velocity. This data can be used to enhance robot design, driver training and predict match performance. Post-match, teams can examine this information to extract valuable insights that allow them to further improve the mechanics of their robots and overall gameplay.

The data can also be used to strategically choose alliances, identify problem areas using heatmap-derived insights, and confirm the time it takes a robot to get from Point A to Point B. For these reasons, we call it actionable intelligence.

Do FIRST Robotics Competition teams competing in the Einstein tournament need to utilize Zebra MotionWorks™ for the FIRST Robotics Competition?

No, but it’s highly encouraged! As FIRST alumni, we’ve been in your shoes and understand that teams may be hesitant to add anything to their robot at any point in the competition. Luckily, this isn’t our first rodeo.

In fact, we’ve been at this since 2017 when we operated the solution for the first time at the Half Hollow Hills Robotics Invitational. We did the same in 2018, then in 2019, we operated at the FIRST Long Island Regionals – our first in-season events. In 2020, we expanded coverage to three more district events across the United States.

Last year, the technology was used at regional and district events, and we were proud to carry that momentum into operating for the first time at the FIRST Championship during the Einstein tournament. We’re excited to do so again this year.

What can attendees gain from Zebra operating this solution at the FIRST Championship?

Let’s face it, matches go by quickly. Looking away for even a few seconds can result in missing a team’s winning or losing move. The data gathered by our solution and presented in trajectory models and heatmaps, which will be used during the livestream and will be hosted on The Blue Alliance website. There’s a great example in this 2023 match. This data enhances the viewer experience by making it clear to spectators how fast or slow a robot moved throughout a match, how much time it spent in a given area of the field, and how it achieved the most points.

All of this information is presented in a view that is unobstructed by another robot, items on the field or even someone’s large foam finger in the bleachers.

We’re proud to offer Zebra MotionWorks™ for FIRST Robotics Competition to teams and spectators at the FIRST Championship to support the next generation of innovators as they come together to celebrate what they’ve achieved and plan for what’s to come. Together, let’s give those who excel and are interested in STEM the same energizing experience as those who play or view professional football – let’s Make It Loud!

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Do we need to install Zebra Motion Works to get the data or will it be available online? More information would be appreciated.

Historically the information has been available on The Blue Alliance, and they mention in the post that it will still be there this year. As an example, PNW has been deploying this at our events for the last couple of years and this match from the Sammamish district event shows the data they made available last year.

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Not every event has the MotionWorks equipment. However, all the data collected at the events is hosted on The Blue Alliance.
See 1296’s match from last year’s FIRST in Texas District Championship:

Can we assume that it will be at LI 1+2?

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Based on what is public now, Championships Einstein fields will be covered like last year (with hopefully a little more participation). It will also be available for use at all PNW events (for the 3rd season!) as well as at both SBPLI regional events (4th year!). There are still some events that might pop up in the mix, but for now, that’s it.

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Argh! I’m impatiently waiting for it to show up at an event my team is competing at :wink: As someone that works in data analytics/engineering field, this is revolutionary and can help “quantify” some of the data that was previously only captured qualitatively. Ever thought about talking with BattleBots? :wink:

Was great to see it first hand at Brunswick Eruption last fall – speaking of which, I don’t suppose you know if that data exists somewhere to post to TBA?

Working on developing our scouting analytics this summer, do we have an idea if more events (in the midwest) might be seeing this next year? Craving this!

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