FVC GDC wants your feedback

The FIRST Vex Challenge Game Design Committee will be getting to work on the 2006-07 in the coming week. The group is looking for your brainstorm ideas ASAP. No need to justify your thoughts, explain why you think a certain way, or connect it to the last 15 years of FIRST history one year at a time. Just post your thoughts in any or all of the following categories:

Autonomous Mode:

Tele-Operated Mode:

Game Object(s):


Tournament Structure:

Other/General Game Ideas:

The committee is on a pretty rapid timeline, so let’s refrain from the “Oh, I like/don’t like that and here are my 34 reasons why” posts. Just ideas. Remember, FVC is about affordability and accessibility. To the best of my knowledge, the regionals will again be one-day events. No matter how silly, off the wall, or downright ludicrous they are, any ideas posted here by June 25 will be taken to the GDC. This is your turn to have input,

I was thinking that maybe the autonomous matches could be combined with the operator controlled ones, where the first portion of the match is an autonomous round like in the FRC game.

Second that. One way to facilitate having both auto and teleo modes during the same match would be to start with auto, break for auto mode scorekeeping, then remove the auto jumpers and continue with teleo play.

Another suggestion: spectator seating, field placement, and/or videocamera location(s) should be planned better than in 2005-06. FVC matches were difficult to watch unless you were standing near the field.

As a member of a team I would like to make a few comments.

Autonomous Mode:
I would like to see this combined together with the operator section of the competition similar to FRC where operator and autonomous are played in the same time.

Tele-Operated Mode:
I think this worked out just fine. The transition from idle to start went off well in my teams experience.

Game Object(s):
The balls worked well, but I wouldn’t mind seeing something different than balls next year.

The scoring was good, simple and easy to complete. The goals were good, the only thing that was not to my liking was the slant of the field. I wouldn’t mind seeing a flat playing field next season.

Tournament Structure:
The tournament structure was well done, except I think that autonomous should be part of every round throughout the day.

Other/General Game Ideas:
I would like to see 2 minute 30 second rounds next season, where the first 30 seconds is autonomous, and the next 2 minutes are operator control.

I would like see the presentations to judges have some parts like in FRC like an animation challenge, CAD (just a simple program) challenge. A team video would be something I think that would be very fun for teams to do.

I would very much like to see no human players like the 2004-2005 season with the whiffle balls. I felt that made the competition didn’t work for Vex like it worked for the FRC challenge.

A field like this year I felt was good for all teams as there were no moving parts and could be made very cheaply with wood.

Overall I felt this Vex season was a huge success and I can’t wait for next time. No matter what the field design is, I know it will be taken into consideration from all point of views. Good luck guys, I have the utmost confidence that you will design a great challenge!

Good Luck!

First off, I’d just like to say that the 2005-06 FVC GDC did an amazing job at putting together a great game. It was very well balanced and we saw a great variety of robots. Here are FVC 268’s comments

Autonomous Mode:
-Liked the separate autonomous and driver control matches. This put much more emphasis on autonomy than in FRC matches.

Tele-Operated Mode:
-2 on 2 format was good for driver control. Last years game demanded teamwork between alliances as no one team could do everything effectively.

Game Object(s):
Good choice with Racquet balls. Whatever you pick for next year, make sure its easily available for all teams.
ie. racquet balls, tennis balls, base balls, squash balls, pingpong balls, soft balls, hockey pucks, Nerf balls or something fabricated from vex components themselves.

(FRC bad example… Try finding pool noodles in Canada in January)

Either that, or something thats easily fabricated. ie Wooden cubes or something.

The point values were really well balanced in both driver control and autonomous matches. Whatever next years game is, keep up the good work.

Tournament Structure:

Last year had a good balance of autonomous and driver control matches in rankings. Don’t change a thing.

Other/General Game Ideas:

I think some more field features would spice things up a bit. Maybe something that would require a more intricate drive system to get around. Maybe some steps or bigger platforms.
Within reason of course.

A wider array of tasks of varying difficulty would be nice. Something that involved scoring up high… at least 24 inches high. Larger heavier scoring objects… something that would be very difficult to control more than one of at a time, while still maintaining some simple tasks that are easy for less experienced teams to accomplish.

The foam flooring was a great field material… but expensive and hard to come by. Possibly consider a change for next season to something cheaper and more readily available. Nothing comes to mind though :confused:

Two ideas for unusual game pieces: plastic easter eggs or the low friction tire from the small vex wheels (just the tire though).

And if you’re ever looking for something really challenging, you can always develop a wall robots would have to climb.

Other than that our team didn’t compete in Vex and I didn’t get to see more than one or two matches of this year’s competition. If they’ll be a competition out in Arizona next year, we’ll be happy to give you feedback on the game though!

Since I see FVC expanding more readily to a league type environment (similar to fLL) along with regional events…

Tournamement Structure…

  • Consider rules for choosing elimination alliances with less then the optimum number of teams

Other Game ideas…

  • Think about it from a school, or other league type environment…
  • How can change the field but use the same pieces (with some modification possibly).
  • How can we keep the field costs, cheap
  • From a regional event perspective, can we include something, even if it’s not electronic, that displays team numbers above the operators so it is obvious who is who? (cheaply - make a doulbe set of team used in the pits, put the 2nd set up during each match.
  • More awards in an interesting idea, but remember this is a one day event and judges would like time to see some matches.

OK. Here are my thoughts after being a FVC mentor, tournament committee member, and a referee.

Autonomous Mode: Separate auto mode was well received. It placed more emphasis on auto than FRC for some teams, others didn’t bother with auto at all. Perhaps a way to encourage more use of auto, would be for auto “winners” to carry some advantage onto the driver field such as bonus game pieces or additional scoring options in addition to the auto score rankings.

The only down side to separate auto matches was the need to change crystals twice, once for auto and once for tele matches. This was a chore for tournament staff to keep this running smoothly. Although, it might work fine once teams are used to the system. A crystal table adjacent to each field that teams must pass by might help.

Tele-Operated Mode: Not much to change here. All the excitement of FRC in a smaller space. Using two tele-operated fields, one running the other staging, like at Championships work VERY well. A field timer visible on the field like FRC would be nice, too.

Game Object(s): Commercially available, and READILY available, objects please. The lack of red balls this year made our team not pursue some sensor options because we couldn’t readily test our ideas. Lots of scoring objects too. It was very exciting to watch some of the center goal contests this year as teams just piled on the balls. Something other than balls like FRC.

Goals/Scoring: Multiple goals - Yes. Different scoring options - Yes. Bonus Objects or Goals (See my auto section above). Low Cost - the poly carb was a big investment this year. The corner goals could have been made entirely of plywood to save money this year. They were low and on a slope so visibility was not a problem. Although, I really liked the poly carb end walls at Championships. A raised center platform for the game to make it more visible to the audience. A balance ramp like FRC 2001 would be fun. Maze-like barriers that can be moved by robots would be interesting. Finally, mobile goals are always fun and challenging.

Tournament Structure: I’ll agree with the other posts. I think FVC should develop closer to FLL than FRC as a league.

I would like to see it develop similar to varsity sports where local teams host smaller (say 10-18 team) “home” tournaments without a lot of fluff, just competition, that could be run in an evening or on a Saturday morning or afternoon. League scoring could be posted during the “league season” with high scoring teams getting automatic berths to “official” FIRST regionals. Other teams could still register for open berths just like FRC Championships. It would be similar to FRC post season events, in reverse. I think it would be great to see rankings and box scores posted online just like the sports section of the newspaper. Teams could compete within their Division and have the option to compete in one or two “Non-Conference” meets during the season.

Each Conference or Division could supply its own “official” field(s) which could be moved around to each local event, just have FIRST supply the tournament software and field control equipment in small mobile kits. FIRST has already created regions with Regional Directors, FIRST Senior Mentors, and local staffers who could support these local conferences. It also would allow FIRST to add “official” regionals as local sponsors can be found, but would allow local conferences to be created as soon as area teams created it themselves. This local ownership should encourage teams seek out new schools in their area to join the conference, and by having a low cost, but repeatable local meets FIRST would be building excitement and energy on the road to the “official” Regionals. This building excitement and repeatability would also expose more non-FIRST schools to the program.

Kick-off could be in September, with local conference play during say November through early January, then the “official” Regionals could be during late winter/early spring like FRC.

This is probably more of a FVC big picture thread, not game design thread, but…

Who’s ready to start the Connecticut Conference of the New England Region?

Other/General Game Ideas: None at the moment. I’ll edit if I think of any.

Game Suggestion:

A timed obstacle course with bonus point challenges allong the way. Have a serpentine route through a set of challenges. Have various driving/maneuvering challenges and challenges for manipulating the environment.

The course and challenges would be set up to reward a wide variety or robot designs. Devising a best multi-purpose compromise would be the key to success.

For driving challenges have straights, twists, narrow passes, low tunnels, rough terrain, walls/stairs, hills, ditches, dark tunnels/caves, forests, etc. No one design will be optimal for all of them.

For manipulating the environment, have things to push, pull, twist, lift, carry, place precisely, find in darkness/caves, autonomously recognize color/light, etc. No one design will be able to carry enough sensors, actuators, etc. to accomplish them all.

Completing a challenge will either shave time off of your total course time, or will award you more points, or will open a short cut through the course.

High scores come from either time, or points (earned before time expires) or a wisely computed combination of both.

Stretches of autonomous and operator-controlled operation can be built into the course.

Problems to be overcome: It will be hard to pack enough complexity into a small field. It may be hard to achieve a sense of head-to-head competition and that might reduce the fan-appeal of the game (although downhill slalom skiing seem to do OK during the Olympics).

PS: I have a longer list of challenges in my notes if this idea gets any traction.

Last Nov. I built a vex bot with some neighbor kids. We set up a maze and proved that a square bot and Sharp Ir sensors could navigate the maze. Had to take the kit back to the First team before the kids really got going on the navigation algorithms. How about a autonomous maze game. Timed trials through the maze with a 3 minute time max.Would need to open up the allowed sensors to do a maze.
For the human controlled portion, I’d like to See a obstacle course. Have barriers in the middle with a small opening that 1 bot could get through. Have the teams score points by going to the other side, retrieve objects and bring them back to a goal to score points. The small passage in the middle would act as a choke - block point encouraging designs that could traverse over the obstacles.
As far as the vex system, the radios and crystals are a problem. Cheap solution is to use wireless PS2 controls. I’ve used them with another robot controller on the vex hardware and they work well. Vex has some parts that need to be redesigned.

I worked as a programmer on our FVC team this year, and there are a few things I’d like to see changed in the autonomous mode:

-I didn’t much like the separation of competition types: it led to a few problems, most notably Team 2 missing an auto round because their bot was actively competing in one of the remote-controlled rounds. I like the idea a few others have favored, of integrating the two types like in the FRC. I think it would make for a much smoother event setup.

-Another problem that we faced constantly was differences in fields. When we got to Hartford we found that our program would not work at all, chiefly because of the differences between the field we built ourselves and the competition field. However, when we got to Atlanta, we found the same problem- between the official practice field and the competition one. What worked perfectly consecutively in the pit area only scored for opposing teams in competition. The differences could be reduced, I think, by integrating the two gametypes.

-Also, something using more of the sensors available would be good too. Our team used a variety of the sensors in our program (ODS, bumpers, line trackers) but we noticed that we were one of the few teams that used anything besides ODS and timers. Even if nothing is added, I would keep the idea of lines on the floor. The line-tracking program was a pain to build, but definitely worth it to see it run :smiley:

I also worked this year as a programmer on Team 160 Impulse, but as always, I happen to disagree with my fellow programmers :yikes:

Autonomous Mode:
I loved the way it worked with the remote activating the program in the microcontoller, but I liked it better when deactivating the remote would also halt or stop the program (I’m pretty sure it did that in older versions of master code) This would save a lot of accidents resulting in the code gone or made wrong, or some remote off switch would be appreciated. (Especially one time when I got my thumb drive which was hanging around my neck caught into moving robot)

Tele-Operated Mode:
No Problems here except keeping track of those crysals must of got annoying for the staff after awhile, too bad there isn’t enough frequencies to assign a team their own crystal for the tournament.

Game Object(s):
Something like this again I suppose, scoring something into a goal

I like it how the harder to reach goals are worth more points

Tournament Structure:
Keep it seperate! I loved the way the programmers got their own match so to speak, though it makes ranking a bit harder.

Other/General Game Ideas:
As for the field, easy to make was a good thing… but easy to deteroiate was a bad thing, especially for us programmers. Can’t tell you how many times we would have to change ODS “limits” in our code due to the wheels spinning differently or experienceing different ammounts of friction between fields.

Also, maybe its just the field inconsistencies but maybe more accurate sensors could also be made. The sensors get the job done but especially with the ODS, they tend to change a bit in their readings a bit, especially as battery levels go down. This is rather annoying.

Now in this next statement,I apologize if I offend anybody, but maybe have FVC a bit more spaced out from the FRC. In both Hartford and Atlanta, the FRC teams made a lot of noise, which was a lot to compete with. I understand that the FRC teams have done a lot of work and deserve a lot of regconition, but I think FVC should be seen in the same light. I don’t think its fair to have us being drowned out by FRC. We worked hard too. :confused: .

Well that about it, Hope I didnt over talk like usual… whoops.

i think footballs or cut up pool noodles would be cool

The one thing I would love to see return is the keep-the-refs-extremely-bored approach that made Half-Pipe Hustle so much fun. When the game itself is designed to play clean, it takes a lot for a team not to play clean.

With that…

Autonomous Mode: I like the concept of 1v0 here; it keeps things simple. Perhaps having a common goal for an alliance, like the traditional midfield goal in FLL. But instead of the somewhat complex ranking system they had this year, the match next year will result in a bonus in tele-operated mode. For example, suppose that the higher-scoring alliance in autonomous got a five-second head start. Not insurmountable, but undeniably an edge.

Tele-Operated Mode: Leave it be, it’s running fine.

Game Object(s): I can definitely see the issue with multicolored balls like this year, and I fear that similar-sized balls next year will result in warmed-over robots. How about something big, like Poof balls?

Goals/Scoring: Suppose that instead of a trough for scoring, you had a pretty tight target to stack the object onto. If the target is set back a little bit, the concepts should be pretty original.

Tournament Structure: Keep this as it is.

Other/General Game Ideas: Perhaps it’s the fact that I was just a witness to Mission Mayhem and Aim, well, Kinda High, but I’d love to see a king of the hill aspect to the next game.

One person above suggested putting a choke point on a part of the field all contestants share - Good idea, but it should probably be a one-way path (mandate a different path return path) with a gate system or some other implicit mechanism that queues up the bots without having them collide with one another. Vex bots aren’t very sturdy.

If all teams can bring two robots or if you can figure out a way to have equal numbers of team produce each of two types of robot; I would love to see a game that is played by alliances of two bots, and that demands two distinctly different types of behavior from those bots.

Perhaps one behavior would be pushing big objects out of the way and gathering objects that were hidden behind the big ones. The other behavior could be accepting the gathered objects and racing through obstacles to deposit them in a goal high off the floor.

The rules would be designed to make it very, very hard to build one bot to do all these things (much less do them well) and stay within other game constraints like size and weight. The importance of teamwork and strategic thinking would rise.


How about allowing detachable auxiliary robots?

A large robot would be allowed to carry another robot that could be launched and (must be?) retrieved.

Each of the two humans on a team would control the one of the robots (either the Carrier or the one it deploys). This would be one option for doing things like pressing two push-buttons at the same time, or for gathering balls (by having the deployed bot herd them into the Carrier), or for holding one object in place while another is stacked/attached on/to it, or for whatever…

Maybe loosen weight, size, sensor, etc. restrictions a bit for a two-bot team; but keep the restrictions tight enough to force a division of capabilities between the two bots. Also keep the one-bot restrictions loose enough to make it possible to be successful using a single bot.


If the competition is still split into separate autonomous and operator controlled matches, modify the ranking system just a bit. The separate ranking of teams, then averaging of the rankings was a little tough to follow and in some cases I think it was unfair.

If a bunch of teams are tied in autonomous points (very possible since many teams scored low this year), the tiebreaker should not drop down to the random ‘coin flip.’ In some cases this can cause the ‘wrong’ team to be ranked higher. The random flip should only be used if the overall averaged rankings are tied.

For example… Teams A, B, C are all tied with 0 points in autonomous and are ranked 1, 2, 3 in operator controlled, respectively. It would make sense for the overall rankings to match the OC rankings, but it’s not necessarily the case in the current system. If the random Auto rankings go B, C, A, for 1, 2, 3, the overall rankings will be B (1.5 avg), A (2 avg), C (2.5 avg).

It’s a small change, but I think it’s needed.

Just as a thought to the comment about foam tiles being somewhat expensive, what about a painted piece of plywood for the floor? Surely the Vex wheels can work with that stuff, and the price is right.

Going to the footballs idea, what about those hard plastic ones that folks throw into the stands as promos at football games? Cheap, durable, able to be decorated if FIRST wants to splurge, and they’ll make all of the folks who have been clamoring for footballs in FRC happy. :wink:

Also, this should probably go without saying, but stick with the WildStang-designed field controllers. The system was functional, beautiful on the field (who wants a big beige crate at midfield with all that lexan around?), and displayed all the information we’ve wanted to know.

Soft tiles are a little pricey, but judging by the wear and tear this season, they should last for several seasons and will only require spot replacement of worn tiles. The only thing I’d change, is to NOT punch holes (for the floor starting balls) like this year, then the tiles would be reusable. The small drywall screw holes didn’t seem to leave big holes so they shouldn’t be a problem in future years. While the tiles are pricey, have you priced good plywood lately? Then there is a problem with mating adjacent panels and warped plywood. The lack of friction would be an issue if anyone wanted to use tank treads for a drive train, and it’s still a lot easier, not to mention lighter, to store a box of tiles than plywood or carpeting.

** Other/General Game Ideas:** I just thought of one. Can Dave or someone on the Vex GDC come up with our own Game Clue please. Always like a good puzzle! :smiley:

Amanda should get the honor of writing the official FVC Game Clue.