generic strategy, what works best?

sorry the title sounds a little vague… i couldn’t think of anything better

Anyhow, when going into any game, what strategy does your team employ?

for instance, my team (868), goes into the game with the question “What can we do to make ourselves an attractive alliance partner; What is the one thing that we can do better than anyone else”

This has led to several awards/victories for our strategy, in Stack Attack we won the GM Industrial Design award for being able to stack 7 crates high; in Raising the Bar we only went for the bar, and could roll across it, so we were picked for the Einstein runner up alliance; in Triple Play we could stack 4/5 tetras at a time, getting us picked for the winning alliance at IRI; where last year we won the Xerox Creativity Award for our drivetrain, and what we wanted to do with it.

Do any other teams follow a similar strategy (if so, hows it working for you?) if not, what is it?

from an engineering perspective there is no generic strategy that will take you from one year to the next.

Each year the game is different. The way you score points is different, the way you play defense, the importance of auton mode, alliance pairing…

The only thing that is consistant in engineering is change.

On the teams I have mentored the first thing we did after the kickoff was to analyse all the scoring possibilities. What is the max possible score? What is the best reasonable score if you focus on one method or another.

Once you have that figured out you can reasonably assume that some team will be able to make a robot that can approach the high (reasonable) score. You then have to assess your teams resources and abilities, to see where your team fits best into the picture.

Its a difficult decision process, maybe the most difficult part of FIRST, deciding what functions you want your robot to perform. If you try to do everything, then your robot will not do any one thing very well.

If you try to do only one thing, and do it better than everyone else, it might not be enough to win matches. Then unless you are allied with complementary robots you wont rank very high.

The bottom line for us was always this: we chose two or three main functions we wanted our robot to perform, then we judged our success on how well the robot did those things. You cant design a robot to win - you cant design a [WIN] button into the control panel. There is a lot of luck and chance involved, so all you can really do is match your robot design to the capabilites of your team (this year).

Next year things might be completely different for your team.

I should add, I was on moderately sized teams, 20 to 30 students with 4 or 6 excellent core engineer mentors. Two or three main functions worked well for our team size, to keep everyone busy and challenged with their subsystem, without causing the team to be overwhelmed.

Larger teams can do more, smaller teams might only choose one or two main functions.

Oh man, what a topic with an endless number of answers.

Teamwork, individual success… oh man I’ve got homework, I’ll come back to this thread later :smiley:

Generally I think we go in thinking about how to break-down the game and find the best way of winning. We might do what most teams do or we might do something very different with our robot.

In First Frenzy - Rising the Bar, we also only went for the bar. We were thinking that with 25pts locked up, the other teams would at least need 5 balls to get the same result and catch us.

This year we were a high goal shooter, thinking that the best way to win was to score a lot of points. Especially with the higher goal being worth more.

This is just my opinion, but I think we usually go for the most points that we can get. Because you can’t always count on getting a good match list at the regionals, and you will know the average points you will get.

As for how its worked for us, I think its a good system for us. In the years that I’ve been apart of the team, we’ve have been getting our robot done sooner and it has done better. Mostly because the extra time for debugging.

The best strategy IMHO is to scare the pants off of people. Look at 25 this year…

The robot was very good. Was it the best ever? No. Did it have weaknesses? Yes.

But, people were so focused on playing defense on them they forgot to score (oops) and 25 went undefeated through 2 regionals.

Since I’ve joined my team always focuses on unique and different designs. I can remember constant remarks this year and the last about the uniqueness of both robots.

  1. Take final score from FIRST’s game introduction video at kickoff

  2. Divide that score by the “FIRST universal optimism factor”

  3. You now have the number of points an alliance needs to score in order to win 90% of the matches in a season

  4. Take score from 3 and divide by 2

  5. You now know how many points your robot needs to score in a match

  6. Determine the simplest, highest success rate strategy to get that score

  7. Don’t worry about strategies that yield more or less points than your target

  8. Build your robot, so that it can score that many points, every single match… no matter what

  9. See you in Atlanta!

Any word on what that factor has been historically?

It was 50 points, not 25. :wink: (Although 5 balls and a doubler=50 pts, so that may have been what you were thinking)

Scoring can be broken down along these lines pretty much every year (2006 example in paranthesis)

Primary Scoring (Center Goal)
Secondary Scoring (Corner Goal)
Auxiliary Scoring (Auto bonus points)-Doubler Balls, Bonus Points, Etc.
Positioning Points (Ramp bonus)

Each team has to individually assess which of these oppurtunities they want to pursue, which compliment eachother, and which can win independent of eachother.

  1. What can your drivers/machine accomplish on a regular and consistent basis IN competition (not what happens in the perfect world of practice at home)?

After listing honest answers to 1:

  1. Which one/ones from the list best compliment the strengths of your upcoming alliance partners?

The generic engineering strategy that takes us from one season to the next is KISS! I’m not talking about the slogan, but actually striving for elegant simplicity. We always try to break the game down to basics. That is, we ask ourselves; what is worth doing, and what is the most straightforward way to get it done?

I think Jack has the answer. Kiss is our teams base engineering principle. Because of budget constraint we also employ the KIC (keep it cheap) principle. So for the last couple years we’ve been kissing and kicing the robot. Have had fair success with those base principles. Like Jack said, there is a certain elegance in simplicity.

Einstein said “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler”.

KISS is in line with this, but dont take it too far. Some engineering concepts and esp control systems are complex, but the improvements they can provide are well worth the added complexity.

Closed looped feedback on steering or motion control is a good example. With a yaw rate sensor and a simple PID control loop, you can make a robot steering both highly precise, and highly responsive, compared to feeding the joystick commands directly to the motors.

Simplicity of design gets you some very important characteristics: reliability, repairability, easy to fabricate and assemble, low cost, quick ‘time to market’

but simplicity must be balanced against performance, precision, accuracy, and ease of use and driver control.

A wise[strike]guy[/strike] man once told me at two in the morning in the middle of a suburban street that you’ve only really got to do two things to have a better chance of doing well:

  1. Drive reliably.
  2. Perform your main objective.

The first part is easy now; thanks to the work of Paul Copioli, JVN, and Andy Baker, you have a pretty big safety net when it comes to drive. Sure, you can still toy with a custom design, but there’s always the kitbot as a safety.

The latter part can be trickier, but it’s usually a bit better if you’ve got some fallbacks here as well. Take 1251, for example. They were waaaaaaay overweight with their shooting robot, so they lopped off their shooter, changed up some of their robot, and made their objective to be a door-dropping, human-load dumper. And really, it was pretty effective on the field. (Perhaps I shouldn’t be describing one-third of the Palmetto Regional champions as “pretty effective”.) Same story with 1902 this year–they had a shooter planned, but it would only be half-baked by ship day, so they opted to power balls into the corner goal. Nothing particularly fancy, but their ability to do it well sure got them a lot of work on Saturday afternoons.

(No, I’m not kidding about that first part.)

Was it two? I could have sworn it was more like three. =-]

If you have a reliable drivetrain, you’re immediately better than some teams at the competitions. You guaruntee that you’ll be able to get from point A to point B whenever neccessary. You always give yourself a chance. Without a reliable drivetrain, you have no chance.

I believe my exact words were “primary function.” However, you get a B+ for getting the concept right. ;-]

There’s nothing more demoralizing for your team or unattractive to potential alliance partners than not being able to do what you promise. It doesn’t matter what your primary function is (shoot balls, cap a tetra, hang from the bar), if you can actually do it consistantly you will, again, be better than some teams.

These two ideas combined will likely put you into the top 50% of robots in any competition. If you don’t qualify top 8, you’ll probably be picked as a partner. From there, a little luck and planning should net you a regional championship every few years.

No, he isn’t. ;-]

After looking in the past of what I have found to work the best there are 3 basic ideas.

1.) When thinking of strategy, do not ever rely on having an alliance partner. To many times will you get to competition and be facing an alliance down a partner or 2. So if you have a strategy that relies on another team, get rid of it.

2.) When thinking of strategy, remember that a win is a win is a win. This goes the same in qualifing as it does in elimination matches. If you can shutout your opponent, or completely outscore them, then you have won the match. And if you can do this every time, then you are likely going to be seeded first or second.

3.) No idea is a bad idea. Make sure that all ideas put out by team members (ideas should be within the rules and within manufacturing capabilities) should never be thrown out.

But above all else the most important idea i believe is the first one i have listed. If you rely on a partner to do a specific task, then you are not going to do well if you are not paired with a team that can do that.

Just my 2 cents

A lengthy brainstorming session usually helps the team out. The entire first week of the build season (no lie) is devoted to “How will we play the game to be an attractive alliance partner?”.

As for reliable drivetrains:
Which of your teams have actually designed (not built) drivetrains before the season, then used them during the year?

How has that worked out for you?

868 did that last year with the mecanum drive… we spent about 4 weeks before the season started researching, arguing, and designing drivetrains (but not building mind you). The mecanum won out for last years game.

Our team usually picks one scoring method, and focuses on accomplishing that. We try to keep some kind of “secondary” thing as an option, but it’s not the focus and if we can’t do it oh well. We keep our resources in mind for anything of course; machining is not an option, and we don’t want anything that begins to wrack up the $$$.

In 2004 we focused on scoring balls in the mobile goal and capping it (we couldn’t cap the stationary one). We finished as AZ Regional Finalists and were the #5 seed.
In 2005 we focused on capping tetras as high as possible to ensure the top tetra. We made it to the semi-finals, were the #4 seed (got picked by #1), won the GM Industrial Design award at AZ, and missed the highest score thus far in FIRST by 1 point (Florida scored just higher 1 hour before).
In 2006 we focused on scoring in the center goal using the camera. We made it to the semi-finals, were the #24 seed (got picked by #2), and were one of a handful of teams at AZ that could score in autonomous with the camera.

As for actual matches, our strategy is “get a higher score than the other team”. If you do that you usually win.

Two words…speed kills.

Not necessarily drive train speed, or speed at picking up balls, or any other system for that matter. If you are fast at the key element to a game, you are going to win. Lets take a look back…

1992 - The Gael Force championship robot had a speedy way of picking up balls off the field. All you do is drive over them and its yours, you cant get faster than that.

1993 - TI and Greenville, the roller system was speedy.

1994 - Sunny D, shooter mechanism. While everyone else was waiting around 30 seconds to lift up a load of balls, they were shooting them into an empty goal 1 by 1. By the time the lifts got up there, the goal was filled.

1995 - Raychem and Woodside “Stealth” had a very quick ability to pick up balls in the “mosh pit”. The most important element of that game was to get the ball fast and be the first to the top.

1996 - Tigerbolt. Fast enough to get a perfect score. Just pure speed in drive.

1997 - Beatty and Hammond, 6 seconds to cap the goal. Match was over in 6 seconds. Doesn’t get any faster than that.

1998 - Kokomo and the other wicked fast team the Bobcats, each had a very speedy pickup element. The invention of the roller claw. The roller claw to this day is the fastest way to pick up a single ball.

1999 - Juggernauts + Aces high. Get up on the puck fast, and you had the upper hand to hold the ground for the big points. Juggernauts did just that.

2000 - Speed in descoring. 25 and 131 could unload points from a goal so fast, that they single handedly could swing a match victory their way. Slower teams with the same ability, while effective in many matches, couldn’t make the cut in the end.

2001 - How can you say speed isn’t key in a game where you stopped the clock for points?

2002 - First team to the goals in the middle was the winner. If it was a tie, then it came down to traction and power. Usually, that team was 71. They were fast enough to get there before another team could anchor, and powerful enough to finish the job.

2003 - Wildstang got to the top of the mountain first, and once they were there, it was pretty much over. The only chance you had of winning against them, was to beat them to the top…which couldn’t be done very often, especially in autonomous mode. Also, many times the first to the wall was the winner, due to the boxes falling in the right direction for points.

2004 - Speed in automode to knock down the bonus ball before your opponent whacked you. Defensive speed. The Martians while having a strong drive train, were fast enough to get in the way of anyone scoring.

2005 - You needed to be able to score aloooot of tetras to win. To do this, you had to be able to pick them up and deliver them very fast. The winners did just this.

2006 - Speed in shooting. You needed to be able to unload a good 5 or 6 balls before your opponent got to you. This is why teams like 25 and Las Guerillas were so good. By the time you got over to defend them, they were already empty.

Well, there you go. After all my years in FIRST I have let the secret out. (Unfortunately, a secret I am horrible at following myself!). Now you know how to win FIRST. Essentially it comes down to this…

There are 1 or 2 key elements to every game. If you figure out which element that is, and gear your robot up to do it very fast…you stand a very good chance.

Sounds easy enough right?

Here is the kicker…you never really know what that key element is, until after the season is over. Thats why the game design committee is so evil.

Good luck everyone!

This is exactly what I was thinking too. If you are lucky enough to figure out one of those key elements, you might have a chance.

My team thought we were going to build a shooter this year, until we went and talked with a former mentor of team 10. After we explained the game to him, he already knew that very few teams would have a really good shooter. He was right. One of the things that made so many shooters not as good was the fact that robots could be easily pushed. We decided to go defensive, and it worked incredibly well. In my mind, that was one of the big elements this year, the ability to stay still while shooting (think of 25’s brakes). This upcoming year we will try to reduce the game down to its most basic elements, and try to come up with a robot that exploits one of those elements or performs it really well. Making the robot really good at one thing is the key, because it’s a way to make construction of the robot manageable and focused.