How much scouting should a team that doesn't expect to pick do

I’ve recently joined a new team and am helping out as a mentor. They’re pretty basic and have no scouting at all. On my previous team scouting was a big deal but that was mostly to determine picks, which we were almost always in a position to do during districts. With this new team, I don’t expect to be in that position. During build they should definitely be putting efforts elsewhere they’ve never even been picked. However, during the competition, I was wondering if we should try to do some scouting. Like I said I don’t expect to be picking but of course, it’s possible. Also how important is it for just match strategy during quals. The reason I’m hesitant is because getting the students to scout, which they’ve never done before, might turn them off from robotics, It’s already a struggle to keep them interested and I don’t want to stack up any more turn offs. What do you guys think?


I think you should show them what it is, and try to get them interested. At least get one or two of them to do some at a competition.

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One suggestion is to recruit a couple of students with a pad of paper each, maybe pre-printed with a block for each team. They watch the matches and make simple notes: good/bad, good at Rocket, drops hatches, etc (sorry don’t mean to be critical, just giving examples). After the first couple of matches, they could then go talk to the Drive team to give input on strategy.

So, effectively, ignore most numbers and go with subjective ratings and note specialties. It might be low key enough to not be stressful, yet could have an impact, and gets the idea of “real” scouting started.


I was in a bit of a similar situation when I started last year as a college mentor. Pit scouting is generally helpful while making strategies. Match scouting can be helpful in terms of selling your team to a selecting alliance (e.g. if you see a strategy that would mesh well with your capabilities). I’d recommend forming a scouting alliance with another team to and rotate students through to keep them interested. It’s also important to build a scouting system now as you attempt to be in a picking position in future years.

With this new team, I don’t expect to be in that position.

I didn’t expect to be in that position two years ago, and then there we were in 6th with no functional pick list…

The reason I’m hesitant is because getting the students to scout, which they’ve never done before, might turn them off from robotics, It’s already a struggle to keep them interested and I don’t want to stack up any more turn offs.

If team leaders (often adults, sometimes students) are engaged in strategy and respect the inputs they’re getting from scouting, scouting should not be a turn-off.

The way you spend your time communicates to the students what has value. If scouting is important, you better be prepared to spend time on it with them.

This was a hard lesson I learned a few years ago - all I needed to do to fix our scouting morale problem as one of our 3 robot mentors was to sit in the stands with our scouts and share the joy of observation and catching “small things” robots did on the field… so simple, so obvious, took me so long to catch on!


As much scouting as possible. While you may not expect to pick, there’s always a chance. Your alliance captain may need assistance as well. Learning how others could potentially work with you can also be helpful.


Beyond all the points mentioned above I also believe that it’s tremendously beneficial for a team’s long-term success to take scouting seriously because your students will better understand how to design a robot. Scouts watch more matches than anyone else on a team and in doing so they’re watching how every teams design choice in the build season are translating to performance. Even if you don’t end up in picking position this year, you’ll benefit the following season by having more knowledgeable students.


I have noticed a few teams over the last couple years that end up in the top 10 to 14 at an event. As teams are selected the team gets pulled up to 7 or 8. Now they have to make selections.

I have seen people rush down to hand the person a slip of paper. I have seen others with nothing in hand. Others will look to the stands to see what team numbers may be signaled to them. Some will look at the board to pick the next highest ranked.

More often than not the selections are not the best.

Two years ago was the first time we were a captain, the #6 alliance Because we had done scouting and had a plan, and a little luck, we were able to win the event.

Scouting is not just for alliance selections. Scouting can be used to determine match strategies. To determine strengths and weaknesses of both sides.

It helps to have data to know what each team can really accomplish, not what they say they can do.

Scouting can and will make a better team, knowledge is power as the saying goes.


First, it is definitely possible that your team does end up in the top 8 positions, despite how unlikely it may seem. Therefore, every team should always have at least some scouting information, even if its just a list of saying what teams are “good” and “bad”. As well, by having at least some information, if you are picked you can discuss 2nd picks with the alliance captain. I was an alliance captain for 2 years and considered the alliance captains/1st picks scouting information as well as mine.

Scouting in qualifications is useful to predict if the opposing alliance is capable of earning at least one extra ranking point. If they are, perhaps some defense could be in play; but if they aren’t there’s less of a reason to play defense. Of course, the more data you have about teams can give you more advanced strategies.

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Even if it’s unlikely that you’ll be in a picking position, it’s worth scouting to devise strategy in your matches, or at the very least know the strategies of the top teams. From there, your team could figure out how best your robot could complement the strategies of the picking teams and market yourselves towards them.


Scouting …driving…engineering …strategy.

We sometimes pick othertimes don’t , does not change the fact we scout the same way every game and try to build the best pick list we can. Whether 52/63 or 2/42 does not matter. It helps make the team better. As they say information is power.

Deciding not to scout well, is like not driving well, or not building well or not strategizing well… sort of a waste of time IMO and these events are not inexpensive nor peoples time. Basically scouting is just as important for many teams to compete as any other factor.

The other benefit of scouting (which I haven’t seen mentioned yet) is what you do in preparation for your quals matches. If your experiences are like mine, you’ve probably always had one team that gathered their alliance partners together, and said things like “We saw your climb was very reliable, so we want you to get over there first” and “We know there’s only one scale team on the other side, so we need you to defend against them.” When you have the actual scouting data to back this up, you’re able to take a much more active role in match prep and additionally leaves a positive impression on your alliance partners (who may be picking you).


This. Also, match scouting can help your drive coach and his/her alliance counterparts figure out your alliance strategy if you communicate the results regarding the six teams (yourself, two partners, three opponents) in the next match to your drive coach immediately after each qual match, excluding likely the first and last.

And teams have definitely found themselves unexpectedly alliance captains!


Scouting is very important, in past years my team has gotten picked for an alliance just because of the scouting info we had. I am competition and strategy lead for my team, so I’m in charge of scouting. What we usually do for scouting is make an excel doc for each team in the competition with all the basic info on it, for auto, telle, and endgame. We just have 6 people in the stands fill in the blanks for each match. I put together a schedule for all the members not on drive team or pit crew, to take turns scouting. It is not too hard and only takes a few minutes to put together the doc. hope this helps.

If you haven’t done any scouting and don’t anticipate being an alliance captain, it can be really daunting to implement a full scouting program, collecting data on every robot every match. Instead, I’d just focus on watching the robots in your upcoming match(es). Even if you’re just a box on wheels, knowing where you opponent prefers to score can be a huge advantage in playing defense. By starting small and focusing on information that you know you will use, you will limit the odds you try to do too much or feel like you wasted your time collecting all this data only to never use it to pick alliances.

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My personal experience with scouting takes a major U-Turn.

My freshman year of FRC was SteamWorks. I hated scouting. Why? You had to watch matches over and over. Robots doing the same thing. Driving down, get gear, drive back, climb, repeat. It wasn’t fun for me. I asked to be a backup human player on the retrieval zone. I rather do that than be in the stands.

2 years later, in 2019, i’m a captain of my team. I now know and stress the importance of scouting. It is a big part of the team, if you do not have scouters but somehow end up first, you may not always want to pick the 2nd seed. In fact, you might not even be interested in the top 8 seeds. I’ve been at a competition where the top 8 seeds were not even looking at other teams but ultimately were winners of the regional (Refer to 2017NYSU).

I personally think that the students may go through the “scouters phase” where they do not feel as if it is necessary so they slack off. I now love to “video scout” watching for those little details that can be easily missed in competitions. The biggest wakeup call for me was last year in 2018 when i was the Operator and started to get a sense of how i would be leading the team when the leadership was passed on. I definitely could not have done it without my mentors or other alumnis who have graciously reached back and helped me.

If you can get the students in the earlier years to be able to recognize how much scouting can change a team, i pays off in the long term.

To expand on this, you scout when you don’t expect to be picking so that you’ve mastered the skill by the time you are picking. (Which, as others have pointed out, can always be sooner than you expect!) Just as teams work on off-season projects to improve their skills for the season, the best time to improve your team’s scouting skills is before you need scouting data.

For a stretch of several years, my team did not expect to be picking, and therefore didn’t scout. As a result, we had to “rediscover” how to scout over the course of a few years once we were back in a position to be picking. For those intervening years, the worst place for us to end up was as an alliance captain. Until last year, we consistently did better as someone else’s pick than we did captaining our own alliance. Sure, scouting data (or lack thereof) probably wasn’t the only factor, but it certainly didn’t help that our mental state entering the elimination rounds was wondering if we’d really put together the best alliance possible.

The driving factor behind our scouting turnaround was a student who decided she was going to fix our scouting problem. She printed up scouting sheets and organized other team members to make sure every bot in every match was covered. She worked with other team members to develop the strategy we wanted to play in elims, and used the scouting data to generate the right pick list to play our strategy. After years of largely unsuccessful attempts by mentors to get the team to take scouting seriously, it was amazing.

All this to say: your students probably take direction for something like this better from another student than from a mentor. So find a student you can convince of the value of scouting, make that student your scouting lead, and then let him or her lead.

Edit because I forgot to say: I concur with everything else said here so far, with particular attention to chandrew’s, GeeTwo’s, and ClayTownR’s comments.


I just want to add a third concurring voice to this point. I’ve seen robots that deserved to get picked passed over for other robots plenty of times, at it probably has something to do with selling themselves. Very few teams actually have a complete scouting system; persistently selling your capabilities to teams is one of the best ways to get picked.

This was us our rookie season. And to re-emphasize the above point, I picked someone who simply asked me to pick them shortly before selections, and passed over an objectively better team, simply because I forgot about the other team. If that other team had come talk to us, we would have picked them almost certainly.

We started actively scouting since our second year and we incrementally got more advanced each season. We’ve ended up the 8th seed captain a few times with robots that were pretty bad but it just worked out to where we had to pick so you never know how things might turn out.

I think having at least a minimal program is important to start because it’ll make you guys look competent. At the end of the day we’ve always had a list of teams in rank order from 1-30ish after the first day of qualifications. If we’re not very good we don’t really argue about the top 10-12 team order rank (its easy to identify the good teams) we typically spend the entire second day at a regional looking at 5-6 teams we had questions about and figure out where they fall on our list between that 13th & 30th ranking. It also makes it manageable how to handle what to do on selection day if you unexpectedly keep winning.

I can think of several reasons why every team should scout.

  1. Alliance captains should scout to have the best chance at elims
  2. FIrst picks should scout to show alliance captain another set of data.
  3. Second picks should scout to help alliance with elim strategy
  4. Teams that don’t get picked should scout to see the performance level of bots that do get picked
  5. Teams that don’t get picked should scout to see which mechanisms you might want to copy and add to your bot for your next event. This is even more important next year.
  6. Scouting inspires all of your students when they see a mechanism that works and works well.
  7. You can pre-scout other teams that are playing at an event before the event you both go to.
  8. The combination of scouting, strategy and mechanisms can help your team in future games. Scouting quick, stable elevators for last year’s game will give you a great starting point for the design of this year’s elevator, if your team decided to use an elevator.
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