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

This is huge. Having a pick list is great and necessary if you happen to finish in a picking position (nobody wants to send somebody to the field where they are literally looking for the next ranked team or waiting for someone to text them the team number to pick), but a bigger benefit is for match strategy.

We have won matches we had no business winning because our scouting data helped our alliance determine the proper strategy for that match. During Steam Works, for instance, knowing how many rotors our alliance was capable of scoring allowed helped determine when to start shooting fuel (we were fast, but our accuracy was not real high. This was a “tie breaker” type of strategy in close matches).

In this year’s game, you can use data to determine if you can out score the other alliance or if you need to limit their score (play defense)? Can you get a ranking point by filling a rocket and do robots need to work together to achieve this? Is it possible to get a ranking point at the end for the climb (what level can each robot climb to and when do they need to start)? If your alliance can’t get a ranking point for climbing do the points awarded for climbing out score what they could have been doing if they continued to score hatches and cargo? Knowing how long it takes robots to do particular tasks and how successful they have been at doing it , is great for determining strategy. Imagine an alliance that has 3 robots that can score hatches and cargo in the Cargo Ship and the lowest level on the rocket, knowing who should be placing hatches vs. cargo based on success rate and speed can optimize your alliance score. Scouting data can tell you this.


Yup. I particularly enjoyed asking our scouting captain whether we were going to win the next match and getting an accurate prediction. Our drive team mentor (who is off the field) generates per-match strategy based on the scouting data. Plus, I like the pretty graphs.

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I am. Was there a tell?

No, but I got a kick out of watching you get more excited than your kids did after every time your bot self tipped onto the lvl2 platform and especially after you upset the #1 alliance.


Things can change more quickly than you imagine. A team can go from being in the bottom 5 to being in the top 10 in a matter of a few years. A Positive culture toward scouting is important and necessary.
If your team is small, begin by match scouting a single alliance (either blue or red) throughout the competition.
For us, the Drive Team does pit scouting and we have a separate team for Match Scouting. The Drive Team scouts on Thursday and uses the data to develop strategies to use during qualifying matches. Match Scouting is used to create the Pick/No Pick list.

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Scouting isnt just to be able to pick for alliances. Our team disregarded strategy and scouting for a long time (we are 4 years old). This year we started to take it seriously. At our first event (TVR), we didnt focus on scouting. It wasnt a priority, because we didnt expect to be picked, especially as a first pick; but we were. And because we were uneducated on the other teams, we wound up picking a team that was unreliable and was basically unable to function on the field. After that competition, we started to focus on it a lot more. We buckled down and created a new scouting form, and put new people in place to help carry out the scouting. This helped us tremendously.
We mainly use our scouting data to strategize for our qual matches, as we really rarely get picked (honestly only ever got picked once, this year). We attended the Detroit Championships this year and strategy proved to be our breaking point, it was our weakest link. Though we got serious about it, it is still generally new to us, to we still dont have the best practices put in place. We had a functional robot, good drivers, but we only won 1 match throughout the entire event. After looking back on the footage, we found that we did in fact stick to our strategy, but because we didnt pull up our data during pre-match strategizing, it turned out that sometimes our alliance members turned out to not be able to do what they said they were going to do, which then in turn messed with us. Im not blaming our losses on other teams, or just strategy, but strategy was definitely a big part of our issue.

My biggest suggestion would be to focus on match scouting.

For regionals/district competitions, it probably isnt too big of a deal if you dont scout every match. But for any championship event, districts or worlds, match scouting is a must. You cant play an effective game if you dont know what your alliances and opponents can or cannot do. If you know your alliance partners and what they can do, then its easier to “fact check” them when you pre-match strategize. If they say they can fill a rocket, but your match data says theyve only placed 4 elements each match, then you have that information to keep in the back of your mind, and can plan to work around it if it’s true. I’m not calling teams liars about what they can do, but some tend to exaggerate the truth, my team included. That is why match data is extremely important to collect, if you can. If you do not have enough scouts, or time to match scout, reach out to other teams going to the same event. There are plenty of teams out there who would be willing to help.

I suggest checking out this thread as well:


For freshmen, consider pit scouting. Buddy a junior and a couple of freshman up, and have them go talk to the other teams in the pit.

Pit scouting is great not just for getting info about the bot, but also for getting ideas about going for team awards in the future.

Why does Team X always win imagery? What are they doing? Do we want to do that? Maybe you’ll find nearby teams that are doing a service project that would be fun to collaborate on.

If a freshman sees something really cool they want to see happen, let them lead it. That can drive some more passion.


That is a wonderful idea!
Pit Scouting for awards won. I am definately going to incorporate that in next year’s scouting.

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I saw a couple things at MSC and Detroit that a team that doesn’t expect to pick can do.

The first is to take a couple of students through the pits and have them look at the drivetrain and identify what type it is. By the end of the tour they won’t have to ask “what type of drivetrain do you have” when they pit scout. While you are there, have one of the students ask “What part of your robot do you like the best that I should copy?” It’s amazing what you can learn about another team’s robot from a student that is proud of their work.

The other thing you can do is ask a team that scouts that you’d like your team to learn how to scout. Ask if they would mind if some of your students could help. At Detroit our team had some members of 7769 join our qualitative scouts. It didn’t take long before they were being treated like they were part of our team. Eventually our team started cheering for their team, but what I was most impressed with is when I heard the kids using each other’s first names. They were no longer kids from some other team, they were friends.


My team usually gets to a position where it picks, but we like to see data that our first pick has so that the second pick isn’t just from us, its from the alliance. It also may help us catch any holes in our data that we might not have seen.

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3946 found itself doing selections for the first time at Beach Bot Battle last year, having seeded third. Fortunately, the drive coach had been doing a lot of informal scouting, and had some picks in mind, because (unlike official events), the mentors only encouraged and offered (several times) to help, but let the students fail to do scouting. There were five alliances, and we placed third in the round-robin, so at least we did as well as expected.

Also on the lighter side - it feels great to be the first pick of someone totally unprepared, who doesn’t even know your team number, or exactly your name! This happened at last year’s (and apparently the last ever) Red Stick Rumble, when 3039’s second team picked “the Tigers*” and had to point to our area in the stands to specify who. Second pick was 3847 (yes, Spectrum, who was playing with a “Pink Arm” which had fallen on hard times due to a long season and post-season), and we went to finals at the event, giving Fusion (364) and Jersey Voltage (4587)** a better challenge than anyone else did.

* Yes, this was in Baton Rouge, home of the LSU fighting tigers (a title originally conferred on a Louisiana militia unit about 150 years ago), so there were quite a few “tiger” teams in attendance.

** It was also curious describing that event to my supervisor who happens to be from Houston. She totally understood the team name I had wondered about for a while (ending a year or two earlier) in a split second.

I watched that happen in 2014 and vowed to not let it happen again at an event we attended. When I see a newer team or one that hasn’t been an alliance captain previously in the top 12 late in qualifying , I check with them if they have done scouting and are aware of how the draft works. If they don’t have any data, I either help with them with our scouting data or line them up with a non-contending team that I know has reliable scouting data. This doesn’t always help them make a better alliance selection, but they do have a list going out on the field.

This approach nearly backfired on us in 2013 when I gave 4814 a good chunk of our first pick list on Curie when they had half a dozen students. They assembled a powerful alliance that nearly beat us in the finals!


I want a flying game…

Sometimes, teams end up in a position to pick even if they aren’t an alliance captain. At the first regional we ever won (Tech Valley 2017), we were ranked 16th but were a first round pick. We were better prepared for alliance selection than our captain and we suggested the third robot. We would not have been able to upset 195 and 20 without this pick, who was key to our ability to hit four rotors under defense, and would not have known to pick them if we didn’t do thorough scouting and data analysis.


This this this this this

If you have any chance of being a first round pick, consider putting together a list of robots. You will add value to the alliance by having another informed opinion on the field. Also, I love seeing student reps delay the mic because they want to work it out with their 1st pick who the best 3rd bot is.


This, totally this post! Point out to people that scouting helps them understand what mechanisms work best on the various robots and will give them better input for mid-season modifications (assumes you are able to do so) or even next year’s robot. Highlight that if they pay attention they will be more likely to have valuable suggestions. I would imagine a lot of the students would be pretty chuffed to have their design chosen, it’s a point of ego/pride.

Dovetails very well with pit scouting as mechanisms are easier to see in detail there and as others have mentioned, pit scouting can be invaluable for determining what other robots have a capability that yours lacks.

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We always share our data when asked. I have to be careful, I once almost shared our pick list. Not that it’s a secret masterplan, but it would tip our hand.

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OP what ended up happening, did they scout? did it help?

Not all teams are very willing to accept help from their picks, which is a sad reality that we’ve seen once or twice.

I can promise you the volunteers dont if we’re behind schedule :joy:

At one of our regionals this year, my team went from being ranked 49th out of 49 teams to being 8th seed alliance captains. As a scouting lead who had never expected us to rank anywhere near that high, I was so thankful that we had useful scouting data to fall back on that led to us picking a solid alliance. Don’t think that just because you’re a rookie team that there’s no way this can apply - it’s not too uncommon for rookie teams to be alliance captains! Even if you aren’t a captain, if you’re a first pick it’s crucial (or, at least, much appreciated) that you have a list of robots to suggest to your alliance captain.
Additionally, scouting data is crucial to planning out effective match strategies - this alone is an integral reason to scout throughout qual matches. Our drive coach regularly receives data sheets from the stands that inform her match strategies, and it’s been invaluable to her.
If you truly feel like you can’t justify having your scouters scout for the sake of preventing boredom, either pair them up or collaborate with another team to split scouting duties and combine your data - this has the potential to give you more insight, and many FIRST teams are more than willing to collaborate! Check with them to consider if the method you use for scouting is unnecessarily boring - I’ve heard of teams creating a point-based game for scouting to make it more enjoyable. Involve your scouters in strategy/pick list meetings - in addition to ensuring that they feel useful and involved, they’re the ones who’ve been watching robots all day, after all, and chances are they’ll have some idea of overlooked robots on the field who’d make great alliance picks. Scouting is very often overlooked in the face of robot fixes or even collecting buttons (don’t laugh, I’ve seen it happen far too often), but it’s a sleeper contender for one of the most important tasks someone can do at competition.