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

At our last event, the #12 ranked team became the #8 alliance captain. It’s painful to watch an unprepared alliance pick a team.

On the lighter side, one of the best responses I’ve ever heard was when student rep for 6101 was asked to join alliance #5, she shouted enthusiastically “Heck yeah”.

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Bet on your team and your effort, what if you do better than you ever thought? You should at least have one person try to scout. One person intently focused on the right game objectives can cover a regional to get an idea of teams strengths/weakness and general strategy (I did it for one regional in high school). Of course the effort may not be as thorough or quantitative as a team of people with breaks and extra resources but it is possible.

That person should look to formulate answers to the questions below, there should NOT be one robot per answer, just write all them down, then rank/stack later. You may create a few buckets (low/mid/high) if it helps. The actions on the field tell you most everything. There may be more questions you want to answer, but this is a start.

Which robots can score reliably?
Which robots can play great defense?
Which robots can perform during the sandstorm period and at what level?
Which robots have abilities that compliment ours?
Which robots have abilities to defeat us in the tournament?
Which robots get penalized often?
What HAB level can other robots achieve reliably (and unreliably but you’ve seen the capability)?
Which robots run reliably without breaking down often? Which robots run unreliably?

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Man, I feel sorry for that team. I have watched the same thing happen at an event with even the #10 seed.

But if it’s only the morning of the quals, and you are doing better than most teams, wouldnt you start to consider scouting?

I just posted this exact text under ‘potential’ but I can’t say it better than I did an hour ago.


The very best value in ‘pit scouting’ isn’t really in the scouting. Only eight teams will be picking an alliance–so for those that aren’t, you want your scouts to meet and interact with the scouts from the best teams. You want to be seen and liked and be remembered by them. Learn their names and you’ll be able to say ‘hi’ when you pass them in the stands or halls. When the quals are drawing to a close, you’ll be able to connect with them more easily and remind them to check how successful you’ve been–HAB2, six times, or some such. Many teams are ‘done’ scouting after the first day of quals–they come Saturday with a ‘pick list’ already. So you might try to ‘connect’ with your potential team captains late Friday.

Note, many kids are adverse to ‘selling’ your team to the leaders, but in fact we know advertising works because there’s a whole industry based on it. If your scouts don’t want to try’n ‘sell’ your team, you’ll probably need to find other kids that can.

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My team scouts everything about all robot’s in-match abilities until it is absolutely certain we will not be picking or picked in the first round.

Usually, it is 100% obvious when our robot is not good enough, and we can abort scouting Friday night. 2018 our robot was hot garbage, and we aborted Friday evening both district events and never started scouting at Detroit Worlds.

Every other year, we’ve been picking or picked in the first round and scouting data was vital to making a successful alliance. We’ve been able to upset two #1 alliances in the past 3 years as a lower seed by forming good alliances as a result of excellent scouting data.

Are you the drive coach for your team?

As a team who has been on both sides of the “will you pick us” I want you to think about how frustrating it is for a scouting pick meeting on Saturday (at typical regionals) late morning to be interrupted by teams wanting to sell their traits. It interrupts the process and is very distracting. If, first thing Saturday morning you want to talk to folks, that’s a good time. You can ask them to watch to see how much you have improved and if you had issues before, explain how you fixed them. But just going up to each high ranking team and asking if they have considered you puts them in an awkward position and is a little disruptive if several teams do it.

As for scouting when you aren’t picking, we made the mistake while we were struggling to improve in Victoria of not having a pick list. Subsequently, when we got picked and our partner asked us who we wanted…we couldn’t articulate quickly enough on the fly. We missed some excellent robots as a result.

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Even if you don’t plan to be picking at that event, scouting can help create good habits and prepare you for what to expect when you do become an alliance captain.
For example, in 2017, 5026 had a mediocre-to-decent gear bot that seeded fairly well and were second picks at both of our events. We had, and used, scouting data to win the quarterfinals of each of those events. Jump forward to 2018, where 5026 was an alliance captain/first pick, and that data was extremely helpful and needed to succeed there. Then move forward to 2019, where at CVR, they ranked third and were captains of the #2 alliance. If the framework for scouting wasn’t set in (and before) 2017, we would have struggled to make effective picks at these events.

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You know every reason they should scout. Most replies here confirm them. So do what your there for, mentor. Get the team to appreciate what scouting will do for them. They may not need it now so much, but you’ll be assisting them into the future. They will start to appreciate game play and robot requirements that will hopefully result in improved robot design and competitiveness. Good luck and make sure your time commitment mentoring enhances your college experience.

Yeah you should do it, it’s really helpful for capitalizing on luck. Having your own data is nice for making real-time calls on matches during the event. If it’s really too much work though and nobody’s fired up about it, just start reaching out to teams and asking if you can use their data for picking. Somebody’s going to bite.

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.