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

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.

While this is true, it still shouldn’t discourage a team to scout. At Tech Valley we were first pick, and our alliance captain had no idea who else to pick, which is were our head scout was able to jump in. Sometimes, there’s two extremes to every situation: the alliance captain who doesn’t want help, and the one who has no idea what the hell theyre doing. Don’t be the second one. Make sure your team is prepared.


Selection is always a high point of the event, because the real product we are all working to build is on display. Short delays create suspense, and opportunities for audience members to consider what they would advise the picking captain to do.

I’ve been a volunteer for a long time. Alliance selection is never boring, even when the Jeopardy theme is playing.


Never said that. if the event is behind, alliance selection is a great time to catch up on lost time. 4/8 alliances taking their time picking though drains that though.

Wasnt suggesting teams to not scout either. Its just something teams should be aware of, as it can get heated during those discussions.

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One thing I keep forgetting is that while I’ve seen many alliance selections, for some of the kids down on the field, it might be their first time in front of a large audience and suddenly a microphone is shoved in their face.

As a “behind the scenes” kind of person, I think that would be the single reason why I wouldn’t want to be down on the field for alliance selection.

Scouting really shouldn’t be a turn off if you present it correctly. If you just throw all the new kids on scouting without telling them what they provide, then yeah it’ll be a turn off, but just make sure you tell the kids how important this is and how it can help strategy by seeing the competition.

More than once we have been picked over another team explicitly because the alliance captain believes we are likely to have better scouting data.


i think our scouting database was a large reason we were picked where we were at worlds this year. in our division, the strongest alliances were going to be who had the best 3rd robot, there were some better seconds than us imo, but the key to getting out of the division was going to be who had the best complimentary 3rd robot.


Why is RUSH a World Champion? How did Citrus Circuits get to Einstein four seven times in a row?

Scouting is part of the answer.

Edit: Thanks, Caleb. Time keeps on slipping into the future…


I wish it were still 2016 too, but it’s 2019 now man.

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