How to be a successful defense bot in 2020

Disclaimer: This will not guarantee you a spot in Elims, and in fact trying to be the most desired 3rd round pick can be the most stressful thing to vie for, but if you follow these guidelines you just may make it onto enough pick lists for an alliance captain to think “We don’t need some low mid tier offensive robot to round out our alliance we need a top tier defense robot.”

Justification: Just as I said above when it comes down to a 3rd round pick the high to high mid tier offensive robots have been picked up, and that leaves you with mid to low mid tier offensive robots, or high tier defensive robots. Take your pick. Sure you could say “An offensive robot can always become a defensive robot”, but do you really want to risk the penalty points on a driver who has not practiced defensive driving?

What will make a high tier defensive robot in 2020?

  • Speed and Agility: you need to be able to hit robots in tight windows of opportunity to avoid penalties
  • Ability to pick up and pass Power Cells: Starvation is always the best way to impede cycle times. Once a robot has ammo it will be able to score that ammo. Also if you can starve the opponent while giving your team the ammo then you will add to the scoring deficit.
  • Ability to block shots: This is much more difficult. Good offensive teams will design to be able to shoot around a max height robot, however, you can always try to deflect the angle of their robot, or introduce variability by making a robot unstable(Good strategy for 6 wheel drop center robots)
  • Ability to perform in the end game: The endgame is always a make or break moment. You must be able to show consistency during this pivotal time(Pun intended) .
  • Ability to pass balls to alliance members in Auto: Lets be real this strategy vies for 3rd pick. Your alliance captain is most likely going to have one of the best Autonomouses in the competition, and thus you will look a whole lot better if you can feed them ammo to score lots of points.
  • Ability to rotate the control panel: Your alliance is going to be making quick scoring cycles, so you should be there to quickly operate the control panel so your alliance mates don’t need to divert their cycling.

Deliverables(How are you going to prove that you meet the above criteria):

  • The most important and key element to showing teams you are a high tier defensive team is to have 0 penalty points against you. If an alliance captain thinks that you are going to cost them numerous of cycles because you rack up penalty points, You won’t get picked. (Remember: A tech foul 1-1.6 cycles that you hand the other team.)
  • Your driver needs hundreds of hours of practice or else they won’t be able to prove that your team deserves to be picked
  • You need to hang in every match, and level hang in over 50% of matches
  • Whenever you get matched with a team that has an Auton that can take Power cells then feed them power cells
  • Your winning matches should have very high scoring deficits in your favor, and your losing matches need to have very small scoring deficits.
  • When you are matched with high ranking robots be a very good team player.
  • When you are facing high ranking robots. Demonstrate to them why they should pick you 3rd round, but keep a cool head because if you are too aggressive you may upset them. Avoid being the team that looks like it is out to damage robots
  • Have your best sales students go around and sell your robot hard on Saturday morning. You should have a load of positive facts that they can use to impress high ranking teams.

I could see dozens, but I don’t think it’s healthy to require hundreds of hours of drive practice for weeks 1 - 3.


Hundreds seems a bit dramatic, but I’d say that for a rookie driver… they are going to need at least 100 hours to be truly competitive. You are right dozens would be acceptable for a year 2 or 3 driver in weeks 1-3

That being said:
100 hours requires 25, 4 hour practices. It is still within the realm of feasibility especially since the robot criteria i described above doesn’t require that much to complete.

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Many teams don’t even have 25 meetings in a season, let alone 25 meetings between robot completion and competition. Even asking for dozens of hours of practice is a big challenge for most teams. I agree the drive team needs to be strong, but drive team quality isn’t strictly bound to hours of practice.


Great post. I agree with most of the points, but I strongly disagree with this one. The control panel is near useless. Especially, if you have one defense robot, you’ll rarely get the 20 points position control. Plus, all the strong teams will have a control panel mechanism (since the task is fairly simple) and will be able to do it mid cycle. 10 points may not be worth the time you are not disrupting the opponent. I don’t think a captain (especially the high seeds, who are more likely to pick defense) will be look for position control.


“Drive team quality” - Is 100% about practice. Each individual member needs to be well practiced in their field and the team itself needs “practice” in order to achieve cohesiveness(ie team building and communication exercises).

Now does this practice requirement mean 100% of those hours are spent driving the robot… No, a well rounded driver requires the same training as a well rounded athlete. That means not only just practicing the sport, but conditioning your body and your mind in the areas applicable to that sport.

What types of practice will lead to a more competitive driver?

  • Using a reaction ball
  • Hand and wrist exercising and stretching
  • Doing some general exercising
  • Playing applicable video games
  • Doing drills on any drive base
  • Doing drills on a drive base that matches your competition drive base

I can see your point, but as you mention it is a fairly simple task to do, and thus and easy add on. If I was to rank the points I made… I would certainly rank this one the lowest. I think if the situation calls for it: the 10 pts may come in clutch while allowing your alliance to keep scoring.

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With all due respect, what is your personal experience with drive team?

4 years of driving, and a few years on and off of drive team mentoring. With some on and off studying on esports athletes.

in 2012(Very similar to this year) I had a very successful year as a defensive driver that had 0 penalty points leading us to be 3rd round pick by the 1st place alliance. We help win a regional, and then we went on to be an alliance captain at the MSHSL state robotics competition coming in 2nd place.

Arguably in my other 3 years of driving we had a mediocre record, but we were a fairly low resource team.

I strongly believe that any “defense bot” needs to have the ability to manipulate Power Cells. There are some years in which a defender can ignore the primary scoring element and have success. This is not one of those years. Three robots contributing on offense at some point during the match will likely be critical at all levels of play.

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Yes manipulate, but i don’t think they necessarily need to score. Sure low goal scoring would give benefit, but if you are on an alliance with 2 all star shooters. low goal scoring is meaningless and your alliance partners are better off shooting 3s with their calibrated shooter control systems.

POWER CELLS scored after a stage is at CAPACITY generate MATCH points but do not contribute to the next stage’s CAPACITY. POWER CELLS scored after Stage 3 is ACTIVATED continue to generate MATCH points.

I don’t think that’s an issue

Are you allowed to block shots?

Yes, but good luck blocking a shot without raising your bot above 45 inches.

Yes, as long as your robot doesn’t exceed 45 inches in height per G17.

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Additional need to be a “good defender”
Scouting- Every team has a sweet spot on the field that they would prefer to shoot from. Learn everyone one’s sweet spot and don’t let them have it.


Designing to block shots means being 45 inches high and 12 inches out of frame perimeter.

yes your alliance mates can keep scoring, but forgoing 10-30 points by not operating the control panel and just scoring that is .8 to 2 cycles of points.

Oh I get it

[IMO] On Einstein, every member of the alliance will shoot 4’s and the top 2 members will shoot 6’s in Auto. And they will all have an auto that shoots more than 3 shots (unless I am misreading the rules…

So every robot needs to be able to shoot high.

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Einstein is outside of the scope of this thread. Once you hit worlds you lose the entire rationale of this theory as stated in the justification.

That is simply not true at worlds the level of competition is so high that an alliance captain will be able to get 2 high tier offensive alliance mates without an issue.