How to win with an average robot

I am on a team and we have a robot with a lift (vex kit) and a wheeled intake (We look very much like the Greenbots RI3D). However, it seems that everybody else has something very similar or have something revolutionarily better. How can we stand out with the robot that is the same as everyone elses? Is it all about driver practice or is there something more?

Drive practice, auto, and consistency. Many robot look the same every year, but the ones of that bunch make the most of their time in-match, score a lot of points in auto, and do so every single match.

  • don’t break ever
  • always move in auto (preferably score)
  • always climb (or get lifted, or levitate)

In order of importance

You answered your own question. A good driver with an OK robot will beat an OK driver with a world class robot every time.

The robot that is driven by the student who isn’t thinking about what they are doing but doing it by 2nd nature and muscle memory is key.

Just like everything else in life PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.

I would also say that having a well thought out strategy going into every match, and executing that strategy effectively in match will set you apart. This means talking with your alliance partners ahead of time, not just in the que line.

Practice.
Hard Work.
Good Strategy.
Consistency.
Drivetrain that won’t let you down. Ever.

Winning takes all five.

Game strategy, drive practice, and continuing what your bot does well. Last year we had a feeder zone gear holder (so no ground pick up), a very weak shooter, and a very fast climb. So we stuck to feeder gear cycles and climbing. Our auto placed the gear and went to shoot the balls. So each match we would place a gear and get around 3 fuel in auto. We placed top 20 at both regionals (out of 60 teams at each) and got eliminated in the semifinals at both. It was an average year for our team and we didn’t even have two of the most important things that year, a floor pick and a reliable shooter. So give your drive team plenty of practice, and stick to what you do best.

This is really big right here. If you don’t move you’ve forfeited your fate to your partners’ ability to win a 2v3 match (long odds). A reliable robot already puts you in the top half of many events.

Practice as everyone has mentioned. Make your practice matches, take advantage of a practice bot if you have one, use unbag time to drive.

Strategy is the last area to stand out, and is an area even a lot of teams with good robots miss on. Be willing to change your role to do whatever is best for the alliance in that match. If you’re struggling to get cubes on the scale 30 seconds in then abandon it and go to the switches, and see if an alliance member can trade roles or adjust the overall strategy. If you can’t do the exchange well then don’t agree to it pre-match; find a better support role scoring on switches or playing defense. Alliances are much more effective when everyone is honest about their capabilities and you don’t keep pursuing a strategy when it isn’t working. Stubbornness makes you ineffective and inflexible, and loses matches even when you have the better robot.

We generally build average robots- We set 2 goals this season with the hopes of improving.

  1. Never lose communication or break down in any match
  2. Understand strategy and how we can best help any alliance win a match

Such a large part and overlooked part of FRC is understanding the strategies and developing them with partners pre match and then looking how to improve results in the next match. I have always admired Team 20 for how well they do this.

At that point, if every bot is the exact same, it will come down to consistency and how good the driver is.

As a second year team with less then 10 members what is the best way to go about drive practice now that the robot is bagged? we do not have the resources to build an entire second robot(maybe a frame with motion). What would be the best way to practice driving without a true practice bot? any good drills or training especially those that can be done without a secondary bot?

With this game strategy will be extremely important especially with so many similar designs.

A good driver with an OK robot will beat an OK driver with a world class robot every time.

I mean, yeah, it makes tons of sense for any team to work on driver practice as much as possible to give themselves the best chance they can.

This depends on the definitions of “OK” and “good” and “world class,” but overall this is an oft repeated exaggeration. For one thing, a world class robot with the right autonomous routine(s) puts you at a significant advantage even before the “OK” driver touches the controls. And I have to believe that world class robots with fast collectors that just work are easier to drive than temperamental average robots that have to be driven almost perfectly to score game pieces quickly.

Question. What drive are you using and every year you get a Kit Chassis unless you opted out see if you can modify to use last years Chassis to be the same weight same drive and control. Moving is key during a match and practice driving would help you in the long run. During your practice day if you already practiced driving before you will be able to spend more time manipulating and playing the game.

I cannot speak for anyone else, and I am sure many teams are not comfortable with this idea, but our team has about 3-4 robots with working control systems and drivetrains (mostly WCD/tank) from previous years. We have offered other teams to come over and practice on those drivetrains when they only have a single bot to work with. Not sure how reasonable it is for you, but you could maybe reach out to another team in Michigan to see if you could practice with their old bots.

The part that would be lacking there is practice for the operator.

What is the status of your last year’s robot? In pieces, mostly together, or operational?

This would be reason #2 to have one operational robot at all times. Reason #1 is so you can do a long demonstration while your competition robot is in the bag (ignoring the fact it can come out for short times).

Auto is key to everything I believe. In 2017, my team was an okay team, we were special with the fact we could get gears from the floor but what set us apart later in the season was our autos. We knew our shooter wss going to be hard to get a gear on the peg, or do 20 kpa in auto, so we decided if we could get a gear on the peg from any position, we could coordinate a 2 rotor auto which isn’t easy. I believe QF at state we tried it but not all alliances were working on the same page. We ended up trying it again (making this a large requirement for picking at worlds) and were able to execute 2 rotor autos many times, advancing us to Einsteins. I believe our alliance had the world record last year for the most 2 rotor autos executed. Autos are key.

It all comes down to drivers and strategies. We have built a lot of average robots, over the years. From experience, winning with a average robot comes down to driver skill. Our best years came with drivers who would practice 10-20 hours a week for weeks leading up to our regional. When drivers are familiar with your strengths and weakness the next thing that becomes a difference maker is strategy. When I coached our drive team, I would watch a ton of regionals every week. Its extremely helpful to watch the game evolve each week. And see what kinda general strategies will help set you up in a good position for your competition.

5458 with Diego driving on an identical alliance would handily beat our 1678 bot being driven by someone with ~2 hours driver practice(ever). A good driver with a decent bot WILL beat an okay driver with a powerhouse robot. Powerhouse performances start with dozens of hours of driver practice, 1678’s hours behind the stick goals are usually to hit ~40 hours.

Before the days when many teams had a practice robot, we did our best to get our robot through inspection and on the field for the first (and as many more as we could) practice match. The practice and robot tweaking we could do that day put us far ahead of many teams who didn’t get on the field until qualifications started.

But practice matches are only half a day now, so that’s not as helpful as it used to be.

Even if you can make a practice robot that is not like your real one, and the driver can practice driving it for many hours, that will still be a big help. There are ways to make a robot work that don’t require the full FRC electronics system.

Insert “Average” pun here