[INF] INsight: 2019 Indiana State Championships Discussion

Indiana has gone almost exclusively full Null so far. Will they opt for more game pieces on the field and scoring options? So far, most teams seem to be much more comfortable handling Cargo than Hatch Panels, and they’ve appreciated the easy goals along the Cargo Ship early in the matches.

Unicorns were achieved in less than half the instances in which Rocket RP was attained in Indiana. Worldwide, if an alliance can score a Rocket RP, they’re quite likely to win the match. The same cannot be said in the highly competitive environment of Indiana. Throughout the Indiana season, the average rank of a Unicorn-achieving team was 11.5 out of 39.
Two teams (1747 and 5484) achieved Unicorns twice in an event; they seeded 9th and 16th, respectively. This yields two divergent schools of thought: (1) Rockets are fools’ gold; go for the win. (2) Indiana is tough. Get all the RPs you can, and hope for the best.

Many more teams were attempting to start atop HAB2; in a few cases, all three robots started there. In such a competitive environment, each point is precious. What innovative techniques will teams use to maximize Sandstorm points?
Five State Championship qualifying teams have shown the ability and/or willingness to share HAB3 with partners during the endgame. Will more teams look to capitalize on the big HAB3 points? And if they do, will they fall victim to an undefended, highly coordinated scoring rush on the other side?

iNdiaNa TeAmS CaN’t pLaY dEfeNsE:
The average qualification score for the Indiana Week5 event was 60.28; the average worldwide that week was 53.90. The Indiana average win margin was slightly lower than the world average for that week. The obvious conclusion is Indiana is at the front of the curve as far as overall gameplay, and it is a very competitive place to play. If a team is good enough to make it to State, and they’re good enough to be selected for playoffs, then they’re gonna be a really good offense team, and their offensive firepower will be missed if they choose to defend.
Case in point: 3494 has solidified itself as one of the best defensive robots in the state. However, in F2 at the Tippecanoe District, they played an offensive role in which they came off of HAB2, scored 2 Hatch Panels, 6 Cargo, and climbed to HAB2. They accounted for 60% of their alliance score that match - as the third pick of the alliance that won the event. When teams across the board are this proficient at scoring, it is hard to justify sacrificing one of them to go play D.
But when they do, as every Boilermaker basketball fan knows: Defense Lives Here.

In Orbit
868 - Ranked 1 and 2 so far; one SF finish and one win; 27-7-1 record; second in the state. They’ve obviously picked up where they left off last season on Einstein, with a robot that is commonly compared to the Robonauts’ design (another perennial world class program).

1501 - With a Finalist finish, a Win (at a regional event), a slew of awards and a 31-18 record, Team THRUST is battle-tested and ready to capture its first state championship win. Their malleable and creative approach to building and strategies always makes them a dangerous opponent and riveting to watch.

1747 - The fact that HBR is so highly ranked despite complete lack of demonstrated HAB climbing ability (at an event) speaks to the effectiveness and efficiency of their design. One of two teams in the state to achieve multiple Unicorn matches, and owners of the most Rocket RP in Indiana, the Pandas will be a very early pick for a very high-finishing alliance.

3494 - Another member of the 50-Matches-Played-Club, the Quadrangles can bring the thump and they can deliver the points. A swiss-army robot with a savvy strategy team, they’ve been critical partners in each alliance they’ve served. If their new HAB3 climber is consistent, they might even be in a high picking position.

7457 - Their story will truly be One for the Ages. Whisperings before the season hinted at a really interesting rookie team coming from Purdue Polytechnic High School. At their first event, they captained the number three alliance to the finals - where they broke, sat out a match, were gifted a timeout by the opposing alliance, and led the victory - while picking up a Rookie All Star award. Their encore was the only fitting option - captain the first seeded alliance to victory. They currently own a 35% points lead over the second place Indiana team, 868. The future is indeed bright for these giant leapers, and we can’t wait to see what they will do at the State Championships and beyond.

Ready for Blastoff
234 - The two-time finalists are on the cusp of breaking through, with the right partners and the right strategy. Cyber Blue has one of the only designs in the state that doesn’t go outside the frame perimeter to collect Cargo; this (as of yet) underused function could prove to be very valuable in swiping game pieces from the opponents.

461 - Well, it’s official - they now have the most Finalists spots without wins in the state. However, they came through strong with a heartstring-tugging Chairman’s win and a simply consistent robot design. We expect WBI to be playing in Detroit later this month.

829 - The Digtal* Goats captained the second alliance to the finals at Center Grove, before falling to an alliance with the top two teams in the state. Quick scoring and an effective HAB2/HAB3 climber makes them a valuable partner for any team looking for a deep run.

5484 - The other multiple-Unicorn-achieving team has been quietly consistent since making a LOT of noise (howling?) at St. Joseph. Since their win and Engineering Inspiration award, they’ve been simply filling Cargo Ships and Rockets at will. With 50 matches under their belt, the Wolf Pack knows what they’re doing, and they’re comfortable doing it.

Ground Control
71 - There’s nothing particularly flashy about this robot; it’s just really, really good at winning matches. Team Hammond were captains of the 4th and 2nd seeded alliances so far; what will the scheduling deities give them for state?

135 - Penn has hosted an official event; served as captains; were the first pick; won DCA and GP; went to quarterfinals then semis; their trajectory certainly appears to be trending up.

1720 - PhyXTGears dialed it way back from their super aggressive 2018 machine, but they’re still very good at what they do. Cargo ships don’t stay empty for long when 1720 is on the field.

3940 - CyberTooth can’t score above R2, and they hog all of HAB3. But they’re as reliable as can be, have top-notch scouting, and lest we forget, they captained their alliance to a Week1 win.

4272 - They’ve taken this yeehaw thing to heart, with each drive team member assuming a Dukes of Hazzard identity. MBR was also a linchpin of the winning Week4 alliance.

Honorable Mention
1024, 3176, 4103, 5010


I’ve called it a fool’s errand to my team for a while now. This might change as more teams are able to fill all low scoring locations (but maybe it will just mean less nulls).

3494 is one of the most well rounded robots, both offense and defense. They will be scary now that they have a HAB3 coming to state. Hard to decide which side of the field they are better on. I do believe that defense will be a viable, if not necessary, strategy for winning this weekend.

Great writeup! Looking forward to the event!!!


Nice write up! I’ll highlight a few teams that weren’t mentioned because this field is very deep.

1646 - My old stomping grounds from 2007 - 2009, Precision Guessworks has struggled at times. Last season they did not qualify for the district championship and just had a rough go of it. 1 year later - they’re one of the top cargo bots in the state and are absolutely killing it. They can easily handle the cargo ship by themselves with time to spare and it’s just all around impressive to see them improve so much in just 1 years time!

6956 - Shamrock’s 2nd season has been no sophomore slump. They’ve steadily become one of the best cargo ship robots in the state with an extremely small robot that navigates the field with ease.

6498 - Castle High School has quietly had their best season yet. With a semi-final and finalist appearance their robot is a great compliment for any alliance.

7454 - 7457 gets a lot of love but the other rookies in Indiana should be extremely proud. 7454 used the everybot design and it has proven to be a great choice.

2867 - These guys aren’t fancy but they get the job done. Plenty of capability - Level 2 HAB, scores mid level rocket & cargo ship. Another great robot to round out an alliance.

4926 - Also quietly having a very solid season. Their level 3 climb and ability to quickly score around the field makes them a great sleeper pick.


So, how many bots that haven’t played any defense will be switching over now that the District Championship is here? Will it be a qualification thing now or only reserved for the playoffs. Decisions, decisions…

Will it be a qualification thing now or only reserved for the playoffs.

Going to be outscored in the match? Defense.

Want to deny that 3rd / 4th rank point by blocking the rocket or denying a hab climb? Defense.

I think we’re going to see defense in some form almost every match.

I think the only time we won’t see it is when both sides believe they can score >= the other side and their 3rd best scoring options are equally balanced.

Unless some sort of truce is drawn to allow both team to complete a rocket/climb. Is that kind of stuff legal?

So based upon scouting data, how many of the 32 teams have demonstrated effective defense in any 1 match? Less than a 1/3? I’m not saying we won’t see it in every match, but that it may be a bit more awkward than you think in quals. We’ll see I suppose.

We will probably see some bad defense from teams that haven’t had to play it yet, so I agree it might be awkward. I also suppose some might refuse to play defense to keep their bots in shape for elims.

I have some thoughts about the value and application of the rockets and the situation with defense.

In quals, there’s really only one team in Indiana that has demonstrated the capacity to solo a rocket with any degree of reliability, and completing a rocket as a two robot effort is frankly significantly more difficult, kudos to those teams that have pulled it off. At this point it should be pretty clear if the combination of teams you’re playing with can get the rocket done. If you don’t think you can complete the rocket, low scoring is faster, cargo scoring is faster and more valuable. The win is still 2RP. Capitalize.

In playoffs, rockets are an absolutely invaluable tool in making life hard for defending robots. When your opponent only has one scoring area available without crossing the midline they’re extremely vulnerable to defense. Unfortunately, hatch panels have proven to be really challenging for a lot of teams, which makes this strategy more difficult to pull off. For clarity, when I think about scoring areas I view basically Left Rocket, Right Rocket, Left Cargo Ship, Right Cargo Shop, Front Cargo Ship as the unique scoring areas.

I’d also like to add that defensive robots have been very, very lucky with respect to pin calls. Before anyone gets angry about an affront to our referees based on that comment, distance is very, very hard to judge on top of calling a count and monitoring both robots. I get it. What I’d like to see though is some guidance for both the teams and the referees on how far 6’ away is with field references based on scoring areas. For example: a defender legitimately cannot be 6’ away from the a robot scoring on the rocket or the cargo ship if the defender is between the rocket and the cargo ship. In fact to be 6’ from a robot scoring on the far side of the rocket you have to cross the mid-line of the field to be 6’ away. Defenders per the rules and, well, geometry basically have to leave the quadrant of the field they are defending in order to get far enough away.

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.


I think all of your points are pretty valid. I would argue that the low rocket still allows low robots 5 scoring locations, but definitely not with the same flexibility (and prone to filling up). This is one reason we hope to improve our hatch grabber and add the ability to score cargo in the low rocket by the state comp (wish us luck!).

There are a lot of points down low :wink:

Im curious to see if 1741 keeps playing defense or turns into a good offensive bot

At FMA champs, 3 robots who had competent drivers on offense (2 partial rocket capable) had a similar performance level to 2 (12-14 game piece max and rocket capable) robots with competent drivers and an elite defensive bot. I’ll expect to see a similar result in the similarly deep IN champs, and hope a lot of the teams explore the 3-on-offense strategy.

1 Like

Posting for clarity and bolding what I think many watching matches don’t look for regarding the pinning calls or non-calls as the case may be:

G18. There’s a 5-count on pins. ROBOTS may not pin an opponent’s ROBOT for more than five (5) seconds. A ROBOT will be considered pinned until the ROBOTS have separated by at least six (6) feet. The pinning ROBOT(s) must then wait for at least three (3) seconds before attempting to pin the same ROBOT again. Pinning is transitive through other objects. If the pinned ROBOT chases the pinning ROBOT upon retreat, the pinning ROBOT will not be penalized, and the pin will be considered complete.


Absolutely, I agree a lot of teams miss this part of the rule and it’s kind of unfortunate given the situations that it puts teams playing offense in based on field layouts and traffic. I’m referring specifically to situations where the pinned robot did not give chase. 6’ is a larger distance than a lot of people would perceive it to be. Having been a referee before, I feel the pin count is easily the hardest procedure to do well. It requires you react quickly and be extremely decisive, but even being consistent with the rest of the ref crew on how you count the pin is difficult. I don’t envy these guys in a lot of situations. Hopefully someone prompts a discussion in the driver’s meeting.

1 Like

I’ve gotten the impression from our coach’s experience in trying to talk about defense with our qualification alliances that there are many teams in Indiana that just refuse to play defense even when the strategic importance is pointed out to them. And I’ll meekly point the finger right back at my own team on this. We tried to build our bot and our drive team to be very good on offense and evading defense, so we think any alliance we’re playing on will be better served with us on offense vs defense.

However, so did everyone else :wink: I think we all share the same overall goals. Everyone wants to be the elite team that can solo a rocket, perhaps, or just generally everyone wants to raise their OPR (etc) so that they’ll impress scouts and get picked to a good elims alliance. Perhaps a team’s bot doesn’t handle the beating they’d inevitably take on defense, well, or can’t keep its scoring mech reliably inside on defense. Also, effective defense actually requires an effective driver and why wouldn’t you use that effective driver on offense?

The obvious counter-point here is that elims alliances have shown that good defense can win.
There’s kind of a prisoner’s dilemma mentality that develops as a result of defense being relegated to ‘lesser’ teams. Perhaps, teams that generally expect to find themselves in the top 8 need to lead by example, demonstrating that it’s a skill they value in themselves and are scouting in other teams. It also kinda sucks that there’s no way to counter-score this year, unlike last. We won at least one match last year when we took our opponent’s Switch. But, it remains to be seen if the demonstration of winning alliances from Tippe and CG is enough to counter-act what I like to call Indiana-Anti-Defense-Syndrome in qualifications at State. #ThanksForComingToMyTEDTalk

1 Like


I’ve found it goes with the flow of the event actually - early in the event, teams are less receptive to playing defense because they want to try scoring or think they can outscore their opponents. They also just want to show teams what they can do in terms of robot capabilities. As reality sets in and ranks start solidifying, more teams are open to playing defense.

I’ll be the first to say if we are with 2 better scoring robots, we are open to playing defense. However, I also think if the alliance plays well together, 3 offense robots will beat 2 offense + 1 defense bot every time - if the 3 offense bots can score under defense. If they cannot, you better send someone over to play defense and hope you deny enough points.


True, as teams start to learn to play better defense or lose a few times under someone else’s defense, the prisoners dilemma starts to resolve in the opposite direction.

To your second point, agreed, driving skill does really make a difference in alliance strategy choices.

Our only unicorn match this year (tippy qualifying 44 I believe), we ran counter defense for our alliance partners to help them fill the rocket. We pretty much scored cargo, but would slide over to block the defense bot when convenient or necessary. We might see more of this at states (and are likely happy to do it again for 2 good rocket bots or 1 very efficient rocket bot).


Totally agree. Sometimes you just gotta set the pick.

I somehow find the idea of a 7457 1720 1646 alliance very entertaining

1 Like