This was the first year we got to do the picking at nationals, and the first time since 1999 (the first year of alliances) that we qualified high enough to pick anywhere (at KSC regional). That year at nat’s there were no divisions, the top 16 got to pick, we finished 19th, and we went home in shock after no-one picked us. Since then we have taken scouting and marketing very seriously, so I’d like to share how we arrived at our selections.
Anyone who is not on the pit crew is assigned teams to scout on Thursday. They go to the pits, talk to the teams, and get the details on what the robot is “designed” to do, as well as how well it has been doing them. Then they watch every practice match that their team in is, with yes/no on did they hang, did they grab the ball, shots made/shots taken, etc. We use a scorecard for this that everyone is briefed on, and we try to team rookies with veterans. Thursday night we have a team meeting where we go through each team and the responsible student presents his or her findings. We use this information to determine strategies for our qualifying matches.
On Friday we have 2 teams of students that rotate in 1 hour intervals (it will be 2 hours next year at their recommendation because of the distance to the pits) and take the same information for each qualifying match. Friday night we determined that our best alliance partner would be someone who could both hang and place the 2x ball, since we were a herder/hanger. We took all the cards and pulled out anyone who had successfully done both on Friday; I think it was about 15 teams. Then we sorted them top to bottom based on consistency. We felt 2x handling would help us better than hanging, so next we pulled out those cards and ranked them by how many times they did it, from 5 times (every match) down to 2. Finally we pulled all the cards of the hangers and ranked them accordingly. The last exercise was mixing them - is our best hanger better than our worst 2x handler? I think they ended up somewhere in the middle of the pack, then we went to the next hanger. Then, is our best 2x handler better than our worst hanger/handler? We shuffled them that way, and ended up with our top 30 teams.
Saturday we used for sanity check - are these teams still performing as expected? Is there anyone that dominated a match or worked consistently that we overlooked? This is when you need to come ask the top teams what we’re looking for, and focus on that in your match. That’s all the science, then going into selections we put the emotion and other factors into it - that’s where reputation can really help you. 67 and 107 were both at the top of our list, but we leaned toward 67 because they picked us last year and we made it to the division finals. When they went to the first seed we picked 107. Several people have posted about 303 not being picked - actually they were next on our list after 501. Not much consolation but they were an excellent team.
Notice that standings / ranking never entered into our process. I think our 3rd choice after 107 was cheezy poofs who finished 45th or something like that. They were on the list because of performance, but that high because of reputation.
Definitely some teams got picked that we scratched our heads and said “huh?”, and then went on to do great. Aces High (176) was near the top of our list but dropped down saturday with 2 inconsistant matches; I guess they were saving it for the finals because they were awesome.
I got to watch alot more matches this year, and I gotta say that the bar has been raised as far as performance. A special thanks to all the teams who carried us through qualifying.