Lesson Learned 2016 - The Positive

The game! I think having Disney Imagineering involved helped a great deal. Last year’s warehouse stacking simulation was so hard to explain to non-FIRST people and generate excitement.

I think the GDC struck a very good balance between “one really good robot can carry the alliance” and “all robots need to contribute something for the alliance to succeed”.

One good team could breach the defenses alone. A great team might even have been able to weaken the tower alone. However, I can’t think of any that could do both in the same match. However, two decent teams working together could do it without too much difficulty.

It was impossible for two teams to capture the tower without the help of the third bot, but even most struggling teams could make their way to the batter to complete the capture.

There was a lot to be done. It required teamwork, but not three superstars.

There’s a lot of positives from this season, but the biggest one for me was by far the game. While it had some issues, especially with some of the fouls and the propensity for red cards, overall I think this will go down as one of the better FRC games. It was exciting, the relatively open robot rules combined with incredible strategic depth lead to the largest variety of robot designs I’ve seen in my 12 years of FRC. The game was very hard to play at the highest levels, but still had enough simple tasks that lower resource teams with a good grasp of strategy and their capabilities could still be competitive. I really enjoyed seeing the different approaches that various teams took for everything from the drivetrain to the scaling mechanisms.

Most importantly, the game was very balanced. No one strategic component or game phase was utterly dominant, and the ranking points were well balanced (no overpowered extra RP like in 2012. If you wanted to get +2 RP you had to WORK for it). Major kudos to the GDC for identifying in the rules the best way to adjust game difficulty for Championships without grossly shifting the game balance between alternate strategic choices. I feel like FIRST incorporated most of the major lessons learned from previous seasons and successfully implemented them in a new game. While there are minor things to gripe about, overall I think this was an incredibly successful game.

I also think the theme, while in many regards unnecessary, wasn’t so overdone that it generally detracted from the rest. I still prefer my games without themes, but this one was at least well done.

The Championship was significantly more organized than last year for 600 teams and 8 subdivisions. Registration was much smoother and faster (no 4 hour lines!) and the movement of pits out to the field on Saturday was not as bad of a traffic jam.

The COTS parts world of FRC continues to mature. While there wasn’t the same massive product release like last year, VexPro, AndyMark, Rev and WestCoast Products pout out some great new products. Stealth Wheels, the plastic 2x1 VersaFrame, WCP Spartan Board, 0.030 Smoked Polycarbonate and of course the 775Pro all were major factors on our robot. Many teams also made use of the Rhino Tracks and 6" Pneumatic wheels with live axles hubs, Spark speed controller, Analog pressure sensor and more.

The average quality of A/V production this season all the way through Championships was the best I’ve seen. Kudos to The Solomon Group for providing a great layout at Champs for both in-venue and at-home viewing and high quality video feeds throughout the event. I heard the #FIRSTChampLIVE stream was good too, I didn’t get to watch any of it on air since I was competing, but all the feedback was good. I hope we can continue to expand the reach of FIRST through modern media broadcasting and support from the frontrunners like Twitch.tv and YouTube. I also really enjoyed the throwback videos between Einstein matches, although they felt a little thrown together and didn’t have much explanation with them, those kinds of pre-produced filler content is a step in the right direction.

One last thing: While it was confusing at first, the new Cost Accounting Worksheet that replaced the BOM was a HUGE improvement. It was much easier to fill out and maintain than the BOM, and COTS price cutoff increase to $5 was also a big help.

I liked the standards concept. I hope it returns for 2017.
It was a great way for teams to show off their performance, and the performance streamers were a nice touch.

Projectiles and Defense returned :slight_smile:

I liked the many unique robot designs that came out of this year (971 and 3357 had some of the coolest bots I’ve seen in FRC).

I liked audience selection, it allowed you to have one less defense to anticipate before the match, you already know what it is.

330’s performance on Einstein.

The hoping for your opponent to drop the ball wasn’t subtly encouraged this year like stacks in 2015.

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This game lent itself to defense, offense, multiple strategies, many different robot designs and trade-offs all around. This is what makes a fun game to play and fun to watch.

Lets go through the season

**Early Game Announcement:
I really liked this, no trying to figure out vague hints, releasing the standard dimensions early was a nice touch and gave something cool for teams to make before the stress of the season. Keep it up

Game Announcement/Kickoff:
Kickoff was much better than last year, especially the skits were funny in that we were laughing along instead of groaning which they could have caused.

**Build Season: **
We had no major game strategy changes this year, and the rules were straight forward from day 1. We had little issues compared to most teams acquiring what we needed to build the robot we wanted, but we also changed our design based on available materials, just like in the real world.

Palmetto Regional:
I am going to quote myself real quick:

I am eating my words here. Palmetto was amazing. I have never liked an event so much right from the start. Venue is now my second favorite FIRST venue of all time (Lawrence North is my favorite btw). Great parking, no traffic issues, clean, good seating, great food especially for the value. The volunteers were amazing, did all they could to make teams enjoy themselves. If you have never gone to the Palmetto Regional, do it. I can not praise this event more as the testing ground for this years game and the new standard I will hold regionals to.

Orlando Regional:
So I decided to finally volunteer at an official FRC event wanted to referee at Orlando but it was full so I did field reset instead. Volunteering may have been the most rewarding part of my season. If Palmetto is what I am going to hold events to as a competitor/spectator Orlando will be what I hold volunteers to. Everyone at the event worked to make the event as enjoyable as possible and every time we fell behind schedule or something went wrong, everyone worked to correct it. I want to thank everyone who made my first FRC Volunteering experience worth it, I am going to follow the examples of many of my friends in FIRST both on here and locally and start volunteering a lot more.

Rocket City Regional:
Good first showing from the crew in Huntsville, credit to running an event with so little teams in the state to offer help. It was a good event with a lot to do around it despite some worry that all there would be is the Space Center we had fun and would go back.

South Florida Regional:
New venue is better in terms of expense for the teams, and accessibility. I had a lot of issue with the event as highlighted in the other thread.

Best video production in champs history, field video was full field and high quality. We had Einstein and closing ceremonies on the same half of the field. Watch FIRST Live was amazing, I am interested in how it will work at TwoChamps but I hope they find a way.

Stronghold as a Game:

Strategy, defense, “protected” zones, the theme, the game design, the field being much stronger then expected, adding a wrinkle to the standard “acquire game piece, score game piece” way of FIRST games.

And this is my most important criteria for a game, moments. This game from the first match I watched at Palmetto, to the last on Einstein, had moments that will be remembered. The only moment I remember from last year was 254’s unfortunate accident in quarters. This year we have so much more: 330’s acrobatics, 254 and 25 showing that a broken robot will not stop a capture if one is determined enough, 2056 going the way of The Undertaker and having the streak broken, and a personal one for me 1065. 1065 Moose finally won a regional, to teams not from Florida that may not sound like much but one of my favorite FIRST moments will be looking at the kids wearing Moose shirts when they won the South Florida Regional, it meant the world to them, and that is one of my favorite moments despite my team being the one they beat. 1065 would go on to win their division, so in the same year they got their first regional and division wins. What I am getting to with Moose is it was moments like this that I felt we were missing from last year, not just amazing plays but also stories.

FIRST Thank You, last year was a major low point for me. I had many personal issues that went along side Recycle Rush that made me question my future involvement with FRC and FIRST as a whole. This season brought me back, I can not say how happy I am that I gave FIRST another shot. FIRST don’t make me regret saying this but you appear to be on an upswing, last year I said:

This year I say don’t let Stronghold be a fluke, let it be the start to that greater future.

Very good game. Good competitive parity, fun to watch.

In particular, maybe I’m alone in this, but I’d like to see more games that are rough on robots in the way this one was. It’s a different twist on the engineering challenge, and one that I think the students benefit from. I very much enjoyed seeing the FRC drive train best-practices, which had become fairly stagnant, shaken up (and in a way that wasn’t contrived and awful like 2009…).

There was a game in 2009?

Frank engaging the community through more channels like GameSense

#FIRSTChampsLive <-- Nice job guys!

Basically, this. This is a ROBOTICS COMPETITION. Both of those words are important.

-The game was absolutely fantastic. Coming off a year where my role on the team was basically just making picklists, the diverse strategies that I could toy around with were exciting. There are so many possibilities in this game, many of which still have not been touched. Playstyles are diverse, everyone can contribute in some way, and counterplay is productive.
-The audio and lighting were way better. Maybe it was just a difference in where I was sitting, but I wasn’t being repeatedly blinded by the spotlights this year, and the audio wasn’t unbearably distorted and loud.
-No mass migration between two sides of the stadium.
-Fewer paper airplanes. It’s nice to see an ounce of respect for volunteers, janitorial staff, teams and robots on Einstein, and other people in the stands.

  • The game was great for the most part, probably up there near 2013 as the best of the modern era. Roles for every team on the field, a good mix of offense and defense, a worthwhile vision task, the return of the endgame, etc.

  • Detailed match results were available via the FRC API, which really helped with scouting.

  • Power-over-Ethernet is awesome.

  • The Talon SRX is awesome.

  • There were COTS drivetrains available that allowed teams to perform adequately. Imagine how the season would have looked without COTS pneumatic wheel hubs or rhino tracks…

  • For the most part, the seeding system worked well at sorting the best robots near the top and allowing teams to recover from a single bad match.

  • FIRST really engaged its community this year (Gamesense, FUN, etc.), which is great to see.

  • Webcasts in general were of higher quality than I remember them being in the past (though still lots of variation from event to event).

  • FIRST Bad Lip Reading was hilarious.

  • My team and I interacted with hundreds of FIRST volunteers this year, and the vast majority of them were great to deal with. A handful were not, but I was impressed that in every case where we had a negative interaction, other more senior volunteers intervened and straightened everything out.

Something not many people might know about the Champs AV setup, IT IS SCALABLE. Very easily scalable too, each of the cameras they were using is at most 500 dollars, probably a bit less if they are the model I am thinking of or possibly a bit more if they are the next step up. The switcher and streaming box cost 1000 each and then you just use any old laptop for switching. We are talking about, approximately, a $3000 (including cables and a pole) AV setup that could be used at every event to provide a high quality full field view. There are a few things that I’m missing for in venue AV, specifically the projector and stand, but they are mostly commonplace in FRC events so I think it should be fine.

But I’m not putting my hopes up for FIRST to make it happen.

Both the PNW and Michigan districts use similar set ups at low cost and put on some of the best webcasts.

I consider myself well versed in the current state of FIRST webcasts, check my signature.

But what FIRST has done is show they care and understand how to make a low cost stream. Their setup is far cheaper than PNW’s.

Supposedly my Sig can’t be fully seen by everyone. 2014 -15 is PNW and 16 is Indiana.

2016 - Tippecanoe (Media Manager) | Walker Warren (A/V Coordinator and Media Manager) | Perry Meridian (Media Manager) | Indiana State Championship (Media Manager) | World CMP (INFIRST Photographer) |

2015 - Auburn Mountainview (A/V Crew) | Glacier Peak (A/V Crew) | Mount Vernon (A/V Crew) | Shorewood (A/V Crew) | Auburn (Media)| World CMP (PNW FIRST Media) | Cage Match (Video Producer) |

2014 - Auburn Mountainview (A/V Crew) | Glacier Peak (A/V Crew) | Mount Vernon (A/V Crew) | Shorewood (Media) | Auburn (Media) | PNW DCMP (A/V Crew) | World CMP (FIRSTWA Photographer) | IRI (A/V Crew) |

I don’t know anything about streaming… but I loved the streaming through Livestream (thanks IndianaFIRST). When home with my kids I could rewind and watch the matches if needed/when desired. I don’t think that can happen with Twitch.

FIRST does care, but there are sometimes other priorities that end up ahead of it in line.

Standards, event patches and ribbons was nice, I hope they can keep this somehow for next seasons. But I think the ribbons could be given to more awards (there is a lot of colors out there) and have written on them the award won.

As a rookie, I can confirm that I will be sticking around. And probably for a long time.

They definitely looked a lot more elaborate and theme-fitting than they have in previous years.

I actually was the one to do this for the team, and even though I was new, it didn’t seem too hard. It was nice knowing that I didn’t have to count all 60 bolts holding the frame together (even though I wouldn’t have had to with a BOM, but it was still a nice thing to realize).

Kickoff was one of the first indications to myself that I had signed up for the right thing. I mean, what other competitive sport references Monty Python throughout the whole season?

Our team has a random medal from 2009 that we have no idea how we got. This would be extremely helpful. We don’t know if we won something and it isn’t recorded in the API, or if another team took pity on us, or what.

Basically, I, along with my team, had an amazing year. We made it to the quarterfinals and won one of the matches (we have made the QFs before (twice), but always lost after 2 matches), we won the Entrepreneurship Award (first official FIRST award the team has ever won), and we qualified for the MN State Championships (also a first). Stronghold definitely was a great game for us.

Another vote for Stronghold having some of the most intriguing strategy. Our strategy team was in heaven!

I also believe that we saw a lot fewer between match delays by the end of competition season. The field faults were tough, especially in the first few weeks, with the chronic defense dislodgement and low bar repairs. But kudos to FIRST for coming up with solutions and getting a lot more matches running on time. This was a massive improvement over last year. It’s not perfect but we actually got to leave on time some days. :slight_smile: