Motivation for scouting?


#1

Heyo-
I’m part of the scouting team for 2877. One problem we encountered was a lack of motivation/scouts. We have the people, though. I was wondering what other teams do?


#2

Team leadership has to care, and has to demonstrate that they care and demonstrate how the scouting work is influencing decisions & team outcomes.

The desired data should be informative but not overwhelming. Don’t ask scouts to watch too much at once.

If I’m going to ask my students to care about something, I’m going to care about it with them. I will absolutely go sit with them and scout some matches, coach how to watch the strategies, and have a good time with jokes, predictions, commentary. Because it should be fun, too.

At an ideal event, as a mentor, I spend 1/2 my time networking, 1/3 of my time scouting in the stands, and <1/6 of my time with the robot. My expertise is electromechanical, so I get pulled in when we’ve got trouble, and I’m not really any good at scouting so I wish we had a Scouting Mentor, but if I want my students to care about something I will care about it with them.

Also, rotate people through, because watching matches for good data is surprisingly hard. Let everyone take breaks!

No one wants to spend all day to do stupid boring worksheets that don’t matter.
Everyone wants to contribute to the success of the team.


#3
  1. It’s vital to let your scouts know how important their job is and how what they do contributes to success. Every winning alliance is an alliance they built, every win was on the back of the data they provided. This helps give a sense of ownership to the team’s success.

  2. Sometimes we create a gambling chat where we try and guess the ranking points each alliance will earn. It makes it fun for everyone, and gives a reason for everyone to pay attention to the matches and know the teams involved.


#4

First of all I want to say I like scouting :ahh: . As example I scouted 65 of 64 matches at competition (Their was a replay). What my team does is create a scheduled for the competition having people rotating from paces like Pit, Scouting, and scouting extras in case someone is needed in case of robot emergencies. Just make sure to give your scouters a break and keep them rotating into the position. I would recommend your schedule off of time other than off of matches because it is harder to keep track of the matches. Finally make your scouting as easy as possible, we used clipboards with a page for each alliance position per match that was really easy to fill out that then got entered into a laptop by our lead scouts so we can ad weights. I know I just threw a lot their but I hope you found this useful. Finally have fun in the stands and scouting won’t be as bad.


#5

Our drive team and student leadership made it clear at the beginning of the season that scouting was going to be a big part of our success. We had gotten burned by the serpentine last year and we were determined not to let that happen again. So even before the season started, our team made scouting a priority for the season.

Unfortunately, we are a small team. Last year, we ended the season with 9 members and this year we started off around 20. Dedicating the resources to scouting has always been challenging for us.

A couple of our computer savvy students came up with a plan to create a scouting app. The scouting app itself was good, but the clever aspect of their plan was that they decided to crowd source the actual scouting. They reached out to other teams in the area with an offer to share the data with any team that helped us scout. It was a great success. We scouted with other teams at each of our events. We deployed our app to their phones giving us a lot more scouts in the stands. The app pushed the data to a server that compiled it into a database. We shared the raw data with all the teams that contributed scouts to the effort. We had our own analysis of the data that we did not share, but that was part of the crowd sourcing arrangement that we had with the other teams.

We had the best scouting data we have had in recent memory. We were able to leverage that scouting data into 4 blue banners this year. After each of the events, we held a team meeting to re-cap what went well at the event. All the students and mentors talked about how important the scouting was to our success. I believe that this feedback is important as it is easy to lose sight of how important that role is to the success of the team.

Probably the crowning achievement for our scouting team was at Houston. We finished 10th in our division and had the potential to become an alliance captain. Our scouting team had identified a list of potential first and second pick robots. We reviewed them in detail Friday night and came up with our priority list in case we became an alliance captain. We ended up as the 8th seed alliance captain and we executed to the plan that our data said would give us the strongest alliance. That included selecting the 45th ranked robot as our 1st pick, the 55th ranked robot as our second pick and the 61st ranked robot as our 3rd pick. We ended up winning our division and advancing to Einstein. We could not have done that without our scouting program.

It is important to make sure that the scouting team knows that they are just as important to the success of the team as any other position on the team. It is good when the mentors make this clear to the scouting team. It is even better when the rest of the team makes it clear. Scouting has become a central pillar of success for our team and I am confident that upcoming seasons will continue to build on the success we have had this year and being part of the scouting team will be considered a position of highest importance for our team.


#6

You can luck into second seed at an event, make a bad pick because you didn’t scout, make an okay second pick by picking someone you like who’s usually good, then get clobbered by the #7 seed who actually scouted and went on to win the event.

You can be the best robot at an event, get picked by the #1 seed, and lose in semis because you made the wrong second pick.

Or… you can win an event from fourth seed by beating 195 in semifinals.

Or almost upset a team who is on the way to their fourth regional win of the season.

Every scout on your team makes a choice: whether or not to take it seriously. The best way to make them take it seriously is to persuade them of the importance of their choice to do so.

I’m sure that I’m preaching to the choir here. Those are some of my experiences where scouting (or not) made the difference. Share your stories and use them to drive home the importance of good scouting.


#7

I think the best decision I made this year was to join/ask to be in alliance with other scouting teams. Frankly, we had little student experience and it was great to have a couple younger students see firsthand what others were doing (as far as match scouting goes).

At the end of the day, we had a more substantial dataset to work with fewer students having to be completely involved. Our scout lead really loved working with the other teams too. I think I underestimated how positively inspiring this type of social scouting would be. Which goes right into motivation.

Now my questions are more along the lines of what I need to offer (as training) this Summer and Fall to build on last year’s motivation. Particularly, what skills should a scouting student be learning? And also how to teach it in a way that is fun?

Some of the learning I think will have to be in working out how we would want to manage a scouting alliance. Mostly similar questions most ask about how to run scouting, but with it optimized for working with other teams. For example, having sheets with summarized data printed out and emailed/saved in shared folder.

For the more programmatic/analytical skills, there are more avenues to explore. I’m less concerned about what we venture into, just that the student is motivated. We plan to explore some into Excel macros because they were interested in a custom spreadsheet one of our scouting alliance partners was using and also they were taking Excel in the business classes at school. I think I’ll concurrently work in some scripting examples, in Python or R, to introduce them to it.

To ret-tread some thoughts, to create motivation, the idea of a scout has to be important. The student leaders need to see the competitive edge and treat scouting students equally. Getting students that don’t want to do it, is always going to be a challenge, there are some ideas to gamify it, but my approach right now is to push for groups that work for our team size, that don’t force a few kids that may not have much interest in it currently into 2 days of match scouting, and hope that the more motivated students will become leaders that naturally draw more students with motivation into it.


#8

Plenty of snacks.


#9

With my team what we do is we form scouting alliances. With this in mind when said alliance is formed our head scout encourages that both (or however many teams are on your scouting alliance) to sit together or at least near each other.

The best way to motivate the scouts is to NOT overwhelm with a bunch of algorithms and such. Rather, just make it a simple form for them to fill out (whether its on paper or electronically). If scouts see how simple their job is than they will want to continue it.


#10

Bribe them with food. The best scouting data I ever had was when we did a competition for a gallon of chocolate milk.

Scouting alliances work well too. If people aren’t scouting for as long it makes it generally more appealing.


#11

There are a few ways. One way is to try rotating the scouts- don’t use the same ones over and over, or else they will be worn out.

Another way is to show them what happens when you DON’T scout. For example, on my team, we were ranked #1 in 2005 at the Newton division. We didn’t scout (since we had very few students on the team then), and skipped over three notable teams during picking. Our eventual alliance was successful, and made it to the finals. However the three teams we skipped over were 330, 67, and 503. We could’ve picked up 330 or 67 in the first round, and since there was no serpentine at the time, we would have been able to pick up 503 in the second round. We didn’t, so these three teams paired up and went on to win worlds. We could have picked two of the world champions and have become world champions.


#12

To add on to what people have said in this thread, I also think scouting alliances are a good idea. A scouting alliance won worlds for 330 in 2016. They only had 9 members (or some low number like that), and we formed one with them to help them out because we have paired up with them several times at competitions (including the only time we made it to Einsteins, at Curie in 2007) and like them because of this. The data the two of us came up with (plus another team, I believe they were from Israel but I can’t remember too well) led them to pick 2481, 120, and 1086. They won worlds, so obviously their scouting data worked out for them.


#13

In my experience, the best motivation comes from understanding the importance of scouting. In the fall when scouting is explained to new members, we try to emphasize how we use the collected data and how it affects our entire competition. It’s nice to recognize your scouts after every event and reassure them that their work is appreciated. After event wins, explain how their data specifically contributed. For example, we ranked 1st at the Smoky Mountains Regional and got our top pick vault bot (4306) as our second pick. We made sure the team knew that scouting is what found us a winning alliance.

Not all teams do this, but our scouting system does real-time analysis through Google Sheets on all our data throughout competition. As the drive coach, I use our scouting system’s analysis sheets before every qualification matches and every playoff matchup. Scouting can decide what teams we would trust with switch auto or if we need to change playoff strategies. For us, scouting is important in every single match, not just picklist creation.

It’s always nice to hear the drive team thank the scouts or say that scouting was important to the team’s performance. When I was a freshman, I scouted basically every match and worked on our analysis every other spare moment I had. I very clearly remember our driver at the time thanking me and explaining how important the scouting I did was. Interactions like that are what motivates scouts.

Even when they know scouting is important, there will always be some people who just don’t want to do it. Don’t force them. If you need the people, limit the time they spend scouting. We find the best data comes from those genuinely interested.

In the fall, we try to get anyone interested in website design, spreadsheets, data analysis, or match strategy involved with developing our scouting system for the year. When developing your scouting forms (we use a website), keep your scouts in mind. Try to limit the amount of data they collect so they can focus on what truly matters. Get feedback from your scouts and drive team to improve your scouting system’s data collection and analysis between events. During competition, we try to find the observant and strategically apt people and get them to do more high level scouting (metrics that are more objective).

Food is important. Sometimes matches are running late and the lunch break is delayed, shortened, or nonexistent. Make sure your scouts (and your whole team) get fed.

Scouting is tiring. Try to rotate your scouts and make sure they get breaks. We formed scouting alliances at all of our regionals this year to split the work. Since we like to use our scouting system, we try to establish scouting alliances early with teams who’d be willing to scout using our system. We try to find one single team to scout with at an event and then split the number of scouts we need. We give them a copy of our spreadsheet, so both teams have access to their own version of the analysis and data.


#14

Make it electronic (phone app or tablet), game-like data entry, visual (graphs and charts, integrate Tableau) with real time feedback. Then it becomes an obsession like fitness tracking and you will likely find students and parents WANTING to do it…like those of us glued to Blue Alliance and Spyder. Also being real-time connects the scouts to the drive team for every upcoming match…extending your drive team to undisclosed audience locations…or even back home watching live streams.

Distribute the app to your District teams and before you know it, the whole district is scouting all the CHMP’s divisions so if any of you make it to Einstein, you have strategy data for matches…just sayin’.

Make it a boring paper shuffle with no apparent real-time value to anything or instant gratification and…meh!


#15

You’re definitely not the first one to have this problem. I’ve found that if teams know the result of good scouting and strategy and see its importance it increases motivation dramatically. Take it from a former head scout of the stands.

Give them examples, show them matches where scouting and strategy were the deciding factor. And get the whole team involved, you want everyone to see its importance in order to make it a priority.


#16

I totally agree with this! Making Scouting Alliances really help you not only gather data, but making connections/friendships in FRC as well!

And the Snacks would really help your scoutlings stay happy, and motivated, just make sure that the place where the regional is taking place allows outside food(Speaking from experience, at SVR when the center didn’t allow food so I had to throw away bags of chips and drinks).


#17

Thanks for the responses. Imma definetly try the food idea and have the senior members pretend to enjoy it for a preseason match. Gonna see how that goes first.


#18

As 1296’s Head Scout for the 2018 season (I’m the guy that wore the very orange safety glasses on the Turing field for alliance selection), there are a few key factors that led to us finally having motivated scouts at the Houston Half-Champs:

  1. CHAIRS!
    If you’ve ever been to a regional or district event, you’ll find that quite often, your scouts will be sitting for long periods of time on uncomfortable metal benches. If it fits within your team’s budget, I would highly recommend buying stadium seats for your scouts. However, we only bought enough for six scouts (one scout per robot per match), the Head Scout, and whoever is helping the Head Scout enter data at the time. This way, if scouts want a comfortable chair, they have to be scouting, otherwise they have to sit on the metal bench again.
  2. Food
    Not every venue allows for outside food, so just hide it in your scouting box. We always had our scouting box in the trailer so it could be brought directly into the pit. Since we know scouts will get hungry (and the concession prices are usually outrageous), we made sure to pack lots of sugary snacks in the box. Y’all should have seen the scouts’ faces light up when I took out the bag of assorted candy.
  3. Interaction
    As a Head Scout or scouting mentor, don’t forget that there are scouts sitting right next to you! Try to talk to them as often as possible in between matches, crack jokes, etc. This ensures that the scouts aren’t only doing work and have a little bit of a social break. Additionally, I allowed scouts to send texts or snapchats or whatever in between matches on the condition that I see their phones put away before the match starts.
  4. Active Participation
    Remember that the scouts are seeing more individual robot performance than anyone else. It is entirely possible that one scout could take data on every single robot at least once. I left an open comments section on the form and encouraged scouts to convince me to pick a team or to not pick a team. In addition to helping the scouts feel more involved with the pick list, it helped out our head strategist and me a lot in narrowing down teams later. Additionally, we always started out our pick list meetings this year allowing anybody that wants to participate to do so, as long as they actively contribute to the progression of the meeting. Eventually, we did narrow it down to just myself, the head strategist, maybe one or two people on the drive team, the drive coach, and a couple of mentors, but just having the scouts at least have an input makes a world of difference.

Additionally, we have an extra scouting role called the “super scout(s)”, which could be volunteer-based or a designated few students. We assign each student a robot and take qualitative data each time that robot appears on the field. While this does require an extra student or two, we had a couple of students who felt more motivated to scout if they got to pick the team from a list of teams we wanted additional data on, rather than having to scout whichever team came up next on the match schedule.

  1. Backups
    Throughout the entire season, we had people that wanted to scout for the majority of the event. However, this doesn’t mean you should send all the other scouts away. Quite often, these dedicated scouts will want to get a breath of fresh air or will need to use the restroom. Make sure to have backups ready when someone needs to leave temporarily. I usually tried to keep about three backups in the stands and would call more to the stands when scouts started rotating out.
  2. No Limits
    This one you may have to get approved by your mentors and teachers. This one I didn’t technically get approved, but I may have told the scouts they can drop their profanity filters when writing comments about teams (whether good or bad). While I didn’t run across many vulgarities (maybe two throughout the season), it does open doors for some pretty savage comments. I have a couple dozen scouting sheets with pretty great comments that I’m saving.
  3. Empathy
    If you are Head Scout, you were probably once a scout. Make sure to let the scouts know that you’re not abandoning them to the wild. You’ve been through this before and you want to ensure that they have the smoothest and most fun experience possible. Additionally, I would tell the scouts beforehand when the most exciting matches were and would end up not having enough robots on the field for the amount of scouts that wanted to watch a particular match.
  4. Spirit
    Encourage your scouts to get up and dance, cheer for teams, root for certain robots to improve, etc. I always encouraged my scouts to have a lively spirit and to not be afraid to get up and dance. A spirited scout team is a happy scout team.

I probably missed some stuff (though I can always edit later), but for now, these are Jeff’s tips for scouting. I now pass the torch on to future Head Scouts.


#19

Emphasis mine, that right there is your cultural root cause.

Don’t just put lipstick on a pig, everyone can tell and it’s embarrassing. Do the work. Fix your scouting process, inject more fun, inject more respect for process & result. People will enjoy doing work that matters.

Yes!


#20

Make scouting fit your robot. For the 2015 season the students developed a new style of scouting that has worked very well for us. In each match each robot has it’s own person scouting it. The list is not long so the person scouting is concentrating on how the robot performs and not on filling many boxes. The list of questions is tailored to complement our robot and not every thing that robot can perform. This takes out the problem of bad alliance partners. We also rotate the team members to keep from burning out people. After we add the results for each robot we get very good results. For us it is much better then OPR or event ranking. It also is a major factor win at Arizona North with the 16 and 47 ranked robots.