Motivation for scouting?

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.

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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!

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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.

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).

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.

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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.

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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!

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.

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We tell our scouts each year about how key scouting is to our continuing success and giving them specific examples. This year, we kicked it off at Utah picking 399 based on data from the last 6 matches after they tanked the first 2, and 1410 off exchange and driveability data. We celebrated that we continually got one of our top 5 (usually higher) 2nd pick choices in every competition this year. Sharing these results with our scouts demonstrates the value of their work, which is just as important as our pit and drive teams.

Scouting data is what was the edge for our breakthrough in 2013 (as a 1717 mentor told me) and is what keeps us even with other teams that have deeper technical mentor resources.

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As many others have said already, make sure the team recognizes the importance of scouting and make sure they realize that scouting isn’t just what they’re stuck doing because they’re not on the drive team or pit crew. They should know that what they’re doing is critical to the team doing well at the event.

Something that we did was not only use the data for picklists, but we also used it to determine qualification match strategy. We don’t usually play defense these days, but there were a couple of matches where it strategically made sense to do so based on our data.

While I’m here, I’m also going to +1 to the food comments. At times, that’s honestly what kept me motivated as the team’s lead scout. Providing lots of food to hungry students will go a long way.

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No offense, I completely disagree with this approach. The best way to get good scouts who will pay attention to important details in play is to have them truly invested and interested in the game and robot. Trying to use food to “motivate” scouts doesn’t make them actually enjoy strategy or attempt to conduct it to the level of a top team, but rather makes it a task that simply acts as a prerequisite to food. It’s like giving candy to children for simply completing an assignment, regardless of the quality of it. Will the child make attempts to improve? Of course not. Second, if the senior members don’t enjoy it, pretending that they enjoy it will suck for them, and I doubt that it’ll make the other scouts more motivated. If the senior members don’t enjoy it/aren’t interested in it, why are they on strategy anyway?

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You make a really valid point. From my experience people who actually enjoy what they do are best at it. Especially when it comes to things that most consider “boring.” If they know the importance of the scouting, I feel like that would be a much better motivator than making them do something they feel is pointless.

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Thank you!

Sorry for the late reply. But yes, that’s what I started trying to do. I made alliances with 2 other teams, and so we only need 7 people in the stands collecting data- 3 from their team, 4 from ours. So far, we only put this in use at a preseason event, and just wanna thank you for this.

-AJ

I see the fault in this approach. However, my team is around 50 active members currently. Usually, only 30 of them show up to competition, and we had it so that everyone had to scout- regardless of how much one actually liked it. Veteran members of our team would often avoid the stands, and it got to the point where there were 2 stand set ups at a competition, scouts and people sleeping. I was usually double scouting (horrible data reliability)

Instead, we made a scouting alliance with other teams, and that seems to be working out (as of a preseason competition)

Thanks!
-AJ

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Cool. I think the goal is to become an alliance facilitator rather than joining one. It would be cool to develop some white papers that outline best practices. I was entirely impressed with how 1810 treated us, made data available, etc. I’m drawing blank on our Wisconsin alliance lead but they were good but not as thought out.

For Skunk Works (FRC 1983), we try to make the scouting experience as smooth and easy as possible. We write our own scouting app for our tablets (but is scalable for any format). We make the interface as user-friendly but flexible as possible. Scheduling the scouting so nobody has to scout for more than an hour will reduce stress and frustration. As for motivation, that must be done prior to the competitions. Keep stressing the importance of scouting and why accurate, significant data is crucial to a successful season. It helps to explain your metrics and some of the technical aspects of the analysis to inspire interest and excitement. The more they know, the more they’ll be interested and want to contribute.

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I think for atleast this year, we want to avoid electronic scouting. Personally, as the person running it, the fact that there is no wifi/sync method is discouraging. However, it’s gaining popularity, and as an off season project, my teammates are working on a bluetooth connectivity raspberry pi version. (I’m not sure, I’m not technical, and have an extensive amount of other projects. I should learn sometime though).

Last year, my team went to Worlds, and this taught many the importance of scouting. It is still frowned upon, due to scouting still just being manual labor. We have presentations that explain the absolute importance of scouting (Daly Division, 2018 Detroit, Alliance 1 v 8, and Alliance 8 won, partially due to bad scouting) However, they often don’t capture the rookie’s attention. Especially when we have technical projects going on during the side. How did you explain it to your team?

Thanks,
AJ

I copied my post from another thread that might help you with your issues. Also please reach out to our team to discuss your technical issues. We want you to succeed.

Here’s our scouting whitepapers for systems from 2013 to 2018. We’ve taken what we’ve learned from 1983, 971, 254, 1114, 118 and 148 as well as other teams. The associated threads also have useful information.

Our approach to qualitative data gathering is fairly unique but we believe that it is highly effective (although we’ve had a few “how did we miss that?” moments). We are changing our approach this year to measuring defensive effectiveness, but in general we are using the same method. We are also making a significant technical change in the visual set up as well. Come by our scouting crew at our events to see what we’re doing this year (at Central Valley, Sacramento, Boise, and hopefully Houston Champs).

2018 paper

2017 paper

2016 paper

2015 paper

2014 paper

2013 paper

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We travel with only 44 students, and 10 of those are dedicated to helping other teams in the pits and working on media outreach. We have two dozen dedicated to our scouting system in some manner, so you have plenty students. There’s lots of good ideas here about motivating scouts, but most important is making them realize that team success depends on them. For us, it’s part of our triad of designing to be “good enough”, strategic drive coaching and gathering deep data for strategy and drafting.

I ran the scouting for 4327 last year, and one tip I can give you is that that the leadership needs to show that they care. If the scouting captain and the driveteam can show that what the scouts are doing is useful to the team, the scouts will be more motivated to scout well.

Rotating people through also helps. We made a schedule for each event, which I will put a picture of below (idea from another team, which I don’t remember). If the scouts can take breaks, they will like it just a little bit more.

We like to put some funny stuff and/or some motivating stuff.

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