New Ideas for next year's competition

While I was at the buckeye regional one of our team mentors gave me an excellent idea. He was talking about how there has always been the option of using the same drive system year after year. I mean there has been some slight variation but many teams can just stick to there old design. Our team mentor came up with the idea of using something like a PVC platform that robots would have to maneuver around on to perform the game. The old style of the field has always been the balls or tetras laid out over the field with any other game objectives there to make it interesting. A drastic change seems to be in order to force some teams to come up with new designs.

Why force teams to use new designs though? If they have a drivetrain that works, then they can focus on making an awesome manipulator.

Similarly, this would put rookies at an even bigger disadvantage. While many veteran teams would have the resources to figure out a new drive, or modify their current one, rookies would have no clue whatsoever.

FIRST doesn’t need to make rules to create innovation, we do it on our own, regardless of the game.

As 648’s season came to an end after the Midwest Regional. I got to thinking about a new game. A very simple game yet it will leave a lot for the imagination. I’m not going to unveil it yet but expect to see an animation about it somewhere on our website within the next month or so. I am heading up a class using the Robovation kit and I am designing this game for the final “test.” Sure it will be simple for elementary students but I will give FIRST permission to add onto it. :smiley:


Really, I don’t think there’s a way (short of the mecanum wheels that are starting to be seen) to reinvent the FIRST drivetrain wheel. The only way to get folks to come up with a radically different drivetrain would be to radically change how they’re required to move–monkey bars, anyone?

i agree, the only real way to force teams, new and old to change is to really give them an obstical, like a net or monkey bars, or like a tire course (great stepper robots out of that) Simply put, The less even the surface the more innovative the drive system.

How about a game where the robots have to stay attached to one point. To move game elements around the field they would have to pass them to their alliance partners.

I’m pretty sure BEST did this either last year or some time beforehand. Kinda interesting, and it would be a radical departure.

I just had this one, and I figured I’d give it a shot…suppose in a ball game there were some event that triggered a set of electric leaf blowers on one side of the field. With a light enough ball (or a strong enough blower), you’d create an advantage/disadvantage setup, which would make alliance coordination a bit more important–you’d want to be able to move balls where you want without losing control of the blower.

An uneven surface would take away awesome drive systems like the crab and 6-wheeled power systems, let alone our three-wheeled single steered design. It would be cool to have obstacles but it wouldnt be quite the same. And if you had to climb abstacles… well, you know, just look back to last year. I say… “BRING BACK THE RAMP!” I loved that thing and there were so many different drive systems incorporated by it. Flat surfaces work well, too. I’m just weary about robots tipping over. I’ve seen enough broken arms this year.

And for the stationary robot. I don’t foresee FIRST having a game like that. The drive systems in these machines are just a huge part of the robot and to abandon them would be horrible. Many students and engineers have spent countless days/nights/even years perfecting their drive systems. I know that this year we used last year’s drive system with a few minor changes and it runs great.

My $0.02. Thanks for reading. :smiley:

I had an idea not for the game, but how to score it. Take those small electronic stickies that are on items in stores that make the beeper go off when you leave the store and attach them to the game piece. Then you could have instant reliable scoring by having the game go to a certain spot on the field and instead of a buzzer going of it could signal a light and a LCD that added up the points.

I really thought this was going to be the year for powerful and fast shifting drive systems because it was 6 robots on the same size (and flat) field. Especially with only 1 mechanism needed and a 3 lb higher weight limit. But was I ever wrong.

Anyway, FIRST gives everyone a really good gearbox that works very well. Because of that, I would like to see a game that really requires a drive system that goes above and beyond in order to be competitive. Zone Zeal pretty much had that, but let’s have a game with even more emphasis on the drive system.

I know big arms are more fun to watch than pushing matches, but we need a return of the necessity for drive system fabrication/design/innovation/etc.

This year, there were too many teams using the kit gearbox for my liking. I like to see all sorts of different gearboxes.

While box on wheels robots aren’t very exciting, neither is a different arm on the same box.

Giving a good gearbox in the kit was the right move but frankly I’m disappointed that 5 and 6 year teams are not striving for better with their drive system.

Even more emphasis on drivetrains? I respectfully disagree, Sanddrag. I dislike the idea of, and don’t think you could ever come up with, a game that forces every team or most teams to veer away from the Kit Chassis. If you do this, then what’s the incentive to putting all the money and other resources into providing one? It’s much too valuable for many teams to eliminate from the kit, or to make a game where it couldn’t be adapted to the game.

IMHO, games like the 2004 game would have been perfect if the robots had been able to score the dodge balls. I think you need two different scoring objects for teams to focus on and a bonus skill like hanging/balancing/lifting something in a game. It’s exciting to see robots stacking tetras, scoring balls, capping balls, hanging, falling, balancing, etc. That’s what 2004 missed; the mass scoring of dodge balls by robots, and not the arcing jump shots of human players.

Innovation happens each year, whether it’s a new drive system, a new arm, a new conveying system, or whatever. It’s something that occurs on its own because people like me want to try to make something new, and want to improve upon past ideas. Forcing a little innovation is fine, but the idea of making teams develop an entirely new drive system or other mechanism on a whim is overkill.


This year was the first year in a while that you actually had to be good at manipulating something to do well. Guess what industrial robots do, the kind corporations pay big bucks for? They manipulate things. They pick up parts and place them. They move welding heads. They lay composite tape. All of these tasks require picking something up and moving it relative to something else.

This year top robots are placing six or more tetras per match, even if defended against. That means going through the cycle of aquiring a tetra, delivering it to the proper goal, placing it on the goal and aquiring a new tetra at approximately 20 second intervals. That leaves about 5 seconds per task. To do this you have to have a really well designed machine. It means balancing your design so that ALL of these tasks are covered, especially manipulating tetras. This is much more difficult and subtle than building a box on wheels that can just shove things around.

This year’s challenge is much more like the tasks we expect robots to do in real life than playing “bumper cars” as Sanddrag seems to prefer. I like it that way.

Give a young or small team a game that requires an amazing drive train, and you will get boxes on wheels.

Give a young or small team a usable, simple drivetrain, and you will get some impressive “others”.

In the past, we have blown our whole build trying to get a drive system working. As a result, we just tack on some junk for our “other” devices. This year we used the drive that came with the robot. And WOW!!! did that get the students excitied. All of a sudden they could work on REAL robot parts instead of a fancy RC car. You don’t need the fancy machining to make an arm, the way you need it to make a fancy 6 motor 9 speed automatic crab surfing drive train.

That drive system was the single best item that has ever come in the kit of parts for my team. We got so many more people involved. I’d say it at least DOUBBLED our ablity to spread the word of FIRST on our team.

I say go with simple drive, and the teams that CAN do a fancy drive will.

He’s right you don’t need fancy machining to build an arm all you need is a Hacksaw & Drill. :]

When you begin to think abotu designing a game… you just can’t… there are so many considerations… cost… is it practicle…is it fun… is it watchable… the list goes on and on and on forrrrever… I feel sorry for lavery =/

Wasn’t going to post here, but what the heck? What about a game which offers alternatives? Maybe a game with a set of bars running accross the field that a robot can grab and move along to accomplish its tasks while still allowing robots to accomplish the same tasks while driving along the ground. Or a platform that can be climbed with tasks to accomplish atop the platform and tasks to be done by robots on the ground?

One thing I am sure of, I and my students will have fun next year. When I think back and compare the “best” and “worst” games I have seen from FIRST I think it is like choosing between BlackBerry and Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream!

I say screw drivetrains, and screw playing fields as well. I think the competition should be underwater where robots manuever to move objects from one underwater cube to the others to score points. No one would really have an advantage b/c both rookie teams and vets are on a whole new plane of thinking and engineering. Besides the depths of our oceans are still considered frontiers along w/ space so we should move to a game that is practical to todays frontiers.348

i agreee… it helps us (rookie team) to be able to focus on our telescoping arm) rather then on driving… we spent a couple days thinking about our drive train and it was rather simple to decide to use omni wheels and 4wheel drive so we would be manuverable yet powerfull…

i also seen WAY too many broken arms . . it was fun to watch yet. … painfull>? . . . and it would make it way worse and it breaks the teams hearts to see their robot break if the playing field had rough terain… i say… keep it flat…

I’ve seen some of the flatter games (Zone Zeal, Triple Play) in action, either live or by videotape. I’ve also seen games with monstrous climbable field features (Stack Attack, FIRST Frenzy: Raising The Bar) the same way.

Put simply, I love games with the big field features. If for nothing else, it makes the field look more interesting. Compare:

FIRST Frenzy

Triple Play

Also, a good use of colors can contribute to a field that draws folks in more. (For reference, both of those pictures were taken in the same venue, the Colonial Center here at USC.) In FIRST Frenzy, we’ve got colors all over the place–purple balls and yellow 2X balls, of course, but then we have this ginormous red and blue platform usually stuffed with the aforementioned purple and yellow balls, plus a few robots on the bar. Triple Play has the tetras and the goals, with the vision targets at the bottom of the field. (Of course, with the CMUcam in the kit this year, I can see how there’s a method to the madness with a simple field.)

That being said, I would be ecstatic to see an interesting center feature again, one that would draw robots that way, instead of away from each other. (Ten-point bonus for all three robots touching the center goal, anyone?)

If/when Dave posts the “you-design-the-2006-game” thread, I’ll develop this the whole way.

Hi gang,
please bear with my reply, as I work for a military radio company, so this response may have a lop-sided response:

TriplePlay is my first exposure to the games of FIRST, but I have seen videos of prior years too. I really do like the concept of multi-team alliances and think that three is a good number, but not more than that. I believe the “heart” of the game is in the vision, manipulators, and strategy, not in the drive train.

Real-world robots that operate on a level floor and pick/push/grab something are pretty pervasive in the industrial world.

However, in the military environment, the terrain is not likew running a raobot on a level warehouse floor. So, I’d like to see more crawling and climbing robots. Tunnels where the driver can’t see the robot (semi-autonomous tasks) would be way kewl! Ramps and climbing like “stack attack” are also great.

I’d like to see the robots go from “A” to “B” and then perform some “task” rather than just moving an object. As an example, the military now uses robots (ground vehicles) to defuse those roadside explosive devices.

Think about a robot that has to go through a tunnel and then stick it’s “key” into a special hole to turn on a 10-point reward light.

The objectives of the games can be endless; but think about how robots in the real world have advanced so much in the past few years with feelers, vision systems, and better 3-dimensional climbing abilities.

Lastly, human players (as discussed in a different thread) are a MUST-HAVE in these competitions. It adds to the excitement, involvement and human players can truly be “random”; which adds to game complexity. After all, it’s not the robot that is getting the penalties this year is it?