Number of Drive Teams?

I’m the coach of Team PyroTech #3459. Since the team began in the fall of 2010, we have intentionally used 2 or 3 drive teams each season (team size typically is 17 to 23 students). It’s been a big discussion with other teams over the years, and yet our team is very much bought into this process.

We are working with Team S.U.M. #6003 to explore how other teams organize drive teams. We’re wondering if there is a relationship between how teams organize drive teams and what team size they have, when the team was founded, etc…

Please respond to the poll above on how many drive teams your team uses. And, if you are interested, here’s a more extensive survey to see if there’s any patterns.


If we can get more than 20 teams to fill it out, we’ll post the results here. Lynn Albers, the coach of S.U.M. from Campbell University, and I are also hoping to talk about multiple drive teams at the American Society for Engineering Education in June.

Thank you!!!

Lover of statistics and surveys!

You’re going to see a large mass of teams using one driveteam. Having your drivers spend as much time with the robot on a real field as possible is the best way to get competitive. If you have 2-3 driveteams then none of your drivers will reach their full potential. It can also hurt working with other teams if they expect a performance you got out of different drivers.

OTOH, if you only have one driveteam, you could be in for a world of hurt if one of your drivers can’t drive for some reason. Trust me. I’ve seen it a couple of times, back when I was in high school.

Many teams have two drive teams, one primary and one backup. Just in case of random bouts of illness etc. (Or, more correctly, each position has one primary and one backup, but they aren’t necessarily different. If you’re smart, you only need one extra person.) The backup is the “future primary” and takes any stick time they can get after the primary is done.

While it is reasonable to have back ups selected and give them some stick time, I believe that the most important part of this discussion is does your team have a practice robot? If you do then giving a second drive team more stick time is an entirely reasonable and logical step. However, if your team only has one robot and your like most teams who are programming to the very last second, then the amount of driver practice time is limited. Some, if not most teams, who only build one robot only have the practice day as time for the driver to get some time on the stick. When time is compressed, having only one driver and giving them the max amount of time possible to drive means better performance.

Again if you have multiple robots with which to practice with then having a separate drive team that has stick time, so that in case anyone member of the drive team is unable to go makes since.

Also being that team cohesion is very important I would go so far as to intentionally switching out different combinations of the drive teams and practice in order to make sure that in the case of a switch out the new drive team knows how to effectively communicate with each other.

We always have two. Certainly the primary team gets the majority of the practice time, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable at an event if there weren’t any backups trained.

This doesn’t mean that we’re switching people in and out willy-nilly. For example, at the 2015 PNW district championship our primary driver was sick enough that he was basically lying down to rest between matches but he continued to do pretty well and wanted to keep driving so we kept him in.

Excluding offseason events, I think I’ve only run into one team that would change drivers for the heck of it. Their results weren’t impressive but competitively, I think their problem was mostly that they were a very small rookie team with limited resources rather than their driving per se.

+1 to this. At Finger Lakes this year, one of our drivers wasn’t feeling well the night before quals started. While he was fortunately feeling better the next day, the idea of being down a driver with no backup was rather scary. I strongly recommend, if at all possible, giving a backup drive team a few hours of stick time so you aren’t caught completely off-guard if one of your drivers is unable to make it to a match.

Be sure all drive teams are equally well versed in the rules. Almost every year at some event we get to about round 8 or 9 of matches, and suddenly there’s a human player out there who doesn’t know what he or she is doing, and penalties start getting called.

We are going to have 1 set of primaries and then backups. Due to our events being over spring break this year, there are a number of scheduling conflicts for our students.

In past years, 5459 has had only one driver (myself), with an operator and human player being somewhat consistent. Near the end of last year, however, we were switching out for other people, as our team wasn’t exactly the best. This year, we had our drive team picked early, with our main driver already at an offseason event, and the rest picked in the first couple weeks of build. I remind all teams that a good driver can make even a pushbot shine. Pick early, give them plenty of time with the robot, and make sure they’re well rested and ready to go. Best of luck to everyone at competition.

We always have two evenly matched set of drive teams who switch off on matches. They always have a decent balance by ability, communication style, area of technical expertise, and grade level. By doing this, we ensure that we are as successful as possible and are also training for the future. We also do this so that students are energetic and also able to balance their responsibilities with the pit crew and scouting as well. For eliminations and regionals, we combine the highest-performing and/or seniormost members. We’ve found this to be a good balance for equity and performance.

Our team always had one drive team, we will change it from this year. Last year our drive team (all were team seniors) opted to go to PROM and skipped World Champs. A lesson learnt.

We have a primary driveteam (all 5 positions this year) and a series of backups/secondaries to take their place after they graduate or if they are sick. We make sure the backups get practice although we focus a lot more heavily on the primary driveteam.

Like many of the other people that have replied to this thread, our team traditionally runs with two drive teams: one primary and one backup.

Usually both receive an equal amount of training and are held to the same expectations, and prevents any issues during competition when a member of the primary drive team cannot attend due to an unforeseen injury or occurrence.

During practice, we tend to train the primary team more simply because they will be on the field the majority of competition.

We have one drive team, but we have an alternate for each position in case someone is unavailable (e.g. sick). We would not run a match with the “alternate team” unless all the first team were unavailable.

I recommend reading the story of Ricky, the backup driver without practice on a real robot, making it to Einstein.

Wow! Great response on the survey – we’ve currently got 49 different teams responding with a lot of great info. Lots of interest about how drive teams are chosen and why.

When survey responses drop to less than 1 per day, I’ll run the stats and post the results. (Survey:

If you have any questions about it, let us know.

Thank you!


Linda Whipker and Rob Mackie
Coaches, Team PyroTech #3459
[email protected]

We have one drive team with 7 members (one coach, a driver, an operator, a human player and a pilot with a backup driver and a back up human player).

One drive team, with a backup or two on it. They are “on the drive team” even if they are not on the field for a match - they show up to every practice, attend drive team meetings, strategy huddles, etc.

We never deliberately rotate drivers during the season.