Pits Involvement

Hey CD! I’m a relatively active member on a newer team that was at the Hueneme Port Regional, and had a couple of questions about pits members. How do teams handle who gets to be in pits and who doesn’t? What do teams think about having new members versus veterans and leads in pits? Do teams keep pits members consistent or have more people involved with rotations? I just wanted to ask these as I noticed a lot of members who put in a lot of hours every day get overlooked and instead more new members and captains were put in instead.

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Pits are small, really small, and then you have to fit a robot and all your tools too. It’s never going to be completely fair, but people selected to be in the pit crew should be the ones that know the robot the best (mechanism leads and experiences members), and it’s usually pretty obvious who those people are. We’ve rarely have to explicitly tell someone they are on pit crew, they know they are. We have however had to tell people (students and mentors) that they aren’t not needed in the pits, and suggest alternate tasks for them. The entire build season is all about involving new members and teaching them things, but the competition is where the rubber hits the road and there isn’t really much time for teaching, it’s time for doing.

I’m not saying you don’t do anything, but I am saying that we have plenty of people that put in a lot of hours in the shop, and still manage to not do very much and not understand how the robot works. Hours does not automatically equal experience, so you have to prove your worth with something more than just hours in the shop.

It’s not going to get you on pit for this competition season, but if you want to get pit crew experience, I recommend going to off-season events and specifically asking to be in the pit to learn. At off-seasons the stakes are lower and more experiences members are more willing to teach at the cost of winning, and you’re working on a robot that the team tends to know better.

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In regards to rotating people in and out, this can make sense if you had dedicated teams for different modules of the system. For example say your intake was broken, maybe 2-3 “experts” come in to quickly address that subsystem.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the pit crew gets more experience and efficiency at fixing issues during the days of qualification matches. Rotating people out removes some of this efficiency, which can really be critical if you get into finals with much faster turnaround times.

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@Footie covered most things pretty well. The bottom line is that what works for one team is not always what works for others. However, the key points are:

  • The people in the pit (for more than brief visits) should be there for a specific reason - they’re one of the experts on the robot or a system, the safety captain, or someone who does the interaction with judges and other visitors (preferably some people overlap on several functions.)
  • Set a limit for individuals in at a time, ESPECIALLY if there is work going on the robot. Five is a common number teams use. Unfortunately, “the whole team” is way more common than it ought to be.
  • Setting a pit rotation is a great idea, so no one is stuck there all day and can’t see any matches. But when you need someone in the pit who isn’t on the current rotation because the arm broke off, get the right people in there, even if those “on watch” have to back off for a while.
  • If your team is more than a dozen members at competition, try to have your team meetings somewhere OTHER than the pit. It could be in the stands, the lobby, or even outside.
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4488 selects a specific pit crew each year as we prep for competitions. This is comprised of the drive team and then subteam leads (mechanisms and programming). We do specifically state who is on pit crew but we also have other jobs for the remainder of the team at competition. Most of those jobs surround strategy and scouting either in the stands or in the pits, or often both.

To echo the others here, the pits are crowded, if you don’t need to be in there, don’t be in there except for short visits to check out the other robots or collect pins or whatever like that. Not only will it be better for your own team, it will be better for everyone as you will not be spilling out into the aisle.

As a part of making sure the students who aren’t on pit crew feel like they have made a contribution to the team’s effort we do make a point of discussing before and after the competition how we used the scouting data they collected in match strategy and in alliance selection. This helps them see the value of their work (and hopefully gets them more excited and engaged)

Team 8046 use team roles sheet for every competition, and it seems to work really well. We have a Subteam leads in the pit, the drive team, and 1 other rotating person at all times. We try to get everyone on our team at least 1 pit spot per competition to try to include everyone, and the team seems to like it. Here is an example of our team forles sheet.

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might want to blur last names of students on that image, I’m not sure what CD specific rules are, but FIRST generally doesn’t allow student last names to be public facing.

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Over the years my teams have basically done three systems:

  1. A designated pit crew (as in designated from the very beginning of the year), whose primary role on the team is pit crew; may or may not be the main experts on the robot. I liked this system the least, it was stressful and the downsides of not choosing your mechanical/software/etc lead are hopefully obvious
  2. A fixed pit crew, chosen a week or two before competition, based on who knows the robot the best. Mostly seniors, mostly subteam captains. This was pretty functional from a performance standpoint, but resulted in a very large number of students left out and pretty bored in the stands/scouting.
  3. A partially fixed-partially rotating pit crew, chosen a week or two before competition. Usually 1-3 fixed crew members who know the robot best (usually subteam captains), plus 2-3 rotating members who each spend 1/3 of a day in the pit. Pit crew leaders try to let the rotating members do stuff as much as possible, and occasionally send the rotating members out for a bit if we’re in a time crunch. I liked this system the best; it’s a little more work up front to make the shift schedule but it was a lot more engaging for most of the team, without a meaningful hit to performance, and significantly reduced grumbling about scouting. We’ve had some rookies who were somewhat on the sidelines during the build season, who really got engaged during their shift in the pit and it sparked them to get much more involved the following years.

This year we had a designated pit team, although it is flexible. Essentially we looked for members not part of drive team we trusted could fix the robot, talk to judges, or other teams. We are split 50 50 in upper v lower classmen, but do lean more towards leadership.

Specifically for the Milford event, we had more people come by to fix our arm because we needed more people, but that was mostly because we did Machine Shop and had more space. Otherwise we do call people down as needed, programming people most of the time.

If you do go with a mostly fixed pit crew, I would suggest rotating a person or maybe two through most of the team or the interested kids. Make sure that folks who want pit time get some!

Yes, you need to both pay attention to keeping the pit staffed. You need robot fixing, judge talking, team talking, and helping other teams. The latter group of roles may not be your wrench/wire crew…

Make sure your team understands that when there are so many people in the pit area that they are blocking the aisle, they NEED TO MOVE elsewhere.

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