Predictions Championship 2015: Rush to the Finish & Top 25

As we approach the conclusion of the season, all FIRST participants can agree on the stress and demands of any build and competition season. Six tiring weeks of design, manufacturing, and testing followed by seven weeks of events. All of that is about to be settled. More than eleven thousand matches of Recycle Rush have been played so far, but nearly a thousand more lie ahead at the FRC Championship event. St. Louis will play host to an event of grander scale than any before, with over 600 teams, eight competition fields, and a full day of playoff play. The size of the event is truly remarkable, and it should hopefully lead to many more remarkable memories from this season.

As scores have rocketed higher over the course of the season, we’ve finally hit the point of no return. Championship is when the battle for the recycling containers will truly come into play like never before. To this point, the favored alliances from a scoring perspective have seldom been felled by quicker canburglars. That’s not to say that can battles haven’t been important, but the better scoring alliance was frequently also at least even in the burgling department. In the few instances where that was not the case, sometimes the better canburglars simply couldn’t score enough points to hang in the rest of the way. St. Louis should play host to exceptions to what we’ve seen so far. The can battles will matter and they will be faster.

That raises the very important question of exactly how fast is “fast?” Is there a slightly slower “fast enough” benchmark where cans can be contested? Will we see more tugs of war and entangled mechanisms? Will we see red cards? It’s hard to say for certain, as teams are engaged in a convert arms race to be the fastest burglars out there and many teams will be heading in with new or improved systems than what they have shown before. Each mechanism will interact with the cans, the robot as a whole, and other burglars in a unique fashion. As a result, there likely won’t be some uniform answer to the questions above. The can races have often been compared to minibots in 2011. Heading into the championship that year, minibots were referred to as a “coin flip” by many. The winning alliance used a weighted coin, and continuously won the races. Will it be the same this season, with repeatable victories from an alliance? Or will the quirks of mechanisms, field communications, and robot placement lead to another coin flip scenario?

While there are certainly role playing teams that managed to find their way to St. Louis, most of the top teams in each sub-division generally put up large scores on their own. Because of this (and the serpentine draft), it come sometimes be difficult to find substantial roles for the 3rd member of an alliance. With the bar for advancement as high as it is, alliances with aims of taking home gold aren’t going to be able to afford to have a partner sit still as a ramp anchor. The depth of the fields are enough that more modest point contributions from independent stacking will be possible from every team, but there are more creative ways to incorporate partners into the game plan. Much ado has been made about the possibilities of “cheesecaking” (and having a full day of eliminations and a back-up team at the captain’s disposal should help these efforts), but the district championship events showed that even without additional modifications teams can contribute. Can handling may be an important role on many alliances, as canburglars often leave cans halfway pulled off the step or tipped in a fashion that is time consuming to deal with. Having a partner who can acquire, upright, move, and sometimes even noodle the cans for the powerhouse stackers on an alliance can allow those stackers to achieve their maximum outputs. If the can handler can win bins off the step and contribute a few points from whichever location the top two teams don’t utilize (even if it’s not a full 42-point stack), they’re pretty much the ideal partner.

Once any game reaches a significantly high level, some of the minutiae that don’t really impact lower levels of play can become magnified. Subtle aspects like traffic flow and scoring positions have always grown in importance in previous years both for alliance construction (not everyone can score from the same location simultaneously) and match tactics. This year, stack placement is going to grow in importance on the highest of stages. As more stacks are scored it leaves less room to maneuver and less room to score more stacks. Many top level teams already have methods in place to ensure they can create dense stack walls without jeopardizing their existing stacks, especially the teams that drive down the length of the step in order to place their stacks. It’s the middle alliances that want to pull an upset that are going to have to be particularly mindful of their placement in order to ensure they have room to score without causing issues later in the match. Toppled stacks are the obvious, and most devastating, consequence of poor stack placement, but leaving room to maneuver properly is critical as well. Poorly placed stacks can really limit access and movement space for teams, especially those in the right side feeder station or the left half of the landfill. Being able to choreograph stack placement with future robot movements in order to minimize delays may separate some of the contenders from the pack.

Ultimately, this game is about how many points an alliance can score. The alliance that can consistently post high scores (which includes acquiring the game pieces required to do so) will emerge on top. While consistently is always a huge factor in eliminations, the playoff format this year is particularly unforgiving. Alliances with overly ambitious or intricate strategies may find themselves out of the tournament early. Some of the better canburglars may also face an early exit if they can’t score enough behind it, but they may also play spoiler and take their opponents with them. Each subdivisions tournament will play slightly differently, but the winning alliance out of each will have proven they can handle both average score play and the head-to-head finals.

Divisions are never perfectly balanced, and the differing populations of robots always leads to interesting quirks between the fields. Teams that benefit from scarcity on some fields may look pedestrian on others with more robots of their archetype. However, with 76 teams in each subdivision, there should be plenty of capable teams to fill out each playoff roster. And in the age of of withholding allowances (and cheesecake), expect plenty of new features to be tried out in order to better round out alliances. Make no mistake, every subdivision will be capable of fielding an alliance that can win on Einstein.

And, as always, the wonderful 1114 spreadsheet captures a quick glance at all the divisions.

A panel of FRC veterans and experts were polled to help create a Top 25 list after the regional season. Twenty-one ballots were collected from some of FIRST’s most respected minds, including Woodie Flowers finalists, former FRC champions, respected FRC commentators, and mentors of Hall of Fame teams.

A quick word about formatting to help you understand and interpret the rankings. The first number, which follows the #, is the ranking. A “#T-” indicates a tied ranking. The second number, in bold, is the team number. If a number in parenthesis follows, it’s indicating the amount of first place votes the team received. If there’s no parenthesized number, the team received zero first place votes. The number in brackets is the total number of points the team received from all twenty-one ballots.

  • #1. **254 **
    (15) [518]- The Cheesy Poofs came out with some big changes at their second event, and managed to raise their qualification averages above anyone else’s this season.
  • #2. **1114 **
    (6) [485]- Arguably the Simbots’ most dominant effort since their previous world championship robot in 2008.
  • #3. **148 **
    [445]- The Robowranglers shocked the world with their ambitious tethered design before competition season even started, and have the success to back up their reveal video.
  • #4. 2056
    [444]- A 3/3 season has pushed OP Robotics’ undefeated regional streak to a whopping 22.
  • #5. 118
    [438]- The Robonauts won three regionals for the third consecutive year and are now riding a 10 regional winning streak.
  • #6. 2826
    [383]- After two years without a victory, Wave rode the highest scoring autonomous in FRC and huge solo scoring outputs to two regional wins.
  • #7. **1678 **
    [364]- The Citrus Circuits won three regionals for the first time in their history, and are looking to canburgle their way to a third consecutive Einstein appearance.
  • #8. **1023 **
    [363]- Bedford Express nearly doubled their total wins this year, with victories at all four events including as the #1 seed at MSC.
  • #9. **987 **
    [347]- The High Rollers are one of the premier landfill robots in FRC this season, and maintained an average above 200 points during their Las Vegas playoff run.
  • #10. **624 **
    [257]- CRyptonite tallied three wins in 2015, and are bringing a consistent 20-point autonomous and human player stacking machine to Tesla.
  • #11. **4488 **
    [207]- Shockwave fell in the PNW finals after winning double districts for the second straight year, but can put up more solo points than any other team in the Northwest.
  • #12. **1519 **
    [202]- Mechanical Mayhem is a remarkably consistent landfill bot, and that led to them taking the #1 seed and championship away from all four events they attended.
  • #13. 548
    [196]- The Robostangs have some of the fastest canburling displayed so far, which (combined with their scoring) earned them the top pick and victories at the final three events they attended.
  • #14. **33 **
    [179]- The Killer Bees elevated their play during their time off between weeks one and six, leading to one of the highest upsides among landfill robots out there.
  • #15. 330
    [154]- The Beachbots are one of very few teams to take advantage of the fact multiple cans can be placed on the same stack, and are capable of topping 100 points individually as a result.
  • #16. **195 **
    [147]- After a dismal start at their first event of the season, 195’s scores grew exponentially as they became the dominant HP stacker in New England and won their final three events.
  • #17. **2122 **
    [122]- After years of being one of the best kept secrets in FRC, Team Tators vaulted into the spotlight with their finalist run at the surprisingly high end Utah event and backed it up with a victory in Phoenix.
  • #18. **1986 **
    [121]- Team Titanium is easily the most successful team to build their stacks in chunks. Though their regional win streak was broken in Little Rock, they picked up two wins later in the season.
  • #19. **2481 **
    [120]- The Roboteers successfully acquired step cans in tele-op and mined the landfill en route to victories in Rock City and Central Illinois.
  • #20. **971 **
    [116]- Spartan Robotics once again have a very ambitious design complete with a ultra quick canburglar, but weren’t able to convert that into any victories.
  • #21. 368
    [109]- Kika Mana’s upside is surpassed by very few other landfillers, but their consistency is slight below the top tier. They’ll be a force to be reckoned with on Carver.
  • #22. **1983 **
    [101]- No team has ever won more banners prior to Championship than Skunk Works. With four event winners and two Chairman’s banners already, 1983 is aiming to add some Champs hardware to their collection.
  • #23. **1671 **
    [95]- The Buchanan Bird Brains fell in the semifinals at both of their events, but were capable of scoring three 42-point stacks in a match by the end of the season.
  • #24. **1730 **
    [89]- Driven couldn’t close the deal in GKC, but their high scoring HP loader picked up their first win since 2011 in Colorado a couple weeks later.
  • #25. **1806 **
    [85]- SWAT can put up three 42 pointers in a good match, picking up silver in GKC and besting a very good finalist alliance for gold in Oklahoma.

Others Receiving Votes
[spoiler]67 71
1619 69
3824 49
225 46
3309 43
1640 41
2338 39
1756 36
234 33
3683 31
2137 30
1296 21
469 21
4587 20
3360 18
2085 16
68 16
359 14
1325 14
1690 13
3339 12
1717 11
1538 10
1024 10
5406 8
2054 8
3310 6
610 5
27 5
4613 5
1658 5
316 3
314 3
701 2
1318 1
233 1
2471 1
3641 1[/spoiler]

Each subdivision will have it’s own prediction thread posted tomorrow, but here’s a layout of how they will work. “Tips”, “locks”, “dark horses”, and “sleepers” will be named for each division. In this context a tip is a team to watch, with a solid chance of going deep. A lock is a team that’s guaranteed to do well, with a 50% chance or better of making the field’s finals. A dark horse is a team that has played very well all year but hasn’t generated a lot of attention and stands a strong chance to surprise a lot of people. Sleepers are teams that have shown flashes of brilliance but haven’t been able to put it all together yet, but have some potential to shine in St. Louis if they can play well. As always, if you don’t like the predictions, go out there and prove them wrong.

1519 voted #12 in both Looking Forward’s experts’ rankings and in the FRC Top 25… Illuminati confirmed.

“Ultimately, this game is about how many points an alliance can score. The alliance that can consistently post high scores…will emerge on top… Some of the better canburglars may also face an early exit if they can’t score enough behind it”


A good example of this was in FiM Bedford. The #3 alliance had both 217 and 2137 (very good canburglars), but they were eliminated in the semis because they didn’t score as much.

Not gonna lie I am very surprised to not see 1619 crack this top 25 list. They have one of the better human player station robots that I have seen this season.

Just wanted to thank you for writing these. I always look forward to reading these every week. Thanks

Excellent analysis as always.

I foresee another showdown between 1114 and 254 in the Einstein Finals.

548 was #13 in both also.

This analysis game is always so on point… I’d pay you to talk about the weather like this.

1619 has an excellent robot this year and I expect to see great things from them at champs.

I’m also surprised the Texas tether robots are not cracking the top 25.
They can make 3 stacks much faster than any single robot

Watch out for 4587 and 1296 #TeamTether #TeamTexas , eventually they will catch up to 148’s stacking pace.

The winning alliance will have the fastest canburglar in the world.

Faster than the opposing alliance, probably, but not necessarily the fastest in the world.

if an alliance that has the fastest burglar in the world can figure out a way to get 234 points (ex. 20pt auto + 5 stacks of 6 totes + noodle), they will probably win it all.

Exactly. There are many, many scenarios where the fastest canburglar at the event is watching the Einstein Finals from the sidelines.

Fastest vs fast enough + consistent

That’s under the assumption that all of the other alliances can’t make stacks without cans and doesn’t include “litter” points either though (but we’ll say those can be evenly traded anyway).

You definitely win 1 on 1, but you can lose out in the semi’s if that is exactly what said alliance is capable of. Should be safe during the quarterfinals though. This is only for Einstein really, the caliber of stacking on individual fields is likely not going to be competitive enough to have 2 alliances overthrow that average (234 pts) after losing can races in 1/3 of their semifinal matches.

If other alliances on Einstein are capable of putting up 7 full stacks when they win the cans (and I think there will be 2 fields that can do this), then there is a definite risk that their averages are higher despite the massive blow from losing the races against the fast alliance.

It’s a bit of a perfect storm scenario and really I’d expect the 234pt alliance to win it all if they can always get the cans, but it’s worth noting that they can still lose.

Yes they need to have out this bolded part nailed down and make sure their partners and their own robot are consistent on executing their stacking, capping, and litter to win it all. The fastest can arms won’t win it all if you can’t do anything with those cans or fail to execute in a few matches. Like Jared said there is a high chance the fastest arms in the division won’t make it to Einstein because they can’t assemble an alliance consistent & capable enough to get them there.

In a few ways its comparable to minibots in 2011 where the fastest will win however as we saw some of the fastest in the divisions weren’t on Einstein. The ones who did make it still were some of the fastest (like we’ll see with can arms).

There are games within games in this competition.
We have qualifications, which weighs in coopertition to decide on alliance captains. Do Can Burglers have a real advantage here? probably not… although in a positive way, they can provide more than 3 RC’s to an alliance and increase the average scores that way if the extra containers can be utilized by the stacker/scorers on their alliance.

We have quarter finals… Here the score is everything… A great can burgler who is not an alliance captain can get stung here… If the can burgler is the best in the world … the team can still get stung by a pick by a great coop bot that does not score effectively without coop. Can burglary is effective here but it can only affect 2 of the other alliances by keeping cans away from them it will add little to the alliance’s chances of making it out of quarters. It can be a way for a team to gain extra points by having more than 3 RC’s but you still need robots capable of putting up big points to get out of quarters.
In my opinion, Quarters are the most difficult issue of getting to the Finals.

Semi’s Here is where Can Burglary can make a huge difference by both adding RC’s to your own alliance and taking them away from another alliance. You get to play all of the other semi alliances so you can reduce everyone’s scores…

Finals… no need to analyze this… everyone has.
Just don’t think that by having a great FINALS strategy that you will get out of quarters.

This is a complex game. I personally think that we may actually see some of the 4th picks being used in quarters… where points are KING… with semi and finals alliances being a different arrangement.

Think about it this way… the three best can burglers in the world get on the same alliance ( I know it would not happen) They will NOT get out of quarters unless they have the other skills…

Not a lot of time left in “tomorrow”.