Raising the bar...or lowering it?

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed some trends in the way the games are designed.

2001: 4 versus 0, robots had to work together and in concert to balance goals on a bridge. a low bar and the bridge as a choke point made teamwork and strategy an essential and integral part of both robot design as tactics on the field. A very difficult but fun challenge where the quality of robots as well as operator skill and strategy played a part.

2002: Zone Zeal - drag goals into zones. Balls are irrelevent. May the strongest bulldozer win.

2003: Stack Attack - Stacking quickly become almost impossible, and most games centered around defending stacks, and either herding bins in or knocking bins of out yet another scoring zone. Camping the top of the ramp was another favorite tactics. Bulldozers did well again here.

2004: First Frenzy - herd balls into a chute so humans can throw them. Don’t have autonomous? Don’t worry, the balls automatically drop after 45 seconds. Don’t have a robot that can move the goals or put large balls on top of them? Don’t worry, you can still score points, since robots can’t actually score. Can’t defend your goals - don’t worry, they cannot be descored. In fact, all you need is a drive train. Can’t build a drive train in six weeks? One comes in the kit prefabricated - no knowledge of engineering, machinary, or design required.

Is FIRST actually raising the bar by including prefabricated parts, scoring the depends on athletic ability of humans rather than robot design, and a number of safetly features to ensure that any team regardless of quality of robot can score?

I think this game is far from raising the bar. In some ways, it lowers it.

I’m inclined to agree with some of your points. The game is definitely, in my opinion, a bit too Human Player-dependent. They seem, also, to be limiting winning strategies with their rules prohibiting defense of the goals. But what are we to do? Build the best robot you can, play the game, have fun. You might just be pleasantly surprised.


a different perspective: 95% of what goes into your robot is off-the-shelf parts and equipment

you actaully fabricate, invent or manufacture very little of whats in there

dont believe me?

make your own alum beams from alum-oxide

forge your own steel to make nuts and bolts

make you own copper wire, then create your own plastic insulation for it

build your own RC system, motors pnumatics…

you get the idea - giving us off the shelf transmissions (two versions this year!) gives teams more options, and lets rookie teams focus on more robot like stuff (sensors, auton, arms, actuators…) instead of spending most of their time creating a drivetrain just to get the bot to move.

Remember how many teams there use to be with the small drill motors attached directly to shaft to the small skyway wheels? In a sense FIRST has always given us a default drivetrain - they are just giving us better ones now.

That’s a new perspective, too. FIRST robots should be alot more like robots than large remote-control cars.

…or as Ken said in another thread, remote-controlled bulldozers. :slight_smile:

Just wait and see the game in action. You might think it’s simple now, but wait until you’ve got four robots with conflicting strategies on the field.

I am just dissappointed in the autonomous. They gave us a processor the can do 1000x times the instructions per second that the old one could, but i guess its just to let the teams with little programming experience get used to it. The IR and the line are making it a bit easy though. Give me 2 gyroscopes and 2 accelerometers and I’m happy. :stuck_out_tongue: hehehe. Anyways, the new chip does let use make many more things controlled by subroutines. Imagine, no more coordinating between two people to grab a ball, but just press one button and the arm closes and pulls, or even just put a sensor there and it can do it itself. I should stop before i get too excited…


Whoa… 30 seconds of human-controlled play is a LOT of time. Last year, it seemed to me that teams who managed to knock a lot of boxes onto their side during autonomous almost always won because all they had to do was defend; the opponents were stuck on the wrong side of the field with no scoring pieces. I think it’ll be the same way this year: If you release your balls and keep your opponent from doing so, you get half a minute to shovel them in while the other teams try vainly to break in – over half a minute, if you start during autonomous.


One comes in the kit prefabricated - no knowledge of engineering, machinary, or design required.

I’d hate to tell you this but rookies generally have no knowledge of engineering, machinery, or design. It took me almost three years to have a fairly decent knowledge of those three areas.

hmmm, human player dependant eh? capping goals to keep balls out would be robot dependant…hmmm…how about countering the human element instead of complaining about it? ive noticed the vast majority of posts originate with a complaint…why dont you spend your time STRATEGIZING ratehr than complaining? just a thought…i mean, only the teams that want tpo get done in six weeks strategize anyway

You’re totally neglecting the 10 foot tall bar, the large balls, and the stairs (well, not as much the stairs, but the stationary goal blocking the route to the bar). These are there to separate the great teams from the “bulldozers”.

I visited a college robotics lab not too long ago. They had a sign that said “real robots don’t need a remote control.” THink about what difference that would make to FIRST.

Don’t neglect the great bulldozers.

This year our design is sooooo much more complex and intricate then before. It really ‘raises the bar’ because in order to fit our [gasp, 7!!!] functions [Canadian Regional participants beware!!!], we need to apply very strict design and craftsmanship principals in order to fit within the wieght and size restrictions. There are additional engineering challanges required of 4 of our functions which we have NEVER seen in previous years. There is absolutely no way we can build our robot without ‘rasing’ our standards.

Anyone can slack and build a pushing bot. And to those who do, prepare to be disappointed with your effort and loose many matches.

FIRST hasn’t lowered the bar but merely tried to make sure by raising the bar they weren’t tripping the rookie teams. I’m from a veteran team and we have had our work cut out for us just trying to accomplish the new things they throw at us every year.

To be a Rookie team this year is harder than it was in the past, mandatory autonomous, with sensors, that works, would really be outrageous expectation for new teams who are still figuring out how to put their chains on and pickup rubber balls with joystick controlled claws. (You saw how much trouble some of the veterans had last year with merely dead reckoning autonomous)

I actually like what they did to make sure Rookies (and less technologically advanced teams, like our team who only had a 4’X5’ closet, 1 drill press, and a school cafeteria, for 2 of out ‘veteran’ years) aren’t getting left off the score board, while still presenting challenges that require quite some engineering feats to accomplish for those who want to push their limits (the 9 foot bar, and 6 inch steps)

I really think this years competition is going to be a lot better on the field than it may seem on-line

I think first has allowed the game to become more competitive while still allowing the better teams an advantage.

A bulldozer and a human player would be enough to make a team; feed the balls to the human player, let them shoot and score. Now, if this is all a team did, it could create a decent score. But a more advanced robot, one that could feed balls quicker, hang on the bar, control the multiplyers, would make the difference between two teams.

Now in a matchup of 3 bulldozers and a bulldozer with an arm. Who would win? Most likely the team with the armed robot.

One other point. What about the teams that cannot compete in the engineering intensive competitions? My build team is essentially 10 students, a maintenence man, and a couple engineers that stop by every so often. Last year’s competiton turned into tourqe wars, and our team had many problems because we didn’t have a gearbox, and didn’t have the knowledge and the metal shop to create one. This year, we can do without and create a competative robot useing our workshop.

So if FIRST team’s are not required to have or gain understanding of engineering, machinery, or design, why are they entered in a competition to build robots?

Well of course, an armed robot would win by attrition. . … . .

Moron session completed, I think that while a rookie team could build a bulldozer, they will have less sucess than in previous years. Last year, 25 points could be earned by simply being parked at the top of the ramp. Only a drivetrain to do that. Any boxes they managed to push into their zone was just gravy at that point. This year, a bulldozer robot can’t even directly score points, they need to rely on the human players. The end-of-game points this year are an astounding 50, but look at the task required to attain that 50 points. To break the game down, there are three major scoring strategies:

  1. Bulldoze balls to the human players. Probably the best route for rookies, although some of the braver ones could attempt more complex designs with great success.
  2. Manipulate the 2x balls. It just takes a little engineering to build a simple arm and claw. Fairly easy to do, with huge scoring possiblilities.
  3. Hanging from the bar. That bar is 10 feet in the air. Really, for a 5 foot robot, that is a lot. Even to just seriously think about getting up there, the robot needs to either climb stairs and navigate a narrow pathway, or be able to climb a couple 6 inch steps, and then finally extend at least nine feet in the air, and then pull up their most likely 100 pound plus robot and suspend it there. Hardly easy, with a great deal of points attached. I think that this is the best game I’ve seen.

Exactly what he said, he LEARNED it in 3 years. Nobody expects them to already know, but if they do learn a lot in their rookie season, that’s a good enough reason for me (and a lot of other people) to enter this competition.

I’m from a rookie team, yet I’m not a rookie!
I was in last year’s competition, Team #1219
However, this year, our school decided to have a separate girls’ team, #1309!
So…I’m in it, and well, it is true, most rookie team members have no clue about engineering and machinery!

I know, how many girls did not even know how to hold a drill…or what a shaft was, or what an axle was…
Well, we had tutorials for that, and sighs the condition has improved drastically, but overall, I’d say, there are still 25% of members who are still young babes in these dark woods!

So, in that case, FIRST, is helping us a great deal
I mean, how can you possibly teach 20 people about different drive systems, and expect to build a fully-functional robot in six weeks!
Hmm…it’s great help
I guess…I’d call it re-adjusting the bar!