"Regional Competition Edition" of Fresh From the Forum

Hello Everyone,

Regional competitions started since March 7th, and if you haven’t been paying attention, there’ve been some pretty exciting competition going on the past two weeks. I really hope you didn’t miss the Kennedy Space Center regional when Team SPAM 180 and Metal in motion 343 defeated Baxter Heatwave 312 and the #1 seed rookie team… Or the VCU Richmond regional MOE 365’s very cool three goal robot and NASA Knights 122’s #1 seed robot…

If you are as big of fan as I am for this competition, then you were probably there last week when we cheered really hard for Baxter Bomb Squad 16 and Robonauts 118’s battle against GRT 192 and Rocket city robotics 34 for Lone Star regional champion, or for the GM and Delphi teams’ fight against Las Guerillas 469 and the FEDS 201… Yup, those were some pretty cool matches…

Well, no worry, even if you missed those memorable moments, I am here to tell you where you can look at for some of the actions I talked about, or at least what you can look forward to the next few weeks. This edition of Fresh from the forum will include links to places where you can look at pictures of robots from across the country, and information from teams telling us how their robot work… And if you don’t already know, the places for regional webcasts & NASA TV, and where you can upload your team’s picture to show off what you got… Plus the confusing issues teams have been discussing about, and important competition and scouting tips.

So, without taking any more of your time, here is the “Regional competitions update” of “Fresh from the forum”.

Table of Content:

I. Overviews of Regionals and Online webcasts
II. Online sources for robots information
III. Regional awards and strategy
IV. General tips
V. Confusing issues

Good luck at competition!!! And I will see you all at Nationals!!!

“Gotten busy with your team now that season has started? Don’t fret, all the need-to-know info from the chiefdelphi.com forums right here at your fingertips…” -Fresh From the Forum

-Ken Leung
1999-2001: Team 192 GRT
2001~???: Team 000, 100, 192, 258, 419…

I. Overview of Regionals and Online webcasts

There were 5 exciting regional the past 2 weekends, and 4 regionals this weekend. Here is this list of regionals:

March 7th~9th
NASA Langley/VCU regional, Richmond, Virginia
NASA Kennedy Space Center Southeast Regional, Florida

March 14th~16th
Buckeye Regional, Cleveland, Ohio
Lone Star Regional, Houston, Texas
SBPLI Long Island Regional, Long Island, New York

March 21st~23rd
Great Lakes Regional, Ypsilanti, Michigan
Johnson & Johnson Mid-Atlantic Regional, New Brunswick, New Jersey
Philadelphia Regional, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

March 28th~31st
Pacific Northwest Regional, Seattle, Washington
Silicon Valley Regional, San Jose, California
Motorola Midwest Regional, Evanston, Illinois

April 4th~6th
St. Louis Regional, St. Charles, Missouri
UTC New England Regional, New Haven, Connecticut
Southern California Regional, Los Angeles, California
West Michigan Regional, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Canadian Regional, Toronto, Ontario

A lot of robots did really great at each and every one of them. It was tons of fun to watch the competitions, even if only through online broadcast. Each robot at those competitions is unique in its own way, and together with other 40~50 robots, you get a regional competition with endless strategies and game play. The webcasts of the regionals demonstrated just that: Returning teams from past years showing off to rookies how much they learned from the competition, while rookies put on impressive robots that show they too, can be competitive in the competition… Everyone cheering as loud as they can no matter which teams are playing on the field, or even if their team didn’t win the award being announced.

Every match have something different happening depending on what robots were paired together, and each robot performed impressive moves to compliment their alliance partner attempting to win each match while maximizing qualifying points. The finals are even more exciting when each alliance give 120% of what they got, to win each match trying to advance to the next level. Very cool competition this year.

If you don’t know already, Dave Lavery posted a list of regionals that will be broadcasted this season. A lot of people get to watch a regional competition far from them because of that. Trust me; we know there were lots of people watching the webcasts… We could tell by how much re-buffering Real player had to do and how unclear the video stream was. :wink: (actually, there were about 200~300 viewers watching the regionals online the past weekends) You can watch the online broadcast @ http://robots.nasa.gov/ . In addition, even if you don’t have NASA TV online, you can watch online broadcast of NASTA TV @ http://www.broadcast.com/learning_and_education/science/space/nasa/nasa_television/ .

Check out Dave’s post for details (Thanks Dave!).

Here is the list of regionals being broadcasted online:

March 7-9: KSC southeast & VCU VA regional
March 14-16: Buckeye Cleveland & Lone Star Houston regional
March 21-23: Philadelphia regional
March 28-30: Silicon Valley & Pacific Northwest regional
April 4-6: St. Louis & Southern California regional

In addition, NASA TV will be broadcasting the following regionals at the indicated date:

March 16: Lone Star regional
March 30: Silicon Valley regional
April 26-27: National Championship event (all three days)

Information on the rest of regional competition including site info, agenda, team lists, and hotel can be found @ http://www.usfirst.org/robotics/rgevents.htm. But since FIRST isn’t the quickest in announcing the awards online, I will keep you informed of posts on the forum announcing which teams won what award.

II. Online Sources for this year’s competition

A lot of people worked really hard to provide us information of competitions and robots from across the country. To name a few, “Search Out Alliance Possibilities” started by team 108 archived all matches of the KSC southeast regional (March 7th~9th) and allowed everyone to download them, Jason Rudolph started an impressive online gallery that collected all the robots’ picture he can find on web pages (a collection of 225 robots as of now), the KSC website with pictures of all the KSC regional robots and match results, NASA archived the 2 Lone Star Championship and Buckeye Match 74 matches, and posters who posted details of their robots in the chief Delphi forum. Great Thanks to everyone for their effort!

Also, I’ve managed to archive the Cleveland regional webcast on Saturday. Even though it doesn’t have sound, it should be pretty good for those of you who are interested in scouting the robots in that regional. They are posted on www.firstrobotics.net . Make sure you have Divx 4 codec to watch the video files.

So, for those of you who missed out on the action, here is your chance to look at them. If you are eager of look at the Chief’s robot, check out Match 74 in the NASA archive, and the Cleveland archive.

Check out this list of sources of online robot resources this year:

SOAP 108’s archive of KSC regional: http://www.soap108.com/2002/events/fl/movies/

Jason Rudolph’s online gallery: http://www.firstrobotics.net

KSC regional website with team list and photo: http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/robotics/

Lone Star Championship Matches and Buckeye Match 74 Archive: http://robotics.nasa.gov/events/webcasts/lonestar.htm

Chief Delphi forum gallery: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/pictures.php?s=

Team 188’s NASA TV links: http://www.team188.com/2002/videos/nasatv.shtml

Index of posts of teams sharing info about their robot: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3174

After seeing how many teams are willing to share information of their robots, I asked a lot of teams: “Are you willing to let others take picture of your robot?” and got a lot of “yes!” replies. A lot of people have some good points about sharing robot designs, and I thought they are worth sharing with everyone. :wink: Take a look at the thread @ http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=2855

So, I really do encourage teams to share their ideas of the robot. After all, this competition is really about learning from each other, and inspiration of science and technology. :wink: Don’t be afraid to upload pictures to these online sources, or look at pictures of other robots and use ideas they have. We are better off if everyone learn more in this competition, as participants in this FIRST robotics competition, or as scientist and engineers in this society.
And hopefully when I go near your pit area to take pictures, I will be greeted with a friendly “Hi!”, instead of getting kicked out of teams’ pit area and be warned “DON’T YOU EVER COME CLOSE TO OUR ROBOT AGAIN!” :wink:

Go to the Chief Delphi forum gallery upload page @ http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/pictures.php?s=&action=uploadform

Or visit http://www.firstrobotics.net to share pictures of your robot. Mean while, if you went to a regional competition this year, please take as many pictures as possible, and show the rest of us across the country what your competition look like. :wink:

Go to the Robot Showcase forum to show off your robot @

Please Send me an e-mail if I missed out any online sources for competition/robots information.

III. Regional awards and strategy

CONGRADULATION to the winners and finalist of each of the regional competition!!!

Kennedy space center regional- Winners: 186, 343, 180 Finalists: 945, 312, 665
VCU regional: Winner: 422, 643, and 316 Finalists: ???, ???, ???
Cleveland regional- Winners: 859, 469, 201 Finalists: 67, 68, 302
Lone Star regional- Winners: 34, 457, 192 Finalists: 16, 118, 609
Long Island regional- Winners: 467, 173, 28 Finalist: 195, 224, 545

These teams went through intense matches against many great machines, and came out victorious because they are best alliances at their regional. With a little of luck, and good scouting done by their students, these robots came together and compliment each other on the playing field, and played the game really well. These teams really deserve their winners/finalists award because of all their hard work on the robot and strategy planning. Very cool!

Check out this post for the awards at Buckeye Cleveland regional and Lone Star regional @ http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3073

And the rest of the awards at FIRST’s website @ http://www.usfirst.org/robotics/rgevents.htm

The 2002 Competition Strategies

With head to head competition between two alliances on the field, the strategies are a lot more diverse this year. Different combinations of robots call for different strategy at every match, so prepare your scouting team because you are going to need them. :wink:

There are two distinct strategies this year that you will definitely use, and they are the strategies for qualifying rounds and elimination rounds. They are completely different games this year, so you might want to pay attention to the differences.

Qualifying vs. Elimination

In qualifying rounds, you:

Play to get as much Qualifying Points as possible, try to get as many 1 point balls as possible, try to win matches while allowing opponents score as much as they can, play the match a little less aggressively to keep your robot in good condition, and implement different strategy on the fly because of different partners and opponents.

Turns out qualifying rounds seeding depend on a lot of luck… There are many factors that determine how well you can do. For example: conditions of all 4 machines, which machine is paired up with who, the different moves the driver decided to perform, and the accidents that happened. A wrong move in strategy could mean getting a QP of 20 instead 90… But a right move can score you a 132 QP :wink: .

Mean while, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work really hard in the qualifying rounds. It is possible to get #1 seed if you play every match right, and have a really good machine for the game. Just look at how some of the regional winners/finalists are #1 seed teams. Team 67, 16, and 945 are all #1 seed of the regionals that are also regional finalists. However… there are others that didn’t seed all that high at all, while doing really well in eliminations. Check out this thread for qualifying rounds strategies @ http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3085
“This is a great question and it also brings to light how important scouting could be when selecting a partner. Teams in seeding matches could just decide to show what they are good at, knowing or coming to the conclusion they will not make the top 8.” -meaubry
“I think play hard, do your best, don’t get fancy or tricky and be
a gracious proffesional is the way to go.” -Dr. Bot
“If your like us you get lucky and get a team like HOT BOT on your alliance, you get one goal, you put 26 balls in that goal, you get both robots in the end zone, and you get a score of 56 to 44 giving you a QP of 132!!!” -John Prather

Take a look at this thread about average qualifying points…

Where as in elimination rounds, you:

Play to win every match, try to get as many goals as possible, throw out everything you got to win, play the game really aggressively thinking “it’s now or never”, and implement your unique strategy that fit your alliance the best.

Elimination rounds are what everyone expected. Plenty of great machines paired up with their best partner to try to defeat other alliances. Everyone fought aggressively to “stay alive” and advance to the next level. Machines were pushed to their limit to out-maneuver out-power out-wit out-speed their opponents. It was intense actions where robots speed toward the goals as fast as they could, and battle with each other for the right to put the goals in scoring position.

From watching all the webcasts of regionals, the winning strategy (that won the regionals) is to control as least two goal with one of your machine, while the partner go out to do defense or score the third goal. If your alliance got all three goals, then you are all set. Because of that, most of the time the game ended up pushing matches where all 4 robots bunched up together fighting for all the goals.

Check out a thread about Finals strategy @ http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3098
“Well, I do not know if grabbing three goals is the best strategy, but it definitely worked for us. We won six out of seven elimination matches in Cleveland with our wonderful partners, 469 and 859, and didn’t have too much trouble achieving that.” -Jeff Waegelin
“To ward off the “tug o war” double goal handlers, the Single goal grabbers must be faster to the goal and also more manueverable with it once it has it - two minutes is an eternity when a relentless slower machine is uninhibited in its progress.” -meaubry

However, don’t be so certain that this is the best strategy… After seeing a great numbers of ball robots’ performance, and talking to teams with ball machines, it is possible for teams to win with enough balls. As long as you have one goal in your procession, you could put enough balls in that goal, enough to win… It’s always the argument between “if you can’t control any goals you can’t score any balls” and “you can win if you get one goal with enough balls”… But that’s really up to what’s going to happen on the field. From what I heard, the 173/467/28 alliance won the Long island regional because of balls. Share with us what you think about scoring balls @ http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=3111
“If you get one goal, 21+ balls, and a robot in the end zone, you most likely won.” -Joel J.
“After seeing several of the teams ( 173 especially) in the SBPLI regional I changed my mind. They and phenominal speed and hit the goal in seconds, locked on and proceeded to suck up every ball on their side.” -Kevin Ray

Check out this thread about “Kamikaze Robot Strategy…”
“Suppose that you are playing against a team with a bullet proof 3 goal grabber/lifter/dragger (GLD) robot. Suppose that this 3 goal GLD Robot is very fast at getting all 3 goals and that once this it gets a hold of all three goals it can lift them or whatever so that it gets enough traction and that it has a low enough gear that it can basically to go wherever it pleases despite the best efforts of the opposing alliance robots.

Of course, this means that the match will effectively be over once this GLD Robot gets the 3 goals.

What do you think about using a Kamikaze Robot in order to match up against such a GLD robot?” -Joe J.

IV. General Tips

-Keep your robot healthy!

Due to the intense nature of the matches, a fair amount of alliances lost matches because of “technical difficulties” (or in plain words, died on the field or broken parts). It take a pair of healthy robot and great strategy to win all eliminations matches. So make sure you do a check up before every match to make sure everything is all right. You really don’t need to lose a match because your battery wires weren’t tighten down enough, or forgot to plug in the motors.
Check out this thread about dead robots…

Remember, after the regional, you have until Wednesday midnight following the regional weekend to fabricate whatever new parts you need. So make use of that if your robot is damaged during competition.

-Keep your battery healthy!

Even when you can get additional batteries and chargers, you should still take care of them. Teams have all sort of problems of battery because they didn’t know how to take care of them. Here are some advices from a Wildstang engineers
“It is possible to damage this battery by drawing well in excess of 100 amps for a long period of time. A high current (either in charge or discharge) will permanently distort the plates and cause an internal short… Also, this years competition appears to be a more physical one for robots than in the past. Although these batteries are built pretty well, they are not immune to “g forces” and can be damaged by a hard hit.” - Al Skierkiewicz

-Don’t tape the Circuit breaker with a screw driver, or you will be sorry…

Turns out the main circuit breaker’s performance can be reduced dramatically if it is under a lot of shock. The 60 amps circuit breaker is supposed to last the whole 2 minutes even if the robot draws 100 amps… But teams’ experience tell us that you can trip the circuit breaker if your robot take a strong hit. So, protect the breaker carefully, make sure it doesn’t flip to “off” accidentally by other robots, and you will have a functional robot that will last through every match without shutting down on the field.

-Look at your partners/opponents ahead of the matches

This year FIRST will release a schedule that has all pairings for matches. That mean you will have all the time you need to find out who your alliance partner is, and which alliance you are playing against. I suggest teams to take advantage of this and do the work in scouting each of those robots. That way, you will be prepared when going up for the match, and have a planned out strategy for your driver to follow clearly. Talk to your partner before you have to go up the field, figure out how your two robots can work together…

-Remember the Tie breakers

Turns out tie breakers are very common this year. So, make sure you remember what they are, so you don’t end up getting the loser QP because you didn’t have enough goals in scoring position.
Here are the tie breakers, where teams win in the following order:

  1. The alliance with the least penalties or warnings during the match
  2. The alliance with the most balls in scoring position
  3. The alliance with the most goals in scoring position
  4. The alliance with the most robots in scoring position
  5. The alliance with the most balls on the opposite half of the field.
  6. Flip of a coin

Oh yeah, #4 tie breaker seems to be impossible… :wink: Take a look @

-Scouting is very important

Strategy is everything in this competition, whether you are in qualifying rounds or elimination rounds. Know what your partner can do, so you can plan out a strategy that would work BEST for your alliance. Know what your opponents’ weaknesses are, so you can look for ways to defeat them in a match. Yup… Knowing exactly what each robot is capable of will prevent a lot of surprises you might get on the field when your opponents perform a move you’ve never seen.

-Know and understand your scouting data!

A tip about scouting… It is really important to know ACCURATE data of robots, because a lot of times teams would tell you what their robot COULD do, and ended up not being the case on the field. It’s not that they are intentionally lying, just that it is really hard to tell actual performance of a machine will do just by looking at its design and blue prints. So, there is a fine line between pit scouting and field scouting. You can only tell so much before you have to go down the field to watch actual matches and see how robots are. Mean while, make use of data from both sides. Look at the robot design for an objective overview of what their robot is capable of, and look at actual match performance to double check the data at hand. Be smart about this. :wink:
“This thread should be mandatory reading and EVERY team under three years should have to sign off as having read it in order to compete.” -Kevin Ray

V. Confusing issues at regionals

About Battery…

The rule about battery limit this year was very unclear. At one point FIRST was limiting teams to only use charger from this years, at some other time, two batteries only. This is finally changed and cleared by FIRST’s e-mail to teams, because without sufficient chargers and batteries, it is very difficult for teams to have running robot every match during finals.

From FIRSTOps:
“Battery Chargers - Teams can bring as many chargers as they want to the regionals; however, chargers must not exceed 4 amps. Furthermore, avoid using any rapid charge feature as you may destroy the battery.

Batteries - Teams as now allowed to bring extra batteries as long as they are only the 2001 or 2002 batteries. No other batteries will be allowed.”

About tether/extension…

Another confusing issue is about whether certain go-home devices are legal or not. At some instances when FIRST said they were going to be strict about entanglement issues and devised going under a goal… Then at some other competition time anything that passed inspections are legal as long as you don’t intentionally go under a goal… Some say they saw teams using a tape measurer device without getting DQ’ed even though it was unacceptable from FIRST’s ruling earlier… There was once when a tether was DQ’ed when pushed under a goal, there was another time the team got DQ’ed when they were the one pushing the goal to a tether…

Different competition seems to have different ruling on this issue, so I suggest teams to take their time and talk to FIRST staff at each competition they attend, to get a clear understanding of what is and isn’t allowed. Listen to FIRST announcement about this issue at competition. Mean while, you should prepared to remove the device if asked to.

Couple of rules we know for sure. If actual damages happen to field objects, referee WILL call. If actual damages happen to robots, referee WILL call. So, watch out for what your robot might do on the field, use common sense, and remember one important thing… Gracious Professionalism.


About shipping parts between competition…

FIRST also wasn’t completely clear about shipping parts from competition to competition. When they say teams have to ship “ALL PARTS” to the next competition, some think they mean all parts of the robot, some other thinks they mean all parts as in everything including spare parts. Again, talk to FIRST staff at the regional, and figure out what’s allowed and what isn’t…
Check out teams’ argument about this @

About Drafting…

There was some confusion as to whether or not top 8 can pick each other as alliance partners. Teams was looking at the rules with different interpretation (like many others :frowning: ). At the end, FIRST made their final ruling by allowing teams to pick each other at each of the regionals. http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=2790