Some Notes from KSC

Well, it was quite an exciting weekend at KSC, and I have a few observations/notes I would like to share with the rest of you.

First of all, the balls. I was quite surprised to see so few ball collecting robots at KSC. I was even more surprised when I found out that many of them couldn’t really collect balls, including us. We picked up 20 balls easily when we would practice at home, but couldn’t pick up more than 5 at KSC. I talked to many other teams, and they were having similar problems. Many teams thought the balls were over-inflated. I know that FIRST inflated them to pressure, however… When we inflated our balls to pressure at home, they were approx 8 inches in diameter. We went to the field and measured one ball off the field, and it’s diameter was 9 inches. Could be a reason for the failures. I don’t know if this was the same at VCU.

Secondly, this game was extremely odd in the sense that really none of the best robots that were at KSC were in the original top 8 at KSC. In fact, there were three robots there that didn’t even work that were in the 30’s out of 47. I can’t tell you how many times I saw an alliance go out there and dominate, and end up with 0 qp’s. Occasionally I saw a team who was losing run out of their home EZ at the last second to give the winning alliance less qp’s. Strategies really began to change on saturday morning, and the scores got better. Scouting is definitely important.

Entanglement, I only know of a few devices that were dis-allowed, and this was done on the practice day. Most devices were ok. We were allowed to use the old battery chargers, and as far as the batteries go, I never saw one dis-allowed.

One more thing. In quite a few matches where teams got into shoving matches, I saw robots go dead. This was usually because a robot with some sort of protrusion had turned off the other robot’s main breaker (accidentally of course). I even saw one match where an alliance was completely dominating the field, then one got pushed into the other, one tripped their breaker cause they were drawing too much current, and when the other robot tried to push their partner back to their home ez, their partner’s arm switched off thier breaker. End result, two dead robots in the middle of the field.

Well, that’s all, good luck to everyone in the upcoming regionals.


At VCU, we noticed on Thursday that the competition balls were larger than the balls we practiced with at home. We didn’t have any problem with this on Friday and Saturday after making a few adjustments.

On Thursday, I polled the other ball handlers. Most said they noticed no difference in ball size. One said they had the opposite problem (the competition ball was smaller than their practice ball), and two said they had the same problem as us.

Our practice ball was 9" (22 cm) diameter.

I was also suprised at the difficulty that the power bots had in the qualifying rounds, but that definitely turned around in the elimination rounds. The strategy definitely evolved as the competition played out, I saw more that 1 team that was losing 40 or 50 to 10 move out of the end zone to give the winning team 3 x 0 points, actually a pretty good strategy. Our team (Metal in Motion) never had less than 30 points in a match, but the break point seemed to be about 35, i.e. if you had 35 points in an elimination round you would win most of the time. I was also suprised by the lack of entanglement calls, it appeared that anything was OK as long as it did not actually become entangled in another robot. I did see some robots disabled for being to aggressive (i.e. reaching into another robot with a hook) We actually damaged our sister team from SC 342 when they tried to ram us in the quarter finals (the moral being if you’re going to ram another bot be sure that you don’t hit the pointy end !!). All in all however it appeared to be just good hard nosed competition, I think that this game will be one of the best ones yet. I can’t wait for St. Louis !!!

We had ball size problems at KSC and the Nats in 2000 so we have since decided that ball machine designs need to allow for ball irregularities…size AND shape…

Our machine in one practice round was able to get at least 30 of of the line balls in way under 2 minutes of the practice.

Our team looks forward to the Nats this year…I’ll bet that there will be a more even distribution of ball-bots and goal bots when the 10X larger number of teams gets scrambled together.

We had a handful of reeeeally stupid mistakes which made us look less “desirable”…it’s always the simple things that kill ya!

1.) Somehow our “known bad” new 2002 Exide battery was returned to the “charged stack” so we died inside 30 seconds.

2.) One round we had a bulging basket of balls and the mechanism didn’t tip fast enough…a crimped air line from the valve to the cylinder set slowed the works down…CHECK TO SEE THAT EVERYTHING AFTER EVERY MATCH WORKS!!!

3.) We got a ball hung under the machine which tipped us over on our back once…hung up on the lexan shield designed to prevent just that…we moved it to prevent that happening again!

But, we had a great time, got to help out a newbie team a bunch (swelled chest!!) and got to see lots of cool bots!