Soooo just some thoughts

I’ve only been involved with FIRST for 2 years, my junior and senior year in high school, 2 of the 3 years that team # 1895 has existed. I’ll probably come back a little bit as alumni to give some pointers to next years team and such, but to be honest, I have seen some things I don’t like in the actual games…

But before I go on, I have many more positive points (in fact WAY WAY WAY more) than I have negative points

First thing on my mind is “mentor built” bots…

In my opinion, this sort of ruins the game… the mentor is supposed to be there to mentor, not build the robot. You have mentors that have way more experience in engineering than your everyday FIRST robotics high school student. The student is supposed to gain the experience, not let the mentor do the work, give a quick run down of how it works, and then go do the next part of the robot. How is this helping the student. Our team is focused on the students building the bot, while the mentor gives tips. You go to these competitions, and we look at some of these rookie teams, and we sit there and think to ourselves, there is no possible way just the students built that work of art. I don’t know if any of you all have seen this, but it just bothers me that they get that advantage.

The only other thing that has bothered me the past two years has been the ranking system. A team could have the best engineered bot in the entire game, but be matched up with other robots that impede their ability to score points and be last in rank. A team could have a not so up to par bot but rely on their partners to give them an awesome rank. At first I thought well everybody must be thinking the same thing I am, the ranking system really doesn’t determine how well your bot really does. Your performance as a whole is basically decided upon by your team mates. This is a random selection, so it’s hard to counter it. But it turns out from my view (@ annapolis) that every team doesn’t see this. The top 8 teams were given the choice of alliances, and only 2 bots outside of the top 24 were selected. I saw much better bots than some of those inside the top 24 that were impeded by team performance but were outstanding performers. So I thought that maybe the bots should be graded on their individual points, assists, and team wins. That way you wouldn’t have such a ridiculous drop in rank if your team loses.

These are just my thoughts… I personally think that FIRST could come up with a better ranking system.

I just want to hear YOUR thoughts, am I being completely unreasonable here? Have I missed a point or two? I appreciate comments from anybody regardless of whether or not they agree.

I’m going to give you a tip–NEVER bring up “mentor-built vs. student-built”. Do a quick search on that, and you’ll see why. The short of the matter is that not many care one way or the other, provided inspiration happens. You’ll see the long when you do the search.

Now, on to the ranking system…
I might be willing to bet that some of the teams in the top 8 didn’t have scouting crews. If they did, better robots might have been selected. Or, the better robots you saw might not have complemented the teams doing the picking. Both happen. It might also have to do with marketing, or lack thereof. (Note: I hope you aren’t referring to your own team as one of the better robots unless you actually were.)

Your proposed solution would actually be more work for the scorers and lead to a decrease in teams working together. With limited scoring objects; all one team has to do is deny another the _______ and they get an increase in their ranking. But that isn’t what FIRST is about, is it? Oh, and the every-man-for himself game format was already tried between 1992 and 1998. Seems that higher-seeded robots at the end of Friday kept getting defended. Collusions was suspected, but not proved. So it became required, and the alliance system was born.

Indeed you are correct about my proposed idea, I didn’t think about it that way. But even though teamwork is involved, potentially awesome robots could be totally knocked out of the way due to bad match ups. I’m not saying our bot was fantastic in anyway, I saw absolutely brilliant robots out there that our robot couldn’t even compete with. In no way am I saying our robot is amazing, that wouldn’t be fair. But my point still does stand, your team’s match up can totally kill your performance in the competition. I’m not trying to be a pompous $@#$@#$@# here, I’m saying there is a lot of hours put into these robots and it’s not exactly fair that your bot doesn’t have the same chance as other random match ups. I would vote for more matches to let the ranks even out a bit more to be honest.

If your alliance members during qualifications have affected your performance as an individual team, then you’ve already failed. The reason I say this is because in order to have their performance totally screw you over, you must have decided to rely on other teams. By that nature alone, the robot wouldn’t be elim worthy. A lot of people are going to disagree with me on this, but here’s how I see it:

In order to be a high power competitive team, you need to be able to do everything on your own, with no outside help, and be able to do it FAST with very little driver influence. Until a team can find this niche, you won’t see them on Einstein.

(note: This response is without having looked at your team’s robot. So please, if anything is insulting directly towards your team, it was made as a blanket statement, and not towards you/your team individually.)

Indeed, that matter was addressed in 2005 when the alliances were expanded from 2 teams to 3.

There are many flaws in the ranking system, but we don’t have an infinite amount of time nor ability to pair every team with every other team against every other team.

Hence, we learn to live with the system, compete our hardest, and roll with the punches luck throws us. If you are an excellent robot, you WILL be in the eliminations, regardless of your rank. In 2002, 469 was in the bottom 10 of the ranks in their division, but was picked early.

Also, if you look at this from a “global” perspective - do the rankings matter at the end of the season? Will you remember every win, every loss, every score you put up there? Or will you take home some hard-earned lessons about teamwork, cooperation, and inspiration?


i don’t want to get bashed so i won’t post my comments on this on CD. I don’t think anyone will really care 2 years from now… because there probably will be another thread and im SURE i’ve spoken on this before…

I have also thought about that. But when your matched against 3 extremely high scoring robots, and you have two extremely low scoring robots, how can your rely on your robot to win that match. You’d have to have an extremely powerful robot with an extremely experienced team. This is hard to come by. I do understand that the entire idea behind this competition is teamwork, but in a way you have to rely on your team mates. My point isn’t to have a single robot based game, I’m saying that the ranking system in itself relies too heavily on the outcome of the match rather than a mix of performance of your bot, and the outcome of the match. IE, let’s say you do 60% of the scoring in the match. Your other team mates do the other 40%. Yes you’ve done a fantastic job!! Awesome! But when you look at the ranks, you’ve all gone down nearly the same amount. What you’ve just done has no impact other than the fact that you lost overall. This really made our team feel like crap.

I don’t know that I’ve actually written this down before, but I figure this is as good a time as any. I just came to realize this sometime last year, and it has helped me come to peace with a lot of things.

There is no mandate as to who is supposed to be building these robots. If you have any question about this, you should review Dave Lavery’s comments from the 2008 kickoff. Because of this, there have arisen two competing philosophies with respect to how we are supposed to meet the overarching goal of Inspiration. One school of thought is that students get excited about engineering by doing it, and thus saying, “wow, I want to do this when I grow up”. The other is that students get excited about engineering by watching real engineers at work and saying, “wow, I want to do that when I grow up”.

I feel pretty strongly about which method works better, but I’ve accepted that other people have different opinions, and that there may be benefits either way. So long as the students are actually being inspired, then these teams should be applauded for their efforts.

More matches is something we all wish for. Time is our enemy. Just be glad that the “Algorithm of Death” isn’t in use this year.

Trust me, I know about the killer matchups. My old team always seems to draw one of the worst schedules at the Los Angeles Regional. (Translation–you’re the only good team on your alliance, and you’re facing 968 and 980 in the same match. Or 69 and 980. Without the 2007 algorithm. Even 330 can’t do that too well normally. One-on-one, yes. Not 2 or 3 on one.) Or something would happen and it would be a one-on-three. Stuff like this happens. The only thing you can really do is play the best game you can. If you do well, some team that’s been doing their scouting will notice, even if you don’t make the top 8. If teams haven’t been doing their scouting, help them.

Strength of schedule is already built into the ranking system–It’s the RS column. (QS= Win-Loss-Tie, RS=strength of schedule, and if those can’t solve a ranking dispute, the higher scorer wins.)

Simply put, good scouting trumps the ranking system any day. Bad scouting is using the ranking system to do your scouting.

I disagree with just about every word of this. While you should build a self-reliant robot, but calling a robot a failure if it fails to do everything in the game is asinine. Try telling every ramp robot from 2007 a failure because it relied on its alliance partners for points!

Is a high-power, competitive team the only answer?

Winning isn’t what scouting teams see. A good scouting system will analyze how YOU play the game, how many times YOU score, how YOU drive, and nothing else. Honestly, most of the high power teams have such a complex scouting algorithm set up, it’s pretty impressive to see how it all works out. If your robot can perform, then make it do so; you’ll be chosen if you can actually score, and score well.

About the rankings: They don’t mean much. If you’re good, you will be chosen. The high ranked teams usually have complex scouting systems, and so if you perform, you’ll get picked for elims. If not, you won’t. It’s that simple.

As for my previous post, yes, it is fairly insulting. However, by “do everything,” I’m trying to get across that the bots that you will see winning have more capabilities then the ones that you will see losing. Taking last year as an example, teams like Jesters, 254/968, and other very strong teams could do everything, and well, won.

I’m not calling every robot that fails to do all game aspects a total failure. If you’ll read again what I said, you need to do whatever you do, or everything you do, on your own, without help.

Also, top teams with good scouts know who to pick and who complements them the best, even in the loooow rankings (a la regional champions 4 in LA in '06 and '07, 294 in San Diego in '08)

Indeed you are correct sir, which is why halfway through that competition when I realized our rank would be stuck very low because of bad match ups, that I could depend on good scouting to pick the best bots. So while watching the alliance selections, I decided to count. I counted two robots outside of the top 24 that were selected. I believe that there were far more suited bots for the top 8 than those in the top 24. This is why I have such little faith in the majority of teams scouting abilities. I did see some awesome scouting by some teams, but not too many.

Basic economics will tell you that if good teams regularly go unpicked, and poor-er teams get regularly picked, some day some team will boost up its scouting team, put together a killer alliance and win everything. The fact that this hasn’t happened yet leads me to think that either the seeding system works so well that the top seeded teams do not really need exceptional partners to win, or that the scouting teams actually do a good job. Either way, this goes against your claim(s).

Also, teams shouldn’t design their robot around the alliance. Knowing that a random process will get you your partner, you should design a robot that can win on its own. The fact that some robots go undefeated through the qualification matches either defies statistics or proves that a good robot will not be hurt by those matches. Also, a great robot that hasn’t seeded too well (ex. 217 in the 2006 Det. regional) because they missed some matches or ran into technical trouble will get picked in the alliance selection process.

Finally, as far as the whole mentor/student participation thing goes. It really leads nowhere. Many teams are mentor driven that swear they are not, many teams are not who are said to be, and there really is no right or wrong there. It bothers me however to hear people behind the scenes saying “team XXX is 100% mentor built” or “there is no way students did this”. Don’t assume, you would be surprised. I know for a fact that many of the top tier team see many of their students participate heavily in the design process. I’ve seen entire systems on a robot put under the responsibility of one student (with the help of other kids to build and as much mentor help as he may ask for obviously…).

That is not to say that FIRST is perfect. Many things are wrong with it and enumerating them will not help because many of you will probably disagree with me.


I know for a fact (since I helped implement it this year) that most of my team’s scouting is entirely statistics based. We have a scout per robot on the field, and it’s their job to record the statistics.

For example this years categories are:

Lines in hybrid, balls in hybrid, laps in teleop, herds in teleop, hurdles in teleop/balls placed at end, alliance score, their score. and then a place for notes.

If one team puts up 80 points by themselves in a match, that’s really impressive…less so if we find out that none of the opposing robots were moving.

I’m fairly sure that if other teams scouting systems aren’t exactly like this, then they’re pretty darn close. They look at the bot as a singular unit instead of their alliance.

After reading jgannon’s post about mentor built robots vs student built robots, I do agree with that. I never looked at it that way. I just thought that the majority of the experience gained would be through hands on work rather than watching. I do believe this is a one sided opinion though so I’ll take EricH’s advice and not go any further into that discussion. But back to the ranking system. Would it not be easier to have a reliable ranking system that brings the top bots forward and reduces the amount of scouting time needed to actually look past the misleading ranks? Because I didn’t see much scouting going on to be insanely honest with you all. I’m not saying that our bot deserved this or that, that’s not what I’m getting at. I’m getting at the fact that the ranking system shouldn’t depend on the outcome of the total match when 1 robot on the entire team did the entirety of the scoring. Although many in this forum have claimed that there are very complex scouting methods out there, I just didn’t see it at annapolis this year.

Hey, Craig, you coming to L.A.? If not, come soon. I still remember the year when one team let TWO other teams use their pick list because those teams didn’t have one.:yikes:

By the way, on the mentors/students debate (to stop it before it starts):
Some good discussion on an extreme case
Still more…
If you want more reading…
And finally, one of the best threads on this topic I’ve seen.

Hm. Were those potent teams? I have yet to see that happen around me… Then again, I may have missed it.

Also, as far as the whole not seeing much scouting going on, most of the time you won’t see it. For the team I used to be with, it was 6 people with clipboards up in the stands, just watching and writing. Then, that night, all the data was compiled and scored. You wouldn’t see it happen, but the results would be a very smexy list with scores, ranks, and all other data about a team, with a pick list on the side.

No. Other than the one that allowed the others to use the list. (Last year, there were some obviously unprepared teams and one that prepared hastily.)

Also, as far as the whole not seeing much scouting going on, most of the time you won’t see it. For the team I used to be with, it was 6 people with clipboards up in the stands, just watching and writing. Then, that night, all the data was compiled and scored. You wouldn’t see it happen, but the results would be a very smexy list with scores, ranks, and all other data about a team, with a pick list on the side.
You got that right. My old team did the same thing. I’m trying to develop that for my current team.

You don’t have to rely on other team’s scouting abilities. So you did poorly on qualifications, go out and meet other teams and market your robot. Make posters of your robot’s abilities and hand them out personally to every team. Also, record your own statistics and show it to other teams. Get your team’s name out.

In my opinion there are some teams with poor scouting systems that may not look at every robot’s abilities. These teams are the teams that just view FIRST ranking method. Most would be grateful if you made their job easier for them by proving your robot deserves to be selected. However, make sure not to be overly aggressive.

Drawing from personal experience (in FVC) last year, there were 99 competing teams and we were ranked 94th due to some controller/pairing problems. However we decided to market ourselves to the top 8 and ended up in an alliance and performed very well. If we didn’t market ourselves, there would have been no chance of us being selected (as far as I know, the next worse seeded team was ranked in the 60s).