As some of you may have seen, a service called “Sundial” was tested out at a few regionals and the Championship this year. This service consisted of a wireless network that teams could connect to in order to view a much more user-friendly version of the match list, as well as a countdown to a team’s next match that stays synchronized to the field. Functionality to display the current team standings was added in for the 5th week regional, and qualification match results, including such previously unavailable data as number of centre and corner goals scored, number of robots on ramp, and penalties, were made available for the Championship.
I’m pleased to report that about 30 teams used Sundial at each regional it was set up at (BAE, UTC, Boston & Toronto). In addition, 50 teams from Archimedes, 37 teams from Curie, 36 teams from Galileo, and 41 teams from Newton logged on to Sundial at the Championships. Out of those 164, 76 stayed online for at least 2 hours. I’d like to apologize to those teams who had trouble connecting to Sundial at the Championships, especially on Friday morning. There was a problem with one of the NASA-provided access points at the south end of the pits, and although I was aware of the problem at 8 AM, it wasn’t until 1 PM that it could be isolated and fixed.
Anyway, this thread is for anyone who has comments (positive and negative) about the Sundial service, or suggestions on how it could be improved. Was the interface intuitive to use or insufficiently so? Were the standings and match results useful? Any features that you would like to see next year? I’d also be happy to entertain questions about how Sundial works and how it interfaces with the FIRST scoring system.
With a bit of luck we’ll be seeing Sundial at every regional next year, so any comments you might have would be greatly appreciated.
On a side note, while I’m a fairly proficient programmer, I don’t have an ounce of artistic talent, so if anyone with a good amount of Flash experience is interested in helping make Sundial look better, please drop me a line.
Other than the not being able to connect in the newton pits for most of the time eventuly we got on fri afternoon but sat was impossible…it was a great design and worked great the info about wether they were running on shcedule or not was helpful…but i think you guys need more access points
I noticed some teams on sundial at the UTC regional this year after its debut at last year’s, and I wanted to connect, but did not know the web address (sundial.first) to go to once I was on the network. Perhaps if you set up your server’s zones to redirect any DNS request to the page it would help some people out.
What I did end up seeing of it in other team’s pits looked very nice to me and it seemed to work fine. I’d love to see it at every regional next year.
Unfortunately team 204 was unable to connect because we did not have a computer that had wireless connection! But we were able to use a form of it to help us decide whether things were running late because the team across the isle in the pits had their laptop pointing out wards and were were able to see delays.
Even with my limited use of the system i found it a very powerful tool for teams. Especially in Atlanta where there was no queuing announcements.
My team used sundial from the dome while we were watching the matches. We could get connected about half of the time, but when it worked, it was a tremendous help, especially with scouting. My only suggestions would be having a way to search for specific teams in the ranking and match lists, and being able to look at the matches and rankings in other divisions.
We loved having the service available since our match lists had the tendency to wander away from the pits in someone’s pocket. My only complaint would be the inability to account for whether the field was running ahead of or behind schedule, which is much harder to gauge and account for anyway. Thank you very much for providing it!
I loved Sundial (when I could connect that is). Most of the time I was unable to connect from the Newton pits, but the one time I was able to get on (Friday afternoon I believe) it was amazing.
My only suggestion would be to link up with STAMP or anyone else that is running wifi nets and provide a common wireless network with multiple access points that are linked with hardwires so that teams can connect from anywhere in the pits and can access all the services offered (stamp AND sundial together = awesome). Plus it would cut down on the cost.
Thinking about it again, was Sundial available in the stands at Nationals? I’m pretty sure it was still in range at UTC, but I know at Nationals our very limited scouting team would have loved having a laptop that was indicating matches upcoming and what teams were in them, or even just when our next match (and their break) was.
We used Sundial at UTC and it was great! It gave our pit crew a real time to work in, rather than a guess as to when our next match would be.
Unfortunately at Championships, we couldn’t connect to Sundial. I managed to Connect to it first thing on Saturday morning, but was disconnected after 20 minutes or so. I suspect it was because of interference from all the ad-hoc networks and other things teams were running.
Edit: I ran Netstumbler for a few minutes and was able to pickup packets from almost 20 different sources, most of which were running on channel 1, 6, or 11.
To the teams: If you have wireless built into a computer you are using, please disable it while in the pit and not connecting to anything.
In the few minutes I was connected on Saturday morning, I found the rankings and match results to be very helpful. I could quickly see how teams had done in all their previous matches and who they were with. I also found Sundial to be very easy to use.
We were connected for most of Saturday, and I absolutely LOVED it. Having the rankings and match list was VERY useful when you’re trying to see how the rankings could potentially fall out over the next few matches (which I do waaaay too much, but this made it easier). Plus, a few times we were saved from being very early to a match when the field was running behind. I’d love to see this at every regional next year, it was great.
The Sundial server computer was set up on the scoring table behind Einstein field. We had two network cables plugged into the NASA switch there: one connected to the VLAN on which the four divisional scoring computers were located, and one connected to the WiFi VLAN. All the data was being transferred electronically from the FIRST scoring computers, and no human interaction was required.
The wireless networking was all provided by NASA. There was a single access point in the dome (intended mainly for diagnostic purposes) and I believe three in the pits, but as Jeff said the numerous ad-hoc networks were causing a lot of interference. Also, one of the access points lost its connection to the rest of the network on Friday morning, and wasn’t repaired until much later that day. I apologize for this, and I will be doing my best over the next year to make the necessary arrangements so that this doesn’t happen again.
Our team found it useful on the few occasions we could connect to it. The signal was fluctuating like crazy in the Curie pits and when I tried to connect I alternately got “The ‘first’ wireless network is using an Access Control List to restrict connections” and “There was an error joining the wireless network ‘first’;” hitting “Try Again” twenty or thirty times usually got me in, but on Saturday I couldn’t connect at all. Oddly enough, the signal seemed to work better in the Dome than in the pits - I only had to “Try Again” five or six times.
All in all, a really useful service that could benefit from some relay stations or a better antenna.