Value of Coopertition

FIRST has been pushing the coopertition for a while now and I agree with their intent. It would appear that in this last years game they came close to what they were after. However I am not sure that we are sending the right message with the value that was placed on it this year.
Each year the FIRST game challenge represents real world conditions. A new idea with little instruction or direction, a dead line that seems too short and a budget that seems too small. Does not get more real world than that. The challenge is always one thing. This year is was shooting basket balls, then there is a bonus. In the case of FRC that is the end game. In this last years game challenge much like in years past, we saw teams that failed the challenge. (not able to score) however due to the value placed on coopertition in the end game (bonus) we saw teams place very well in the competitions that could not even do the main challenge do very well at those competitions.
I understand that both the game and the end game are separate challenges. However this year you could fail the main challenge, or worse yet not even attempt it, opt for the easier of the two challenges and still place very high in the rankings.

I have found that on teams with limited resources (like mine) it is better to do one thing (or a few things) and do it better than everyone else, than to build a robot that does everything, but does it poorly or is not robust.

In fact during rack-and-roll, when I mentored 1824, we won BAE with a robot that just played defense (could not score on the rack) and was able to easily lift 2 robots for endgame.

High perhaps, but not at the top if you can’t shoot.

If you don’t seed at or near the top of the field, you best chance to take home the Winner’s banner is to be picked early
(or very late, but the serpentine draft is another topic…).

Top tier picks this season have generally been good shooters and/or rebounders.

I understand what you are saying, but I think it is a mistake to view or call things as “main challenge” and “bonus/end game”. Doing so places artifical weights or importance on each one. Just because something only happens at the end of the match, doesn’t mean it is less important than the other challenges in the game. In 2011, many teams did better just doing the “bonus” than just doing the “main challenge”.

In Michigan we saw teams that did not even have a shooter on their robot seed in the top 5 and were in a picking position.
In the real world if someone comes to you and says I need you to design something that will do X and if it can also do Y and you do not even attempt to do X but do Y very well, will you get the contract???

If you attempt to do something, and do it to the best of your abilities, what ever your result, is one thing. But when you don’t even attempt it that is quite another.

In the case of FRC games, we aren’t given specific tasks to do. We’re given a game to play. How you play that game is called strategy, and different teams will have different strategies to do meet their goals (playing in the Elimination matches). If a team feels that scoring baskets is the best way to meet the challenge the game presents, they’ll design a robot to do that. Another team may feel that balancing the bridge (whether it’s the coop bridge or the alliance bridge) is the best strategy. Other teams may try to do both.

We’ve seen the different challenges in the games have different effects every year. In Logomotion, the minibot was a huge part of many games, and a team that could get first in the race every time could be a huge benefit to an alliance. In Breakaway, hanging wasn’t worth a huge amount, and many teams chose to try to continue scoring goals instead. In Lunacy, human players often scored more points than the robots. In Overdrive, I saw 148 completely ignore the balls, but race around the track like you couldn’t believe. In Rack 'N Roll, my rookie team was picking, despite not placing a single tube and only being able to elevate 1 other robot.

Don’t look at it as a “main challenge” versus other aspects of the game… examine each game to determine what strategy your team can use to best meet its goals.

Many teams in FIRST view the ‘main challenge’ as “Designing a robot that gives us the best chance at winning” opposed to “Designing a robot that scores baskets”. In this sense, the teams that focus on endgame or other support roles are certainly attempting the ‘main challenge’.

It’s all part of strategy - which is a huge part of FIRST.

One of our rookie teams had just enough knowledge to build a defensive toaster with a arm to drop the bridge. They were extremely proud that they consistently had one of the top balance scores.

I might argue that the ‘point’ of the game isn’t necessarily what you think it is. In 2007, the majority of the time was spent hanging tubes - but most of the time robots on other robots won the match.

In 2009, the point of the game was to shoot balls into other people’s trailers. Yet if I remember correctly, good human players consistently scored on par with robots.

In 2011, for the first 4 weeks of the season, a fast Minibot guaranteed a 85%+ win rate. In fact, a team on the World Championship Winning alliance was picked because they had the fastest minibot at Worlds.

That particular robot was also quite good at scoring tubes. And had a really good drive + drivers.

Their minibot had very little to do with why we picked 973. They were simply at worst the 6th or 7th best robot in the division and as mentioned, the most important part was we knew they had a rock solid base, good drivers, and a coach we have worked extensively with.

We were one of those teams as well (almost down to the letter, in fact I just had to check the Spyder app to make sure it wasn’t us :P). Being a 2nd year team with few resources in a small town in rural NC, we barely had enough money to do much else. I think the final total for the robot was 430-something dollars, including an axis cam we had to replace.

Due to a massive amount of overthinking things, we spent almost 3.5 weeks on design with most of that time wasted because we ultimately didn’t have the resources or time to manage it. And then our sole programmer was grounded, with the result being that we the very first time we were able to drive the robot was our first match on the field. Despite all of this; only having an arm with no way to shoot baskets, having no driver practice whatsoever, finicky programming and fail-prone hardware, we still managed 17 seed out of 53 teams from a mixture of very reliable balancing and coopertition.

While I am glad that we managed to do as well as we did, I do think it reveals some weaknesses in the way FIRST handles balance overall.

Bot in the foreground:

(We are significantly better off this year, and we’re definitely trying to make sure that never happens again)

The first question to ask is not “What is the main challenge?”. It is “How do we WIN the ______?”. This last is a question asked by companies all the time–“How do we WIN the contract? Make money?” For FIRST, the blank can be filled in with “game” or “competition” or even “long-term goal of changing the culture”.

When you ask what the main challenge is and what the extra objectives are, you immediately get tunnel vision–you focus in on the “main” challenge, possibly only to find that maybe you missed something important.

Now, you bring up contracts and X is the main thing and Y is “nice to have”. I agree, someone who builds something that can Y but not X should not get the contract. BUT!! In the real world, the customer sets the requirements, not the contractor. Any requirement left vague by the customer can be interpreted by the contractor–but if the customer sets the requirements clearly, and the contractor doesn’t meet them, it’s the contractor’s fault. (BTW, this is why we read the manual, as it is the requirements set by the customer.)

In application to FIRST, the customer has set some requirements, but really only on the technical side of the equation. Gameplay sets some others. But… they haven’t set X as the main thing and Y as “nice to have”. They may have done the exact opposite. Or they may have said, “Your objectives are X and Y. You can do either or both. Good luck,” and left the teams to figure out which is most important to them.

I feel that making Cooperation bonus something easy to see and something that you want to do was a nice change (the 2011 borrowed Minibot thing was hard to keep track of and not known to those watching the matches), I feel like they should have the coop score as your first tie breaker and it would have solved the issues or have it be 1 QP for being successful.

I did love explaining to a team that is normally very knowledgeable about the way these games are played how important that bridge was. To put it simply a team that won every match they were in and never did coopertition would rank the exact same as a team that lost all the matches but did coopertition every time.

While I do not disagree with any of the statements, and I want to be clear that I feel that this program is one of the best programs that our kids can be involved in.
I would like to point out that the name of last years game was Rebound Rumble. The graphics for the game were basketballs. The year before was Logo Motion. The challenge is to build a robot to play the game, with the goal of winning.
If you do not attempt to build a robot to play the game are you trying to meet the challenge or are you trying to disrupt others that did attempt to meet the challenge.
I understand that resources limit what a team can do. But I have seen teams with very limited resources do well.
Trying and failing is one thing but not trying is another.

3737 met the challenge and I see nothing wrong with their robot.

You may see a problem with undue weight placed on the bridges, but they saw it as an opportunity to perform well. Which they did.

What part of ignoring the baskets to focus on defense or the bridge is not a strategy to play the game to win?

Good analogy. The answer is YES, you will get part of the contract.

Think of it this way: The job is building houses. What goes into building a house? Obviously digging and building a foundation, framing, roofing, drywall, etc. Then there’s also plumbing. A house wouldn’t sell without plumbing.

Are all contractors great at all parts of building a house? Probably not. Many do all of the parts, are great at most, but not so efficient at others.

Enter people that specialize in plumbing. Plumbers at one point may have said, “I’d like to build houses” then realized that building an entire house is a bit over his/her head. So instead of learning all of the intricacies of building entire houses, he/she decide to become so good at plumbing that the jack of all trades builders can’t compete in plumbing.

So, the majority of the contract will go to the house builder and perhaps a small part will go to the plumber. OR, the entire contract of the house building will go to the contract, and the contractor might subcontract the plumbing to someone that is better at it.

The point is, in order to build the best house, there are some small specialty parts that a general contractor is not as good at as a specialist. That’s a lot like last year’s game in which the teams that were great at the main part of the game weren’t necessarily as good at the end game as the end game specialists, and the end game specialists decided they were best off building a great robot to do one thing well and demonstrate their worth in that area.

This is a bit of an aside from the actual discussion, but I would argue that the time was not “wasted”. Did the team members learn anything from the experience? Even if it wasn’t used this past year, there was probably learning that will carrying into future seasons. In 2008 we spent almost 4 weeks on trying to design a new drive system that we ultimately scrapped for a much more simplistic design; however, the time we spent working on and troubleshooting was not “wasted” - we learned a lot of valuable lessons that we still draw from today. Failure is not necessarily bad…it depends on what you do with it.

I would like to point out that there are many excellent defensivemen in the NBA who rarely put up points. These players would not meet your definition of meeting the challenge as they are actively attempting to disrupt the other team from meeting their challenge. It would be easy to get nitpicky and point out that, according to the name of the game, the challenge of the game is to recover missed shots, not to make them. This could lead one to the conclusion that the point of the game was defense.

The problem with your statement, as others have also noted above, is that your are defining what is important and what constitutes the challenge. First you say that the point is “to play the game, with the goal of winning.” Then you are essentially defining “meeting the challenge” as scoring baskets. That statement does not follow the previous. Playing the game constitutes much more than just scoring baskets. To win the scoring portion your team needs to score more than the other team. This does not in any way imply that all robots must attempt to only score as many as possible. Scoring one basket and keeping your opponent from scoring any is a viable strategy and I don’t believe you can argue that this is not playing the game.

This year FIRST decided that winning would be worth 2 points with balancing also worth up to 2 points. I would argue that this statement can be seen as showing coopertition is equally as important as winning the scoring portion.

Essentially FIRST told you how match scoring would work, how ranking would work, and what needed to be accomplished to obtain these scores. It is up to the teams to decide how they want to accomplish these goals. Meeting the challenge is whatever the team determines it to be.

Interesting points. The way I see it FIRST has been discouraging defense for the last few years. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with using defense as part of a strategy. It is also good to see that there are rookie teams that are able to get robots on the field and do something to contribute to the game.

As far as the house analogy, if I am looking for someone to build me a house and you come to me with a plumbing design, I will refer you to the company that gets the contract for the job I am looking for (building my house)

The most important thing in this program is what the students learn and take away from it. I have heard Dean say more than once, If you think you are in a robot competition, you missed the point. (not a direct quote but you know the line) These students are learning things that they do not know they are learning.
I hope that none of them are coming away from the program thinking that that they will be rewarded for not attempting what is presented to them.
How we measure success is very different from team to team and person to person.
There are many teams out there that we all strive to have a portion of the real success that they have achieved. That can only be done by trying, and learning from those teams around us, not only in what they do well, but if we are lucky by learning from their mistakes as well as ours.