What Are Some Incentives for Scouting and How to Promote Scouting Culture

Scouting is a very important thing to do during the game. We are trying to solve the following problems:
-How to get more people to do scouting?
-How to make sure students pay more attention to scouting?
-How to make scouting more fun?

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Boy do I have the thread for you! Your scouts hate scouting and your data is bad: Here’s why

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^ I would definitely read that thread, has a bunch of great suggestions.

Personally, I think the one way to keep scouts engaged is to stress the importance of scouting to your scouts before even arriving to the competition. At least on our team, the strategy department realizes that competitions are where our department shines, and most of the amazing work we do mid-competition is directly influenced by our scouting data. All of our match strategies, alliance selections, and elims strategies are started by looking at our database. By having scouts realize this, they will most likely take the job more seriously.

In regards to making it more fun, it is really hard to stay excited about scouting for 8 hours straight. If you can, I would try to get a couple of extra scouts and create rotations, like some teams have for people in the pits. Giving people a five match break to walk around, watch matches without scouting, and interact with other teams in the pits does wonders. In addition, having scouts try to become professionals in the robot that they are scouting is a great idea. It really helps when your match strategist or person looking at your database asks scouts for their opinions, as then they can feel like they actually have a voice and are contributing in a meaningful way. Being asked about a certain robot is really exciting, as you can go into great detail and show off how much you know.

I think it really comes down to making scouting seem like less of a chore and more of an important job that makes or breaks the team’s competition(Although this can be scary), but preparing scouts beforehand by scouting competitions online helps a ton. Finally, you should tell your scouts that they have prepared for this and that they are the best people on the team doing this job.

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I think all too often teams use scouting just for alliance selection - this can make it seem worthless to all but 8 teams at the event, and more of a chore / busy work than anything else. Find a way to integrate scouting into match prep, so your scouts are an extension of your drive team. That makes what they do important to every match you participate in, and lets you set goals for each match cycle, in addition to the overall goal for alliance selection - we need to know all about these 5 teams, they’re the one’s we’re playing with next.

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Work a lot on UX in your scouting software. Make sure the input is well-designed and not too taxing to use.

Making your scouting software “idiot-proof” is also important. It makes it hard to produce bad data which prevents mentors from getting upset.

Let people know theyre doing a good job!

And it’s impossible to completely “idiot-proof” your software, however:

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I agree. At Houston this year, we ended up rank 48th, but we still scouted every match, and the data we collected greatly helped us create strategies for each qual match. Scouting isn’t just about picking teams, it also maximises your potential during qualifications.

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I think one of the most important realizations I had was how important it is to include scouts in decisions that are made using the data they are collecting. We always had our scouters write comments about the robot they scouted so they have a chance to voice their opinion in a way we can easily use. Keeping them informed and encouraging their participation and feedback helps them realize how important the role actually is. Their also tends to be a disconnect between the stands and the pit, so keeping a constant line of communication that isn’t just a vague text like “the robot broke” helps.

To get more people scouting, making scouting more complex and in depth than just tally’s on a piece of paper helps. Making use of data visualization tools, excel/google sheets, and having different mediums available can make people more interested in it long term. That also goes with making scouting more fun. While scouting does become tedious at competitions you can limit the tedium by attempting to visualize it for scouters in real time. If you have the membership numbers I also strongly suggest doing scouting shifts. We did our shifts in intervals of 10 matches and we would encourage students to go and explore the pits or the venue during their breaks. This makes it easier to comeback to the stands and scout again and allows for fun and social bonding in a sometimes very stressful environment.

Hopefully anything I just said helps lol I just kinda started typing my thoughts on this.

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I think regardless, shifts are vital. Scouting for long periods of time is draining in it’s own way and we all have human needs. Teams can scale their scouting efforts to meet their resources - instead of 1 scout per robot, teams can pivot to one (or two) scout per alliance with a more limited set of things to collect. I’ve been on teams that have done this (I think 1296 did this in 2017). It’s not preferred and might require some practice to get the hang of, but it works.

The other option is joining a scouting alliance - my high school team did this in 2010 and 2011 with different teams. The general idea was that whoever had the database would train the scouts how to use their system, and then each team was responsible to provide some number of scouts per match. Everyone has access to the data. As a very small team (think 10-15 people), this was the best possible solution for us.

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Hello! I cannot stress enough all the good suggestions above. We’ve found that BUY IN at the scouter level is key. If you have graphics, charts, data, etc. from past seasons, share that with the team and stress the importance of the data collected that feeds those charts and the decisions based on those charts. If you don’t have enough team members to dedicate to a scout team, we’ve found that forming a “scouting alliance” with other teams at a competition has been very useful. We also have nice folding stadium seats and a special “scouting stand treat bag” that anyone scouting has privy to. We did a scouting alliance with 4 other teams last season and it turned out great, forming some great friendships across teams they wouldn’t have otherwise crossed paths.

We make it clear that scouting can win tournaments. Then we tell the story of how we won Iowa in 2019 by picking a very low ranked bot for our second pick that did exactly what we needed it to do and we knew that by scouting.

We then emphasize how it also helps with match strategy. Knowing the strong opponents that need defense, knowing how fast your allies can climb and if they can take that extra second for a shot or defense.

We also promote it as your competition role on the team. The drivers have and obvious role in winning matches, the pit crew has a role, but everyone else can also help win by taking their turns in the scouting rotation. We create a scouting schedule and you are expected to be there to take your turn.

In addition we do give prizes to our best performing scouts.

@saatb is really our scouting guru and can correct or expand on anything I said. But to sum up, emphasize the value, treat it as an expectation, and reward dedication.

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Biggest key to making scouting good: Make the scouter feel like their efforts are valued, because they are!

What I’ve seen is most people who don’t like scouting feel that way because their contributions aren’t as immediate as pit-crewing or driving. Maybe they feel like whoever assigned them to scouting thought they weren’t smart or fast enough to help in the pits. The key is stressing how important scouting really is. Use reasons like “it lets us make better strategies because we know what to expect from our opponent”, or “it lets us make the best possible decisions to give us the highest chance of winning” so it makes them feel like they are contributing to the team’s success. Also, don’t make the data collection too meticulous unless your scouters want it that way. Having too much data input can overwork your scouters and make it feel like a slog because you are tracking too many numbers, and not able to enjoy the matches as they happen. Use simple data points to keep the burnout to a minimum.

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I just replied to emphasize this part. The quest for more data can seem like you will be able to make better decisions, but the more inputs you have the lower your accuracy becomes and the less people want to use the system.

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Shifts really are key and can help solve both this and other problems. Once all of our leadership roles are assigned we will put the rest of the team into three groups and have them do a rotation of scouting, pit support and a break. It really helps younger members get a full feel of the competition. We will have 2 veterans that are scouting captains who are in charge of organizing the team members on shifts and at least one of them will always be with the scouting crew.

To expand on what Brad said here:

At the start of the year when we do an overview of the subteams for new members, we put emphasis on how scouting has gotten us to Houston both times we’ve gone now, and that scouting is necessary if we want to go back!

I show them how the data they collect goes into our Tableau dashboards, and how we use that data for match strategy and alliance selection. I make sure to repeat that it’s the data they’re collecting that allows us to have all of this insight on the other teams at the competition, and that without them this wouldn’t be possible.

At competitions, everyone not busy in the pit is expected to scout in the stands. We run 1 scout per bot, and rotate shifts every 5 matches. We try our best to put friends together on scouting shifts, so that they can enjoy their breaks together as well. We have comfy bleacher chairs for the scouts, as well as snacks.

Scouts can come to our pick list meetings and give input, since they’re the ones that have been watching the matches and know about the robots here. Before alliance selection, if we’re having trouble deciding between two robots or something, I ask the scouts for their opinion.

Then, at the end of the year when we have our celebration ceremony, we give out prizes to the scouts. Everyone gets a prize, but the most accurate ones get cooler stuff.

Brad nailed it with his summary: make sure the scouts know their importance, make sure they know it’s an expectation, and make sure they’re rewarded.

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I think it is great to get newer team members involved in scouting early. They will get to see different teams approach the game from a different perspective than your team approached it. This helps them become better at understanding Game Strategy at Kickoff as they read the Game Manual.

A few years ago I started working on this scouting tool: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sUbGGYIPTf4TcYKd23teUpw4pM_SN03JtdrcbRp1qmQ.

This is not a full scouting system. It only does the data collection, and it requires you to copy the results into a data collection tool, like paper forms or Google Forms.

The two features that I think are relevant to this discussion are

  • Limited Data Entry, and
  • Easily Adaptable to a new Game.

There are a limited number of ways to enter data, so the scouting team really has to think through of all the data they want and pair it down to only the handful are going to be really useful in your scouting goals (Match Strategy and Alliance Pick List). As many have already said, a big disincentive is trying to collect too much data that confuses the analysis or leads to a perception that the scouts wasted a lot of time with data that was never used. A fun, easy way to collect the few key pieces of data will incentivize your scouts to enjoy scouting.

The micro:bit pocket-sized computer can be programmed using Microsoft MakeCode with no prior experience in coding. This means from Kickoff, new team members can be part of the Scouting Team. They can take responsibility for developing the code used in this tool even if they have never programmed anything before. They get to try out programming without getting dumped into the very complicated code for the competition robot. They get to learn the intricacies of the game, even though they’ve never been in FIRST before. They get to provide value during events without getting pushed out of the way in the pits by the experienced team members.

The micro:bit programming is so adaptable that it can be changed overnight, on the lunch break, or even between a couple matches. If you get to an event and watch a handful of Practice Matches and realize that you’re scouting for the wrong information, in 15 minutes you can restructure the programming in this tool and be back in the bleachers practicing with a new scouting system before Qualification Matches start. Scouts don’t have to feel trapped in a scouting system that doesn’t appear to be helping once they’ve seen the gameplay developing on the field.

Yes! Scouting alliances can be a really great tool for teams that don’t have the numbers or resources. It just requires a bit of coordination between the teams and what a scouting “alliance” actually implies between the teams. 3197 and 2338 traded data in 2022 and it was very helpful to compare those data sets even though we could’ve run entirely solo.

Something that I found helpful on 2102 was always bringing 1 or 2 less experienced scouts into each picklist meeting so that they could get a fuller picture of how their work affects the team. It sucks to sit in the stands for 8 hours a day and then just leave; everyone wants to feel like they’re making an impact.

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100%! We invite all scouts to our pick list meetings so that they can see their data in use. Seeing the notes they took impact a decision the entire team makes can definitely help them realize the value of their job in the stands.

For team 102, we [the mentors] always always emphasize at competitions that Everyone Has A Job. And if your job isn’t drive team or pit crew, then your job is scouting.

+1 to all the previous replies for setting up shifts. Team 102 uses Scoutradioz for scouting; the app sets up shifts based on the schedule (pulled from The Blue Alliance API) and the number of scouts available at an event. If there are at least 12 scouts, the Scouting Lead usually does 5 matches on, then a break for 5 matches, then 5 matches on, etc. When there are less than 12 scouts, they’ll do something like 6 matches on, 3 matches off, or whatnot. The Scouting Lead sometimes also puts scouting alliance partners, or parents, or whatnot into the rotation if/when people are volunteering.

Ease of use is also key. The app has the scouts use their mobile devices, with easy +/- buttons for tracking most actions, and the match scouting form (as guided by the Drive Lead) is usually necessary-but-not-too-much data. There’s also usually a “Notes” free text box, and some of the scouts really lean into writing up qualitative observations. :slightly_smiling_face:

There’s also audit functions in the app to keep track of…

  1. Who has been successfully scouting all their matches, and also
  2. It can roughly catch who (if anyone) is putting in bad data [i.e., finding discrepancies between the per-alliance stats from TBA and the scouts’ data]

Which means the mentors & the Scouting Lead can call out the scouts who had 100% coverage - that is, they didn’t miss any of their assignments - with the least amount of errors/discrepancies. Praise for a good job always helps!

And the app has live metrics and analytics based on the scouts’ data - not only does it benefit the drive team during quals, but the scouts can also track metrics, trends, see upcoming match predictions, and the like based on the data they are collecting.

All in all, the team members in 102 are really good about having the scouting job and doing it well. The members are expected to scout, and get props for doing it well… they can see the fruits of their labor in real time as the event progresses… and they know the analytics in the app can highlight if someone is blowing it off or doing it badly. :laughing:

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I’m certain that these suggestions aren’t anything new:
We take everyone on the team; however, everyone must have a job.
Scouting is one that doesn’t take technical knowledge (pit) or drive team.

We utilize 2 scouting squads of 6 (1 for each robot). We’ve tried 3 squads, but time between scouting seems to get away from the scouts resulting them being late returning to the stands. It was the Scouting Cap and Lead Scouts that decided to reduce to 2 scouting squads.
Our scouts scouts will have a 30 minute on/30 minutes off rotation.
We prefer timed cycles rather than scouting 5 or 6 matches - we’ve experienced the field suddenly timing out for 5 minutes to an hour. A timed rotation makes it more equitable.
With very few exceptions, most of our scouts are committed. We always tell our scouts that their data is vital for the team.

We offer scouts water, a snack or two.