What To do for scouting?

So this is our first year getting serious about scouting and would like to get input from all the other teams about the best way to go about this. What should we do during the competition? ( Right now we are planning on going to every team in the regional and asking them about the capabilities of their robot).

What else should we do during the days leading up to the competition? How do we help get our team name out there to higher our chances of getting recognized by other teams and being selected for the playoffs?

How did your teams scout in previous years and what do say are the do’s and don’t of scouting?

In the days leading up to an event, one thing that should always be done is to prep your scouting materials, which can include the following things:

  • Stand scouting sheets (explained below)
  • Pit scouting sheet (explained below)
  • Team List (Optional)

You should at least have some pit scouting sheet that has all the info that you would like to know about a robot, and use this to find out info on other teams. I do this, but I also prefer first-hand data, which I will talk a bit about below. If possible, I also like to have a grip on the teams that will be there, like things that are nice to know if they are on your alliance and if they are against you. This means that, if you can (ie you have the time and the videos are available), watch match videos of the other teams at your event.

At the event, if possible, have people in the stands watching matches and recording data for the teams in those matches. You can do this electronically or via paper (for a team new to scouting I would reccomend paper, which we still use). The way that we like to set up our sheets is that we have one sheet for every team and enough places on the sheet to track your wanted data for 12 matches. I would reccomend that you at least get some data like this, even if you can’t have 6 students in the stands watching matches for the entirety of the event.

One note on this is that if you decide to use stand scouting, give your scouters some breaks. For example, we have our scouters on a rotation, so they only have to scout about 15 matches per rotation. It is difficult to get good data if your scouters are burnt out of scouting.

For this setup, you also need to have a person in the stands that is managing all of these papers. As in, they prep the papers for the matches so the scouters can get a paper and watch, without worrying about getting the right paper. This person is also responsible for providing data for the strategy person on your team (who might be the same person) to come up with strategies to propose to alliance partners.

A final comment on this: your scouters will probably not be able to see the direct effects of their scouting. So, when your team does well because of something that they did, make sure to point that out to them so that they feel that their contributions matter. It’s a good way to keep morale in the stands high.

As to your other question: if you want to get picked, you have to prove your worth on the field. In addition, be nice to all of your alliance partners because you never know. Another option for this is to do one thing really well, especially if that thing is in high demand. For example, if your driver is really good at playing defence, show that off, because other teams will take notice.

If you have any questions about this, feel free to respond and I can answer them.

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Pit scouting (talking to the teams about their capabilities) is something, but the real value in scouting is match observation scouting. There are a lot of ways to do this, but it enables you to see what they can actually do. Many teams tend to overestimate their capabilities in the pits (you get what they want to believe they can do, not necessarily what they actually can do on a field with defense).

In terms of what you can do to get recognized, basically be good on the field and be easy to work with. We have picked teams we’ve never heard of before the event because when we saw what they were doing on the field it was good and complemented our capabilities usefully. Get your drivers as much practice as you can between now and your event, and get everything tuned and working.

My recommendation for you is either a) paper scouting or b) find a team at your event to partner with on scouting. If you were attending either of the events we’re doing this season I’d offer to partner with you, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. If you’re a small team working alone, gathering qualitative notes on all the teams may be a better choice than trying to record full quantitative performance data (because quantitative data isn’t worth much if you have gaps in accuracy and completeness). We’ve found the sweet spot on scouting rotations is to change scouts every 10-15 matches so the scouts don’t lose focus, and to stagger rotation so you’re not changing all of your scouts at once.

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In the fall I taught a workshop about strategy and scouting. Here’s the scouting half of the workshop.
Scouting.pdf (793.6 KB)

Quick advice about talking to other teams about their robots:
Almost every team at an event with greatly exaggerate their robot’s performance. In 2017 we scouted teams from the pits and from the stands. In the pits, most teams would tell us that they were “averaging 5-7 gears in a match” when in actuality the best robot at the event was averaging about 3. So, in the pits, limit your questions to objective facts about the robot that will actually be useful to you. For us this year, it’s “What do you weigh?” and “Can you fit under the trench?” That’s it.

If you want objective facts about the performance of robots, you have to watch from the stands and track how well they do.

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It’s helpful to have pit scouting data about, for example, what basic capabilities the robot has (do they have a mechanism for climbing, etc.) so you know whether something is defective or simply something they chose not to design for. Also helpful is taking photos of the robots-- it helps scouts during matches recognize and track the bot they’re supposed to be watching.

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What you describe is pit scouting. It works for objective stuff, but to put it bluntly, teams lie. They will always try to oversell their robot (it’s usually not on purpose, though. Members just get mixed up on design goals vs. design achievements.). I like what the other people have said about pit scouting.
If you’re trying to start scouting now, get data from each match on what each robot does. In the time between the end of your competition season and the beginning of the next one, look into getting some scouting tablets. They can be expensive, but tablet scouting is a lot better than paper scouting, in my opinion. You don’t have a poor overworked kid trying to read messy handwriting and put it all in some spreadsheet with tablet scouting.

As for how to get yourself picked, look at how the competition is going. I am from a team in Michigan, so I go to districts, but I think most regional have qualifications over two days. Play your best during the first day. If you realize that you aren’t going to get high in the rankings at the end of the first day, change your strategy to something most high-level teams won’t live without: defense. If you can show off that you can play good defense, teams will look for that.

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This honed from seeing the best as RAS in St Louis: Keep it simple: Watch the games… take notes. “Does that team help you win?” (in eliminations)

Giving away an obvious secret…to better overall scouting in 2020…

It is no secret this game is won in AUTO and lost in HANG…so track that

No APP algorithm is going to beat tracking best auto and most consistent hang and all the rest barely matters in the grand scheme of things …be good notetakers “what does the team do?”

There are other complex nuances but for your first time… this advice puts you near top of “scouting things” and your own 28 deep list is of great value to others. Think like a captain. Find those that help you. Scout hard your own team (on field) they are just a number and have to impress you. Because frankly you have to have them on your elimination alliance .

#1 rule to always hold : scouts don’t care about rank, just what teams help your team win?

Regionals are 3 days. One full practice day, 1 full and morning half of 3rd’s day are qualifications and the rest of 3rd is elims.


For those that said Pit scouting: When do you think pit scouting is the best? Teams always put things on, take things off and sometimes barely use the mech (us included) which leads me wishing that the pit scouters could pit scout sometime before elims and after a good amount of quals.

All of the teams above gave great scouting advice. Our team is big on scouting. We have a website dedicated to scouting that has a lot of helpful advice (https://www.cpr3663.com/). Here are a few key suggestions:

  1. Pit scouting is a great place to meet teams and get to know them. Like the others saud above, it’s helpful to take their descriptions with a huge grain of salt.

  2. Objective, quantitative data from the matches is crucial. We’ve tried paper and pencil, apps, and Scantron sheets. Each have their pros and cons but we currently like the Scantron sheet because it has most of the strengths of an app with the flexibility of paper and pencil. It takes some setup.

  3. In our website, we have suggestions about how to scale scouting to the size of your scouting team. If you don’t have enough scouters, you may want to donate scouters to another team in order to get access to their data. Arrange this a couple of weeks before the competition.

  4. Have some qualitative scouting that assesses ball pickup and handling, driving ability, defensive ability, and climbing ease and speed. We grade this simply on an A to E scale. Don’t write too much - you don’t have time to read it later. I like to keep this information in Excel.

  5. When you figure out how you are going to collect and analyze the data at the competition, do a dry run watching Week Zero or Week 1 competitions to see how it all works out. When you are at competition, it often moves so fast it is too late and cumbersome to try to figure out your processes then.

  6. Have a strategy mapped out for your alliance for every match. Coordinate and negotiate a plan with your partners.

  7. Use defense wisely. Great places to defend are between an opponent’s loading station and their trench (if they go under the wheel of fortune), their trench and their shooting area, and before and after the rendezvous area. Watch to make sure you give a fairly wide berth to your opponent’s loading and shooting areas. Those tech fouls are worth a full 5 ball, 3 point shooting cycle each. Bots that can’t shoot can wreak havoc against otherwise good offensive bots.

  8. Understand that in early competitions, Auto and End game will usually win the match. People focus a lot on Tele-Op - which is important - but it is a significantly smaller percentage of the match’s points early on. It will be crucial to be good at Tele-Op at later competitions.

Good luck!

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Win!

Be unique/rare in a “good way” like gear auto/climb every time…be rare/unique and offer a winning viewpoint and have a really good “pick list” make it easy to select you as an asset… this combo works for us. Teams need to “want you” to pick you (if not picking yourself) we only missed elims twice in so cal rookie and one other mishap. Otherwise picking or desired over time.

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Drive practice, drive practice, drive practice. Even if your robot is not super effective at scoring, if your drive train is robust and your driver demonstrates great strategic thinking and control in what they do, that can make the difference in whether the top 2 alliances who have great scorers pick you. For example, show that you know your opponents weaknesses when you defend. Don’t just wander the field. Be purposeful in where you are going and why you are doing it. So many teams who can score some but can’t drive well have been passed over for less effective robots because the driver is so good. Also, demonstrate that your team is easy to work with. If you have the reputation for being the team that doesn’t participate in the strategy in qualification rounds, you’ll be put on the audience list for eliminations.

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What does this mean?

italics for emphasis

2471 2018 would like a word

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The audience list is the opposite of being on the field in the playoffs.

When you play with other teams in qualifying matches, and you don’t do what you and the other teams agreed to do in the pre match strategy discussion, you won’t get picked for playoffs.

We have had teams come around at comp after most quals, and before elims (not very often, but it has happened), so there are teams who do this.
While we havent been in the position many times, when we might be/are an alliance captain, we will commonly go around to teams who have stood out to us and re-pit scout them. We do still like to pit scout at the beginning though. Any changes to that data can be seen through match scouting. If you dont have the man-power for match scouting (we have not until this year), simple observation of the field by drive team or other members can easily serve to see a big difference in a robot’s performance. We try to match our scouters up with teams, rather than pit sections or multiple matches in a row. By doing this, it allows those people to become familiar with the robot, increasing the chances that they’ll notice if something is different. This may not work for some teams for whatever reason, but it works quite well for us. The only tedious thing is going through the match schedule and making sure everyone knows when to scout.

I hope this helped a bit, or at least sparked some ideas.

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