Who Drives?

I know this question comes up year after year, game after game but I want to ask it again because I think this year’s game has a lot more of a risk then games in the past. My question is “how do you choose the driver?”
I have been thinking about this because several teams are getting to the point where students start driving their robot to get used to it, then teams may have driver try outs. They pick the best one there is and go from there. But after thinking of it for a while I came up with a list of how I think drivers should be chosen. Instead of basing it on skill, I think drivers should be picked based on 5 categories, Character, knowledge of the rules, knowledge of there robot, ability to handle stress, and communication skills.
I am wanting to know your guys opinions on driver selection. If it should be on a try out system or more if an evaluation of a individual. Sorry if there was already a thread on this but I think the 60inch risk factor this year will make choosing a driver a lot harder then it has in the past.

My team has found that having a programmer and manufacturer as the 2 main drives and another manufacturer as the coach works best. That’s only because we give our drives lots of time to drive because we build two bots. Try outs are always a good way to see who is best, but you need to have someone who knows how everything on the robot works in case of mechanical issue before the match. If you don’t have code/electronic issues then there is no real need for a programmer.

Skill, work ethic, listening skills, and student’s attitude should only be what determines your drivers. If you choose from all of these attributes, you are guaranteed to pick the right person for doing the job.

The same methodology goes towards how we choose our kids for scouting as well. There was some determination this season on how we can see one student performing well with scouting and not with the pressures of driving as well.

Develop your own way of going about these decisions but many teams who have seen success on the field have used these attributes for years.

One of the things I see as being important in choosing a driver is looking at their ability to listen. As a coach, it can be really frustrating when you tell your driver one thing, but they do the opposite. Sometimes that can be costly…:ahh: Also, they don’t just need to know the rules, they also need to understand different strategies involved with the game.

We are doing our drivers tests tonight. It’s a combination of a written test about the FIRST rules. Driving our 2011 robot drive base which has been being used by our programmers (it’s a mechanum base which the Electrical and Drives team wanted to go with) and interviews with the coach and team leadership to see if the candidate is worthy of representing us (remember the drives team are the team members who other teams most likely are going to come in contact with other teams, FIRST volunteers and judges. Bering talented is one thing but if they are volatile, immature, irresponsible or untrustworthy it casts a very bad light on the team. Being a FIRST Hall of Fame member that is extremely important to us.

We’ve found that successful drivers (on our team, at least), typically have three traits-- they are calm, quick-thinking, and they have as much practice as we can give them. Last year our primary driver didn’t listen at all, but he was also one of the most successful ones we’ve had in recent memory. He knew what had to be done and how to do it, and he got extremely close to bringing home our first blue banner.

I would argue that perhaps even calmness isn’t necessary, but that it really comes down to practice and quick thinking. All the drivers really have, other than their robot, is their practice, whatever rough “strategy” they can bring to the field (as much as people tout these, I think it typically comes down to “score points in whichever way we’re best at”), and their quick reactions to whatever unique circumstances are thrown their way.

That being said, there are just my experiences, having been a member of my team’s drive team, and I’m sure others have found even more successful methods.

I thought this was a silly question. the more i think about it: the more i realize that i have never had to think about it:ahh:. The driver just materializes behind the controls at some point

In addition to a good listener and a quick thinker, I believe that the best candidate as a driver would be someone that understands the robot top-to-bottom, front-to-back, upside-down, rightside-up, and on its side; one who know the capabilities and limits of the robot. This is most likely someone who has worked extensively on the design on the robot.

As for an operator, I think that the programmer would be best because then he can easily identify flaws in the program. And with the problem-solving skills of a programmer, he might be the best at assisting the driver around the field.

My two cents…

In my opinion, I think two really really good friends should do it, one having at least built or programmed the robot. (Note that I myself am a driver :cool:) Me and my friend Johnny have been drivers for 2 years now, this one is probably going to be the third, and we have learned that it isn’t who can control the robot the best, although it is good! One criteria is that you need someone who isn’t afraid to use it(like running into people, smashing people, going fast(also note that we make strong robots))! But Johnny and I have learned that because we are such good friends, we pretty much know what each other wants to do! The talking we do is minimal, and it doesn’t make much sense either, but we know what it means! The driver coach is instructed by us to point out tubes/balls/frisbees to us and give us the time. That’s it! Our talking to each other sounds pretty much like, “Johnny! get there thingy” “I know” or “Johnny!” “Okay!” or “…” “…”.

We do pretty good with what we have in the robot! We don’t build team 67 quality robots, but we do know how to use it!

Also, a good driver has to be able to know whats happening, like other robots breaking down or sometimes yours! And they need to know the risk and rewards for each action! One year, we had 5 tubes blocking us from the mini bot, but Johnny, being the main driver, knew that if you move a bunch of tubes at once, it is a hoarding penalty. He took like 100ms to think about whether he should just move the tubes to get to the mini bot or not. Anyways we just run right through the tubes and the ref was going to give us the penalty but he realized we were going to deploy the mini bot and he didn’t give us one!

Things like that make a good driver

Since we always seem to be right down to the wire during build season, it’s always been difficult to hold “driver tryouts” but as drive coach, I find it best to determine drivers as those who have worked the hardest and show leadership to their fellow students. I think the skill for driving tends to come naturally anyways.

FRC2168 has posted our drive team documents to our website:

Both documents have a lot of time invested, and are written from the opinions of our team, your mileage may vary.

I have one concern that hasn’t been mentioned here yet mainly because it is original to this years game. How do you plan on getting your robot down from a level 2 or 3 climb? Would you risk picking your second best driver because maybe he/she is bigger and stronger to help bring this robot down?
For teams that normally go with a student coach are you going to go with a mentor this year just because he/she is better able to reach up the the 2nd level.
I know we’ve all seen the drivers out there before that we could never imagine lifting a robot down from over their heads. Will this play a role in your drive team choices?

Hmm, that’s a good thing to add. Our coach made us (the drivers) work out for about 10-20 mins before we start our meetings. :stuck_out_tongue:

We have timed written tests that assure everyone on the drive team has a full knowledge of the rules. Once passing the written test, we have position tryouts to prove ability. From the time on the written and performance tryout 2 students are chosen for each position. The driver and Co-driver are excluded from robot repair during competitions and are also part of our strategy team. the commander (a student) is the only one on the drive team who knows the full functional status of the robot, we want our drivers to believe fully in the robots capability. Our drive team also has to demonstrate devotion and dependability. Each drive team has a internal checks and balances because if one person from the A team is missing/benched then the entire B team goes in.

As for the risk in climbing i’d say that’s on the strategy team more than the driver. Weigh out your risks before hand. If your team is up by 40 just hang ten (that’s on the commander), if you need the 30 then you risk the 60" fall. If the robot is 60" tall and your worried about tipping i’d say find a very calm driver or different designers.

I also tend to play loud music, flash lights and throw things during the written tests…

Here’s the only problem I have with those requirements: we already require that from our students. All of them. And if a student lacks any of them, chances are he or she isn’t on the team anymore by the time we choose our drivers.

I don’t think SPAM is unique in that we lose a certain percentage of our students throughout the school year. Usually it’s a time thing: they can’t do SPAM and all their other extracurriculars and keep their grades up. But sometimes it’s the stress of all we have to accomplish in such a short time period. And sometimes they just don’t gel well with SPAM’s culture - we’re kind of an odd bunch.

So, by the time driver selection rolls around, I’m looking for 2 things in a prospect: skill and IT.

Skill is easy to quantify through time trials and obstacle courses. You can acquire skill through practice. Last year’s driver’s have an edge if they’re still on the team, but there’s a chance a phenom rookie could unseat them.

What is IT? IT is a killer instinct. A cold-bloodedness. A desire to do what it takes to just win. You’re the QB with a minute and a half left, down by 4, ball on your own 35, no time outs, and you need this win to make the playoffs. Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, full count, two outs and you’re at bat. You’re on the free throw line with 2 shots, down 1, 2 seconds left on the clock. Finals Match 3, you need the win to qualify for Champs, 15 seconds left, if you make this triple balance you start booking hotel rooms in St. Louis, miss it and you start planning your first off-season demo at the library. IT is clutch. IT wanting the sticks in your hands - knowing they belong in your hands - when everything is on the line.

Tytus hit the nail on the head. A driver with IT will magically “materialize” behind the controls whenever it’s time to do some driving. Programmers tuning the PID? Traction test with different tread material? General driver practice? If there’s one kid who just happens to be there every time, take notice.

But IT is rare. You don’t get a driver with IT every year. I’ve had the great pleasure to work with a handful of driver’s with IT. I won’t mention names because I don’t want to embarrass anyone (but seriously… We’re about to play on Einstein in front of 15,000+ people and he’s critiquing the quality of the drum line… smh).

Skill is reliable. Measurable. Skill will take you far. But be on the lookout for IT.