Why I think having no defense was a great idea

I think that a game without defense helps the students learn more than it does with defense.

The reason is, last year when designing the robot, after every suggestion we had to evaluate if we thought it could survive constant beating during a regional. This year, we had to worry about that a lot less, don’t get me wrong it was still a consideration but it wasn’t as severe as last year. In fact, we were able to be much more creative and even have a 5 foot arm sticking behind our robot that could pick up bins from the step without mining the landfill. Even if the same length/width rules were in place in a game with defense, we never would have been able to make that arm because it couldn’t have survived being run into. FIRST is about the students, and I learned much more this year about engineering and programming than I did last year because of the creativity involved in this years game. Remember that the competition is where the students can go to show off what they’ve done, but the important part is what the students do up to that point. I would vote for the crappiest game ever if it means that the students on my team were to learn more. The competition is NOT the important part of FIRST, the students are the most important part of FIRST. The competition can help students build time-management skills when you need to fix something in the 10 minutes of pit time in between matches, and other skills, but the competition should never be the focus.
It’s For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology not For Recognition of The Best Robot.

“To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.” - FIRST Mission Statement


No Defense this year caused teams to evolve in new ways. One of those ways was cheesecake.

Cheesecaking has been around for a long time, however because more teams needed to find something different to stay relevant as the game progressed, it became much more common. One of the oldest forms of cheesecake is taking a robot that was designed to play offense and have it play defense in Eliminations.

Chew on that philosophy for awhile.

So are you for no-defense or against it?

I agree that this years game with no defense allowed teams to come up with some very different and creative designs that haven’t been used in years past. However; I do not believe that defense hinders design and engineering in any way. In the real world of engineering, designing a mechanism or device that can perform its intended task and can withstand any possible expected (or even unexpected) situation is very important.

Years with defense actually pose an equal or larger engineering challenge, because teams must design and build a robot that can manipulate game pieces while also being able to take a little bit of a beating. FIRST evened it out slightly this year by making the game piece very difficult to manipulate, so there was a higher challenge in that aspect, with a lower challenge in drive power and ruggedness.

Aside from the engineering/learning aspect, in my opinion defense is overall a more engaging game for teams, spectators, and sponsors alike.

I have often found that the coolest designs were those that were both functional and resilient. I really enjoyed seeing all the creative designs for robots this year, and a break from defense wasn’t the worst thing for FRC, but I look forward to returning to a time when I can marvel at the amazing machines that survive the torture test of FRC defense and still do amazing things. Designs like 341’s 2012 intake, 67’s entire seamless 2013 robot, and 254’s spectacularly simple 2014 machine are amazing not only because they creatively solved a problem but because they did so in a way that they were able to sustain massive hits and still perform at the highest level.

**steps on soapbox
Competition is the vehicle we use to inspire students. We work to build better robots in order to win, and through that desire to win we push ourselves to do better. When we see what we can create when driven to do better, that is inspiring stuff. I enjoyed the creativity we saw from teams this year without the defense, but now I’d like to see how we can take this creativity to the next level. That next level is continuing to be creative, but making our ideas able to survive big hits and stand up to the test of strength.
**steps off soapbox

I also really like defense like we saw in 2013. I think it is important to interact with the opposing alliance, and it adds a certain level of uncertainty regarding who will win the match. This year, after the can battles, we could basically always pick the winner before teleop even started.

[Insert quip about these being my opinions and not necessarily those of my team.]

Agreed I think 2013 was a great mix

Agreed 2013 was the best mix of defense and offense.
2014 was way too much defense.
2015 was no defense.

I get upset when teams build fantastic scoring robots and lose to inferior robots built only for defense.

Hopefully the FRC GDC finds a good balance and rewards teams for building great robots !

Our robot played 56 matches this season - that’s triple any previous amount - and it’s still going strong. I’m fairly certain that it would not have such longevity given a defensive game.

It was rather boring in our pit, since we never had to fix anything on the robot. Is that good or bad? I don’t know. It was less nerve wracking than having the robot getting damaged in matches.

I did like your robot at the AZ West regional…and I know your team was having fun!

I feel the lack of defense was the catalyst for some of the most creative designs FIRST has ever seen.

One of the things that defense does teach students about design, is being able to build resilient designs that can complete the challenge. This year saw some designs that could break fairly easily, including the first match of Einstein finals. Part of learning engineering is building designs that don’t break easily and don’t need to be fixed often.

The answer to creating the right level of defense is to insert “traffic calming” obstacles that prevent full-speed hits, and safety zones for scoring. Those could have been added to the 2014 game without changing it very much.

As for the balance of defense and offense, it is part of the competition to find a way to counter those scoring machines. 1114’s goalie bot almost stopped 254 (at least one of 254’s auton shots deflected off 1114’s goalie pole in the last final). That was perhaps the most exciting moment in 2014 and maybe for many years.

FRC is about much more than the engineering of the robots; its about the organizational challenges of real world competition. Students may not always realize that even if they build the coolest device in the world, they still have a lot more work to get it adopted for widespread use. Training your drive team, preparing in-depth scouting, creating robust strategies, and marketing your program to raise funds are all just as important as building the best robot. The teams that cover all of the elements are more likely to be successful.

That’s true.

For most teams, there are limited resources, and we have to prioritize. Since it’s a robotics competition, we usually put most of our resources into designing and building the robot. Having little or no defense allows us to have some success with this model, while allowing us to showcase our creativity.

Just… Yes.

Interestingly enough our robot had much more to fix this year between matches than last, and I think no defense had a lot to do with that.

Last year we had a robot that, until our second off-season event (for a total of four), had only one mechanical issue in the form of a broken tank tread. The only reason that we had a second issue was that the loctite holding one of our transmissions onto the frame of the robot broke loose and allowed the screws to back out slightly, causing a catastrophic failure that cut shelves into the gears and destroyed every bearing in the transmission. We had, from the start, anticipated high levels of defense with heavy contact and designed accordingly. Nothing extended outside of our frame at any point in time other than a claw with rollers to grab the ball, which was robustly constructed from 1" x 2" .125" box tubing along with two polycarbonate “fenders” that helped guide the ball and reduce side-impacts. Everything else remained completely contained within our robot frame, including our tank treads, that was constructed of 1" x 2" t-slot extrusion with corner braces. This meant that, once bumpers were installed, the driver could ram into other robots or bump into walls without fear of damaging the robot. Every item on the robot was also designed as simply as possible for the quickest turnaround times if something should break. Our entire catapult/claw assembly was held on with eight bolts, four pneumatic tubes, and one sensor wire and was actually removed between competitions as our withholding allowance to practice and iterate.

This year’s robot was a bit of a different story. Our design this year was much more complex to deal with the more specialized requirements (throwing a ball is easier than stacking totes AND handling recycling containers). We had a conveyor belt, a claw, a stacker, and a canburglar that each had its own subtle nuances. For the first time in three years we went back to using wheels and chain for our drivetrain as opposed to tank treads, which was a really nice change to be honest. This robot, however, was fairly often in need of repairs. Due to weight restrictions, we had only 4 mini-CIM’s and 2 BAG motors on the robot. The rest of our motors were RS-775’s or RS-550’s, which would burn out whenever they were stalled for a short period of time in a match or practice. We replaced the 550 in the claw four times before finding the weight to switch it to a BAG motor, and the stacking Raw Box ate up at least 3 775’s in testing before PID issues had been sorted out. Our “crowder” rails that we used to center totes on our conveyor belt burned another 3 550’s. The claw itself was frequently “tweaked” by the driver when he picked up the recycling containers located near the alliance wall, and the canburglar’s CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-off But Arrested Recovery system, really just multiple wraps of surgical tubing around a lever arm with more tubing to dampen the impact upon the can) tore up both the driver’s hand while it was being loaded and the gears it was linked to when it was fired on one occasion. This was after a season where the only time a wrench touched the robot was to replace a broken tread that had been improperly tensioned, and it was just due to a shift in the design process. This year we designed for more complex mechanisms as opposed to those that would withstand a hit, and I actually enjoyed the change from a design standpoint. It was the best engineering challenge I’ve been involved with since I joined FRC, and that includes our 14 second pyramid climber in 2013.

While it was a fun change of pace to design for, I do not think that no defense should happen again in the near future, or at least not in this manner. The lack of robot interaction other than the initial can battles made for a less interesting game to outside observers. Last year we threw exercise balls up to 60 feet in the air, this year we just stacked what appeared to be shipping containers and trash cans. No defense has it’s place and I think every FRC student should get to experience a game like this one, but I think a game can still have interaction between opposing alliances without “defense” being involved. A game where the goal is to have as many gamepieces on the opposing side of the field at the end of the match as possible, for example, would provide a no-defense challenge that also ensures an exciting spectator experience.

Agreed like in 2010 alliances would just have goalies that would literally just put themselves in a opposing goal and the best scoring robots couldn’t do anything.

Thanks! Yours was really cool too.

I agree with this. One of the most exciting parts about last year was the truss shots to a human player or another robot, to see how the robots interacted was very exciting.

In 2010 only one defensive robot could be in the zone containing the goals.

Count me in the minority that agrees with the original poster! Not having to worry about physical defense or strict size restrictions was really awesome for all the reasons stated.

I really enjoyed the challenge this year’s game provided our team as we considered possible strategies in the days after kick-off. As valuable as the actually competition is in terms of learning feedback, I think that just as valuable for student learning (and my enjoyment of the season) is the amazing cerebral challenge of analyzing a new game.

Yes, every year provides this. However, by eliminating robot-to-robot contact and defining separate alliance zones the GDC this year unleashed a refreshing set of new opportunities and challenges to consider. I think they did an excellent job in prompting teams to think freshly. For this kudos to the game designers.

I’ve never witnessed so much excitement in the community about a reveal video as that generated by 148’s release. I really enjoyed watching it with my students as it showed elegantly out-of-the-(FRC)box thinking. Such an innovative design would have never come about in a more typical game that included defense.

I don’t think there is a “right” amount of offense/defense balance for a “good” game. I hope that the GDC keeps mixing it up year-to-year. It is healthy for the level of student learning. Every game should be refreshingly different; I have no problem with some games being at the extreme ends on the continuum of amount of opportunities to play defense. On a four year cycle of student participation it is desirable to have a variety of games. We all learn more that way.

I would enjoy having another of this same kind some year in the future.