Why is "defense" allowed in FRC?


If your true feelings about robotics competitions are expressed correctly here, Fred, I think you should consider switching out of FRC entirely and joining BEST Robotics. I have participated in BEST since 2009 in Colorado and they have a robust national program, including in Texas. Robots rarely if ever interact in a BEST game, as each robot works independently in a quadrant of the field, and defensive strategies are not normally a part of the competition. http://www.bestinc.org/

It always surprises me to some extent when individuals with priorities or beliefs well outside of the explicit mission and history of FIRST decide to participate in this competition, but it happens all the time.


No true competitor wants to win a match where their opponent did not do everything legally possible to beat them. If you need to play defense, absolutely play defense, especially if your alliance partners ask you to.

I sincerely hope you do not extend your beliefs to your students because that is extremely detrimental to them, your alliance partners, and your opponents.


I’ve been telling drive team it’s not enough that they win others must lose, should I go run damage control on that?



Defense is just another part of the challenge. When designing for a game, you often first think about the scoring options. How do I pick up and place Hatch Panels? How do I score the Cargo efficiently? What crazy contraption can I use for the HAB to guarantee a ranking point? Those all should be the second thing you think about.

The biggest part of your robot will always (bar 2015) be your drive train. You could have the best HP/Cargo scoring mechanism out there, but if you can’t get to the scoring areas you will do worse than the MCC bots. If you watch any Einstein match you’ll see robots with strong drivetrains where getting to a spot on the field isn’t a matter of “can I” but “how quickly”. This is also why Mechanum hasn’t seen Einstein until recently as it is overshadowed by either more-efficient Swerve or great drivers.

I think defense is great to have in FRC as it makes teams think of their robot as a whole rather than just a few scoring mechanisms.


Actually it is the students who think this is unethical. I can’t change that. They also think having professional engineers design robots is unethical, but that horse is dead. We are apparently a very small minority and will never be successful in FRC, but they are still very proud of the robots they design and build. I hope yall can tolerate our viewpoint and that FRC can accept we prefer to do things differently. If it is any solace, we are easy to beat. Thanks again.


How would your kids react if an alliance partner asked them to play defense in a match that they needed to win in order to seed high?

Do you ignore the wishes of your partners for your personal belief system?

I would find that unethical.


Your alliance partners want to cheat to win
do you ignore your personal beliefs for the wishes of your partners?


If you read my prior post you will see I specifically said legal means of winning a match.

This is a moot point and you know it.


The difference between those two situations is that in one, a team is requesting something that is legal in the game, whereas in the other situation, the team is asking for something against the rules of the game. I don’t think those are comparable situations


I hope they would never violate their ethical beliefs due to pressure from anyone under any circumstances.


Frankly I find that ridiculous. There are other teams who you impact with your decisions.

It is a sure-fire way to end up on do-not-pick lists…but it sounds like you don’t care about that either. So I’m really not sure what to say here except good luck to your alliance partners.


Which teams have you talked to who play defense regularly? Which teams have you talked to who have professional engineers design build their team’s robot?

I’d be happy to help you reach out to some of the more successful teams, students, and mentors who have been doing FIRST for a long time. I’m sure they’d be willing to help you out or give you some insight into how their teams are organized.


I find it particularly ironic and amusing that you post about defense being unethical, but yet in 2016 at the Dallas Regional 3676 personally played defense against the #1 alliance.

Those that live in a glass house…


Edit: Because Fred is a troll who uses another team’s number on his profile… great defense 3676. Sorry that you’ve been falsely shamed because of a troll.

And here’s 3676 playing some defense by scoring in the opponent’s Switch last year… not very nice to prevent the opposing alliance from earning those points…


No one takes solace in winning against opponents who play a different game, or whose robots don’t perform as intended. My team and hundreds of others regularly send out our best students and adults to help struggling teams get their robots up and running, whether we are allied with them, against them, or never play with them at all.

Since you have been very open about your feelings and experiences (and those of your students), I will share my team’s story. When we were invited to form a team in late 2003, it became clear within a few months that we were “wanted” because the local FRC leadership needed non-white faces for PR purposes. Some of my students felt severely exploited and I was furious. We had no prior attachments to FRC, all we knew was what we saw and experienced. We went to competition with a s****y robot, we played one round, quit, and went home, figuring we would never return. It wasn’t until several years later that our complaints were heard, we were invited back under new leadership, and we dipped our toes in, but with a chip on our shoulder the size of Pike’s Peak. We called ourselves Team Ghetto Bot, to give people the middle finger.

Turned out that I was wrong about FIRST, on many levels. I thought mentors built the best robots. I thought teams were cheating to win. I thought the organization was racist. None of these things ended up being true.

If you, Fred, really feel so strongly about how unethical FRC competition is that words like “antithetical” and “repugnant” apply, I think you might want to go through a process like I did. Either A) find a different competition that more closely aligns with your beliefs (I’ve already recommended BEST); or B) quit; or C) visit with the leadership and students of teams that you suspect are unethical and repugnant. You may find, like me, that your view of how FRC competitions are designed, and how teams are run, and how students are inspired, will change. Or maybe not. In which case, this is really not the right competition for you.

In any case, I sympathize and wish you and your students well.


Oof. Been there, buddy. Investing in scouting might help. A lot of the misconceptions about what makes a robot win / a team great melt away when you start trying to make predictions and then actually see how the game shakes out. When I was a freshman, I heard endless rhetoric about how “mentor-built” robots always unfairly dominated and how box-bots were useless and detestable for resorting to defense. Doing scouting at my first regional made me realize what high-horsed bologna that was. A rookie box bot being driven by a god totally thrashed the alliance that everyone thought had the competition in the bag. And it was EPIC.

From that point onward, I knew there were no excuses. If a team whose robot just consisted of a drivetrain could be that impressive and competitive, there was no excuse for my team.

So, yeah, I really like defense. It’s terrifying and awesome and that intersection for some reason is where my personal definition of “inspiring” lies.


You should always build your robot to be able to deal with defense. Defense adds another layer of strategy to competitions, allows lower-skill/resources teams the ability to build a competitive robot that is highly attractive to a team selecting alliance partners, and creates another level of engineering challenge.

Good defense can help a less powerful (in terms of scoring) alliance win against a more powerful alliance. It’s not about bringing other people down, its about making the game more interesting, more competitive, more balanced, and creating the possibility for upsets.


FIRST is pretty up front that Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition include “fierce competition”. They use that wording multiple times on their website when defining the terms. Trying to prevent someone from doing something on the field without trying to break them is in line with FIRST’s stated vision and mission.

This isn’t allowed. G19 says any team that is trying to damage another team is suppose to get a tech foul and yellow card (or a red card if they are successful).


Luckily you can also design your robot to be a purely offensive robot (though defense can really be played with any type of drivetrain this year). In quals it is totally up to you if you want to play defense or not. But if you are picked for an elimination alliance and asked to play defense, you really should cooperate with your alliance partners.


Your students design and build robots, and are proud of their accomplishments. I think that is the definition of success. FRC has no limitations on the process you use to succeed, or what you regard as success.

The awards system in FIRST tends to operate in a more opponent-free environment. No one actively works against you getting design, programming, engineering inspiration or chairmans awards. Perhaps you can bring this up to your students as an example of how FIRST caters to many different tastes. After all, it isn’t all about the robots. If you ask FIRST, it isn’t about the robots at all.

Perhaps one of your design goals could be creating a robot that most defense is ineffective against.

I’ve have to admit though, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how a group of students viewing a FIRST competition could come to the conclusion that they want to join the team if they don’t want robot-to-robot interactions. This thread feels like a bit of troll to be honest.