Your scouts hate scouting and your data is bad: Here's why

Wonderful advice , we realized most of the points you wrote here and adapted after having really bad scouting data in our first event, after that we had a talk with the scouting team and explained the importance of their work , then in our the second event the data was great and the kids felt appreciated.

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Yes. Yes. Yes.

I had to give a Senior a hard talk because he was egging on our driver when my other coach was directing him otherwise. Basically talking back. Only people that should be giving instruction to drivers is the designated adult and student coaches. Not saying scouts can’t talk to drivers but I expect that the student coach would hear and approve any strategy suggestions. Okay, back to thread.

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Omg thank you so much. I have been wondering for a while how to tell my coach how unappreciated scouting is, and how no one on the team really respects us, but i think that if i show him this post, maybe we can change the way the team thinks about the scouters. Thanks so much for the amazing info!

I understand the value of people scouting, being a scouting mentor myself, but if my team is having robot trouble then the position that I most need my top mechanical guy is in the pit, not scouting. He can go scout another match right now I need him fixing my robot. There will always be other times to scout. Team members should be filling the rolls where they can be best utilized at the time.

If you believe that everyone should scout, which I personally don’t, then that’s fine; however, make sure your finding the right time for them to do so.

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Some other thoughts for me regarding scouting, since rejoining my old team 3 years ago as a mentor. We have been a captain 4 out of the 6 regional events that we competed at. And were fortunate enough to win 2 of those events.

Both of the events that we were able to win, our scouting data provided a pivotal role. Without it we would not have won these events because our data about the teams attending was very good, and we would not have picked the teams we did without the data. We made sure that in our team debriefs both on the bus home, and once we returned to the shop to emphasize the role that scouts played in getting us that data that we needed to pick those teams, and that without it we would not have been successful.

We open our scouting meetings to all those that feel that they would have knowledgeable data or insights to contribute. We also have as many members of the drive team on hand as well, because even though they don’t scout matches, their perspective behind the glass lends insights that no scouting data could ever tell you. Such as personalities of the other drive teams, willingness to cooperate on strategy, sticking to the predetermined strategy, etc. Also they can contribute things like robot x played really good defense that was hard to get around.

I think that the point about sharing the data sheets for each match with all is interesting, and maybe something we look at for the future. We’ve never considered that they might want to see the data and as such have never given them the option to see it. We do invite them to the scouting meeting though and they could see the data then.

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Readers seem to misunderstand what I mean by that/my intended audience.

If your team has a bad culture around scouting, then I think everyone should scout.
This does not mean that everyone scouts the same amount of matches - more just that everyone scouts at least one match.

I think of it like this:
If the only people you tell to take out the garbage are freshman, then you are creating a culture where taking out the garbage is “beneath” some people (upper classmen). If you make everyone take out the garbage, then the message is “the garbage needs to be taken out.”

I think scouting is often seen as the competition version of “taking the garbage out.” If there are people on your team who think they are “above” scouting, then that is a problem. If scouts are highly trained and non-scouts would ruin everything, then obviously the culture around scouting is probably not problematic.

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That or “the job you get when all the good jobs are taken”.

Some additional context about my quote a few messages above - I was impressed that the team took their own philosophy of “everyone shall have a part in scouting” so seriously that they were all willing to stick to their guns and keep the mechanical guy on his scouting shift even though the robot could have been higher priority. It’s easy to ascribe to a set of ideals and then throw that all away when it’s inconvenient for you. I was impressed at how the team stuck to their principles.

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I still feel the “everyone scouts” approach is problematic. Anytime you force someone to scout (or do any task), you’re going to get terrible results. It takes a culture shift. The team must understand the importance of scouting.
The change must come from the adult leadership. If a team manager/lead mentor uses scouting as punishment - the team will never collect good scouting data.
The mentors must recognize and applaud the efforts of the scouting team - do that and the culture will change.

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Most of my team doesn’t really enjoy scouting. Now, to be fair, this is mostly because it takes up their “walking around the venue and awkwardly smiling at other teams while looking at their robots” time. But, I personally love scouting. Our scouting forms have fields for cargo and hatches scored, starting position, sandstorm scoring, climb capability, defense played, defense endured, etc. Then, all those values get inputted into a color-coded spreadsheet. This spreadsheet then connects to other sheets in which the data is managed and presented in a way that assists us in making a list of alliance partner picks. Scouting all these robots is really awesome because it gives you an idea of what other teams did to tackle the same problem.

Also my team makes sure the scouters know how important they are

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With all due respect we’ve experienced literally hundreds of examples of data winning matches. Sometimes data clearly points to which bot should play which role. Sometimes it tempers the claims of a team thinking their robot is more capable than they have demonstrated. That is OK if they just fixed something on the practice field etc. If I had a dollar for every team that said “we can do this” and our reply was “our scouting data says you have not done that yet, what changed?” we could fund next season! Often it leads to helping a team understand what makes them incur penalties. And on and on and on …

Data is very important. It does win games especially when complemented by astute observations by students and mentors who know the game.

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FWIW, 225 only has one official leadership position right now (Scouting Captain).

Probably around ~80% of our competition wins happen primarily because of good data and analysis of that data, which we can continue to get because scouting has been clearly attributed to resulting in said competition wins.

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While you have many valid points, not everyone hates scouting. My team is perfectly fine with my scouting system because I built it based on their requests. A lot of data is bad because it gets mixed up in processing. The past 2 years we were using third party apps for scouting, which would always mix up what’s what and negatively impact our choice list, and those years we did pretty bad in eliminations, we didn’t have the right combo of teams on our alliance and lost in quarterfinals. This year our team custom built our own app for scouting, controlling what we wanted and how we wanted the data to be saved. This kept everything separate and orderly, and we were able to actually read the data and make informed decisions about who we wanted for alliance selection. It helped us make it almost to finals, though we were knocked out in semifianals on false ref calls that they refused to recall even when we proved they were wrong.

In my opinion, one of the most effective way to improve scouting and collect good data is making your own system that collects what you want instead of having extra unessesary data that mixes with everything else to create one big mess that no one can read.

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Could you elaborate on this point? Do you collect the data points that the scouts you suggest you collect? Or are you speaking in terms of interface or something else?

I’m confused and scared by this sentiment. Out of curiosity, what third party apps are you using that inaccurately store data? I have serious suspicions about this claim. But if you think that you collected good data that would have led to a good elimination alliance and this was hindered by a malfunctioning third party app, we ought to know what that app is so that we do not use it ourselves. I’ve never heard of a database mixing up data before in this scope.

Ah, perhaps this is the crux of your argument. Are you simply making the claim that you collected data and did not know how to read it accurately with the third party app?

I only ask all of these questions because making your own app is not something within the scope of every team. And oftentimes, even if a team can make their own app, it doesn’t mean they should.

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Could you elaborate on this point? Do you collect the data points that the scouts suggest you collect? Or are you speaking in terms of interface or something else?

Both things. Our team had meetings to decide what data we wanted to collect, and also how people wanted the app to work.

I’m confused and scared by this sentiment. Out of curiosity, what third party apps are you using that inaccurately store data? I have serious suspicions about this claim. But if you think that you collected good data that would have led to a good elimination alliance and this was hindered by a malfunctioning third party app, we ought to know what that app is so that we do not use it ourselves. I’ve never heard of a database mixing up data before in this scope.

With one of the apps, there was an issue with data having the wrong label, but it was fixed in an update after we switched apps (I was keeping track of it). The other had issues saving data in a readable format, saving it as one huge block, not separating it out (though it was decipherable with work as to what was what), this ties in to the next part:

Are you simply making the claim that you collected data and did not know how to read it accurately with the third party app?

with it being very hard to make sense of.
I don’t remember the names of the apps.

And oftentimes, even if a team can make their own app, it doesn’t mean they should.

I’m not saying teams have to make their own app for scouting, I’m just saying that that’s what worked for our team, and that for teams to have good scouting and data they need to find the thing that works for them. It helps to find things (like this thread) that would have useful information they could use, but they don’t have to follow everything it says. They can change it to suit them.
There are also a lot of posts that say people need to do exactly what the post says in order to have something be good. This is not true. It’s different for everyone.

We have used a paper system ever since we began scouting in earnest. We have lead scouts who inputs the data into Excel.
We have seen several teams have problems with apps (but, that’s a different story).
However, we haven’t been without our problems. During our first regional the lead scouts forgot to save the data and lost everything they submitted. Luckily, it was a paper system and they just re-entered the data.
At our second regional, the external battery wouldn’t charge the data computer. Still don’t know why. So the lead scouts spent most of their time along a wall next to a AC outlet.
At both regionals, we shared our data with other teams.

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Agreed!
We make suggestions through our drive mentor. We will ask the drive why they did something unexpected or unusual, but direction for that team must come from one source.

Hey Katie, first off, awesome post. Matches many of my observations but also had a few insights and ideas I’d never considered before.

I wanted to ask about this. I’ve been a part of a lot of good picklist meetings, but not big ones. How do you manage a picklist meeting with a lot of people?

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We try to pre-prepare as much as possible. Have all your data entered into whatever database or spreadsheet system you use, whether collected by an app or transcribed from paper. Run whatever formulas so you can quickly see the data you care about for any given team.

What you want to avoid is this scenario:

“Ok what about team 9997?”
“Um which one are they again?”
“The green and black one with the swerve drive”
“Wait but aren’t they a cargo only robot?”
“That’s what my sheet says…”
“No I’m certain I saw them place a hatch in one of the matches I scouted.”
“Are you sure? My data says they’re cargo only.”
“Does anyone have a picture handy?”
“Here let’s pull up their reveal video on YouTube…”

Repeat for every single team at the event…

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My team also has scouting meetings open to the whole team, and usually almost everyone (~20-25 kids) comes.

I think the biggest key is cracking down on side conversations. Before we start I emphasize that anything on-topic needs to be shared with the whole group, don’t break down into “what about that one team” whispering with the person next to you, and anything off-topic shouldn’t be said. Throughout the meeting if I start hearing whispers I’ll call them out.

Then we mostly turn it over to the scouting captain, who will pitch specific questions to the group, like “who were the top high-rocket robots” or “what do y’all think about team xxxx?”. We use a scouting app, so making our lists of the best hatch bots, best climbers, etc is usually pretty straightforward, and human input in the meeting mostly comes in the form of challenging the list that falls out of the data (such as “yeah, their average is good but they didn’t move in their last two matches”). Often a couple scouters do most of the talking, but I still think it’s good for morale to not make the meeting exclusive.

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Side conversations cannot be permitted, we had to go to the length of giving one member a time-out when on their 5th time they refused to stop the side discussions. There is a very specific goal in mind during scouting pick meetings and while everyone is welcome to contribute, the discussion must be directed and one at a time. Everybody needs to get back to a bed to sleep confident that the picklist is the best that could be derived given the time and data available.

Before speaking, we ask that contributors have a fully formed idea that they can express in a way that others can understand. Naturally junior team members are to be given some leeway.

Very much yes to this. Our head scouts do the following:

  1. winnow out highly ranked teams that are guaranteed not to be available based on where we finished or are likely to finish as well as ones that simply cannot play proficiently enough to be considered for picking based on our scouting data, so we are not even discussing those as they are pure time wasters and scouting meetings already go late enough
  2. Ensure that you have pictures and a link to the reveal video (if it exists) for each team. These are embedded right into the spreadsheet so there is no hunting around. Spreadsheet layout for us is: Column 1 - rank (internal scouting ranking, not event rankings Column 2 - team number & name Column 3 - robot picture. 4 onward - other data from your scouts

Humans are visual animals, and many people will remember a visual of a robot better than the number or name

  1. Make sure that any special capabilities or failings of the robot, team strategy or driving are noted on the scouting sheet to either bump up or down prioritization of a given team.

Finally, this is the only place where our team is permitted to speak negatively of other teams or robots, but it must be based on facts, even if it was an experience of being blown off during a pit scouting exercise or difficulty working with another strat team during quals.