Rookie Mistakes: Competition


Neglect driver practice → Constant driver training

A persistent problem with teams is the lack of driver practice. No matter how good your robot is, the robot is only 50% of the equation. The driver(s) are the other 50% which determine the success of the team as a whole. Just like a sports team, a robotics team requires practice. Even if individual players have great talent, only practice and communication can guarantee success as a team. Even if your robot is the best in the world, and inferior robot with a competent drive team more than likely will beat your robot. Drive teams need to communicate with one another and practice for the unexpected. A high school sports team practices about 15-20 hours weekly. To be successful, that is the same amount of time that you need to devote to your robotics team. By April’s world championships, many top teams had finished hundreds of practice matches. This means that 1) the teams were dedicated to consistent drive practices and 2) their robot was reliable enough to survive hours upon hours of operation. Driver practice not only familiarizes the driver(s) with the robot and serves as a test of robot reliability, it also simulates in-game conditions. Learning to push the limits of your robot should be done in practice, not at competition. This way, drivers will become more comfortable driving under stress and pressure. Some teams even go so far as to play loud music or say distracting things during practices to add in a little extra.

No game strategy → Strategic driving

Similar to drive practice, this is something that many inexperienced teams ignore. Another sports example is handy - even with the most talented team, they won’t go far without good game strategy. An inferior team with better strategy execution could even pull off an upset. Planning a strategy ensures that every second in the 2:30 game time is used to the maximum efficiency, which yields more points. For example, drivers should know exactly where the robot needs to be positioned after the autonomous → tele-op switch. Practicing this switch will save a couple of seconds when drivers have to think “what do I do now?” Knowing when to transition from a tele-op to endgame objective is equally important (hint: perfect one first) and will save valuable time. Strategy should always be used to maximize points - whether this is a positioning strategy to access the game elements, or a defensive strategy to hinder the other alliance from scoring. Remember, denying the other alliance 10 points is the same value as scoring 10 points. However, it is not advised for new teams to play defense due to the specific rules surrounding this strategy. If a team wishes to execute a defensive strategy, be sure to read all the rules as defense can incur penalties/cards if done improperly.

Fully driver-controlled → Partially automated tasks

Autonomous should not be limited to only the autonomous mode. Automating simple tasks can be a real time-saver and efficiency boost to teams. First of all, automating tasks can save time and reduce the need for driver multi-tasking. Drivers should always be controlling the robot with as few button presses as possible. For example, automatically lowering the lift with a delay after the game elements have been deposited would save a button press. This also has the advantage of eliminating driver error if the driver has too many operations to carry out and relieving stress on the driver.