Day 1 of the FRC competition is always (I can use that adverb since this is our second year!) imtense, stressful, and strenouous. It is all about building, testing, and practice. The team is learning about its design, as the robot emerges from the lab environment into the real world.
Day 2, on the other hand, is all about reality — the heat of battle, as it were. The FRC competition is very cleverly structured, though, since it is not really about relentless battle and adversarial relations. Teams do compete against each other, but there is a concept called “coopertition” baked into FRC. This is meant to emphasize and enforce the idea of “gracious professionalism” that is inherent in the FRC tradition.
Coopertition means that the contest requires equal amounts of cooperation and competition. Teams have to form alliances to succeed; you can rarely just have a great robot and win on your own.
On Day 2, teams participate in a series of qualifying matches, in which they hone their robot’s design and performance. In each match there are red and blue alliances, three robots per alliance. The clever part is that your alliance partners change with each match, so a fierce opponent in one match could be a trusted partner in the next.
At the end of the qualifying matches, the top teams in the standings advance to the finals. They get to pick their alliance partners at that point, though. So a team that has a very strong scoring robot might be looking for a good defensive partner, for instance. This means that a team which is not a strong design for offense could still make it into the finals. Hence, many teams are still in the running, even ones who do not place high in the qualifying standings.
More about that tomorrow. The Iron Riders ran admirably in all 6 of its qualifying matches today, so we are optimistic about tomorrow. Below are the video highlights of today’s matches. Some notes about them:
- Match 1: In this video, you get to see a match from the drive team’s point of view. They are behind the controls, operating the robot remotely. There are two drivers (Sasha & Alex), one feeder (Keaton), and the drive captain (Eric). Look for Sasha and Alex running the joysticks while Keaton is gathering frisbees to load in the robot’s hopper. At the end of the match, Keaton gets to throw frisbees by hand in addition to the robot shooting them and scores an amazing shot from 60+ feet away. All the while, Eric is behind them coordinating and directing traffic, hopefully not chewing his cellist’s nails off.
- Match 2: This one starts off with the robot scoring two shots in autonomous mode, which means no human operators are controlling the shooting, just software. You can also see a revised design for the hopper feeder based on some problems encountered in the earlier matches. I think the shooter jammed in this round, though, so more adjustments were necessary.
- Match 3: This was undoubtedly the highlight of the day for Team 4180.Through awesome scouting efforts, they learned that one of their opponents in this match would be the powerhouse Team 948, Newport Robotics Group (NRG) from Newport HS in Bellevue.NRG has a truly unbelievable shooter. It goes for the full court shot, is incredibly accurate and repeatable, and was scoring 25 shots in a row in previous matches. They could load and shoot asynchronously by parking at the feeder station, taking one shot to calibrate, and then just firing off shot after shot after shot with each one hitting dead center while their human feeder just kept shoving frisbees in their hopper.But the Iron Riders noticed that, while their strategy yielded huge points each match, NRG was very vulnerable because of their inflexibility. They could only score from that position and at that fixed trajectory. They figured that a carefully placed net on our robot could be used to block NRG’s shots. So a duct tape and tomato stake interceptor net was quickly added to our robot.
And, as you will see in the dramatic footage, it worked! NRG was completely shut down in that match, scoring no tele-op points at all. No other team had done that against NRG — they had been regularly scoring over 100 points per match.
There was copious high-fiving after this match!
- Match 4: This match was right after lunch, and at one point our robot looks like someone in a police traffic stop trying to pass a field sobriety test. Sasha assured us there was no alcohol consumed at lunch. Back in the pit after the match, the team tracked the issue down to a problem in the interface between hardware and software, quickly fixed. Lesson learned!
- Match 5: You’ll see some rough and tumble collisions in this one and then a good shot of our very reliable technique for climbing up the first rung of the pyramid, chin-up style.
- Match 6: The last match of the day. Look for some good autonomous shots in the beginning, and some great defensive moves by us in the middle, blocking the blue alliance robots from maneuvering into position. You’ll also see a dramatic upending and toppling of another robot, rendered turtle-like after that, unable to right itself. It ends with our trademark chin-up again.
Tomorrow morning, we have another three qualifying matches between 9:00 and 12:00. And then we see if we continue on to the finals in the afternoon. Come out and join the fun and support the Iron Riders!
Finally, the videos: