- Designing and building a cool robot is a lot of fun.
- Designing and building a cool robot that does well in competition is even more fun.
- Very hard to go through the build process without a concrete aim.
- The clear choice is success in competition.
- Lots of other (secondary) objectives: aesthetics, design elegance, coolness factor, etc.
- Beware of the "cool factor"
- It can be fun, but sacrificing effectiveness hurts your partners.
Analyzing The Game
- Read the rules!
- Examine every possible way to score points, no matter how obscure
- Laps (2008), Hanging off the bridge...? (2012)
- Examine every possible way to prevent your opponents from scoring
- Stealing balls (2000), Capping robots (2004)
- Understand the ranking system
- e.g. Win-loss-tie, loser's score, own score plus double the loser's score, Coop Bridge...
- Consider possible strategies
- Leads into overall robot designs
- A strategy which, when executed, guarantees victory, independent of any action by your opponents
- Determining if one exists should be the first step in game analysis.
- FIRST tries to design games with no reasonable chokehold strategy
- If one exists, it will be very difficult to perform
- Pulling three goals - Team 71, Beatty & Hammond (2002), Deflecting Balls? (2010)
- 133, 134 (2011) – Why are these numbers relevant?
- Try to find one single, finite task that overwhelms all other possible ways of scoring
- For each task you must compare the difficulty of accomplishment to the reward for doing so
- Balancing easier than scoring (2012)
- Small balls (2001)
- This is where the strategic value vs. coolness factor decision often pops up
- Vision tetra vs. hanging tetras...
- The best tasks to perform are those which are relatively easy, yet provide big points
- Remember denying your opponents 10 points is just as good as scoring 10 points (at least in terms of win/loss)
- Descoring much easier than scoring (2003)
- Two separate lists
- Desired robot qualities
- Things like speed, power, agility
- Desired robot functionality
- The things you want your robot to be able to do
- Shoot balls, climb bridges, traverse field
- At this point you can merge the two lists, and decide on a drive system and functionalities
Simplicity and Golden Rules
- Golden Rule #1: Always build within your team's limits
- Evaluate your abilities and resources honestly and realistically
- Limits are defined by manpower, budget, experience
- Avoid building unnecessarily complex functions
- On the other hand, as you get more experienced, start cautiously pushing a few boundaries
- Golden Rule #2: If a team has 30 units of robot and functions have maximum of 10 units, better to have 3 functions at 10/10 instead of 5 at 6/10
- The key to deciding upon a design is to evaluate the tradeoffs
- e.g. Speed vs. Power, Complexity vs. Durability, Shooting vs. Balancing (High CoG vs. Low CoG), Wide vs. Long
- Making the right choices based on your analysis will determine the fate of your season
- Make sure tradeoffs are consistent (hard to do when the design is always changing!)
- Remember the Golden Rules - Teams who try to do more than they're capable of tend to fail
- Try to maximize functionality with simple additions or modifications to mechanisms
- Shoot out of a claw, instead of a claw loading a shooter (Team 1114, 2008)
- Drivetrain as power for winch (Teams 60 & 254, 2004, 254 & 1114, 2010)
- Intake used for bridge manipulation
- Be careful - hard to change one part without affecting the other
- When making tradeoffs, remember your initial priorities!
- Let your strategic priorities dictate design
- This strategic analysis is a MUST
You must know what you want to do before you can figure out how to do it
- There's a tendency to skip this stage, and to head straight into design and implementation
- Be realistic when evaluating strategies
- How high did the stacks get in 2005?
- Did anyone stack and win in 2003?
- Remember, you have partners. It's okay do depend on them for certain tasks. (How much you leave to them should be decided by the Golden Rules)
- However, be careful not to leave too much in your partners' hands
- Try to identify the different types of robots that will exist
- Go through the different permutations of alliances
- e.g. How would we do paired with type 'X’, against type 'Y' and type ‘Z’
- What would we do if we had to play ourselves?