What to Expect
How’s it all work?
When you first arrive at an event, you will get your robot checked in and remove it from the bag. You will need to set up your pit area and do any final assembly work on your robot before getting it inspected.
The field will be set up and will be available later in the day for practice matches. Most venues also have a full or partial practice field for you to make finishing adjustments.
On the competition day, there will be opening ceremonies and then matches will begin. Teams are randomly matched with other teams to form alliances. You will have different partners each match. These matches are called Qualification Matches and the will run on Friday and then on Saturday until lunch time. After Qualification Matches are complete, there will be an alliance selection process. The top 8 teams will pick their partners for the Elimination matches. Check the FRC rules for details on this process. When an alliance wins two matches, they move on to the next round. This continues until one alliance has won the event.
Judged will be given out on the last day of the competition at the awards ceremony. The awards ceremony is held at the end of the day after the finals. FIRST will give special recognition for teams for excellence in many different areas. Please show respect by clapping and standing after each award is announced and the winning Team is going to accept their award.
What Teams are Competing at the Event
You can find out who you are playing with in any competition by going to FIRSTinspires.org Under the Community tab select Team and Event search. Select Event filter. Deselect the programs you do not want to find events for. Select the current season. Select the country you will be competing in as well as the state. This will pull up all of the Events in that state. Simply select the Event you are competing at and a list of all Teams that will be attending will pull up.
Knowing who you are competing against prior to the Event will help you prepare your scouting list.
When the qualification matches end, teams will be ranked from #1 to “x” based on the ranking score criteria. The top teams then pick partners. The #1 team will pick, and they can select any team, including others in the top 8. Then the #2 team picks, and this continues until all 8 alliances have 2 teams. Since teams can pick within the top 8, often teams ranked 9, 10, or 11 become alliance captains and picking teams, so it is important to be prepared.
After all 8 alliances have 2 teams, then the pick order reverses and the #8 alliance selects a third team, then the #7. This continues until all alliances are complete. A certain number of ‘unpicked teams’ will be asked to stay ready, in case there is a breakdown and a replacement robot is needed.
Alliance selection can be exciting, but also can be a letdown for teams. Not every team can be picked (only 24 play in the eliminations). There are also times when a team in the top 8 will decline an invitation to join another team. This is legal, and may be because the declining team has a plan and strategy and the team that wanted to pick them did not fit into that strategy. Remember though, if you decline being picked by one team, you cannot say yes to another team, but you may still be an alliance captain.
How to Present Yourself
A big part of FIRST is “marketing”. How you present yourself, individually and as a team, will drive other team’s perceptions of you – good or bad.
Gracious Professionalism is a key part of FIRST. Teams compete like crazy on the field, and then help each other like crazy in the pits to be sure every team is ready for their next match. It is important for you to act in a responsible manner, follow the rules, and be respectful of those around you.
Most teams will go above and beyond to help another team. But if you are arrogant, ignore advise, don’t follow the strategy you agree to, try to skirt around the rules, or even intentionally break rules; knowledge of that behavior will spread around the event and with other teams, and that can be a negative for your team.
Teams that are in a position to pick partners for an alliance will base their decisions on robot performance and ability, but they often consider the other team aspects as well. The ability to work together, the ability to trust, and the overall ‘reputation’ of a team can be big considerations.
To learn more about Gracious Professionalism click on this link, scroll to the bottom and watch a video from Dr. Woodie Flowers.
How to Talk to Judges
Awards are an exciting part of FIRST and all teams like to receive the recognition and honor that is part of receiving a judged award.
At the events, judges, usually in groups of 2 or 3, will visit teams in their pits to talk to them about their robot, the team structure, outreach, or other activities. The judges want to talk to students, not mentors, and their decisions are based on these brief interviews in the pits.
What should you do? First, know what awards you are most qualified for. Read the award descriptions (on this site or in the FIRST documentation) and determine which ones you are a strong candidate for. A veteran judge once said “If a team doesn’t know what award they are most qualified for, how should I know what award they should receive.”
Second, select the students who will be “judge talkers”. Select students who are knowledgeable about the team and the robot and who like to talk to others. Then practice! Get others to act as judges and ask you questions.
Third, be ready for the judges. Have some prepared materials to give to them, or use pit displays as guides to talk with.
Lastly, engage the judges in conversation. Shake hands and introduce yourself. Make eye contact. Listen to their questions and give complete and correct answers – don’t make something up just to give an answer! Before they leave, thank them for their time and invite them to come back to your pit.