New procedure for running matches at the FTC Florida State Championship

The FTC Florida State Championship will be held at the University of South Florida Campus Recreation Center on Saturday, February 28. The Florida FIRST Tech Challenge Operating Committee just received approval for a new way to manage competitions at the state event, in the hopes of remedying the overlong run times that have plagued some competitions here and across the country.

From Michael Coleman, Florida FTC Affiliate Partner:

Robotics competitions are complex to run, and there are many opportunities for slowdowns. We have made several changes over the course of this season that have improved our competitions.
Unfortunately, we haven’t found a solution to two problems:

a) Long times for establishing Bluetooth connections between robots and the Field Management System prior to each match.
b) Logitech Controller drop-outs during the teleoperation portion of a match.

We need to have a system for running matches that is quick and reliable. Frankly, we are not quite there yet.

I received permission from FIRST to try a new system for running matches at the FTC Florida State Championship. I believe the new procedure will solve both of these nagging problems. The key points for how we will run matches at the Florida State Championship are as follows:

a) The software templates are MANDATORY. Many teams used the new templates at the last competition and they were extremely helpful for identifying problems during a match. FIRST recently made this a mandatory rule and we will enforce it at the competition.

b) Teams will use their own Notebook Computer, Logitech Controllers, Bluetooth Dongle and Robot for all matches played at the State Championship.

c) It is MANDATORY that teams install the FTC version of LabVIEW on their computers. This software is necessary to run the Field Management System software.

d) It is MANDATORY that teams install the most up to date version of the Field Management System software on their computers.
e) Teams will establish a Bluetooth connection between their computer and their NXT prior to leaving the pit area.

f) Teams will use the Field Management System on their computer to control their robot during a match.

g) Teams will demonstrate during software inspection their ability to have a self-contained system (notebook computer, Logitech controllers, Bluetooth dongle, etc.) for controlling their robot during a match. Power will be provided at the playing field and queueing areas for team use. It is expected that the team computer is able to operate on battery power when moved from the pit area to the queueing area and from the queuing area to the alliance station at the playing field.

It is STRONGLY suggested that teams immediately install the FTC version of LabVIEW and the Field Management System on their team notebook computer. Next, use this setup to practice driving the robot. It is MANDATORY that teams arrive at the Florida State Championship with the equipment and software needed to control their robot during a match. If your computer, Field Management System, robot, etc. don’t work together at home, they will not work at the competition. Solve any problems before arriving at the competition.

We will have backup systems at the playing fields if a team computer breaks at the competition.

The Software Templates, Field Management System and Instructions are available on the www.ftctraining.com web site in the ROBOTC, NXT-G and LabVIEW sections.

Teams attending the state championship and interested in trying this procedure out, might want to consider attending the FTC Raytheon Cougar Challenge Scrimmage on February 8, 2009 at Countryside High School in Clearwater. Here are the details:

Raytheon is sponsoring a scrimmage on Sunday, February 8, 2009. We will test the new system for running matches at this scrimmage. The team capacity is 12 and teams sponsored by Raytheon will have priority. A minimum of three open slots are available for teams not
sponsored by Raytheon. Key points are:

a) Qualification style matches that follow all of the game and robot rules. We will not run elimination matches.
b) No judging.
c) Top three teams receive awards.

Date: Sunday, February 8, 2009
Time: Approximately 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: Countryside High School
Address: 3000 State Road 580, Clearwater, Florida, 33761

Priority will be given to teams sponsored by Raytheon and teams that haven’t received an invitation to the State Championship.

If you have questions about the new system or would like to attend this scrimmage, send an
email to Michael Coleman (michael.coleman@flfirst.org).

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