All FRC teams have something in common — they have robots to drive & operate. Of course, there are robots that drive well, and some that well, drive really well. How do they get so good at their jobs? I mean, the answer is practice, but the question is… how do you practice driving? Well, we’re going to do our best to brief you on a few methods teams use successfully.
Practice makes perfect, and this holds true in FRC. For a driver to be good, they need to know the ins and outs of the robot, so practicing over and over is a fantastic way to get good. Running simulated matches, stopping, starting on the line, are all fantastic ideas. Team 2168 put together a driver training document (in 2011) , and Team 1836 a document (this season) which may serve to inspire some other ideas.
This allows your drive team to get direct, hands on experience with the robot and to get good at it. However, it does rely on your team either having a finished robot in time, or having time to spare. For what is a painful truth to many teams, that simply isn’t possible. A potential middle ground for teams trying to improve is getting your robot chassis finished as early as possible, possibly week 2 or earlier. Previous years robots also serve to be similar drivebases for practice, but the operator of manipulators may find their job significantly harder to train for.
Much in the same way practicing in your own shop or space can help you driveteam, in match strategy will definitely effect how your team plays this season, especially with the amazing weight power-ups carry. For that reason, finding a local scrimmage may help you out. Scrimmages are pre-bag events where teams compete mostly completed robots on fields. The official field that’s assembled near FIRST HQ will be the only scrimmage with an official field, but sometimes just having the space makes a world of difference. You can see an (incomplete) list of pre-bag scrimmages here.
Given the theme of this year’s game, I think it only appropriate to bring to light the video game theory of driver training. Fast paced, multiplayer, teamwork based games can be invaluable to driver skills and reaction time, below, a short list.
- Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime – Fast paced multi-player with delicate reaction times. You rely heavily on your teammates.
- Overcooked – Time management based, multi-player cooking game. Not as easy as it seems, has bested many.
- Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes – Two player bomb defusal game, heavy leanings on communication and teamwork. Easy to see how people improve over time.
- Super Meat Boy – While this may seem like just an action platformer, the difficulty ramp and retro visuals make it both an easily addictive play, and good training. I’ve lost more time than I can count at basic levels in this game…
Of course, I’m not here to sell you things, but you might not have to buy a single thing. Ask your students / teammates and I’m sure you’ll find someone with at least a few of them. Best case, driver practice. Worst case, you get some good team-building.
For a team to improve their driving ability, they must hone teamwork, cooperation, collaboration, and communication skills collectively, and reaction time, discipline, and grace under pressure collectively. It’s not easy, but this is called a competition for a reason.