When Schnickelfritz and I walked into the convention center last week, we discovered a few changes had been made to the spectator experience. First, we were not allowed into the pit area until we were wearing a spectator badge. We had to go to the same area where the teams register and give our names and zip codes. We were then issued a badge which hung around our necks—it was good for the whole competition so we kept in in the car for the following day. Now we looked more like we fit in, especially when we wore our safety glasses. When we passed muster and were allowed to enter the pits I went to search for a friend who had brought an FTC team up from Mississippi. Now we were in for our second surprise—the competition had grown so large there wasn’t even room for the FTC teams in the building. They had been moved to Union Station, a few blocks away. Now instead of four divisions in the FIRST Robotics Competition, there were eight—all named after scientists.
This also met four new competition fields in the dome—now two on each side. Although we still chose to watch Galileo as has been our custom for the last four years.
I took an army of volunteers this year to set up the field, consisting of plastic totes and green garbage cans. Everything had to be laid out consistently so the robots could retrieve items during their autonomous mode. Most teams seemed content if their robots were able to grab the green cans and drag them to their side of the field. This year the alliances stayed on their own side of the field so if you managed to grab the cans, you could keep the opponents from scoring points (since the cans would be out of reach). At that point most robots stopped moving until the teams could pick up their controllers.
Here a team is directly feeding totes to the robot (alternatively the robot could collect totes from the field). It is already hold the green can aloft to be at the top of the stack of totes. Some teams moved the totes to the finish area first and then hoisted a can to the top. This method of bringing the can to the side first seemed better strategy because a live person could insert a green pool noodle into the top hole at the same time (scoring more points).
When time expired the judges would begin tallying points: so many for each stack, so many if the stack had a can on top, so many if the can had a noodle. I believe the most you could score from a single stack was 42. You may notice the yellow totes in the center—that was the co-opertition portion of the contest where each alliance had to bring totes to the center stack.
There was a good crowd no matter which field you were watching. By the time they got to the Einstein finals an entire end of the dome was full in all levels. There was quite a delay in getting the finals started and this resulted in an unofficial paper airplane contest breaking out. I need to look up how to make those circular gliders as they seemed to go the farthest.