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  • 2.5 minutes simply not enough time?

    So our tournament was Saturday and our team actually did pretty well with the robot matches. But I received the scores for all the teams this morning, and ouch... Fewer than half the teams earned more than 55. And only 4 teams out of 48 in the tournament were able to break 100. And 100 is only 1/4 of the potential points available. And I've looked at other tournaments around the U.S. that have posted their results, and it's very similar across the board -- ~90% of teams are unable to reach 100 in even one of their four attempts.

    So, as a serious question, what would the matches be like if kids had 8 or 10 minutes rather than 2 and a half?

    I watched a lot of teams get really flustered because of the very short time constraints. And it seemed that if one thing went wrong, it chewed up all the time and the team would score zero points from that point forward. A longer match would at least give an opportunity to recover from a problem and still salvage the rest of the time.

    My guess is there would be a small number of teams that would still struggle to get even one or two missions done, even with that amount of time. I imagine the top teams would have the opportunity to score 300+ if they had that much time. (The top score at our tournament was 172, second team got 113.) But I think it would give a big majority of teams in the middle to at least attempt 7 or 8 missions and try to earn a decent score.

    At the very least, it would spread all the scores out some. At our tournament, because so many of the scores were bunched together in the 30's and 40's and 50's, if any of those teams had accomplished **1** additional mission, they would have jumped up a dozen spots or more. For several of them, a single touch penalty dropped them 4 or 5 spots. I think if there were more time, those scores would have a much wider range. Even the teams that struggle would be able to get 50 or 60, a majority of teams would get above 100. The good teams would push 200, and the top teams might exceed 300.

    So, just tossing the idea out to folks. What do you all think?

  • #2
    As an off-the-cuff response I would say doubling the time to 5 minutes would be a great thing. But then that would double the time needed for robot games on tournament day. Tournaments could add more tables, but not all venues have that option because of space constraints. You'd also need more refs, table-setters, etc. I'm guessing 2.5 minutes is set in stone; but I still like the idea. :-)

    Our first season was Trash Trek back in 2015 and if I remember correctly the missions scored much higher. This year's board scores much lower by comparison, and it's a much tougher board, requiring a lot of accuracy from the robot.

    Last edited by nedcook; 11-19-2018, 04:08 PM.

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    • #3
      One needs to look at the whole season. I'd guess that last year's scores had a similar distribution. The scores at the State Championships will be higher. And at World Festival they will be even higher. If the scores were around 200 now, by the time the end of the season came around, all the remaining teams would be bunched around the max score.

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      • #4
        I like the time constraint. A compressed time forces innovation in the robot design, good teamwork in base and stronger programming skills in order to excel.

        This year's missions are difficult for new teams but I expect many second year teams will get over 100 and the stronger / more experienced teams will be in the mid 200s to low 300s. Give those stronger teams 8 minutes and there will be a very crowded top of the leaderboard with many perfect scores.

        We'll see the scores come up as the qualifying rounds continue. I know if my team had to qualify last week we'd be in trouble, but we don't qualify until January.
        Last edited by rcatarella; 11-19-2018, 04:27 PM.

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        • #5
          There are teams that can complete nearly all the missions in 2.5 minutes. Not long ago when the top score was always 400 points this wasn't rare. One year my daughter's team cleared the table in 90 seconds and awkwardly twiddled their thumbs for the last minute. Apparently there was something wrong with not having an obvious robot game "winner", so changes were made to make it harder or impossible to score all possible points. Currently I think the design goal is to make it possible to score all points, but really, really hard. If the run time was increased to 5 minutes the game designers would give teams 10 minutes worth of challenge and a lot of it would be tedious (dropping individual bacteria in the sink, pounding away at aerobic exercise machines, etc...)

          In Minnesota (and other places) we have a dedicated table for design judging. Teams run all their missions, sometimes multiple times, while talking about what the robot is doing and how they solved the missions. While this is going on I have a little stopwatch in my head ticking off how much time the robot is running and how much time is spent setting up for the next mission, It is somewhat rare that a team has more missions than time. Most teams could complete all their missions in 2.5 minutes if they didn't make lots of mistakes or were more efficient in setting things up for the next mission. If time were doubled there might be less time pressure, but I think it more likely that teams would find ways to waste more time, make more mistakes, still get low scores, and be upset for a longer period of time.

          Teams getting 0 to 50 points has nothing to do with the match time limit. It has to do with bad strategies and bad time management throughout the season, To make that frustration go away you make the season longer (already done), force teams to have more meeting time, and provide better training for coaches.

          Personally I would hate (not a word I use often) longer matches. Ten minutes would be an eternity, even 5 minutes would feel like an eternity if things weren't going well.
          Last edited by Dean Hystad; 11-19-2018, 06:58 PM.

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          • #6
            I'm in agreement with a couple of things. Doubling the length would make the pain of things-not-going-well seem like eternity, and this might be a hard field compared to the past few years. I think if we increased the time, many teams would just attempt the same mission 10 times, instead of 5.

            We like having limited time, and can't imagine what it was like when teams could score all the points. We're a 4th year team, and we're doing pretty much all but the space station, lander, and aerobic machines in about 2:10. Give my kids another 90 seconds and I'd bet they could finish them all. But part of the fun and challenge is having to decide which to do, and being OK with skipping some. The beginning teams that had their act together did a few simple, well-designed, tasks well, which is really good to see. But I think the teams that struggle will still struggle with more time.

            My wish list would include more time between a scrimmage and the competition. Go to the scrimmage, see first hand some of the tricks (squaring up, not just pointing the robot, etc.), then have enough time to go home and implement them.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by korey99 View Post
              I'm in agreement with a couple of things. Doubling the length would make the pain of things-not-going-well seem like eternity, and this might be a hard field compared to the past few years. I think if we increased the time, many teams would just attempt the same mission 10 times, instead of 5.

              We like having limited time, and can't imagine what it was like when teams could score all the points. We're a 4th year team, and we're doing pretty much all but the space station, lander, and aerobic machines in about 2:10. Give my kids another 90 seconds and I'd bet they could finish them all. But part of the fun and challenge is having to decide which to do, and being OK with skipping some. The beginning teams that had their act together did a few simple, well-designed, tasks well, which is really good to see. But I think the teams that struggle will still struggle with more time.

              My wish list would include more time between a scrimmage and the competition. Go to the scrimmage, see first hand some of the tricks (squaring up, not just pointing the robot, etc.), then have enough time to go home and implement them.
              We don't have any scrimmages in Minnesota. I think that is true for a lot of affiliates.

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              • #8
                I'm not a fan of the idea. For most teams, doubling the time would just let them re-run failed missions multiple times. That doesn't seem very exciting. Many teams don't have enough working missions to actually use up the entire currently allowed 150 seconds. I think 300 seconds would seem like an eternity for most teams, with many teams just quietly waiting for the time to end with minutes to spare.

                Don't focus on the raw point totals. It really doesn't matter if the average raw point total is 50, or 150, or 500. It's fine if the scores are bunched fairly closely. The best teams will find ways to rise to the top, either in the robot game, or the project, or core values. And the rest of the teams will just think that if only their crater crossing mission worked during their third run, they would have finished in the top ten in the robot game scores.

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                • #9
                  I also dont think adding more time would be a good thing. This past weekend my team held a scrimmage and most of the teams didnt even use a full 2.5 minutes for robot runs. Yes, most teams were new to FLL, but time at the table isn't what they would wish for.

                  In order to leverage more time at the table, I believe teams would need more time practicing... like another month or two. THEN they could fill out five minutes. Without extra months of building time, most younger teams would be awkwardly standing at the table waiting for time to expire. Good teams will, over time, use the 2.5 min limit to inspire them to creatively do more.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dean Hystad View Post
                    Teams getting 0 to 50 points has nothing to do with the match time limit. It has to do with bad strategies and bad time management throughout the season, To make that frustration go away you make the season longer (already done), force teams to have more meeting time, and provide better training for coaches.
                    Soooo, based on the results of the tournament I just attended, FLL is doing a pretty terrible job of training us coaches, right? 55 was the median score out of 48 teams. So half the teams had "bad strategies and bad time management throughout the season"? Which is definitely possible, but suggests that First should be doing something to help teams prepare properly.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by cschaffer View Post
                      I also dont think adding more time would be a good thing. This past weekend my team held a scrimmage and most of the teams didnt even use a full 2.5 minutes for robot runs.
                      I'm curious, about how many missions was that? We had 7 missions prepared and ran all 7 in the 2.5 minutes, completing 5 successfully on our best run.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by rcatarella View Post
                        This year's missions are difficult for new teams but I expect many second year teams will get over 100 and the stronger / more experienced teams will be in the mid 200s to low 300s. Give those stronger teams 8 minutes and there will be a very crowded top of the leaderboard with many perfect scores.
                        Wow, so now I'm really curious. Were we just at a weak tournament? It was the largest in the state, but only 4 teams out of 48 were higher than 100, only 1 higher than 113. Certainly not "many" teams over 100 and no teams anywhere close to "the mid 200s to low 300s".

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by alanggreen View Post
                          One needs to look at the whole season. I'd guess that last year's scores had a similar distribution. The scores at the State Championships will be higher. And at World Festival they will be even higher. If the scores were around 200 now, by the time the end of the season came around, all the remaining teams would be bunched around the max score.
                          So you're saying we're going to get crushed at the state tournament? ;-> The ten teams that advanced to state received robot scores of 86, 55, 51, 93, 69, 90, 113, 80, 53, and 74.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by [email protected] View Post

                            So you're saying we're going to get crushed at the state tournament? ;-> The ten teams that advanced to state received robot scores of 86, 55, 51, 93, 69, 90, 113, 80, 53, and 74.
                            These are very earlier tournaments relative to the World Festival/Invitationals. I was at a tournament on Saturday where a team who consistently advances past the state tournament scored 244, that's well over half the points available on the board. Considering that we are only ~3.5 months into the season and there are ~4.5 months remaining before WF, it looks like this field might be too easy. I'm going to predict right now that there are going to be a lot of perfect scores at the WF.

                            Unfortunately in FLL there are huge discrepancies in the amount of time different teams have available for meetings. The robot game designers have to make sure that there are still challenges left in the robot game for elite teams after 8 months of work. The challenge has to be really, really hard. Honestly, I think I have seen more success in the robot game at qualifying tournaments this year (as far as number of missions accomplished) than average. Some years (Animal Allies was really bad in this regard) only have one or two "easy" missions. This resulted in a lot of matches with robots sitting in base for the final one and a half minutes. Having too many "easy" missions that most teams can accomplish per the time available is a good problem. This generates a lot of excitement during the rounds as teams race to run all of their programs successfully, and provides a good engineering challenge in time management as well.
                            FLL alumni, mentor, referee, judge

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by [email protected] View Post

                              Soooo, based on the results of the tournament I just attended, FLL is doing a pretty terrible job of training us coaches, right? 55 was the median score out of 48 teams. So half the teams had "bad strategies and bad time management throughout the season"? Which is definitely possible, but suggests that First should be doing something to help teams prepare properly.
                              I think FLL should be providing resources that work better for the age group and the schedule. "We learn together" is great if we have time to learn together. This philosophy worked fine when FLL teams stayed together for 6 years, but these days it is unusual for me to see teams that stay together for 3 years. We should still be learning together, but a bit more information up front to kick start that learning would be helpful.

                              As many have stated 55 is a meaningless number, and comparing scores between challenges is even more meaningless. 55 out of 400 is 14%. The same percentage of 800 points is 110. There is also a short term memory failure here. Just a couple of years ago (Animal Allies) the mean score at many qualifiers was zero, resulting in a change in the transported rule
                              Last edited by Dean Hystad; 11-20-2018, 07:20 AM.

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