The Women and Men in Blue: Intelligence Gathering and Alliance Selection

One of the most important tasks at competition besides driving the robot is scouting – gathering information on the other teams’ capabilities. This information allows top-tier teams to decide on alliances for the playoffs, and it helps the lower tiered teams decide who is the best partner for them. We make it a priority to scout every team in every match for the most adequate decisions. We require at least 6 people per match taking notes – in reality we have more students, so people can swap out and perform the basic necessities. 

To make the process easier and more informative, we designed forms for our scouts. The forms had spaces for various quantifiable data such as number of gears delivered, whether they attempted to climb and succeeded, and the estimated amount of fuel scored, among other things. Our mentor Kevin LaPerriere created a program we could feed this information and other data to that could generate various graphs and charts. Though we were unable to fully utilize it, the scouting forms and the graphs were enormously helpful in our planning for alliance selection.

We have never been in a position to select robots for an alliance, so we excitedly gathered and strategized Friday night. We first made several lists using data from The Blue Alliance, a website that collects statistics on FRC matches. We copied down the teams by rank as well as by offensive power, and then added any noteworthy teams. This was just the start. Unfortunately, we  noticed that because no one had scored any of the bonus ranking points at this competition, the ranks were not completely reliable – a poorly-performing team could have their rank inflated by playing on alliances with far better robots. Additionally, we knew we needed to look for teams that complemented us, not just ones that did well on their own. So we then looked at our primary research to see how well the teams had actually done, and if they fulfilled our basic requirements for alliance partners. In the end we listed 16 teams and it was this scouting that allowed us to pick teams 2468 and 5417 – ranks 22 and 29, respectively – to form our winning alliance.