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What I see at an FTC match

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  • What I see at an FTC match

    I've been a mentor for years now and I would like to start a discussion about what I see at an FTC match. I mostly see the referee's backs and the volunteer photographer's back who go in for the great shot right as a team is about to score. I've discussed this in the past with the local FTC representatives and I understand that there is a challenge to give the referees the angle to see what is going on and score it properly.

    This is supposed to be a sporting event, but I don't see much of it. It is billed as a, "sport for the mind" but that seems to mean that I need to use my imagination to guess what is going on during the match. The field setup this year is great for viewing, from the stands you can see the whole field and you can tell when robots are climbing and scoring - but then there are the refs and the occasional judge or cameraman.

    When we get to Worlds, they have cameras and that helps.

    This year seems to be even worse because of the mountains, the refs can't/won't stand behind them and that eliminates the sides of the field. Not being able to watch the game is detracting from the fun and interest in the game. Fewer parents feel the need to show up since they can't see anything. Students don't feel the need to be in the stands watching the match.

    How can we solve this?
    Is there any way to get cameras in place at the local level? Do we move the drivers behind the mountains (they can still see the field and the refs could stand where the players are now)? Can we move the timer to the front facing the players and put a ref back there? Even clearing one side of the field would let someone see what's happening on the field.

    I joked at the qualifier about creating a hashtag of #myviewofanFTCmatch and posting photos of what the spectators see.

    For my part, I'm going to look at renting go-pro's and attaching them to the mountains (or on tripods behind the mountains). If I can power then and make the signals available via wi-fi that might make the games more viewable. It would be great to be able to broadcast those signals on a big screen, but I'll have to see what the costs are.

  • #2
    I agree. It is much more interesting when the audience can see the robots, not just the students.

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    • #3
      You can't move the drivers; this arrangement is specified in the Game Manual and teams have been practicing this way all season.

      The refs need a good view of the field, but they can try to stay out of the way. Ask your tournament organizer (preferably before the event) if the referees can stay nearer to the Floor Goals. Also ask the tournament organizer if judges observing the match (and any other volunteers such as FTAs) can stay behind the mountains.

      I like the idea of mounting a camera on the side of the mountain, but please don't use WiFi unless you're sure it's on the 5GHz band. The new control system seems to be pretty good with tolerating some WiFi activity, but having more high-bandwidth 2.4GHz transmissions at a field is asking for trouble. Using an Ethernet cable would be the way to go if you can spend the time to get the wires out of the way.
      John McDonnell
      Co-Mentor, Team 5873
      https://www.facebook.com/Team5873

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      • #4
        Having just been head referee at a qualifier tournament this weekend I can say that there is little the refs can do to not at least partially block the view from the audience. Standing behind the mountain and looking through it is a sub-optimal viewpoint if you are over 6ft tall as I am. If you are 5' 2" like one of my refs was it would be impossible to see. Additionally, there is a lot to this year's game that requires closely watching the game as it is played because scoring depends on the robot actually doing an action, the order in which the action is done, and the position from which the action is done rather than just the position of the field at the end of play. For instance it is the pressing of the climber release lever that creates the score, not the fall of the climber down the zip line. The unreliability of the zip line mechanism requires the refs to watch each robot on the sides of the mountains with the levers to see if it engages the levers with enough force to have released the climbers even if one does not actually fall. It is also important in this game to closely watch each robot and count the number of game elements being moved and carried in order to properly penalize for more than 5, but not to penalize when the additional elements are not moved with intent and no benefit is derived. Determining that the robots are fully on the mountain in compliance with rule GS13 before scoring in the upper mountain goals or engaging the hanging bar also requires a close, low view of the field.

        This is my fourth season as head referee and I have never in prior years had to pay such close attention to the field for the entire duration of the match. And the design of the field with the mountains cutting off the corners pretty much requires that the refs be in front of the field. I understand that impacts the view from the audience, but our primary goal is to provide a fair and consistent refereeing experience to the competing teams. And if you plan to suggest we watch the matches while squatting or on our knees, you try sitting on your knees or squatting on a hard gym floor for several hours and alternately getting down and standing back up every 5 minutes and see how that goes for your back and legs.

        Brian Johnson
        Mentor, Team 4625 - The Kings and Queens
        Last edited by FTC4625; 12-08-2015, 03:46 PM.

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        • #5
          I'll actually echo Brian's comment. As a 3rd year Head Referee and having already done 2 qualifiers (and prepping for a 3rd this weekend), we definitely have to have a closer watch on a lot more mechanisms in real time this year than I recall in the past. What I normally tell my crew is to try to stand by the mountains on the zip line side as much as possible. If they need to move to the front of the field to see something, do it, but try to avoid blocking view as much as possible.

          Originally posted by FTC4625 View Post
          This is my fourth season as head referee and I have never in prior years had to pay such close attention to the field for the entire duration of the match. And the design of the field with the mountains cutting off the corners pretty much requires that the refs be in front of the field. I understand that impacts the view from the audience, but our primary goal is to provide a fair and consistent refereeing experience to the competing teams. And if you plan to suggest we watch the matches while squatting or on our knees, you try sitting on your knees or squatting on a hard gym floor for several hours and alternately getting down and standing back up every 5 minutes and see how that goes for your back and legs.
          I will admit, I do do this quite a bit at events (squatting/being on my knees). That lower viewpoint tends to be much better for FTC games. Man my body hates me for the next few days though.

          David

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          • #6
            Originally posted by alak View Post
            I'll actually echo Brian's comment. As a 3rd year Head Referee and having already done 2 qualifiers (and prepping for a 3rd this weekend), we definitely have to have a closer watch on a lot more mechanisms in real time this year than I recall in the past. What I normally tell my crew is to try to stand by the mountains on the zip line side as much as possible. If they need to move to the front of the field to see something, do it, but try to avoid blocking view as much as possible.

            I will admit, I do do this quite a bit at events (squatting/being on my knees). That lower viewpoint tends to be much better for FTC games. Man my body hates me for the next few days though.

            David
            I can also throw some input in. I am a part of the Arizona Affliate Partner group, and work very closely with all the teams. I been able to ref at this years game, during some qualifiers and I agree with what the two that have stated above. I am 6', which allows me to see through the mountain with somewhat of a view, but there are a few times when we have to move to the front of the field. I do agree that its a bit annoying when one does this, but we want to keep the games fair. We do our best to stay out of the way though. We also try to limit the amount of people standing around the field. Field Resetters and other personal, not including the teams, FTA and Refs, are asked to stand back behind the field/teams or sit down. I have watched multiple events where this problem can get out of hand..

            As for moving where the students stand, that will NOT change.

            As for cameras. A regular, web type cam, will not get the whole field when connected to the mountain. We have yet to try a Go-Pro. (Any camera connected to the mountain is subjected to a lot of vibration with the robots climbing and ramming the mountain.) Arizona has set up a small system that travels to all of the events, which includes a small webcam, tall stand, computer and projector*. This has really helped with the events, and will probably be something we do from now on. This also allows us to record the whole event, and post it at a later date.
            *Projector is usually supplied by the venue/school.
            2015 FTC World Champion - Valley X Robotics 2844 - Founding Memeber

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            • #7
              I think competition venues should be required to have bleachers - if not leagues, then at least qualifiers and championships. That's the only way the audience has any chance of seeing the action. A stage seems to work pretty well too, even though it seems like it would exacerbate the problem. I liked the events held at the Coconino HS theater in Flagstaff AZ. But flat seating is audience-unfriendly.

              Cameras are better than nothing, but they can't show the whole field very well.

              Even when there are multiple camera operators with handheld pro cameras like at NorCal and Super Regionals, you see what the cameras see.

              Good thread!
              --
              Jim Poston
              FTC Competition Manager, FIRST Nevada
              Virginia City, Nevada
              [email protected]

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              • #8
                Great feedback on the wi-fi range.

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                • #9
                  Thanks for the feedback. I would never suggest the refs squat or kneel - I'm old enough to know better :-) My knees wouldn't last through the autonomous round anymore.

                  I don't pretend to have the answer and I'm just looking for a solution that will allow the spectators to watch the matches. I find the matches exciting and the parents who come out and spend the day want to see their kids compete - or at their kid's robots compete.

                  As an example of what I'm talking about, this is the view of one match taken from about the 4th row in the bleachers (with a nice lens). https://youtu.be/l7tkif8ejjI

                  I looked at several matches on youtube and it looked like the spectators were able to watch the matches. One group even had a camera at a great angle.

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