DEWBOT VI Monty Madness

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15-May-2010 at Montgomery High School in Skillman, NJ. This is our third year at Monty Madness (see DEWBOT IV and V's competitions). Check out the event website.

Sab-BOT-age made a strong showing against a very competitive field, finishing 10th seed out of 42 teams.

Did I already mention that this was a competitive field? See Siri Maley's Scouting Database for the details.

We were the first selection of team 365 (MOE), captain of the 6th alliance. Team 2344 (Saunders Droid Factory) completed our alliance. Alas, we were defeated in the quarterfinals by the 3rd alliance (103 Cybersonics, 341 Miss Daisy and 75 RoboRaiders).

A tough competition. We played well.


We managed 3 wins and 2 losses in the qualifying matches, ending 10th of 42 teams.

Qualifying Matches

Q3: Win 5-0 with 2495 Hornets & 103 Cybersonics against 41 Warriors, 75 RoboRaiders & 1302 Revolution Robotics
Q8: Win 5-4 with 41 & 869 PowerCord against 522 Robo Wizards & 1089 Team Mercury & 341 Miss Daisy
Q19: Loss 4-6 with 1099 Disco Techs & 1989 Viking Robotics against 1279 Cold Fusion, 2016 Mighty Monkey Wrenches & 271 Mechanical Marauders
Q26: Loss with 1923 MidKnight Inventors & 1403 Cougar Robotics against 369 High Voltage, 1796 Robotigers & 1807 Redbird Robotics
Q29: Win with 25 Raider Robotix & 2753 Team Overdrive against 1676 Pi-Oneers, 2344 Saunders Droid Factory & 1647 Iron Devils

Play-off Matches

QF3-1: Loss against Alliance 3 - 103 Cybersonics, 341 Miss Daisy & 75 RoboRaiders
QF3-2: Loss

Who was there

Students: Paul, Ben R, Carly, Douglas, Jen, Michael, Sasha, Andrew
Mentors: Mike Rizzo, Siri Maley, John Stumpo, Faith & Clem McKown
Parents: Susan & John Weissman, David Wall

Driver: Carly & Paul
Operators: Sasha, Paul, Michael & Jen
Coaches: Clem McKown & Siri Maley
Human Player: Andrew
Administrator: Faith McKown
Pit Captain: Douglas
Scout: Ben R. & Siri Maley

Problems Encountered

  • During the first quarterfinal match, our battery (#1) failed, even though the charger (the newest fast-charger) indicated a full charge. This battery had been used for our first qualifying match (Q3), without problems. I suspect the charger; although the charging cycle and time for this battery appeared normal, the subsequent battery put on this charger failed to charge (the charger did not see it). This battery did charge on an old charger. This failure was not due to battery inattention.
  • Individual wheel steering occasionally locked-up, with affected wheels ending up oriented in unpredictable directions and uncoordinated with each other. Occurred in a number of matches. Cause unknown. Steering motors were checked immediately afterwards and were not hot. Battery voltage okay. We had some calibration problems which may or may not have been related (but could not have caused all of the issues observed). Issues occurred in both teleop and autonomous. (Less drastically/often in the latter, though that may simply be a product of its shorter duration and fewer actions.)
  • The IR sensor does not seem reliable. Mid competition, Monty Madness began using bright, low field lights which could have been interfering with the sensor. Prior to their introduction, the autonomous use of the IR sensor was relatively consistent (scoring/clearing 1 if not 2 balls). After their introduction, the results became much more sporadic, with many false-positive kicks. This may require at-event threshold calibration and virtually necessitates a dashboard readout of the voltage. At no point during the competition was sensor data a useful indicator in teleop mode. (This is potentially very helpful given the blind spots created by the bumps).
  • Drivers/operators report that the possessor was even less useful than usual. Cause is unknown, though it may be a speed setting issue and is likely worth investigating carefully in driving practice.
  • We completely eroded the (rear right) Deaver tread during the 1st quarterfinal (probably a casualty of the battery problem). Did not replace (no time). This caused steering issues in the quarterfinals, in combination with Problems 1, 2 & 6.
  • The drive team discovered a loose wheel axle collar (front left) while in queue before the first quarter-final match. This is on the pit checklist, and apparently was not checked. With little time, the set screw appeared to sheared and immovable, so a quick-fix of several small wire tie "spacers" was implemented. The wheel was not loose when DEWBOT went on the field, and was only slightly loose by the end of QF1. Another wire tie was added for QF2 and the wheel mounting remained tight throughout.
  • Had to replace the kicker elastics. This caused no problem in competition.


Overall, Sab-BOT-age and DEWBOT VI did a great job at Monty Madness. This competition is packed with many superlative FRC teams from the area (being decidedly NJ-centric). When I looked at the list of attending teams, I was decidedly concerned over our prospects.

Our good performance, however, does not leave us with nothing to learn.

The battery failure during the 1st quarterfinal occurred in spite of careful battery management. The timing of this failure could have hardly been worse. We need to isolate the cause of this failure and correct this.

Likewise, we need to understand and correct the erratic drive-train behavior. This seems to be a new problem (not the old Pivot 4 story).

Autonomous performance was significantly better than in past competitions (We scored! On purpose!), but we still have miles to go before we sleep. I would like us to explore replacing the IR sensor with a LED and shielded photodetector on opposite Ball Dam Gussets. When a ball (or anything, except the kicker--i.e. kicker must be latched to validate reading) breaks the beam, kick (in autonomous). There are also valuable teleop benefits to a sensor detecting a ball in position (there are a lot of places on the field that the driver cannot see because of the bumps, and balls do tend to accumulate there).

Driver controls and driver intuition do not seem to be aligned. I've been informed that I need to buy an X-Box 360 for the driver to solve this problem. Am open to alternative solutions as well.

The Deaver tread attachment system is great, but we need pre-punched treads for a fast change (but even this would not have been fast enough between the two quarterfinals). We should change all wheels over before (BR)².

Our possessor remains ineffective. This seriously limits our ability to score. It's time to do something new.

The new battery box survived Monty Madness. A cursory examination of the old box made it abundantly clear that it would have failed in competition had we not replaced it. As anticipated, the crack originated at a sharp interior corner from the scroll saw cut.

Douglas did a great job a Pit Captain, but some purposeful pit crew training (and/or clear pit mentor) is needed.

Post-competition meetings were held and the Pit Process followed where time allowed (some competitions were too close together to allow this luxury). Both processes were both posted in the pit (and amended as needed).

An Observation: Robots hang, but this is not so common. Many robots which are able hang do not. My sense is that the math just doesn't work. If you can score (or defend), it is more effective to spend the 20 sec or so necessary to hang in scoring or defending. I think we made the correct strategic decision when we opted not to hang. In two (2) Regionals and (2) off-season events, I have yet to see a suspended robot. Many robots that attempt to hang fail to succeed.

Monty Madness Photo Gallery