Comments from Texas BEST:
 - scoring display wifi broke down several times.
 - Many teams complained of Vexnet connection problems;  not all of them are battery connection related;  somehow they seem to work better when I am watching them.
 - The scoring software was showing real-time 'futures-prices' that apply to the next phase.   I didn't notice this at Dallas BEST the week before.
 - I only found 2 robots out of ~65 that used small motors for wheels, but didn't notice if either of them made the semi-finals.    I surveyed many of the robots but haven't yet compared the scores vs features.
 - A number of teams had to be reminded to remove all other 7.2v batteries from the pits, other than the two provided by BEST.  We will probably have to enforce this with serialized stickers on the batteries next year.

Warnings for teams at future regionals:
- Two teams were very disappointed when they realized they were dropped from semi-finals phase unexpectedly. Although QA230 said that the lowest round score will not be dropped,  The scoring software DOES drop the lowest round like previous years, but shows cumulative score and rank without dropping the lowest round through the end of seeding phase.  
  This can be heartbreakingly misleading when teams with reliable performance lose one round of points, while teams with the same average scores, but one zero round, don't lose any points.
  Be sure to ask if the scoring software is updated to fix this before counting on your advancement to finals based on seeding round points.
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Thanks for the report.

Can you tell me what the values for the commodities were at the end of seeding and the end of semi-finals at your regionals?


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I noticed that the air filters were covered in aluminum foil. This is not specified in the field manual or GSR. I hope the future regionals will follow the filed specs and GSR when making their scoring pieces. 
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Yes, this is a pet peeve of mine.  The regionals, of all places, should ensure their fields are built to "spec".  This isn't the pinewood derby, it's an engineering program.  It is more than reasonable for the students to expect to have a 100% plan-compliant field each season.  At local competitions, and especially at the regional competitions.  An issue at Auburn a couple of seasons ago made the difference from us having a national high score to taking second place.  Each season the kids worry about what wrench the regional field may throw at them that is out of spec.

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Leading teams commonly scored all the copper, all the iron, and some of the coal.
From memory and re-simulation using the excel scoring simulator,
%scored are about 42 100 10 100 6 in both seeding and semis;
leading to semi-final prices: 5.5, 3.4, 14.5, 7.3, 37;
and finals prices: 6,1.7, 21, 3.5, 55
  Match Scores generally decrease at each phase.
  Top Gun score was 528

The air-filter was intended to be made of the same foam as was provided in the C-kit, so teams would have a built-in game piece sample.  But since the same stores do not stock the same material across the nation, there is some difference between hubs, and so possibly some difference between eg New Mexico hub, and Texas Best regional in Dallas.
  Various supplied foam come with radiant barrier foil on 0/1/2 sides with a clear plastic film on 2/1/0 sides.  It is definitely not an added aluminum foil layer.   You can see the shiny foil in the rules Appendix C, Incorrect7 picture. 

[edit update re peeves] :
Many of the field differences at regional fall in the category of "tolerance", and/or changing customer requirements.
This happens in 'real life' too, so it is good to have robot designs that are flexible to tolerance or changing requirements.
- Or this is just an retroactive excuse,  similar to why example robots are always terrible;
"if we made it perfect, teams would just copy us".   -rolleyes-
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Great, thanks.    re foam, yes, I can see them using the foil faced type.  Defiantly dot the same as covering it with alu foil [smile].   Probably would have been better to specify extruded polystyrene (think that's right) which I've never seen come with a foil layer.  In any case, the more that can be done to standardize the field the better.

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Our team also had Vexnet connection problems in one round.  The driver had to reboot the remote three times during that round.  It cost him probably 20 total seconds - wouldn't have made any ultimate difference in our standing but it was frustrating.  I heard that another team had the same problem, and one of them had to switch back to an old "Cortex key"(?) which worked better.

The theory was that it was due to lots of people in the stands running personal hotspots.  Our connection problem only happened in one location (field at the end of the arena, not the one in the middle), so that may be legit.

Hopefully this problem can be resolved next year.

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With regards to "tolerance" on the game fields, there is not a specific plus or minus measurement listed in any of the BEST documents I have reviewed. When my team questioned this at our demo day, we were told that the field tolerance is generally +/-.500". I would love for BEST to set a specific tolerance for the field in either the GGR or the field drawings next year, preferably a smaller tolerance than half an inch. That is a large tolerance even in architecture. It is my belief that if we are to call ourselves engineers, we should be able to hold our designs to a reasonable degree of accuracy. The teams themselves are not permitted any tolerance when it comes to robot size constraints, why should the field components be any different?
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I don't think that it is true that "The teams themselves are not permitted any tolerance when it comes to robot size constraints".  The allowed weight is 12 pounds +/- 12 pounds; that is quite a wide tolerance!

As for WiFi interference from hotspots in the stands, it should be easy enough to check.  There are free utilities available to monitor the number of WiFi networks active at any given point.  Perhaps competition officials should make a point of measuring the amount of WiFi activity in the pit, and if there is enough to cause trouble make a general announcement asking spectators to turn off personal hotspots.
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You are quite right about robot tolerance, I had not thought about it that way. I would also like to make it very clear that I appreciate the fact that BEST is a volunteer organization, and I admire the devotion of all of the volunteers who work to make this a great competition every year. I was not trying to criticize those who build or design the field, I was merely saying that half an inch of variation in the specs is quite difficult for teams to plan for with a 24'' or less robot. 
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I like examples.  Here is a quote from 'another' robotics competition, where fields are 1/4 the area, and field kits are commercially produced (but still assembled by local volunteers).
<G13> Field tolerances may vary by as much as +/-1”, so teams must design their robots ...

If you provide a notable example in BEST where a 1/2" difference is difficult for teams to plan for, perhaps other people can contribute how they overcame (or not) such a difficulty.
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I like examples, too.

If the copper bucket in PayDirt were 1/2" too wide (or even 1/4" too wide), that could prevent a robot designed to pick it up from doing so at all.  However, there is no reason that a piece like that could be built with a tolerance of no more than +/- 1/8".

Similarly, if one of the tunnel openings were 23-1/2" tall instead of 24" tall, that could prevent a compliant robot from entering the tunnel.  Given my team's tendency to build robots that are 23-15/16" tall (despite all my efforts to encourage a 1 to 2 inch margin), that could be quite a problem.

On the other hand, if the overall dimension of the ground level section were too small by 2", that would probably not affect the performance of any robot.

In my opinion, a tolerance of +/- 1" for large dimensions such as widths of fields or for the placement of game pieces would be more than adequate, and expecting tighter tolerances would be unreasonable.  For game pieces such as the copper bucket or broken pipe, the tolerances should be much tighter, perhaps +/- 1/8"; any mechanically competent adult should be able to cut a piece of PVC or 1x4 with a tolerance of 1/8".
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This season, we are absolutely counting on the Alu balls being made correctly.  We made our own go-nogo template, as shown in the plans.  We can only hope the regional fields are in compliance.  If they are not compliant, it will hurt us.  On game day isn't the time to be pointing out to a regional field boss that they made some part incorrectly. 

For some things, like the width of the field, I agree, things like +/-1" aren't going to matter.  But for game pieces and game structures, they should be very close to "correct" and have tight tolerances. 

3 years ago our team was hurt drastically because the Auburn personnel chose to "hollow out" a mount hole for a PVC arm, where the plans clearly called for a specific sized hole that resulted in a snug/tight fit.   Our students lost a lot of faith in the whole program due to that issue.  The field plans are difficult to produce, the regional teams in particular should have or enlist the skills necessary to build the field "to spec".

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Editted to fix pronouns, and include comments by getgray;
 provided an example of the copper cart, where a 1/2" difference can make a particular robot design not work well;  
ok, but you didn't mention the difficulty (or not) of designing around a 1/2" tolerance copper cart.
  These are the examples of ways I have seen, or can think of to design around that tolerance.

Copper cart example: The game winning team complained that the green field copper bucket trapezoid was too wide, compared to their 0.003" tolerance robot forks.
Ways to design around it:
  Make forks wider, with higher range of high/low motion;  Now wide carts are picked up from lower on trapezoid, and narrow carts are picked up from higher.
  One team picked up the cart with triple ice-tong mechanism from above;  range of motion for width is important here too.
  Someone reported one team picked up the cart by clamping on the narrow end,  I didn't see it myself.  Maybe height and range of motion is important in this case.
  I have a cardboard prototype of a design that picks up the cart from the long side, with or without servo lock pins, with a single lift motor (and drive wheels).  
   The angle and height make some difference, but not much.  Also the robot wheels need to be far enough apart to span the longest cart.   

Tunnel opening width or height:  Its not difficult to design around this, and being well less than 24" is good practice anyway, to make inspection faster.
Just because 23.999" cubical robots are theoretically legal, does not mean they are well designed for a particular game.    
For the quoted <G13> game,  a team hosting a local competition could make their towers 37" tall instead of 36", and still be legal, yet screening out teams that cant reach that extra inch.

I agree that field distance tolerances are generally not a problem.
In my view, the broken pipe length dimensions are not important, since diameter is tightly controlled, and each pipe is checked that it fits its field.
The reach and angle of repair pipe placement are an example where robots can be designed with more reach than minimum spec, to allow for field tolerances and robot placement.
The usual problem with PVC length tolerance is the depth of fittings, which varies from mfg to mfg, as well as by installation, in pieces that use fittings.

The simple length of PVC or 1x4" less than 4' : 1% would be 0.04' = 1/2";  1/8" tolerance is 0.2%.  
Sure, that is not so difficult with a good measuring tape and a square miter saw,  but somewhat more challenging with a hand/jig/circular saw.

The critical dimension on the copper cart is a trapezoid of plywood;  
Any shape of sheet material like plywood has more dimensions than just length, and when non-square angles are included its much harder to keep good tolerances.
All the puzzle holes in GateKeeper vs the foam pieces that are supposed to fit in them, are an example where tolerance is hard to get right.  
Our local winning Gatekeeper team had a method of place the pieces, then close gripper and punch them into place at full depth.

An example of field distance that is more challenging is cone placement on Total Recall.
I had to kick out a student who was resetting the field with a ruler for his own team, and reset all the cones myself.
Just because his robot needs exactly 12" spacing to pick up 3 at a time, doesn't mean that placement tolerances need to be changed.

Regarding getgray on aluminum balls:
  I made the aluminum balls for Dallas BEST, and the template is pretty restrictive.
The weirdest legal shapes I could come up with were a pinch pot and a donut.
A compressed foil marble inside a 2.5" single layer hollow sphere would be very (fragile, unlikely, unlike the assembly instructions) yet be legal size.
Requests for checking tolerances on aluminum balls at practice sessions before game day should be able to be made respectfully, and acted on respectfully.
The aluminum balls are subject to crushing by some pickup methods.  
Its up to referees/field bosses to ding teams for doing that, and to repair/replace them back to spec afterwards.
If you plan to pinch them between rolling conveyor belts, you may end up crushing them below legal size.
Good luck!  I'd be interested in a report on how it turned out.

This thread is drifting away from the title topic of regional report.  Maybe we should start another one for field tolerance discussions.

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Regarding a few points of the original post:

" - A number of teams had to be reminded to remove all other 7.2v batteries from the pits, other than the two provided by BEST.  We will probably have to enforce this with serialized stickers on the batteries next year."

Serialized stickers would probably be a great idea.  While I have only seen a few non-VEX batteries in the charging area at our competitions, they were quickly removed.  A bigger issue is that there is no way to tell how many VEX batteries a team is using.  cycling through 3 or 4 vex batteries would be a big advantage at a smaller competition that has less time between rounds for charging.

Perhaps the battery charger should also be registered.  I've never counted, but there are so many chargers on the tables that i'd bet there are a few extra.  We even had an issue at our regional last year where a team was using a non-VEX programmable rapid charger.  Eventually, the pit boss talked to them BUT they were permitted to continue using it as their regular VEX charger had quit working.  A number of teams offered replacements, but the decision had been made... That was a very frustrating situation that should have been corrected.

"- Two teams were very disappointed when they realized they were dropped from semi-finals phase unexpectedly. Although QA230 said that the lowest round score will not be dropped,  The scoring software DOES drop the lowest round like previous years, but shows cumulative score and rank without dropping the lowest round through the end of seeding phase. "

Question 297 in the Q&A just addressed this and Q230 has been edited, but i bet a lot of teams will not realize this.  We disappointed a few teams last year at regionals by jumping over them for the last non-wildcard place in semis after the low score was dropped, even though it was very clear that this was the scoring rule.  Given all the questions I hear at the drivers meetings, not enough students are familiar with what is in the Q&A (or even the rules).  Either no one from their team follows it, or doesn't share major points with their team.  

I will be sure to ask about score dropping at the drivers meeting if no one else does and it is not mentioned by the head ref.

A great example of this arose from our hub last year.  One first year team had a very simple and reliable way to manipulate the large nacelle. they took first in our local game comp and moved on to regionals.  But, if you recall, the issue of the eye-bolt orientation can up a few times in the Q&A.  The final ruling was that plane of the eye was horizontal, while our hub had the plane vertical.  This final ruling was only posted the night before our competition, after the head judge had checked for any changes.  Needless to say, this team was very surprised at regionals when they discovered the difference.  They protested to no avail.  Their protest was over the instant they said they had never read the Q&A.  They had a very disappointing trip and it was horrible to see how frustrated and disappointed the kids were.  (My own team had been there before.)  On the other hand, they learned a lot and they seem to be a stronger team this year.
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