banner I have been a Lego League coach since 2007. This year, I wanted to document the season to give rookie coaches a resource to help them through to competition. The process can be intense, but it can also be a lot of fun for you and your team.

I hope to cover enough through my posts, but if I leave anything out, please feel free to leave a comment, or contact me.

Preparing for The Game

Author: fllCoach | Files under The Game

I’ve been reading lately that a lot of regional/qualifying tournaments are coming up in the next few weeks, so I thought I would take a break from programming tips and post about how to prepare for your Game performance. The Game performance is the 2 1/2 minutes you have to complete all your missions.

If you organize your team like I do and break into sub-teams, at some point you have to start putting the missions together. You probably have one program per mission, so you will have to start putting several programs into one to go from base, complete several missions, and go back to base.

There will also likely be attachments to remove, others to put on, and mat models to deliver or move out of the way once they’ve gotten to base. All this has to be done in less than 2 1/2 minutes.

That doesn’t sound like a lot of time, and it isn’t. But once you start practicing, you’ll see that you’ll be able to get all your missions done and maybe even have time left over.

Hopefully, your team has already considered how missions are going to go together and have been programming the robot with that in mind. I usually have the team think through how the missions will flow from one to the other and start programming missions from the end of the previous one. Assuming the previous mission ends in approximately the same place each time, the team should be able to just append missions one after the other. A nice clean way to do this is by making myBlocks for each mission and putting all the myBlocks together in a single program.

Don’t worry about timing the first time you put everything together. Let it take 20 minutes if it has to. The most important thing is for the team to know all the transitions. Run your first mission(s) from base and let the robot come back. Ask the team which attachments need to be removed, what then needs to be added, then run the next missions. Repeat the process until all your missions are done. Once the kids know how everything fits together, they can start practicing it so the transitions are smooth enough to get under 2 1/2 minutes.

Then start talking about contingencies. What do they do when the robot doesn’t perform as expected? When do they pick up the robot? Can/Should they re-run any missions if they fail?

For the 2010 game, our mission to the Bad Cell Detection mission depends on the bone bridge being in place in the leg. If the bone bridge misses, they need to run the mission again. But they also need to be aware that if the robot let’s go of the bone bridge, they can’t recover it. So they need to grab the robot as soon as it misses and before it let’s go of it.

We also have a team member that is overzealous about grabbing the robot if it is off course. We drive straight East to attempt missions on the East side of the board. Sometimes a wheel can nick the Bad cell Detection model and she grabbed the robot as soon as it was headed that way. But sometimes, the robot will recover and continue on. She needed to be coached to wait until the robot was really in trouble before rescuing it.

You won’t be able to account for every contingency, but as coach, try to get your team to think of what can go wrong and what to do when it does.

3 responses. Wanna say something?

  1. Dean Hystad
    Nov 10, 2010 at 14:37:40

    A nice thing about this year’s challenge is that there is no reason not to try solving all the missions. In previous years there were points awarded based on where the robot was at the end of the match. There are no points like that this year, so you should plan to keep running missions until all your missions are done, or time runs out.

    Matches should be exciting this year with the contest regularly running down to the wire.

  2. Dean Hystad
    Nov 10, 2010 at 14:45:51

    Putting all your missions into one program saves a lot of memory ont he NXT, and can save a lot of time selecting missions, but unless you provide a way to select which mission runs next you are just asking for disaster to strike.

    Every year I see a few teams with programs like this:

    Mission 1 My Block
    Wait for button bumped
    Mission 2 My Block
    Wait for button bumped

    The great danger is “What happens if you want to run mission 2 again?” You have to wait for the robot to run through mission 1 again before it goes on to mission 2. If you write your program this way your first robot error is likely to be your last.

    If you write a program to sequence your missions, you’ll need to provide a way to select which missin runs next. This means using a switch block to run the programs, and some sort of selection code to provide the switch condition.

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