What am I Watching?
A CheatSheet for Parents & Spectators


Each year there is a different game that the robots play. The game is released the first weekend of January. Teams have about 5 weeks to design and build a robot to meet the challenges of this year’s game. Then there is a 5 week competition season where we will compete at two regional competitions. Between competitions, the team continues to refine the robot. Week 6 is the FIRST in Michigan State Championships for teams finishing in the top half of the state. The season concludes with “Worlds” – the FIRST Championships in Houston in late April. Michigan typically sends about 80 teams to Worlds in a field of about 600 teams. 

In the fall we typically compete in 2 off-season events using the previous year’s robot – Kettering Kick-off and Bloomfield Hills Girls Competition. The Ann Arbor District Library also hosts Washtenaw Area Pickup Robotics. They release a game in September for a December pick-up competition among local teams.

Competition Format

Each robotics competition is split into two parts: Qualifications and Playoffs. During qualifications, each team will be randomly assigned partners for each match. After all of the qualifications, there will be a draft where the top 8 teams will draft their alliance partners. The playoffs are double elimination until the final match which is a traditional best of 3. 

2023 Game - A brief overview

Each game is 2.5 minutes with an initial 15 seconds where the robots operate autonomously. After this section, the robots are operated by a driver with a human player on the opposite end of the field who introduces game pieces to the field. You are working with an alliance of 2 other teams in the game for a combined total score.

The 2023 Game is called “Charged Up”. Each alliance is lined up on opposite ends of the rectangular playing field. In front of the drivers, is a grid for them to place cubes and cones. On the opposite end of the rectangle the human players will introduce additional cubes and cones to the playing field. You earn bonus points for creating links or patterns of blocks. There is also a center “charging station”. Teams earn additional points for balancing on the dock at the end of the autonomous section and at the end of the game. 

What Else Do I Need To Know?

Matches are typically available to watch on Twitch or YouTube so you can keep up with the team even when you can’t be there in person. 

Internet and cell service is usually very spotty for spectators especially in the stands. It is usually a bit better in the lunch rooms.

If you have questions, sit by an experienced parent or a mentor. I’ve found them willing to answer questions and provide insight.

The Blue Alliance app (links found on Team Resource Page) is great for match details. This will give you the team schedule typically released the morning the competition starts. It will list which match numbers we are in, which alliance (blue or red) for each match, and the tentative times for each match. Match times are updated through the day and match results will be posted.

How Are Team Members Involved?

Every team member is a valuable part of the team. The drive team are the ones on the field, but other team members are playing important roles. The Pit Crew makes any adjustments needed to the robot between matches. During qualifying matches, you will often see students with tablets intently watching all of the matches. They are scouting other teams looking for teams we might want to draft in an alliance or that we might want to show how valuable we can be as a partner. There are also team awards given such as the Impact Award that include an interview with team members at the competition. Other team members are interacting with other teams to build relationships and trading team pins. And of course everyone is in the stands cheering during our matches. 

Parent help during competitions can include bringing (or sending) requested food items, driving carpools, picking up team meals, saving seats in the stands, and more.