Skip to main content

Thoughts on FIRST's 2018 game, Power Up

As a newcomer to the world of FIRST but already acclimated to the world of robotics through building my own robots, quadcopters and participation in VEX, I find FIRST to be fascinating. I think that the games designed by FIRST seem more fun, engaging, and competitive and bring all aspects of people together much better than VEX, albeit at a more expensive price point. It is not just an efficient robot at stake here, which require talented programmers, designers, and builders in and of itself, but also the ability to strategize and adapt before and during the game.

So for those who haven’t read the rule book yet (which you should have at this point, so I don’t know what you are doing if you have not yet, so I will just link it right here for your reading pleasure), or are reading this post in the future as you came across it in a Google search, here is a quick rundown of how the game works:

As usual, you are in an alliance with two other teams, with all three alliance stations adjacent to one side flanked by enemy portals. These portals are feeder stations for “power-up boxes,” which are essentially this years’ game pieces, although not necessarily directly used for scoring. Each alliance is allotted ten power-up cubes that they may deposit onto the field should they choose to, but not place it in the “vault.” Behind each alliance station is a vault that can store up to 9 power-up cubes, and are placed in by human players obtained via robots on the field. Each power-up cube contributes 5 points to the score and can also be spent towards various “power-ups” that offer the alliance a temporary advantage.

On the field, there are three weighing scales. Ignoring auto, which is double points per usual, the scale on the alliance side and the center scale provide 1 point per second during teleop, as well as 1 point for gaining control. The center weighing scale is called the “scale” and rests at 5 feet tall, while the alliance side scales are called “switches” and rests at a foot tall. The scale is flanked by platform zones and null territories. The platform zones are used in the endgame for climbing, of which you must lift one foot above the ground to gain a 30 point bonus and one ranking point. The null zones are the only zones where you are able to launch projectiles (into the scale). The switches are flanked by power cube zones where additional power cubes other than ones deposited from the portals can be obtained.

I think that this year’s game is especially interesting. Although the video game theme is kind of a meme in and of itself (re: a joke), the actual game itself has important strategical implications, as this game is extremely dynamic and can change rather quickly, based on the circumstances.

You don’t know whether the enemy team will try to take your switch or not. Your fully offensive alliance strategy may fail if the enemy team has taken control of your switch and is consistently defensively antagonizing you.

Your strategy may have been to go for the scale, but the enemy team, with their better robots, have the same offensive strategy, so to win, you may need to adapt. Maybe the other team built their robot around attacking the scale, so to counterattack, you can still win by taking control of their switch.

I’m not even going to suggest climbing. Seems impossible enough and like they purposely designed it for each game for the teams to use the levitate power-up. Anyways, those are my initial thoughts. Great game.

Gideon Tong

P.S. This is the first time I wrote a post in Microsoft Word, so the formatting may be a little weird when I eventually copy and paste this into my website. I originally did this in order to be able to work offline on my laptop where cars and trains may have little to no connectivity, but I found that I quite like this method, as it allows me more formatting options and editing tools than provided by either Google Docs or Google’s Blogger platform. Should I like it, I may continue to write posts this way and thus change the formatting of future posts.