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October 2014


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First Lego League in Virginia and DC <[log in to unmask]>
VA-DC Referee Advisor <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 26 Oct 2014 22:55:31 -0400
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VA-DC Referee Advisor <[log in to unmask]>
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FLL Tournament Coaches and Teams,

  I know all teams are excited about getting ready for the upcoming
regional tournaments, and I am looking forward to our opening weekend.  At
your tournament you have a "pit area" to serve as your base of operations,
and there will be robot game tables available in or near the pit for your
team to test things and rehearse on--so you won't need to bring your own
mat, table, or mission models.  All Virginia/DC tournaments will have a
practice round (the score will not count in the tournament scoring) plus 3
or 4 competition rounds.  In addition to your matches at the competition
tables, you'll be scheduled to meet the judges for Project, Robot Design
and Core Values, so it will be a busy day!  Try to get to your next
activity several minutes (5-10) before it is scheduled to begin--that
should reduce stress for you and the judges and the referees.

  Remember that your competition table will be back-to-back with another
table where a different team is competing.  Make sure to follow directions
about where to wait before going to the tables and where to stand when you
are at the table.  When your team is sent to the table, go ahead and begin
your before-match preparations--lay out items in base, get your robot
prepared and ready to run.  The ref will ask your robot handlers if you are
ready to begin, and there will be a countdown or sound to let you know when
to start your robot.  I like to use "3-2-1-LEGO!" for countdowns.  Don't
forget to build your "homework" model for the other team to use for Reverse

  After the match is over, don't touch anything without guidance from the
referee.  The referee will mark your scoresheet with the status of the
field.  One or two team members should check that the referee has marked
the scoresheet correctly, and sign or initial the sheet to show agreement.
Then you should quickly remove all your items from the field (but don't
take the mission models!) and leave the area.  The scorekeeper will tally
the score from the scoresheet--referees won't be able to tell you your
score at the table.  They'll be getting the table ready for the next team
who is about to come in.  I've attached a copy of the scoresheet that most
tournaments will be using, so that you can become familiar with it.

  Your tournament director should let you know if tables or other supports
will be available to hold your storage box during competition, and how many
people can accompany the team at the tables--don't worry, there should be
plenty of room in the audience area.

  All teams should plan to review the Robot Game Updates at (no updates will be
posted after Friday at 3pm) as well as the rules and missions and field
setup in the main Challenge document.  Now that you've been working with
the Robot Game and your robot for a while, you'll probably notice things by
rereading the game documents that you didn't see the first time or two.

  I'd like to point out several items that sometimes surprise teams:

Setup and Calibration
Rule 36 tells you that you'll get at least one minute to prepare your robot
and other equipment, as well as calibrate your light and color sensors
outside Base during that time.  Once your referee brings you to the table,
you don't have to wait or ask permission to do preparation or calibration,
unless he or she is still setting up the field.

Mission Models
Rule 15 tells us that Mission Models are already at the table when you walk
up to it.  You earn points by doing things with the Mission Models (and
your robot). Don't bring your own mission models--you have to use the ones
at the table.  If you accidentally take Mission Models away from the table
after you are done, your table referee will be sad, and might have to send
someone after you.  However, if you do discover that a mission model has
traveled with you back to the pit area, please take it back to the
scorekeeper's area as soon as possible.  All the mission models are
important, so we will all have to be careful to keep them at the
competition tables and the tables in the pit.

Checking the Field and Rescuing your Robot
You are encouraged to look at the field when you get to the table to ensure
that all the Mission Models look properly set up.  If you have any
questions at all, please ask your table referee to check it.  If the field
looks dirty, ask your referee or the referee assistant to clean it--they
should have dusting supplies.  Remember that Rules 37 and 38 say that YOU
may not move or adjust anything outside of base.
You may always intercept/rescue your robot or a damaged attachment whenever
you choose to, or you may ask the referee to do it for you. Try not to bump
anything when standing at the table or rescuing your robot.  The referee
won't move or reset anything changed by robot action--but that's okay,
because your team gets at least three tries to do its best.

Rule 23 also says that Bluetooth must be turned off at the competition
tables.  If you don't know how to turn Bluetooth on, then your team may
never have turned it off in the first place.  If your NXT robot shows a
Bluetooth B ( in the upper
left corner of the display, then please turn it off before coming to the
competition.  There's a top-level menu item named "Bluetooth" with an
On/Off setting.

Rules 17-23 tell you what you are allowed to bring to the competition area
for strategic purposes.  They don't list computers.  On the other hand,
Rule 23  does restrict electrical devices:  "No other electric elements nor
devices are allowed for use in any way in the competition area."  If your
team has a computer and doesn't want to leave it alone in the pit, or leave
it with a guardian, please make sure it is turned off and closed when you
are in the competition area.

Please double-check the Robot Allowable Equipment section (Rules 17-25),
because sometimes we forget to re-read it because we think we know what it
says.  Do not bring two controllers, or more than four motors, or
unallowable sensors to the competition floor, even if they are not plugged
in.  Note that you are only supposed to write on your robot in "hidden
areas".  If this wasn't possible for your team, let the head ref know at
the Coaches meeting before the tournament--it reassures the referees that
your team has read and understood the rules!

Starting your Robot
As you know, Rules 39 and 40 emphasize that you aren't touching your robot
before you cause it to start, or adjusting it while it is moving.  This is
psychologically very hard--the competition area may be a stressful place:
 there are strangers watching, and loud music playing, and there's a
competition going on.  The robot is a familiar object, and a team member
may unconsciously want to "cuddle" it during the countdown, especially if
you haven't spent a lot of time practicing clean starts.  Listen to the
comments from the referees during the practice round and later, and try to
do your best in each match.

Remember, after you touch the robot to make it offline (or the referee
rescues it at your request), the robot must be brought back to base and
restarted.  You don't have to wait for a signal from the referee to restart
the robot, but you still need to have a clean start, as described in Rules
39 and 40.  (Exception:  Rule 47 says that you may turn your robot off
without penalty when it's completely done working.)

The referees are at the tournament to support the teams.  Team members may
always ask the ref to check the field before the start, to explain why a
ruling or a scoring decision has been made, and may express whether they
agree or disagree with that ruling or decision.  The Head Referee may have
to take the team away from the table to explain a ruling, and to make room
for the next team to compete.  Decisions made by the Head Referee are final
(Rule 51).

Finally, Gracious Professionalism is Rule One--we expect that FLL is fun,
and the tournament is exciting, and the teams are competing like crazy
against problems--and the referees volunteer so we can see all the
inventiveness and neat ideas that FLL teams come up with (even when the
robot does things you don't like) --we are there so teams can show what
they can do!

Steve Scherr
VA/DC FLL Referee Advisor

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