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.

  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 aren't going to 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 already sent out 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 stands
will be available to hold your Equipment 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 as well as the
rules and missions and field setup.  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 R09 tells you that you'll get at least one minute to prepare your
robot and other equipment, and lets you 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
D05 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 Rule R10 says 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.

Downloading Programs
Rule R02 says that downloading programs to robots must take place in the
pits and not the competition area.

Please double-check Rules R01-R06, because sometimes we forget to re-read
them because we think we know what they 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!

Launching your Robot
As you know, Rules R13 and R14 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 interrupt it (or the referee rescues
it at your request), the robot must be brought back to base and relaunched
(except if you are completely done, then it can stay on the field).  You
don't have to wait for a signal from the referee to restart the robot, but
you still need to have a clean
launch, as described in Rule R13.

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 GP5).

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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