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 Engineering!

  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 athttp://firstlegoleague.org/challenge/2014fllworldclass (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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bluetooth.svg) 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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