What is the optimal drive team?

As the title says, this thread is for the community to discuss what makes an optimal drive team.

I find that the biggest error people make with drive teams is allocation of responsibility, mainly concerning the coach. There are many teams that are indecisive during the game and I attribute this mainly to communication delay as well as general driver experience.

In VEX, being active and always having a goal in mind is key to winning a game such as Gateway that has constantly shifting circumstances.

Main driver (drives chassis)
-second-to-second decisions
-loud, commanding, concise but clear communication
-quick decision making
-technical skill, understanding capabilities of robot
-understand the game

-mainly staying focused, listening attentively to main driver
-able to take orders
-understand personality and really know the driver
-do not lose any time coordinating when chassis/arm have to work together

-looking at opponents
-counting score
-looking at time
-match loading
-gate lifting,
-only makes decisions when absolutely necessary, usually as reaction to opponent actions
-understanding of game and other robots (scouting)
-quick analysis of circumstances to change strategy quickly

My optimal drive team, based on the responsibilities and characteristics above, aims to delete any communication delay during the match. Indecision is a big killer and every second wasted switching directions or waiting for your operator to raise the arm when you want to score is precious. In this way, the coach should not make many decisions, but allow the driver to control the match and eliminate that delay.

Similarly, driver and operator need to be synchronized perfectly. Not only should they both understand the game to the deepest degree, they need to understand how the other would react to certain situations (especially the operator) by understanding personalities and getting a lot of experience and practice together. This way, the driver and operator mimic the synchronization of robot subsystems of a single driver, but spread the mental load of controlling multiple subsystems at once over two people.

Thought I would share my own view on drive teams and am curious how other teams organize their drive teams.

Well that pretty much matches our drive team philosophy word for word.

Currently our teams are mixed up a bit, so we don’t have a coach, but our drivers (me and Murdomeek) can basically convey entire sentences with single word shouts during a match because we some up with terminology all the time. The word “dig” means: “Raise the arm over the object, drive over it, bring the arm down on top of it and drive back in hopes of flipping or pulling the object back towards the robot.”

Drivers should also stay the same, because that gives them the chance to learn the quirks of the robot, like, “When outtaking, do it slowly so the balls don’t go flying outwards too fast.”

The way Free Range do it is we traditionally (an exception with this year) have 2 drivers and a coach. The coach does all the instructing, the drivers just do as they are told. That way there will never be any disagreements.

It takes some practice to drive with a co-driver, but you do get the hang of it. I have been driving with my co driver since Clean Sweep and its as if we read each others mind - that’s how easy we find it to work together. The time it takes to be able to work well together definitely pays off, it puts much less load on you and you can think much clearer.

This year, our A robot has 2 drivers: Me, and my co-driver, who is also coaching, our B robot consists of one driver, currently without a coach, and our C team consists of one driver and one coach. Its especially hard this year, as we are driving 3 robots with 5 members.


Personally I drive by myself, with no operator. At first we didn’t have enough money for extra joysticks, so I had to drive by myself, but now that I am experienced with driving solo I think would get frustrated having someone else operating.

I usually have my brother as a coach, who sometimes points out things I miss, such as unowned goals, or the need to block the opposition. He also deals with loading objects.

My other drive team member is usually on the gate, ready to lift when my brother or I tell them. They can also yell something at me if they need to, but that doesn’t happen very often.

I usually don’t talk or get talked to much while driving though because I sort of zone out and focus on the game so that I make less silly mistakes. I find that if I’m trying to talk too much I lose focus and start driving badly.

EDIT: On a side note, interesting thread idea! It’s pretty cool to read what other teams do.

Thank you haha, these kinds of things really interest me.

I used to drive solo, but then I found that controlling all the subsystems simultaneously was too strenuous on my concentration. With two drivers, I can focus more on looking ahead instead of on the little things. I can trust my operator to raise to the right height, intake/outtake at the right times, etc. It gives me a lot more concentration to devote to other things.

Also, like I said, it seems we all agree that somebody needs to dictate what the robot does, no arguments, no backtalk. So wouldn’t it make sense for this to be the person controlling the majority of the robot’s movement (main driver). This way, any and all communication delay is gone. Everything comes out of the driver and is listened to = great efficiency.

The way our team does it is we have 2 drivers and one coach. The coach is technically the one who makes the decisions, but since all three of us pretty much know what should be done it ends up being less of a “go here score there pick up that” sort if thing and more just a cohesive drive team. Something I would suggest doing is instead of looking for the best two drivers look for the two drivers that work the best together and go from there. While most people see the coach as just the guy who does the match loAding and things like that he should really be the one deciding what to do as he has the ability to pay attention to what the other team is doing as well

Very interesting discussion. As a coach of a new team, We have been trying out different partnerships nearly every match. This has led to great experiences for the team, but we have definitely seen a few problems & losses driving this way.

We have two drivers and a coach. The coach instructs the drivers on what to do, and the drivers carry it out. The instructions are phrased like “Turn and get the 3 red pieces behind you and score in the circular goal to your right”. Now between the two drivers, there is a main driver who controls the chassis, and the co-driver who controls the manipulator. However, we program in an override button on the main driver’s joystick. If he sees that something has to be done immediately, and there is no time to discuss it, he can override the controls and control the whole robot. Obviously, this is not used unless absolutely necessary.

Quick question: If I only have one controller, can I still use 2 drivers and a coach?

Question: Do you see any rules against it?
Note: There is a question in the Q&A on this. (HINT: The thread title is Driver Definition Clarification)



Oh. Ok thanks. :smiley:

As I read it from the responses so far, most teams are following this philosophy on coaches and their responsiblities. So the question I’d like to pose is:

Is it more beneficial for the driver or coach to dictate strategy, specifically during the match?

My opinion is that the driver should dictate strategy mainly because of communication delay. The opposing opinion I’ve seen is that the coach sees what the opponent does as well and can respond but if the coach dictates all strategy, then he can’t really focus on both your robot and the opponents’ robots. Basically it seems like a waste of eyes. Between the 3 people, driver+operator watch your robot and the coach watches the opponents/overall game. This way all points are covered and there is no communication delay. What do you guys think?

As far as the coach vs driver discussion is concerned, I don’t think its a black and white thing that many people believe it is. While I personally believe that the coach should have superiority when it comes to determining strategy, it is important to have a perfect blend. As you may have read in my previous post, our drive team consists of two drivers, who work very well together, as well as a coach. All THREE of us work on essentially the same page, so there is very little discrepancy when it comes determining what to do. Our coach really only determines small things, like whether we should start scoring for the opponent in the qualifying matches, or sometimes if there is a choice, which goal we should score on. I personally believe it is less of “who should decide the strategy during the match” and more of “what is our strategy, and how will we make sure we follow it in match.”

So how do you go about following it in a match? Is there just absolute perfect synchronization? If a choice needs to be made, who makes it? Or does it depend on the situation?

I mean there are certain procedures that we follow in match that allow us to keep our heads clear and allow us to make sure we don’t fall out of sync. A lot of times it just comes out of practice, because the more you drive with the same person, the more you can predict what they will want to go for next. Personally, I drive the arm and manipulator of the robot, and another teammate drives the base. When we’re in match, it’s very fluid, as a lot of times the “right” decision is staring you right in the face. At this point in competition, the main strategy we have is just “score score score” so it’s pretty easy to follow this in game. As far as synchronization goes, I would say its as close to perfect as you can get with two drivers, because when there is a choice to be made, we both kind of make the same choice and go with it. I don’t know what your robot design is, but that is also a huge factor in how you drive. There are also some important queues you can look for as far as driving is concerned. If you see the arm is going down, as drive train you shouldn’t be going to score. If you see the robot moving toward a goal, as arm you should raise it to the applicable height. It’s a pretty difficult concept to explain in words, but I think the best way to achieve near perfect synchronization is just PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.

One option I haven’t seen discussed (and the option my team uses):
A single operator of the robot (arm and chassis) keeps track of what our robot’s doing, and where game objects are.
A “coach” (really a “driver,” but acting as a coach) who will keep track of the other robots and alerts the controller of easy goals, etc.
A second “coach” who keeps score and tells when to start scoring for SPs. This coach also takes care of gate-raising and match loading.

Before someone mentions it… we can use a single operator of the robot because we make liberal use of pre-programmed behaviors.


This is very similar to how we have our driving/coaching set up

interesting, but I thought this was illegal? You are not allowed to have two coaches, although I’m not sure what the literal definition of driver is. Although this is a whole different conversation, I still think that two drivers will outperform one driver 9 times out of 10. I would say that 1103 is the only robot I have seen so far that has truly outperformed two person drivers in terms of driving ability.

I completely agree with this statement and applaud you for achieving that sort of synchronization. It’s so important for all of the drive team to understand the game. But there isn’t a “correct” understanding. Rather it seems important for the drive team to have a consistent understanding so that, like you said, when a choice is made, everyone makes the same choice instantly.

Yes, we’ve been focusing on 2 drivers and 1 coach probably because that is the most common, but it is definitely interesting to look at other drive team configurations and to optimize them as well.

Looking at your outline I think you’ve done a good job of spreading out the duties in a very reasonable way, but I want to ask if you could elaborate on the hierarchy of the drive team, or if it is just a cohesive unit like Thorondor said.

For the 1 driver - 2 driver discussion, I think the most important thing is robot design. Depending on the way the 3 subsystems (chassis, lift, intake) of the robot interact with each other as the robot performs certain actions (intake, outtake, scoring on diff goals, etc), the amount of driver coordination and concentration can be completely different.

For example, 1492X’s first robot design aimed perfectly on the 30" goals if I drove right into them, but our second iteration of the robot increased our horizontal reach very significantly. Once this change happened, I found that aiming the forward-backward movement of the robot at the same time as keeping the 6-bar at the scoring height (without holding the motors at stall position) required too much concentration and I had to get an operator. Of course if the 6-bar was able to stay at all heights without falling that would be ideal, but we weren’t able to achieve that balance. The 6-bar would hold itself up with 3+ objects at max height, but be unable to be at the 18x18x18 down position without popping up due to the large amount of elastic assistance on the 6-bar.

I like driving the robot by myself with a lot of programming aid. I can just press a button to put the lift at any goal height that I want. I find driving with another person unpredictable and somewhat frustrating. Later in the season when we have more time to practice, we may start using two, but for now we preform just as well with one. Also as a driver I find having a coach telling me what to do extremely useful. Often when I am concentrating on driving I don’t see important things happening somewhere else on the field that I should be dealing with.