Tips from Referees
We asked Head Referees from all over the world what tips and advice they have for teams.
1) Don’t cut it too close. If your robot is 11.999 inches at start, maybe you should rethink your attachment.
2) The Challenge Guide and the Rules Updates document are very important. It’s the same documents the Referees use. Read the rules…and then read the rules again. Remember that anything not mentioned in the rules does not matter. Bring a copy with you to the tournament.
3) The kids are the only ones allowed to talk to the referees (not the coaches). The kids should be ready to discuss their strategy or score with the referees based on the rules, not based on assumptions.
4) The kids should be making decisions and running their robot as they need to. Coaches should be prepared to stand back and let the kids do the work at the competition table. Your job is to cheer for them.
5) Build the models exactly as shown in the building instructions and double check the builds. Many teams come to the tournament and find their solution is not working the same as at home. Often, this is because they had an error in their builds.
6) Conditions differ. Each table will be a bit different, mats can get a bit curled, lighting can be different, etc. Make your robot solutions robust. Before coming to the competition, let your robot drive on another team’s table. Invite them to yours.
7) Find out if your region has a way (often an email address) to get in contact with your Head Referee. If you have access to that resource, use it whenever you have a question that you can’t answer by reading the rules or if you have any unsusual strategy you wish to discuss ahead of time.
8) Many people find it hard to work well under pressure, and where do you feel more pressure than when running your robot at a FIRST LEGO League competition. What can you do? Practice, practice, practice. Stop building and programming your robot at least a week before the competition, and use the time to practice getting your robot to succeed reliably at what it already can do.
9) Not all regions will give teams a rerun. However, if you think that your team deserves a rerun (maybe there was a setup error, or some other field related error), think very hard before going for the rerun. And that is especially true during the last of your matches. Invariably your robot will score less on the rerun. The technicians tend to be under more pressure during the rerun, and make more mistakes.
10) Don’t touch the mission models on the competition table. If you think something is wrong with the way they are set up, you should ask the Referee to adjust them. You can ask the Referee to test the mechanism of any mission model too.
11) Don’t request adjustments to the angle/direction of a mission model unless it is specifically stated in the Challenge Document/Field Set Up Guide. The table will not be customized/optimized for your team’s solution.
12) Don’t assume that the Referee will grab the robot when it is stuck or remove something from the field by hand (if allowed). The kids should talk to the Referee ahead of time and let them know that you would like them to help with this since your team members cannot reach the robot or model quickly.
Thank you to MK, Thomas, Sam, Alan, and Srini for these tips.