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Wait, what? No Autonomous Period?

Jan 14, 2019 Written by Frank Merrick.




Yep. As everyone knows by now, the 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition game does not have a dedicated Autonomous-only Period.


But this doesn’t mean your team should not consider developing autonomous code! You may find you can develop autonomous code that will allow your team to score points more reliably during the Sandstorm Period than you could by relying solely on drivers using video from the robot sent back to the driver station. Or, you can develop hybrid code that is mostly autonomous but takes input from humans to diversify autonomous actions.


And, of course – autonomous code has never been just for the Autonomous Period. Many teams write code to give their drive team autonomous assists throughout the match. The drivers get the robot most of the way into a position necessary to complete a task, and the code takes over for that final alignment and action. Those alignment lines and vision targets all over this season’s field were put there for just that reason. This ‘autonomous assist’ is real-world stuff. You know those newer cars that can parallel park for you? It’s the same kind of deal. Drivers get the car close, and sensors and code take over for the tricky part.


You may remember this blog in which we announced that the Autonomous Award sponsored by Ford would be available at all District and Regional events this season, thanks to Ford’s generous continuing sponsorship. In that blog, we said you should check out the awards description as it had been updated. The big change in the description, which you can find here is that the award can be given for any autonomous operations during a match, not just for what happens during the Autonomous Period. We made our friends at Ford aware of the big ‘Sandstorm Period’ change well before the game was released, and they enthusiastically supported ‘opening up’ the Autonomous Award to activities outside the traditional Autonomous Period. This is not to suggest the Autonomous Period is gone from all future games! You never know what that Game Design Team will come up with, but you should not think the Autonomous Period is gone for good.


Every team should make their own decisions about what will work best for them, and I am not suggesting that every team would be better off if they made the stretch toward more autonomous programming. What I am saying, though, is that a lack of an Autonomous-only Period does not automatically mean autonomous code can’t be useful, and teams should at least consider it.


I can’t wait to see what teams do during that Sandstorm Period!



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