Looking for a kinder, gentler, fairer scheduling format

Debates and discussions on the various race scheduling methods that can be used and their fairness and accuracy in determining the winners.
Post Reply
onoahimahi
Apprentice
Apprentice
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 10:39 pm

Looking for a kinder, gentler, fairer scheduling format

Post by onoahimahi » Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:17 pm

My pack uses the Sterns method with Derbymaster software and The Judge timer. About 60 cars race 6 heats on a 3-lane track after being randomly grouped together by the software. The winners are picked based on points and there are usually 4 or 5 cars that are undefeated and race times are used to break the tie. First, second, and third place pack trophies are awarded, as well as first and second place den (even though members of the individual dens may never actually race against each other. Curiously, the way this format is defined, the pack trophy winners never race against each other either because if the did, only one of them would be undefeated.)

Do a lot of packs use formats like this?

I volunteered to run the computer next year and am looking for a kinder, gentle, more fair format. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir but here goes: I claim this format is not fair to the fast cars because of the random nature of the Sterns match ups. The undefeated cars are not necessarily the fastest cars, just the cars lucky enough to be matched up against only slower cars. Last year, the fastest car based on race times lost one race and didn’t get a pack trophy. This year, the second fastest car in the pack based on time lost one race and didn’t get a pack trophy. (This part of the problem could be fixed by switching to race times instead of points.)

This format is not kind to the slower cars. This year we had many reports of younger kids crying during or after the race in the parking lot because of poor performing cars. (Recall that this is supposed to be fun.) I still remember my son’s first derby as a Tiger. All I wanted was for him to win one race and I would call the day a success. Just one race. This year, we had 24 cars that did not win a single race. We had seven cars that came in last every race but one and had two kids that came in last every single race. If the race format could pit these slower cars against each other, instead of repeatedly placing them with the fast cars mentioned above, more kids would be winning more races.

I proposed that we changed the format and the pack agreed to listen to possible changes provided that eliminations are not used. We want to have all kids race the same number of races with the possible exception of the short run-off at the end if necessary. Is there some kind of format (and software) out there that adapts to the results of a heat when scheduling the next heat? For example, pitting cars together with the same number of losses? This would wind up with the fast cars racing other fast cars and slow cars racing other slow cars. Pitting slow cars against other slow cars would assure that they will win more races. Pitting fast cars against other fast cars will assure that the fastest cars in the pack actually get the pack trophies.

Thanks in advance,
-Scott



User avatar
Stan Pope
Pine Head Legend
Pine Head Legend
Posts: 6888
Joined: Sat Jul 05, 2003 7:01 pm
Location: Morton, Illinois
Contact:

Re: Looking for a kinder, gentler, fairer scheduling format

Post by Stan Pope » Wed Mar 23, 2005 1:22 am

Well, Scott, you came to the right place!

Stearns is not a reliable base for times because lane balance is not assured. And, it is not a reliable base alone for points because of opponent balance.

Stearns can function as a screening or preliminary race as described on my website (see http://members.aol.com/standcmr/pwmevalc.html

Also, for time or screening, PPN charts assure lane balance and decent opponent balance. Racing points, PPN is a good basis for screening. See my website at http://members.aol.com/standcmr/ppngen.html The method is also implemented in race management software by authors like Randy!

Still this just addresses the accuracy issues that you raise.

Methods that are reasonably accurate and which provide for matching cars of comparable performance are around, too. A quintuple elimination run on 2 or 3 lanes gives everyone at least 5 non-bye heats (unless the nose count is low ... then the unbeaten survivor may have fewer. See my website at http://members.aol.com/standcmr/nelim.html

Also, Mathguy described an iterative scheme on this board (Search for postings by Mathguy for his descriptions.)

I'd suggest that pack racing be divided into den races unless a very accurate scheme is used, e.g. PN or CPN.


Stan
"If it's not for the boys, it's for the birds!"

RMoose
Master Pine Head
Master Pine Head
Posts: 126
Joined: Sat Apr 17, 2004 9:30 pm
Location: North Carolina

Re: Looking for a kinder, gentler, fairer scheduling format

Post by RMoose » Mon Mar 28, 2005 12:03 am

Here are a couple of ideas that might help increase the number of kids winning a race:

1. Use only two lanes on your track. With two lanes, 50% of your racers will win a race. You would need to identify the two lanes that are most equal in performance and use those two lanes. This would also improve the "fairness" of the race if you do not use a method which assures an equal number of runs in each lane. The big downside is, of course, more races to run. If time is an issue this might not be a viable option.

2. Introduce a Turtle car into the event. There are several threads on this site describing the use of turtle cars to give every child the opportunity to win a race. I would suggest checking them out. Then you can decide if this might work in your situation. If you build a car and aggressively remove wood, you can end up with a "fast" looking car that weighs 1 oz. or less. No weight added, no alignment, no lube, no polishing of the axles, or wheels - you can end up with a car that will be very hard to lose too! :D


We are Ambassadors for Christ

User avatar
Stan Pope
Pine Head Legend
Pine Head Legend
Posts: 6888
Joined: Sat Jul 05, 2003 7:01 pm
Location: Morton, Illinois
Contact:

Re: Looking for a kinder, gentler, fairer scheduling format

Post by Stan Pope » Mon Mar 28, 2005 12:43 am

Good comments, RM. Question: When you include one or more "turtles" into a race where the participants race (stage and retrieve) their own cars, who races (stages and retrieves) the turtles? I can see an overweight, braggadocios adult in an oversized Cub Scout uniform doing that job!

BTW, I was administering the PWD Racing WebRing this afternoon and was reminded of an interesting page on one of the sites: http://ca.geocities.com/cub15bur@rogers ... coring.htm that was documented a few years ago. It describes what is essentially a "bubble sort" applied to PWD cars. It appears to have many aspects in common with the suggestion by MathGuy last year. Key considerations are that so much racing happens that a car needs to be very bad to avoid winning at least one race, even with no sleeper-creepers in the mix. It also has some attributes in common with multiple elimination, e.g. 5E, 6E, 7E or 8E (which push cars into groups of comparable performance), except that there is NO Elimination!


Stan
"If it's not for the boys, it's for the birds!"

onoahimahi
Apprentice
Apprentice
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 10:39 pm

Re: Looking for a kinder, gentler, fairer scheduling format

Post by onoahimahi » Mon Jan 16, 2006 8:30 am

I posted the original "kinder, gentler" message last year after our 05 derby. I was looking for a format that adapted to the results during the race so that fast cars would pitted against other fast cars and slow cars would be pitted against other slow cars. The idea was to let more of the slower cars win races by being pitted against other slow cars. I didn’t find any software that did this. There were a few manual methods but they would have been more difficult to implement then the computer based method.

We did make some changes for 06 that made the race a little “kinder and gentler” however, and I will share them here. The old format used the Sterns method with Derby Master and the Judge timer. The whole pack of around 50-60 boys was randomly scheduled together and points were used to pick the winners with race times used to break ties. We have a 3-lane track.

The format ground rules set by the Packmaster were that all kids must race the same number of races (i.e., no eliminations) and that the whole pack must race during the same time because this is a “pack event”. I.e., we didn’t want separate race times for the Tigers, Bears, etc. We also wanted it to be simple to implement using the same software if possible.

Following some of the recommendations on this site,

1. I added 3 turtle cars that were raced by prominent pack adults. I built 3 fast looking cars and added a Sponge Bob character to each car. The cars weighed 3-3.5 ounces with no lube or axel prep. (A side note is that they were still too fast and almost won a few races against some of the slower cars. Next year I need make them lighter or find some other way to slow them down further.) The boys liked the turtle cars and a few times during the race, they would chant for their favorite Bikini Bottom character to be raced.

2. Grouped the kids by age. I wanted to avoid the case of Webelos racing against Tigers. This way, kids are standing in line and racing with kids their own age that they most likely know. (I remember one race last year where a tiger was standing between two Webelos that were each about 2 feet taller than the Tiger – I wanted to avoid this in the future.) I broke the pack into three groups: Tigers, Wolves and Bears, Webelos 1 and 2. I added one or two turtle cars to each group depending on how many were needed to assure that no “Dummy cars” were added by the scheduling software. The turtles essentially fill in for the Dummy cars and the Sterns method is used within each group. (More on scheduling below)

3. Switched from highest points to fastest average time to pick the winners. By grouping kids by age and adding turtles, the point system is much less fairer then normal for selecting winners. For example, kids that race against turtles would have an advantage in a points based method but don’t have an advantage in a times based method. After the race was completed, we awarded trophies for 1,2,3 in the pack and for 1, 2 in each of the 5 ranks. Since the whole pack is racing together, we used Derbymasker to sort the results first for the whole pack and picked the three top for the pack trophies. Then we sorted each rank and picked to top two for the rank-level trophies. If the fastest car at the rank level had already won a pack-level trophy, we skipped to the next car so more kids get to take home trophies.


The race went pretty well and so far all the feedback has been positive. While the turtles helped more kids win races, we still had a large number (10) that didn’t win any races and still had 3 kids that came in last every race. For next year, I’m going to fix this problem by added a “reverse elimination round” after all the regularly scheduled rounds. While the computer guys are figuring out the standings for the regular rounds, the pack master will ask all the boys who haven’t won a race that want to win one to get back in line for more racing. After each heat, the second and third place cars will get back in line and the winner will not. We will repeat this until we get down to 3 or 4 cars and then place each of these final cars with 2 turtles. This way we no single scout can be singled out as having the slowest car.

So, to summarize the format change, I believe I have made the race “kinder and gentler” to the slower cars by grouping kids by age and added the turtles. The reverse elimination round added next year will help even further. I’ve made it fairer for the fast cars by switching to times instead of points.

Comment on scheduling. Derbymaster doesn’t support the format I described directly. They do support scheduling different groups as I described but not in a single race schedule. This is addressed in one of the FAQ at the Derbymaster web site http://www.enterprisingideas.com/derbymaster/faq.htm:

“Can DerbyMaster schedule all of my divisions into a single master schedule so that each division will race once per round?
No. At this time DerbyMaster requires divisions to be set up as independent project files. Each project file will need to be loaded when you want to race that division.”

I.e., you would have to generate the separate schedules that are stored in separate schedule files and race using the separate schedule files. To do this, you would have to load each schedule separately during the round. This would disrupt the flow of the race and would add time because it would clear the “on deck” and “on double-deck” lists each time. Plus I didn’t trust myself loading and storing so many schedules – running a derby is stressful and I’m sure I would screw something up during the race, like write over the wrong schedule.

To overcome this limitation of Derbymaster, I wrote a C++ software utility that merges the three schedules back into a single master race schedule to run the race. I use Derbymaster to generate the three separate schedules. I included the turtle cars so that Derbymaster doesn’t add any dummy cars. Then my software utility merges the separate schedules in to a single master schedule. For each round in this master schedule, first the Tigers race, then the Bears and Wolves, then all the Webelos. Basically, the utility fools Derbymaster into thinking that it generated this schedule itself for the whole pack and just races the master schedule as a single group.

-Scott



RMoose
Master Pine Head
Master Pine Head
Posts: 126
Joined: Sat Apr 17, 2004 9:30 pm
Location: North Carolina

Re: Looking for a kinder, gentler, fairer scheduling format

Post by RMoose » Mon Jan 16, 2006 9:50 pm

Congratulations! It sounds like you ran a very successful derby. Your programming fix for Derbymaster sounds particularly creative :D

Removing more weight should slow your turtle cars down further; 3.5oz. sounds a bit heavy to me. Another idea for slowing your turtles would be to purposely misalign them - for example, take an axle and put a slight bend into it. That should mess your alignment up enough the car will "ride the rail" most of the way down the track! Just be careful not to overdue it. With turtles you want a car which will just make it to the finish line as slowly as possible.

Another thing we have had great success with has been workshops for new racers. Most of the older boys have a pretty good idea what to do, the younger boys (and their parents) often do not and can use the extra help. Workshops can go a long way to closing the performance gap and making your race more competitive. This also helps make sure the boys' cars are faster than your turtle cars.

It's alway good to look back at what went good or bad with the current year's race so you can build on your success for future years. Looks like you're off to a great start for 2007!


We are Ambassadors for Christ

onoahimahi
Apprentice
Apprentice
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 10:39 pm

Re: Looking for a kinder, gentler, fairer scheduling format

Post by onoahimahi » Fri Feb 09, 2007 11:48 pm

We just completed our Derby using the format I described last year (in this post) plus the “reverse elimination” round at the end. The “reverse elimination” round was a big success and we achieved a lot of positive feedback from parents. I encourage you to try it with your pack. By adding the round, we were able to promise each participant beforehand that they were guaranteed to win at least one race if they participated in the Derby. I think this increased participation and will increase participation in future races.

It worked like this. After the regularly scheduled races, it takes about 5-10 minutes to figure out who gets the trophies. During this period, the scoutmaster asked all the scouts who have not finished first in a race to get back in line. I was a little worried about this but about 15-20 kids eagerly got back in line. Then the first three kids raced and we told the winner he was done for now and told the other two go to the end of the line. We continued racing and eliminating the winners in this manner until there were only a few kids left and then we started adding the turtle cars. When the last scout beat the two turtle cars there was a huge applause and the kid, a young tiger, looked elated. Then we awarded the trophies and the whole thing was completed in less than 2.5 hours. We keep the track open for a little while after the trophies for anyone else who wanted to continue racing. Many folks told me it was best, most fun derby they had participated in.

-Scott



User avatar
Stan Pope
Pine Head Legend
Pine Head Legend
Posts: 6888
Joined: Sat Jul 05, 2003 7:01 pm
Location: Morton, Illinois
Contact:

Re: Looking for a kinder, gentler, fairer scheduling format

Post by Stan Pope » Sat Feb 10, 2007 12:38 am

Nice touch, Scott. Congrats!


Stan
"If it's not for the boys, it's for the birds!"

User avatar
MathGuy
Master Pine Head
Master Pine Head
Posts: 178
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2003 12:33 pm
Location: NW burb of Chicago

Re: Looking for a kinder, gentler, fairer scheduling format

Post by MathGuy » Wed Apr 23, 2008 3:45 pm

We have been out of scouting for a while, but was curious about this topic, so I decided to stop in.

Hope other current and future DerbyMasters take note:
This year we had many reports of younger kids crying during or after the race in the parking lot because of poor performing cars. (Recall that this is supposed to be fun.) I still remember my son’s first derby as a Tiger. All I wanted was for him to win one race and I would call the day a success. Just one race.
The goal for this event is for everyone to have fun. Not just the folks with the fastest cars. If you haven't seen Crying Kids, just think, Most kid's and adults won't cry, but had a lousy experience just the same.

This parent/child collaboration of building the care is something that needs to be celebrated.

This reverse elimination system is a simpler mouse trap to achieve the goal to have everyone leave having a Good Time. Not just the winners. The goal of the most efficient and accurate way finding the fastest car is probably best left at a district/council level races.

At the pack level, I would suggest any method that maximises the number of families who get to enjoy the a winning moment. Because each family that fielded a car deserves some of that.


Fun for one, Fun for all.
Rob D

User avatar
Stan Pope
Pine Head Legend
Pine Head Legend
Posts: 6888
Joined: Sat Jul 05, 2003 7:01 pm
Location: Morton, Illinois
Contact:

Re: Looking for a kinder, gentler, fairer scheduling format

Post by Stan Pope » Wed Apr 23, 2008 4:55 pm

Nice to see you up and around Rob!

I was looking at the Quintuple Elim (3 racers at a time) a few weeks ago and was amazed that between 88% and 90% of the entrants finish the day with at least one heat win, typically against two other racers. That leaves 12% or less that have not tasted any victory, but that is half the number (25%) who leave a conventional Double Elimination race without a victory.

12% is a reasonable number to have race against the Cubmaster and his renouned "Super Tortiose" (Sleek and fast and never posted a time faster than 5.5 seconds!)


Stan
"If it's not for the boys, it's for the birds!"

Post Reply