Schedule-Free Racing

Debates and discussions on the various race scheduling methods that can be used and their fairness and accuracy in determining the winners.
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FatSebastian
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Schedule-Free Racing

Post by FatSebastian » Fri Nov 26, 2010 1:01 am

I was looking at the BSA PWD site and noticed one of their recommended racing options included "Schedule-Free Racing." Basically boys race against other boys of their own choosing, with possible limitations on how many times a car is allowed to race. However, this sounded to me like it might be mildly chaotic.

Has anyone ever tried Schedule-Free Racing? If so, how well was it received by the kids and adults? Did the pros outweigh the cons? Would you do it again and/or recommend it?



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Re: Schedule-Free Racing

Post by Stan Pope » Fri Nov 26, 2010 2:34 am

FatSebastian wrote:... and noticed one of their recommended racing options included "Schedule-Free Racing."
Keep in mind that the site also "recommended" Double Elimination! In fact, it was first on their list! :(

A possible advantage of "Schedule Free" vs timed or DE is that you can get a lot of racing into the available time. I think that you would find nearly as much racing if you ran a no-chart quad elim.

It is curious to me that many boys want to race their car again and again, even if the car is performing poorly. Seems a bit insane (doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result), but perhaps it is just the optimistic exuberance of Cub Scout age boys. Or, perhaps it is that the joy of racing overshadows the the joy of winning or the pain of losing.

On declaring racing trophy winners for Schedule Free, the Cub Scouts could vote based on what they saw during racing. Pretty subjective, and some really deserving could go home emptyhanded, but it would work, and probably be every bit as accurate as DE on a poor track.


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Re: Schedule-Free Racing

Post by FatSebastian » Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:43 am

Stan Pope wrote:Keep in mind that the site also "recommended" Double Elimination! In fact, it was first on their list! :(
While elimination methods and their drawbacks have seen some discussion on DT over the years, I have never heard of anyone conducting a "schedule-free" race. (I only saw it suggested once before on DT.)
Stan Pope wrote:On declaring racing trophy winners for Schedule Free...
Interesting proposal. Because "declared winners" was one of the noted disadvantages, I thought the main purpose of schedule-free racing might be to avoid awards altogether.

:offtopic:
Stan Pope wrote:It is curious to me that many boys want to race their car again and again, even if the car is performing poorly.
I have noticed that early eliminations do not keep necessarily keep kids from holding unofficial rematches out in some hallway across the floor. :) (Without parental oversight, these matches invariably turn into demolition derbies. :o )



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Re: Schedule-Free Racing

Post by gpraceman » Fri Nov 26, 2010 3:15 pm

I've had enough people request to do ad-hoc racing that I added it into my software some time ago. It is handy for races where there is no set registration period (like at a Scout Show, where people come and go through the day) or for post event grudge matches.


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Re: Schedule-Free Racing

Post by rpcarpe » Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:59 am

I did a schedule free race as a demonstration/workshop.
No awards were handed out at the end. We just wanted to find the fastest cars.
Then we talked about WHY those cars were faster.

Here's how it worked: Each Cub got 5 race tokens (aka pennies). They could race against whoever they wanted. They lined up at the start gate and handed over their tokens. And away they went. 8 cubs raced 5x in under 10 minutes.
This was a simple two lane track, no electronic finish line. Just for demonstration purposes.

To modify it for awards, just have a coded sticker system at the finish line. After they all race their given number of times, whoever has the most 1st place stickers does a simple run-off.


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Re: Schedule-Free Racing

Post by FatSebastian » Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:50 am

rpcarpe wrote:To modify it for awards, just have a coded sticker system at the finish line. After they all race their given number of times, whoever has the most 1st place stickers does a simple run-off.
Thanks for the feedback. Good suggestion.

:thinking: Now, I wonder if the kids would eventually figure out which cars were slowest and, given the option of who they will race against, try to avoid racing the kid(s) with the fastest cars?



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Re: Schedule-Free Racing

Post by rpcarpe » Wed Dec 01, 2010 9:14 am

Hmm,
In this particular workshop, everyone wanted to take turns racing the 'demo' cars I brought, especially the fast ones. Once they figured out which one was faster, they all took a turn.

Some kids might try to 'game the system' by racing slower cars, but they'll get theirs in the finals.

It's more fun with smaller groups that can race a whole bunch. I haven't tried it with a large group, yet.


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Re: Schedule-Free Racing

Post by Stan Pope » Wed Dec 01, 2010 12:43 pm

rpcarpe wrote:Some kids might try to 'game the system' by racing slower cars, but they'll get theirs in the finals.
In designing a scoring system involving "prelims" and "finals", it is much more important that "the most deserving" racers reach the finals than that "the lesser deserving" racers not reach the finals. The challenge is to restrict the number of finalists to a manageably small number while maintaining a high probability that those deserving of a trophy get to compete in the finals for the trophy.


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Re: Schedule-Free Racing

Post by FatSebastian » Wed Dec 01, 2010 1:04 pm

Stan Pope wrote:it is much more important that "the most deserving" racers reach the finals than that "the lesser deserving" racers not reach the finals.
So, in your opinion, does schedule-free racing using an approach like "most 1st-place stickers" accomplish this?



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Re: Schedule-Free Racing

Post by rpcarpe » Wed Dec 01, 2010 2:24 pm

Your own schedule-free race would depend on the # of cars and the time allowed. What I've seen on derbies w/ electronic timing is that you get a pretty consistent bell curve. So with schedule free racing you're trying to find the top X% of fast cars for the finals.

Stan makes a good point in letting more cars out of prelims rather than fewer.

The one VERY good thing about schedule free racing is that someone (the Scout) is not sitting on a hard bench waiting and waiting and waiting for their car to run. They run their car when they want to.

I've yet to see a large Schedule-Free race. I've just held impromptu ones as part of demonstrations.


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Re: Schedule-Free Racing

Post by Stan Pope » Wed Dec 01, 2010 2:55 pm

FatSebastian wrote:
Stan Pope wrote:it is much more important that "the most deserving" racers reach the finals than that "the lesser deserving" racers not reach the finals.
So, in your opinion, does schedule-free racing using an approach like "most 1st-place stickers" accomplish this?
It can, if the "finals aperture" is wide enough.

In thinking about using PPN charts for screening racers into a narrow PN or CPN final, I look for the number of racers in the finals to be big enough that there is a 95%+ probability of the deserving included. Since manageable PN charts have limited racer counts (7 and 13 are most common) and the number of racing trophies or awards to be decided is typically 3 to 5, these chart sizes match up pretty well with PPN "screening accuracy" capability.

Since schedule-free lacks the PPN discipline, the aperature probably needs to be wider for a given prelim size, maybe even twice as wide. A simulation (or a whole lot of analysis) will be needed to answer the question, I think.

A thought occurred as I was writing this... the tokens given to each racer might include a Lane Number, and that each racer be given an equal number of tokens for each lane. This limits the individual's freedom to "game the sytem" a bit, but still allows quite a bit of freedom.


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Re: Schedule-Free Racing

Post by FatSebastian » Wed Dec 01, 2010 4:34 pm

Stan Pope wrote:A thought occurred as I was writing this... the tokens given to each racer might include a Lane Number, and that each racer be given an equal number of tokens for each lane. This limits the individual's freedom to "game the sytem" a bit, but still allows quite a bit of freedom.
Interesting. I might wonder about scenarios that end up like the following. Suppose we have 4 cars limited to racing once on each of the three lanes:

Code: Select all

Heat        1     2     3     4     5
---------------------------------------
Lane 1:     1     2     3     4     -
Lane 2:     2     3     1     -      4
Lane 3:     4     1     2     3
Here we have Car 4 competing against just one car in Heat 4, and no one left to race against by Heat 5. Worse, suppose the owner of Car 4 did not get involved initially:

Code: Select all

Heat        1     2     3     4     5     6 
----------------------------------------------
Lane 1:     1     2     3     4     -     -
Lane 2:     2     3     1     -     4     -
Lane 3:     3     1     2     -     -     4
Here Car 4 has no one left to race against.



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Re: Schedule-Free Racing

Post by Stan Pope » Wed Dec 01, 2010 5:12 pm

FatSebastian wrote:
Stan Pope wrote:A thought occurred as I was writing this... the tokens given to each racer might include a Lane Number, and that each racer be given an equal number of tokens for each lane. This limits the individual's freedom to "game the sytem" a bit, but still allows quite a bit of freedom.
Interesting. I might wonder about scenarios that end up like the following. Suppose we have 4 cars limited to racing once on each of the three lanes:

Code: Select all

Heat        1     2     3     4     5
---------------------------------------
Lane 1:     1     2     3     4     -
Lane 2:     2     3     1     -      4
Lane 3:     4     1     2     3
Here we have Car 4 competing against just one car in Heat 4, and no one left to race against by Heat 5. Worse, suppose the owner of Car 4 did not get involved initially:

Code: Select all

Heat        1     2     3     4     5     6 
----------------------------------------------
Lane 1:     1     2     3     4     -     -
Lane 2:     2     3     1     -     4     -
Lane 3:     3     1     2     -     -     4
Here Car 4 has no one left to race against.
Good study! The first is a lesser problem, but still a problem, even if the "once in each lane" requirement is dropped. The second is a problem regardless! Maybe opponents may race those orphans but receive no credit??? Or let #4 run alone (too boring!) and collect three FIRST PLACE finishes!


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Re: Schedule-Free Racing

Post by Stan Pope » Wed Dec 01, 2010 6:39 pm

Maybe requiring that each racer must spend his nth token before anyone can spend his (n+1)th token avoids the problem... not sure. Example: 8 racers on a 3 lane track: on the 3rd heat, the two that have not raced anyone must get on the track, along with an opponent who will be making his 2nd run. This would be easy to manage by keeping 2 groups of racers ... those with "n" runs and those with "n+1" runs.


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