Track malfunction

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SPEEDQUEST
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Track malfunction

Post by SPEEDQUEST » Fri Jan 29, 2016 10:39 pm

Just curious on how you guys would have handled this?

Council race last year was ran on a 4-lane aluminum track with what appeared to be a Champ Timer. The race format was scout ran each lane once consecutively. (Lane 1 then lane 2 then lane 3 then lane 4 back-to-back). The times were averaged and top 3 avg times were winners.
I noticed the times were slow from the beginning.mMy nephew started his run on lane 1 on race #6. After his run I knew something was amiss. My brother tried to talk to race officials (2 women, not trying to be sexist..) but they didn't want to hear it. During nephews 3rd heat, the cars did not register any times, so that heat was reran. This happened a. Outlet more times over the next 10 or so heats.
Then a scout going to retrieve his car from stop section, tripped and fell onto track. The race was stopped for about 20 min while officials repaired track.
Now here is where things get interesting. After resuming race, the next 8 heats all had times averaging over .3 sec (yes three/tents) faster than the fastest time of a heat before the incident and track repaired. My nephew was the fastest before the incident.
My brother tried to explain to the officials that something was wrong. I have been helping build cars for over 10' years with my kids and nephews. I know my nephew's car was not .3 sec slower than the cars racing. My brother asked that all heats should be reran, but they would not stand for it. Basically, we were sore losers.
Upon completion, my brother asked if they would run one race with the top 3 cars against his son's car. If he lost by .3 sec, he would take it. Again, it fell upon deaf ears. He was told to not be a sore loser.
Sorry for the long post. Just curious if we were asking for too much to have restarted the race after track was repaired and there was a noticeable time difference?



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Re: Track malfunction

Post by Speedster » Sat Jan 30, 2016 5:19 am

If I'm understanding this correctly, this would be a good example where the Point system would have been more fair than Elapsed time. That was a tough break for probably more scouts than just your nephew. How many scouts were racing? I really don't see how that could have been fixed without starting over. If any good comes from this, it's you have educated everyone on Derby Talk with what can happen.



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Stan Pope
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Re: Track malfunction

Post by Stan Pope » Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:57 am

It would have made sense to have the last race prior to the track repair rerun and compare the times to the times prior to the repair to prove that the repair did not affect timings. And if there was a significant change, then start over. But the organizers of this event were apparently relative novices and not well versed in the mechanics of racing. That is what we get in a volunteer organization sometimes. :(

I'm hard pressed to think of any track setup issue that would cause a 0.3 second change in average times but not be apparent to observers. Three possibilities that come to mind are (1) change in ramp slope (because the base of the ramp was not against the floor), (2) section joints way misaligned, and (3) lanes not straight, but all of these are easily recognized by even casual observers!

You might have asked that they confer with their advisor (hopefully someone more knowledgeable) to recommend a resolution that would be fair to all while they continue racing without further delay.

I believe that Randy has incorporated some statistical analyses in GPRM that detects various timing issues but not every one uses GPRM. :(


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Re: Track malfunction

Post by Loder66 » Sat Jan 30, 2016 11:26 am

That is unfortunate for your nephew and what sounds like a weird format to run the races. This year one of my nephew's car was looking to be in strong contention to be the winner. On his fourth race it was hit in the left rear by a car that was catapulted by the stop section. That slowed his car down by .05. He was obviously disappointed but it was a good teaching moment that even when you work hard and prepare a great car, with racing and in life, things are going to happen that you can not control. I was very proud that he was a great sport about it and took it better than his dad did. I do understand your frustration though when you know that something is not working correctly and nothing is done. I now show up early to the races to help set up chairs and do whatever needs to be done. I also bring along a test car that I ask if I can run and they always let me. This is a good way to make sure that the track is prepared and you have a good idea on how your cars are going to run. This is also a good time to give "feedback" and they are more receptive to it than when they are in the middle of the race. I often thought about volunteering to help run the race but I do not want the stress.


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Stan Pope
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Re: Track malfunction

Post by Stan Pope » Sat Jan 30, 2016 11:56 am

Speedster wrote:If I'm understanding this correctly, this would be a good example where the Point system would have been more fair than Elapsed time.
"Lane Rotation" does not work well for points scoring. For "points" to function accurately, the cars must race against many other racers instead of just a few. Racing once per lane on a 4-lane track, each racer faces 12 opponents. With "lane rotation", there are only 6 unique opponents, two of which are faced 3 times, two faced 2 times and two faced 1 time. Pity the racers next to the fastest car in the competition!

"Lane Rotation" is attractive to the uninitiated since it scales easily. On the other hand, it is subject to issues such as encountered in this thread!

"Lane Rotation", "Single Elimination", and "Double Elimination" should accompany the Dodo bird into extinction!


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Re: Track malfunction

Post by Darin McGrew » Sat Jan 30, 2016 6:10 pm

Stan Pope wrote:
Speedster wrote:If I'm understanding this correctly, this would be a good example where the Point system would have been more fair than Elapsed time.
"Lane Rotation" does not work well for points scoring. For "points" to function accurately, the cars must race against many other racers instead of just a few. Racing once per lane on a 4-lane track, each racer faces 12 opponents. With "lane rotation", there are only 6 unique opponents, two of which are faced 3 times, two faced 2 times and two faced 1 time. Pity the racers next to the fastest car in the competition!
Yeah, before we switched to a PPN-like schedule, we used Lane Rotation with points. We were awarding only first, second, and third place, so I convinced them that the third-fastest car could end up next to the first- and second-fastest cars, so we needed to make sure a car with 2 third-place finishes and 2 second-place finishes would make it to the finals. We did that for a couple years (adding a semi-finals round since more cars were advancing), and then I convinced them that a PPN-like schedule would be better.

As a bonus, the PPN-like schedule is faster, because you can start loading the on-deck cars without waiting for the just-finished cars to make it back to the start end of the track. But it is harder to score by hand. Not impossible (we've done it by hand), but harder.



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Re: Track malfunction

Post by Stan Pope » Sat Jan 30, 2016 11:09 pm

Good points, Darin!!
Darin McGrew wrote:As a bonus, the PPN-like schedule is faster, because you can start loading the on-deck cars without waiting for the just-finished cars to make it back to the start end of the track. But it is harder to score by hand. Not impossible (we've done it by hand), but harder.
I did that when a pack leader for several years using overhead projector and writing on transparency. Advantage is that everyone can see scoring as it is entered and everyone can check the math as final scores are computed! :)


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Re: Track malfunction

Post by SPEEDQUEST » Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:50 pm

Stan Pope wrote:It would have made sense to have the last race prior to the track repair rerun and compare the times to the times prior to the repair to prove that the repair did not affect timings. And if there was a significant change, then start over. But the organizers of this event were apparently relative novices and not well versed in the mechanics of racing. That is what we get in a volunteer organization sometimes. :(

I'm hard pressed to think of any track setup issue that would cause a 0.3 second change in average times but not be apparent to observers. Three possibilities that come to mind are (1) change in ramp slope (because the base of the ramp was not against the floor), (2) section joints way misaligned, and (3) lanes not straight, but all of these are easily recognized by even casual observers!

You might have asked that they confer with their advisor (hopefully someone more knowledgeable) to recommend a resolution that would be fair to all while they continue racing without further delay.

I believe that Randy has incorporated some statistical analyses in GPRM that detects various timing issues but not every one uses GPRM. :(
I noticed they adjusted the start gate for the timer. It was light emitter type. If the emitter was aligned farther (in relation to nose of car) away from original position, wouldn't that make a significant difference in times? That is when the cars are at their slowest.



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Re: Track malfunction

Post by gpraceman » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:53 pm

SPEEDQUEST wrote: noticed they adjusted the start gate for the timer. It was light emitter type. If the emitter was aligned farther (in relation to nose of car) away from original position, wouldn't that make a significant difference in times? That is when the cars are at their slowest.
If it was the Micro Wizard laser start sensor system, then there could be an explanation for what you saw. Prior to the track repair, maybe the laser was turning off when the gate snapped open. This can happen if the laser is slightly out of alignment with the sensor, enough so, that the vibration of the start gate opening caused the beam to lose contact with the sensor, thus tripping it off. Then after the repair, with the beam in proper alignment, the laser trips when the first car hits the beam. This scenario would lead to slower times before the repair, as the the beam has already tripped before the cars even started moving. When properly aligned, the cars have already started moving and the first car to hit the beam trips it.

Did you see them fiddling with the laser sensor system when they were repairing the track?


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Re: Track malfunction

Post by birddog » Mon Feb 01, 2016 3:10 pm

Stan Pope wrote: I believe that Randy has incorporated some statistical analyses in GPRM that detects various timing issues but not every one uses GPRM. :(
I ran into something very similar when my at the time Tiger Scout ran in his first ever District race. At the time, I was a novice, but knew enough that the times being recorded were off more than they should have been (even without anybody tripping into the track). It turned out that the laser timer used was out of alignment and caused the differences in timing. At the time, I told race officials, but they didn't know what was happening either. To this day, I think we had a 1st or 2nd place car (that never lost a single race and beat most of its competition by over a car length), yet ended up in 35th place or so out of 55 cars.

As a result of this terrible experience with timer hardware, I made noise on this board about seeing if there was a way the software could run some statistical audits and flag potential problems. This is now in GPRM, thanks to great work by Randy and Stan. So, if your Council race was using the only proper software package for running a pinewood derby (GPRM), this problem with the hardware would have been caught by the software!

If I were you, I'd request that your council upgrade, at a minimum to GPRM. Ideally, they should also move to a timer based on a mechanical switch rather than a laser based system.

Birddog



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Re: Track malfunction

Post by gpraceman » Mon Feb 01, 2016 3:14 pm

birddog wrote:If I were you, I'd request that your council upgrade, at a minimum to GPRM. Ideally, they should also move to a timer based on a mechanical switch rather than a laser based system.
If it was a Micro Wizard timer, they can use the switch that came with the timer. Even if the laser start sensor is purchased, they still ship every timer with the mechanical start switch. If that is lost, they can always get a replacement one from Micro Wizard for not a lot.


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Re: Track malfunction

Post by CaveGimp » Mon Feb 01, 2016 4:12 pm

During the championship heats (6 lanes, 6 cars, 6 heats) of the race this weekend one of the heats was flagged by GPRM with a 100% chance there was an error. I had to make a hasty repair to the start line switch at the beginning of the race and was having bounce back issues with the gate so the way in which is was being lowered was inconsistent. That is what I believe was the cause for all 6 cars to run slower. But since I had 5 heats run pretty much the same the standings were the same in the bad heat, just a bit slower so it was a non issue, but it was nice GPRM flagged the issue.

To the OP, running the race can be stressful and even more so for less experienced folks. Every race I have parents tell me which lane is the slowest or fastest, or etc and it can be hard to manage. If there were only 2 folks running race that makes it even worse. I try to keep myself free to monitor the software and electronics and interact with the parents and Scouts to handle any questions/issues. I have been lucky where I usually have at least 3-4 leaders moving the cars and loading and such so i can address issues. The cause for the different times could very well be slope change. Before I started to use a sand bag to keep the middle support down on my track I saw the same thing with the times. Using a PPN or similar usually eliminates that since cars race throughout the race, not one after another. No you weren't being a sore loser but sometimes the stress level on race day keeps good leaders from making the right decisions. If only 2 were running the race maybe next year suggest to the Pack to have more helpers on hand. Its easy to say but it can be hard to get parents to volunteer.

I have been using a Phase Shift (GPRM generated) schedule the past few years to make it easier and faster to load the cars, but that too has draw backs. I made the choice based on a lot of feedback from parents of not knowing when their Scout would race. With 60 or so racers it can get confusing.



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