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Unread 06-01-2018, 08:50 AM
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

Nobody ever solved real, difficult, dynamic problems with an attitude of "I hope it happens this time", especially in FIRST.
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Unread 06-01-2018, 01:10 PM
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

Quote:
Posted by Jon Stratis
So great to hear, I assume you're volunteering to do all the work to set it up? It's not just the legal paperwork, that's the easy part. Determining the boundaries, deciding on the corporate structure, filling out the board, finding employees... there's a lot more to it than filing a little paperwork and saying go, and that work takes time and effort. Oh, and we have to do all that on volunteer time, while people work their normal day to day jobs.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mman1506 View Post
In Ontario they hired a 'Director of District Implementation' to do that sort of stuff. Just because you don't want to do all of the work doesn't mean you can't help it happen.
In Jon's defense, those specific items he mentioned were established in Ontario/Canada well before Ontario's district transition.

FIRST Robotics Canada, and prior to that it's predecessor the Canadian Association for Student Robotics (CASR), was a federal registered charitable organization since the first Canadian Regional (I believe).

That work was done primarily by Mark Breader as an employee of the Toronto District School Board TDSB, when given a secondment to serve as the school board's Robotics Administrator.

This move was one of the most forward-thinking decisions the Toronto District School Board has ever made, and kicked off an incredible chain of events allowing Ontario (and Canada) to become what it is today.
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Unread 06-01-2018, 09:34 PM
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

Forgive me if I'm not entirely in the know here, but some of the alleged behaviors of the MN RPCs warrants this:

Has any of this been reported to HQ? If so - has nothing been done? If not reported - why not?
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Unread 06-01-2018, 11:11 PM
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

I'm sure many have been wondering if I'd make an appearance in this thread, as some of you know I'm a strong, vocal proponent of the District System. I started to reply a number of times and have thought about it quite a lot, so here it goes. It's long so for your tl/dr's out here's the one word summary: EQUITY

First a disclaimer that the following opinions are mine and mine alone, I do not speak for my team, FIRST or FIRST Washington, though many of my opinions were formed in part due to my time as a FSM and as a Key FIRST Washington Volunteer. However this is all on me. Hate me if you will and I'm sure many will because I'm going to be frank.

To those that keep saying that setting up a non-profit is the first step.

I have to say Wrong.

The first step to getting anything done is to decide to do something and make the commitment to actually do it.

Forming a non-profit at the state level is not that hard in my state and I'm sure it isn't that hard in MN that it would take years to make happen. Yes, someone might have to stick their neck out, sign the paper work and put up cash out of their own pocket. Parents do it for booster clubs they create all the time, all day, every day. My wife got the one for my former team going in about 3 days with a couple of other parents.

However the lack of a non-profit is just yet another red herring in this debate.

Until the leadership of MN decides, at the very minimum, to learn what it would take to make the switch, both financially and organizationally, nothing will happen. End of story.*

The first step in the learning process is gathering information. Sure gathering the information about starting a non-profit might be considered in the initial process, but it is not necessary at this point. Until the commitment is made to actually do something you need not worry about non-profit status.

The question of cost is certainly a valid concern and a logical place to start gathering information needed to learn about what it takes to get a district off the ground. So lets start there.

We know it is a fact that FiM pioneered the District System when they realized that they would struggle to keep up with any more team growth because the funding wasn't there to add more Regionals. So they looked for a way to accommodate that growth at a lower cost. The model they came up with of course evolved over the years to create the multi model District System we have today.

I know when the PNW moved to the District system the direct event costs of the 10 district events were about the same as the DCMP. The DCMP was done at the location of the Regional that was in the middle of the 3, cost wise, that the PNW district replaced. Lets say that again the cost of one mid range Regional was about the same as the cost of 10 district events, in the PNW. Note, FIRST Washington owns virtually all the production equipment required and rents very little.

There are now 8 districts in the US so a logical first step in gathering the cost information would be for say 4 individuals, who want to promote equity, to each take two districts and contact their leadership. They might spend a total of an hour drafting and sending an couple of emails or they could just copy and paste this:

Quote:
Hello __________

I am ________________ a part of committee that is in the early stages of investigating if the District System is right for MN. The initial concern, of course is cost, so we were wondering if you can give us some insight in what your costs currently are and what it took to get it going.
  • What were your start up costs?
  • What is your average direct district event cost?
  • What equipment did you purchase and what was the cost?
  • How much equipment do you rent and what is the cost?
  • Where do you store your equipment, how much does that cost?
  • How do you transport your equipment to the events?
  • How do you receive shipments from FIRST such as the game specific stuff?

Thanks so much for any assistance you can provide.

Sincerely,

_____________________

Of course a lot of that could happen face to face at the annual partner conference that rolls around this time of year, every year, or at the meetings that take place at CMP. However, emails might get more accurate and detailed numbers, though it certainly wouldn't hurt to break the ice at one of those opportunities.

Then everyone can compare notes and maybe come to a consensus as to a range of what it would cost to do it in MN.

Factor in the $1000 per team payment from FIRST and the amount currently raised for and spent on the Regionals it would replace.

Compare and contrast.

Now compare and contrast the difference to the majority of teams.

The district system goes a very long way to breaking down the current have and have not gap. Students on teams that have the luxury of being able to attend 2 events have far more learning opportunities, as they receive what I call, the full engineering experience. Iteration is a large part of engineering and the event is the real world test for the product that the students built. 2/3^ of the teams stop after that one event. For the other 1/3^, that have a second event to go, to the learning experience often kicks into high gear.

Like Evan I spent a number of years as a FSM, but in Washington State. I recruited many teams and coached their coaches, mentored their mentors and supported them at the events. My time of service spanned the switch to the PNW district. From those rookie coaches that I recruited, trained and guided when we were still in the dark ages, I often heard how they wished they could afford to go to a second event because either the students were coming up with a lot of ideas for improvement or because they finally got it working right but qual matches were almost over. Sadly without a looming competition the likelihood of any of those ideas coming to fruition or hope for redemption goes down the drain in the majority of cases.

I don't care anything about the rest of the benefits of the district system as much, so I will say it again. The students on 1/3^ of the teams get more than twice as much learning and inspiration opportunities as the students on the other 2/3^ of teams. Once again another way, the learning and inspiration opportunities more than double for the majority of the teams with the District System compared to the Regional System.

One last time, the EQUITY that the District System provides is priceless and the cost of not making the switch it is massive.


Once you've crunched the numbers and chewed on that a bit you may now be ready for that State non-profit, so you can solicit donations to pay for the next step. That would be seeing just how much work it is and what exactly goes on at an actual district event, live and in person. I'd suggest 2-3 teams of 2 people each go to an event in a different district and watch it happen start to finish and hopefully see the District's facility, meet with the leadership, staff, key volunteers and students. I'd suggest an emphasis on talking with the coaches, mentors and particularly students who have done time in the one and done Regional System.

I'm certain that if this new organization were to approach some of the current donors and explain to them that you need $ to make the first steps to improve equity in the state you could come up with a number that would go above and beyond their current level of donation. It's the only thing you need in your sales pitch, which I'm throwing in for free:

Quote:
"Moving to the District System will improve equity in our area significantly and ensure that students on all of the teams have the same opportunity to gain the full engineering experience".
Even if you can't get funding to pay for visiting a district event I'd suggest a quote, slightly modified from the opening of the Animal's song "San Franciscan Nights".

Quote:
This following program is dedicated to the city and people of The District System
Who may not know it but they are beautiful
And so is their system, this is a very personal song
So if the viewer cannot understand it

Particularly those of you who are Regional residents
Save up all your bread and fly trans love airways to Any District U.S.A.
Then maybe you'll understand the song, it will be worth it
If not for the sake of this song but for the sake of your own peace of mind

*OK maybe not end of story if FIRST really wanted this to happen they certainly could force it in at least one way.

^ Based on my experience both with my state in the Dark Ages and overall numbers that I regularly received as a FSM, the number of $4,000 second plays has historically been about 1/3 of the total number of Traditional teams. Though that includes teams that attend 3 Regionals and a handful of District teams that traveled to a Regional.

PS. Making the switch to the District System takes a lot of work. I know from first hand experience as one of the people who did a lot of the heavy lifting that was required to get the PNW district off the ground, on the truck and rolling down the road, both literally and figuratively. I do not begrudge anyone who doesn't have the time to contribute to make it happen, just don't stand in the way of those who are willing and able to make it happen, or at least want to learn if they can make it happen.

PPS Yes I've talked a lot about Equity in this sermon/rant (depending on which side of the isle you are on) and it was at a meeting at one of those annual partner conferences as a FSM where I heard a presentation on Equity from HQ staff. It is something I've chewed on since and this sermon/rant is partially fueled by the training that FIRST gave me, so Sorry Frank if you think I'm being too frank. FIRST told me to promote equity, and just because I am no longer a FSM it doesn't mean that I stopped working to improve student experience, no matter where that student might be.
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Unread 06-03-2018, 06:16 PM
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

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Originally Posted by nickbrickmaster View Post
I wrote all this from the perspective that the most important thing is number of teams- in my opinion, more teams -> more students -> wider inspiration. I don't think changes in the experience matter enough to sacrifice getting more students exposed. I'm sure some of you disagree with me on this, let me know why.
I have some issue with the perspective that FRC growth at all costs is the most important thing for the program, though I do agree that the broader goal for FIRST in Minnesota should be to increase participation as much as possible, at all levels. As has been pointed out earlier in this thread, and in the very interesting thread on FRC districts growth, it is very important that we target both growth and sustainability-- we have FRC teams in almost all of the areas that are likely to be able to sustain them now in Minnesota, and probably a number that can't. To really get those harder areas, our path forward may not be more FRC, but more FLL and FTC, which can potentially make a community viable for FRC later. If we cannot create sustainable teams, and a sustainable program, then the impacts of FRC in any given community, and in Minnesota as a whole, will be severely limited.

To this end, I'd highly recommend reading Zondag's excellent paper "FAQs Regarding the FRC District Competition System" This is a really good overview of many of the thoughts and goals of the district system. I highly recommend giving it a read. It helps explain why the lower cost model of districts was and is such a huge deal for the long term viability of FRC in Michigan, as well as generally covering a lot of the questions one might have about the model.

In summary, it's not just about teams now, it's about having teams and continuing to have impact well into the future, sustainably.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nickbrickmaster View Post
Maybe it's a bit telling that most of the comments on this thread are from coaches? Prove me wrong- why do you think that the district model is the best option for the students?
I'd note that while many people in this thread posting about districts have "Mentor" as our titles, most were also (recently or less so) participants ourselves in the programs, in a wide variety of situations. It can be difficult to tell online but there are a lot of alumni here that have seen both sides of the mentor/student coin, and have seen the transition to districts play out in many areas. There isn't some ulterior motive to moving to districts-- just a whole lot of love for the program and all the participants, and a desire to see it improve for as many people as possible.

Towards that actual question...
Mr. V's post is a great primer to the overall benefits of districts from the perspective of someone who has been through the transition.

I really don't have that much to add on top of that and the Zondag paper above-- personally, the Zondag paper was what really convinced me as a junior in high school that districts would be a necessary and hugely beneficial step forward for Minnesota and FRC as a whole. As a student, my primary concern was participating in a fairer competition model, now as a mentor, my concern is, as Mr. V so eloquently pointed out above, creating a more equitable experience for the hugely diverse range of teams we have in Minnesota. An experience where every team gets that ability to iterate, which is the core of engineering and success. An experience that is fundamentally fairer and more equitable to teams, as well as being more suitable towards growth and sustainability within the current framework of FRC.

As to your concerns about our many greater Minnesota teams... I believe those have largely been addressed by others, but I would also be quick to point out that the district model allows for much more flexibility as far as hosting events outside the Twin Cities and Duluth. It's likely that a many more teams in greater Minnesota would find themselves with an event potentially close enough to not have to travel to, even if they still had one that required travel.

I'd also note that I'm coming from what is one of very few teams who arguably do not benefit from the district system-- we're a team that very much enjoys travelling, and having two events outside of a potential state championship and championship trip would make it much more difficult for us to do that, just in terms of scheduling (we're crazy, but we might not quite be 5 or 6 out of 9 weekends between March and April crazy).

All of this being said, I am firmly in the camp of those who believe that the district model in Minnesota is likely to be a significant improvement for the student experience in Minnesota, especially in the long term. I hope you find my answers to be at the very least interesting, even if I don't think I've "proven" anything, if that was even possible in the first place. I know I'm personally coming from a place of caring deeply for the student experience, both on my team and on all the other teams in Minnesota, and I hope you can see that.
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Unread 06-03-2018, 08:50 PM
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

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Originally Posted by cadandcookies View Post

To this end, I'd highly recommend reading Zondag's excellent paper "FAQs Regarding the FRC District Competition System" This is a really good overview of many of the thoughts and goals of the district system. I highly recommend giving it a read.
I agree that everyone should read that, however I do want everyone to note the date on that document. Since that time some of the details have changed. MAR came up with their own points system and the next two areas, PNW and NE were well along with their unique points systems when FIRST stepped in and said hold on. So leadership from the 2 existing and the 2 forming districts along with a few other key people hammered out the unified points system that is now universally used by all district. This means A18 and A23 are no longer fully accurate.

The key differences from FiM's original system are how the awards are scored. Now CA gets points, a whopping 10, EI and RAS also get points, 8 each in this case and now all other awards have the same 5 point value. A 5th category of points was also created, the age bonus, that gives rookie teams a single 10 point bonus and 2nd year teams a single 5 point bonus.

Q/A24, FIRST has now fixed this inequity by tying the number of CMP spots to the percentage of teams the district represents out of the total number of all teams. The original system was your district got 6 x the number of Regionals replaced. The inequity of this became apparent when the PNW got 24 slots in its inaugural year with fewer teams than FiM who was stuck with their original 18.

FiM has also crossed the bridge noted in Q30 and we now know how they worked that out, they created the Super DCMP model.
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Unread 06-03-2018, 09:15 PM
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

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Originally Posted by Jon Stratis View Post
Heck, I'm ON the RPC AND a key volunteer, and I've been told in the past that the only way my team is getting into its preferred second event is if we're there registering for it within the first minute of registration opening. In 2017 I convinced my team to go out of state rather than risk dying on the waitlist for our second event. And while we prefer Lake Superior in Duluth, we ended up in Northern Lights this year due to the uneven registration numbers.
Ah, yes, the 2nd event gambit: register for the target 2nd event first, and then beg/plead to get into your "home" event for second registration.

I don't miss those days.
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

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Originally Posted by JesseK View Post
Ah, yes, the 2nd event gambit: register for the target 2nd event first, and then beg/plead to get into your "home" event for second registration.

I don't miss those days.
Why don't you have that problem anymore?
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

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Why don't you have that problem anymore?
I know, weird right? For three seasons now we've had 5 events each year with zero problems, whereas in the old days we had to commit some "thoughts and prayers" towards getting 2.

(For those who check, the 5th is the Week 1 we host)
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Unread 06-05-2018, 12:11 PM
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

Does it make sense to set up a 'district volunteer' mailing list? A google group of interested parties, perhaps with a few google docs to hold research results. This group could read the 43 page district planning guide, perhaps survey other districts, maybe even try penciling in actual volunteers and venues to the hypothetical 12-13 events and see if the math works?

My personal mission for that group would be: 'how do *we* help explore districts in Minnesota' instead of 'how can we make *them* switch to districts'.

A well coordinated group could do some leg work and provide a nucleus of volunteers that could fold in as a subcomittee of our hoped for upcoming non profit.
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

Oof, I go on vacation for 2 weeks and this thread pops up...

As I see it: the first half of this thread was good discourse and the second half jumped into dumpster fire territory. I am sure there will be further analysis/ complaining and bickering after FUN Recap tonight. Please keep it under control, there is a lot of good and bad with regionals and a lot of good and bad with districts, most of those points have already be aired in this thread & don't need to resurface again.

-SL
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

Is there a line differentiating Districts and the State High school leagues? If not then when MN transition to Districts say good by to the live streams and match clips. Or dose Channel 45 only own the right to the Championship broadcasts? It's minor in perspective but I'm still a little butt hurt that the MNSHL Robotic championships are lost forever.
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

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Originally Posted by cpapplefamily View Post
Is there a line differentiating Districts and the State High school leagues? If not then when MN transition to Districts say good by to the live streams and match clips. Or dose Channel 45 only own the right to the Championship broadcasts? It minor in perspective but I'm still a little butt hurt that the MNSHL Robotic championships are lost forever.
If there were a district championship that was commissioned by the MSHSL then I'm guessing the contract that the MSHSL has with Channel 45 would trump the FRC broadcasting practices... but that would certainly be a negotiation to be handled by the potential future non-profit entity that runs FRC in our region.

There's certainly no guarantee that the District Championship for our region (probably including ND and potentially others) would be one and the same as the MSHSL State Championship. I could see a scenario where there are two state championships which would be more confusing than having states after champs.

There are just a lot of policies that the MSHSL has that don't mesh with what makes sense for a transition to districts. I think the relationship with the MSHSL is extremely important for validating a lot of teams throughout the state, so those policy conflicts will need to be worked out if Districts are going to happen.
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

I agree with Ryan, our relationship with the MSHSL is incredibly important for FIRST within the state, and something that should continue to be managed appropriately regardless of how we grow and evolve.

This question brings with it a question of where the boundaries of such a district would be. If they aren't at the state line (for example, including North Dakota teams), then it would be a district championship, not a state championship in week 7. And since it would include non-minnesota teams, I expect the MSHSL would keep their championship as a separate, off-season event.

The dynamics of the whole thing might get weird, though - play in week 7 against a group of teams. See the top X teams from that group at Champs 2 weeks later. See those same top teams at MSHSL in another 3 weeks. I don't see a particularly easy solution that would keep us from essentially having a repeat event, it's something that would need to be carefully thought out.
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Re: MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

Its great that the "Great Northern" has started. It at least lends to the possibility for ND teams to have a Regional and separated from the district. It seems there are team in FIRST that compete in their District and still attend a Regional. I know for my team 2-3 District events would be enough for us but others may have a different opinion. Also having the Great Northern a week 1 possibly attracts district teams (If they are already a 2+ regional) before they start earning district points. If that is true ND could survive with out the MN's Regional's but with MN teams attendance.

No matter if and when there will be teams that benefit and teams that don't just as there are now with the current system.
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