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  #241   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 11-15-2018, 01:31 AM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

Any change in a giant ecosystem will help some and negatively impact others. I think overall the flexibility granted by this change will be more positive than negative.

Our students have finals week + a mid-winter week break each year during build season, and with no bag I could see our team deciding to schedule work in a more student- and family-friendly way. It might just make the difference between participating on the team and not for some students. Many of our students have several activities during the same months as robotics, and we have lost students from excessive conflicts - this could help.

I don't think our team will spend a lot more total time. We try to do 3 (occasionally 4) meetings weekly during build and considerably less than that during competition season. I don't see how the "go nearly every day" teams sustain it honestly - would not work for us. I suspect we may continue building a second robot with no bag because it enables parallel work (programming, mechanics, drive team) & thus fewer total meetings. With our self-imposed time constraints, we look for ways to be efficient like that.

As others have said, the elite teams with multiple drive teams, their own fields, 3 robots, multiple meetings a week year round, etc. that dominate every year are already at such an advantage... is this going to move the needle that much more beyond where they're at competitively speaking? I don't *think* so, but it will be fascinating to see how they decide to try to capitalize on the flexibility to compete with each other.
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Unread 11-15-2018, 03:04 AM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

Here are some of my predictions/thoughts:
1. Teams who build more than 1 robot, will continue to do so. The removal of bag day with respect to resource constraint wont change no matter where you fall on the spectrum.
2. The same top teams that usually win, will continue to do so. The middle level teams will get better. The lower quality and non-competitive robots will still be the same. Hence, the gap will either widen or the floor will remain the same.
3. FIRST will slowly provide less and less logistical and transportation support for teams that fly to events to the point where they provide non at all. It already has when districts and bag came into play. With no bag, expect it to be gone sooner than most people think.
4. FIRST in a lot of ways will emulate what its like to be a VEX EDR program. You will see more attempts at design convergence.
5. The amount of collaboration and sharing between teams throughout the season from kickoff to champs will be exactly the same.
6. Student burnout will increase. We have lots of seniors that no longer do VEX because they got sick of years of having to constantly keep iterating their robot week after week after each local event. In the beginning, they were fine with it, but after several years, they wanted to enjoy other things high school had to offer and not be stuck in a room, just so that they could continue to build good robots.
7. Mentor burnout will increase.
8. FIRST will still have sustainability issues to the same degree.
9. The change doesnt uniformly benefit all teams. **See Jaci's post
10. In a few years, nobody will care about this announcement. Bag and Tag will be long gone and nobody will care anymore.

In summary, while it puts as at a bigger disadvantage, it doesnt really matter what I think. The decision has been made by FIRST. Since the change doesnt uniformly help all teams from all areas, what can FIRST do to help and assist with this? Seems to me that the shipping logistics and support issue is the best way that FIRST can help.
A long time ago when I FIRST started, many of us did this under the premise that it was a seasonal thing. We did 6 weeks of build and participated in just 1 regional event and Championships if we qualified.
With the start of districts in Michigan and now many other places, teams in general want more matches and play time. i.e. doing multiple regional/district events, and championship.
There are also a lot more teams participating in off-season events.
FIRST isnt a seasonal program anymore, its become year round. It has been for years for many already. I think the fear that student/mentor burnout will increase is a real concern. Whatever ounce of free time programs and people had in the past, will become much less.
I value my free time with my family and doing other things non-FIRST. Having a complete break, allows me to enjoy life more and has created a better balance for me and keeping my sanity.
Seeing my wife and kids after a 6-week absence is so much better than an entire 5 month Spring semester.
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Unread 11-15-2018, 10:02 AM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

I'm excited to see how teams handle this secrecy thing. I expect the elite teams to be secretive. They're not really competing against most of FRC and finding an edge against the other elites is important. However, I also expect the "rest" of FRC to be more secretive than it should be. FRC stands to gain a lot from open designs and sharing of information.

319 plans to maintain our 100% open policy. The day we get beaten by our own design is the day I'll reconsider.
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Unread 11-15-2018, 10:26 AM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

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Originally Posted by waialua359 View Post
1. Yup
2. I kind of disagree with this. Top teams will figure out ways to use this to their advantage over several seasons, but I really do think bottom tier teams will be in better shape, since they will be able to fix issues and run drive practice outside of the thursday window at regionals, or whatever the equivalent is at districts.
3. Probably
4. Yup
5. Different regions have different cultures. My region (Mountain West) has been getting much more interested in sharing ideas and resources, and more teams are collaborating to make the experience better for all. This is a significant change over the past three years, and I expect the end of the bag to contribute to this culture shift. It will be different elsewhere, I'm sure.
6. I found that BEST, VEX and FTC all had burnout issues for my students, but FRC has less. Not sure how this will change without the bag, but I will be on my guard.
7. I sure hope not, but I see where you are coming from.
8. Yup
9. Yup
10. Yup
My take on the six week build season expectation is that there was a clear evolution over a decade for my team and other local teams. Less than half of teams in Colorado now seem to have a hard cutoff at six weeks, and pretty close to half build second robots. When I decided to add a second bot and off-season training and events to my team, I was just choosing to replace one school-based activity (MESA Club, Punkin Chunkin, BEST Robotics) with another that I thought had greater benefits. I don't think this new era will dramatically change the amount of time, money, or effort I personally put into FRC. I do appreciate the perspective of a successful, long-time mentor like yourself though.
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Unread 11-15-2018, 10:37 AM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

I will have to figure out how to describe the new build season to people outside of FIRST. Usually the time period is a fact that impresses.

I am mostly in agreement with Glenn's predictions. I'm thinking I'm a little worse off in trying to sell FIRST to smaller rural schools, that may have been more enticed when KC is allowed a district. Even if the bag was a farce for upper teams, I think for the "six-week build" fits better with those teams, given many of their students are necessarily involved in sports seasons and other activities.

My own team stands to benefit a lot, as one that has finished the robot too close to bag day without a second robot. But we'll have to consider how to structure our season so that we don't just build until the first competition.
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Unread 11-15-2018, 10:56 AM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

I haven’t been able to keep up with the whole conversation (bad time to travel!), so I’m just going to post my thoughts without any attention to what’s been said on the topic prior

Only time will tell how this change impacts teams and the program as a whole. That said, I think the intention and reasoning behind it is good, and I wholely support it. It certainly doesn’t eliminate the differences between high and low resource teams - many of those differences still exist, and and this change isn’t going to magically see all of those teams competing on Einstein. However, it does provide those low resource teams with something that the high resource teams have had for a long time - continued access to a robot for practice, autonomous programming, and further development.

The 30 lb withholding allowance allowed high resource teams some rather significant development post-bag. Identical practice robots give them practice and code development abilities post-bag that other teams don’t have. This change helps to level that field, although it still isn’t completely level.

The danger this change represents is that “work expands to fill the time available”. We’ll have a “rebalancing” of teams - those that go hard from kickoff through competition, and those that use this to lighten the schedule each week, since they have additional time. We’ll also have teams that think they can accomplish much more with the extra few weeks, and bite off more than they can chew. The challenge we have, as a community, is to keep our teams, and those teams around us, focused and working hard. Week-0 events, held ON week-0, can help with this. They give teams an earlier hard deadline, a goal to having a completed robot. They provide an opportunity for large-scale inspections, where teams can find out what’s wrong and still have several weeks to fix it before their official event. They help hold teams to the current schedule, while still providing the benefits of additional access before their first event.

The worst thing we can do, as a community, is move the week-0 events. Keep them when they are and, if you want, add additional events between week-0 and your local event. That will be the best way to benefit everyone with this change!
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Unread 11-15-2018, 01:36 PM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

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Originally Posted by Jon Stratis View Post
The worst thing we can do, as a community, is move the week-0 events. Keep them when they are and, if you want, add additional events between week-0 and your local event. That will be the best way to benefit everyone with this change!
Quote:
We’ll also have teams that think they can accomplish much more with the extra few weeks, and bite off more than they can chew.
I agree with Jon, especially the quoted pieces. One of our elusive goals is always to spend a smaller percentage of the calendar getting to "barely functional" and a larger percentage of the calendar iterating so we can get from "barely functional" to "good." Increasing the technical complexity of our design goals wouldn't have that desired effect. Having a scrimmage weeks before we run out of robot time sounds like a dream.
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Unread 11-15-2018, 02:37 PM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

After a couple of days of thinking about this and reading all the plus and minus comments, I still have mixed feelings. Here is an out of the box suggestion that may eliminate some of the negative. Have an Inspection Day. My thought would be to have your completed Competition Robot inspected prior to or at Week 1 competition. This could involve taking your robot to a competition, to an inspection station or have an inspector come to your site. Major components of your robot would be tagged with tamper proof stickers. This could include the drive base and other normally non changing parts of the robot. Teams could still make modifications to these tagged parts, but a complete redesign would come under scrutiny. Accessory parts, like intakes, climbers, shooters, etc. would not be tagged, and could be freely redesigned and upgraded as the season progressed. This is a concept that I'm sure will generate much discussion and require refinement to implement.
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Unread 11-15-2018, 04:30 PM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

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Originally Posted by Nemo View Post
I agree with Jon, especially the quoted pieces. One of our elusive goals is always to spend a smaller percentage of the calendar getting to "barely functional" and a larger percentage of the calendar iterating so we can get from "barely functional" to "good." Increasing the technical complexity of our design goals wouldn't have that desired effect. Having a scrimmage weeks before we run out of robot time sounds like a dream.
Reminds me that usually the local legislative breakfast is scheduled on the week 0 week, because of the primary election schedule. That is when we have our Open House and invite the community/legislators to come see our "working" robot. We've had our US Rep attend. I don't believe a Senator has but it has been well attended by local reps and the community. One potential casualty of a different schedule is having a running robot by then. I guess overall it doesn't matter, as long as we can show the point in the process we are at, but having something pretty functional is nice to show the public.
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Unread 11-15-2018, 04:32 PM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeWoe44 View Post
After a couple of days of thinking about this and reading all the plus and minus comments, I still have mixed feelings. Here is an out of the box suggestion that may eliminate some of the negative. Have an Inspection Day. My thought would be to have your completed Competition Robot inspected prior to or at Week 1 competition. This could involve taking your robot to a competition, to an inspection station or have an inspector come to your site. Major components of your robot would be tagged with tamper proof stickers. This could include the drive base and other normally non changing parts of the robot. Teams could still make modifications to these tagged parts, but a complete redesign would come under scrutiny. Accessory parts, like intakes, climbers, shooters, etc. would not be tagged, and could be freely redesigned and upgraded as the season progressed. This is a concept that I'm sure will generate much discussion and require refinement to implement.
What are you trying to prevent? A team from scrapping their robot and starting over? Many teams have done that in the past. If there is any positive out of this, it should be that is now explicitly allowed.
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Unread 11-15-2018, 05:20 PM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

There are still many good reasons to built a second and/or third robot. The weight restrictions limit how tough we can build the robots - they are designed to run for hours, not weeks or years. Wearing out the competition machine is always a concern so a practice robot is an advantage. And it is helpful to have a robot for the software team to work with especially for autonomous algorithm development. Thus elite teams will still build more than one robot and this rule change means they do not have to update the competition robot in 30lb increments on Thursdays!

One big reason teams (and companies) struggle is time management. This will still be true with the longer schedule. As some in this thread have posited the new rules will entice teams to take on too much risk and/or procrastinate. Thus elite teams will maintain a time advantage. They will manage the increased time period more wisely.

Middle and low performing teams will benefit from the flexibility of the schedule. If you can't afford a second robot one can still field a better single robot at competitions. Good teams will help other teams more often. Within limits, teams will learn from early events. But one cannot build FRC robots as quickly as EDR (for example) machines. There will be more in-season scrimmages etc.

So everyone benefits! Don't kid yourself though, the good teams will be even better. Middle and lower performing teams will be better only IF they manage time wisely.

The big question is mentor and student burnout. Elite teams deal with this now and in 2020 everyone will deal with it. How long and how hard are teams willing to work to compete at a high level? Fortunately managing time more wisely can mitigate burnout a bit - still it will be tough. The ability to practice, meet, build and plan smart is gonna be (an even greater) key to success.

Good luck to all!
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Unread 11-15-2018, 05:28 PM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

Speaking of burnout, could someone whose team works through the stop build day explain how they deal with it? Could be helpful to teams who don't do this.
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Unread 11-15-2018, 05:48 PM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

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Originally Posted by Nick_Coussens View Post
Hot take: 118 will still have an amazing reveal video every year.

I know, why would they show off how awesome their robot is now that everyone and their grandmother will be able to easily replicate their robot? Building a clone of their robot based off of reveal video footage will be a breeze.
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoboChair View Post
2. Nothing stops teams from copying other robots currently. The 30 pound allowance and planning has allowed 1678 to copy many different robot designs over the years. In 2013, while working out of a portable classroom and a shipping container with minimal machines we changed our entire robot by the time we went to Champs, only the drive train remained untouched. This brings me to the other part of that argument, just because you see something doesn't mean you have the tools, equipment, and knowledge to implement the design. You will be forced to learn a huge amount of subtle things in order to copy many designs you see as well as adapt them to a style of build that your team is capable of executing on. Every design 1678 has attempted to copy or incorporate has required learning new things and usually doing slightly differently to make it work for us or improve upon it. Copying designs is very rarely easy and still takes a lot of resources to do correctly. Even rope climbers in 2017 varied wildly when copied off of a single design, mostly the same but different none the less.

3. 1678 meets only for 5 hours during the week days(Wed/Thurs) and 16 hours during the weekends(Sat/Sun) and that stays the same from kickoff until Champs. I'm flabbergasted when I hear of teams that are meeting 6 days a week for 30+ hours a week, even when it is because they are a small team. Taking time off is more than fine, a less rigorous but more focused schedule is a better use of time for all involved because you are less likely to wander off task and use your time efficiently. Yes I know every teams' situation is different, but the key point always comes down to planning your time and following it. I have never thought to myself that we are letting other teams surpass us because we didn't meet everyday, even though I know of other teams that do. We have tangible proof that our approach is a valid one based on our in season performance, that meeting every day is not a requirement for competition success.

Reveal videos are to show the capabilities of the design and to have some fun. They are not meant to be "how to" videos. Devin explains very clearly why copying from reveal videos will not "be a breeze". Having competed at many of the same events as 118 over many years, I have taken the opportunity to study their designs many times and asked many, many questions that their students and mentors answered in great depth. I can assure you that there are many details crucial to the success of their designs that are not visible in their reveal videos.


Devin's comments about the necessity of being effective are crucial to a teams "success" now and after the end of Bag & Tag.
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Unread 11-15-2018, 06:29 PM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

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Originally Posted by risho900 View Post
Speaking of burnout, could someone whose team works through the stop build day explain how they deal with it? Could be helpful to teams who don't do this.
How it has worked for my team:

For "build season":

Meet 3-5 times a week. Some meetings are short, some meetings don't have an end time. Not all meetings are "mandatory". I had a rule that meetings stop when students stop being productive... if you're going to play [insert popular game here] do it at home.

Bag Day:
Stay late that weekend/Monday/Tuesday to get everything done. Take a few days off to recover.

Post Bag Day week:

See "build season." Before events is a similar push to before bag day.

How I would restructure with no bag:
Meet 3-4 times a week depending on the sub-team and progress on the robot. No need for software to meet 4 times a week on a robot that isn't designed. No need for the whole mechanical team to show up for auto tuning.

Sign up for scrimmages, use those as benchmarks for "completeness". Big push for those, take a few days off. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Tips & Tricks:
- End meetings when they stop being productive.
- If you have a defined end time, stick to it - don't go over. Go home. Even you, mentors.
- Start each meeting with a "here is what needs to get done, here's what we got done" so students know what they can work on. Assign leaders to different tasks that need to get done so that no task is unaccounted for. Write down the tasks and who is working on them. Post in a public place.
- Plan what needs to get done in the future, someone should have a running to-do list.
- Not everything has to be done at the shop. Assign "homework."
- If X sub-team has nothing to do (or not enough students to do it), don't have that sub-team meet until there is something to do. Similarly, if you can, not every mentor needs to be at every meeting.

TLDR: Don't waste time as individuals, as sub-teams, and as a team. Actively plan what needs to get done in the short term, mid term, and long term.
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Unread 11-15-2018, 06:39 PM
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Re: It's Official - No More Stop Build Day! (In 2020)

Quote:
Originally Posted by risho900 View Post
Speaking of burnout, could someone whose team works through the stop build day explain how they deal with it? Could be helpful to teams who don't do this.
Everyone takes different approaches relative to their expectations and goals. Most teams that want to be genuinely "competitive", especially in the district system, will try to hold their regular hours (+/- a few) up until their first event.

For 422, we usually try to taper off based on expectations and goals from event to event and over the course of the whole season. For us in this season, our goal was to be competitive for the district championship, make it to Detroit, and make it to playoffs in Detroit. The robot was not where we wanted it when we put it in the bag, so we kept normal hours working on fixes out of the bag on the practice machine to prep for unbag hours.

Then, we pushed the changes over during unbag, made sure the robot could pass inspection as is, and practiced with the time left. After that practice, we knew we needed to make a couple more changes to our intake, and we wanted to keep progressing in auto development. Those changes were designed for but not implemented for the first event.

After the first event (Week 1), we figured we could push over the changes we wanted in a pretty short amount of time; enough to cut some meeting hours (I think we cut our 6 hour Sunday meeting, and maybe our 4 hour Monday meeting, leaving about 16 hours left of meeting time). We pushed the changes over during unbag, everything went well, and we bagged it with the expectation it would be ready to be inspected at the event. I think it was close, if not dead on again.

After the second event (Week 3), we identified wear and tear that needed to be addressed and made those changes in the pit before the next event, DCMP. We knew we would have no unbag time, so we did it then. After that, I think we did drive practice the next weekend, then met around 8 hours the week of DCMP (Week 5).

We had a wiring issue that we had resolved between events but since the robot was bagged, we had to make those changes at DCMP (or was it CMP?). That was probably the most obvious case all season of the bag doing nothing but hindering students from doing what they wanted/needed to do to the robot all season. That took some time at one of those events, as did installing a few hardware upgrades for auto. Otherwise, the 3 weeks we spent between DCMP and CMP were just on drive practice and auto tuning, around 10-12 hours a week.

This is just our experience. This experience is also informed by executing a full rebuild between 3 events in 2014, and attempting but scrapping a partial rebuild between 2 events in 2016. Unless you are confident in your resources to pull it off, full rebuilds are really tough and shouldn't be done, bag or no bag.

The vague TLDR here is to be honest and constant in evaluating your robot's state against your current goals and expectations, and decide what, if anything, needs to change.
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