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  #16   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 09-09-2016, 07:03 PM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

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Originally Posted by gblake View Post
If I'm understanding you, and if I use somewhat prejudicial wordings ...

In the season when the team flails, they will get to flail for a few extra hours per week after flailing for 45 days.

In the next season (or two), once they learn, they will understand how to do well-enough during the 45 days, and won't require the extra hours.

Furthermore, offering any number of possible methods (that give struggling teams per-season exemptions) to stave off the flailing in the first place sounds like a great thing to focus more attention on, instead of churning ourselves over the unbag time.

If FIRST HQ does implement a weekly unbag period, after a brief transition period, unless struggling teams are simultaneously taught (and willing to learn) project management skills, teams that have eyes/plans bigger then their 45-day abilities now, will very quickly become teams with eyes/plans bigger than 45-days plus Nx8 hours. We will be right back where we started (I predict).

If I didn't also believe that the 45-day building period has value, I would say, "Who cares? Build 365 days per year."; but I think a reasonably-long, limited, build season (a true one, not a fictional one) is a valuable part of the program. I know other reasonable people disagree about that. Thereby hang some tales.

Blake
You're completely missing the point about having acccess to your robot after having competed once, and before having competed again.

From some combination of outside help and seeing what others teams have done, 2-8 hours in this time can be far more valuable than 2 weeks during the build portion for a team that isn't capable of finishing on time currently.
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Unread 09-09-2016, 07:08 PM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

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Originally Posted by AdamHeard View Post
You're completely missing the point about having acccess to your robot after having competed once, and before having competed again.

From some combination of outside help and seeing what others teams have done, 2-8 hours in this time can be far more valuable than 2 weeks during the build portion for a team that isn't capable of finishing on time currently.
You are right - I did blow right past that. I apologize. Ima deleting my earlier post.
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Unread 09-09-2016, 07:22 PM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

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Originally Posted by AdamHeard View Post
The thing is, it takes teams a while to learn this lesson (if ever). No amount of external mentoring, help, etc... will cause the shift until the leadership of the team is ready for it.

Once bag day happens, there is no time machine to go back.

However, if after competing once (at a low level) they see teams they can copy some details from (and perhaps receive from advice from others), they can take their robot that isn't scoring points at all and have it contribute at their second event.

I'm absolutely certain that kids prefer scoring points to not scoring points, and ideally greater inspiration will follow.

Potentially that greater inspiration will lead to them wanting a better plan for season, to get done sooner, to realize those benefits etc... but we can't just state from our high horse that kids should just do it right the first time.

We don't need to get rid of the bag, we just need to allow unbagging windows for all teams all weeks.
A semi-nitpick is that I think the process I'm hypothesizing for a struggling/rebuilding team will produce a robot that will score points (FIRST designs the games that way); and what is often equally important, it will be rugged and dependable, and will score those points reliably/consistently.

For that reason the teams with the simpler bots might be envious of the (successful) more sophisticated bots, but they shouldn't be uninspired - In a rebuilding/struggling period, they did what they set out to do, and did it well. They stopped struggling (in the robot-building part of being a team). Next year they can be a little more ambitious.

More to your point, if, in addition to the 45 days they give teams before the teams initial competitions, FIRST HQ decides to offer all teams (or maybe just the recovering teams???) a few hours of use-what-you-learned time AFTER each competition a team attends, I think that would be consistent (consistent enough) with what I am urging. I wouldn't lose any sleep over that.

However, to minimize (legit?) wingeing by teams whose initial/only competition includes opponents who have already competed once, the extra time might need to be something teams can use whenever they like, but not be big enough (seductive enough) to significantly exacerbate poor management (wishful thinking) during the original 45 days.
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Last edited by gblake : 09-09-2016 at 08:16 PM.
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Unread 09-09-2016, 07:32 PM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

Quote:
Originally Posted by AdamHeard View Post
The thing is, it takes teams a while to learn this lesson (if ever). No amount of external mentoring, help, etc... will cause the shift until the leadership of the team is ready for it.

Once bag day happens, there is no time machine to go back.

However, if after competing once (at a low level) they see teams they can copy some details from (and perhaps receive from advice from others), they can take their robot that isn't scoring points at all and have it contribute at their second event.

I'm absolutely certain that kids prefer scoring points to not scoring points, and ideally greater inspiration will follow.

Potentially that greater inspiration will lead to them wanting a better plan for season, to get done sooner, to realize those benefits etc... but we can't just state from our high horse that kids should just do it right the first time.

We don't need to get rid of the bag, we just need to allow unbagging windows for all teams all weeks.
Having been on this team as a student, I can say absolutely yes. We really weren't aiming too high, and we weren't procrastinating (any more than we do now). We just had no idea what we were doing. We had no reference for what too complicated or poor design was. We didn't shortchange our drivetrain; we just thought 2wd would be a good idea. We figured it out belatedly, but that regional was not so inspirational. Another year we didn't try to do multiple tasks or end effectors; we just really thought an 80/20 arm that weighed more than the robot base was a really good plan. We actually realized that error later in build season and slap-dashed an alternative thing on before ship. Should we have realized sooner? Duh (I say now from my high horse). And we learned that lesson for next year. But having it sit in the crate that year really sucked. We did so terribly at that event and it was so uninspirational and damaging to the team that people literally started fighting and I sobbed and tried to quit (I was like 14). Fortunately, that year we actually had two events, and we wised up and reached out and borrowed another simple (but much better) end effector design from someone, and...well it still wasn't such a great experience because our drivetrain was also pretty terrible and we didn't have the opportunity to fix other issues we'd found, but I definitely would've preferred to substitute it for our first event. And if we'd been able to get hands-on time and fix more stuff? I don't know how well we would've done, but man, that would've been a really great learning and inspirational experience for me.

It's hard for me to explain in retrospect how ridiculously clueless we were. It wasn't time or task management. Our teachers were pretty good with that (as much as when we did better, at least). It wasn't that we refused modest goals. We just didn't know how to convert modest strategic goals into modest engineering goals. We didn't understand how difficult things actually were. We downright couldn't visualize simple engineering solutions and distinguish them from complex ones. We didn't think we were shortchanging anything; we thought it'd work. And we really didn't understand that whole 'incremental testing, fail early fail often' thing. This isn't the same as procrastination; it's just that we were 15 years old and we thought we were right.

Would making build season last until our first event have helped that? I guess some teams would spread out their mistakes and not catch any more. We checked and caught some of our blunders back in those days, though, and I suspect we'd've caught more as we went. I won't claim a proportional increase, but more. Would we have ended up relatively better as the entire league moved? I'm guessing not. But I'd probably have cried less. And would some more teams than do now get free time from RIs to do pre-event inspection, get other teams to visit and play with? I'd bet some would. All of them? No. But some more is better.

And the real crux for me is being out of bag between events. I see this potential all the time inspecting for districts. It's not that every team who's non-functional on the field has some big mechanical contraption they wasted all their time on. I've inspected a lot of very modest bots that just don't understand that whole good electrical practices thing. They don't assemble the kitbot right. They don't understand chain tensioning or basic mechanical construction. Maybe they want to be creative, even a little bit, and screw up that whole center of gravity issue. Maybe they tried for the low goal but couldn't visualize a simple solution. Should we as a league be able to fix this all in six weeks? Should they all have made mistakes that are fixable in 6 hours of unbag time? Or should we all be on our game enough to spare time for teams like this in six weeks instead of in the multiple weeks they spend staring at their robot in a bag? Okay, sure. But that's not their fault.
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Unread 09-09-2016, 08:10 PM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

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Originally Posted by Siri View Post
Having been on this team as a student, I can say absolutely yes. We really weren't aiming too high, and we weren't procrastinating (any more than we do now). We just had no idea what we were doing. We had no reference for what too complicated or poor design was. We didn't shortchange our drivetrain; we just thought 2wd would be a good idea. We figured it out belatedly, but that regional was not so inspirational.
...
Should we as a league be able to fix this all in six weeks? Should they all have made mistakes that are fixable in 6 hours of unbag time? Or should we all be on our game enough to spare time for teams like this in six weeks instead of in the multiple weeks they spend staring at their robot in a bag? Okay, sure. But that's not their fault.
Hmmm, Not their fault? Agreed!

I don't think Adam or I intended "fault". There are lots of things I have the potential to do, and can't do yet; but not because it's my fault. Instead, it's because I haven't yet learned to do them. I would say the same applies to what you described.

Appreciating what you describe, and being fully sympathetic (I remember a robot lurching rather drunkenly around a field), in a thread on team sustainability, I made some suggestions that I think would apply almost as well to rookie teams as they would to struggling teams (maybe those two situations would get modestly different treatment?) (maybe the Rookie All-Star award would become the Sophomore All-Star award?).

If you care to review that other discussion, I would interested in your take on the ideas everyone floated there. I think the posts linked below cover the gist of what I eventually decided was my best idea at the time. Other people offered other good ideas.

The whole thread

I offered these, among other posts:
One, Two, Three, Four, and Five

Blake
PS: What I posted here is both a little off-topic, and a little on-topic. It's on-topic in the sense that a few ounces of pre-build preventative education that teaches important skills, and transfers a bit of wisdom, is worth a pound of post-build cure. Regardless of where any of us stand on the "hows" or "whys" of post-build bagging, that is no surprise to anyone.
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Last edited by gblake : 09-09-2016 at 08:15 PM.
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Unread 09-09-2016, 10:10 PM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

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Originally Posted by gblake View Post
I don't think Adam or I intended "fault". There are lots of things I have the potential to do, and can't do yet; but not because it's my fault. Instead, it's because I haven't yet learned to do them. I would say the same applies to what you described.
Sorry if I implied you did. I wasn't even quoting you; I just intended to tie into the whole 'high horse' thing Adam had going.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gblake View Post
Appreciating what you describe, and being fully sympathetic (I remember a robot lurching rather drunkenly around a field), in a thread on team sustainability, I made some suggestions that I think would apply almost as well to rookie teams as they would to struggling teams (maybe those two situations would get modestly different treatment?) (maybe the Rookie All-Star award would become the Sophomore All-Star award?). <snipped links>
Ah yes, I remember this thread. I'm all for the concept of providing better year-round training and program alternatives. It doesn't change my stance on SBD. (In fact, if it succeeded in retraining the teams that do struggle with planning and time management, it would erase the last negative I have about dropping SBD.) In terms of the specifics of the system, there's a lot to work out there. For this thread, my relevant takeaway that we're in a reality where it's just not on FIRST's drawing board. This is an HQ that doesn't even have an official a VEX-like curriculum, much less this kind of system. That's not to say community organizations shouldn't--we should and do and will continue to--but effectively and efficiently reaching the teams who need it most takes an official change to the league. It's not even a setup I can imagine, putting on my 15-year-old student hat. And it's just not something FIRST is currently designed to do. I'd love it if they were, would like to help them if I can, and don't blame them that they aren't.

I think where we differ is that in my book, dropping SBD / using a Zondag proposal is a clear improvement to similar ends. It doesn't obviate or assist or do much of anything to a year-round system as well, but it helps complementarily and cleans clock on the 'currently realistically implementable' metric.
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Unread 09-09-2016, 11:40 PM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

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Originally Posted by Siri View Post
...
I understand.
And, I worry about the camel's nose (the tail wagging the dog) pressing ever further into the tent.

HQ, and/or a team, or group of teams, that want(s) a World Championship Chairman's will create the curriculum and designs new/struggling teams need, or won't.
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Unread 09-10-2016, 01:04 AM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

Gblake,

After reading a ton of your posts and your signature line; curiosity has gotten the better of me and I have to ask: "Are you currently associated with a FRC team or event?"
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Unread 09-10-2016, 08:40 PM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

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Gblake,

After reading a ton of your posts and your signature line; curiosity has gotten the better of me and I have to ask: "Are you currently associated with a FRC team or event?"
I gave Clint the long answer in a PM. The shortened version is that the pendulum is swinging.

A decade ago I began by diving headfirst into FRC and related programs. I spent a few thousands of hours over several years. A big chunk of those hours were with an FRC team or FRC events.

Fast-forward to now

So far the pendulum hasn't swung far enough to (re)connect me with any specific FRC team among the several nearby; but who knows, by the time this next summer rolls around, maybe 10-12 kids in the area and will want to pony up about $1500 apiece to learn and practice for 9-12 months, then register as a rookie team in the Chesapeake district.
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Last edited by gblake : 09-10-2016 at 09:07 PM.
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Unread 09-10-2016, 09:46 PM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

The two papers got me thinking a little bit differently than I had been about this issue. Some of those thoughts have given me enough clarity to want to post them.

The reference to the Olympics got me thinking about the ways in which FRC is like a sport. I am a track and field coach, and one of the things track coaches have learned over the past couple of decades is how too much competition can lead to poorer performance. Because it gets you thinking about how to get better in the short term rather than the long term. In track and field long term performance is almost always the key to objective success. Whether you are coaching elite athletes who have to wait two years for another World Championship or four for another Olympics, or you are coaching high school athletes who have one meet to decide their conference championship and then maybe one or two qualifying meets to their state championship. It used to be that world class athletes would run a dozen or more races in the summer leading to the Olympics, and high schoolers would race two or three times a week all spring. Now elite athletes may only run four or five races leading up to a championship, and high schoolers are much more likely to only run in one meet a week.

None of this is directly applicable to analyzing performance for FRC, but it got me thinking about another idea. Much of the debate about stop build day seems to be of the "getting rid of it will lead to better robot performance" versus "robot performance shouldn't be the metric we use to measure the success of an FRC team." I know this is an oversimplification, but bear with me. Thinking about FRC in the context of track coaching made me think "Maybe getting rid of stop build day won't actually lead to better robot performance in the long run?"

I am pretty sure that my own team would have better robot performance on the average in any given season. Largely because the three lead mentors are all teachers, and for two of us the robot is/can be something we do in class. So we would be able to keep building and adapting. I even think the students in my class would benefit from seeing other robots and copying/adapting to improve ours. I am also pretty sure that my team would be a fair amount smaller. I would actually be surprised if getting rid of stop build day didn't have a noticeable impact on the total number of students participating in FRC. As well as an impact on the number of mentors.

So we would have fewer kids spending more time making tweaks and improvements to that year's competition robot. Which means less time available for general improvement like learning new skills. In coaching that is focusing on improving your strengths rather than focusing on improving your weaknesses. This has a very seductive pull for coaches. Because it often means winning more games that season. When you take classes on coaching they caution you against it because it often means a worse experience for the athletes as well as fewer wins for them in the long run.

One of the beauties of FRC is that it only takes a few (or sometimes even one) kid developing a skill to make that skill part of a team's repertoire. We use the spring, when some of the kids are really fired up about FRC, to get the kids to stretch themselves and learn new skills. I worry that we would end up with better robots but fewer new skills.
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Unread 09-10-2016, 10:07 PM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

While looking for something else, I stumbled upon this interesting thread: Best simple robots based on kit chassis?
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Unread 09-11-2016, 08:41 AM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

There is a spotlighted post I recall seeing here that says (my paraphrase from memory), "The secret to this whole thing is that robot builds the team."

You don't have to build a winning robot to build a team, but you won't build a great team unless they are striving to build a winning robot.
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Unread 09-11-2016, 09:46 AM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

Lots of folks in this conversation I respect deeply and I know I'm the old head that doesn't spend much time here any more. However, with the escalation of this conversation and the growth of the district model, I can't resist making a few obvious (at least to me) points:
1. The overall goal here is about the type of person that is produced from the program, nothing else.
2. Until these type of conversations are centered around real historical and current data on graduates (not on-field play, points, or trophies), it's all just noise - sorry.
3. My personal history and experience would indicate blue banners have very little (if anything) to do with producing graduates with certain qualities.
4. While I understand certain other arguments I've heard, anything that leads to more work, more days with a team, "more" of anything is going to reduce the number of willing adult and student participants globally. Locally, there may be some exceptions where you see exceptional people and support, but globally it's a loss.
5. I get the idea for wanting better robots on the field, but does that ACTUALLY produce more of the graduates we desire? If so, where's the data?
6. If the overall vision were to be, "Let's make FRC the elite program only for the top end" then I'd be willing to scrap most of my thinking for 1-5 above. Of course, to do that, then FULLY embracing, pushing, and supporting intermediate programs (regardless of logo) like VRC and FTC as the way to engage and create MOST of those future graduates we are trying to create has to be part of the plan.

I really don't mean to pop anyone's balloon. I really do "see" the arguments being presented, but my 16 years of experience around this stuff says that, in large part, we may be entirely missing the point.
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Unread 09-11-2016, 01:31 PM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

So FTC kickoff was yesterday. This is the FTC season setup. Granted, it's stretched out more than FRC would be even without SBD, but I really don't understand this argument that every team is going to do more and push harder longer or worse. The counterarguments to SBD seem to be both:
- People will procrastinate and end up rushing as much as they do now over a short time at the end.
- People will not procrastinate and will push as hard for the entire season as the do for the 6 week SBD version.

I don't get that. I don't buy this idea that the net is 'more'. Is it longer? Yes. Will that make some teams struggle with the transition? Yes. But I find it much more likely that:
- Some teams will procrastinate and rush to finish at the end. People do this now, and they do it in every aspect of their lives. No rule can save it; no rule does. Some subset will catch on and fix themselves every year/between years, some not. I'll posit SBD won't fix this, and I can't predict the rate as more less than historically, both at the transition and at the new steady state.
- Some teams will go whole-hog for the entire season. These are likely to be teams that already go whole-hog for the entire season plus teams that think they can and rapidly realize they can't. I'd expect most in the latter will just stop doing that rather than quit, because this also happens now. But again, I'll posit some loss. (What I can't posit is this confidence that the net will absolutely be worse than now. I don't get how you know this.)
- Some teams will slow down their schedule. I don't understand why this seems so weird to people. Our FTC program does not have an FRC schedule. Our VEX kids don't. Our FLL kids don't. Our sports programs don't. That hypothetical year-round official FRC training system doesn't. Nobody does. People know how to do this stuff. Do they procrastinate? Of course, we're human, and mostly teenagers at that. But do they procrastinate entirely to the point where the time to distribute their workload is not valuable? I guess there's one in every barrel, but I haven't seen it. This net retention rate--though I'm happy to admit all of the cohort sizes are unknown--is likely to improve.

The goal of dropping SBD is not to make every team elite or even relatively* better. That's not what this is about. It's to let teams run their FRC lives the way they run the rest of their lives, sans arbitrary deadlines (but not sans real ones) and activation energies. This does not force anyone to do more; it just removes the activation energy for improvement to join those who already do do more. Does this mean the elite have it 'easier' and will get better? Likely. But (in the nicest possible way) who cares? It's not zero-sum; they're increasing their lead above the league average, not forcing everyone else down. Does it mean that some teams will overexert without that activation energy to stop them? Yes, some. And some will learn from it and some will leave. Does it mean that some will treat FRC like it's not an overwhelming N-week-crunch that sucks up our lives and then tries to make us stare at our failures with no way to fix them and inhibited room to learn from our experiences? I'm going with yes.


*Relatively better. The debate about whether overall quality matters and is affected by SBD has a different set of arguments, mostly 'there's already enough time for anyone to be good' versus 'it's a looong learning curve and no SBD means more inter-event improvement and community support'. The debate about whether overall quality affects inspiration is yet another debate entirely, centered around 'it's not about the robot' and 'sitting dead is really discouraging'. Still, the schedule control can be address independently as well to some extent.

EDIT:
I think I need to clarify what I mean by separating the debates: If someone agreed on the schedule impacts above but posited that quality or inspiration from it didn't change, the conclusion would be that dropping SBD is marginally good or a wash. (Marginally good because teams ability to time-manage 6 weeks versus N similarly doesn't excuse the imposition of an arbitrary deadline any more than it would elsewhere in life.) This isn't to say I don't have strong opinions about quality and inspiration or that these don't need to be addressed before a conclusion. I just want to call out the schedule separately because I get the impression that I expect an order of magnitude less positive change than I think pro-SBDers expect in the negative from burnout or mass procrastination.
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Unread 09-11-2016, 06:23 PM
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Re: paper: Stop the Stop Build - Counterpoint

Rich Kressly, you hit the nail on the head. (As an aside, congrats on 1712's excellent season last year.) For me the central question is how does any change affect the quality and quantity of students who experience the program. If means better robots and better robots means more kids or better experiences for kids, then we should do it. But I don't think that relationship is at all clear.

Siri, here is my perspective on the schedule. Which is based mostly on my experience with my team. I don't buy that there is any significantly large exodus of people from FRC because of the stop build day deadline. A well constructed survey could convince me otherwise, but in particular I don't believe that getting rid of stop build day will cause a lot of students to stay in FRC. I have had over 300 different kids in FRC over the past 15 years and while we haven't had many who quit, none have ever said the schedule being so short made them leave. On the other hand, we have a lot of kids who if the schedule extended build time into the spring would deepen conflicts with other activities. We already have a little over 40% of our students who don't go to our regional competitions because of conflicts with sports, plays or other events. There is no way a change like this would not cause us to lose more of those kids.

And as I said in my previous post, I am not convinced that ending stop build day would in fact produce better robots in the long run.

In spite of this I am fairly ambivalent on the schedule. If they ended stop build day we would adapt, the team would go on. It would personally change some of what I do, and my own schedule (born out of 15 years of this schedule) would mean I wouldn't be as available, but I would adapt too. If they found a middle ground, such as giving every team some number of hours of limited out of bag time, we would adapt. We are still going to strive to provide the best experience we can to the most people we can.
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