An Off-Season Un-Competition Idea

I’ll start by saying that I know there are amazing events that provide tons of educational experience to the attendees. And I’m by no means the first one to entertain any of these ideas. So, please humor me, and feel free to share great ideas from other events you know.

I’m sure a lot of people out there have had a hard time over the last two season getting things back to “normal” on their teams. Along that path to normal I’ve been asking myself whether that normal was ever the best I could be doing. Earning a spot at World Champs at our first event (as a third robot playing mostly defense) has really made me think of all of things I wish we’d done different during the fall and the build season. Looking to the future (summer projects and off season events) I’m not sure there is a structure in place to help make the changes I personally feel are needed.

So, I figured if I’m going to make some changes in how I do things, why not shake the whole system up?!

Considering the current state of (the few) off-season events in my area, which are generally competitive, I felt taking a different approach may help my team as well as others.
What if the competition was minimized?
What if there was no tracking of wins/losses?
What if there were no RPs… no blue banners… no trophies? (definitely no participation trophies!)

What would I want to occupy the attention of students in this situation? Education, of course. You know, the parts that are relegated to lunch breaks and end-of-day workshops at most off-season events. What if we focused on that, and had matches running in the background as part of the social networking and fun?

I’ve put together a little document to track my ideas: Un-Competition Prospectus - Google Docs
Please feel free to read it, make comments, and provide feedback in this thread.

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Divorcing the competiton from FIRST Robotics Competition wouldn’t interest me at all. I don’t think it would interest any of my students either… we use our competitiveness to drive learning.

I’d much rather just go to a dedicated training event than have to go through the effort of loading up the pit/robot for exhibition matches.

Just my opinion though!

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I completely understand! I’d see this event format as robot-optional.

Which may actually give those who bring their robot more time on a field. Win-win!

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I think it depends on how you would frame the event and make sure everyone enters with an understanding of what it is and isn’t. Having an exhibition match where all the drive teams agree to have their robots dance is fun. Having an exhibition match where a team gets defended against and their robot breaks probably isn’t.

There’s definitely a way you could make a casual exciting event by changing up the standard formula. Maybe have a series of lights out games, “Oops! All Cones!”, or Recycle Rush Mode (alliance loading stations are on the same side instead of cross field). You’ll probably still want some kind of award, even if they’re silly or plentiful, to increase team engagement and justify bringing the robot out.

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You know… back in the day, SCRRF in the L.A. area did this sort of thing.

Fall Classic was on one set of days, and Fall Workshops were on a different set of days.

Workshops were all about learning. Fall classic was about fun, and could include things like a truck pull, an obstacle course, a tug-o-war…

I have suggested (jokingly) to others within my team that even at competitive regionals, the top 20 robots (and possibly others if they wish…) should be allowed a dance off possibly at lunch or at the end of the day. I think that this would revolutionize FIRST for the better. Who’s with me?

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I do recall these. Location was in flux for a few years. SCRRF Fall Classic coming back anytime soon?

Now that Champs has come and gone, and people are in full swing finding ways to fill their summers with more robots, thought I’d revisit this concept.

Back in the day, long before Beach Blitz was a thing, the Orange County Robotics Alliance (OCRA… not OCCRA), was just a collection of kids from local teams who wanted to network. They had some meetings with workshops we called the OCRA Grand Encounter (OCRAGE). This was fun, educational, and featured some silliness (ping pong tournaments, human recycle rush, trivia challenges, etc.)

After a hiatus, current and former FRC students who had been involved in OCRA wanted to start an off season competition. They organized and held the first Beach Blitz in 2016. The OCRAGE event went to the wayside, and Beach Blitz has grown into a big event, drawing teams from multiple states, and featuring RSN broadcasts.

The “un-competition” event I’ve proposed, and outlined in the doc above, would not try to compete for registrations from other off season events (like Beach Blitz, Tidal Tumble, Battle at the Border, etc.). It would try to fill a space between them, and fill a void that I feel exists. It would be advertised as an opportunity to learn, network, and practice skills with access to a full field. Teams who want to practice using their new drivetrain, or get cycle times down, all day are welcome to do that [note: almost all teams in my area do not have access to full or even half practice fields at their schools. They rely on the kindness of a few local teams to give them limited access]. Teams who want to attend clinics and test new skills on the field are welcome. Teams who want to leave the robot at home and just attend workshops and network are welcome.

I’d like this sort of event to be focused on students having fun, meeting new people, and leaving feeling more prepared to take on the next off-season competition, training session with their team, and the upcoming build season.

End note: if you take a look at the doc, please feel free to add comments. I appreciate the grammar and spelling corrections, but would also appreciate content notes as well!

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