FRC queue was fantastic at TRI. It was very helpful to our team.
I had the fortune of volunteering at TRI this year as one of the Lead Queuers & worked with the FRC Queue system.
I can’t speak to the team side of the system, but I thoroughly liked it from the queueing side. For reference, I have never been a Lead Queuer or a even regular Queuer before (but have been an FTA for several years, which may be cheating). Overall, I would say I was more comfortable stepping into the role with the system to help guide me through what I should be looking at & focusing on instead of juggling paper schedules & radio calls to pit admin.
TRI runs for about two and a half days, with the back half of Thursday for filler line practice matches, Friday morning for the Girl’s Drive tournament (same format as Einstein Round Robin & Finals), some more filler line practice matches and Quals on Friday afternoon, and Quals and Playoffs on Saturday.
Starting at the beginning, it helped tremendously with practice matches. TRI only runs a filler line, so there would normally be queuers running lists of team numbers to the scoring table every few minutes. With the system, the scorekeeper could just keep a web browser open to the event queueing page and see the changes to the alliance station assignments as they were made (could still useful even if running a practice schedule with some filler line replacements). As a side note, our scorekeeper was one of the regular Lead Queuers in Texas and she commented on how much easier it to deal with was compared to the usual handwritten team lists.
The Girls Drive Round Robin worked well, though Evan had to add those matches manually since that part wasn’t going to by synced to TBA. The Quals matches went very smoothly. Over 56 quals matches, I think I walked to the pits a total of twice to see the status of a team that was slated to play in the next match. Only one or two teams didn’t submit phone numbers for notifications, most submitted more than 1, and a fair portion submitted the max of 5 (I checked a couple matches in to see which teams hadn’t submitted numbers but didn’t go back and check again later on Friday). There was a stream of the field going on the wall of the pits, so it was possible for teams to queue by looking at the stream and seeing which matches they were scheduled for.
Playoffs were also easy, especially since the system could generate the schedule and then populate the bracket as soon as the alliances were posted online. Going through Quarters & Semis required a bit more thinking since the third match of the series would be automatically deleted only after a series winner was indicated in the system. We kicked around some ideas on how to make that more visible and easier to keep track of. Putting on my FTA hat, I really liked how it auto-filled in Semis and Finals following the bracket and alliance color rules. I know at some of my events the Lead Queuer is looking for a playoff schedule after Quarters to make sure they get the alliances, order, and color right and that’s just one extra thing I wouldn’t have to deal with.
Evan flew down for the event and was indispensable in answering questions and taking feedback and feature suggestions. I won’t go into the feature suggestions much here since they have already been passed along, but the largest two were cleaning up the tiebreaker queueing and deletion mentioned above and a way of showing the competing teams list for checking in & keeping track of the alliance selection reps.
Overall, I am very glad FRC Queue was at TRI. I know it was not free to run and Evan gave me a ballpark number on how much it cost in text messages for the event. If I had the option to pay for the text costs out of my pocket but have the system at my events in the future, I would do it without thinking twice (assuming the teams found it acceptable, of course).
I think there are a few process improvements I’ve heard about - that probably mostly occurred because we had several students filling into new roles and lack of mentor oversight amongst our three teams at TRI.
I think there was some confusion where some students would scan the QR code and add their number, wiping out the previous numbers entered. I think they heard they could have 5 phone numbers (or something) but didn’t realize they needed to be entered all at once. This process probably improves with having an experienced student or mentor more involved.
The paper that was handed out - I don’t know if that came from FRC Queue or from TRI organizers - but I think having the website listed to see the event specific FRC queue would be useful. Spectrum was great and had a giant projector up on a wall, but the sun washed it out some and it was hard to see. But students were concerned that in-season they might ignore phone buzzes (thinking it’s slack notifications or something) and miss a text. Granted - we can probably also have someone in the pit more dedicated to check that specifically. Again probably improved with an experienced student or mentor involvement.
Way better than listening to pit admin. Most the time I (and others) tune out pit admin and even when we do hear them, it’s garbled from either being too close to the speakers (and way too loud) or too much other noise in the room.
Like Aaron, I would contribute $$ towards having it available at events I attend. I don’t know ballpark numbers, so can’t quite say that I would pay it without thinking twice. But I do value it!
I, too, was super happy with it!
A sneaky improvement would be to have two QR codes: one that accesses the phone number list and the website to check your team like right now, and a separate one that is only the website list.
Thanks to @AllenGregoryIV, @Aaron.Graeve, Candace and everyone else who made the first trial at TRI a success. I learned a lot and have a long list of improvements to make that I believe will get us closer to a scalable system that can be implemented at most FRC events.
At TRI, 100% of the 28 teams registered for match queuing notifications. 2,500 SMS notifications were sent throughout the event.
Post-event team survey results:
100% of respondents rated match queuing at TRI much better than typical FRC events (n=11)
100% of respondents would recommend FRC Queue be used at future FRC events (n=10)
Some fun stats:
The time spent in queue for each qualification match was 10 minutes on average per team.
This is super cool data, I am curious as to how the queue time data was collected?
Queuers check in teams when they arrive at the field & mark when each match transitions to “On field” in the app. Timestamps are recorded for every state change.
time in queue =
time match status was set to 'On field' -
time team was checked in
Finally got to use this at STEMley Cup. I not only want this for events. I NEED THIS FOR EVENTS!
I was the Lead Queuer at Tidal Tumble, which used FRC Queue.
I emailed Evan my very specific feedback, so I’ll just put the highlights here:
- This system is amazing in some many ways. I heard not one negative thing about it.
- From the Lead Queuer perspective, the notifications are nice, but the real icing on the cake is all of the tracking and additional tools. A number of years ago, I overengineered a spreadsheet (which all Lead Queuers have access to via Box) to help track teams statuses so that all queuers could share a common dashboard, build the schedule before the FMS, etc. FRC Queue does that, but so much cleaner and better. Even if events don’t have the model with notifications, I’d want to use the tool internally with queuers just for the tracking.
- Queueing for double elims for the first time was made so much easier by having live matches in front of me and not having to, again, use a Google Sheet (or–dare I say it–use a paper bracket).
- Our queuers didn’t use radios at this event (which, admittedly, we could’ve gotten away with anyways given the venue), and having all the queuers pull up the public dashboard on their phones was enough for us to only need to communicate occasionally, usually about things like meal breaks or teams that were repeat offenders of entering through the exit.
- And, of course:
I’d invest in this system for any event at which I’m a lead queuer. Once this leaves beta, everyone should push their events to implement this.
Thanks, Evan, for all your (completely volunteer) effort on this extremely elegant solution to one of those ugly problems nobody was wanted to tackle properly for so long. Also, thanks for manually editing the database and helping B-team shenanigans work well.
For those who like the system, I recommend emailing FIRST and letting them know. You’re unlikely to see it at in-season events unless they start hearing postive feedback from teams and volunteers*.
* Even then it likely would have a long road ahead of it, but it would be nice to at least start down that road.
My students got to use it yesterday at STEMley and absolutely loved it. Our drivers specifically loved that they would get a text letting them know they needed to make their way back to the pits because our next match is in 15 minutes. They sometimes need a break from the busy event, or to grab food, and it is always a challenge ensuring they’re back in time (especially when events run behind/not to the scheduled times).
When they (our students) asked me why this isn’t at every event, I explained it was in beta right now, but that if they wanted to see it at other events, they need to let people know how much they like it. I think they’ll be drafting a letter to FIRST Canada tomorrow giving feedback and asking that they strongly consider adopting FRC Queue for all events in the district.
I intend to ask the FTA at every FIRST event I am at this year (six regionals and the championships) if we ca use it at the event. I think it could be a very useful tool to support the teams and will make their event experience better.
The absolute only “issue” (if you can even call it that), was we would have liked the ability to sign-up a few extra people for SMS notifications. If we run with the assumption that unlimited “users” for notifications isn’t practical/realistic at this time, our “ideal number” would be 7-10 users receiving SMS notifications.
5 for our drive crew (2 drivers, 1 human player, 1 drive coach, 1 technician), and another 2-5 for key people in the pits.
Again though, absolutely phenomenal 1st experience with the system.
Did you consider using the Slack integration?
Didn’t know there was that option! And that would work amazing for us considering that’s already how we communicate at events anyhow. We’ll definitely look at using the Slack integration at any other events we find ourselves at where FRC Queue is in use.
I wonder how FIRST will view this with respect to YPP concerns - collecting contact information from underaged students can be dicey, and teams with strict rules within their school districts may not be able to use something like the Slack integration, as it essentially opens up their slack (and thus communications with students) to “unknown persons”.
I also wonder if there may be equity concerns for teams from underserved communities. Individuals without access to cell phones, texting and data plans that so many of us take for granted would miss out on this opportunity.
It is definitely a nice way to be able to push out the requests to queue, both for teams and queuers - i definitely see the benefits. It’ll be interesting to see how FIRST responds to it with these sots of potential concerns, though.
A good point. That being said, one way to look at this is that it frees the volunteers up a bit and allows/enables them to act more effectively for those teams, who are likely already high-contact… and that’s totally awesome in my book. Let’s make sure we are using our volunteer resources effectively.
I totally see where you’re coming from. FRC Queue has a dashboard that can be put up on a screen, which I think may help mitigate some of these concerns. I had people from every team coming to look at the TV with status updates frequently. As long as the cell phone isn’t the only way to get the info – and doesn’t provide a significant competitive advantage to the teams – I think this is okay. It’s a value add, not a replacement for queueing, and as Marshall pointed out, the enhanced tracking capabilities allow the queuers to better spend their time targeting those who haven’t arrived yet.
This is awesome and hope to see it at some events soon! Do you think it would be possible to add a feature where you could text that you need an RI or CSA and it would notify the relevant volunteers to come to your pit to inspect robot/help out on controls?
Seems like a solid system, but my main concern is that a lot of FRC venues have horrendous SMS service and I frequently go entire days without being able to receive texts or connect to data.