Bag or no bag. Thoughts after the First season of no bag

So now that we have sort of completed the first season of no bag… What are the teams experiences? Was it a train wreck? The best thing since the RoboRio?

For my team the build season was a little more laid back since we cut back on meeting times in the beginning. We over prototyped which delayed actually building a robot. We totally missed our internal date of having the robot finished by Bag day. We also had the most complicated robot we ever attempted. We were able to use winter break effectively (It falls on bag week) For our week 2 competition we had a well sorted banner winning robot with a very competitive finals. We also had a plan to notably improve the robot. Things we could also do withing the bag rules, but with more stress.

My observation inspecting robots on week two was there was notably fewer robot in a box. Many of the typically lower performing team has notably better performances.

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PS: I start this topic because the other similar thread seemed to be about having a temporary bag this season. Mods a free to merge the topic. (Like they really need my permission :slight_smile: )

There is a thread from earlier in the build season on this topic here. Might make sense to merge them…

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We definitely filled the time we had available. We built a great, consistent machine and improved on it a lot with the extra time. The biggest benefit was to programming and fine tuning. Our week one comp went great and we wanted the banner but came up just short.

Week 3 should have been a banner redemption…

I kind of miss the bag, I’ll be in the minority on that one. I miss having a week hands off to hope you built the right thing. No bag was a painful lesson in time management at time for sure.


Not having a bag encouraged our students to work even harder on the robot than ever before.

It would have had a huge payoff.

The flipside is that everyone is exhausted, and we have suffered a huge blow when we were not able to see the payoff we invested in.

I fear there are students for which this will be difficult to recover from.
I fear there are mentors in the same boat.
I fear that I am one of them.


Sounds like a time management failure, something we were also guilty of with the removal of the bag.

We haven’t completed the first season of no-bag though. Until we play multiple events in a season or see how robots change for Champs, the differences between a bag and no-bag season are mainly logistical.

I’ve noticed that when people talk about the benefits of “no-bag” they are just referring to the fact that they have longer to work on the robot. The 6-week deadline isn’t inherent to stop build day.


We have always underestimated the time it takes to get your robot “done” – as I’m sure 99% of all teams do. The bag forces you to declare “it’s good enough” or, at worst case, forces you to stop in whatever state it is, and come up with a plan to recover to something, anything, that works, during your robot access period and/or your first day in the pits.

I think the extra effort we put in prior to the competition would have seen a payoff in the form of arriving in the pits, getting inspected, and getting out to do practice matches immediately. It would have allowed us to focus on “higher level” problems like calibrating our shooter to the real field, or calibrating our cameras to the field lighting conditions, rather than dealing with stuff that could have been found and fixed at home.


Well, considering this season, I’m not sold on no bag. The virus made it so that no bag was easier on most teams, but that also makes this year a bad trial period.
I have no opinion atm.

Burn the Bag! Seriously, no bag and tag is the best thing that has come out of this season. Not that there’s much of competition.


We used all available time this year which allowed us to make a more complete and well functioning bot. That said, if we had to bag, we would have worked more efficiently during the first six weeks and likely ended up in the same spot.

Given the suspension of the season, I think it is unwise to make a determination on the effectiveness of bag vs no bag. I hope no bag is continued for next season so we can try it again with a full season of competitions and no pesky pandemic getting in the way.

A few thoughts.

  1. I think the improvement in robots from week one to week two was more dramatic than in years past.
  2. We did have a bit of lollygagging on the design side. Software got way out ahead. Both factors were on diplay in week two play.
  3. We got super lucky with weather. We lost exactly one session due to the school mandated “you close when we do”. I can’t even bear to look back on last season in the northern part of FIRST Land…
  4. Absent that hard deadline - countdown chart and all - I feel it has been more on us mentors to keep progress going.
  5. A team like ours that was only planning on doing one (early) event likely managed our time and resources relatively well…if a team was thinking about three events and tons of interations along the way then that’s not what happened.

I actually prefer Bag and Tag. I suspect the modest improvement in the machines created by low resource teams in week one/two would have been overwhelmed by near magical high resource machines in the later comps. Guess we find out next year…

T. Wolter

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This was, prior to the pandemic, the topic that consumed most of my thoughts about FIRST and this game. Here’s my take, which is a combination of speculation, internal team experience, and observations.

First, what I theorized. It seems to me that teams that were highly competitive were also already highly efficient, with little room to grow. They already did not have actual limits on their work time because of the bag, so I didn’t expect to see much benefit for them. Teams that I thought would benefit the most would be those that desired to be competitive, but had limited funds and other resources. I figured these types of teams (mine included) would be able to do a lot more development and make their robots significantly better. More time for prototyping, more for testing, more for drive practice. The group I was most concerned about is those who were counting on FIRST to dictate their work cutoff; without a due date, I was afraid that their work would both spread out ('there’s no rush") and fizzle out (“we should be done by now, I have other things to do”). I thought we might see teams that in the past had at least fielded complete robots, start to bring incomplete machines to their events, worse than in the past.

Internally we succeeded in building the best robot we’ve ever made. We shifted from two “identical” (never actually quite) robots to one proto-bot built on a pre-existing drive base, and one complete competition bot. This model worked well for us, and we were able to at least test its basic function to some success (finalist captain) in Utah. We definitely benefited from no-bag.

My observations (for the limited number of robots I saw fielded) were sort of confirming my biases. I saw typically excellent teams field robots that were excellent, but not beyond the expected. I saw a few teams that have struggled in the past, come to competition with incomplete or untested machines that did not function or even pass inspection. And, I saw a large number of teams “in the middle” start to diverge; some built robots WAY beyond what they had done in the past (4068 and 3200 come immediately to mind), while others found themselves more behind than before.

In the end I don’t know what to think about the end of the bag. It was hugely beneficial for my team. It was hugely beneficial for some other teams. For top level teams it barely mattered. But, for struggling teams that I’d like to find a way to see success, this seems like a net negative. Not really sure what to do about that yet, and this truncated season means I’ll have to keep guessing.

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It seemed to allow the schedule of building to be stretched out way too far past six weeks and it left us a bit burned out. We are thinking about making our own “bag day” or at least making sure to limit the time spent building to closer to 6 weeks so the rest is fixing/driving.

I enjoyed having the extra time we got to work on things. After our Week 1 we made such massive improvements and I was so excited to show off the improvements we got done.

I think the responsibility of deadlines is pushed more on the teams and we’re one of the teams that need to learn to take advantage of it better. We might also put a break in the middle of the build time to help with burnout.

No bag was the best thing to our team, we’re from brazil so on bag day we had to disassemble the robot to tkae it in the airplane with us, which lead to us always losing pratice day, We were to compete at St Louis this week, the regional was canceled, but for the first time our robot was ready to go for pratice matches


I was personally a massive fan of no bag this season. It allowed us to not be under so much pressure to get the robot done and allowed us to experiment with new mechanisms in that time on the real robot. It also helped the mental state of the students (me being one) on the team because we did not need to be under so much pressure and with the whole college app thing it really helped me.

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I feel as if no bag helps those who do let’s say a week 1 event and then a week 3 event guaranteeing 2 weeks of robot being finished and testing for weeks 3 where many teams like ours finished software yesterday at 2pm creating an advantage for those who know they have time management issues (like us). However our team EOM Lions really created an amazing robot this year. We can climb, and shoot high. Carleton we were set to go on and be alliance captains (I think). Just a shame how close we were to competing and doing well.

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1720 stuck pretty hard to the 3 days a week build season schedule except for maybe the last week or two before our week 2 event. We built undoubtedly the best robot in 1720’s history seeding 3rd and winning a blue banner at our first event. Only having to build 1 robot is the major gain for us - we always struggled to build 2 in the past. Being able to keep working on the 1 true robot allowed us to refine that one robot a lot and get driver practice in before the event.


The largest benefit for my team (and something that I had not thought about) was the ability to repair our robot immediately after our first regional. Last year was the first season that we competed in two regionals and first time that we had ever qualified for worlds. We simply had no idea the amount of beating that these robots sustain throughout a 3-day regional and spend pretty much all of Thursday and the first part of Friday at our next regional performing repairs, which was very stressful for the students and coaches / mentors.

Not having the restriction of bagging the robot allowed us to perform repairs in a much more relaxed and controlled fashion ahead of our next event and would have allowed us to go into that competition with a much greater chance of being competitive.

I’m a fan.

This was my first season mentoring at the FRC level, thus I only have an outsiders view of the “bag years” (so I could be full of garbage). For multiple years, we always built two robots so that the drive team could keep practicing while the “real” robot was in the bag. The no-bag did give us the confidence to register for a Week 1 event this year for the first time (which turned out to be huge this year) without the build season getting too out of shape. We still built two robots, (well, the 2nd one is only about 95% done today), but we’re discussing the possibility we won’t build two any more if the no-bag rule sticks. And I’m assuming this is why FIRST did this, as having the money/people to build two is probably a significant advantage.