Better than FRC, part one

Question. Some of y’all agree with me that FRC, while currently being the apex predator of high school robotics, has a ton of issues and a negative trajectory.

If FRC were to be “fixed” what would that look like?

I have a second related question which deserves its own thread, so this one is only about what FRC could do to become the best it can be.

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A proper label to the final event that teams can qualify for. If it stays in its current state, calling it a “World Championship” is at best misleading, since half of the world is missing. Either demote it to its proper state (an expo) or make it an actual championship again.

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One world championship. To add onto MikLast’s post, if they downgraded to an expo that would put FRC on a downward trajectory still.
Back to treating FRC games like sports in the game design process such as from 2010-2014. Everywhere is a district as a response to one championship.
No more dinky themes that make a stereotypically nerdy environment even more so. I don’t care about the backstory of Planet Primus. I don’t think ANYONE does.
No more name sponsors or brand sponsoring in the game names (Destination Deep Space Presented by the Boeing Company)
Treat FRC as a professional level-sport as the “super bowl of smarts”.

There’s more but these are the main things.

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Are these two in opposition? Many major sporting events have title sponsors. (How about “26th Annual Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard presented by Florida Georgia Line”, anyone?)

I too would like to see a way to settle the championship definitively. I don’t think the 2017 Festival of Champions format is sustainable, but there are certainly ways.

Capacity building is the biggest hurdle we see locally. Not just event plays, but mentors, volunteers, and funding. Indiana did it right, laying off on raw team count for a couple seasons while they built that capacity and it seems they’re now reaping the benefits.

Part of it is also removing whatever stigma FTC has in people’s eyes. We all see teams that should be in FTC, but some decision-maker has made them a limping FRC team instead.

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A few thoughts:

  • End the district state border policy or at least waive it for areas that need it most (MO for example)
  • Force districts for areas that could easily have them
  • Allow districts to decide if regional teams can join their district, and only disallow it if there’s a really good reason
  • Move Worlds back to St. Louis, (or somewhere else central with a comparable dome/pits setup) and have it only be a FRC championship. The FLLs and FTC will be held a week earlier in the same venue, with similar production values to the FRC championship.
  • Make the stream for Worlds (and especially Einstein) more focused on the matches themselves
  • Simpler games that don’t need complex structures to properly test robots

Edit:
Also,

  • Release an evergreen robot rules document separate from the game manual. Revisions to this document are made throughout the season and off-season based on community feedback and product releases.
  • Add a pamphlet to the KOP with a list of official and community resources
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Another more QoL thing is bigger flexabality on who can enter districts, or at least a bigger rollout on districts itself. Currently, both North Idaho and Eastern Washington are in states of instability due to both costs of travel and failure for events to fill (West Valley is still only at 21 teams and its looking very unlikely that any other teams will be joining due to how the PNW schedule is). Theres bound to be a couple other areas where there are a cluster of teams just outside of a district, willing to join and stick with it, but are instead stuck outside, and forced to pay more for less plays.

Its also indy, the racing is a heatstroke inducing snoozefest already, the name is just a lullaby to help you fall asleep.

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Anthony said it well
One championship is probably on a lot of peoples minds with this

I personally dont mind the sponsored games. Im sure they could use all the help they can with funding all of this

I do think districts (in the regions who can comfortably run it) would help a lot, it would give more potential compeitions to more teams.

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Having 2 “World” Championships isn’t problematic only if:

  1. They rename the World Championship to something else
  2. There is return to a “Festival of Champions”

But, then you will have one more trip for teams to raise funds to attend. Perhaps FIRST would waive the entrance fees for the Festival. I’m certain that I speak for many teams when I say that it isn’t the entrance fees that are the burden, but the travel & rooms.
Continuing in this vein - if we won a championship, I honestly don’t believe that we’d be able to afford a trip to a Festival.

Having a single Championship would reduce the number of teams that could participate in such an event - I can’t imagine the logistics for a single event with 800 teams competing.

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Open access practice fields/facilities for teams to test and develop on during the later parts of build season. Potentially some mini-scrimmages as well, depending on schedule. This seems attainable for district events if FIRST were to accelerate the delivery of fields and game elements to districts, although there would still be significant hurdles for hosting/storing fields and insuring those areas.

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I believe you mean “Monster Energy Cup Series Race Number 26: 26th Annual Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard presented by Florida Georgia Line”.

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I’m trying to keep my noisy butt out of this but THIS, right here, would make a ton of difference to teams everywhere in terms of sustainability and growth. Put a field in every area with 15ish teams and keep it running year round. I don’t know how that would work but IT WOULD WORK

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+1
There are a large number of teams that could be a lot better if they knew resources existed( rookies in particular)

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That would be great. Also a huge help to many teams. But there are many areas where there is no space to leave a field set up for a reasonable amount of time. I have been looking in my area for 2 years.

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Yes, that’s broken. I totally get that sending 800 teams to a major event is more inspirational than sending 400, but you can’t seriously call two disjoint events the world championship of the same thing. I’d rather see an “everywhere else” district CMP (or perhaps one per continent) with all of the DCMPs having some serious workshops, and ONE true World CMP several weeks later. [Enough later that teams are booking hotels weeks in advance rather than days.]

Something I thought I’d read as I initially parsed this topic, but can’t find now: Separate CMP for the different programs. This isn’t holding FRC back so much, but does seem to be an issue for FTC/FLL/JrFLL. Putting all four events in the same two places and times doesn’t help any of them, puts a greater strain on event housing, and apparently makes FTC/FLL/JrFLL feel like foster children.

How about three or four world championships, but with each for a separate program (possibly comining JrFLL and FLL)?

This would definitely be cool, but think about how many fields would be needed to get one within an hour or so of every FRC team.

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Like I said, more reasonable for districts to execute (since districts get their own fields anyway).

And even if they never get one within “an hour or so of every FRC team” doesn’t mean its not a goal worth pursuing.

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Also, some teams out here are starting to figure out how to get fields and assemble them. We’re not in districts. But I know of 3 or 4 full fields that are either always up or set up for a weekend or so every year within 50 miles of my location, and several other partial fields. (I’m actually willing to bet that one of those ends up being a regional practice field…)

It might not need to be within an hour–within a “reasonable drive” would probably be sufficient, if the hours were open long enough and the other facilities present were the right type.

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Lower registration fees and a fair cost structure would top my list. $9000 for two regionals is expensive to get in the door for a high school program.

The current funding model is weird. Registration fees fund HQ while regional events are on their own. I don’t know the right way to set that up, and I know money doesn’t grow on trees, but I don’t think we are close to the optimal funding setup.

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MN is starting down that path right now. It started with a local non-profit organization, followed by a state grant to purchase 5 field borders from AndyMark (with required matching funds to get the grant). Now we’re taking applications from different areas around the state to figure out who is going to host each field (year-round) and where they are going to be. 5 fields isn’t enough to get one within an hour of every team, unfortunately, but they should serve 2/3 of teams in the state within a decent drive.

It’s something that I don’t think FIRST can do for us - it’s up to local areas to get organized and make it happen. It’s a lot of work, though!

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Lower registration fees. When it costs 5-10,000 for a team to even play twice, you automatically price out a good number of schools. The price tag associated with even walking through the door of this program is astronomical. Until that is addressed, FRC will always have a sustainability problem.

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The question - and it is inherently too big for an internet discussion - is whether it is better to provide a moderate level of benefit for a large group of students or a much higher level of benefit for a smaller (i.e. elite) group. Both ideas have merit. FIRST seems to be trying to straddle the fence.

Lest anyone get worked up over this opinion I truly think this is the sort of discussion best held in person, sitting back comfortably and with age appropriate beverages in hand.

As an old timer who has endured more than a couple of economic booms and busts I’d suggest somebody take a detailed look at the years 2007 - 2010. In an expensive program that is dependent on funding from industry and school systems, what was the impact of the global recession? If people have concerns about sustainability now, what will things look like during and after the next one?

TW

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