Better than FRC, part two

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 currently.

If FRC does not make necessary (or desired) improvements, and starts losing out to a rising alternative, what would your ideal alternative program look like?


While I like to think that if something else does take over FRC, that it would be the same big heavy weight robots that gets people excited. But on a more realistic sense it will probably be something like VEX that is more sustainable for teams and events.

On a side note, i have no idea how much VEX or FTC truly costs, and I could be complete off base with it being a more economically sustainable option

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Yeah I definitely know what you mean. While FRC is amazing and big and fun to watch, team sustainability is definitely difficult. Though I have found in general FRC teams to be more sustainable than, say, FLL teams, but FLL teams are also much much easier to start. If a kid really wants to do robotics and there’s no current local team, it would not be that difficult to start an FLL team for them and a few friends. FRC on the other hand, is a huge time and resource consumer. While it’s big and awesome, it is expensive. If something overtook FRC I would imagine it to be something like vex. I know a lot of school that want to have an FRC program but choose vex instead because it is less of a resource drain and more sustainable.


Sustaining FRC teams are not the same as sustaining FLL teams. A large fraction of FLL teams are community teams that are started to allow a particular group of students to participate with no intention of continuing after the team members age out.


That’s a tough one. If somehow the costs of travel could be contained, it would be great if a Robotics program could mirror the classes of intrastate sports programs, with the classes being based on the team’s support and sponsors and budget at least as much as its population. It’d be awesome as a ‘drillpress’ team to be competing against other ‘drillpress’ teams rather than CNC mill/waterjet/3d printing teams.

Oh, yes, sustainability!!! A dead team inspires no one.


I’d really like to see better team sustainability. I don’t think it necessarily needs to be 99+%, but the current attrition rate in frc really scares me and is incredibly unhealthy for an organization imo.

Just dreaming here, I don’t have a simple solution


I personally would stray from classes dictated by budget or sponsors, because while it certainly helps, you don’t have to have a ton of sponsors and a big budget to field a competitive robot.

I think implementing divisions like in college football would be better, where if you make it past a certain threshold in the rankings you move up to the next division, and if you fall below a certain threshold you move down to the lower division. This would allow competitive teams who may not have the highest budget to play with teams who do. This would also make matches more competitive because teams would be playing against teams with a similar skill level.


Sorry, but I don’t understand what you’re trying to say here; please expand a bit. My point was that I’d rather be able to compete against teams with similar resource limits.

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And his point was that those resource limits don’t necessarily mean much of anything.

Let me put it this way: 330’s two Championships both came BEFORE they had in-house access to a CNC machine–everything that needed that had to go to a sponsor. Fortunately, a long-term sponsor! It took several years for them to get a manual mill in-shop. If you want to use the “resource limits” method, I’m pretty sure they’d be a lower tier than some of the other teams (you know, like 1678 and 254 and [insert list here]). And they routinely went head-to-head with those teams, and it was often at best a tossup going into the match.

You cannot assume that because Team X has nothing but a few hand drills and hacksaws that they’ll be any less competitive than Team Y that has 3 CNCs and 5 Markforges.

Just to trigger a few people: The Algorithm of DOOM in 2007 made a similar assumption, but based it on age. Pity the teams that had to deal with 2056 in the #3 (lowest/rookie) tier!


2/3 size FRC or 2x size FTC field.


Perhaps if the game specifically calls for significant roles achievable by teams with limited resources (money, tools, mentors, experience). The roles and awards would have to be designed carefully so that there is little value for high resource teams to sandbag to compete at a lower level. An example would be the Robot Masters competition with roles for fairly simple robots as well as fully autonomous robots.

I think the magic spot is 24’x36’. For comparison:

  • An FRC field is 27’x54’ (ish)
  • An FTC field is 12’x12’
  • A FIRST Global field this year was 6m x 7m (about 20’ x 23’).

The extra length should help force a design choice on drivetrains that doesn’t really exist in FTC today.

Some things I’d want to see:

  • Weights around 80 pounds without battery/bumpers.
  • Motors, controllers, and the power system intentionally selected to minimize burning them out. I’m fine with two or three options for each.
  • A period where autonomy gains a bonus, but drivers can still put something on the board manually. I think VEX has something going with the autonomous skills challenge.
  • A more standardized way to meet the criteria of “share before the season and you can reuse it in the season”. Still would likely use third-party sites like Onshape or Github, but there would be a central place to post those links.
  • Teams can buy official field elements, or they can buy a “just add lumber” kit to get close as budgets permit.
  • By all means test foam tiles, but I suspect carpet will do better for the purpose.

FRC could certainly implement some of this, if they deemed it valuable.


I’m a little cautious on the idea, but I like the concept of the organizing body having a centralized and expected place to post designs. That would also make it possible to put some level of enforcement on the release coming at a minimum as a STEP file or similar, with an option for native files/link. It would be great to be able to point rookies (both teams and individual) to a site with the cumulative designs of however many years of robots in that competition.


And a size limit of 100" perimeter.


Dang, y’all are giving me ideas

This is really close to an OCCRA field, at least for this year’s game (which is 20’ x 30’). If you allow for 6’ - 8’ of alliance station on each side then 24’ x 36’ is just short enough to fit across the width of a standard basketball court. With 8’ x 8’ pits you could fit 24 teams on the other half of the court. This would be cozy but you could fit all of the required robot areas in a standard high school basketball court for small events. Great for being able to increase the amount of venues that can host events since you don’t need a second gym or cafeteria nearby to host pits like you do for most high schools now (though you could for larger events).

I’d go further and say one dimension should be a maximum of 30" with bumpers, so robots can fit through typical door frames (100" perimeter gets you really close but might require some compressing and coaxing of the bumpers).

I’d like sightly smaller robots so they are easier to carry and transport but are not as small as VEX or FTC bots. The 80 pounds Billfred mentioned sounds like a good area, maybe closer to 90. To be the “varsity sport” of robotics competitions the robots still need to have that industrial imposing look to them and need to be larger than a hobby kit. Similarly I wouldn’t want motor power to drop off a lot from what FRC has now. Some of the motors and controllers that are allowed should be ones that wouldn’t be surprising to be found on middleweight combat robots. I do like bumpers since the program isn’t BattleBots, but I’m sure there is a way that the rules can be eased up sightly to let teams comply more easily while still protecting against most impacts. A simpler rulebook overall would be good though I think teams are always going to find small exploits in the rules as written that will still require a Q&A and update system.

These are all things to see in the robot and game. In an alternative program itself:

  • Recognition of volunteers and mentors with awards like the Volunteer of the Year and Woodie Flowers awards. Make sure these are prominent in events.
  • Registration fees in the $1000 - $2000 range. I think this helps a lot in the sustainability area, lowering the barrier to entry and making it easier to sustain a team. In a number of years as a one-and-done team that would have been a 50% decrease in total funding needed for the season. I realize this would probably require a fundamental change in how HQ is operated but we are talking about ideal here.
  • An emphasis on GP and community involvement. There are valid gripes about the Chairman’s “pyramid scheme” criteria but this is one of FRC’s greatest strengths. An alternative program that improved upon robot rules and cost but lost the non-robot awards or the culture of GP is a step backwards.

Why??? How would small robots => better program? Because idk about your teams, but last season, more than 50% of my team’s budget was spent on registration fees. A 2/3 robot would trimmed maybe 2% of our season budget. And IMO bigger is better than smaller.


Smaller robots allow a smaller field which adds up to easier events across a bunch of different variables.

These easier events would hopefully lead to improved program growth.


Field transportation, field build, game developement, if everything were smaller it would cost less.

The argument parallels the whole district versus regional one. Is smaller-but-more better than bigger-and-less? I believe districts have proven more popular than regionals. Even with the whole “spectacle” argument the regional has going for it.


Having a sponsor who does CNC milling for you is a resource.