Changes over the years?

Last fall I attended a presentation by a founder of Team #10. He said that he flew out to New Hampshire for the kickoff, found out the game and phoned that back to the team so they could start building. Didn’t seem to be a KOP. No regional kickoffs. Also seemed to be fewer rules restricting materials.

Recently I learned that bumpers are a fairly new addition, last 3 or 4 years.

We just got the cRio this year. It was the OI before that. There must have been some kind of control system(s) before that.

Also learned that the earlier game play was rougher, fewer rules/penalties, robots could tip other robots as part of play, etc.

Besides the different game challenges, what other changes have people seen over the years? Have the changes generally been helpful or more restrictive?

  • T

FIRST has changed significantly since it first started. I’m sure that there are a number of people who could literally talk to you for days about what FIRST was like back in the day (Andy Baker and Andy “Original Yellow Human Player” Grady immediately come to mind).

But, to hit on your specific points:

There has always been a kit of parts. The contents have changed dramatically changed over the years, and beloved parts have come and gone such as a dot-matrix printer, the seat motor and the drill motors.

For the longest time, there were no regional kickoffs. It’s rather difficult to have a regional kickoff when there are so few teams in the program.

As far as material usage, that has changed several times over the years. At some points, it was less restrictive, but there were a number of years where the only place you could buy parts for your robot was from MSC and thats it (not even Home Depot).

In 1998, the control system was made by Motorola. The name of the system escapes me right now though. Starting in 1999, FIRST used the IFI control system which lasted till 2008.

Play was much rougher than it is now for sure. Check out this video for an idea of what 1999 gameplay looked like . 1997 was probably the epitome of rough play, when the current team 121 built a robot designed to gently tip over the opposing teams. This was a completely legal, and quite frankly smart strategy. Even as recently as 2004-5, gameplay was very rough (the way it should be IMHO).

Bumpers began in 2006 as an option for teams to use. Many teams decided to use bumpers to gain an extra 15 lbs., but many decided against them in order to have a smaller profile for extra maneuverability. 2008 was the first year bumpers were mandatory.

In recent years, it seems that the rules have become more and more restrictive. Before 2006, robots were allowed to expand to any size they wanted, anywhere on the field. Teams were never required to use bumpers, and could even have wedges on their robot (to limit the force a defender could put on you, and to help push people around). From my point of view, it seems that the rules are being written to force one or two very specific archetypes of robots into a game, but that’s another discussion entirely.

It’s always pretty awesome (and bittersweet at the same time) to see a rule written one year because of a perfectly legal action your team did, albeit a little outside the box, the year before.

Francis touched on that discussion a bit with the tipping rule basically being written (presumably) because of 121 that year.

Including the “no intentional detaching of parts from robots” rule, the “no metal on carpet rule”, and quite possibly one or two others. (No wedges came after there was a year with a tie elimination match, when tipping caused two DQs, one per side. The same year, two of the world champions had sloping sides or deployable defensive wedges.)

Oh, yeah–there’s a series of posts by Andy Grady, something about “FIRST History 101”, that goes after a lot of the changes since the old days. Such as The Bracket of Doom! and the Legendary Poof Ball Journey, which has since been equaled by the Chase for Orbit Balls.

There is also the Technokats History Project.

The most significant change in FRC (IMO) was the introduction of autonomous mode in 2003. A lot of folks are surprised to learn that prior to that the entire competition was human controlled (and in the case of the earliest games, it wasn’t even wireless!).

While this was significant, I believe that the auto-mode introduction pales in comparison to what happened in 1999.

FIRST turned a 1 vs 1 (or 1 vs 1 vs 1) robot competition into a 2 vs 2 competition when they introduced alliance play in 1999. This changed everything: how the match played, how marketing and scouting took place, how people acted in the pits… everything.

Andy B.

Completely forgot about that! Definitely “the” biggest change that FRC has gone through (and IMO the best).

It’s interesting I was just pondering this at BattleCry over the weekend. I think that the switch from a 1 v 1 v 1 format to Alliances in the 1999 game cannot be understated.

The advent of Alliances really opened up FIRST and created the more community feel it has today. Pre-Alliances it was strongly discouraged to talk to other teams for fear that you might give away your competitive advantage or design. Things were MUCH more secretive in those days. No teaser videos, No white papers, etc. I was thinking as I got to see a lot of people I consider friends a BattleCry how many of those conversations, friendships, etc. would never have existed in the pre-Alliances days.

Food for thought,


I think over the years, the parts rules have become significantly less restrictive, while the game rules have become significantly more restrictive.

Parts rules:

Most teams have more power in their drivetrains now then entire robots used to.

Prior to 1998, robots ran on two rechargeable drill batteries, and FIRST charged them for you. You swapped them after every match. 1998 introduced the SLA motorcycle batteries.

You used to be only allowed to use parts that were specifically allowed (for example, a single 4x8 sheet of plywood), or that could be purchased from Small Parts, with strict price limits (<$425 total). Since then, they’ve significantly increased the price limits and opened things up to any supplier. There also used to be a list of specifically excluded “exotic” materials.

Game Rules:

Intentional tipping and intentionally detaching mechanisms were made illegal after 1997.

Bumpers were allowed in 2000, the concept of standard bumpers were introduced in 2006, and were made mandatory in 2008.

Since 2006, there has been some limit on the size of the robot not only before the match, but during the match. Compare that to some of these robots: and

Wedges close to the ground have been illegal after 2005.

the robots were also heavier…

2005(?) is the year they chaged it to 120?

I personally liked the fact that there is bumpers and autonomous and more human interaction. As somebody said above, I was surprised that the bumper rules are relatively new and autonomous mode is only a bit older. I did know sizing used to be less strict as well, though i think that the size restriction made this years game more challenging in a good way, however keeping the box limit would not be for the best in my opinion. not for this thread though. No matter what, i’ve enjoyed FIRST these past two years.

Lighter, you mean. You see, before 2004, the robots had to be 130 lb with the battery included. However, variances in the batteries could cause a robot to be 135.0 when weighed, and 135.9 when competing with a different battery. So, in 2005, the rules were changed: 120 lb sans battery. The batteries were about 12-13 lbs each, depending on a number of factors, like which battery did you have when you made the measurement. Net of +2-3, but as I figured at the time (we allowed 15 lb for the battery in 2003), we got 5 extra pounds.

At the same time, the size changed (30x36 to 28x38 base dimensions).

Now, the robots are even heavier, with an extra 15-lb allowance for bumpers. I doubt the weight will go up again…

I dident realize the 130 included the battery;)

also 2005 was the first kitbot year correct?

I’m pretty sure that OSHA rules state that two people can only carry 150 lbs max [75 per person] and that adding a 3rd person to carry the 'bot on the field is unlikely so I’m thinking it can’t go up again.

And incorrect. 2003 had a kit robot. It just took a lot of engineering to put together. The assembly video for the year had three “average joes” putting it together “during the kickoff”. Note: said “average joes” also had Ph.Ds, IIRC.

In 2005, the kitbot was provided by IFI; the transmissions were an early version of the AM single-speed now known as the Toughbox. About that time, AM opened up its doors, and demand for their products started going through the roof within 2 years.

That’s another game-changer, though they might not agree with me: AndyMark. Before they came along, there were very few COTS/shifting transmissions used, mainly DeWalts from the NBD drivetrain or custom team-built ones. Once they came in, any team who had the money could buy a 2-speed tranny (or a one-speed), or some other cool toys like omni wheels. They’re now almost a one-stop shop for KOP items, as the IFI store was previously.

I have read about and heard about the significant changes that occurred with the introduction of alliance play with the 2 vs 2 competition. Your post piqued my curiosity, Andy, and I’d like to learn a little more about how people acted differently in the pits then, than they do now. That brings another thought - I imagine many of us take a lot of things for granted that the earlier people and teams couldn’t or didn’t even dream of. Would anyone care to share some examples in that area?

1992 was tethered; I’m not sure about 1993. 1994 was wireless. I think the control system was from Motorola then, so I’d guess it was probably the same system from 1993 or 1994 until 1998. In 1994 you had only 6 control channels, each of which was Forward/Stop/Reverse – no speed controllers, no sensors, no programming.

I’d certainly agree with that. The entire 1992 game manual was only 10 pages long!

Size and weight went up very quickly at the beginning, but have been more-or-less the same for quite a while

year / size / weight
1992 / 38cm x 50cm x 34cm / 11 kg
1994 / cylinder 38in high x 36 in diameter / 65 lbs
2000 / 30in x 36in x 60in / 130 lbs

I can’t verify other years, but I think 1993 was somewhere between the 1992 and 1994 sizes, and I think the current size has been around since 1998 or 1999. (I’m approximating 30x36 and 28x38, and 130 w/ battery and 120 + battery as the same.)

Also, “back in my day”, there was no time between build and competition. The build season was the same 6 1/2 weeks that it is now, starting on the first Saturday in January, and going until ship day, on a Tuesday in February. That Wednesday, the teams flew out to Nashua NH, and the competition was Thursday, Friday & Saturday (in the high school gym, with the pits being in the cafeteria). As it is now, you might spend as much time between ship date and your competition as you spent between kickoff and ship date.

While it’s interesting to see what all has changed, it’s also quite interesting to see what all has stayed the same – singing the National Anthem as part of opening ceremonies, teams shaking hands right before what could be the very last match, mascots & team cheers. I think someone who’s only seen “modern” FIRST events who got transported back in time to see the early FIRST events would certainly recognize it as FIRST.

Completely agree. In 2006 I mentored a rookie team who met out of a converted copy room on the second floor of their school. We had a portable bandsaw, drill press, and grinder that we bolted to a couple of tables. We had one CAD computer and only 1 student that new how to use the software.

That year, we had shift-on-the-fly transmissions and traction wheels, all thanks to AndyMark and IFI.

I am surprised nobody mentioned the 4vs 0 year!!! that was 2001 For all you youngsters check that one out!