Dear FIRST HQ, Let's talk about the playoff pits.

I don’t consider myself a person who voices a public opinion that is negative of FIRST all that often, so please bear with me.

The situation in the playoff pits when pit crews are not allowed to watch their own team’s matches is unacceptable.

Ok. I got rid of the emotion now - I hope. We ran into this problem last year when we walked out from behind the black curtains to watch our teams play in the playoffs and were told by the volunteers that we were not allowed to watch. What proceeded was a game of cat and mouse where we looked out between the curtains - so they hung a “do not part curtains” sign up. So we stood inside the entrance where we could barely see the field and were told “you can’t stand here, go back to your pits”. Finally, in total frustration, I took my pit crew, walked them out onto the floor, and when the volunteer approached me I explained very politely that this was the end of our entire season and that we were not going to sit inside in a curtained off area without even a screen to tell us what was happening on our playing field.

One of my students shared her views very vocally with the volunteer, and we asked for someone above her. We waited and after arguing with the next individual the volunteers finally taped off a spot on the floor and told us we could stand inside it to watch the matches.

I related this information in my FIRST mentor feedback form. Alas, it appears they learned nothing. After we were shepherded into the pits this year, we found the ‘do not look through curtains’ signs already up, and volunteers were actually patrolling checking badges and not allowing pit crews to watch any matches at all. So apparently the lessons-learned from last year’s mess was to increase volunteer presence to yell at teams who wanted to watch the final matches of their entire season. The thing we strive for all season.

There was not a single screen in the pit area inside the black curtains to watch on. So I and my pit crew stood and listened while our 3 matches and tiebreaker were played. We finally got to SEE our matches after we got home on youtube.

I simply cannot reiterate how disgusted I am that FIRST would put so many teams in this situation. This is a total failure on their part, and I don’t say that often.

If a screen was available, would you consider this solved?

I would. I understand the need to keep the playing floor clear. While I wouldn’t consider it ideal I would at least be able to enjoy the success (and failure) with my teammates in the pit.

My alliances pit crew was able to go out. The only ones that didn’t were my team’s because we were basically on standby for whenever the robot came in the pits to help with any repairs. And also the other alliance took our pit cew buttons so they had more.

I have to agree with Tom with the exception of putting it on a screen behind the curtain. The pit crew should be able to watch the last matches of their season. In many cases the kids on the pit crew are the ones that know the most about the robot because they are the ones that dedicated the most time to it.
Drive teams and Media badges as well as VIP’s are allowed to watch any match they want rather it be their own field or any other field. The number 1 alliance is also allowed to have their pit crew watch any of the matches on the field. Yet the pit crew of the team on the field is not allowed to watch. This was also on my end of year survey last year and will be again this year.

The Archimedes volunteers were okay with us being out on the field. We just stood behind the media people, and they didn’t have a problem. Not sure what the double standard between fields is about, perhaps a better-informed group of volunteers would help the situation.

Over at Carson, we had a volunteer tell us we couldn’t be out there to watch matches. I was confused, but complied. Luckily someone else on our field must have raised the issue because we had someone from FIRST HQ come by to let us know that we were allowed to watch and told the volunteer the same.

Seems to me this is less a FIRST HQ policy issue than it is a communication issue.

Our experience on Newton was completely different. Anyone with a pit crew badge was allowed to walk over to the “Media/VIP” area of the field and watch our match. There was a very clear taped line for us to be standing behind. Most of the teams were very respectful of allowing the teams the “front row” if they were on the field and standing behind if they were in the queue. The “Media/VIP” area was constantly turning over with new teams and it worked very well. The volunteers did tell us we couldn’t stand in the blue queue area (by the black curtains) with our team and moved us to Media/VIP. This is why there were about people 3 rows deep, but honestly, it was very well run and should be the best practice for the future. It is incredibly disrespectful for the volunteers to tell the pit crew they cannot watch their matches and is an example of individuals not using common sense. It is a little tight during quarterfinals, but after that there is plenty of space.

I will say that the Newton field was run incredibly well so kudos to all of those volunteers. It is an incredibly long day on very hard concrete. My only other suggestion is putting a row of chairs along the back wall (next to the stands) for those volunteers on the stands side of the field.

I was disappointed though that there was no projector in the playoffs pits. I was going to call one of the drive team members (who weren’t driving) to commentate and explain what washe happening but we ruled that out due to the concern of them believing we were cheating. I remember at my team’s first event, St Joe in the FiM district, they had a projector in the normal pits which were really nice. World’s did too but the pit area was just set up the best out of any competitions we went to.

They didn’t want us sitting because VIPs and important people would walk through or watch the matches from the stands and God-forbid they see us humans get tired and rest our weary feet so they literally told us that if you’re not at the scoring table or defense coordinator table, you wouldn’t get chairs. The lead queuer at Carson even had a chair near the curtain entrance that he’d use sometimes, and they kept taking that away when he got up.

Yes, I thought that was a stupid policy. Yes, I will be making sure my voice is heard about that one. I’m never a fan of making dumb decisions for pomp and circumstance, especially at the expense of other people’s bodies. My feet and knees were killing me by Saturday morning.

Ditto this for Carver. There was some initial confusion/difficulties with teams standing there for all matches, not just their own, but that seemed to be sorted pretty quickly. The only real difficulty is if you weren’t queued with your team, you weren’t really allowed outside the pit curtain, so figuring out when you were allowed into the media area was a little tricky.

While I was in that middle section this year with our pit team, numerous volunteers came by and told teams “Just so you all know, only drive teams and media can go out to the fields for matches. Anyone else with pit crew buttons is not to go watch the match.” Of course everyone back there scoffed at the idea that a team member dedicated enough to be on the pit crew would not be able to watch their team compete during their most important and final matches. On Curie we collectively seemed to just take the stance of: Robot goes out, Teammates come out; and everyone would just huddle into the media box out of the way of anyone’s view of the field and surprisingly they didn’t bug any of us that I saw. I was curious how this was working on the other fields, and while I understand not wanting the field to have tons of spectators on the floor in the way. Wouldn’t having the simple rule of: You can only be out there when your team is out there be sufficient enough? Cause making it so pit crew can’t watch their hard work pay-off is just simply not the solution. (And yes a screen for each field behind the curtain would probably be simple enough of a solution to appease nearly everyone)

I assume you are referring to the Carson field playoffs. I think that the other fields had different experiences. Could we hear from them?

The curtains are provided as a backdrop to the video production. To have people peeking through the curtains is not desirable, though I doubt that it would be noticed.

So, the situation was resolved? Did your student “yell”?

I don’t agree that they learned “nothing”. The CMP went more smoothly this year. The Einstein fields being the same as the closing ceremonies was an important change. Pit team members were able to watch their matches there.

“Total Failure”, such hyperbole. Talk to SpaceX

Replace Dope with Disgusting? :eek:

The experience on the Carver field was completely different. At the beginning of the elimination matches, we were all crowding at the edge of the pit trying to watch the matches. One of the volunteers noticed it and said, “You know you can watch your matches from the media area right?” With a huge smile on our faces it walked the 10 ft to watch our matches ring side. Everyone there made room for us right at the front. They also didn’t mind my kids sitting while watching because it allowed for better viewing for those behind them.

Einstein was a bit different. As me moved over, the volunteers told us straight away that were we could watch the matches. It was right next to the “VIP” area. Since our viewing area was behind the driver station, we kept creeping over into the VIP area and kept getting shooed back. When teams started to get eliminated, I guess they became VIP’s because they started filling that area.

To be perfectly frank, this is one of several examples of the Championship event doing things at the direct expense of the team experience. I’ll probably make a post in a few days (or minutes) summing them up, but in a lot of ways I’m quite disappointed with the way Championships was run and the way teams were treated. The Championship is full of excellent volunteers with extremely difficult jobs, but too often teams are treated with indifference or even hostility, and their concerns fall on completely deaf ears.

The experience on the Carver field was completely different. At the beginning of the elimination matches, we were all crowding at the edge of the pit trying to watch the matches. One of the volunteers noticed it and said, “You know you can watch your matches from the media area right?” With a huge smile on our faces it walked the 10 ft to watch our matches ring side. Everyone there made room for us right at the front. They also didn’t mind my kids sitting while watching because it allowed for better viewing for those behind them.

This was not quite my experience on Carver. It took a (slightly) heated discussion for them to permit me to watch my alliance’s final match of the season, because “the backup team isn’t even on the field”… If it wasn’t for a late change of heart I would have had to ask our opponents if I could stand in their pit area to view the match. I think it was just a case of one confused volunteer because another clarified I could be there. This is in stark contrast to 2013 and 2012 when anyone who was permitted on the floor could watch a match as long as they were far enough away from the field to not block the view for the audience. I understand if it can’t be like 2012 / 2013 again but it shouldn’t be this bad.

This is interesting to hear because we had a completely different experience on Curie. Our pit crew was allowed onto the field to watch matches, so long as they did not help the drive team with any sort of field setup.

sounds like an inconsistency that needs to be addressed.

Yep, we had the same experience on Curie. Our alliances entire pit crew, including the safety captains and 4th drive team were allowed to go and stand in the media box to watch.

The real heart of the problems with Championship in terms of rules/policies.

While we being #1 seed, our pit was placed on the outside and against the wall next to the field. I felt as if it was a huge safety factor. Not only were we being yelled at constantly to get every robot, person, part within the small area, if we so much took one foot out of the box we got in trouble. How come we push so much for safety, yet when it matters the most we throw it to the wayside? I was told too bad, you guys have too much stuff in your area, get back in there.

It’s the biggest stage, the final showdown and all. How do you not expect teams to bring anything they think they need and obviously their tool boxes as well? You have 4 robots, 4 sets of 6-9 people, 4 teams worth of tools and spares and you cram them all into one space?

There’s only so much time between matches to get prepared and ready for the next one. How can we safely test the robot and prepare for matches when it is very crammed? At times, I had to stop working/prep on my robot so the others could run their tests safely. This is ridiculous.

Thankfully, when it came time to Einstein, our area grew tremendously.

**I really hope FIRST looks at this thread and gets it addressed properly. It was unacceptable. **