Debating Beta Testing

After recieving FIRST’s email, our team has been discussing whether or not to apply for beta testing. We are a relatively small team, with 18 team members. What are some thoughts from teams that have been beta testers in the past?

Be confident you can commit the time it takes to do it right, and have someone who will make sure you follow through on the reporting requirements.

You don’t need more than a few people to beta test. If you have a well led, dedicated programming team of a few students, you can pretty much do what FIRST asks of you.

Our team is considering applying, but we are unsure if we have the people, time, and commitment to do it. Is this process something as demanding as the build season? More so? Less? How many people are usually involved, and how long of a process is it? Basically, in asking team members if they can commit, to what, exactly, are they committing? Frankly, I’d love to do it, I just don’t want to dive in and find that we don’t have the people.

I would tend towards caution. We ask a lot of the beta teams (and get even more than we ask for!).

I do not want to scare you off, but please be committed when you apply.

When our team did beta testing before the 2009 season, we did it in partnership with two other local teams (100 and 668). Even with a larger group of dedicated people, it was still quite a bit of work.

If you have the resources to dedicate to it, then go for it. If you’re not sure, maybe wait a year or two. There will always be new technology that needs to be tested.

I just meant to say you don’t need an 18 person team of students to do everything they would during build to beta test. You DO need several dedicated programmers, and you should seriously consider working with other teams. Beta testing is a commitment that depends on where your team’s strengths lie and if you can get things DONE.

Last year, they limited the number of people with access to the beta site to 5 per team. That doesn’t mean that more people can’t participate, but it does make it harder for additional people to provide feedback. In both year’s I’ve done it, I don’t think any team has had 5 active people providing feedback. I think 5 might be the right number, we had less when we did it.

In the first beta test, we spent all day Saturday and 2 nights a week at the shop. We also spent about an hour a day working from home (reading the forums, coding, documenting, etc). For the second beta test, we did not meet during the evenings, but everything else was about the same. In both cases, beta testing went into early December.

The people who are working on the beta need to be familiar with the robot and the code, ie this isn’t a job for rookies. However, rookies are valuable for reviewing the documentation. There are still a lot of problems with the documentation, and I hope FIRST will make that a priority this time.

FIRST hasn’t released much about what this beta test will entail, but the documents from 2009 and 2010 are still available. In general, I think very few, if any, of the beta teams met every single one of the expectations.

One of the things that they had both in 2009 and 2010 was porting last year’s robot code to the new libraries, with the same functionality it had with the previous code. Depending on how much they’ve decided to change, this might be trivial, or it might involve starting from scratch. If you don’t think your team could do it starting from scratch in around 2 weeks, you might want to focus on your core programming skills, rather then beta testing. It is much easier to re-write something, however, so just because it took 6 weeks of build season plus a month of tweaking to get it right the first time doesn’t mean it is that hard to do it the second time.

Thank you for all of the feedback. I will discuss this with my team at the next meeting