Discussion: Release Team Field Drawings Early

I have been thinking more about ways to increase the low to mid level teams competitiveness in the FRC. Eliminating Bag Day, District Events ETC, I believe have this goal in mind as well.

Another thing we may want to consider is releasing Some/All of the team specific drawings a week before kickoff. I believe this would, among other things;

1: Give teams more time during build season to focus on building robots. The 2016 game alone required weeks for some teams to build field elements.

  1. Improve the quality of the Prototyping and eventually robots as early designs will have a better chance of success with quality field elements that weren’t built during the initial build season rush.

  2. Eliminate the built in advantage of some teams, mine included, that are involved in hosting kickoffs and have access to pre-built field elements immediately after kickoff.

  3. The FRC community can collaborate on best practices to build elements. Issues like the 2013 team drawing Pyramid could be avoided with crowd sourced solutions before the six week build season is impacted.

I think the argument that the secrecy of the game must be maintained is a bit of an antiquated notion. I believe that most teams will wait until the actual game rules are released before spending time and money guessing at the game. And honestly, so what if they do. I think any potential benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

I am very interested in the opinion of others. Thoughts?

I would be rather hesitant to release team field drawings early. However, I do believe that there are a number of steps FIRST HQ can take without doing that in order to make teams’ life easier.

In no particular order:

  • Realize that teams have to interpret the drawings–and then design for manufacturability
    . For example, any angle that needs better than whole-number precision should probably be spec’d as two different linear dimensions that will allow the angle to be right, or very close to right. (2015). It’s a lot easier to build stuff if you can actually read the drawings and they’re easy to build. This right here is huge. - Not have quite so many field elements. “Duh.” Honestly, there were only about 20 separate chunks of a team field in 2016… and roughly three in 2014. 2015 was partway in between, but see above.
  • Have a “quick-and-dirty” version for many elements. See also, the mimic targets that a lot of teams brought to check shooters. (Or, for 2014: Gimme a string/sports net and two posts that are tall enough. Actually, gimme 2, one for the high goals and one for the truss.) If teams want to build their own “real” field, have the drawings available. That way, teams can build the quick-and-dirty, and later they can build the not-so-quick at their own pace if they think they’ll actually need it.
  • Build A SET at HQ, for HQ testing.
    And then, of course, pass on any knowledge gained by such items to teams. Woulda been really nice to practice the drawbridge on lexan, for example. But most teams built wood. Lexan behaves much differently. Ditto for Portcullis. - Don’t change drawings mid-season because your vendor couldn’t do what you wanted them to…:o
    *]Put ALL the parts needed for an assembly with the assembly in the drawing. It does help if you don’t have to go chasing down to 20 pages later.
    There are a number of improvements to the process, yes. I don’t see an early release being one of them, TBH. Though having the material list coming out early, or a partial material list, would be helpful in checking for supplies on-hand.

I think this is a great idea. I’ve been involved with building the field for the UMN Kickoff for the last couple years, and honestly, even as field builders we often have no real idea of what the game is. Most of our hints come from the names of the drawings, and that’s not enough to really let us figure it out. If they were completely anonymous numbers for all the parts, it would be even harder to guess.

I feel like FIRST has been getting themselves all worked up over the secrecy of the field, and the more they clamp down, the less benefits they’re going to see from the field builder program. Perhaps opening the door a bit is what FRC really needs, instead of desperately trying to shut everyone out.

Uh, please, no.

First of all, we try to consider our game strategy before we build field elements. This year, we did not build a Sally Port or Draw Bridge, because we didn’t plan to cross those defenses, and there are probably plenty of low-goal teams that never bothered to build a tower above about four feet, saving a lot of heartache. In 2013 we only put a full set of rungs on one face of our pyramid, and we didn’t care about the corners, because that’s all we needed. If we’d waited a bit longer before starting, we probably would have built something that didn’t look like a pyramid at all, just three bars between two wooden ladder frames. (This is what started us prioritizing goals for field elements, BTW.)

Besides, looking at field elements, it’s usually straightforward to figure out what you do with them. The low bar, rough terrain, and ramparts are all clearly obstacles to be driven over/under. The pyriamid goal was recognizable to players of Frisbee golf. The size and shape of the Aerial Assist Goals certainly suggested the size and shape of the game piece. Of course, seeing the field, most of us would have ALSO expected a hanging endgame to Aerial Assist.

Once you figure that out, you will have teams begin prototyping likely functions, increasing the disparity between high-resource and low-resource teams. Once the field drawings for Stronghold were released under this proposal, 233 and 254 and 1114 will be building drive trains, mid-level teams will order pneumatic wheels and/or tank tread and do some CAD work, low resource teams will build field elements they might never use, and rookie and really-low resource teams would fall farther behind.


For this non-Chairmans part of competing, can you be more specific about the segment of the on-the-field teams are you thinking about?

What metric do you have in mind when you write “low to mid-level”.

“Competitiveness” means several different things to different people, and “Teams” covers a broad spectrum. Help the conversation avoid diving down the wrong rabbit holes by adding some detail about who you have in mind.


They can be released on time if they’re readable and not impossible to build. I’d rather they spend the time giving the drawings to an experienced builder to actually try and build the wood versions they come up with using only the drawings. That way they’ll have a good chance to spot the glaring flaws, missing dimensions, etc.

We only need them early if they continue their “standards” of “quality” that they have been meeting in the years past.

Confused about what you don’t understand here…

What does the “non-chairman’s” phrase mean? Why do you jump to critique potential ideas with tangible goals to help teams and our program? And why do I get the feeling you don’t care anything about actually building robots…?

I agree with this wholeheartedly. Building the 2015 and 2016 fields were a pretty significant drain on 5188’s resources (mainly in manpower), and didn’t really get done until very late in build season (~Week 5). We ended up on relying on teams who had access to reasonably accurate field elements from hosting kickoff events and were gracious enough to share their prototyping results with us.

I would like for the drawings to include a simple and easy-to-read bill of materials for lumber and whatnot, so I can just go to the lumber yard and buy it, without having to add it all up from eleventeen different drawing sheets.

This brings up the unspoken advantage that kickoff host teams have over the rest of us. They show of the field elements at kick off, then get to keep them for the season.

Last year, we had an army of parents building field elements Saturday/Sunday of kickoff, but it still wasn’t enough to get everything done. I’d at least like to enjoy the same advantage that kickoff hosts do.


Undoubtedly, having field elements on hand while prototyping, building, and testing leads to improvements in team robots. And yes, lower resource teams typically build fewer/no field elements.

But the solution isn’t to give everyone more time for them. Think about it… kickoff is the first weekend in January. If you release the drawings a week early, you’re backing into December with them many years - I don’t know about everyone else, but that last week in December I’m out of the state with family. School is out, and many students are taking trips with family. Meeting to build field elements during that time won’t work for a whole lot of people.

On the other hand, take a high resource team. Given their resources (which most likely include larger number of people), they can likely have someone available to build the field elements. And then once they have the field elements, why not start playing around with prototypes that can interact with those elements? Sure, you don’t have the game rules, so 50% of your prototypes might be useless… but you’re a high resource team so you can afford to waste those resources.

If you really want to help bump up those teams that don’t have the person-power to build field elements after kickoff, then we should get someone like AndyMark to partner with first, take pre-orders for cheap field elements (You won’t know what you’re getting, you’ll just know it’s $100 for a set of field elements that year), then distribute them with the KoP at kickoff. Maybe have some assembly required (IKEA style assembly), designed to be assembled by 5 people in 4 hours or less.

Sure, you’ll still have low resource teams that maybe feel like they can’t afford that. But that’s where high resource teams come in - Why not provide an option when pre-ordering your field elements to buy 1-3 extra for teams in your area? Let the RD’s know a week ahead of time how many extra they have, and they can work to make sure those extra’s get to the teams that could really benefit from them the most.

I’ve always wondered why FIRST didn’t distribute game elements like this. It makes a lot of sense to me.

This is a good solution, but I’m unsure if it’s feasible from a cost standpoint. Look at the cost of a half-field for FTC for comparsion: http://www.andymark.com/FTC17-p/am-3375_0b.htm. Without the game pieces, it still comes to a total of $295 + shipping.

Because you are over-reacting. I didn’t critique anything. I asked for a little more info. But… you did jump to criticizing me. Please PM me with questions like those so that we can avoid taking this thread off on a tangent.

FIRST HQ says the Chairman’s award is the highest honor they give to teams. If all other things are equal in a situation, it stands to reason that suggestions that move teams in the direction of earning a Chairman’s Award are likely to receive more attention from FIRST HQ, than suggestions that don’t. I try to keep that in mind.

While some teams that build OK robots, also have enough time, people, space, money, etc. to build several or a few field parts… the teams that struggle the most on-the-field, might suffer from being offered an additional task rather than benefit from the result it could produce. My personal attitude tilts toward finding ways to raise the very bottom of on-the-field performance before investing more in the rest of the spectrum.

That’s just one facet of the conversation. Other posters have brought up other subjects that might or might not part of the situations the OP wanted to discuss/affect.

So, I asked.


As a low resource team that is stepping up to be a mid resource team I say don’t change the current system. We actually appreciated having a task we could set our kids to while the robot design was being pondered. We turned out to have some pretty good carpenters on the team. It’s not as if you must have everything available right away. You made the decision to be low bar capable and built that first. Then take on what you think will be the hardest defense (we went with rock wall). Other elements came along in time but it is not as if the lack of a complete mock up field in the first week or two made a difference to us. And totally agree with not messing with late December/early January. We demand so much of kids and families once the build season starts.

Should kick off teams be asked to hand over their Field Elements? They still get the advantange of having done it once but would not get the immediate option to start testing with them. The local Week Zero events would probably be very happy to have them…

Bag and Tag 'em?

T. Wolter

Amen, Ditto, Double Ditto…

This would be a significant help. They could total by field piece, for those teams that won’t build every field piece because of their strategy, plus total for all field pieces for those that will build all pieces.

Also, building field pieces is a wonderful way to get parents involved, rather than taking the students away from the strategy and prototyping.


To build the field for a kickoff, I’m fairly certain you have to sign some kind of NDA to see the field drawings. This prevents any teams who have access to the drawings from spreading them to others and to their own team members who have not yet seen the field.

I don’t see an issue with opening this access to anyone who wants to sign the NDA, regardless on whether or not the build is for a Kickoff event. I think opening this to mentors only is a reasonable measure to ensure that the students are still getting the “kickoff experience”.

125 builds the field elements for the local kick-off event (I am not involved- I’m home in CT on break during the build), and it was really nice to have everything ready to go on Day 1. From what I understand, it took the contingency of mentors a dew days work to get the elements done. I can definitely see where an advantage comes into play, and how the field build can be especially challenging when most of the team would rather get “robot-work” done.

However, before we release the field drawings early, maybe there should be a little more work ensuring proper dimension rules are followed.

I would have to give more thought to this jumping on either side

A good portion of kickoff teams have an advantage over their peers because they have these elements at their disposal. There are a few teams who build the fields but can’t store them so they give some or all to other teams so the “all kickoff teams have an advantage” isn’t necessarily true. Our team spent most of week 1 making the field with some items extending beyond into weeks 2 or 3 IIRC.

On the flip side we didn’t make wooden versions of the static defenses. The team has a contact who got all the metal parts together and our mentors & students welded them in our shop. We only made one of the three sides to a tower and like many teams we didn’t bother with the Sallyport or Drawbridge. We never completed our CDF. A hybrid wooden frame, metal door Portcullis was made and only used once for a test IIRC.

So if we had the drawings early I’m not sure what that would do for us since we upgraded to metal versions or skipped making others complete or altogether. Looking back we would have wasted a good portion of our time compared to what we ended up with. Maybe we wouldn’t have made metal versions of the field?

All of that being said, the next town to our north is Manchester so the local kickoff for us involves seeing the full competition field. It wouldn’t be fair for us to cry, “Disadvantage” over our peers in other areas because we don’t have the team elements built and some do.

Opening up the drawings earlier should be discussed. If you choose not to build a full or partial field based on the released materials that is your decision. This is the same type of decision teams make when it comes to how many hours they meet, if they want to use their withholding allowance, or even use some or any of their unbag time. Yes there are teams who don’t use withholding or decide not to use their unbag time

I agree with every comment on how bad the field drawings are. It is horrendous.

I think releasing the field drawings early is a bit of an unnecessary action, but there are steps FIRST should take to lessen the burden on teams in years where the field is especially complex. As many people have mentioned, the field drawings have to be correct, easy to interpret, and easy to make wood* versions of. Oftentimes, the people reading these drawings have no experience in drafting or CAD or have even seen engineering drawings. I know FIRST HQ is an extremely busy place, but it might help if they created a series of videos of building wood versions of field elements with hand tools and the resources available to most teams. If they release this with the slew of materials also available to teams on Kickoff, teams might be able to create field elements much more similar to what they’ll actually see at a competition.

Some have mentioned releasing a bill of materials for the field elements early. I think this could also be helpful, as teams can go ahead and buy materials over Christmas break and be ready to go for game reveal.

*I realize some teams build field elements out of other materials, but I’d say the vast majority of teams that need help building the field elements are building them out of wood.


I don’t see an issue with opening this access to anyone who wants to sign the NDA, regardless on whether or not the build is for a Kickoff event. I think opening this to mentors only is a reasonable measure to ensure that the students are still getting the “kickoff experience”.
This would be a significant load on FIRST to accomplish; field builder is an assigned volunteer role for official events, where they have some degree of control. And I should note that FIRST strongly discourages active team mentors from being assigned to this role.

125 builds the field elements for the local kick-off event (I am not involved- I’m home in CT on break during the build), and it was really nice to have everything ready to go on Day 1. From what I understand, it took the contingency of mentors a dew days work to get the elements done. I can definitely see where an advantage comes into play, and how the field build can be especially challenging when most of the team would rather get “robot-work” done.
Also accurate. 2015’s field was pretty trivial, and it kicked our butts.

However, before we release the field drawings early, maybe there should be a little more work ensuring proper dimension rules are followed.
Major key.

Source: Kickoff coordinator for South Carolina 2015-2016; Garnet Squadron bankrolled (but did not build) field elements in 2015.