This is a very interesting topic of discussion. As a team whom has both been in attendance at RI, and in our history been a team whom as been on the receiving end and giving end of a cheesecake, I’d like to touch on the three main topics I see in this thread: 1. Power of Event Volunteers, 2. Legality of “cheesecaking” 3. GP with regards to lending parts
Re: Power of event volunteers. I’d like to preface the discussion without singling volunteers because in actuality we are all volunteers. I know I have never received a paycheck for my 13 years of involvement in FRC as I am sure many of you never have as well. I see there are typically four types of volunteers: A. The team mentor whom supports a team through their FRC journey. B. The event volunteer, who helps run, organize, officiate events, but does not support a FRC Team. C. The team mentor who is affiliated with a team, but also volunteers at events in an authoritative fashion. D. The team mentor, who does not volunteer to run event, but rather volunteers to help other teams at events.
I tend to fall in the D, category because I think my efforts are best spent helping other teams, when I am not helping my own team.
For the most part the event staff that I meet are great people, genuinely care about FRC, the program, and the students. I look forward to going to different events, because not only do I want to experience the difference in competition as a team mentor, but I do look forward to making many new FRC friends, and expanding our own team network. I think this is my 99% experience in FRC. I have noticed personally, that in most instances, the “negative” experiences with event volunteers occurs when a volunteer at an event is also affiliated with a team at that event, falling into that C category. Personally, I think this creates a bias that can not be avoided, especially once a stressful situation occurs. If you can, try to avoid volunteering at an event your team competes at, I know this may be inconvenient personally, but sometimes even thyself can’t understand how stress and bias can effect rational.
I have personally seen instances this season where Robot Inspectors, whom for a single Robot past initial inspection, and that same robot past re-inspection prior to elims, were told something on their Robot was no longer satisfactory (like the location of a main breaker) after being selected for an alliance and were told it needed to be changed. I don’t agree with this type of opinion change. I think pictures can help this situation. I like how the LRI in MAR, Raj, has an app set up that takes pictures during inspection. You can go back and say, look that component you are questioning was that way on Day 1 and passed, why are you asking me to change it now. Luckily that team did not have to change their main breaker location after further discussion, but it was a discussion which in my opinion should have never needed to occur. We do not have that APP in NE that I know of, but I think similar things like just taking pics of the Robot during inspection can go a long way to easing the “What has changed during an event” for Robot inspectors, without having to create a lot of paper work or last minute confusion.
With regards for pulling inspection stickers or threats otherwise, for administrative things not tied to the legality of the Robot, there is no place for that in FRC. My personal stance is threats of any kind jokingly or not is not tolerated on my team, it is the quickest way to get kicked off my team, and similarly, it should be the quickest way to get banned from being an event volunteer. This is a high school program to help kids succeed in life, not a place to make others feel less than you, and if that is the case in my opinion who ever does that should not be apart of the FIRST family.
Lastly, I just don’t understand why there are negative experiences at an event at all, even if you are affiliated with a team competing. You choose to be an volunteer, so you must either love it, be a people person, and work well under stress. If any of those qualities are not true, why not give yourself a break and not volunteer? Like I said, instead of volunteering at an event I do not compete at, I rather go to another event, wonder the pits, and help other teams stay working, cause that is where I think I can provide the most benefit to this program. We are all volunteers, and that alone is a great thing, but volunteer in a manner in which makes you happy, and makes those around you happy.
Re: Legality of “Cheesecaking”. I think Gary at RIDE had good intentions and was trying to help teams understand what would be required of “cheesecaking” before it occurred. I welcome the better explanation of rules, as long as it is not made up and applies evenly to all teams and entities. I think that is what Gary’s intent was, especially with regards to a team specific withholdings, what was brought into the event pre fabricated, and what was made on site. He went out of his way to help communicate to us the reasons of the documentation, and I appreciate that. I tried to put myself in his shoes from a withholdings perspective I can see how sometimes it is easy to tell, sometimes it is hard to tell what is made on site vs pre-fab. Some events have machine shops, where I believe all Robot inspectors can and should pull work orders to understand what a team has done to machine things on site (like cheese cake parts for example), and not count towards the withholdings, but some events do not, like RIDE, making this a bit harder. I think Gary was trying to bridge the gap between events with different resources, and I welcome that, so as long as it is applied fairly, evenly, and all teams had ample time to understand it, I am all for it. I believe the breakdown was in the latter of teams not having ample time to understand it. In the future, it may be beneficial to make a Chiefdelphi post with the “unofficial forms” or “documents to track metrics” at particular events days in advance so attending teams can have time to absorb it and ask questions. I know at an event, I get like 3hrs of sleep the entire weekend, so having more time to understand particular changes would be helpful. Or better yet, make an official email blast to all main and alternate contacts. Now in the end RIDE did not have any cheesecaking officially, did my team try to help as many teams as possible, definitely, I am sure others did too, but would there have been cheesecaking if the forms were not passed, that I can not say.
**Re: GP with regards to lending parts and not asking for it back. **This is a double edge sword and I will give my personal experience on the matter. At our first event in Bridgewater, MA we provided a cheesecake climber to our alliance partner 5563, who entered the event without a climber at all. Their team agreed on day 1 about the possibility of a cheesecake and we worked on the logistics from there. We provided all the materials and motor controllers out of our spare parts. They wrote the code without any help from us, and we installed it together. The cheesecake was a spare climber which majority pre-fab and within our witholdings, however some on-site work was done. After the event we learned that 5563 would be competing in a Week 3 event, and so were we. But we told them we wanted them to keep the climber, because we wanted to see them crush their next event, and we would go back home and figure out how we could to make a spare climber for ourselves. That moment 5563 was in tears of excitement, and it was no greater feeling to represent my team and allow them to keep everything. They went on to their Week 3 event and did very well.
The very next weekend we competed in a week 3 event as well, and did not have enough time to fabricate another spare climber. So we opted to modify the design a bit using all cots (the original design has custom ratchet/pawls and some other sheet metal items) and brought raw material with us to the event. We used the event machine shop to cut and make all the pieces required, we used COTS 1/2 wrenches for the ratchet/pawls, and we requested motor controllers/motors from other teams as we didn’t have any more spares. Again on Day 1 of the event we worked with another team who agreed to cheesecake, and in this case they were a lot more involved with the mechanical build because we had to build a whole new climber from scratch on site. I personally worked with their driver and programmer (Justin and Stephanie) to program and electrically set up the robot for the cheesecake, then together the teams integrated the device. After the event, the teams who lent us the motor controllers asked for it back, which I was expecting, because that is what I am accustomed too. We never expect to keep what we borrow (that is true GP), they helped us get as far as we could by lending those components, and I am grateful, but I am sure they need it too, so lets give it back. I would never want to intentionally keep another item from another team without permission. We learned that our partners 752 were not competing again at another event (That was their second district event, and they were now awaiting a MAR Champ invite) , but we were again competing in a week 4 as well, And because the design was modified quickly and not really too our liking of robutstness and maintainability, we left the event with an agreement with 752 that we would remove the climber (because it was useless to them without the motors and controllers anyway, we would go home, and 2168 would order all of the required material (motors and motor controllers) and ship them a complete assembly and work with them to integrate it onto their Robot. Again under our own decision. So if they do make it to MAR Champs, or go to any off season event they would be ready to compete. That shipment is going out this week. Further more we worked with an on-site sponsor to help back them in case they do get invited to MAR Champs.
As you can see, I personally believe it is a great idea to allow teams to keep things and also believe fundamentally, if you are in a position to help a team you help by keeping them involved, learning their names, and building a relationship that extends beyond the event…, but it should be a choice up to the team, so they can make a choice which makes sense financially and logistically for them, and not mandated. And while our personal budget is very tight, I would gladly spend it all to help another underfunded, lower resourced team, because not too long ago we were underfunded and lower-resourced, and I know what its like to be in that position, in some regards every team is always still in that position. But I believe, if you mandate all items must be left with a team like what was stated at RIDE, all that will happen is teams will not feel comfortable giving up expensive parts. If I go to an event and need a new TX1 for vision, I would hope another team would lend it to me, and sure as heck would expect them to ask for it back!!! If this were a mandate, I would never ask, because what team has a budget to just give away a TX1, after the event is over.
We walked into RIDE with the intent that a team would keep a cheesecake because we would have enough time to make another to NE Champs, fortunately, we did not need to use the cheese cake at all, but that was our choice going in.
Also if you do mandate it, it should apply to everyone equally, meaning I do not believe it is a fair statement to say “It is not GP to ask for something back” but then in the same sentence say “Anything borrowed from the On-Site Emergency Spares must be returned”. If you use the logic to say “the robot passed inspect with a part and it now belongs to the robot”, then that should apply to all parts no matter if it comes from teams or on site spares. The rules must be applied to everyone equally and fairly, if not, then they should not be applied.
I have been in FRC a long time, and at the end of the day, the true result is were the kids inspired, and did all teams feel they were treated fairly and equally? If the answer is yes, then great event, if the answer is no, then we have some work to do.