Email from Jon Dudas

Dear FRC Teams:

Thank you for your incredible enthusiasm and Gracious Professionalism throughout the year and at the Championship.

We apologize for the technical problems that affected the final matches at our Championship. We will examine all of the facts, report our findings and ultimately solve any and all identified issues.

Jon Dudas
President, FIRST

After sitting in the stands last night, all I can say is “Thank You”.

I truly hope they follow up with the reporting of their findings. I think the entire FRC universe is very interested in them.


This is a good first step. Let’s hope they follow through with whatever they find and avoid taking the easy way out.

It truly is; at Championships, they only said something about it before they replayed the first 2 matches, other than that, they avoided the subject (that is, in regards to informing the crowd; it was clearly being discussed by the FTAs on the field). It’s good to see that they admit there was a problem and that they’ll have more information on it. They could have easily released a bunch of press material (like, “Big winners at FIRST Championship”*), totally avoiding the subject. It’s bold for FIRST to release this as their first “official statement” after what happened.

*I know, that sounds like a terrible title for a press release.

To be fair, no one is going to put out a press release saying “We had this cool event, but then a bunch of depressing stuff happened.”

I’m glad FIRST is sending this out to teams because many people are upset about the field system throughout the season, not just on Einstein.

The fact that the problems were clearly on display on Einstein is the best indicator to FRC brass that they have a SERIOUS problem.

I hope that they take significant action to fixing the control system, field or open proposals to request a new system.

These field communication issues were VERY rare in the 2008 season,
Since 2009 change to the cRio, I have clear memories of significant field or control system problems costing teams a match.

I went to the FRC Live the day before and someone (I think Don from 1676) asked about the communications issues. The Control Systems engineer in the panel said that the system was guaranteed until 2014, but they were taking suggestions for 2015 and beyond.

I hope this is more along the lines of, “we gotta get something out there instantly to assure teams that we are not taking this lightly and then give our full findings as soon as we can with any apologies,” than, “we had issues lets just get these teams off our backs while we try to figure them out for next year.”

As someone that’s had to speak to people whose aspirations were derailed long before Einstein due to communications problems…

It bothers me tremendously that this problem had to reach this level of momentum at any point ever.

Let alone a point where the issue is on display at the Championship and that Dean and Woody have to feel obligated to help.

It occurs to me that this problem has existed for some time. That had FIRST not finally been pinned to the wall with this problem they may never have admitted that it fully really exists.

Now the very same people that often demanded that the robots were the fault are often quite literally ordering us to have absolute confidence they are doing everything they can to solve this.

I have seen FTAs and other field personnel in tears over this. I am not placing blame on their valiant efforts. You guys are brilliant and deserve my undying respect (and some of these people are people I mentored). I am making the point that they to are trapped in a system that should never have allowed this to happen.

It greatly concerns me that there are other problems. That effect other teams. That are just as important to their survival at competition. That these problems will now loose attention because FIRST has now shifted priorities for their resources to this. However, this didn’t get priority before because it just wasn’t important enough despite literally tilting the balance of the competition. So what stops the next problem from not being important enough?

What decides a problem is important enough for the full attention of FIRST? A failure of this proportion? A few people? A few seriously stuck robots? A broken competition? A friend in the right place? Something that finally grabs enough people’s attention it can no longer be kept quiet?

No, this needs to stop. This is not about the field people who went down fighting. It’s not about devaluing FIRST. It’s about making sure FIRST realizes what it’s doing to itself.

Also here(page 6):

The current control system, guaranteed to be used through the 2014 season, …

Now here is a scary thought. We have to deal with this FMS for two more years.
With entry fees for your first regional at approx. $5K, that works out to a minimum of $500/match. (I know, ball park figures). At $500/match to potentially watch your robot collect dust for 2 min. 15 sec., I don’t think anyone will be satisfied with anything less than “We found the cause, it was… and the solution is…”. No spin, no beating around the bush, just straight talk and answers.

Is FIRST capable of this? Absolutely! Are they willing to do it? We’ll see.
My vote is that they will.

No I actually won’t even be satisfied with that.

I want to see FIRST deliver on a solution in which I never again have a team tell me they’ve been told their robot is bad news. Followed by watching them have no hope of understanding why.

Words are meaningless. The problem is tangible. It failed for real and is on recording forever. The solution needs to be just as tangible. The education from it just as available. Especially if they are going to tell the community to sit on their hands waiting.

It was a real shame to see amazing teams like 118 and 2056 crippled by field issues. No team should have to see their robot sit on the field and feel that they have no ability to find a solution to the problem themselves. FIRST owes it to every team on Einstein and the community at large to get to the bottom of this.

Talking with mentors and students afterwards, I have heard three theories about what could have caused this. Our lead electrical mentor suspected that the temporary issues could have been caused by a C-Rio reboot. However, this doesn’t explain why 4334 was sitting on the field with a red blinking “disconnected” light. A second theory is that 118 (which had two cameras) and other teams were overloading the system, which led to FMS somehow disconnecting them. The most prominent theory is that spectator WiFi usage was interfering with the teams wireless communications.

Personally, I think that FIRST is most likely to claim that the problem was caused by WiFi usage, simply because no other solution presents itself. This theory sounds a bit dubious to me (although I have admittedly next to no knowledge about FMS and wireless communications). The combination of Einstein being a untested, new field and the recursion of the problem on Red-1 (at least during the first matches) makes me suspect some other problem.

Keep in mind that no one, let alone FIRST, wanted this to happen, especially on Einstein. Although perhaps the decisions made at the time weren’t the best, if the field techs could have solved or diagnosed the problem earlier, they would have.

My congratulations to the new world champions, and my thanks to the teams that acted with gracious professionalism despite circumstances beyond their control.

I would have to disagree that the problem is tangible. In all honesty, there is no proof nor is there any doubt that the problems are with either the field and/or the robot. We all know that there is a problem somewhere, but where is truly the question. We are all dealing with technology and resources that are being used in a means that is not ideal or meant to be mixed together. If you really think about it, if FIRST went the route of creating a system that was as robust as possible for the purposes that we are using it for, it would be highly costly and bulky for both parties. With the mix of technology/resources of different “application” along with the intensity and “abuse” we give everything, it truly is hard to nail down the exact root cause of the problems. What anyone really is able to do is take in the information that they have, diagnose the problem to the best of their ability and make the most reasonable assessment that they can come to. Can or may that assessment be incorrect from time to time, yes, we are all human, but sometimes it may actually turn out to be correct, as I’m sure many of us have seen in several cases. I was in St. Louis and had a good seat to see all that went on, and yes it was a little disheartening to see what happen unfold, but in the end can you not agree that all those on and off the field did their best to evaluate the situation and make the best calls possible? I just feel a little more credit needs to be given to the crew and their hard work throughout the season than rather bash them endlessly.

Sorry for the rant, but I just thought I would toss in my 2 cents.

Yep, that was me. Collin Fultz and Kate Pilotte said they wanted to write a whitepaper on how the FMS works, to help teams avoid potential field issues and end speculation about this ‘black box’. I’d venture that it’s moved up on their priority list recently…

Nobody can argue that there isn’t a problem, but…

…blaming the issue on either the field or the robot is pure speculation and somewhat premature.

(**@bilbo911: **Our season (minus CMP) cost us only $177 per match, or about $1.31 per second. You guys need to move to the district system…)

Cal. will be moving to a District model soon. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Our cost this year, $9K for 2 Regional’s, $2.5K for build, plus additional travel etc.
~$12K for 20 qual. matches + 6 elims. $461.51 per match not including travel and lodging. We would LOVE to be under $200/match!

By the way, Techhelpbb, we never once had a comm. issue this year, so you are right, I do see things from a different, un-jaded angle.
I’ve been following your posts as well as others on the subject. I have a pretty good feel for what where you are coming from and understand your point. That said, there just isn’t enough hard evidence to come to any conclusion, yet.


Hey, when did he get back, I missed his presence over the build season. I’m glad to see that his blog is back up. Seems like product development over at VEX has been keeping him busy, that, or VRC ;)[/quote]