FiM Announces Plan for 2021

Email from President of FiM Gail Alpert:

FIRST announced yesterday that the Detroit Championship is being pushed out to the summer. We are poised for a different, but amazing, 2021 FRC season. Here is a glimpse of what the season will look like in Michigan:

OVERVIEW OF THE FRC SEASON
Game
We will be playing the same game as last year. You can use the same robot or modify it any way you like. Rookies from last year will still be considered rookies this season with regards to the point system.

District Competitions (as of now)

  1. Our competitions will begin the last weekend in February (as they always do) and end the last weekend in April. This is 2 weeks longer than usual.
  2. Events will be much smaller with 12-18 teams instead of 40.
  3. The number of attendees will be limited. There will be no spectators and only a handful of people from a single team. The exact number will be determined closer to the event, based on state-mandated gathering numbers.
  4. Events will start and finish in a single day, including playoffs.
  5. Judging will be remote.
  6. The number of volunteers needed at a single event will be greatly reduced.
  7. Social distancing, mask-wearing and sanitization rules will be in effect at all competitions.

THE HUB CONCEPT FOR COMPETITIONS
We are looking to establish HUBS around the state where fields will be erected before our first week of competition at the end of Feb and stay up until the end of April. Each HUB would host many single-day events. Minimizing field set up and tear down will decrease the risk to our volunteers. We would love to find 10 HUB sites- one in the central UP (Escanaba ideal), and 9 scattered around the lower peninsula.
If you know of a great venue that could work, please let me know. We don’t need bleachers, just a space about the size of a normal gym to house pits and a field. Kettering, GVSU, and St Joe are already on the list. We especially need to find one in the northern part of the lower peninsula.

RUNNING YOUR TEAM WITH REMOTE OR SMALL IN-PERSON MEETINGS
We know meeting with your team will be different this year. View this just as another challenge FIRST has thrown at you. Some teams are meeting with small sub-groups on assigned days. Others are running everything they can via Zoom or Google Meet. Any method can work. You just have to get creative.

For those of you that already have a plan in place, please write it up and email it to me. We will create a spot to share ideas and best practices with other teams. If your team is having trouble visualizing how to function this season, feel free to email me. We will figure it out together.

TEAMS WITHOUT ACCESS TO THEIR ROBOTS
If your team is having an issue getting inside your school to grab your robot, email me and we will try contacting the school. The good news is that FIRST will have program alternatives that are purely remote for teams that can’t access their robots or that can’t attend even small in-person competitions. The alternatives will be announced at kickoff in January. This means that regardless of your COVID-19 circumstances, we will have a program for you!

FREE FTC, FLL AND PRE-K DISCOVER ROBOT KITS
Thanks to our incredible sponsors, FIRST in Michigan is once again able to offer free kits and registration to our new FLL and FTC teams. FIRST through LEGO even has grants for underserved districts for FLL Discover, our newest PRE-K program to make the whole season free! If your school hasn’t yet expanded to the lower programs, this season is a great time to do so. It’s not at all too late. Email me for more info.

FTC ROBOT MANIPULATOR IN 5 DAYS!
Calling all Michigan FRC teams. We spent the summer creating a middle school FTC curriculum that will include manipulators that work with this season’s FTC game. We’d love our Michigan FRC teams to design them! FRC teams are invited to submit their FTC designs in our version of the “Robot in 3 Days” which I call the “Manipulator in 5 Days” challenge!

Here’s how to participate-
After this season’s FTC Challenge is released on Sept. 12, Michigan FRC teams will have five days to come up with a game strategy and then design a manipulator to execute that strategy. Parts must be from either the REV Robotics FTC kit or the TETRIX FTC Start Kit.

Teams will be asked to create and submit two brief two-minute videos- one to explain their strategy and one to explain how they designed the manipulator to execute that strategy.

Teams interested in participating should visit-
FIM FRC FTC Manipulator Challenge.

Questions can be directed to the curriculum project leader, Danielle Ohm, at danielle.ohm@gmail.com or to tammy@firstinmichigan.org.

FRC GRANTS
State Grant
The State’s 2021 budget has not been finalized. At the moment, our grant is in the Governor’s proposed budget on line 99(h) of School Aid. We hope to make it into the final budget which must be passed by Oct 1. More to come once we know more!

Rookie Grant
The $4,000 Rookie Grant from FIRST will be offered again this season. If you know a school who’d love to join FIRST, please let me know. It’s actually the perfect year to join. Our veteran teams will have lots of time to assist rookies (remotely) as their robots are mostly done!

Equity and Access Grant for Veteran Teams
Like last year, FIRST has a limited number of grants up to $5,000 for veteran teams from underserved or underrepresented schools looking to sustain or expand their FIRST programs. Teams that don’t fit this description but who want to start teams in underserved or underrepresented areas are also eligible. The grant is not yet open. We will post the link on the firstinmichigan.org website once it opens.

That was certainly a lot of info but I hope you found it useful. I will post this email to our blog on the firstinmichigan.org website.

Can’t wait for the season to begin!

All the best,
Gail Alpert

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Interesting.

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This caught my eye also. I know that for a lot of teams, being able to bring the school district superintendent, high school principal or head of school to competitions is essential to maintaining funding within a school. With so many teams having missed any competition this year, how will teams convince primary sponsors that an unannounced remote option is a good return on investment?

As a mentor for a 4-H based team, with a current limit of 10 people per indoor event, this news from FIRST is good news. I’d love to hear more details.

I posted in another thread about this but I’m actually hopeful that our season here in Michigan will go ahead, but then again I’m in the UP, what are attitudes/perceptions like downstate?

(edit for link: Poll: How likely to compete in 2021 (September edition))

Event size is reduced for obvious reasons, but with only 12 teams there would be many teams playing back to back matches. Granted, time between matches could be greatly extended. Also, only 4 alliances seems like a super small tourney. It would still be totally worth it, and better than nothing, but…

I suspect a game modification to 2v2 alliances (which would also help limit inter-team contact).

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Maybe for a season? This has a pretty significant effect on scouting and alliance formation.

Longer term I would like to see slightly smaller (~100 lb.) robots and four team alliances.

100% agree. The GDC would be well advised to allow the FTA & Head Referee leeway to make the decision, before the first match is queued, for the event’s qualification matches to be 2v2. So many issues would be alleviated this way.
Playoffs would still be 3v3.

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With four team alliances my first thought was you’d need 30 students for scouting, which would make it impractical for most teams. My second thought is this would force scouting alliances which might not be a bad thing. Maybe go so far as to have a reserved “scouting” section in the stands so you wouldn’t have pre-event formed scouting alliances reserving seats for several teams and every team would have the chance at a good scouting position.

With remote scouting this year, there’s no way I can even attempt to scout using a 20" monitor, sometimes I can barely make out the numbers. Maybe when they introduce the teams there’s a camera that zooms in on the robot. If not, we may have to have someone that does go to a match take pictures of all the other robots and distribute them to the scouting team, or I’ll have to go buy an extremely large TV/monitor.

We typically dedicate one scout per team. So 4 team alliances would result in 8 scouts at any one time. Even if you had a full set of replacement scouts (and we typically don’t), that would only be 16 scouts. Not sure how you arrived at the need for 30.

Scouting on a 20" screen (such as a laptop screen) would be difficult, but not impossible. If each scout had their own 20" screen then they ought to be able to see everything. But, I agree that a large screen TV is a better option, especially if it is being shared by multiple scouts.

I agree with you about having pictures of the robots. We will be making sure we have pictures of all the robots at the event. Some teams submit a picture to TBA and we hope to be able to use those. For those teams that did not submit a picture, one of the top priorities of Pit scouting would be to get pictures of their robots. Prior to the start of the match when the scouts are getting set up, they each select a team number from the list of teams playing in that match. We want to add a second screen to our app that posts the picture of the robot on the screen and gives the scout a chance to spot that robot on the field and then click on a button that says “Found them” before proceeding to the first scouting screen. This should help the scouts recognize the robot they will be scouting for that match. Once they have found them, it should be relatively easy to keep track of them throughout the rest of the match.

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We typically have three scout teams plus backups. 4x4 would mean for us 8 quantitative scouts plus backups and qualitative scouts and we’re around 30, maybe over.

Just gotta throw this in there, we’ve had years with so few scouts each one had to scout 2-3 teams at once… :smiley:

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If you’re not on Chairman’s team, Drive team, or part of the pit crew you’re a scout.

The last worlds we worked with another team by having them join us in scouting. I thought it was great for everyone. Coopertition can be in the stands too. It didn’t take long before the kids started talking to each other and instead of thinking of the other team as “them”, you could feel that they were now “us”.

I would highly recommend joining with another team(s) for scouting, regardless of the size of the teams.

We have to figure a way to scout jointly and remotely this year but I think it can happen.

In 2018, by the end of build season, we had 12 students on the team. If you were not on the drive team, you were on the Chairman’s team AND the pit crew AND a scout.

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With FiM announcing limited team size for events, smaller teams used to having students wear many different hats could have an advantage this year. We’ll have to figure out if we should take the best driver/co-driver/human player/technician and teach them mechanical/electrical/programming or take the best mechanical/electrical/programmer and teach them how to drive/co-drive/HP/technician.

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While I love 3v3 and don’t want see it go, I think it would maybe present a problem if you’re playing 2v2 in quals and learning the meta, and then switch to 3v3 and now you have to learn a whole new playstyle. This could be less of an impact that I imagine, but usually less changes from quals to playoffs works better for us.

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I understand and agree with your point, but I think the benefits to playing 2v2 outweighs the costs.
We’ve had several games in which the culture of the game changes between qualifications and playoffs. For example, in recent years the acquisition of Ranking Points was the top priority for many teams during quals, and then they played a completely different style after alliance selection.

The problems I’d like to alleviate are mostly concerning scheduling issues. With at most 18 teams at an event, and 6 on the field at any given time, back-to-back matches are a certainty, and there would be at most 3 matches between plays for a team. This would lead to rushed and incomplete between-match inspections, delayed match start times, much longer cycle times, and overall a poor experience for the field crew, the competing teams, and the (presumably at home) spectators.
We already have a system in place in which roughly 65-80% of the time, robots are not moving. If qualifications were played in a 2v2 style, the GDC would see more offensive-minded strategies, fewer delays due to robot connection or robustness issues, and a more relaxed staff and competitor field while at the same time seeing more matches with an improved cycle time and less wear-and-tear on everybody involved. Teams and crews could find a comfortable rhythm with this style of play, and necessary repairs could be made without fear of slowing the event or getting bypassed.

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I think I failed to properly deliver my point, if you play 2v2 in quals i think it would be advantageous to stick with 2v2 for elims. I’m personally in favor of 2v2 (I love 3v3 and don’t want to see it go because it fun to watch however) just because it opens up more oppurtunity for more play time and allows for matches to be handled with ease like you said above. I just don’t see the point too much in switching from 2v2 when a 2v2 system is benefiting in almost every way except spectator sport.

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The reason I’d be in favor of switching back for playoffs is in the interest of district point accrual and championship advancement. Not messing with those systems would be best.

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That’s how it was that year funnily enough.

Luckily we’ve gotten bigger since then and unconfirmed cases of scout whiplash are down big time haha

We had issues a few years ago when our mechanical lead was also driver. The student spent so much time working on the robot between matches that they missed strategy meetings with upcoming alliance partners.

If FiM goes with limited team size AND 3v3 quals there will be very little time, if any, for strategy meetings for alliance partners before a match, especially if you have to work on your robot. Going 2v2 in quals and 3v3 in elims at least allows for strategy meetings to happen in both quals and elims. Past games played differently between quals and elims so this isn’t something that’s new.