[FIRST EMAIL] Stop Build Day Survey

Really interesting. I can’t say I’m surprised given the history of the programs, but it’s nice to hear some of the actual history.

All those darn edge cases, man…

All the questions except for the last one are pretty bad, but the last one is rather important, I think, so claims that there won’t be anything useful from this seem to me a bit overblown.

I did a poll in an Arizona FRC group on Facebook during the season asking which teams had a practice bot. 13 of the 50 Arizona teams confirmed that they do in fact build a practice bot. That is just of those that responded too. I’m relatively sure there are others too but can’t confirm for sure. Even with 13 though, 25% of Arizona teams have a huge competitive edge over the other 75%. Now none of the Arizona FRC teams are a 254 and I’d imagine removing build day would be a big help even to the teams that build practice robots here. However, I personally think it would be an even bigger help to those that don’t have the resources to build one.

Another point I’d like to make is that bag day removal would help balance the scales for regional vs district teams. I know the goal is to make every region a district but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon for a lot of places including the south west. District teams get more hands on time with the competition robot from more matches per event and two of them, two 6 hour open bag periods in their shop, and if they do well, a state championship. Overall they get way more practice and development with the competition bot than a regional team even if the regional team also builds a practice bot. Giving all teams equal access to the competition robot would be a way to make things more fair between a district and regional team. This I feel is especially important when it comes to the two championships where North got almost all the districts and South got mostly regional teams. Who knows, maybe removing bag day would even make South champs a much stronger event than what it is predicted to be, especially for low to mid tier teams.

While I agree that greater time periods tend to minimize variance, your next statement really doesn’t seem to hold water.

This is why the NFL is the most equitable pro sports league in North America.

Here was an article I found which pretty decisively shows that MLB has far more variance than the NFL:

I’m not sure about this claim though:

In any given FRC season, with a limited build season, even a struggling, under-resourced team can have a shot against some of the best teams. Please don’t change that."

I guess I would have to better understand how you define “a shot against” to assess the validity of this statement. If you mean captaining the winning Einstein alliance, you are probably incorrect. If you mean captaining a regional winning alliance, you are also probably incorrect. If you mean any given qualification match, where the under-resourced team happened to get decent-ish partners and the “better team” has below-average partners, you are probably correct.

I can crunch some numbers for you if you want to make a more quantifiable hypothesis.

Just to give you another data point. I would consider my former team to be in the top 10-15% in the last 5 years. We build two robots. We have a partial test/practice field and access to full field from our friends. Eliminating stop build day will also not help us get any better. We are already getting the best robot we are capable of to our events. We already worked as many hours as we are capable of putting in. Without stop build day, we will save money, meet less often during the 6 weeks which is good for students and mentors and a lot less stressful. We will be able to spend more time helping other teams to get their robot working to their fullest potential. Right now we help other teams but we have to worry about getting our competition robot finish and into a bag. After that we can’t help other less resourceful teams because their robot was already in a bag. I hope you see my point.

That’s a very good idea.

How Does Abolishing “Stop Build Day” Fit FIRST’s Strategic Pillars

Expand Access and Participation, Broad and Deep:

  • A Short build season is one of the hardest parts about FRC for new teams. More time allows for more time to get help and work with veteran teams. Abolishing “Stop Build Day” makes FRC less scary for new teams.
  • More out of bag time allows for more demonstrations and scrimmage events during the season.
  • Level the field for international teams: Teams outside of North America have a very hard time competing at multiple events. By abolishing “Stop Build Day” new areas with very opportunities for events could hold smaller unofficial scrimmages and gain experience during the season.

Increase Diversity:

  • In conjunction with expanding access to new areas around the world we will dramatically add to our cultural diversity of the program.
  • By abolishing “Stop Build Day” we are able to dramatically reduce the cost of fielding a competitive team making it less expensive for global expansion and deep expansion to schools and areas that cannot currently afford an FRC team.

**
Scale Efficiently:**

  • The elite teams in FRC are amazing.

  • New teams need every advantage they can get and one of the biggest is how open and caring FRC teams are towards new teams. By abolishing “Stop Build Day”:

    • Veteran mentors could help more young teams since losing a day of build is less important when there are more of them.
    • Young teams have more time to learn, compete, and be inspired by veteran teams during the season.
    • Local scrimmages and practice sessions could reduce the need for dramatic increases in events to meet team demand as more and more teams wish to compete more often.
    • More time to fix the problems introduced by inexperienced teams. Pre-inspection events can be held prior to an event that allow young teams to get ready for their first inspection and not waste precious practice time

Ensure Sustainability:
Spending countless resources traveling to multiple events, building multiple robots and spare parts for them is not a sustainable solution.

  • Abolish “Stop Build Day” and

    • Teams can spend more of their money on growing their STEM program to reach more students.
    • Have more time to support and elevate young and rookie teams.
    • Hold demonstrations and workshops to increase team growth in their areas.
    • Hold in season scrimmages that let teams compete more often for less cost to the program.

Achieve Broad Recognition:
The best way I can think of to achieve broad recognition is to increase the level of play on the field. Spectators don’t want to watch robots that are inoperable, uncontrollable, and aren’t meeting game objectives.

  • By abolishing “Stop Build Day” we can

    • Increase the level of play on the field.
    • Reduce the number of robots that are inoperable during a match.
    • Give teams more time with their robot to iterate and improve when there are errors.
    • Give teams more time to work on programming and increase the challenge that the majority teams can meet.
    • Put on a better show!

#BanTheBag

Proposal: instead of eliminating Stop Build Day, restrict what can be brought in to the event. 5 lb of upgrade parts, unlimited raw material* including COTS, everything else must be exact spare parts to something on the robot.

Won’t stop driver practice and development of stuff, but it’ll sure make the stuff developed simpler…

BTW, this post mostly in jest, as I’ve seen what happens when moving from this sort of system to the current system. I think the competitiveness has gone up across the board. On the other hand, the “push harder longer in the shop” has also gone up, and the usage of the 30-lb allowance has skyrocketed by weight to, well, 29.9 lb for a lot of mid-level teams.

So, if I may summarize: The introduction of a significant “withholding” which could be used for upgrades increased the competitiveness of the average team, if they took advantage of it, while increasing the amount of time spent after the build season spent on improving the robots. I could see elimination of the stop-build having the exact same effect as the increase of “withholding”, and I could see it easing the burnout. Either way, effect unknown.

*Can be trimmed for handling purposes but not to final size/shape

I personally find myself somewhat in the middle. I agree, especially coming from a team that only builds one bot (and sometimes barely that), that Stop Build Day is a big obstacle for weaker teams. It means we get little practice, and can only watch as the FRC elites practice strategy and test designs using practice bots.

HOWEVER, I do appreciate some of the sentiment behind Stop Build Day. It correctly shows the deadlines that exist in the “real world”. I also find it inspires my team to work harder and think faster, as the pressure often creates positive stress that pushes us to do our best. Still, the tight schedule makes it hard for students with literally any other interests to have time for those things, or even grades. And the time is so short, sometimes it leads to burn-outs instead of a competitive environment.

In general, I lean towards a compromise of sorts. A build week of 8-10 weeks gives teams way more time than we’ve had in the past. It also serves as a stepping stone, if need be. If it’s an overwhelming success, FIRST can go from there and consider nixing Stop Build Day. All in all, I feel it’s the best solution, and leaves room for additional adjustments in the future.

Very few projects I’ve worked on in the real world require things to be hands off for months at a time before being used immediately ready to go after coming out of shipping. There will always be a deadline in FRC. The start of your next match! No other machine sport has this deadline. If hands off time and deadlines are some sort of special sauce why haven’t they trickled down to FTC or FLL? FRC is the only one to get this special thing, why? Shouldn’t NASCAR try to adopt it if it makes things so much better?

How would this work? Are you proposing pushing back the start of competitions or moving forward kickoff? Are we stopping build between Week 3 and 4 of competition season?

+1

JABianchi,
thanks for sharing your post. While it may be a minority viewpoint here on CD, I find some similar valid thoughts and concerns while highlighting some things I wanted to respond to.
Being from Hawaii, this is a disadvantage for obvious reasons. We spend a considerable amount of time traveling, making up schoolwork, and competing, that there would be little to no time to iterate or practice driving at all. Flying a robot to each and every event is a great disadvantage vs. driving your robot to an event. By trying to get the same experience as a district team, we also end up spending a lot more money competing in 3 regional events plus the Championships (and off-season events). Even in Hawaii, we have to spend money to stay in Waikiki because the travel time during work days can be as long as 2 hours one way from Waialua to the event.
As an above average resource team, being from Hawaii limits our ability to take advantage of that, regardless of whether Stop Build Day continued or ended.
My main concern in mentor burnout. I dont need data or any more experience to understand that getting rid of a Stop Build Day will put pressure on our team, both students and mentors, to work a longer period of time at an intense level with what little time we would have left.
If the majority of people want to get rid of Stop Build Day, I can accept it and adjust, or decide to quit FRC. I believe that majority rules. We had to build and adjust our program over the years to try and stay competitive. The possiblity of getting rid of the 6 weeks of build season is no different.

And IMO, using VEX is a poor example of why we should get rid of the 6 week build season! Building a completely different VEX robot between events is NOT the same as bringing a somewhat different iterated FRC robot to your next event. Not even close! We spend a lot of time doing both.

Glenn,

Really great feedback. Hawaii teams definitely are in a unique situation.

One quick thought. If there was no bag, could you design your robot to disassemble into three or four major pieces and take it on the plane with you? This could significantly reduce the amount of time 359 is without their robot. You could re-assemble at your hotel or a host team’s shop once you arrive.

I mention this since 125 took their robot in a check-in bag to Arizona in 2016. It was pretty small, even in the bag. Being out of the bag would give you a lot of flexibility to break your robot apart strategically and fit it in a few check-in bags.

Not an ideal solution, but could be workable.

-Mike

Frank said a while back on a FUN episode iirc that Bag and Tag would be staying so I do find this poll kinda interesting.

Bag and Tag is something that I do want to see go away mainly because many teams including mine can not afford a second robot. This puts us at a pretty distinct disadvantage through the season and especially by champs.

For teams like mine the bag does actually mean a ton less work because we can only work on withholding but for teams with practice robots the season really does not ramp down. So, in that sense the mentor/student burnout argument is kinda invalidated.

I think removing bag and tag will help in a few ways. First middle of the road teams can now compete with the top level teams a little closer. Second the lower level teams can be helped by the top and mid level teams a little more comfortably as everyone now has more time to work. Overall removing bag and tag to me will bring up the bottom and middle tiers of FIRST attempting slightly to close the performance gap.

F4 did its 1st episode on Bag and Tag and I recommend everyone check it out. Its a little rough since it was the first episode ever but some good opinions and ideas were presented.

+1 to Allen and Mike’s comments about leveling the playing field by reducing the need to build a 2nd bot and one robot teams getting more practice time.

The main advantage I see for unlimited robot access, is to educate students that the design process involves continuous improvement. This is something that is currently missing from our program.

To FIRST:
Give it a try. Get feedback.
If it doesn’t work out, do something different the year after.

I am still not sure what the first bunch of questions meant. It looks like the only thing that everyone agrees on is that the survey was very poorly written (intentionally or not).

A couple of points that no one has made about stop build day and “fairness”.

  1. Not all teams get the same build time with a stop build day.I know that with the team I have mentored the most during the last ten years, the school has been our biggest enemy. Many times we were not allowed to work due to school holidays, lack of teacher support, etc. Eliminating stop build day would allow more time to work, and less stress on mentors.
  2. Not all teams abide by stop build day.
    The dirty little secret that no-one wants to bring up. I know for a fact that some teams ignore stop build day (one such team was on the winning alliance at at least one event). Don’t flame me for bringing it up, I know that it happens. This causes a disadvantage to teams that comply with the rules

To address the original post:

Survey poorly written - yep.
FIRST will make whatever conclusion they want from the data - maybe.

Now, my color commentary: I think a lot of newer folks don’t realize the bag and tag is a vestige of the time where we all had to crate up our robots on what used to be termed “Ship Day” and they would sit in some drayage location until whatever competition was next. This was a practice that came about to ensure fairness among teams that might be 5 miles or 500 miles from their competition. With the increasing amount of teams, FIRST decided to test out bag-and-tag and put the onus on teams to get their robot to competitions rather than leaning on FedEx to donate even more free shipping (except for championship, and all the other exceptions listed in the administrative manual). Without crates, bags were put in place to simulate the same locking up.

Some more resource-laden teams figured out that with the robot shipped off, it’d be good to have a 2nd robot to use for testing, practice, and upgrades. Other teams caught on, and then there was the “arms” race.

That being said, I’ve talked with newer teams that only build one robot, and they are motivated to build a 2nd robot because “all the good teams do that” and they recognize the advantage of still being able to do development after the first robot is made inaccessible.

Is it good that younger teams are striving to be like more established teams by developing business plans to achieve those goals of obtaining more resources? Yes. Could the efforts and resources be better spent not building a 2nd robot? Possibly.

It’s a very complex issue, but I did find Cory’s post about how bag and tag doesn’t really affect how they go about designing/testing very interesting. To his team, bag and tag is a speed bump, not a wall like it is for other teams.

:frowning:

This makes me sad. I can’t think of a worse example to set for student than this.

Never heard of it happening before, besides on complete accident (rookie team that doesn’t know to bag, etc.)

-Mike

For reference - 125’s robot was packed into 2 checked bags. The arm/shooter mechanism and the chassis were rather simple to separate (in fact, the arm was light enough to withhold entirely). From my understanding this worked pretty well. A note was left in the Pelican case with each component to prevent the TSA from opening the bag itself. This worked fairly well.

125 also shipped tools. These were done in KoP totes instead of Pelican cases, unfortunately the airlines left the tool totes on the tarmac during a rain storm leading to about 2" of standing water in them. If bringing things by air please consider putting anything that would be negatively impacted by being submerged in water for a long time in a bag.

How ironic.

+1