[FIRST Inspire Blog] Update: 2020-2021 FIRST Season Extended

Posted on the FIRST Inspire Blog, 9/8/2020: https://www.firstinspires.org/community/inspire/2020-2021-season-extended

Dear FIRST® Community,

With the recent season kickoff of FIRST® GAME CHANGERSSM, powered by Star Wars: Force for Change , the FIRST community has rallied to support our student participants. This season, we set out to redefine the game and revolutionize the way we play and move, and that’s happening in more ways than one. Everyone at FIRST is working hard to anticipate and navigate this uncertain time to ensure we’ll be able to provide every student participant a valuable, enjoyable experience, regardless of learning environment this season.

Many of us – including educators, teams, mentors/coaches, volunteers, and partners – need additional time and flexibility to start build seasons and prepare for local and remote events. To accommodate those needs, FIRST is extending our 2020-2021 event season for all programs through the end of June 2021 and moving the 2021 FIRST Championship from April 2021 to later in the year. The new timelines for the 2021 FIRST Championship are:

  • Mid-July: Houston, Texas
  • Early-August: Detroit, Michigan

As always, we’re keeping the safety and wellbeing of our community as our top priority and will continue to evaluate the scale and viability of FIRST Championship events in the months ahead. As a result, we may need to make further adjustments to FIRST Championship, including adjusting invitation and attendance criteria to allow for event scaling. We will share more details on the 2021 FIRST Championship, including specific dates, as they become available. Read frequently asked questions about 2021 FIRST Championship.

In certain areas, FIRST Program Delivery Partners may schedule events, both remote and in-person, later in the season than a typical year as part of our season extension. Contact your local FIRST Partner for the latest information about FIRST programs in your region.

As previously announced, we’re excited to launch the FIRST Remote Event Hub this fall as an event option for FIRST® LEGO ® League and FIRST® Tech Challenge. It will make the experience as close as possible to a traditional FIRST program event for teams and volunteers, with the necessary modifications to accommodate a remote environment. Registration for those programs is open, and teams can get into the game at firstinspires.org or by contacting their local FIRST Partner. More information about the FIRST ® Robotics Competition season will be available when registration opens.

We hope that you will join us as we explore new and exciting ways to deliver our programs with your safety and wellbeing as our top priority.

Your friends at FIRST HQ

Frequently Asked Questions: 2021 FIRST Championship

What is FIRST Championship?

FIRST Championship is a culminating event hosted by FIRST for our youth robotics competition season and our annual celebration of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for the FIRST community. It brings together many of the students, mentors/coaches, educators, volunteers, sponsors, and supporters from around the world who are dedicated to the FIRST mission.

What are the new dates for the 2021 FIRST Championship?

The 2021 FIRST Championship has been rescheduled to be held in Houston, Texas in mid-July 2021 and Detroit, Michigan in early August 2021. We will share more details on the 2021 FIRST Championship, including specific dates, as they become available.

Why are the 2021 FIRST Championship dates moving?

Rescheduling FIRST Championship for later in the year allows us to extend the FIRST season and give us additional flexibility for scheduling local and remote events over a longer period of time.

What does the extended season mean for FIRST teams in each program in terms of qualifying to attend FIRST Championship?

We are in the process of evaluating the criteria for invitations to FIRST Championship for each FIRST program, to account for a potential reduction in the scale of the event. After we have additional clarity on the scope and scale of FIRST Championship, we will communicate the qualification parameters for attending the event. More information will be shared later this season.

What does the extended season mean for FIRST teams in terms of season timeline and the scheduling of other events?

This season, FIRST Program Delivery Partners may schedule local and remote FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge events to take place later than usual. Contact your local FIRST Partner for the latest information about FIRST programs in your region.

Extending the season also provides additional options for scheduling FIRST Robotics Competition events, and more information on the season schedule will be made available prior to Event Preferencing.

How many teams will be able to participate in the 2021 FIRST Championship?

The number of spots for teams for each program is dependent on many COVID-19-driven factors, including travel conditions and local regulations in place at our Championship locations next year. Due to these uncertainties, it is possible that these plans will not be finalized until a few months before the event.

What does the extended season mean for the 2021-2022 season?

We currently expect to launch the 2021-2022 season in a similar timeframe as this season.

Will the 2021 FIRST Championship be a remote event?

We do not yet know the full impact of COVID-19 on the scope and scale of FIRST Championship in 2021. We will be evaluating options for additional modifications to the event, including remote participation, as needed.

Will I still be eligible to participate if FIRST Championship or other events take place after I graduate in 2021 or my 2020-2021 school year ends?

Yes, participant eligibility will carry over to the end of August 2021 for events that occur after graduation or the end of the 2020-2021 school year.

My organization is interested in sponsoring FIRST Championship, who can I contact?

Please contact Mark Giordono, VP of Development at mgiordono@firstinspires.org or +1.603.206.2417 for more information about sponsoring FIRST Championship or supporting FIRST financially in other ways this year.

Visit our COVID-19 impact page and subscribe to the FIRST Newsletter for the latest updates.

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@marshall you absolute madman

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Registering for an event this season, with so many variables, is going to be challenging for a lot of teams to justify.

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Glad they got the info out, and very interested to hear more.

Unfortunately, I now have more questions than before.

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This feels like a total waste of time and resources.

The odds of this being safe to happen in July but not late April seem basically the same to me (any vaccine, were it to be distributed by end of Q1, which is currently the best combo of realistic and optimistic, would not be wide spread enough to enable herd immunity by that point).

Seems silly to have a championship when in all likelihood the majority of teams in the US will not get to play prior to this championship event.

Many schools don’t allow their teams to travel during summer break during a non pandemic. Certainly even fewer will now.

It further stresses teams and mentors by making an already long season even longer (with a payoff we are unlikely to realize, when its still not safe for ~10k+ people to congregate indoors).

Would rather we just get put out of our misery now and they focus on 2022 being an absolute banger (though it’s easy for me to say that as a mentor and not a student that is timeboxed in the program).

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Absolüt win for us seniors

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So I think you’re absolutely right but if I put my organizational cap on for a moment, FIRST HQ has momentum that they have to overcome to make a move that bold. I think it would have been a heck of a move if they had done it and they might yet but I doubt it. Momentum in this case is all of the feelings and anticipation of key stakeholders who aren’t the teams (probably contracts too).

Here’s to hoping 2022 is an absolute banger though…

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Houston in mid-July… best stock up now.

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“New and exciting” is certainly one way of putting it.

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So “summer CD” will now be “pre-champs CD”? Ugh.

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Already lost my junior year, don’t want to lose my senior one too. As much as my brain tells me it’s probably not gonna happen, my heart refuses to listen. I’d rather FIRST recognize this and try to buy enough time for the medicine to catch up than to just give up on us seniors who’ve already lost so much. But we’ll likely find out soon enough what ends up happening.

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In some ways, having Championships in the summer is easier than during the school year. No more studying for AP exams on the floor of the pit between matches, for example. In other ways, I’m sure it will be harder.

Obviously, this delay increases the likelihood that vulnerable people like older mentors and volunteers and people with risk enhancing medical conditions can get the vaccine before the event. If the people who are at the most risk are able to get a vaccine, we might not be as worried about an event of this magnitude and density.

I think I am happier that they are at least still trying to figure out how to have as full of an experience as possible rather than just shutting down and waiting for 2022. I recognize that it creates a difficult choice as to whether to register for the 2021 season or not for many teams having this out there as a strong ‘maybe’. Our district has already signaled that they will be moving forward with the one day event model for 2021, so we were planning to register anyway and this announcement will likely not change those plans (of course I am responding before we have met as a team to discuss this). Of course, this is my response as a mentor. It will be interesting to see what the response is from the students tonight when they get online to discuss this.

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I agree with this.

FIRST teams have 3 levels of sustainability - Students, Mentors, and Money.
By extending the season, we are putting money and mentors at risk due to mentor burnout, and more cash to keep the season going even through the risk of not playing.
By cancelling in advance, we are putting students at risk due to the time box of 4 year high school.

In my mind, FIRST has a better chance at sustainable teams and an organization overall if it just cancels the season until 2022 (its 1/3 vs 2/3 in my example above). It REALLY sucks for these current students, but we can impact more students if we keep more teams in-tact in the future

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More information will definitely be out soon, but all the planning committees are currently having to have a few different plans in place and anyone of them can be thrown out the window any moment. So it looks like FIRST is still holding off on announcements as they wait for schools to stat back up, and how the landscape of the world changes around.
I can tell you RPC have been doing a lot of work right now.

I think for some of the factors you noted, it can also go the other way.
I for one think there is less mentor burnout if the season is extended. I like being able to focus on robots now somewhat, without telling my kids I wont see them for 2-5 months. I feel a much better balance now.
Momentum is also a key factor in sustainability, and keeping kids engaged and in the program, is a challenge now. Kids dont want to miss out yet again.
However, for the reasons you have noted, I can agree to that also. Its an opportunity cost and no-win situation no matter what is decided.

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Ignoring champs for a moment… a 17-ish week competition season has some big benefits, but also some big risks.

The biggest benefit is flexibility. Events in May and June, even in northern states, can be run in more open venues. Having air moving through the venue naturally (large open windows or garage doors) could help disperse any potential Covid infected particles, providing a safer event than one that’s completely enclosed - especially large sports arenas where there aren’t any vents terribly near the pits/field.

The biggest risk is conflicts with other events. Running an event during AP tests, or finals, or graduation could be a big problem. Running later events runs the risk of losing seniors or other members to summer activities. This really presents a discussion that teams need to have. You can’t just blindly sign up for the same event you’ve always signed up for!

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Glenn,

To be fair, 359 is known to spend way more time in the shop than most teams. Other teams, 1678 included, do not operate with a high burnout schedule each season.

-Mike

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To add to this, we rely on experienced students passing along their knowledge to the newer students. Our “camps” are always run by the students with the students doing the instructing. If we lose not one, but two years of experience, we will start to run out of experienced students to conduct those student run camps. I’m afraid that if that were to occur, we will lose a lot of our knowledge and experience base as a team.

The mentors could and can step in to fill that void. But historically, the mentors have not been able to transfer the same energy and zeal that has been transferred from one generations of students to another. If we lost the 2021 season, I think our team’s momentum would probably take a significant hit and we would probably have to go through another multi-generational momentum building cycle to get back to where we were when 2020 was shut down.

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