[FRC Blog] Event Preferences – Some Questions, Answered

Posted on FRC Blog, 8/24/17 https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/blog/Event-Preferences-Some-Questions-Answered

Event Preferences – Some Questions, Answered
Written by Frank Merrick


Last week, we blogged about the upcoming shift to a preference model, away from first-come-first-served, for FIRST Robotics Competition team event assignment.

A few folks asked some questions. I tried to consolidate. Answers are below.

When will closing times for preference submission be?

Closing times will be Noon Eastern. This time will ensure our full IT, team support, and FRC staff are available to deal with any issues that may arise. This time also allows us to run the preference process shortly after closing, once again checking for issues before the planned release of the assignment to teams.

Teams will have a full seven days to enter their preferences. As we’ve said before, the best way to ensure you are on time is to plan to be early. With teams in 26 countries for the 2017 season, it’s not possible for us to pick a time that is convenient for everyone. If you would prefer a midnight (your local time, I’m assuming) deadline, you may want to consider setting that as the internal deadline for your team the midnight before the absolute deadline from FIRST.

Also, please remember you can adjust your preferences as many times as you wish until the deadline, without penalty. You could submit a preliminary list shortly after the preference window opens to ensure you don’t miss the deadline completely, then adjust if necessary before the window closes.

Doesn’t this mean local teams may get locked out of events they need to attend?

This is unlikely. We know some teams have only one or a small number of events they can attend for financial or other reasons. We want to make sure those teams get into the events they need.

Just as in prior seasons, Regional Directors and District Management will be able to reserve slots at events. These reserved slots won’t be part of the automated assignment process. The intent of these reserved slots is to accommodate later registering teams and those needing access to that particular event. We occasionally go to extreme lengths, including expanding event capacity or asking better-resourced teams already registered at the event to relocate, to fit these teams in.

Teams will have full control over which, how many, and in what priority events are added to their preference lists. If you truly can only go to a single event, you should put just that event on your list, and you are guaranteed to at least be waitlisted for that event. If you are waitlisted for the event after the assignment process is run, you should then reach out to your Regional Director or District Management explaining your situation and ask to be moved into the event. If you have a clear and compelling reason why you can only attend that one event, they will do their best to accommodate you.

Conversely, you should put as many events on your preference list that you are able and interested in attending. This increases the chance that you will get registered for an event when the event assignment process is run and you can avoid the delay and uncertainty associated with waitlists.

**To which events does this process apply?
This process applies only to District and Regional events. FIRST Championship and District Championships already have rules for qualification and FIRST Championship has a weighted randomization process for the waitlist.

Also, this does not change the rules for which teams can go to which events and the timing of sign-ups. As an example, District teams still won’t be able to register for Regionals until unrestricted registration opens.

Will we know our lottery number?

No. Each team that submits first round preferences will receive a unique random number from a very large pool (think at least 1 million numbers) after the first registration period closed but before the assignment process is run. The assignment process will then be run from the smallest number to the largest, processing each team in turn. Every team will come out of their turn either being assigned or waitlisted to an event, and teams will be notified of their results.

Teams assigned a lottery number during that first preference period retain that number for the second round. Teams that did not submit a preference list during the first round but did submit during the second round will receive their lottery number after the second preference period closes but before the second round assignment process is run. These teams, too, are assigned a unique random number from the large pool, so the lottery number for these teams will be scattered among those already assigned from the first round. The assignment process will be run again, this time from largest lottery number to the smallest.

Keep in mind that for both rounds, all teams will be able to identify a single event at which they would like to be waitlisted if there are no available slots at any of their preferenced events. This waitlist event can be any one of the events they have preferenced.

We had considered a scheme that would pre-assign lottery numbers to all possible FRC teams before preference submissions opened, but it created additional complexity in an already complex system. Under the current plan, we could only tell teams their lottery numbers after first registration is complete, and these would not include lottery numbers from late registering teams. This raises questions of how valuable knowing your lottery number would truly be to you, and what level of resources FIRST should divert to putting this feature in place and answering the questions that will inevitably follow.
Are home events still a thing for some Districts?**

Yes, Michigan and PNW will still be doing home event registration this season. Every Michigan and PNW team will be assigned a home event, and just as in prior years, when they register for their initial event, they will find it very easy to get into their assigned home events, and more difficult to get into non-home events. More details will follow on this aspect of registration later.

More Information

We will have more information coming out in later weeks.


Will we know our lottery number?


That’s unfortunate. I know that knowing our number would likely influence our preference list, especially for the second round.

Edit: After reading more closely, I am confused. We get our number after the preferences for the first round are locked in?

It wouldn’t surprise me if some teams tried to do some social engineering to figure out what numbers they had in a general range by finding out other team’s lottery numbers who also applied to the same events.

I read this as meaning the terms “assigned” and “received” in the context of this blog post mean “on some server behind the scenes”, and that the short answer of “No” applies to the question of whether teams will know their numbers both before and after the first round.

It would be nice if there was some transparency regarding lottery numbers. I don’t see a reason not to provide some information on where teams fall in the lottery, even if it’s just something vague like “in the first 20-30% of teams in the first round”.

The way the events look like they’re going to schedule out again up here it really would be very useful to know where we stand.

One potentially dumb reason I see not to share the number is logistics. It would just be one more thing FIRST would have to display in TIMS or email. And we all know what happens when FIRST tries to updates their systems and relay information to teams. So, for a trivial* matter such as this, I see why they may not want to set that up.

*I too would like to know the lottery numbers and am always for transparency but I do have trust that this system will be followed and I think we can live without knowing

Perhaps I’m missing something here, but for purposes of ranking your preferences, does your lottery number matter? Sure, if you know you’re at the top of the list you might stop after one or two entries, but wouldn’t they be the same one or two entries whether at the top or bottom of the list?

If somehow it does matter for your second pick (which I can almost see), you should be able to bound your lottery number if either you or others were denied your top priority.

Better to lock in a slot in a less popular event than to sit on a wait-list forever. Same deal with 2nd event registration, since you should be able to see how many spots remain after round 1 and make a reasonable guess about your chances depending on your ranking.

They get some points for “fairness” with the new system, but missed a huge change to make a more transparent process and improve the team experience.

In the first blog post, it says that the system will check the entire submitted list for events with openings before attempting to waitlist the team, so it doesn’t really matter whether you know your lottery number or not. You can just list more events if you’re afraid of being waitlisted.

At least for round one, I still don’t see any difference. You can specify as many events as you want before the wait-list preference.

Again, even for the second round, I fail to see how your priority would change your preferences. Just plain rank your actual preferences! If they’re already booked, you won’t get them, and they’ll work down your list until they find something on your list that’s available. If nothing on your list is available, they go to our waitlist preference. Everything is driven by your priority list. Why would your priority/preference be different at a different point in the process, given that you have no information as to who has already been selected for each event? ??? ???

Edit: we have never done multiple in-season events, so again maybe I’m missing something. While I get that the stakes are higher, how is selecting a priority list for regoinal/district events fundamentally different than for the priority rounds of FirstChoice?

It sounds like you only get waitlisted if all of the events on your priority list are full. So being at the top of the waitlist to your preferred event may be better than registering for a lower priority event. Or take the opposite approach if you know you have a high number and make a long list.

Past that, I agree it doesn’t matter as much for single event teams, but those are a small minority now. If you know historical event preferences, you can make a pretty informed guess about what events will fill and when, which can help determine a better registration strategy.