[FRC Blog] FIRST Choice - Update for 2015

Posted on the FRC Blog, 10/16/14: http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc/blog-FIRST-Choice-Update-for-2015

FIRST Choice - Update for 2015

**Blog Date: **Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 15:59

This blog post is from Kate Pilotte and her Kit of Parts colleagues.

I’ll start with a general introduction of what we mean when we talk about the “Kit of Parts” (KOP). The KOP is a term that’s evolved to mean “goods we obtain from companies on behalf of, and provide to, FRC Teams.” These items then get to you, our customers, via three different methods:

  1. the Kickoff Kit: items that we pack in totes (mostly in totes, there are typically exceptions for late or big items) and distributed to Teams at local Kickoff sites. There are two permutations of this – one set of items that go to all Teams and a second container that goes to 1st year, aka “Rookie,” Teams
  2. the Virtual Kit: items donated by Suppliers, but don’t actually come to *FIRST *
    for redistribution. Custom orders (like Bimba cylinders), software downloads, and Product Donation Vouchers all fit this category.> 1. FIRST Choice…

*FIRST *Choice is hosted by our friends at AndyMark (for free!) and consists of an online menu of items available to 2015 FRC Teams. Its purpose is to make available a variety of valuable items that Suppliers cannot provide in volumes to support the Kickoff Kits. Instead, Teams use a limited number of credits to pick and choose the items they prefer. Because of the limited inventory, we typically run out of popular items, but we’d rather make a variety of items available than none at all.

Since its inception, the ordering process for *FIRST *Choice used a “first come, first served” model. While this is a straightforward and simple concept, users have to be ready and waiting once the site goes live in order to maximize their chance of getting their preferred items. This can be inconvenient and frustrating, and we received feedback expressing that sentiment. In the spirit of continuous improvement, we’ll be adding a process before traditional ordering goes live that we hope will improve the experience.

The “first come, first served” process will still be in place after the site opens for the traditional *FIRST *Choice ordering system – and we’re happy to announce that the site will go live for traditional *FIRST *Choice orders at noon (Eastern Time) on Saturday, December 6, 2014.

Before that, however, we’ll open *FIRST *Choice for item previews (“window shopping”) and invite registered Teams to submit a Priority List, sorted by item preference. The Priority List is optional. Teams not submitting a Priority List before the deadline of noon (Eastern Time) on Wednesday, December 3, 2014, will only be able to participate in the traditional “first come, first served” process starting December 6, 2014.

The Priority List process, illustrated in more detail here, is more complex than first come, first served, but we hope that what it lacks in simplicity, it makes up for in user experience and satisfaction. In summary, Teams have the opportunity during the window shopping timeframe to add items to a Priority List and prioritize them.

Each Priority List, one per Team, submitted by the deadline will be assigned a random rank. The order in which individual teams submit their Priority Lists before the deadline does not affect their rank. All Teams submitting their lists by the deadline are put in a common pool and then randomly sequenced. This is what we mean by ‘random rank’. Then, in rank order, AndyMark’s auto draft system will query the Team’s number one item and, provided the Team has the credits and *FIRST *Choice has the inventory, issue that item to that Team. Once it gets to the last ranked Priority List, the draft system will query that last Priority List’s number two item and work its way back up the ranks (for Teams that know how we’ve done Alliance Selection in the past, this serpentine process probably seems familiar). This draft continues until inventory’s gone or Priority Lists have been exhausted. Inventory will be updated for when *FIRST *Choice opens for traditional “first come, first served” live orders on December 6 at noon Eastern Time.

So, what happens if a Priority List’s item is out of stock or a Team doesn’t have sufficient credits? The draft system will go to the next item on that Team’s Priority List.

A few other notes about the process:

  • Priority Lists will be created using the Priority List feature on AndyMark’s *FIRST *
    Choice site.> - Login information will be posted to each Team’s TIMS account.
  • Only registered FRC Teams will see their login information in TIMS and thus only registered FRC Teams will be eligible to submit a Priority List.
  • Shipping charges will apply (details to be posted on firstchoicebyandymark.com before Priority Lists are due), and credit card information must be provided upon submission of the Priority List. For international Teams, additional charges may apply, for which the Team is responsible and AndyMark will address on a case by case basis.
  • After Teams submit their Priority List, they will receive a confirmation email from AndyMark that the Priority List has been received.
  • AndyMark will maintain a public list of Teams from whom they’ve received Priority Lists on their site.
  • Priority Lists are saved each time a change is made, letting teams add/subtract and reprioritize at their leisure before they submit it, but submitting the Priority List to AndyMark is an irreversible step.
  • We will not publicly publish Teams’ Priority Lists, the assigned rankings, or final order contents.
  • Items will not ship until a Team has secured first event registration payment with *FIRST *
    (please allow at least one business day for this transaction to be processed and the status to be relayed to AndyMark).>

So, the timeline for *FIRST *Choice is as follows (all events happen at noon, EST):

  • 11/25/14 *FIRST *
    Choice login information is live in TIMS.> *FIRST *Choice opens for window shopping & credit allotments published.
  • 12/03/14 Team Priority Lists due
  • 12/05/14 AndyMark notifies each Team of their draft results
  • 12/06/14 FIRST Choice opens for traditional live orders
  • 04/17/15 FIRST Choice closes

AndyMark will be testing this process next month and will need an army of volunteer beta testers. If you’re interested in beta testing, please fill out the form.

I’d like to take this opportunity to also thank AndyMark for their commitment to improving the *FIRST *Choice experience. The new draft system is the result of a collaborative effort between AndyMark and us, and we’re grateful for their constructive advice and of course the donation of hosting *FIRST *Choice.

If you have any questions about this process, please feel free to ask in the comments below or post them to the *FIRST *Choice Forum](http://forums.usfirst.org/forumdisplay.php?1572-2015-FIRST-Choice).

Wow. This will be very interesting.

I just want FIRST choice to open on the date they set and not have it pushed back.

Addresses all my issues from last year

  • Don’t have to hit at screen hitting refresh 5000 times on a Saturday
  • No server overloads
  • Fair chance for all via random ranking
  • Everyone gets a high priority item first (hopefully all get their first choice fulfilled, but I can see where this isn’t guaranteed)

My only suggestion is to have an algorithm to “satisfy the most teams” which would maximize the top picks all teams get. Not an easy one to write I admit, but it would be interesting to see test runs of random order vs. maximizing top picks.

Whatever happens, I, and my team, greatly appreciate the opportunity to get free materials.

And we love that AndyMark is doing what they can to provide us a storefront to choose those materials.

In the past two years we’ve used every FIRSTChoice item either on our robot or in our workshop.

If the process becomes more “fair” for all teams, all the better.

Looks like they will go until ALL of your money is spent. It looks like you should put everything you want on the list, even if it exceeds your FIRST Choice dollars.

If it goes the way I think it will the FC larder will be empty at the end.

I had suggested a similar plan, but I also had an item limit, so that there would be some for later teams.

I read it twice, but did it state when window shopping will be open?

11/25/14 FIRST Choice login information is live in TIMS.
FIRST Choice opens for window shopping & credit allotments published.

11/25 at noon ET.

This is simply great, a HUGE leap forward.

Clearly they heard your message.

My interpretation, which certainly could be wrong, is that this system does impose limits on a particular item.

The way I see this working is that each line is a single item. So if you want 4 Widgets as your most important item and 2 Turbo Encabulators as your second choice your list looks like this.

  1. Widget
  2. Widget
  3. Widget
  4. Widget
  5. Turbo Encabulator
  6. Turbo Encabulator

So before you get your second Widget every other team has received their first round item and those lower on the list have received their second round item.

So if there are 1000 Widgets and a lot of the teams have decided that is a must have item then your chance of getting your second Widget is low and your third or fourth would be very unlikely.

Again I could be wrong, but that is my interpretation of how the system will work.

The linked flow chart shows a step to check the quantity of the current item/line in the priority list against the current stock. So it appears it supports more than one of an item per line in the priority list. They don’t state a limit on this quantity, though there is also the upper cap imposed by your credit balance.

I assumed you could ask for a quantity like you could last year. It makes sense to have that, for example I’d like the new “AM Spider-Man Wheels” for my 6 wheel drive base:

Team 6666
6 - AM Spider Man Wheels
2 - Vexpro Cat Shifter
1 - Gizmo
1 - A different Gizmo
4 - CIM Coolers

I’d want to order all six at one time, that way if I don’t get them I can plan on something else. Going 6 rounds and only getting 5 wheels would be annoying.

I guess we will wait and see what it looks like in the end.

But let me be the first in 2015 to say

Parts from FIRST Choice are not something you paid for, they are additional free items from participating sponsors.

You paid a registration fee, which goes to registration, it does not go to the event you signed up.

Remember to write a thank you note to the vendor that supplied your FC parts and to the event committee thanking them for their hard efforts and support of FIRST FRC.

This is a great vast improvements over previous years and I was worried about the Random rank thing until they clarified that at the end of the order we go back serpentine style. The flow chart really helped in understanding how the process would work and answered most of the questions that I had about the system.

My only dislike is there not being a hard quantity limit on items (besides number of credits), Now I am not saying that we should have a limit of not above X number of anything but every item should have its own limit assigned to it. For example standard wheels (any thing on a tank drive so Omni included) should have a hard limit of 8, while mecanum wheel sets (a left and right) should have a hard limit of 2. Basically use logic to decided the max number of an item that a team could logically need for 1 robot.

The flow chart would indicate that neither of these answers is true. You can specify n “items(s)” in each priority list slot:
Get (next) top Item on Priority List --> Does Team have sufficient credits for the item(s)?

However, if you don’t have enough credits for n items, you get some x items you can afford:
[No] --> Does Team have sufficient credits for at least one? Yes–> Determine max number of requested items Team can afford. --> Is the quantity available?..

(emphases mine) Still, this is great.

I find that a bit odd, I guess it will come down to how they do quantity limits and what items end up in high demand. If they had speed controllers again, lets say 200, and they did a cap at 2 per team, then only the first 100 teams that asked for them would get them. This seems like an odd system instead of having the first 200 teams all get one.

I agree. It also seems awkward for Foster’s case of requesting 6 weeks for a 6wd, and ending up with 5. It seems like anything you want a full count of needs to be high on your list (even higher than how much you actually want it, unless you’re willing to accept, e.g., a technology-push 5wd). Conversely, as you describe, items that are useful individually aren’t distributed fully by the system.

Complicated problem we’ve got here. I’m glad they’re taking steps towards handling it, even if it does have some odd consequences.

Mr V posted what he thought a sample input would be

  1. Widget
  2. Widget
  3. Widget
  4. Widget
  5. Turbo Encabulator
  6. Turbo Encabulator

I changed that in my mind to

  1. AM Spider Man Wheels
  2. AM Spider Man Wheels
  3. AM Spider Man Wheels
  4. AM Spider Man Wheels
  5. AM Spider Man Wheels
  6. AM Spider Man Wheels
  7. Turbo Encabulator
  8. Turbo Encabulator

And realized that I’d need to be successful for 6 rounds to get my 6 wheels. By six rounds I’d be with people saying “hey I missed out on the expensive stuff, might as well ask for wheels”

My original proposal had a user order quantity level in it. FC would set a cap on the quantity of a given item you could order at one time. So if the order cap for AM Spider Man Wheels was 8, and a cap on Turbo Encabulaors of 1 then I’d have a order that looked like:

  1. AM Spider Man Wheels - Quantity 6
  2. Turbo Encabulator - Quantity 1
  3. Turbo Encabulator - Quantity 1

And I posted away!!

But it appears that I’m the first of the 2015 season to get a Siri Smack™ for not actually carefully reading the directions / rules / documentation.

I will cop to missing the "Does Team have sufficient credits for the item**(s)**. So assuming that means I can order more than one of a single item per round, then I can put my request for AM Spider Man Wheels in and have some hope of getting 6. Still, it means there is a possibility that I could only get 5 (or 1).

AllenGregoryIV does pose an interesting question on how / if they will put a cap on items. I’d guess that wheels will have a higher cap than 3D printers.

The flowchart does not show an item cap, other than what’s created by the team budget. I’ll need to wait for version 2 of the flowchart and carefully read it. :rolleyes:

My interpretation of item(s) is that some items are sold as a quantity of one and some items are sold in quantities of more than one. For example if I remember correctly one of the items available in previous years was a two pack of batteries. I can also see something that you need more than one of to be useful/useable, like wheels being sold as a set of 6. So you would have one part number that would be for more than one item. Again I could be wrong, that is just how I read it.

Possibly ignorant question/comment:

Under the new system, I take it teams will get advance notification on what window shopping items they actually received?

In such a case, say you wanted 6 wheels but only were able to get 5, so what, beats getting 0 (that’s only 1 wheel not 6 that needs bought). Sure, lead times and shipping delays make this a pain, but if we assume similar COTS rules going into 2015 (as per AA R13), knowing what you didn’t get, you could order said part(s) ahead of time and not have to worry about shipping delays and lead times during the season (unless there was a very severe part shortage or the like).

Just a thought.

See the original blog post: