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:
- 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
- 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).