[FRC Blog] Software Downloads and Administrative Manual Release

http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc/blog-Software-Downloads-Administrative-Manual-Release

We want to tell you about some software downloads that are available to you right now that can help you be ready for Kickoff.

First, in an effort to help you get up and running after Kickoff as quickly as possible, here are instructions to on how to download and install the programming environments for 2015 in LabVIEW and C++/Java.

As a reminder, these downloads are only for the general programming environments. The 2015 FRC specific plug-ins will be made available, encrypted, prior to Kickoff. Watch the blog for more!

Second, this year we’ve moved in a different direction with the way we distribute the Manual to teams. Along with the FIRST Lego League, we’ve partnered with Adobe to use their Digital Publishing Suite to create and distribute the Manual. For now, there are two ways you can get the 2015 Administrative Manual, by downloading the PDF or by downloading the “FIRST Official” app available on both iOS and Android. We’ll roll out the iPad app first to confirm functionality, then the Android and iPhone versions. We’re also working with Adobe to implement a content viewer to replace the online viewing option of the frc-manual.usfirst.org page used for the last few years.

Some Key Changes in the Administrative Manual

I’ll admit that normally the Admin Manual isn’t exactly a page turner, but we’ve got some new stuff this year, some changes more serious, some more intended to get rid of nuisances for teams.

On the serious side –

Please see Section 6.4. Chairman’s Award presentations may now be up to seven minutes long, but total time with the judges will still max out at 10 minutes, so please keep in mind a longer presentation likely means less time for direct judge interaction. Also, we are eliminating the Chairman’s feedback form. We’ve heard from teams that many do not find them helpful – some teams even complaining that they addressed all the issues the judges raised on their last feedback form, but still were not selected. This suggests a ‘checkbox’ approach to the award, which is not what we are looking for at all. You will find a subtle change in the manual that is an attempt to start addressing this – instead of saying teams ‘win’ the award, we now say teams ‘earn’ the award, which is closer in spirit to our beliefs about this most prestigious of all FRC awards.

We recognize, though, that it is still valuable for teams to understand how they did in comparison to others. So, for the first time, we are asking teams that earn the Chairman’s Award at events to later share their Chairman’s video, along with a video of a practice presentation, with FIRST, so we may post it publicly. In addition to these videos, we will be posting the written submissions these teams made. We know we have not asked teams to record their presentations before, but we hope teams earning this award would be eager to share their presentations with others, so all can benefit. The practice presentation videos do not need to be edited to add titles or any other embellishments – a straight single camera shot capturing the practice presentation is fine. Teams should plan to capture their practice presentation before or after the presentation they make to the judges, not during. Taken together, these three elements – Chairman’s video, presentation video, and written submission - should give aspiring teams a good idea of ‘what it takes’.

Also please take a look at Section 6.6. We are taking a related approach to Dean’s List interviews this year as we are with Chairman’s. Interview time is being extended to be up to seven minutes long, up from five minutes maximum last year. Also, Judges will not be providing written feedback. In place of written feedback from judges, a mentor of the student will be allowed to be present to silently witness the interview. The mentor can then provide feedback on the interview skills of the student at a later time. As mentors know the student better than the judges do, we feel this feedback is potentially more valuable.

On the less serious side –

Team banners. Check out Section 4.12.4. We’re removing the restriction - which honestly had been sometimes loosely enforced, depending on event - preventing you from hanging them in the arena. Have fun, show your pride, but be safe and respectful.

And my personal favorite on the less serious side- check out Section 4.2.2 about robot carts, specifically this bullet point:

Do not add music or other sound-generating devices to the cart, with the exception of devices of reasonable volume intended to be activated occasionally to make others in the direct vicinity aware that a robot is on the move for safety purposes

Reading between the lines – you can stop yelling ‘Robot’ to let others know you have a robot on the move. Please. And you can go nuts with adding sounds to your carts for safety purposes. As long as you go nuts in a controlled, responsible way.*

Frank

*Please think less air raid siren, more cowbell. We don’t want this change to lead to new nuisances. Any sounds you add should be just loud enough to get the job done, without being annoying.

Noteable items:

  • Teams will no longer recieve Chairman’s or Dean’s List Feedback forms
  • One mentor is able to watch Dean’s List interview
  • Chairman’s award winners are asked to record and post their interview presentation
  • You no longer ‘win’ awards, you ‘earn’ them.

This makes me happy.

Except now we get beeps and things. I am not sure this is any better.

Also I liked the Chairman’s feedback form, it helped us from our first event to our second. If done well I believe those forms could really help teams figure out what they are missing.

“And you can go nuts with adding sounds to your carts for safety purposes.”

This doesn’t make me happy…or at least it won’t make me happy while at the events. I know some team is going to put some stupid sound on their cart and go obnoxious with it. Also, someone take the hammer out of my hands before their “get out of the way” horn gets some much needed percussive maintenance.

Disclaimer: I have yet to read the Admin Manual.

Reaction: This is a step in the wrong direction. I get that the feedback form is flawed, but feedback is a positive thing.
Personally, I know I took great pride as both as high school student and as a mentor whenever we received feedback forms loaded with “currently strong” marks even if we didn’t win the award. I also got a lot out of the comments, both in terms of where we can improve as a team and where we can strengthen our submissions.

Transparency in terms of submissions is another issue altogether, and doesn’t really compare to the feedback forms. Requiring teams publish their submissions/presentations is not a replacement for feedback on your submission.

Also, we are eliminating the Chairman’s feedback form. We’ve heard from teams that many do not find them helpful – some teams even complaining that they addressed all the issues the judges raised on their last feedback form, but still were not selected

I really don’t like this change. Our team was brand new to Chairman’s presenting last year, and the feedback form’s comments helped our team improve in general, within Chairman’s and team structure in general. I understand that teams may be complaining about their non-selection (which really is not what a Chairman’s team should be doing, from what I understand. I read something like this in the WF Award thread, and I’ll modify it for Chairmans: A true Chairman’s team would be motivated to become a better team from seeing another team win, not grumble about losing), however, teams that are new to Chairman’s might like the feedback so they can improve their presentation and team.

A friend on facebook said it better than I ever could have:

For people who may not have seen a Chairman’s feedback form. We uploaded both of ours from last season here.

I do like the move back to a real PDF manual, that makes me happy. I was never a fan of the online system or the PDFs it produced.

Also getting rid of the banner restriction was a good call, I think that is something that should be decided venue to venue.

Something notable not in the blog post is section 4.9.2:

4.9.2 Pit Manners/Rules during the Ceremonies
■ No more than five members in an individual pit
■ Team members will not be allowed to use power tools, hammers, or other noisy tools during the ceremonies
■ All persons in the Pit should observe the code of behavior for the presentation of all national anthems:
• Maintain a respectful silence;
• Stand, facing the flag. If there is no flag, look toward the video screen showing a flag; and • Hats off please.

Is this a step in the right direction?

Wow, I mean wow! I have been saying for years that FRC needs to provide MORE feedback to the teams regarding how they are doing. Now they are taking away the only real feedback that any team gets?? This is beyond silly. FIRST, please read this and make the feedback form better. Don’t remove feedback from the system. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE change this before week 1 events.

I’m also disappointed that they’re getting rid of the feedback forms. While I never actually got my Dean’s List feedback…I really liked seeing the Chairman’s feedback, after collecting a few year’s worth, you can easily see that the team has improved each year and it’s really useful in figuring out what your team is doing right and what you need to work on. I’ll admit, the feedback isn’t always the most helpful, but taking it away entirely is not the answer.

](http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?t=115563)[size=2]Section 4.2.2. + Reading Between the Lines = A M E N !](http://www.change.org/petitions/first-stop-encouraging-teams-to-shout-robot)[/size]

Only thing new there is the 5 person limit.

More importantly, they explicitly state that more than zero people can officially be in the pit. Long overdue.

Is it just me or can you not zoom in on the iOS app for the manual? If not, that’s terrible.

And you can go nuts with adding sounds to your carts for safety purposes.
Is it too early to start the “Petition to end the sounding of robot cart sirens/horns/beepers/buzzers/alarms” thread? …

You’re absolutely right. What I quoted that I was happy about was Frank basically explicitly saying to stop yelling, not necessarily that other noise devices are being allowed. Some teams will make the effort to add a warning devices to their cart and a fraction of those teams will use them inappropriately and ruin it for everyone. However we now have something to point out to the Safety Advisers who think yelling is a good idea.

I cannot seem to find any robot display section in this manual comparable to section 5.4.3 from last year, described in this blog post from last year. Did I just miss it or does it not exist?

Also, the minimum unbag time for the robot access period is back to 2 hours after being 30 minutes last year. I wonder what prompted the switch back.

That is a good point. I would like the rule to state something along the lines of

Please be courteous while in the pit (and everywhere else for that matter). When moving your robot ask people politely if they would please move to allow you and your robot to pass. We are all in this together and everyone wants to have a great event and stay safe. Thank you for your help in this matter.

I don’t see why this is even an issue, I have never had someone not move when I asked them nicely and there should be more than one person helping move a robot cart anyway.

I know it is subtle, but I really like the change from ‘winning chairmans’ to ‘earning chairmans’. I do not feel teams should be strategizing and planning their outreach efforts to “win” an award.