[FRC Blog] Stop Build Day in 2019 and 2020

Posted on the FRC Blog, 11/13/18: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/blog/2019-sbd-2020

Stop Build Day in 2019 and 2020

Written by Frank Merrick, 2018 NOV 13.

The *FIRST *Robotics Competition community has been discussing the pros and cons of our traditional Stop Build Day for several years. This discussion has also been occurring within *FIRST *Headquarters.

Approximately one year ago, we started looking at Stop Build Day through an Equity and Inclusion lens. This brought into focus key elements of the discussion that pushed us towards a more complete evaluation of the practice. The *FIRST *staff thoroughly reviewed a wide variety of options in handling Stop Build Day and made a proposal that was accepted by FIRST Senior Management. This proposal was then presented to the Steering Committee of the *FIRST *Board of Directors, which includes Dean, and was accepted by them last month.

Here is the change we are instituting:

  • For the 2019
    *FIRST *Robotics Competition Season, we will continue to have our traditional Stop Build Day on February 19, 2019.
  • Starting with the 2020
    *FIRST *Robotics Competition Season, Stop Build Day will be retired.

‘Retiring’ Stop Build Day in 2020 means teams will no longer be required to stop work on their competition robots on a set date in February.

We are waiting until 2020 to institute this change to give current teams a year to plan. We also recognize it is likely many teams have already made significant plans around the traditional six-week build season for 2019.

We see this change as being part of our commitment to making the program more accessible and flexible for all participants:

  • Retiring Stop Build Day creates a more equitable program for teams globally by allowing for greater flexibility to accommodate for seasonal events outside of the team’s control, including regional/cultural holidays, school vacations, and extreme weather. This change is intended to remove barriers for participation for students and mentors in many parts of the world.
  • Approximately half of all *FIRST *
    Robotics Competition teams choose to build a second robot to allow for practicing and additional development between Stop Build Day and Competition, which can be a significant or prohibitive cost to teams; Removing Stop Build Day gives these teams an opportunity to cut their material costs.
  • Under-resourced teams without the financial ability to build a second robot now have a greater opportunity to use their existing resources. The mandated six-week build season was an institutional barrier to their success. We are striving to provide equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

Also, retiring Stop Build Day puts teams fully in charge of their own build season between the January Kickoff and their competition – giving mentors and students more flexibility in project planning to achieve their goals while maintaining other important priorities (i.e., work, family, school).

  • All teams have the *opportunity *
    to use this flexibility to improve how they manage time, costs, and other resources during the build season. No team is *required *to make any changes to their build season—you can still focus your build effort over six weeks if that works best for your team.

We recognize this is a significant change, and the community will have detailed questions. We don’t yet have all the details worked out, but please review the Questions and Answers document here. If you have additional questions or comments, please add them in the ‘comments’ section below. We expect to expand on the Questions and Answers document as we see what additional questions the community has.

Please remember, this change is for the **2020 **season, not the upcoming 2019 season.

Frank

Very active discussion in the community strikes again

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Hey Wil, The Retired Mentor Forum is on G+.

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Under-resourced teams without the financial ability to build a second robot now have a greater opportunity to use their existing resources. The mandated six-week build season was an institutional barrier to their success. We are striving to provide equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

This. Stop build day has the greatest effect the bottom half of teams who can’t afford a practice bot.

Approximately half of all FIRST Robotics Competition teams choose to build a second robot to allow for practicing and additional development between Stop Build Day and Competition

Regardless of my own thoughts on this change (which are very complex, not fully formed, and not especially positive), I find this data point very hard to believe as a point of justification for the change. Anyone know where this originated from, who was surveyed, and what level of completion constitutes a “second robot?” in FIRST’s eyes? My anecdotal experience would put this number around 10% at very most, if we’re considering full-fledged practice robots comparable in scope and resource utilization to a competition bot.

I think there are valid arguments in favor of removal of the bag, but “half of FIRST has a huge advantage because they can do a second robot” has never felt like one to me, speaking as someone who has been on teams where a second robot was laughably out of reach, and later on teams where it was attempted with marginal successes but later assessed not to be worth the resource sink. This always seemed to me to be one of many things maybe one or two hundred really good teams were doing to help them be really good, and that they’d be really good independent of whether or not the built two robots, not a widespread problem directly responsible for performance disparity among roughly half of teams.

My hope is that we see fewer sporadically functioning boxes on wheels.

I have to say that this post and accompanying Q&A (to say nothing of the hour+ long live stream from the director) show a massive amount of thoughtfulness not only to the change at hand, but how the change positively impacts the mission and strategic vision of FIRST. This was so carefully planned, thoughtfully executed, and emotionally genuine, (so you know no one above Frank had any hand in writing it out :wink: ).

But seriously…
I do not know if Frank knows who I am but I want him to know that I and others really appreciate the work that he and his team did on this. It clearly was a herculean effort to build the necessary consensus among some pretty titanic stakeholders, and involved consulting many different groups of senior leaders across the FIRST-verse. Not to pull this particular dead body out of the ground, but this is the kind of work that so clearly was not done in the months leading up to the decision FIRST announced back in April of 2015.

I also want to point out that a lot of the language and sentiments expressed by Frank echo not only the paper Jim wrote a while ago, but also this specific presentation Allen Gregory gave 2 years ago. I also want to bring back what initially changed my mind on it, this very large thread started by Brandon Holley back in 2013.

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With a 50% number I think this is based more on a “you do some kind of testing on a second platform”, which many more teams do with an old drive base and maybe a test manipulator. I don’t remember the wording anymore but memory from survey questions about second robots had us answering yes to some when literally all we did was testing encoder and some drive practice on an old frame.

In the past, I would have agreed with you, but over the past year or two I’ve been surprised at the number of younger teams in my area who I would have never expected would have had the resources to build two robots, actually manage to build two robots. Granted, they might not be perfectly identical but more than enough to get some practice in.

I suspect the advent of inexpensive, high-functional, easy to assemble COTS basic chassis (like the KOP chassis, or the Vex Versachassis) have made it far easier for more teams to build multiple robots, since a major part of the build (the chassis) can now be done far faster and easier than previously.

Teams just like you in 2016 from the end of year survey that teams take.

Our team is pretty “middle of the pack”. In 11 seasons, we’ve never won a regional, or even been a finalist. We’ve only won ONE technical award (unless you count creativity, which I don’t, or EI, which we won not for our robot, but for forming a team from 4 separate high schools on a tiny rock). In the past 5 years or so, we’ve typically gotten to QFs and lost - I think we got to SFs once or twice - most typically as a first pick of a lower-ranked alliance (5th-8th). We go to one or two regionals (depending on whether we can afford the travel) every year. Only went to worlds once, in 2010, when we won EI.

We have built a practice bot since, I believe, 2013 (maybe 2012). But maybe not in 2014, I don’t remember that year, we pretty much sucked that year. Definitely every year from 2015-2018. An actual, functioning, pretty-close-to-our-comp-bot, practice bot - not just a drive train or stripped-down version. Only difference is that some years it’s finished earlier than others, and we have more practice/programming time with it.

I think there are a lot of teams like us. (But there’s a perception fallacy that says I will assume that more teams are like us, than really are, so I’m sure my estimate is high. Still, believe me, it’s not just the top-tier teams that are building practice bots.)