[FRC Blog] The 2021 Season

Posted on the FRC Blog, 8/5/2020: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/blog/2021-season

The 2021 Season

2020 AUG 05 | Written by Frank Merrick.

The FIRST staff continues to hammer away on prep for the 2021 FIRST Robotics Competition season. Here are some things you may want to know about!

2021 Robots and Game Pieces

The Power Cell is not changing, and there will be three in each team’s Kickoff Kit but none in FIRST Choice (yes, we are planning on a Kickoff Kit, FIRST Choice, and a Virtual Kit). While we are purchasing more spares per field than we did for 2020, we also plan to continue repairing Power Cells in 2021, when necessary, in the same manner as 2020. You can see details here.

Besides the rule changes announced here, we are anticipating no other substantive changes that affect robot design. This includes any changes that open the design space but keep the robot legal. For example, robot starting configuration size, extension limits, and robot weight will not change.

There are relatively minor changes to the robot section still pending, and we won’t release them until we get closer to Kickoff (e.g. roboRIO image, Driver Station software version, any new legal motors or devices, etc.). All other changes specific to gameplay will be announced at Kickoff.

It’s going to be a great game! (Again!)

2021 Rookie Criteria

For many years, a new team could only be considered a rookie if it had one (or zero) mentors with FRC experience and five (or fewer) students with FRC experience. Recognizing that occasionally experienced mentors want to pair up to undertake the significant work of starting a new team, we are changing the limit to allow a team to still be considered a rookie if it has two or fewer mentors with FRC experience. When new teams register they answer a series of questions, including questions about experienced mentor and student counts, to help make the rookie or non-rookie determination. In addition to changing the upper limit for experienced mentors, we’ve tried to make those questions clearer.

2021 Events

We recognize there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season, and as a result we are looking at a variety of scenarios for what FRC may look like in 2021. One possibility we’re considering is scaling events to minimize the number of people in one place at one time. This could mean having one-day events with smaller numbers of teams (and volunteers) at each.

Our folks in the field, such as Regional Directors and District Managers, along with our Chief Volunteers, are helping us explore this possibility, but as you can imagine there are a lot of details to work out with this option that will take time to figure out. We hope to have more details for you soon. At the latest, we will have details about the 2021 FRC Season available prior to the planned opening of team registration in mid-September.

2020 Seniors

A question has been raised about whether students who were in their last year of high school in 2020 will be able to take team positions normally restricted to pre-college students, such as Driver, in 2021. We’ve given this serious consideration and decided we will not allow that.

Some team positions, such as Driver, are restricted to high school students for good reason. FRC is designed to be a program for high school students, to inspire them to pursue interests in science and technology as adults. If we allow post-high-school students to take positions such as Driver, we would be preventing high school students on the same teams from having that experience.

I’m sure that for some of you this is yet one more disappointment in a year of disappointments, however, I do feel it is the best decision for the program is a whole. The good news is that even though you are restricted from participating in some positions, there are still many, many ways you can help your high school team, and I’m sure they would welcome you back to volunteer as an adult.

More info to come! I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!

Frank

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Some opinions:

Good. Obviously five (one whole cycle) would be ideal, but three is better than one.

 

A bit disappointing, but not so surprising. Doing small things like changing point values or rearranging field elements without making more substantial changes to the game would be a sign that the GDC “messed up” in the first place. And it’s pretty clear why they didn’t want to make substantial changes. It does seem that most CD users are disappointed with this decision though (GDC went with “very small changes”).

 

Two experienced mentors is better than one, but I still don’t see the reason for the limit in the first place. Is being a rookie team too easy that HQ needs to put restrictions on who’s allowed to be one?

 

Looking forward to seeing what ideas HQ can come up with. And glad to have an official time frame for finding out whether we actually have a season this year.

 

A hard decision to make, but probably the right one. I was originally thinking that I can’t see the problem with making an exception this one year, but now this virus will certainly affect multiple seasons. And this exception could mean teams are artificially propped up by alumni, which might cause the team to fail when the exemptions are lifted.

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Good incremental change. Kudos FIRST. Keep going in this direction.

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I’m intrigued that kickoff kits exists this year.

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I read that to mean: “‘Section 7: Game Rules: Robots’, and ‘Section 9: Robot Construction Rules’ will not change any more”, but I don’t think that rules them out of changing point values or the field, all their examples (robot starting configuration size, extension limits, and robot weight) are all directly related to the robot, not the field or the game. They could still be doing “minor changes”.

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That’s certainly a fair interpretation of what they said. I had originally read it as “there won’t be any changes to the game that will incentivize you to change your robot”. And the examples they gave for possible further changes (“roboRIO image, Driver Station software version, any new legal motors or devices, etc.”) seem to fit that description of negligible changes. Honestly I’m not sure which interpretation is correct at this point, so I guess we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of more substantial changes in case yours is correct

I wouldn’t interpret the results of this poll in favor of minor changes to mean “changes that are less than minor are unacceptable”. If anything, this poll indicates the game shouldn’t be changed all that much.

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I think I’d agree with your interpretation. It looks like 70% of responses were in favor of “very small or minor” changes and 30% were in favor of “significant or major changes”.

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“This has been a test. We now return you to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress.”

As someone who started a community rookie team without any real involved mentors (to the point where some students literally had the mentor’s firstinspires password to handle things like event preferencing and kickoff selection), and worked like crazy to win RAS at the DCMP level, treating a team with two mentors with significant amounts of FIRST experience the same as a team in our situation (one kid with one year of FRC experience + 15 complete rookies) doesn’t feel right, especially when it comes to awards like RAS, where there would be absolutely no contest between a team that spent most of their energy figuring out what exactly they should be doing, and a team that has mentors who can guide and teach the students well.

It would have been super demotivating (for us at least) to lose the award after all that work to a team who didn’t have to spend those endless hours trying to figure out the basics of running a FIRST program and all that it entails, fundraising the necessary amount to compete, and simultaneously self-teaching how to build robots.

It isn’t that being a rookie team is too easy, it’s that it’s too hard without the experience that a mentor can bring, and as such putting restrictions on it helps teams who are all new to the program still compete for those awards.

As an example – if I (someone with only 4 years of FIRST experience, compared to the folks out there with decades of experience) were mentoring a rookie team, even if all of the students were completely new, they’d have a huge leg up on any true rookie, because they wouldn’t have to ask questions such as “what’s CAD” or “what’s an outreach”, and would be able to learn stuff way faster. The current rookies on my team (who I’ve been teaching design) are significantly better designers than I was at the end of my sophomore year, because they can learn directly, while rookie teams don’t even know what questions to ask. Admittedly, part of this is due to the lack of direct technical resources out there, and FIRST’s lack of initiative to create or direct rookie teams to resources, but it still stands that those who have mentors with FIRST experience are at a /huge/ leg up compared to those who are completely new to this, and it isn’t fair to put them in the same category.

</ rambling>

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I like the implication that there are many other such positions. Well, maybe “like” isn’t the right word.

I see your point, however as a former FSM (FIRST Senior Mentor) and a team current mentor, I know the pain of trying to help rookies that simply will not accept help.

Any new rookie team can get mentorship to guide them to make educated decisions via local teams, regional teams, and online resources. I have literally begged teams to let me help them, then they show up with the KOP in pieces at the regional.

I know for a fact that the vast majority of regional directors and FSM’s reach out to rookies and struggling teams to help. Alas as they say “you can bring the horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” applies.

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what positions are you speaking of?

I think you’re vastly understating the challenges a new FRC team faces even with two involved adults who have done it before. It’s a comparable challenge, trust me. I’ve been there more than once.

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I’ve also seen and worked with teams like that (spent the offseason reaching out to half the rookies in PNW to connect them with programs that would prevent them from going through the struggles that we did), but I still think that, in the case of teams who don’t have help who work their a**es off to find resources and scrape by, they shouldn’t be competing for awards with mentors who have decades of FIRST experience. Also – re: online resources and local teams, they’re amazingly helpful (though often incomplete in what they cover in the case of instructional videos and presentations), but only if you know the right questions to ask, and definitely don’t compare to having direct mentorship.

Human player, I guess… Question box stander…

Perhaps, but I’d 100% argue that at least technically, it’s way way easier for students to learn when they have directly involved mentors to teach them (source: I’ve seen kids on my team learn at least 10x faster learning from me than I did learning from the internet)

the only member of the drive team that can be a non-high school aged person is the coach. it’s in the game manual. is that what you want to change?

Don’t sleep on the question box stander - that kid can easily make or break your season.

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Getting any change right requires lots of thought and review. If I were FIRST, I would make the same decision not to change anything given (a) we have several weeks of competition worth of evidence that the game is pretty good as-is, (b) the odds that you’d invest lots of effort changing things for a season that doesn’t happen are >>0.

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