[FRC Blog] Timeout Process (and Playoff Tournament!) Review

Posted on the FRC Blog, 6/30/2022 by Fiona Hanlon

Timeout Process (and Playoff Tournament!) Review

Written by Fiona Hanlon, FIRST Robotics Competition Team Experience Specialist

As mentioned earlier this year in our Timeout Trouble blog, we are committed to reviewing the timeout process now that the season is over. In discussing how to approach this project, we wanted to be open to ideas that may come up that expand beyond just timeouts so we are reviewing the entire playoff process.

To help us with this task, we have formed a small working group that is composed of members of the FIRST community and FIRST staff. With their permission, we wanted to share who is on the group as well as some experience they bring:

Name Location Experience
Bryan Herbst Minnesota FIRST Alum (Team 2052), • Team Mentor (Team 2052),• FIRST Technical Advisor (FTA), • FIRST in Upper Midwest Board of Directors, • Minneapolis Regional Planning Committee Member
Collin Fultz Indiana FIRST Alum (Team 234), •Game Design Lead, • FIRST Robotics Competition Senior Program Manager
Eric Stokely Washington • Team Mentor (Team 360 and 5295), • Woodie Flowers Award Winner, • Volunteer,• FIRST Senior Mentor
Fional Hanlon New Hampshire FIRST Alum (Team 1011), • Team Mentor (previously Team 1011 & 498 and now Team 238), • FIRST Robotics Competition Team Experience Specialist
Hasan Bilgin Istanbul, Turkey • Team Mentor (Team 6064), • FTA, • Technical Coordinator for Fikret Yuksel Foundation
Jared Russell California FIRST Alum (Team 341), • Software, Robot Architecture, and Strategy Mentor (previously Team 341 and now Team 254)
Karthik Kanagasabapathy Ontario, Canada FIRST Alum (Team 188), • Longtime mentor (Team 1114) focusing on strategy and analytics, • Emcee, • and now working for FIRST Canada
Kate Pilotte New Hampshire • Game Design Lead, • FTA, • FIRST Robotics Competition Senior Kit of Parts Manager
Liz Smith Indiana FIRST Alum (Team 555), • Team Mentor (Team 3940), • FTA, • Longtime volunteer
Marshall Massengill North Carolina FIRST Alum (Team 900), • Team Mentor (Team 900), • Volunteer
Melissa Smith California FIRST Alum (Team 1251), • Head Referee, & • FIRST Board of Directors Member
Troy Douglas New York FIRST Alum (Team 270), • Team Mentor (Team 1468), • Head Referee, • Volunteer across all programs & • most recently Program Delivery Partner (PDP) for FIRST LEGO League Challenge for FIRST Long Island

As you can see, these volunteers bring a lot of experience, and we are focused on creating a solution that works best for all involved parties. We are so thankful for this group’s time and effort and we will share more information as we finalize a plan in the fall.

Note from me: edited the table to be less janky. Bullet points and tables don’t mix well with copy and paste, it seems.


Would have liked to see @AllenGregoryIV on this list but overall looks like a great group of people that I have faith will come up with some good suggestions that hopefully FIRST will use.

EDIT: Would have also liked to see a rep from MI.


does anyone think that it would be a good idea for an alliance captain to be given a challenge card in playoffs that can be used 1 time to challenge a potential play for video review, if the call was overturned you get to keep it otherwise you lose it similar to football, i would not want this in qualification only playoffs when everything is on the line.


This is exactly the group of people I want tackling this issue. Those I know personally are great to be in the discussion, and the others have – what we used to call – a reputation beyond repute. image

This group brins together people with vastly different roles in the process, which I think is awesome. Liz’s main volunteer role is FTA while Melissa’s is normally head ref – so bases are covered there from gameplay and team interaction. Kate, Collin, and Fiona are designing the games and determining staffing plans for the events, a critical perspective. Karthik’s vantage point as an MC and person-who-has-been-around-the-block can help address some of the spectator/event experience concerns associated with proposals to change rules in this space. The mentors of the group will ensure some team voices are represented. And all the others, I’m sure have a unique vantage point, too.

Kudos to FIRST not only for tackling this issue head on and not only picking an all star group of folks to do it, but giving us an eye into their process! I’m very hopeful that when we see the outcome of this workgroup, we’ll get some insight into the options weighed and process and not just a black box final decision.


Having worked with most of these individuals in some official capacity in the past (and being fortunate to call a few good friends), I can say with full confidence that they are some of the best in FIRST. I trust this group to produce some great results, and know that they will take community feedback into consideration. The team experience will be very well represented here, as well as the volunteer burden that these rules have created in the past.


IFF the A/V infrastructure exists to support it, it’s plausible.


Pleased to see FIRST following up with their promise to continue to look at these rules in the off-season. Excited to see what this group comes up with. And hopefully some of the individuals behind the most petulant responses to the previous blog post will take this as an opportunity for self-reflection.


Very respectable panel. Looking forward to what they produce.

The new Avengers lineup looks sick!


Would second this opinion here, but other than that it looks like a fantastic group of people!!

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Would have liked to see someone from perhaps Israel, to increase the foreign contingent and because they’re a hotbed of FRC overseas.


Nice group of people. Also appreciate the transparency on this topic.


I had a layover at DTW one time.


I am surprised that I know more than one person on this list. This is a solid list. A number of these people are the kind of people willing to fly halfway around the world to help a region get going so :heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart: from me :slight_smile: I have full confidence in them.


I’m excited for the outcome this group will produce.

I would also add that my excitement for @Karthik to be on the list and omitted from his credentials was his work as the Lead Game Designer for VEX. The VEX rules and tournament structure always had team focused common sense and his insight from this perspective I feel will be especially useful.

Thanks Karthik and the rest of the group for working on fixing these issues.


Wouldn’t want to acknowledge the existence of a competitor would we


This Is further proof that CD is still a great platform for FIRST to get ideas from and for participants to have their genuine concerns heard, when done in a respectful manner and tone.

Nice to see head refs as part of the group. They are the ones that are very mindful of the time and control of the flow of events.


It could be an idea at some time in the future, and a goal to be worked towards, but no, not at this time.

I have read opinion articles about how the video review has eroded those sports that have adopted it. I put forth the proposition that the fallibility of the human referee is a valued aspect of FRC competition*, adding excitement and variability to the game. In the bigger picture, an FRC event is not (or at least should not be) a high-stakes game, and so the intelligent teams will account for these possibilities in their robot design and play strategy.

i.e., feature not bug.

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I see that argument for other sports as well (like umpire strike zones for instance). But the problem is people then get irrationally angry at mistakes. I understand part of the appeal of watching sports is second guessing everything, including refs. But it can be taken too far. I’m not sure it’s an issue for FRC, but I’ve seen some posts that I would say skirt the line (and if that’s as bad as it gets it’s vastly better than what happens in other high school sports).

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I literally cannot remember a time when I was thankful for the fallibility of the ref in any sport. Modern baseball is essentially unwatchable - everyone watching at home can call the balls and strikes more accurately than the umpire behind the plate can. It’s a farce.