[FRC Blog] You-Bring-It to FIRST Championship

Posted on the FRC Blog 12/16/19 by Frank Merrick.

You-Bring-It to FIRST Championship

Written by Frank Merrick.

Teams can bring their robots to Championship! FIRST Robotics Competition

Pilot no more! At both 2020 FIRST Championship locations, all teams will be able to bring their competition robots into the event themselves if they choose to do so. And teams who choose not to bring their robot themselves will still be able to get shipping vouchers from our good friends at FedEx.

The 2019 pilot at FIRST Championship Detroit testing this You-Bring-It concept was a tremendous success, and the teams participating in the pilot were a significant factor in that. They were well organized, and most importantly, safe. Here’s an interesting fact: teams who brought their robots to the FIRST Championship Detroit actually spent less time on the loading dock on average than teams who did not bring their robot. Yeah, we measured it, and OK, the difference was less than one minute, but we think this shows teams can be both efficient and safe while moving all their equipment to their pits.

Here’s how the program will work:

Once you qualify for Championship, you will get an email asking you if you want to bring your robot to Championship yourself or ship it via FedEx. You must select one or the other, as there will be no ‘default’ option.

  • If you say you want to bring your robot yourself, you bring your one competition robot to Championship along with all your other pit equipment.
  • If you say you want to ship your robot, we will get you a shipping voucher and a ship-not-later than date. Currently planned ship-not-later-than dates are as follows:
    • Houston
      • Regional Competition Weeks 1-4: Ship by 3/27
      • Regional Competition Weeks 5-6: Ship by 4/7
      • PNW and Texas Week 6 District Championships: Ship by 4/7
    • Detroit
      • Competition Week 1-6: Ship by 4/10
      • District Championships: Ship by the Wednesday after the District Championship
    • Teams that don’t ship by these deadlines risk their robots not arriving at Championship in time for the event.
  • Teams will not be allowed to use a FedEx shipping voucher exclusively for pit equipment/other non-robot items. Using a voucher in this way is considered an abuse of the system. If you are shipping, your robot must be in the crate.

We recognize that teams who are shipping their robots are at a disadvantage, as they can’t continue to work on them up until just before Championship. While we think we can’t make this situation perfectly fair without somehow re-introducing a bag concept similar to the one we’re trying to retire, we will be taking some steps to reduce the disadvantage. The details are still being worked out, but at this time we are planning to:

  • Allow early pit access for six team members from each team that is shipping its robot. Access will start two hours before load-in and each of these teams will be able to carry in one tote of tools/parts to start work on their robots.
  • Give teams shipping their robot a priority pass at Championship that will, on Wednesday only,
    • Give them exclusive access to the ‘playground’ (non-official/wooden) practice fields several hours before those fields open to all teams
    • Give them access to a priority lane for the full official practice fields, which will be drawn from before any teams in the non-priority lane are allowed on the field

Decisions regarding our continuation of the You-Bring-It program for Championship will be made year by year. The situation at the Championship venues may change in the future, requiring all teams once again to ship their robots. Or, the increased amount of equipment being brought in through the docks may lead to increased load-in times or unsafe conditions. Teams bringing their robots to Championship in 2020 can do their part by emulating the participants in the 2019 pilot: minimize the amount of equipment you are bringing in, have a plan that includes assigned jobs for all, and most importantly, put safety first!

It’s going to be a great season!

Frank

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Good Guy Frank strikes again… awesome set of rules! Really happy to see FIRST respond to community input.

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Good Guy Frank has defeated the evil Bag and the despicable Crate, simultaneously.

Verily, he is a mighty warrior!

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You-Bring-It program for Championship will be made year by year.

Ehhh, it’s fair to cover your bases like that. We* do have to hold up our* end of the deal.

*like I’ve had a team at Championship in the last five years…

Ok, so the Crate isn’t most sincerely dead, yet. When it is finally slain, there will be much plywood available for making bumpers.

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Everything else seems about right here, but this clause seems like it’s going a bit too far imo. What about teams that didn’t ship their robot so they could make mechanical upgrades/repair damage after an event, but still don’t have a practice field at home? The full practice fields are extremely cutthroat, and they always shut them down too early/open too late. It goes the other way as well. What if a team ships their comp robot, while continuing to practice on their full field at home simply to get a free pass to the front of the line?

All of that’s not to mention certain teams sprinting to the field every morning with their robot from the closest pits.
I know that’s kinda a rant, but literally just being closer to the practice field can give you 1-2 more runs per day, which is a significant advantage to unnamed aforementioned teams

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I think you’re interpreting this a bit too far. The language should probably be more precise (and I’m sure it will be when we get an official announcement) but I think you are reading it like an unlimited cut-the-line pass. I understand it as:

Team A brought it themselves and Team B shipped. There’s a spot for one more team on the field. Team B gets priority to go next. After Team B is done with their time, Team A can get on the field while Team B can go get in line again.

We do need more precise language but I don’t see a situation in which the teams that shipped have full dominance over all the practice fields the whole event.

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I’m hoping that verbiage is clarified as well, because a few teams could theoretically just circle right around and the BYOR teams would never get on the field. That seems asinine, even for FIRST.

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Nobody’s forcing anyone to do anything though. If you value priority on the practice field on Wednesday, ship your robot. If you’d rather have the few extra days at your shop, then don’t ship it. All teams can choose to ship, and gain access to the priority line.

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For some teams it’s literally 0 sacrifice. They have the manpower to crate and ship the comp robot and deal with any related issues, and practice/testing continues as normal. Another team might have funds for only a single robot that they bring to the event (as they can’t deal with shipping for whatever reason) and they don’t have the ability to properly utilize this extra time they technically have from not shipping the robot.

I guarantee several more resourced teams in close proximity to the event, or that could easily throw the robot in with their pit on a trailer that was going anyway, will opt to ship their robot for the advantage. (obviously, there’s no way to officially police this, same as practice robots)

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There are a large number of things like this which aren’t “fair” in FRC. Some teams don’t really have an option to bring their own robot, they HAVE to ship it. Does having priority access to the practice field make up for all the time they lose at their home facility if they have one robot? Probably not.

It goes both ways. There is no perfect solution. Teams that have more resources will always be able to leverage those resources to utilize their options in more efficient ways. FIRST is not requiring any team to ship, and is not requiring any team to BYOR. Every team will have different factors to weigh in their choice. In my opinion this is a pretty decent balance of providing some benefit to teams that basically have to ship their robots while not forcing everyone to.

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Nothing’s going to be perfect, but this looks like enough to draw a few “trailer” teams into shipping the robot. That’s about as fair as things can get.

Of course…if you’re already bringing in your pit, it’s faster to bring in a robot than bring out an empty crate.

One possible solution could be something like a one-time-use jump the line thing, so there is an advantage other than the “we got here at the same time” tiebreaker, but it’s not a deal-breaker for BYOR teams.

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It seems to me the way to do this to be fair for everyone would be to give shipping teams priority, but not absolute priority. Say maybe 2:1 ratio of shipped:BYOR on the practice field while there are teams waiting in both lines. Think of the fast pass line at Disney instead of priority boarding in the airport. That way teams that shipped still get some advantage to make up for the lost time, but BYOR teams aren’t completely shut out of the practice fields.

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First let me state that I am a big Monty Python fan and I generally hate being “that guy”, but I am also a Wizard of Oz fan. Richard’s reference is to this:

Sorry,
Steve

P.S. Richard, if I missed your intention… sorry again.

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The only thing I’m worried about in this new You-Bring-It to FIRST Championship, is that it becomes the only option in the future to bring it yourselves.
We already have to deal with the lack of support received at regional events compared to in the past. I hope I’m wrong.

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Given the large number of international and Hawaiian teams that have no choice but to ship, I hope this is not the case.

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Granny Weatherwax may have something to say about that …