FRC Eras Discussion

I was wondering how you compare the older era of FRC to today. I specifically reference this as 71 went undefeated in 2001, and I was wondering why a lot of people fail to mention it: whether it’s from not knowing it or there’s something I’m missing.
Thank you

It was impossible to lose a match in 2001; you had no opponents.


Knowledge, and particularly historical knowledge, has become fractured. As an Indiana native and 14-year veteran of FRC, I personally have quite a bit of background knowledge for Indiana teams. Five or six years ago, that knowledge extended to Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, and Kentucky. There are several factors at play here:

  1. There are a BUNCH of teams now. Mark McLeod and others have dozens of graphs and charts showing how FRC is exploding around the country and around the world. That’s a lot to keep track of. Not long ago, Indiana had thirty-some teams; next year, we expect at least sixty. That’s a lot of real estate in my head.
  2. We don’t see our neighbors as much anymore. Perhaps as a byproduct of the district model as well as #2CHAMPZ, only a small handful of Mitten teams make the journey to Indiana, and the Michigan events are packed full with not much room for outsiders. I’m hoping that if-and-when FRC goes to a more open-district model, we’ll get to know teams and histories from outside our state much better. As an anecdote, I’ve been following Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri lately because of the IN teams (234, 1501, 1747, 3494) that competed there this season.
  3. Chief Delphi is … different. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s kind of transformed from a celebratory, familial, gathered-around-the-kitchen-table kind of environment to a platform for hot takes and chest thumping. I dunno. There’s still a lot of good information found here, and a compelling cast of characters; it’s just … different. #GOML

This may not be exactly what you’re looking for, but I made a thread similar to this a few years back, there was a ton of good information in there that I found interesting, perhaps you’ll get some use out of it too. Old FIRST compared to New FIRST


I’d group it into 4 eras–

'92-'98: Pre-2v2, FIRST is figuring itself out, way more company vs. company than we see today
'99-'04: Alliance era begins (others can probably talk more about how this was different–it was before my time)
'05-'12: Beginning of the proliferation of COTs, More motor options, KOP chassis, 3 vs 3
'13-'19: Multiple major COTs suppliers, Ri3D, much better robots across the board, much better/more frequent webcasting for information dissemination

We’re probably about to enter a 5th era with the removal of the bag for 2020


Rank 1 Winner, Rank 1 Winner, Rank 1 Division Winner, World Champion


I’m wondering if there’s a different split, from 2016-on, where FIRST clearly changed their philosophy behind game design and fields. Through about 2015, the fields were relatively minimalist–they weren’t afraid to mark things as red or blue or put a FIRST logo somewhere, but starting with FIRST STRONGHOLD you saw much grander fields being built with more semi-cosmetic lexan and more custom-fabricated-and-not-welded-tube metal parts. 2017 may have swung the pendulum as far out as they’ll dare for a while, but still.


I could see that. It’s been the era of blocked sight lines since 2016


This is certainly an achievement, and nothing to downplay, but:

  1. This isn’t the only time this has happened, by any means, and
  2. 71 in 2001 is widely understood (at least by my generation and those older than me) as one of the most dominant robots of all time. I was just disputing the claim about an “undefeated season”, because that is different than what they achieved, and to my knowledge has only been done by 254 in 2018 (ignoring 2015 because the Finals were the only win/loss matches).

Some other big milestones that help define eras:

1997 - Permanent Team Numbers: Part of the reason you don’t hear about some of the craziness WAY back is simply that teams didn’t retain numbers.

2003 - First year with autonomous: Pretty self explanatory, (removed incorrect info thanks Billfred)

2005 - The big year: 3v3, weight limit no longer includes battery, proto-bumpers, VRC, CMU Cam, Copioli/Vielkind Neun kitbot/transmission. If you look at a plot of FRC team growth, this year stands out. The game changed here.

2009 - CRio/Move to 802.11 - Allowed Labview and C++ (Java came in 2010)

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Two minor corrections: the Basic Stamp IFI controllers ran through 2003. They switched to the PIC-based robot controllers in 2004, including sending all the teams a scaled down version along with some servos they called an EDUbot. (Which stepped on someone’s trademark, so it became the Robovation. Then they decided to make a properly commercialized version of it with RadioShack, a little thing you might’ve heard of called Vex.)

Also, the “V” in JVN is for Vielkind, not von.

(Also lost in the big changes from 2000-2004 was the end of the Small Parts era, where teams could fabricate the robots out of almost whatever they pleased. But that was still an era that needed a big machine shop backer, so the bigger milestone in my book is 2005–which was also the first season AndyMark parts were available.)


I only started in 2015, but I watched videos of 2014 and definitely see a shift after that.

2014’s game felt very much like a traditional team sport, with passing, blocking, and goal scoring.

2015 was … a very unusual game. Technologically cool, but teams stacked in isolation and often individually in isolation with very little interaction other than the eventual can race.

Every game since then has been very strongly held to a fantastical theme (medieval, steampunk, video games, space). It’s been much more of a spectacle than a sport and each game has quite a lot going on. There is relatively little parallel to traditional human sports like basketball, ultimate frisbee or soccer.


I recall, in some of the discussions re: 71 in 2001, that with reasonably competent partners, there was literally NOTHING you could do to stop them. They’d basically play two matches in the elims, let everybody else have two tries, and wait.

And the threshold of “reasonably competent” back then was something along the lines of “is able to drive across the field and E-stop”. Yes, it was that bad. (This trend would get marginally better until 2005, when the Kitbot first came out, when being able to move became really easy and then you could build scoring mechanisms.

You pretty much have to have an era break in 2005. (Incidentally, that’s the last time the outside border of the field changed dimensions.) The other “required” one is 1999, alliances. Beyond that… welp, anything goes.

71 in 2002 gets most

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I agree. I’ve always felt 05-14 was an era, and then 16-present with 15 being the outlier that doesn’t exactly fit into either.


2009 was the cRio, not the RoboRio. RoboRio first year was 2015.

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You know the worst part, the notes I checked say that… :frowning: One of these days I’ll stop thinking one thing and typing something entirely different

2016 was definitely the start of a new era for multiple reasons. Beyond just the look of the field their overall approach to game design took a fundamental shift from 2016 and on. The games since 2016 have been much more forgiving, lowering the bar to build a competitive robot. They’re still designing games to be challenging for top teams but also more forgiving to less competitive teams. It’s a hard balance to achieve to but they’ve been getting better at this as the years progress.

The other defining change of this era is that the championship(s) have looked much different. While 2016 there was still 1 championship there were 8 divisions and a huge increase in teams. And since 2017 the split championships.


Worth mentioning, especially in this forum:

1998 was the last year before alliances were an official thing. [1v1v1 “cut-throat” match style did lead to unofficial alliances, sometimes.]

In 1998 there were just three Regionals. Team 47 Chief Delphi won them all. Without partners.


From the rumors I’ve heard, 2015 was supposed to have a different theme with essentially the same gameplay… but the sponsor the theme was going to be based on pulled out. If it had been sponsored, I bet we would have seen a lot more graphics associated with it and it would have clearly fell in with everything since then.

We had an era that was clearly dominated by sports-inspired games - Nascar, soccer, basketball, frisbee golf, with minimal themes. Then 2015 started the theme era. It’s important, I think, to keep in mind that 2015 was the first time (I think) different programs shared a theme in FIRST - FLL had Trash Trek, FRC had Recycle Rush. Granted, the fields weren’t quite as spectacular as they have been since, but it definitely still falls into the theme category.

Now, for a what-if (based on unsubstantiated rumors I’ve heard) - What if 2015 was sponsored by Coke or Pepsi, with the same gameplay? Instead of totes, you’d have cases of cans. Instead of recycling bins, you’d have bottles. Instead of pool noodles, you’d have straws. It would be the same game, but it would be completely decked out as a themed game and fit in with everything afterwards. It’s pretty hard to say that about any game prior to 2015.

I think we can define the eras in three different ways, and maybe it makes sense to - each way of looking at it had different dates and different impact on teams and the program as a whole. There’s the game play era definition (initial, 2v2, 3v3, sports, and themed), there’s the control system era definition (Basic Stamp, IFI, cRio, RoboRio), and then there’s the parts availability definition (small parts catalog, Kitbot, explosion of suppliers).


Another “break point” I’ve noticed in retrospect was between 2008 and 2011. 2008 and before (to a point) many powerhouse teams ran Swerve/Crab drive. The 2009 and 2010 games were not well swerve causing a decent number of such teams to ditch it… Or not, and as a result of said year’s experiences do something else in 2011. In particular, I’m speaking of 1625, 111, and 118, the latter two of whose former drive pods were for a while commercialized back then they were leafing the way in swerve technology. It wasn’t every big name team who ditched it (16 and 1717 kept it long after), but it did seem that swerve lost its reputation for a while starting in 2011.