FRC Eras Discussion

I heard a rumour that Recycle Rush was essentially a backup game and the “real game” that year for whatever reason had to be cancelled. RR was played using game pieces that were already readily available to all teams.


I haven’t seen people talk about it, and that is the era we are in now (~2014-now) : districts are exploding, and every year more and more are being added, with many hoping for even more. The shift from the regional system to districts is amazing on how it changes individual teams and the region they’re in as a whole.

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The last several years of games have also been scored using RP’s, which means that teams aren’t necessarily trying to just maximize the raw points score. There is additional and specific strategy to game out how to accomplish the RPs such as the hab climb, and it’s not enough to just “win”.

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I agree that the introduction of extra RPs in 2016 marked the beginning of a stable game design pattern that defines a distinct era of FRC.


3 eras and 1 isolated year:

1992-2002: Dark age of no game animations

2003-2014: Lavery Era. Widely considered to be a golden age, as animations featured Dozer, the greatest FRC robot of all time.

2015: Someone makes Recycle Rush’s game animation with the CAD software the night before Kickoff

2016-present: Automation Direct Era. Animations are cleaner and don’t use default Mac OS X sound effects. The robots, however, have far less character and don’t even have names.


2012 and 2015 also had extra RPs, but they were awarded to everyone in the mach for some task that involved both alliances.

I would agree though that 2016-Present is a clear era, 2015 is a transation year, and 20xx to 2014 was a single era. I started in 2010 so I couldn’t really say what was similar/dissimilar before that year.


Ah yes, the coopertition stack points. Also known as “bluff your opponent into spending half the match doing busywork” points.

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Damn right!


Some of that may have been caused by mentors/students moving around and sponsors cutting back or of changing priorities in building bots.

The only one of the big era shifts I’ve personally experienced was the shift ~2016, when FRC both shifted away from sports-related game themes to what I’ll tentatively call nerd-culture-related themes, coupled with a shift to far more complex fields.

I miss the sports themes, although I don’t feel super strongly about it. When the nerd-culture themes (Ren faire, steampunk, video games, space) are very dominant, I think it sends a message about who engineering is “for” (although Steamworks has been the only one I felt was over the top enough to have a strong impact). But what I really miss is the simple fields - field elements a couple kids could build in a week or two and store in the back closet. This year we ran the laser cutter for a week straight, and we still didn’t get our half-field done until late week 5. Last year was similar, and we had to disassemble/reassemble the switch and scale every time we used them because they didn’t fit in our storage crate, so by bag’n’tag they were falling apart every time you breathed on them. We like to build at least a half field every year so that other teams can come practice, but spending so much time building field elements is starting to interfere with having all students making meaningful contributions to the robot.


It’s not just about building fields, it’s also about following the game. When spectators come in and watch a game that’s half-way in progress, how long does it take them to figure out what’s going on?

I keep going back to 2014 because it would take you only seconds of watching to understand the gist of the game. Whereas, this past weekend at our event, I witnessed the family of one of the facility’s food service workers come to the mentor lounge overlooking the field and watching the field with some level of bewilderment at what was happening. (And, frankly, I see this every year.)

I liked the sports style games because it seemed to serve a purpose of demystifying STEM and making it appear exciting to the average person. Steamworks is an over-the-top example of making what we do seem nerdy by comparison.


I also preferred the simpler games, without really being able to explain why. I also find the modern games harder to watch- they almost focus you onto one robot, less so an alliance or even the complete match. in 2014, because the balls had to pass between robots, you ended up focusing on the game piece as it moved down the field, less so the individual robots.


Personally I’m a huge fan of the 2016~present era. Cool themes with exciting and strategically complex games; what’s not to love. Ranking points make people think about not just points but also objectives, and its no longer a showing of pure robot ability/driver skill. Of course I could just be bias, but as much as we wanna show that we’re a sport too, I also love it when we can be unique and cool.

I hate the themes for exactly this reason. Themes keep this program from growing to a wider audience. It keeps self conscious teenagers from giving robotics a try. Dean talks about wanting FRC to be as big as football, but that’s never going to happen when the central focus of a match is a cartoon victorian airship powered by wiffle balls.


Having been a student since 2016, Destination: Deep Space is by far the least intrusive / unappealing theme for outsiders. Stronghold was actually decent, but Power Up and especially Steamworks were pretty terrible as far as getting non-FRC people excited.


Somewhat counter-intuitively, the liberalization of motor rules and proliferation of COTSs components and districts over the past decade is actually what killed swerve drive.

When you had strict limits on mechanical power available as a viable drivetrain motor (and a much more limited selection of COTS parts), teams with advanced design and manufacturing resources had a strong advantage on the field if they were able to channel that limited mechanical power to the specific direction they wished to go.

A well executed swerve drive back then was able to reliably outmaneuver an average skid-steer robots. However, executing a swerve drive well was a feat much easier said than done.

This advantage is heavily eroded when a team who builds a skid-steer drivetrain can just throw more mechanical power at the problem to increase their acceleration. And when they can easily build a practice robot. And when they get a lot more time to practice driving thanks to districts.


I could be wrong, but I thought 2006 was the first year for bumpers, although not mandatory. Our rookie bot has the scars to prove that bumpers weren’t mandatory that year! I believe they became mandatory in 2007. And, if memory serves, red and blue bumpers became a thing in 2009. Just a little bumper history as I remember it.

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2009 also started the “District Era”; in Michigan at least.

Red and blue bumpers started in 2010. In 2009, your trailer color signified which alliance you were on. But yes, I do think that this represented a significant change.

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Man, I’m getting old and forgetful…I stand corrected. I double-checked and looked back at a picture of our '09 robot. We had blue bumpers with orange numbers that year.