FRC without a bag presentation

This past weekend I gave a presentation about FRC without a bag.

I had two separate goals of the presentation:

  • Discuss what kind of changes teams may want to make in general
  • Discuss what Houston can do to take advantage of the new rules

On the first part, I do not think I have any new insights that are not elsewhere on chief delphi. However, if you desire to give a similar presentation in your community (particularly to teams that may not frequent CD), the slides can be found here: https://1drv.ms/p/s!Aj1kSmBgYUcDjmvqpezh8J99LsEd and the video of my presentation where I talk through the points can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CWK4SD1NAY. Warning, I was not a real strong presenter for this presentation. Part of it was lack of preparation on my part and I apologize. There’s also several of the optional slides I had at the end (Slack, Onshape, and using 6328’s Re-Bot as an example of a simple robot that is maintainable) that I didn’t really get to talk about any of that. If anyone has questions about what I was going to talk about on those slides, let me know.

For the second part, I don’t have a recording of the discussion (I had a directional mic so you only hear me so I did not include it). We had a rep from every area with a field, and we also had 5 other teams from Houston there that would benefit from being able to use those fields. I think we did have a very good discussion. I like lists, so here’s some of what we discussed:

  • In Houston, there are 5 field perimeters, 118, 5414, Katy (several FRC teams), and Woodlands (1477 and 7492). 3487 has a full field, and sometimes it moves around, but if I recall correctly there may be a half field up next year.
  • In the past, what has made it hard for a team to come practice at a facility that has driving space and field elements. Without the bag, is it the same problems, or different problems.
  • Do Robonauts continue doing Everybot next year without a bag (before anyone panics, the answer is yes)
  • What are ways to most successfully get every team to experience these three things before their first competition: 1) Have their robot interact with field elements 2) Have teams get the benefit of sharing some knowledge/insight from others teams 3) Have the robot go through some sort of pre-inspection so that inspections go quickly and there’s no massive rebuild at competition (at least due to an illegal design)
  • how do we get the word out about this

Outcomes of the discussion were the following:

  • Some teams are afraid of “bothering” other teams. It was also noted that everyone would rather be “bothered” during build season than bothered by having a dead /no show alliance partner in a match!
  • Sometimes there isn’t great communication between a host team and a visiting team about the goals of the visiting team. If the visiting team is hoping to benefit from the host team knowledge or tools/machinery at the host facility, that needs to be communicated before hand. Even if the host team wants to help, sometimes the host team can have a busy day scheduled or be light on mentors on a particular day.
  • Some teams may be embarrassed to show up with what they have. An approximate quote was: “We were afraid of showing up with no bumpers and being judged for not even having our bumpers done yet”.
  • Open invites are great, but a planned, known “event” is more successful. Open invites are what can lead to teams feeling like they’re bothering the host team. But a scheduled event will let the visiting teams know that the host team is expecting that “bother”. Additionally, a scheduled event may make it seem like something you should go to whether you’re ready or not.
  • related to the above, some teams reach bag day and either the students are burned out or don’t expect to keep meeting with any real reliability. It’ll be interesting to note how lack of bag day affects that drop off in attendance/intensity
  • Thinking about it now, post workshop, I think it’s important to have a schedule of meetings from Jan through world championship shared with the team before kickoff. If it was already scheduled, that may help with setting the expectation that people still show up. Generally speaking, It’s much easier to cancel meetings than to add them.
  • Discussions about how many teams are desirable at once at one of these events. Most areas in Houston could handle 6 teams, even if it’s a little tight. For areas that couldn’t host 6 teams, is it that much of an inconvenience if they’re in a cafeteria or something a hundred feet away from the field? Also discussion (but no answer) about how many students is a good number per team for these scrimmages/inspection events.
  • A current major goal will be to have these scheduled events the weekend before Houston’s first competition. Probably try to have an event at every one of the Houston area fields to get teams to interact with the field elements, drive, and get through an inspection.
  • With changes to kickoff - kickoff doesn’t seem as big of a deal as it used to be. Fewer teams seem to be going/interacting with one another.
  • Discussion about modifying the Week - 6 event (Everybot and Ri3D robots playing matches) being modified to instead host Houston area teams to come interact with the wooden field elements. Sharing of prototypes, strategies, and what’s desirable in alliance selections.
  • Everyone that verbalized an opinion agreed that Everybot should continue
  • As far as getting the word out, lots of interesting discussion there. It’s important to limit it to one doc (probably a google doc that can be modified with cancellations/moves) with a schedule of these scrimmage/inspection events and who to contact to RSVP. However, getting it out to the lead mentor 1 + 2 wouldn’t be enough; getting it on a FiT webpage wouldn’t be enough. The driving factor for some teams will probably be the students on those teams finding out about it and asking their teachers/mentors to go to it. The best way to get that to happen is to make sure that one page gets sent out on as many of the social media pages as possible - team instagrams and the FRC discord seemed to be the popular ones. The student to student interactions can really help in the cases where there may be few mentors that just can’t keep up with communications during build season, especially when those lead 1 and 2 mentors may be overburdened with communications to begin with

Overall, I thought we had great discussion. I hope other regions can also start thinking about how they my do somethings differently as a city/community without the bag, and hope that some of this may help with getting the wheels spinning on that.

Please feel free to copy and modify the presentation. No bag day will really benefit teams that think about how they may change their schedule for it, so I think it’s important to have those discussions.

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Overall, did the attendees seem more excited about no bag or more worried?

I think everyone was concerned about preventing burn out.

Honestly, the discussion about adjustments to the schedule wasn’t very engaging. I’m not sure if I didn’t do much to encourage it, if everyone’s made up their mind about what they’ll do, or if it’s earlier enough that no one’s gathered their thoughts yet.

The conversation about Houston without a bag was much more engaging. In that conversation, there wasn’t really any talk about about the pros or cons of no bag, just talking pretty matter of factly about what we could do in Houston with the rule change.

At a guess, everyone has had a good amount of time to come to grips with the “no more bag and tag” concept, and we’ve all done our share of thinking about it. The next round of engaged discussion is going to come when we see the rules about how it’s being implemented. At that point, everyone is going to start feverishly forming new opinions and making plans.

I paged through your presentation, and it looks like you did a good job framing the discussion around the resources that teams have (time, money, people, etc) and how the bag will effect those. I suspect that presentations like this will give people a framework to base their future opinions and plans around, even if they weren’t talking about it much over the weekend. The more people get used to thinking about what types of problems they’re going to run into, the better prepared they’ll be to deal with them.

All in all, it looks like a good presentation!

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I’d agree that everyone on CD has had a good amount of time to process it. I would not be surprised if there are several teams lead mentors (primarily in the 1 robot category from the slides) that haven’t thought much about it yet though. Hoping to force some of that discussion before they get through a year and realize they should have done things differently

EDIT: actually, probably everyone fell into 1 of those 2 categories… Already have a good idea of what they’ll do, or haven’t really spent much time processing it yet so not even sure what to discuss with it