[FVC]: Longer competitions

From the Game Design Thread:

I am considering the idea of a Friday afternoon/Saturday competition (if FIRST will allow) for next year, similar to FRC’s off-season event BattleCry. This would also allow mentors and students to network/socialize on Friday night which is something I think the program needs to start doing more of. But it would also add additional costs to the event organizers to rent space and pay personnel to staff it, and to teams to attend the event if hotels are needed. Any comments?

I think 2 day tournements are a good idea only for “large” tournements with 30+ teams. Competing at Penn or Toronto, each team had only 4 matches to show their robot. With 2 days the entry fee may increase by 1.5x, but it will also allow mentors and students to network/socialize on friday night as well (as Kathie mentioned).

San Diego and Los Angeles Vex Regional Championships had over 40 each if I remember correctly. Each team got a lot of matches. As well, we had two fields for competition and a practice field at both San Diego and Los Angeles. I dont think regional championships need to be 2 days if you have the same set up, I dont know if other regionals had same number of teams with only 1 competition field. As well, the two fields in the regionals, not world championships, seemed to work very well. Boh regionals did not fall behind. In fact, Los Angeles we finished early ahead of schedual!!!

I think the only tournement that needs to be longer is World Vex Championship. That was pretty bad with only 4 matches.

I wish the possibility of 4 vex fields would be possible, hopefully IFI will release some new crystals for this sole reason. Play 2 at once, queue 2 at once, imagine how many more qualifiers there would be/ the speed at which the finals could be played at.

The multiple-day FVC competition idea is certainly an excelent one to help grow the gracious professionalism and inter-team bonding within the program. From what I’ve seen this year, especially at the Championship, many of the FVC teams who are new to the program (and have no previous FIRST experience) don’t fully understand our gracious professionalism and “open” and friendly culture yet, and an idea such as this would only serve to strengthen the program.

Plus, a Friday-into-Saturday competition idea would be a good basis for a lot of BattleCry-like team social activities, like FIRST Jeopardy/Family Feud, ice cream, movies, fun “driving competitions”, human player challenges, and other games.

I think that a 2 day event would scare people away from competition. This is because they now need to deal with travel. One day is ok for there and back from competitions, even if its a few hours away. Though if you have it a 2 day event, you are talking about a lot of teams paying for travel expenses, to which Vex was made to be a cost effective way to introduce FIRST to new people. Having them pay for travel will scare them into coming and spending more money.

These are great points that you are all bringing up, please keep adding to this thread.

The off-season FRC event BattleCry offers teams who WANT to come on Friday afternoon an opportunity to start qualification rounds and join in the social activities that evening. The next day qualification rounds continue with all the teams present. So it’s not a requirement that you be there on Friday. I’m not sure if the model would work for FVC nor even if FIRST would allow it, but it’s intrigued me since the fall when we were planning ConnVex to see if we could make it happen. It might also allow judges to begin some interviews of teams on Friday afternoon so that time crunch would be lessened.

Another option would be to schedule MORE VEX tournaments in MORE locations, so that no one tournament would have too many teams. That would also lessen travel costs for teams, because more locations means a better chance of having one near you.

I can see FVC expanding greatly in the next few years. Probably never as big as FLL, but maybe halfway between FRC and FLL. We will have to have hundreds of VEX tournaments to handle the number of teams. That’s either a very scary or a very inspiring thought!

There were no FVC regional Championships any closer than 3-4 hours away from my team, (and I live in the densely-popluated southern end of the Boston-to-DC metropolitan corridor. This end of that corridor contains many FVC teams).

I bring this up, not to complain; but as evidence that there are probably many, many teams that put overnight travel into their plans from the time they first decide to become an official FIRST team. Without staying overnight in a hotel before the competition, we all would have been sleep-deprived at the start of the event and zombies by the end. I know other folks get up at 4:00 AM every day, but I’m not one of them… :slight_smile:


I recommend a half-day of additional qualifying Friday, a Friday evening social activity, and a Saturday schedule that is similar to how I think most events were run this year.

Why not have Friday as practice matches and the social. Next day start off early with qualifying and end it similar to how it is now. That way for teams who cant travel the distance and spend the night, though some areas its not an issue, they can at least show up for the qualification matches. It wont be completely fair, but I feel it would be a good alternative to make sure rankings are fair and the lowest budgeted teams have an equal chance to compete though they don’t have the money to travel.

That would mean FVC would have to increase the number of tournaments teams are allowed to win awards in. Also, it would probably mean more divisions in the championships, like the FRC 4 divisions.

I actually love that idea.

For those of us who are hooked on FIRST, a 2-day event is very appealing. However, for rookies, I believe that a longer tournament would be a deterrent to participating because of the cost and time involved with a 2-day event. It is my hope that FIRST would keep its Championship events one day (except Atlanta) for the benefit of newcomers, at least until the program expands to the point of having regional qualifiers

When we told our school that we had qualified to go to the World Championship in Atlanta, they asked, “You’re not planning on missing any school, are you, because we can’t make that an excused absence.” We assured them that it would be during spring break. I think they had no concept of what an honor this was, because the idea of a robotics team is still foreign to them (even though we’ve been affiliated with the the school all year). I can see other teams having problems getting time off from school if this is a Friday/Saturday event (and some, including myself, prefer to avoid competitive events on Sundays if possible). Having a hotel cost for Friday night is also a deterrent to some teams.

For bonding purposes, I highly recommend having one or more informal one-day scrimmage events prior to the tournament in your region. We went to 2 scrimmages and felt like we got to know 3 teams well enough that we are planning to get together in May and during the summer. We did a lot more bonding at scrimmages than at tournaments, because there was less pressure.

Because of the potential volume of teams, I think it’s likely that eventually, FVC will more closely follow the model of FLL, where nearly all the teams attend regional qualifiers, about 1/3 advance to the Championship (formerly State) event, and only 1-2 % of those advance to the World Championship (Nationals) in Atlanta, rather the FRC model where most teams attend a regional event, and about 1/3 of those advance directly to Atlanta. If this is the case, a 2-day (State) Championship would be more palatable, because all the rookie teams could attend a lower-cost regional qualifier, getting the spirit of the competition, while advancing would require a higher level of commitment.

Good discussion.

From a programmatic standpoint, FVC has been committed to being more affordable and accessible up to this point. If that holds true in the future, I wouldn’t expect to see multiple day regional events soon. Missed school and overnight travel, while a foregone conclusion for some, is a deal-breaker for many underserved, inner-city, and rural schools and teams that have scarce resources.

If I had to take an educated guess now, I’d be putting my energy into how to improve on the one-day format.

More likely, it will mean that FVC gets 3 tiers of competitions like FLL has now. You win() at a regional, and you advance to the next level. You win() at that level and you qualify for the Championships. Currently in the FLL model, the “next level” is state or country. For FVC, it would be a larger section of the US or a few countries for international teams.

Unfortunately, there would be travel and other costs associated with the 2nd tier tournaments, meaning the path to Atlanta (or whereever) just got more expensive.

(*) - “Win” wouldn’t necessarily mean just the first place alliance and the Inspire award. Assuming maybe 20 second-tier tournaments of about 40 teams each around the world, 6-8 teams could advance from each tournament to Atlanta, and compete in a managably-sized competition (with divisions!) of 120-160 teams. Maybe first and second placed alliances, Inspire plus runner up, etc. could advance. The number of teams advancing from the regional to the 2nd tier would also be determined in advance, based on number of entries. For example in Michigan FLL, about 1/4 of the teams entered in the regionals advance to one of the two the State Tournaments. This structure could support 3000 VEX teams, less if they are allowed to enter more than one regional.

If the direction that FVC has taken holds true (FLL based) then I do not see multiple day tournaments as being a viable option to address the issues raised. I attended 3 FVC State tournaments this year and while they each had their own style and flavor, the common issue I saw was “allotment of time”. Each tournament had between 29 and 33 teams that participated. They each had 2 fields and ran between 4-6 qualifying matches. For the Georgia tournament that held 6 matches it made for a very long day for teams, volunteers and the hosting venue…… almost 12 hours. This was in addition to other observations and/or problems that I believe can easily be addressed. My opinion is that 4 qualifying matches is a disservice to teams that may have spent significant hours designing, building, practicing and otherwise preparing for a competition like FVC. In Georgia, our current plan is to have tournaments with at least 6 qualifying matches. This may change if the format changes, but for now that is the plan. A bare minimum would be 5 matches but that would be in the rare case where we have too many teams to run more matches, and not enough teams to organize 2 separate tournaments.
With that said, here is my take on this.

  1. Keep qualifying and non-qualifying tournaments to one day. It may be a long day depending on the number of teams, but the one-day formula can work. This may mean that you limit the number of teams to that which can reasonably compete in a single day event.
  2. State tournaments can go to 2 days (or 1-1/2 days) especially if the team count goes above 35 and there are 6+ matches per team.
  3. Although this adds cost and creates the problem of integrating the data from 2 separate scoring tables, we should find a way to run 3-4 fields during a tournament. It would be a plus if this can be done from one scoring system rather than two. This can alleviate the problem felt this year not only by the championship event but also at all FVC tournaments.
  4. At all 3 events that I attended, tournaments each had different flavors of FIRST. Meaning that if someone walked in off the street and saw what was going on, they may not know that it had any thing to do with FIRST. Part of this is probably due to the tight schedule, part due to rookie teams, and part due to the organization of the affiliate partner. People should walk away from the event knowing more than they did when they came in about FIRST and its goals.
  5. This is not an FVC issue directly, but scrimmages should be run in the various regions where tournaments will be held. Not only is that an invaluable tool for what will now be veteran teams, but also rookies who have no idea what FIRST is all about can be introduced to the concept of Gracious professionalism prior to arriving at a hectic tournament.
  6. The championship event…… well goes beyond saying that more qualifying matches are needed. With the program growth in the number of teams from around 150 to 550, a plan needs to be in place to accommodate the number of teams participating while running more than 4 qualifying matches. I believe that for now, 100 FVC teams at the championship is a good number but we need to accommodate them better. Item number 3 above is the obvious first pass solution to this on the competition side. I welcome other suggestions to address this problem.

Just another observation…. I personally do not believe that the FVC program will fit perfectly into the FLL mold for tournament organization. From what can see there could be rapid growth to rival FLL along with the competitive format that FRC enjoys. I think a hybrid format maybe better suited for the program. For instance, this may mean that we keep the local 1-2-3 tier tournament structure at the local level, But at the championship event, there are organized divisions that feed the elimination matches. I am also not entirely fond of teams that did not even make it to the elimination matches in their state tournaments, getting to the championship through a lottery. I would much rather see the runner up alliances from each tournament put into a lottery and given the opportunity to go to the championship. I gotta say that I saw some very good 2nd place alliance teams that would have easily gotten to the quarter or semi-finals in the championship. It’s just too bad that they were left behind because they were not lucky enough.

The comments you’ve all given have my head spinning as to how to improve ConnVex for next year. :slight_smile: I think it would be difficult to find a venue that is inexpensive that has the space required to run multiple fields, but that is a solution for giving teams opportunties for more matches.

Does anyone have ideas about how to make the judging schedule less hectic/stressful?

Would teams be interested in attending Team Socials (if on Friday night or after the event on Saturday)?

I will try and share these ideas with the other Affiliate Partners.

I haven’t judged since the Orangeburg pilot last year, but I actually think the two-day format would be helpful here. I personally felt like I didn’t get enough chance to get a feel for what designs were working on the field (important for the Create award of that year, roughly equivalent to the Innovate award now), or to catch any in-the-trenches events (which might have Amaze award implications). It’s unfortunate that the judges can’t be everywhere at the same time, but it’s just the nature of the one-day format.

The Create award was especially hard to judge that year, as we all had seen different robots in the rooms (and there were some great Half-Pipe Hustle robots in that group, none of whom we’d seen on the field). We solved that by sending me out with my digital camera to get shots of the shortlist teams–I’d highly recommend some means of doing this at an event (perhaps during inspection). In the absence of some visual flair (see also: Simbotics, Vexy Things, Checkmate), they all start to run together after a while!

This would be a little more radical, but what about having teams submit a short version of the key information before the competition for the judges to read? Give teams two pages, send the PDF to FIRST, and make sure the judges receive this far enough ahead to get an initial feel for the teams.

You are the second person in as many days to express a wish list for the “scoring” software. Writing some new scoring software is not trivial (not a one-night job); but it is not hard either.

Using Java’s Swing GUI I can take requirements from users (like you or Kathie K, or Skimoose, or…) cook something up this summer, run it through a few iterations of feedback and-field testing, and have it available by Sept. I am sure other folks can too.

At the end the source code would available for further refinement or customization by any local league or by a fresh set of eyes who could improve it for next season…

  • It could use two computers on a network if “integrating data from two fields” is needed.
  • It can use one computer into which someone types data from more than one field (sort of like putting the info into a single spreadhseet like this one(http://www.vexforum.com/gallery/showimage.php?i=467&catid=11)).
  • It can be connected to a computer kiosk equipped with a mouse and printer that teams use to print the match schedules, match results, lists of any team’s opponents and allies, thumbnails of all the event participants, …
  • It can be designed to drive one output screen, two, three or whatever with different windows on each.
  • It can do whatever our imaginations and time permit.

If an adequately large handful of the FVC movers and shakers want to create a list of requirements (features desired, inputs, output and output formats, and deployment configurations); then I am willing to write the code or share writing code that I would integrate.

There are two caveats

  1. I would not want to invest the time necessary to do this, see it get used in a couple of scrimmages; and then see it fall by the wayside because it has no path to becoming “official”. I think “we” would want FIRST, or at least a decent fraction of the FVC APs, to say that they are willing to pick up a good result and adopt it for sanctioned events. For me, at least, doing this will be an exciting, rewarding and satisfying project; but only if it gets used for more than just my local Potomac Vex League scrimmages…

  2. If this proposed Java code had to send on/off signals to the current field controller, I would want someone else to supply a field controller software API that could be invoked by the Java code. My desire would be to separate scoring (all entered manually) and tracking match info from the simple but different job of controlling the field.

Who thinks this would be a fun off-season project that would be a great gift to the community? If I get enough positive feedback we can spin off a new thread and get down to business…

PS: If whomever wrote the current code (I think someone at Wildstang might be the author(s)) is seeing this, maybe they feel the same way, and would enjoy converting it into a collection of open source Java that can be continually improved through contributions from the community?

I’m puzzled - Aren’t school (K-12, community colleges, university campuses and their satellite campuses) gymnasiums inexpensive and plenty big enough?

Maybe I think they are cheap because local schools have been willing to donate custodial services…?