I know that others feel differently, but we actually liked having only 4 matches in Atlanta. We attended the April 2005 Pilot, and there were 7 matches, 5 the first day, 2 the second, with a match about once an hour. That year, teams entered the dome from the far entrance, and the “commute” each way was about 15 minutes, counting time to collect gear and bodies. With 30 minutes travel and 10 minutes on the field each one-hour cycle, it left only 20 minutes to “relax” in the pit. We felt constantly hurried & harried; we never had time to check the robot and seldom had time to talk to alliance partners about strategy. Two matches, we had no-show partners who didn’t make it to the field in time, once we were almost a no-show because we got there 10 minutes late (thankfully, they were 20 minutes behind schedule), and one match, we had a dead robot on the field because we didn’t have time to check the batteries. This time in Atlanta, we were able to communicate with alliance partners about strategy, check the batteries before each match, and even change a bad motor before one of the matches. Quantity is not quality.
The distance between the pits and the field is a huge determinant in how desirable it is to have time between rounds. If the pit is in the same room as the competition field, minimal time between rounds is fine. If the pit is in the GWCC & field is in the dome, I would either prefer a very long break, or a very short one (10 minutes between matches is fine if you don’t have to go back and forth). If the teams cycle once per hour, I would deliberately try NOT to have much minimum spacing so that some breaks are very short, which would make the next break very long. Much better to have one break of 10 minutes and one of 1-1/2hours+ than to have 2 breaks of exactly 50 minutes, most of which is eaten up in “commute” time.
Longer breaks this year meant we actually got to spend some time in the pit, whereas in 2005, we were so exhausted running back and forth that we sometimes just found a place to plop ourselves outside the intervening corridor. Our pit experience this year was very valuable – we got to check out other robot designs, exchange funky drawings with other teams, talk in broken Mandarin about rules, procedures, and culture to the Chinese teams (they’d never done alliance selection), and generally connect to the community at large. Despite the fact that there were 100 teams this year vs. 53 in 2005, we had a much better sense of the abilities of the various teams and robots (and had our favorite picked out for the finals).
When we returned home from Atlanta in 2005, we divvied up the 4 (free) kits among the 4 students, and those kits went virtually untouched for over a year. Invitations to get together for building projects were politely declined, and three of the 4 students never returned to Vex. In contrast, when we returned home from Atlanta this year (4 rookie students, one veteran student), the rookies went scouring e-bay & Vexlabs for Vex paraphernalia and their wallets are now considerably lighter. They are talking about numerous projects for the summer. Inspiration comes from enjoying the ride.
If adding matches does not diminish the total experience, I’m all for it, but it’s important to consider what is lost by adding matches, as well as what is gained.