How do you grow your off-season competition?

I’ve searched Off-Season Competition threads and am trying to find an event that has 40 teams in a one-day event. Is this possible? What does your day’s schedule look like? how many matches do teams get before the Alliance selections? In expanding past 32 teams, what is the next step? Our goal is to keep it a one-day event. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

We ran 38 teams this year at TRI. We had each team get 7 matches before eliminations. It’s important to keep your match cycle time down to a minimum. We did this by making the defenses static throughout the event.

You also need to be able to start on time as well, so try to ensure teams can load in the night before and that you have everything field side ready the night before. Queuing volunteers become more important as well, because small delays will take up time in the schedule that you dont have.

While I have never ran an off-season event, I have worked on them in a range of jobs, and from experience the reason no one day event is that big is because you lose the value of the event. As an event runner your goal for the event, and this is not meant as an insult, is to either make money, or break even. Logically most teams who attends goals for an off-season are some combination of; to play the game again, try out improvements made to the robot, practice new drivers and have fun. Once you expand your team roster to 40 you don’t have enough time to give every team the value they deserve because you will most likely only have enough time for maybe 3 or 4 matches. If you are only giving that many matches then not only will your top 8 not be very accurate but under traditional alliance picking it would leave 16 teams with only 3 matches (that is close to half the teams in attendance). Personally if you charge $100 to attend, that is $33.33 a match, while not as steep as what FIRST charges it still is a lot to justify for an event in the offseason.

Now there is a few things that could be done to increase the amount of matches a team has. One is renting 2 fields, which while not very cost effective, or space effective) does increase the amount of matches you can give each team. The second is to have 4 team alliances and do what certain offseasons do and require the use of the alternate robot at each round, which gives at least 1 more match to 32 of the 40 teams. The finals one is not have elims, which while not desireable, does give each team in attendance potentially another 2 matches. While 2 matches doesn’t sound like a lot, quarter finals are usually not that close so potentially another 2 matches is all 12 of your teams are getting anyway (Now up to 28/40).

Ultimately I am not from the same area as your team but I really do think a 1 day event with only 3 matches is not worth the price of admission. In fact we did have an offseason we attended one year that only offered 3 matches due to technical issues and we were promised reimbursement/discounted admission for the following year.

40 teams for a one-day! That’s a lot of people. If you have the space, and everything else went smooth (FMS, field reset, queuing, timing, etc.) I say go for it. But expect the negative feedback from folks who say they didn’t get enough matches, or the pits were too small, etc.

We ran Beach Blitz for the first time this year. Two day competition with 28 robots. That meant 12 matches each, plus almost everyone was in elims.

We discussed expanding the number of teams for next year, but don’t know if we have the space. I like the idea of 10 matches and more variety of teams though. We also offered workshops in the evenings after matches, and had sponsor giveaways throughout the day.

Ultimately you have to think of the attending teams as customers. What do they want? And what are you willing to organize?

I don’t think we had any big complaints from TRI this year, we had 10*10 pits and room for probably 60 teams if we could schedule it.

Have highly trained volunteers, lots of seating, etc and it’s definitely possible we likely won’t go over 42 teams while still be a single day to make sure we can do 7 matches/team and end eliminations between 6-6:30.

SCRIW has never breached 24. If I’m trying to create on-field spectacle, the magic number is (personally) closer to 30 so you can have a full, quality bracket and some non-potato backups. We run a pretty leisurely schedule that has become part of the event’s character, so the result is usually 8-9 matches depending on the year. To maintain that and grow our event by 25% would require some balancing, probably at least one fewer match for each team, and probably more hustle.

Since SCRIW is the only event in the state, we’d likely take that on if more teams wanted to come. If your teams have options to choose from for off-season events, you may have to decide how you’re going to brand your event (the fun one, the super-competitive one, the girl-focused one, the one at the awesome venue, etc.)

In the past 12 years, Ruckus has seen it’s fair share of growth. The offseason started with 11 teams in a high school gymnasium in 2005, steadily increased and plateaued to just around tournament size at 21-26 teams from 2006-2011. From 2012 - present we saw an influx of interested teams and upgraded from gymnasiums and field houses to dome arenas and concert venues. We still cap Ruckus at ~40 teams. This past weekend we had 36 teams participate although our max was in 2014 where we maxed out at 40.

One of the biggest positive feedback points we get on a yearly basis is that the event is run like a regional. In 2016, we had 41 matches with defenses on a scheduled rotation, 7 minute cycle times with each team playing 7 Qual Matches each. Obviously with larger venues and more teams, the cost to hold the event will naturally go up. Ruckus is now $300 for registration which amounts to around $43/match if you don’t play in elims.

I cannot emphasize enough what other people have already said about trained volunteers. The crew at Ruckus has been doing not only this event but is essentially the same crew that runs the Finger Lakes Regional and has for years. It also helps when you have a seasoned planning committee and stellar FTAs.

Besides reputation and “building your event brand”, I think the biggest thing you can do to grow and be successful as an offseason is to listen to your attendees. Send out surveys right after the event and ask them what they liked and what they didn’t. Ruckus used to be far more gimmicky back in the day with it being almost half Halloween party / half robot competition. After years of feedback, it’s clear what the teams in the area want: another large-scale, well run, regional-sized event with as many matches as they can possibly play.

Here’s a look at how we run the schedule. Some year’s it goes late, some it ends early, but on average we stick to it pretty well.

4:30 - 8:00pm	Early Robot Dropoff & Registration
7:00pm	        Volunteer Meeting

**Saturday (Oct. 29th)**
6:00 - 7:00am      Volunteers Allowed In
7:00 - 8:00am	 Late Registration & Teams Allowed In
7:45 - 8:00am      Driver's Meeting
8:00 - 8:15am	 Opening Ceremony
8:15 - 11:55am    Qualification Matches
12:00 - 12:45pm   Lunch
12:10 - 12:30pm	  Pumpkin Chunkin Game (Durning Lunch)
12:45 - 2:50pm     Qualification Matches Continue
2:50 - 3:20pm      Alliance Pairings
3:20 - 3:30pm      Alliance Captain Meeting
3:30 - 4:30pm	 Quarterfinals
4:30 - 5:15pm      Semi-finals
5:15 - 6:30pm	 Finals & Awards
6:30pm	         Teardown and Cleanup

Let me know if there are any other specific questions you have!

What are your reasons for wanting a larger event?

40 teams in one day seems like a lot to ask. That’s just speaking from intuition, but some other people probably have more experience with the concept of a one day event.

CCC did 37 robots in two days this year, we almost doubled in size from 2015, but kept the two day event. We take breaks during the event for workshops, so a two day event allows for workshops and 10+ Qual matches per team. We want as many teams as possible attending so more teams can attend our workshops.


More teams means fewer qualifying rounds. Off season events are also opportunities for the ‘second string’ members to get field time. Maximize their field time. When you only get 24 teams into playoffs, you want to keep the number of teams participating low so that you maximize the probability of playoff selection.

40 teams is the size of a 2 day event with 12+ qualifying rounds per team. If the math is linear, a one day event with 40 teams would likely only allow for 6 qualifying rounds per team. We attended one off season event hosting 34 teams. We played 5 qualifying rounds + 1 practice round. At one point we were more than an hour behind schedule and not for a lack of volunteers. You need to build in buffer for equipment glitches, restarts, and a clearing the field and setting up for the next round, making announcements of teams, etc. This will take longer than you expect.

I would be surprised if at a 40 team 1 day event you manage to play more than 3 qualifying rounds. With the chances of playoffs selection being about 50/50, I would pass on that event. It wouldn’t be as beneficial to the team to gain experience.

I’d rather pay a little higher entry fee than attend a larger event.

RoboPride has attended R2OC for three years now, and it is the only off-season event we are guaranteed to continue going to. I personally love the way it is run right now and wouldn’t change any large aspects of that. As a team that is strapped for cash, honestly, we’d still go if you raised the price a bit. It’s a valuable experience for us.

If you are dead set on changing the format, I’m very curious about these over night events like WVROX. Perhaps an increased number of teams could get their money worth with one of these events. If we had money to travel to WV, I’d love to go. So if you guys could do something like that, count me in.

To everyone who helps facilitate these off-season events, Thank You!

The playoff aspect of it is a good point. Since it’s inception TRI has had 4 team alliances and has used old FRC/VEX rules that require your 4th robot to play in each elemination series at least once. This helps get more teams eliminations experience and more matches.

I’m really confused how some people are saying a 40 team event only gets ~3 qualifying rounds per team. That math just doesn’t make sense to me. If we ran really slowly like 8 min cycle times I’m sure we could fit in 6 matches per team at a minimum. In total we ran 45 qual matches at TRI in 2016 with 38 teams, that is 7 per team. We would only need to run a couple more matches if we had 40 teams.

To Allen Gregory IV

8 minute per round X 45 rounds = 320 minutes of play = 6 hours of qualifying rounds.

At the Duel on the Delaware, they scheduled 3 hours for Qualifying, 3 hours for the playoffs, and had some ceremonies in there too. Break down scheduled for 5pm.

3 hours of qualifying / 8 minutes = 23 rounds
23 rounds X 6 teams per round / 40 teams = 3.5 qualifying rounds per team.

There were 34 teams at the Duel
34 teams X 5 qualifying rounds/6 teams per round = 28 qualifying rounds
Scheduled duration per round ~6.75 minutes. Slightly less than 8 minutes. At one point we got about an hour off schedule. I think your number of 8 minutes is very realistic especially for planning purposes.

Each event organizer has their own goals of what they want to achieve. My point was more toward fewer teams=more field time. My goal of off season event attendance is to get my players time on the field, not just qualifying rounds but opportunity to get into the playoffs too. THANK YOU 1089, 4954 FOR TAKING US!

And if the host team’s goal is to raise funds, I’d rather pay a (slightly) higher entry fee than attend an event with more teams. LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT YEAR 365/316. THANK YOU!

Getting up at 5am to drive to an event that doesn’t end until 7pm and getting back at 10 pm is a long day… I love my team, but we have our limits… I’m not as young as I used to be…

It all really comes down to requirements. Every project has them, and this is no exception. So, sit down and determine the following:

  • How many matches per team do you require?
  • What is the earliest you can open the doors, and the latest you can close them?
  • What is the match cycle time you expect to hit? (This will be different every year - check with your FTA after they’ve had a chance to experience the game during the season!).
  • How many teams do you want for playoffs?

From those answers, create an example schedule. Build it from the outside in - in the morning, set aside the time needed for team arrival, pit setup, open ceremonies, etc before the first match can be played. In the afternoon/evening set aside time for packing up pits and getting everyone out the door, time for closing ceremonies, time for playoffs (With a fixed number of alliances + match cycle time + required field timeouts + a buffer for team timeouts and rubber matches you can figure this out), time for alliance selection. Set aside time for meals (volunteers need to eat!).

Once you’ve set aside all of that time, you’ll be left with some block of time for qualification matches. Knowing the match cycle time, you can figure out how many matches will be played, and translate that into matches per team. Does it meet your requirements? If not, drop the number of teams until the proposed schedule does meet your requirements. Fortunately, this will have practically no impact on the rest of the schedule! The only real impact it will have is when you cross the “threshold” for holding 4 or 8 alliance playoffs (affecting both playoff length and alliance selection), and have to make a decision to either drop to 4 or more up to 8.

Also, when determining start and end time, take into consideration the teams you want to attend. If you have plenty of teams within an hour of you, it’s not that big of a deal… but if you’re looking to attract teams from further away, starting too early or ending too late could force them to get a hotel - increasing their costs is going to probably decrease the likelihood of their attendance! The Gitchi Gummi event in Duluth found a great way around that this year, partnering with a local college to utilize the dorms for teams overnight. I won’t say any of the mentors I talked to enjoyed sleeping in the un-air-conditioned dorm rooms with a few hundred noisy kids, but it was a nice option (One that I and many other volunteers chose not to take:) ).

Finally, a suggestion… keeping the event to one day is great. But you can spill over to the evening before to allow things like load-in, pit set up, and radio configuration (all of which can take place while the field is being set up!). Maybe add in some conference sessions to make showing up the night before more attractive.

A HUGE THANKS for all your ideas and feedback! For 2016, R2OC registration for 32 teams filled in 2 weeks by mid-May. Additional teams were put on a Wait List. We ended up pulling 4 teams from the Wait List, and having an attending team bring their practice bot to fill in a spot created by a team dropping out 5 days before the event. Teams had 6 qual matches before alliance selection.We have made a practice of all teams being included in the elims, 4 bot/alliance. In order to avoid trying to reach Wait listed teams in the summer, we are thinking of opening up the registration to 40 teams, and playing with those who show up. But, IF 40 teams show up we need to have a plan! We have surveyed the attending teams and keeping it a one day event is highly preferred. We do have load in, practice matches, and social on Friday night, for those able to travel Friday night. Our goal isn’t to have 40 teams compete, it is to have a complete roster of 32.

Kettering Kickoff had 47 yeams at it’s event. It started out bad with a team impacting the wall in autonomous that is shut down the event for half an hour to dealing with teams having issues connecting with the field and a very competitive eliminations (most of the teams at the event were at MSC). The competition ended at 9pm! If you are doing a one day event I would recommend using no more than 42 teams at most and going with 32 to 36 teams instead.

i just want to point out that team 25 is hosting Brunswick eruption this weekend. they while have 45 teams competing. i attend last year as well with i believe the same amount of teams. they manage to give each team 5 matches if i remember correctly with only one field. they have more teams then a usual district competition in my area and its run so smoothly. they really know what they are doing.

When deciding to expand your event, please consider your volunteers. Running several qualifications matches per team at a larger event means two things, quicker turnaround and longer hours. Both of those puts a tax on your volunteer base. You’re going to need top notch FTAs and CSAs if you want to maintain match turnarounds around ~7 minutes, especially given that many teams are using beat-up robots and inexperienced field/pit crews. You’re also going to be asking all of your volunteers to commit to an even longer day. It’s on thing for a volunteer to get up early on a Saturday but still have time to drive to their home at night. It’s another to have an event that doesn’t end until 7 or later at night, and then have your volunteers stay for an extra hour or two to pack up the field before they can drive home. And for many of those key volunteers, the commute to your event may not be trivial.

THIS. We ran a 2-day event at CCC this year but fell very behind schedule due to field and robot communication difficulties. Not that our FTA crew wasn’t fantastic or anything :wink: but we just weren’t able to start setting up the field until later in the day due to a conflict with the school so we didn’t fully get the FMS set up until after the pits closed, which means all teams had gone and we couldn’t test with actual robots (the pit doors had been locked at this point). Make sure you can get your field setup early and make sure it’s been tested before you begin qualification matches.