Is Shipping the Robot to Champs Required?

Our bot can easily fit in the bus we are bringing and it seems more trouble than it’s worth to build a crate to ship it, considering we qualified yesterday. What are the requirements on shipping the bot to champs? What are repercussions for not doing so?

You are required to ship your robot in a crate.

ALL teams attending the FIRST Championship MUST have a crate to ship their robot in and MUST ship their robot to the FIRST Championship.

You are welcome to contact FIRST and ask, but I suspect the answer will be you have to ship it. If you don’t… You risk being ineligible to play at all, in the worst case.

Unfortunately, yes.

It makes sense that teams have space in their travel plans to fit their robot, since almost everyone in contiguous North America takes their robot to at least 1 event themselves, and those of us in districts are taking them to at least 3.

It absolutely is!

This makes the previous statement even more obvious.

Mandatory. You might have to take it up with the teamsters. Good luck with that.

At least one team has brought a robot themselves to a CMP event, and in this case it was under incredibly rare circumstances, under direct approval from headquarters.

However, I encourage teams to try to buck this rule this year because, for example, every team in Oakland County is going to ship a robot for a shorter total distance than their total self-service robot transport this season, and it’s insane.

Disclaimer: I am a coward and we did build a crate and the robot ships out tomorrow, so I’m not practicing what I preach when I say that teams should bring bagged robots to the venue this year and dare FIRST to turn them away.

Has anyone asked “why?”?

Bagging is an inherently trust-based system, so I don’t see how the answer could be “because we don’t trust teams to not work on their robots”.

Is it because FedEx sponsors FIRST at a projected amount, and the actual amount would vary if not all teams shipped with them via crate? That should not be the case because FedEx could just bump up their assistance to international teams to cover the difference. Win-win-win.

Maybe it’s to create another problem for teams to solve (make a crate, fit the robot in, etc.)? As if there aren’t enough logistics problems to solve already with preparations for going to CMPs… that should not be it.

Consistency/reliability? Meaning a consistent shipping method = closer to a guarantee that no robots will be lost or delayed in transit, with petitions from teams to be granted a break or concession of some kind? Maybe, but if it is made clear that teams are responsible to get their robots to the venue on time, then that seems like enough. What team would incur all the other expenses of going to CMPs and take the risk that their robot could be lost or late? Approximately none, I think.

Is it to avoid giving teams near CMPs some advantage? Since the robot is bagged either way, that doesn’t make sense. Nearby teams have the advantage of proximity no matter what. Houston and Detroit team kids are sleeping in their own beds at night - maybe we should require they stay in a hotel to level that playing field.

Or is it “just the way we do it”? If so, that’s a pretty unsatisfying rationale for a science and technology organization. I would support keeping crate shipping available, but just make it optional so teams can bring their bots a different way if it works better for them. Unless there is an actual logical reason for it to be required… Can anyone clue us in?

We were really close to having to ask special permission to bring our robot to Houston ourselves. FedEX kept sending trucks without lift gates, even though we requested one, to our school to pickup our crate…luckily today we had enough people around to lift the crate into the truck ourselves.

If it wasn’t for our crate + robot being less than 300 lbs I’m not sure it would have worked.

I was losing my mind all day.

My gripe is that if FRC Logistics says they have to better manage Fedex vouchers, and teams like ours or international teams’ only option is to ship, why cant we all get those vouchers and let teams that rather bring their robot in with them, do so?

We are paying $$$$$$ all season just to bring robots to events which equates to the cost of a regional itself.

For every team that doesnt want to ship their robot to champs in a crate, I’d bet you’d have enough airbills for teams that needed them throughout the season (2 in the past). i.e. international and Hawaii/Alaska teams.

The only reason I can think of is the contract with Shepard to handle all crates. If that is the case, its time to end that contract. The one size fits all teams is outdated, especially since bag/tag has been in place for district/regional events.

Isn’t the main reason for crateing the robot for champs so that everyones robot is in the pit and teams don’t have to do load in?

I would be all for this! Shipping seems like a big barrier to entry for overseas teams, and I am sure a lot of teams would be willing to bring their robot in their trailer to champs if it meant that it was cheaper for teams that have to ship to regionals. Still doesn’t cover the cost of getting parts flown in, but its something at least.

We still have to load in with the actual pit setup, though. What more is one additional cart with the robot?

Agreed. Our team has something like 6 carts total (we consolidate a lot onto 1 cart/dolly). Five are big, bulky and heavy and are for the pit. One is light, maneuverable, and is the robot.

Plus, even if the robot’s already there, we’d still have to bring in the robot cart anyway, defeating the whole purpose (what little there was of it, anyways).

In my opinion, if that’s the reason, then it is dated because the crate now only contains the robot, batteries, and bumpers. The volume of the those things is significantly less than the volume of the pit framework/walls, tools, parts, supplies, empty robot cart, SWAG, etc. that most teams bring. So load-in is required regardless. Since the empty robot cart needs to be wheeled to the pit anyway, there’s really no time/effort savings.

Someone made the point (their post seems to have gone away) that there is probably some contractual reason - maybe that’s it. Seems worth looking into changing - maybe that’s in the works.

Replying to others that responded with similar statements,

If you robot is already there, then it is up to individual teams how much extra stuff you want to bring to set up your pit.

Having all robots shipped and crate placed in pit then allow teams to decide whatever else they want to bring, taking the pressure off of F.I.R.ST. to manage a massive individual team load In.

Edit: this is all about the load that first wants to take on for the event. With the current system first can make sure everyones robot gets to the event, and anything extra is up to you to provide, this is in my opinion more fair than anything else i can think of.

It’s distressing and disappointing that you and your students had to do this. I would consider contacting FIRST if I were you with a strongly worded complaint. Making the team members lift the crate and potentially injure themselves because of FedEx’s repeated issue is absurd.

So here’s the question for all you East Coast/MI/TX teams (and points in between).

How would you like to drive from your nearest championship out to the West Coast, with your robot in your appropriate transport vehicle? How about doing a round trip?

If you say you wouldn’t, you’re telling the truth. If you say you would, but your school district/work won’t let you, you’re telling the truth. If you say you would, and your school/work are OK with doing that, I’m going to issue Pinocchios.

All y’all back there have very little sense of how long the drives are out here.
Let me put it this way: For my team (Torrance, CA) to Houston, it’s 22.5 hours (1564 miles) from shop to convention center, straight driving, crossing 4 states. (Let’s assume I time it to avoid leaving during rush hour, which runs from about 2:30PM to 7:30PM on weekdays. If I mis-plan, make that 24 hours even.) That’s not counting food stops, sleep stops, and just plain “get me out of the vehicle” stops. Absolute minimum 2 days, more likely 3. That’s a week of school or work right there, and another day on the way back (maybe 2). New York City to Detroit? 9.5 hours (615 miles), crossing 5 states. That’s a relatively routine bus trip, I’d think–similar to an L.A.-Sacramento run out here, only a little longer.

Until a CMP event migrates west of Belle Fourche, SD*, West Coast teams transporting their own robots to CMPs will be at a distinct hardship that isn’t present when going to their local regional. So, to make things a little more even, HQ inflicts pain on everyone. Would I like to see a provision for “bring your own”? I think that would be a good idea. But it would have to coexist with the “ship it” teams.

The real “rebel” move would be to try to exercise the ability to bring your robot home without using the crate. Bonus for bringing the crate home under the bus too.

*Guru points for knowing why I picked on that specific location without use of “the Google”.

That’s us in 2016, but the crate got shipped with a bunch of pit stuff we didn’t need. We had a PR event the week after.

My bet is still on. There arent enough international (HI/Alaska) teams yet who qualify for champs which would exceed the no. that could opt out of shipping to champs to bring their robot on their own.
Your situation for needing Fedex to transport your robot to champs is warranted. But for almost all California teams that compete, they drive their robots to regional events and dont have it air shipped to an event.

So you’re saying that people that need to transport their robots long distances should be able to use a shipping credit? No one is arguing against that.

Of all of the clouds to yell at, this is the thinnest one.

Its nothing. Except your math doesn’t add up. Championship has 400+ teams so it is actually 400+ more carts! All going through the same entrance. Plus the 2000+ carts of equipment that are already going through the entrance.

Load in at champs is much more complicated than at a regional! As someone who has gone before, while it is a hassle, I appreciate the whole ship it via FedEx thing. It makes an already stressful situation less so.

Here in MN, we have about the exact opposite issue west coast teams would have if they couldn’t ship. Our state championship is only 3 weeks after Champs, which means we have to take our robots back with us, as they may not arrive in time if shipped. That means we also have to bring the crates back with us.

I don’t know about others, but our trailer is completely full when we pack for an event. Yes, the robot fits (rather nicely, it’s actually a bit of a pain to move things around to fill that hole going out to Champs). But the crate doesn’t. There’s no way the crate fits with everything else in there. So, we’re stuck renting a U-Haul for this trip, just so we can bring our crate back home, along with everything else. Shipping to Champs is actually costing us more than not shipping would!

Personally, I’d love to be able to decline shipping my robot to Champs. Use that donation to let a team in need ship a second “pit supplies” crate (knowing the donation would go to a team in greater need would actually make me more likely to opt out!). Let us make that decision in the fall (like we do with the drive train opt out, the default would be “ship my stuff”), which gives HQ a nice number once teams start qualifying so they can hand out additional shipping. They have to have enough data to get a pretty decent geographical estimate on the team distribution for each Champs, such that they can draw a circle and say “everyone more than X miles can ship a second crate this year” - and we could know where that line was early enough to allow teams to set plans even before they qualify.