Luck in First Choice affecting BOM?

I’ve always gone after the things our team can use the most from FIRST Choice. We’ve also never been close to the BOM limit. I fully expect both of those things to be true again this year. From that perspective, if what I want isn’t a “high BOM valued object”, then the rules actually help me and my team get what we want…

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I posted when the rules were first announced a few weeks ago that how you use your FC credits and vouchers is really important to teams anywhere near the BOM. I will almost certainly be only using FC credit on items that I believe will be on our robot and are not in the KOP at quanities I think we will have on our robot. I will also not be using our AM voucher or possibly other vouchers till we are sure what is on our robot, having to change design and no longer needing a certain gearbox could drastically change your cost accounting. (This will probably mean we are using vouchers for spares and not the first order of most items, and possibly even unnecessary spares if we need the BOM room but already have spares). None of this seems like good engineering to me, and making the rules more reasonable seems like a much better option.

I’m also strongly against a system that doesn’t allow all teams to build the same robot legally. If team A can’t opt out of the drive base or doesn’t get lucky in the FC lottery then they can’t build the same robot as team B. That is inheritly unfair and I don’t see any reason for that unfairness to exist in a world where we can make it more fair by changing the rules.

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I don’t understand the reason behind not including everything above the $5 limit. I’ve always thought it was odd that we got to leave items off of the BOM just because they were in the KOP. Why not raise the amount to something like $7000 and include it all.

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I didn’t say it was a good part of it, or one I wanted to see continue, but getting hosed on resources at the start of a project is universal from business to Fortnite.

I’d be much happier if credits were their own BOM, so a team could opt for the nice multimeter and then take a 100-credit Talon they paid cash for off their USD BOM.

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Just shut down the FIRST Choice system. FIRST could encourage the star vendors to (for example) offer every team a voucher for 60% off the price of a speed controller rather than donating enough speed controllers for 60% of teams.

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There is something to be said for actual product donations vs vouchers. If not all of a product is given out in one season the product can be given out in another season, not the same with vouchers. Vouchers are also a much more complicated system for many of the FIRST Choice items, such that there are companies that may not want to have direct orders from 4000 teams shipping 1 or 2 products.

I am a big fan of FIRST Choice and what it provides for teams. I’m not a fan for how it is cost accounted on the BOM.

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and maybe a vision camera too?

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Agreed, FIRST Choice works well for teams! But when combined with the current BOM rules, what pops out is this behavior of teams working against their best interests-- and the best interests of the communities who leverage their limited resources to support this program. We must change one system or the other. I hope it is the BOM that flinches first.


no man has all 3

  • a fair way to distribute in-kind donations to thousands of participants
  • a fair way to cap robot budgets
  • a rule system that doesn’t make you cut off your nose to spite your face
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I’ve never had much to say about the BOM rules until now, but I want to add one thing to Allen’s point. Considering where we are in the world today, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging another avenue for wasteful consumption. If the current rules incentivize people buying things they already have and don’t need for the sake of rule compliance, I’m not sure it’s the best idea. Frankly, in an ideal world I’d like to see teams rewarded for reusing components.

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Likewise.

Good points throughout. One more thing to consider - the BOM enforcement is not strong. I think that is good - it shouldn’t be the most important thing the inspector is looking for. However, with the changes last year and thus, it is now much easier to approach the BOM cost limit. This makes it a concern when some teams who are quite aware of the rules and do a very complete BOM stay within the rules, but others who don’t do a BOM until the night before or don’t do a complete BOM may stray over the limit but never realize it or be called on it.

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What are the gaps in the BOM and why would getting rid of the BOM all together be beneficial?

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Great questions, I’ll start this off (from a volunteer perspective first)

  • It is impossible to properly enforce any form of BOM rule with the time given for each inspection. If inspectors were expected to calculate the amount of sheet metal, extrusion, etc used on each robot and to ensure that every item over $5 is properly accounted for, we would not get done with inspections in anywhere near enough time to play matches. This means that vast majority of BOM inspections are cursory glances to ensure that someone was smart enough not to list any items as greater than the single cost limit ($500) and that the total is less than or equal to the total limit ($5000 this season).

  • That being said some inspectors use the BOM as a time to only be thorough with certain teams, teams they don’t like, teams that have different philosophies on how robots and teams should be operated, teams that have robots that look more professional, etc. None of these are valid reasons for teams to be treated differently than everyone else and their inspections should not take longer than any other teams unless there is something noticeably wrong with their robot and it needs to be corrected.

  • It’s not really a learning experience for the students, they sometimes know its a thing they have to do, often during the inspection process to make something that the inspectors will pass.

  • Numerous times I have had teachers and students come to me in distress because they left the BOM at the hotel or didn’t realize they needed one and aren’t sure if they will be able to compete, etc. This is unnecessary stress on an already very stressful day for most teams.

From a team perspective

  • It rarely does anything at all to “Level the playing field” or create any kind of balance. The vast majority of teams are building the robots they want to build no matter what and if they can’t fit what they need under the BOM they are either not paying enough attention to the BOM to worry about it and just submitting something to pass, or working the BOM rules enough to allow their robot to pass, or spending even more money to develop a new solution that costs less BOM accountable money but almost certainly took a lot more money and resources to create.

  • The BOM doesn’t effect development costs. There are teams that don’t easily have resources besides money so not allowing them to use a COTS solution hurts them more than a team that can fabricate their own solution with equipment that costs magnitudes more than the BOM total limit. As you lower the BOM the teams with the most resources will actually get a bigger performance advantage on the field because they can spend more money and resources to develop “cheaper” solutions. Example, it can be cheaper to custom make gears from billet aluminum instead of buying them but it’s widely inefficient and requires a lot more resources.

I almost certainly left off other reasons why the BOM is ineffective, unfair, unnecessary, and should be abolished but I’ll stop for now.

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Actually, I’d really appreciate it if you did continue. I think your points are extremely insightful and beneficial to the conversation. I potentially have a lot of years left in this program once I become a mentor, so I have a vested interest in fixing the evident problems in the program. There are a lot of problems in FIRST that are currently unsolved, and if we don’t discuss them to the fullest extent, they never will be.

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This is very inspector dependent. Last year we had an inspector googling on their phone FMV of parts we used to verify numbers on our BOM and we were still around $2000-2500 when they were done.

Very unusual case, but it has happened.

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As a poster above mentioned, this is to some extent a philosophical question. What kind of team do you want to have? I suspect that the percentage of teams that come near the max limit are over represented on CD. To those teams that have the fundraising mojo, the team size and organization, along with the motivation to do so…the high end swerve driven future awaits. To some extent I think FIRST HQ is encouraging this path, even as it drops Bag and Tag Day to supposedly introduce a modicum of equity between high and low resource teams.

This reflects the real world. You are, or aspire to be, either Big Tech or that scrappy garage start up. If I had the opportunity to help mentor a team with five times the students and ten times the budget of our small town outfit I think it would be much less fun. Finding ways to maximize your resources. On the principle that Necessity is the Mother of Invention I think this is better learned on teams far short of the BOM max. And I say this with no animus to the Elite, its just my personal inclinations.

I also think FIRST Choice is a bit of an anachronism. For those who have been around longer, did FC and KoP parts formerly make up a larger percentage of robots than they do today?

TW

First choice is a relatively new, modern, and good system. We have put a larger percentage of our first choice items on our robots than we have our KOP items for all of the years First Choice has existed.

Lower resource teams tend to use more of the kop. We used to use more of the Kit, younger teams tend to use more of the kop.

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s-neff

That makes sense. But in the relatively few years ( five ) I’ve been around it has seemed as if First Choice is rather hit and miss. Both with respect to the utility of products offered and in the “luck” in getting what you want in sufficient quantities.

I do get that long term stocking up on the classics is part of FC.

TW

We used to (and still do) use a lot of the KOP. When the rule used to read “if at least one of them was in the KOP it doesn’t count” we took full advantage of that (a bag, cim, and minicim have been in the KOP every year for a long time)

I remember our 2014 and 2015 bots each had a “total cost” of something like $2,500 despite each having 4 cims, 1 minicim, 1 andmark gear motor, and the 2014 bot had pneumatics and the the 2015 bot had something like 20+ft of 80-20.

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That’s my experience too. It actually tells you more about how much we use the rest of the Kit of Parts these days…