I have to prepare for a team meeting tonight where I unfortunately have to break the news that we are not going to nationals, so I do not have sufficient time to go into detail… But here’s an analytical look at what this limitation does… I don’t mean to protest the decision, but rather to critique it’s likely effects (and these are NOT necessarily bad effects)…
(1) Teams that receive certain awards in previous years qualify for nationals automatically. Some of these awards are only awarded to teams that attend nationals! Therefore, teams who do not attend nationals this year will have a decreased chance of attending nationals next year.
(2) Given this, probability believes that next year there will be more even numbered teams at nationals than there will be odd numbered teams at nationals this year. Even numbered teams will in fact have a permanant advantage over odd numbered teams in the future (although this advantage does decrease every year, and eventually it will even out).
(3) The same logic applies to 2002 rookies and all future rookies. Rookies will have a much more difficult time qualifying to go to nationals than other teams.
(4) Current year regional winners – how many teams can afford to go to nationals on three weeks notice? I know the logistics of getting air tickets would be virtually impossible, or extremely pricey. Instead, nationals will be a collection of pseudorandom teams (depending on the modulo of the year) and teams that performed well in past years but not necessarily this one.
(5) The term “National Champion” should no longer be attributed to winning teams – given that not all teams are allowed to go to nationals. You may argue that one such team could qualify by winning a regional, but i don’t know any teams that can pull $15k+ to get there. Plus, probabilty will tell you there’s probably about a 60-80% chance that the winning team this year is an even number. That alone suggests that there can be no national true champion – only a winner of the Epcot Invitational Competiton.
(6) Wealthy teams who attend multiple regional will qualify much more often than less-wealthy teams – not because of a better robot, simply because they have more chances to qualify for the current year’s nationals as well as future nationals. I would strongly urge FIRST to use only the first regional that a team attends as a qualifier for nationals.
Given all these, and the situation FIRST was faced with, I honestly think they came up with an alright solution. Every solution with regard to limitation will have it’s disadvantage and built in biases. While I do think the FIRST community would have been better served if FIRST had split nationals over two weekends (very little additional cost; all teams can go), if we have to limit nationals, my quarrels are minor points only. I also think it is great that we have more regionals! This is one very positive side effect of limiting nationals, and I look forward to attending some of these new regionals. And if your team cannot go to nationals next year, you can always elect to travel to distant regional in it’s place (and probably a lot cheaper than Disney accomodations).
PS Let’s hope the scoring for the 2002 game is a lot simpler than the qualification-to-nationals.