Is it time to eliminate the “six week” build season? Think about the tremendous savings of time and money if there was no six-week deadline. A number of folks will say that six weeks is long enough and if you expand the build season you’re going to have more mentor burn out.
Actually, the majority of the leading teams build two robots and continue to develop, improve, and practice throughout the entire FIRST season. That coupled with the withholding allowance and the practice and pit time at the various regional and district competitions allows teams to legally make major changes.
You could eliminate the building of a second robot, which most of the leading teams do. You could continue to practice, debug, and improve the one robot that you take to the competitions. And you can eliminate the “bag and tag” nonsense.
If you want to keep the six week build season, then make it an actual six week limit. Make it illegal to continue to work and practice after the ship/bag date. Otherwise eliminate it completely.
I think you would find that teams would just look at whatever the best robots are in the first few weeks (254s and 1114s of the world) and start building a whole new robot for later events and championships.
However everything involving money and time spent would be a lot nicer.
I’d be 100% in favor of eliminating “bag day” and shifting to a “kickoff-to-competition” schedule. We’d do less work, be less stressed, and consume less resources while probably providing a better educational experience.
I would love to hear the perspectives of FTC and VRC teams on this line of thought. They have an even larger competition window and much more affordable robots, making strategies like this even more feasible.
This is very common in VRC. By the time we get to VEX Worlds in April, design convergence has usually set in, with 2-3 designs that have been extensively cloned/copied. Some teams really like this, others really don’t.
I’ve made my stance clear for a long time, the six week build season negatively impacts lower resource teams to a greater degree then large resource teams to the detriment of the entire program.
If we remove the build season limitation across the board we will see a dramatic increase of the quality of the product that we put on the field in front of the public.
Teams have more time to
Share ideas and teach during the season
make their robots professional looking (paint, etc)
iterate, tune, and tweak
Practice, Practice, Practice
The only argument I see against the limit is burn out, but a large amount of teams are already essentially building right up to and through Champs (or IRI). So if a team wants to stop after the 45 days they are able to and won’t be at any further disadvantaged then they are now.
I’m in favor of getting rid of it. I got some evil stares from mentors when I said FIRST would eventually get rid of it about 2 years ago at a meeting but I stand by that statement. It will eventually go away.
I suspect we’d see less convergence than everyone thinks but I could be wrong.
Getting rid of the six week season will make keeping rookies (and new mentors) on the team a bit harder.
It would probably also make the act of packing for the first trip to competition twice as stressful as it already is, since there will be much less packing until the last minute. Also, the withholding allowance format encourages adaptability and consistency in dimensions as a requirement in the design process.
I think more mentors are lost when they realize the time commitment is more than they expected. I think my team is better at being up front on how much time it takes to mentor. We no longer describe the commitment as only the build season but include the full length of competition.
We will see a slight rise in design convergence but not a whole lot more then we already do. Rebuilding an entire FRC robot is a lot of work with or without the bag restraints. Removing the bag restraints isn’t going to instantly motivate teams to put in that kind of effort. We see teams rebuild in season every year (we did it, 973 did it, etc).
FRC is a different animal than VRC.
Less time between first competition and championship
harder to rebuild/build a robot in that time frame
more expensive to copy a design
much, much harder to get it right when you do copy a design
few teams will just wait for 7 weeks to see what the top week 1 team does
We already saw design convergence with the systems that are easy to modify in many years. It didn’t ruin anything.
One major advantage of the current build format is that it only allows 1 robot to be associated with a team. There are a few scenarios in which I can see this being taken advantage of.
Team A built a good robot, but didn’t manage to qualify for championships. Team B qualified (maybe as a 3rd robot or RAS), but doesn’t have a very good robot. Again, Team B could potentially compete with a robot that they had no part in building.
Team C didn’t build that great of a robot this year. They are friends with Team D that built a really good robot. Team C is competing in a week that Team D is not competing in. Team C in theory could compete with Team D’s robot to give them a better chance at winning the event.
Team E has a lot of resources. They could build 2 different robots for use with different strategies. They can bring them both to competition, and just reinspect their chosen robot each time they want to play a different position in the game.
Cheesecaking could get out of hand (more than it already has) with teams literally bringing a full alliance worth of robots to swap with their partners.
Are there rules that could circumvent these scenarios? Probably, but these are definitely things that would need to be addressed before we drop bag day.
As an international team, we would need a stop build day regardless.
Generally, we need to crate and ship the robot at least a week before a regional. And if we’re going to championships, or another overseas regional, there is no time to ship it back, work, and ship it out again.
Granted, in Australia we have a regional now. This however dosen’t help a lot of other teams.
At the Australian regional, we were also very lucky to have some US teams come over. I think if you eliminated bag and tag, then teams that may be interested in going to regionals luck ours, would be discouraged for losing that 2 or more weeks or robot time in transit. I’d be intereseted to hear what the Hawaian teams think of this.
I think eliminating stop build day would give a massive boost in competetivness to many teams, but there would be a group that are left behind.
I think it’s in FIRST’s best interests to eliminate bag day if they have any vested interest in improving both the on-field product (better competition) and off-field product (better and more numerous opportunities for education). I would assume they care about at least one of these things.
On top of that, FIRST has championed expanding the reach of the program to under-served areas. In fact, Don reiterated that point in the video released today. As it stands, a nontrivial number of teams are needlessly consuming thousands of dollars in redundant resources every year to field a practice robot. That money could be filtered back in to supporting additional existing or potential rookie teams without the current team suffering at all competitively.
“But Wil, they could just not build a practice robot now and filter that money back into the FIRST community.”
Teams are run independently of what FIRST may want teams to focus on. Teams may find fielding a highly competitive program to be a better use of their time than helping to field an additional team that would risk both teams being less competitive than the original team. Eliminating bag day can help nudge teams to help out other teams.
While you are right, there are a lot of teams where if one or two particular people stop working with the team, then the team takes a serious hit. It’s definitely not good for the team to be operating like that, but it is a reality. The decision to let so many people IS still up to you, but it isn’t always a simple one.