One-Regional versus Multi-Regional teams

Every year, our team discusses the pros and cons of attending a second regional to be more competitive on the field. We always come to the same conclusion, ‘It would be better to spend our funds on EARLY, FIRST LEGO League, Botball, and BEST robotics teams and events than to pay the entry and travel costs associated with a second regional.’ We realize that it would give us a decisive advantage on the field but can never justify the expenditure … our robot usually performs flawlessly for the first demo after the Championships :slight_smile:

After performing an analysis of the success of teams that participated in one regional versus those that participated in more than one regional (statistics below), I have confirmed what others have told me for years; teams that attend more than one regional have a marked advantage over teams that only attend one regional. Since teams are now expected to qualify for the Championships, I think it is time to seriously discuss ways to make the playing field more level between one-regional and multi-regional teams.

If you feel that this is an issue worth addressing, please propose solutions and constructively comment on others.

Here is the best solution that I can come up with:

Implement FIRST sanctioned “Warm-up Events” the weekend before the first regional for teams that are only attending one regional. This could be a win-win for the teams and FIRST. At these events, the referees will be refining their calls, the teams will be getting game ready, FIRST will get a preview of how teams will play the game, and the community will get to watch their teams before sending them off to the regional. Here are some details.

-Ship date would be on Thursday at 9:00 am, 7 days before the first regional. Teams attending two or more regionals would be required to ship their robot while those attending only one regional would bring their 'bot with them to the “Warm-up Event.”

-The events would be low cost and similar to those that are held during the weekend before ship. Since the participating teams would be organizing and conducting the events, there would be a large variance in the quality of the events. For example, some events would have a very nice, high fidelity field while some others would use the attending teams practice fields and game pieces.

-The event format would be similar to a regional with one day of practice and two days of competition. This is a great time for local fund raising and exposing the community to FIRST.

-The sanctioning of the event would ensure that the event emulates a FIRST regional instead of purely providing extra build days for the teams. Gracious Professionalism would be a must.

-On Saturday, every team would crate and ship their 'bots just as at a regional. This may even save FedEx some money because it would reduce the pickup locations.

-These events would be located to reduce the travel time for teams and could be located in cities that might someday host a regional. Some events may only have a handful of teams attending.

-Since venues are already booked for the 2005 & 2006 season, it makes sense to do it the week before the first regional.

-I realize this solution is not without problems though, here is a couple of them
-Teams would have to bring their crate to the “Warm-up Event”
-Another couple days away from family
-May reduce the number of regional slots that are used (money out of FIRST’s pocket)
-Difficult to police events

Thanks for you input,
Lucien

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One-regional versus multi-regional statistics from the 2004 season.

All of FIRST (929 teams)
72% went to 1 regional
26% went to 2 regionals
2% went to 3 regionals
.1% (1 team) went to 4 regionals

At the Championships (292 teams)
55% went to 1 regional
40% went to 2 regionals
5% went to 3 regionals
.3% (1 team) went to 4 regionals

Of the top 8 in the Championship Divisions (32 teams)
19% went to 1 regional
72% went to 2 regionals
9% went to 3 regionals

Of the teams playing in the Championship elimination rounds (quarterfinals - 96 teams)
30% went to 1 regional
63% went to 2 regionals
7% went to 3 regionals
Therefore, only 18% of the teams that attended one regional made it to the quarters while over 50% of the teams that attended two regionals made it.

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, FIRST is NOT about the robots.

It really hit me over the past few days, when hanging out with friends from acrosss the country, people I’d never even known existed if not for FIRST. I know tons of people interested in the same thing I am, I can sit down and talk to them and it feels like we’ve been friends forever. I agree with Dave Lavery that one of us will probably be the first humans on Mars, or at least designing the spacecraft that take the first humans to Mars. FIRST has changed my life, no doubt, and my robots never worked until after the end of the season.

FIRST is about inspiring, not about winning. Don’t get caught up in the idea that FIRST is only about the robots and who can build the best one. If you’ve been inspired, and it’s changed your life, even a tiny bit, then FIRST has done it’s job.

i sincerely doubt that FIRST would ever be able to implement something like that. FIRST is usually strapped for cash as it is, and attempting to insure all teams access to something like this would simply be unreasonable

personally I feel that a team gets the most out of the program at their first regional - thats where your 6 weeks of design and build gets put to the test, thats where many of your team mates get to meet other teams, and be at an event for the 1st time

at your second regional or the championship you get to refine your bot and strategy, and many teams do much better at their 2nd event performance wise

but its not the same as the first event of the year - nothing competes with that

travelling to events out of town is really a relic of the old days, when there were only a few teams and regionals, spread out across the country, and most teams HAD to travel to get to a competition

now that we have regionals at 26 citys and growing, most teams have a better chance of attending an event in their home town

is that enough? absolutely - I would not think any less of a team that only attends one local regional

if you have the money and support to travel to a second regional, or the championship, should you go? absolutely

should you goto 3 or more events? I think after the second one your ‘returns’ diminish rapidly - if our team had that much money I think we would start to look at spawing a second team at another school.

thinking like an engineer Im temped to start drawing graphs or inflicting some data driven analysis on this topic, but to keep it simple, what is the real goal here?

would it be better to have one team that attend a regional every week, and the championship

or

to have several teams that attend one regional each, and maybe one of those teams goes onto the championship?

from a goal oriented perspective, I would rather see every HS in my state have a FIRST team, attending our new local regional in Rochester, NY than to see a handfull of teams in our state attending several events.

Frankly have you thought about a pre ship scrimmage? it might be just what you are looking for…

After 3 years and 9 on and off season competitions, my humble opinion is that there are so many other factors that go into the pot to make a "winning"team. Like luck, your alliance partners, the state of your finances, who designs and engineers your robot, can you build two robots, do you have space to practice, who are your mentors, how much fun is the team having, how supportive is your school in allowing time off, how many AP courses are you taking, did you lose 11 days of the build because of blizzards, do you have supportive parents, do you get along with other teams, how is the respect and communication between all members of the team, do you live near a regional? Of course experience helps too. Some teams make the hard financial choice that it is more fun to go to two regionals, rather than the Championship. I could put down about a hundred more factors but you get the idea.
My sense is that FIRST is already stretched and would rather help teams by hosting more regionals. But I think this is an excellent discussion idea.
What is important in making a winning team?

What is important in making a winning team?

that one is easy

how many students will go through the whole FIRST experience, and attend one regional, and decide that engineering is not for them

but upon attending a second event, change their mind and decide to be an engineer?

I know this thread is intended to be about how well a teams bot plays the game, but you can get lost in that train of thought, there are more important things to consider.

Personally, I think it’s great for a team to attend a second regional, if it falls in line with their objectives.

Some teams have an objective that goes really heavy in leading kids to engineering as a profession, and the robot is just a part of the motions. Other teams tend to focus more on the robot, and compete to win at the game, have fun, and enjoy the experience. Is one objective a better one than the other? I don’t believe so. One might not be as much in tune with FIRST’s goals, but each team is their own group.

It’s kinda like AFJROTC–the goal is building better citizens for America, but the methods vary widely from unit to unit. Some go heavily on academics, others do drill, others do community service. All are legit approaches.

As far as luck goes, when a team wins its 4th national title in the time they’ve been involved with FIRST (I think 71 has been in FIRST for 8 yrs or so) you can’t really say it’s luck. When the probability of an event occurring is around 50%, it’s not really luck; it’s obviously an effect from a cause. Now, I’m not saying that a one regional team can’t win a national championship, they obviously can, but it’s hard not to spot a trend.

I agree FIRST is more about just winning; I don’t think any of us need to hear that. But let’s not overlook the part where FIRST is also about winning. Why else do we have competitions? Why else have matches? Why else have national champions crowned? Sure, we could all build a robot in 6 weeks, ship it, and then just have a fun day in an arena where we drive them around showing each other our different designs oooing and ahhing over them and then go our separate ways without any concluding ending such as the definitive nature of competition. But somehow I believe this would be less effective on the INSPIRATION part of FIRST. We should not shy away from showing kids that the real world operates by resourcefulness. If a team can go to 6 regionals, compete and win a national title every single year, then so be it. It will force teams to become more resourceful in how they prepare to handle that team. Listen to what Dean said about outsourcing. I believe it was a similar theme. Let’s not become complacent and gripe that the competition is kicking our butts because they are becoming more resourceful than we are. Adapt…change…modify…and I believe that our modification is to better prepare our robots for the competition. Y’all may argue over the semantics to best achieve this goal. But I would NEVER say that we shouldn’t try to win a national title because that’s not what FIRST is about. Granted the experience of FIRST is an engraining one, leaving an impression on the thickest of heads. But I also think it could sink even further if they had a competively successful experience. I don’t want to send the message to our kids that accepting the fact that our robot was out gunned and out prepared is ok. If we don’t move to change that, then we might as well be outsourced.

my little input…
if your team and bot goes to multiple regionals it takes a GREAT toll on the robot and the team.
Robot:
spares, extra time in buildin season to make many more then usual spares for the robot.
people, takes more time away from school,family,friends, etc…

i would love to go to 2 regionals next year, Buckeye and ROCHESTER Regional (Finger Lakes Regional) then go to Nationals… but that doesnt look good right now so all i know it will be so far just the Rochester Regional.

Pit

In the Seattle area, we useally have an invitational event just before shipping the robot. While this is not a FIRST sponsored event, it gives the teams a good sense of what stratagies to use, what to change in programming, and also the pressure of live competition. Oh, It also gives a chance for any last-minuite add-ons. :smiley:

Quickly… I’ll offer something to think about.

You’re proposing that robots who compete in two regionals have more practice time and more time to fine tune, which results in better performance.

I guess I’m proposing that older, more established teams might have more money for travel, which tends to allow them to attend more than one event, and because they’re more established, they tend to build more competive machines, which tend to perform better at nationals.

I would bet that you’d also find a very similar breakdown in terms of teams numbers (age of team existance) and competitiveness.

<kidding>Should FIRST mandate that teams with numbers less than 500 not participate for 3 years to allow the newer teams time to gain experience to level the field?</kidding>

Matt

One of the biggest advantage I’ve seen from multi-regional teams is they have multiple chances at making it to the championship. So in that thought they should put teams that attended only one regional in line for getting into championships before they put the people who attended multiple regionals and didn’t qualify.

I see multiple regional as a huge advantage. Both a competitive and financial advantage. The three closest regional to me personally are as follows:

St. Louis - 5 hours
Denver - 10 hours
Houston - 14 hours (Midwest may be closer but this is where we go)

and the championship was 14 hours away

Our team raised nearly 50 thousand dollars to pay for the trip to Houston and Atlanta. While only spending less than 10 thousand on the robot and entry fees we spent nearly 35 thousand on travel expenses.

This is a lot of money to spend travel when some teams are able to go to 2 close regional and the championship for way less than that. The only solution we have thought of so far is just to help continue FIRSTs expansion in our area. Maybe a KC Regional 2005 or 2006?, OKC regional would be fun, maybe another Texas regional. Expand the central states FIRST teams and cost will go down for everyone.

I think that just organizing a pre-shipping scrimmage. In 2003, we had a pre-shipping robot scrimmage and were able to make some major design changes. In 2004, we were unable to have a pre-shipping scrimmage for a number of reasons including of course, budget limitations (Plus, our robot wasn’t built!). So in 2004, we ended up debugging the robot at Chesapeake. Our performance there suffered and we didn’t do so well because our matches were like experiments. Luckily, we were able to go to a 2nd regional and to nationals and we were much more competitive at both events.

We were strapped for cash this year so went to only one regional, our favorite. We seeded 2nd with a perfect record and went on to win the event and the GM Industrial Design Award. That’s evidence enough to me that it’s not really about going to multiple regionals - it’s more about building a robot that fits your limitations but does all the things that it does well. As Ken W said above, performance after the 2nd regional really doesn’t improve. And if you do good strategizing and watch some competition vids (scouting) before your first regional, you’ll probably be on the same footing as you would be at the 2nd regional. But I think the most important point was brought up by Matt - the teams that go to multiple regionals are usually more established and more experienced. They’ll do better anyway.

Oh yeah. I forgot to say. Do what we do. We send the drive team and whoever else is interested to a scout a competition. This year we went to St. Louis to watch for the second year. We also take a video camera and go into the pits and interview teams. We got some good interviews from 1024 and 16 and several other teams. We get footage of how the game is played and then we have a meeting the next week where the rest of the team gets to watch what went on.

This has worked well the last two years:

We’ve seeded 1st(2003) and 11th(2004) at LSR
And 5th(2003 Archimedes) and 13th(2004 Galileo) by doing this.
We have also won all the awards I show below. Maybe competing in two regionals would help more but for those on a budget sending a small team to watch and film can do wonders.

All teams have finite resources. There is only so much money, time, blood, sweat, et cetera, that a team can put into this competition. For some teams, including team 118, that threshold is, comparitively, pretty high.

What Lucien is pointing out is that, by allowing teams that attend several regionals to be more competitive, both in being more likely to qualify for nationals, and by having a better prepared robot and team when they get there, they are forcing other teams to make a choice.

The choice is to either use those finite resources to further the mission of FIRST, or use those finite resources to further the success of your team.

Now, please understand that we realize the success of a team is not measured in awards and trophies, but by the inspiration of the students. Nonetheless, the choice being presented to us here is between having a successful team and being recognized as a successful team, and there is something wrong with a system that forces that choice upon us.

Quote from Matt
I guess I’m proposing that older, more established teams might have more money for travel, which tends to allow them to attend more than one event, and because they’re more established, they tend to build more competive machines, which tend to perform better at nationals.

I would bet that you’d also find a very similar breakdown in terms of teams numbers (age of team existance) and competitiveness.

<kidding>Should FIRST mandate that teams with numbers less than 500 not participate for 3 years to allow the newer teams time to gain experience to level the field?</kidding>

There was only 1 team under 500 and attended only one regional that made it into the top 8 of the four divisions (3%). Hmmmm, I would have also expected what Matt had noted but it tends not to be the case. Thanks Matt, that made me feel MUCH better about our team’s (118 only attends one regional) chances to ever crack the top eight at the Championships :slight_smile: Also, thanks for picking 500 instead of 400 because then our odds go to 0%! 456 (Vicksburg, MS) was the only team under 500 that made it into the top 8 of a division while only attending one regional … they were 8th in Newton. The only reason that I point out team 456’s success is because I’m proud to have been associated with their beginnings.

Matt, thanks for the pick-me-up :smiley:
Lucien

P.S. I am a steadfast preacher that it is not all about the 'bot but our 'bot may be the only way we will get to the championships next year so we can expose our students to the atmosphere that has 15,000 students excited and cheering about engineering.

This is very true. After our team went to the MWR, we did well, but also learned a lot that we could do better, but that was the end for us, because we dont have the resources for another. If we had another regional, I believe we could have done tons better. This is where the heavilly funded teams who attend multiple regionals have the edge.

Thanks for your input. Since there are mostly comments, let me wrap-up the pros & cons of having a Warm-up Event.

Pros
-Communities will have FIRST events that currently do not have FIRST events. This would help to expose FIRST.
-Helps equalize the amount of robot-time between one-regional and multi-regional teams.
-Allows teams to help other teams in a low-pressure atmosphere.
-Allows rookies to get a feel for the flow of a tournament before attending their, often only, regional.
-MAY make for a more satisfying season for rookie teams thereby helping the retention rate.
-Teams have a scrimmage before their only regional.
-Improves the chances for one-regional teams to qualify for the Championships.
-One-regional robots work better at their event.
-Teams get to compete more during the season.
-FIRST gets to train refs in a low-pressure environment.
-FIRST gets to see the game being played before the first regional.
-Teams get to see different strategies before the first event.
-Minimizes the pickup points for FedEx.
-Teams learn how to put together a small local event.
-School gyms across the country would have robotics events on the same day.

Cons
-Teams have to host an event.
-Possibly takes money away from FIRST because teams don’t feel the need to attend two regionals.
-Takes time away from family.
-Multi-regional teams now have more competition.
-Multi-regional teams have to compete cold with teams that have been to a Warm-up event.
-Puts teams that are one-regional teams and cannot attend a Warm-up at more of a disadvantage than they are now. Maybe a hardship waiver to just keep the bot until Saturday afternoon might help to solve this.

After reviewing the pros and cons, I don’t see an issue with proposing this to FIRST. As I study it, I like the idea more and more. A special thanks to everyone that helped develop it.