OPINION | Mass Production and Delivery of Pit Awards Should Stop

Some pit awards have their place.

Awards that are mass produced and handed out to every team do not.

These mass produced awards only serve to increase the amount of trash in our landfills and oceans.

It might be time to phase out the wasteful mass produced pit awards.

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk, opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of any particular group, organization, or commercial entity

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Of all the places to pick your battles (ex. treating plastic wheels as consumables, generally wasteful team practices, wasteful packaging from suppliers (though this is sort of needed)) with regards to the environment, this one is a pretty interesting.

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Immediately reminded of this comic

May be an image of text that says 'NEED TO SAVE THE OCEAN FROM ALL THE PLASTIC! YES,THE YES, THE NETS! THIS STRAW IS so EVIL! NO, THE NETS! @JUST COMICS JOAN CHAN THE MAJORITY OF LARGE PLASTIC POLLUTION IN THE OCEANS IS FISHING GEAR. Rewriting EXTINGION'

Please note I am not taking a stance on the plastic straw debate as I very rarely used them before and continue to barely use straws now

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It’s tax season, so I’d like to see the receipts here. Some will certainly bag their hardware and small parts or maybe use a bit of bubble wrap, but my last orders from AndyMark, REV, and TTB all were packed in appropriately snug boxes with paper packing material.

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen mass produced awards that every team received, but there are certainly team awards I’ve cherished more than the official judged awards. It can be pretty inspirational to get recognized by some of the most successful teams in FIRST.

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I’m thinking Vex with a poly bag for every, individual shaft collar, pinion, small belt, etc.

Though this is more reflective of the real world. McMaster goes out of their way to bag unbagged parts…at least those are reusable.

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You’re entitled to your opinion, but I’m also entitled to an opinion of your opinion. My current opinion opinion is that I think your opinion misses the point of said awards.

Counterpoint: Purchase one of these doohickeys to proudly display your received awards in your build space, demonstrating to your new students the connection to the broader community of learners and educators that your team is a part of.

I’m not wise enough to determine which awards are worthy of display or not, so I’d err on the side of caution and just display em all.

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I’ve been accumulating lots of small plastic ziplock bags from Rev with all the MAX tube end caps I’ve ordered. They come one to bag, and I think we have ordered 30+ at this point. I also get quite a few bags from McMaster.

That said, they are really nice HD ziplock bags that will probably get used for sorting something else (like robot parts).

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I agree it sucks with how wasteful this is, but the team awards are probably nothing compared to the buttons that teams hand out. I see a different problem that teams are wasting both money and students time to make these things, and there are so many better ways a students time and the teams funds can be utilized.

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A team in New England this year recieved a spirit award at least in part for handing every team a pit award. AFAIK, they were all the same award too, just with the team numbers changed.

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I received our regional’s volunteer apparel order this week. The t-shirts, as usual. are wrapped individually in plastic. There’s actually a function to this (it keeps them folded, labeled with sizes, and easier to distribute), but it’s wasteful nonetheless.

We also, though, received other promotional items that were individually wrapped in plastic that had no utility being packaged that way. I’m talking notepads each in their own plastic, wristbands each in their own plastic, pins each in their own Ziploc bags. This is way more plastic than usual in this order.

I don’t even know what OP is referring to with the term “pit awards” (I’m sure it’s just a terminology thing), but the amount of plastic used by vendors to package items for official events seems like an easy, systematic place to start.

And yes, I have note into HQ with this feedback already.

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I agree with you in theory, but in practice I agree more with everyone else who has said they have not seen this. Maybe your region has a lot of teams handing out a pit award to every team at the competition, but that is not something I have ever noticed; if I had seen it I would agree that at that point it loses the personal touch and connection of more individualized pit awards. Most of the time I’ve seen no more than a quarter of teams at the competition even have pit awards, and those that do typically have in the range of 5-10. Some of those personalized awards have been extremely meaningful to me and to teams I have been on, and I certainly don’t think those should go away.

I have never seen mass awards given out…mass pins yes. I’m all for teams giving out their own awards though, one of my favorite awards our team has won was the “Best Pushhhhh” award from 3940 back in 2014, it’s neat to be recognized by your peers.

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Thomas - thank you for your interest in creating a more sustainable future. Many people don’t realize/care/think it’s worth taking action that vinyl, acrylic and other plastics are rarely recyclable (let alone recycled) and do not biodegrade. So we’re in the middle of a grand experiment that will leave a lot of stuff in landfills for longer than homo sapiens have existed.

For anyone interested, there are a few systems out there that disclose material constituents. I suggest choosing Declare - Red List Approved products whenever possible, and FSC woods whenever anything has wood fibers. A cool laser engraved, FSC chain of custody certified wood award could serve everyone’s purpose and for sure be more responsible, right?

A ton of everything we do in this competition seems wasteful to me sometimes. We produce great kids who will hopefully contribute to society (probably a lot of them who would have been fine without this program anyway), but sometimes the money spent and effort spent along with natural resources feels hard to justify when compared to other productive efforts in the world.

If I think about it too much it makes me want to stop participating. :smiling_face_with_tear:

If it makes you feel better, yeah, stop wasting materials on things. Reuse where and when you can.

I say this while a little printer on my desk is currently printing plastic made of corn that will probably still take too long to degrade or get eaten by something in the future.

I’m in general agreement with the OP’s overarching point that we should find ways to be less wasteful (such as my zero-waste-but-the-bag-the-coffee-came-in coffee setup in my classroom) and to eliminate things that are almost waste for its own sake (like handing out trinkets people neither asked for nor want), and similar to Akash, I’m saying that while I’ve got seven 3D printers running prototype and production parts for the team.

So…yeah.

We also went all-in on Rev Ion this year and yeah, the sheer volume of ziplock bags gave me pause for thought. Not that I came up with a better idea. I already have a veritable mountain of Digikey Anti-static bags (shiny, blue or pink) that I’ve been re-using.

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