paper: FAQs Regarding the FRC District Competition System

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FAQs Regarding the FRC District Competition System
by: Jim Zondag

This paper summaries a list of questions I have compiled from the FRC community regarding the details of our District Competition system.

Every year, I receive many questions about the FRC District Competition system used here in Michigan. These questions come from people both inside and outside our state. I was one of the principle architects of this system, and it appears that there are many misconceptions surrounding what we do, why we do it, which sections of the policy were decided by FIRST New Hampshire, and which parts were decided locally. I compiled this list of questions which are often asked by teams and team leaders in an attempt to bring clarity to some of these items and dispel some of the “Michigan Myths”.

FAQs Regarding the FRC District Competition System.pdf (386 KB)

Great resource, Jim. Thanks for sharing it.

I expect it to help FIRSTers, both inside and outside the District systems, to better understand how our sport has evolved, and where it is headed.

Thanks for putting this together, I learned a lot reading through it. Honestly it just makes me wish that New York would move towards a District System sooner. Has anyone formed an exploratory committee yet?

Thank You so much

I’m not positive, but I believe NY is, in some aspects, a possible part of the New England district plans. I’m sure someone close to that can confirm or deny that.

NY is a tough state it seems, because logistically, NYC probably can’t move to districts for awhile, it seems like upstate NY is split between teams that go to events like FLR and Buckeye, as well as teams that go to NE events. I’d assume this means a split similar to what MAR did with PA, but I also feel like when reading NE documentation, they discussed the strong possibility of allowing an “opt-out” of the District system.

Coming from someone who was very upset in 2009 because of the move to districts, my team at the time was 857 located in the very western portion of the UP, the FIM district model didn’t and still doesn’t make sense for them(if they got put in a district model with Wisconsin and Minnesota or something like that, would make sense), this FAQ gives allot of insight. Though it seems that most of your questions that have an answer involving HQ paints HQ into a bad light. The question talking about making state free, but HQ saying no is ridiculous. I can see how they didn’t want teams outside of the district model to get in an uproar that teams are getting a free competition, but now they could use that model as an incentive for more areas/states going to a district model.

I also don’t understand why HQ cares how you dictate what awards are worth and what they earn you in terms of points to the state championship.

That being said thanks for putting this out Jim. Hope to see 33’s bot up close in St. Louis.

Very well put together Jim, thank you! I learned a few things about the district system I hadn’t even realized I didn’t know.

As the paper states, it works well for areas with reasonably high densities of teams… which is not the UP (upper penninsula for you folks outside of the midwest).

One question Jim, that I have been asked, but I did not see answered was:
“Why can’t teams opt out?” Eric and a handful of others that do not see the “local” benefit have asked this. There were also a lot of folks asking this when the MAR was forming. This was especially asked by “travel” teams.

Really good paper , and I for one am glad we play with the lights on. It makes for a lot better pictures and scouting.

I don’t think Jim intended to paint HQ in a bad light. He was just stating the facts. In the last 4 years, people were upset with FiM thinking it was FiM that made up all these seemingly ridiculous rules when in fact it was HQ that dictates what Michigan can or cannot do. Most people don’t know that none of the money teams pay to enter an event goes to pay for running the event. All the money goes to HQ. It is not hard to understand why they don’t want the State Championship to be free.

In terms of why they dictate some awards do not earn any points, FIRST is a brand and like any other brand, you need to protect what it stands for. They cannot let people change the importance of certain awards. I think they have the right to do so.

I don’t have a problem with what HQ does. They are a business, even if it is a non profit organizaion. They need to plan for growth and sustainability just like any other business. It costs money to run and expand. I guess they are using the FRC money to subsidize FTC and FLL, but if that is true I am okay with that since many of the FRC members come from FLL teams. If you look at their financial statement, they have a very healthy cash reserve. I agree with Jim that the price of entry for FRC should come down now that we have so many more teams comparing to many years ago.

You can see nearly everything that NE FIRST has discussed on their blog:

It is ONLY their proposal - there is plenty of negotiation with FIRST and the Region before any of this is finalized or adopted, but you can at least see the thought process and proposal there and keep up to date. NE was hoping that teams from NY could “opt in” in a conference model style, so that it wouldn’t be a forced transition, but there is no guarantee that will be approved.

Thanks Ed.

To clarify: The purpose of this paper is to bring clarity to the reasoning behind the current state of affairs relating to the District Competition System. Many of these details have never really been publicly discussed. Now that several other regions are considering migrating to similar system, many people have been inquiring on the specifics of these details and I thought it would be good to add some more awareness to this topic.

This is not intended to paint anyone in a negative light. It is simply a list of questions and answers. FiM has a good partnership relationship with FIRST NH and we work together to improve many things together. We hope to do more together in the future. One of the key points of this document is that there are items that FiM was allowed to change, and there were items which we were not allowed to change. Most people in the FRC community are unaware of this split. As other areas approach FIRST about forming new District zones, they will encounter some of these same limits and hopefully these explanations help the new regions to better craft their proposals.

Eric, to address your question/issue:

Q33: "Why can’t teams opt out of your District System if they would prefer to play at outside regionals instead; why are they forced to be included in the District System?"
A33: This requirement comes from FIRST NH, not FiM. When we formed the District pilot in 2009, FIRST insisted that all teams in our state be included in the system and would not allow any exceptions. FiM actually wanted to allow teams the option to be excluded, but FIRST felt that this would create too much registration complexity.

This question is an excellent example of why I wrote this paper. Perhaps I will include this in a future update. Eric’s team is in a difficult situation, being in a remote corner of the state. For years, I get the sentiment that they actually blame FiM for making their lives more difficult. In fact, we are well of their particular situation and we tried to address this with FIRST. Unfortuanately, this was not approved. I am not sure Eric’s team understands the details of the arrangement and who has control of this constraint. Under the current arrangement, FIRST insists on strict geographical definition of who is included in our system and who is not. FiM does not control this.

I am no longer associated with 857 and can’t speak for them, the current leadership of the team could love FIM.

I was speaking from my thoughts on the topic back in 2009. If you want to know why I “fought” it you are welcome to see my posts from 2009. When FIM was first brought to light I talked with many people involved in running FIM, including Jim, as to why it didn’t make sense for 857 to be involved. They all listened with a concerned ear and told me the exact answer shown in Q33 Jim just gave.

For the record I loved FIM when I was involved in 2009-2011. It was awesome having 12 matches and getting more comp for your buck. It just didn’t make sense financially and logistically for the team I was on at the time.

I think the district model makes sense for Michigan(though I may be one of the few who doesn’t like the lights on during the competition :P). I also think it makes sense to go in that direction for the entire FIRST organization. I also agree that with 3000 teams the entry fee is extremely high. It would make sense for it to be as high as it is if it actually went to the individual regionals teams attended. But that’s for a different topic, so I will move one.

Again Jim , thanks for putting this out there, we can’t demand transparency from FIRST if were not willing to give it our selves.

At this point, we don’t know exactly what is going on. NE FIRST is being deliberate and is trying to make sure the model is done right the first time. As a result, negotiations with FIRST are slow and rumors are that districts have been postponed to 2015. It will likely be awhile before we hear if FIRST allows NE’s conference model. NE cannot absorb NY’s capital region because not all teams in the area agreed to it.

Jim, this was a very insightful paper. Thanks for putting this together.

Thanks Jim, this is an excellent resource

Although I hate to compare FIRST to Burger King or Dunkin’ Donuts, we could think of FIRST as following a franchise model.
FIRST is responsible for supplying the core product, promoting and ensuring consistency across the brand, with Regional committees and Districts acting as operators or franchisees. One of the challenges of this type of organization is the different incentives driving each of the participants. District organizations are now akin to large franchisees who have a much larger stake in the brand, but often little direct influence on the franchise owner’s decision making.

I can speak as current 857 leadership, and FiM is still kind of annoying. I (and I think this counts as we) love having two events with 12 matches each, but the travel is the worst part. We attended Traverse City and St. Joseph this year (both >7 hours travel time), whereas Duluth is 4 and Milwaukee and Minneapolis are both about 6.

This is what is happening. MAR has generally been a positive experience, but I do think that FIRST needs to concede on some of the points that Jim has mentioned. We are paying a great deal of money and doing a ton of local work for the right to use this brand name.

Thank you Jim for all of the obvious work you have put into establishing the district model.

Thanks Jim! I know I badgered you with questions last year at Vex Worlds, this is very helpful.

Great paper Jim,

I can’t wait for the day when teams can just throw their robot in a van and ride over to their local FRC field to play pickup FRC matches.:cool:

Keep up the great work!
Regards, Bryan

Just wanted to extend my THANKS to Jim and FiM for making this FAQ available to all teams. The document is informative, concise, and generally well-written (I can excuse a few typos!)

The FAQ is a good resource for teams both in and out of FiM.

The end product is awesome. Thanks, Zondag. This will hopefully be a valuable resource for many areas just starting their own adventures into districtdom.