Poll : The Bag and You


#21

Agreed - Katie is great at the big picture stuff then expresses her focus so that everyone gets it!

The new rule makes our season a little easier. We will still build 2-3 robots but do not have to devote resources towards 30lb related issues and Thursdays (or district unbag windows) at each event.

Newer or under-performing teams will benefit ONLY if they manage time wisely. I’m hoping to see more scrimmaging and veteran teams leveraging the new in-season opportunity to help younger or troubled teams.


#22

My opinion on the bag/no bag rule has very little to do with the practice robot, and very much to do with the quality of life of my family.

My wife is essentially a single mom for six weeks. Under the current rules, she knows that two days after Presidents’ Day, she gets her husband back and the kids get their daddy back.

Come 2020, I can’t guarantee the same deal without some major sacrifice to the team’s performance at (especially later) competitions.

Trading a 3-day-a-week build for eight weeks for a 4-day-a-week build for six weeks, even if the total amount of days are even, is not a trade my family would like to make*. ** ***

*I realize this is a completely false dichotomy; I’m merely using it for illustrative purposes. Change the numbers around, make the build season a sliding scale, the point remains the same.

**However, we will make the trade, because we believe in the power of this program more than we dislike the rule change.

***I also realize I am an outlier in the FRC world. I’m neither a former FRC student, nor an emptynester parent of a former FRC student. Those who have been raised in the FRC sphere have a different worldview than those who have attempted to adjust their lives to fit.


#23

I could see where that is your perspective, but this is exactly why I’m asking about practice bots - you see it as trading 4 days a week for 6 weeks to 3 days a week for 8 weeks.

In my world, there is no trade. Removing bag days removes the scramble before bag day but otherwise everything else stays the same.

I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to feel about this, but I think that its hard to have conversations where we understand each other without explicitly stating our base assumptions. The practice robot is an easy way to identify our assumptions.

My base assumption is that my team meets at a regular frequency throughout the entire season (January to April). With my assumption, bag day is an event that multiplies the cost of building a robot and makes my team very busy for the first few hours or every event.

As I understand it, your assumption is that your team meets at a regular frequency for 6 weeks - so it makes sense that, from your perspective, no-bag is demanding more of your time with no real cost savings. Maybe I’m completely off - but I’m trying to understand.


#24

I think you’re far less of an outlier than you realize. There are plenty of mentors in your situation who feel the same way you do, despite their lack of a presence on this website. You have a very important perspective that I think is being ignored my many.

Overall I like this change, I’m just worried about the teams and individuals who may be left behind.


#25

I joined as an adult in 2003 and have chosen to increase resources toward FRC and decrease or end resources toward other activities over the years, not because I love robots (I don’t) but because I believe in the power of this program to alter the course of many young lives for the better.

One could argue that FRC participation was a factor in the dissolution of my marriage a couple of years ago. Not a major factor, not the only factor, not a deciding factor, but it was one of the commitments I made that meant I wasn’t at home on some days in the winter. Who knows? But i have been one of those people who coached a team mostly on my own, and did fall training, built second robots, and continued iterating and competing through Champs. So maybe this change will actually decrease my time commitments some. I’d like to get married again and not ruin it (though my beau is also a robotics coach and understands the issues).


#26

Thank you for clearly explaining what others such as myself are going to have to try and prepare for.
Several years ago, Tyler from 2056 made a point that I thought was another concern as well. It takes really good discipline to stay healthy by eating right and getting as much sleep as possible. On our team, because of the stress of the build season, we eat out a lot consuming unhealthy food with prolonged periods of a lack of sleep. Our students would joke at each other how they gained weight during build season.
This is something I need to make sure we personally address with our team in 2019 and beyond.


#27

We have dichotomous “stories” for FRC that we have not yet reconciled and are at the core of discussion on this issue. One story that has been promoted by FIRST is that a team can devote 6 weeks to build season and one (or 2 if you want) competitive weekend, and be able to compete to win. The Bag Day was the key piece in that story. The other told by successful teams is that a student can become immersed in what is a fairly complete STEM career education process, with a program that runs virtually the entire school year (if not longer). (This conflict similarly arises in interscholastic sports where the successful teams universally have year round programs.)

The issue is trade off the FRC community faces between these stories. The competitive gap continues between the top and bottom teams and we know that the lack of success for the bottom tier teams has led to problems with their sustainability. Mentor stress is also one of the causes of that sustainability problem, but it’s not clear which factor is more important. We also know that for the students on teams that continued to work through Bag Day that the educational benefits are tremendous and that many of them become more dedicated to activities that advance their education. So we’re ill advised to rein them back because we are likely to lose much of the inspiration that drives FRC. (We already have that problem with the way that 2Champs is currently set up.)

I don’t see the gap between the top and bottom tier teams increasing, because nothing will really change for the top teams, so the question is what will happen to the rookies and underresourced teams? I don’t think its a question of whether they will be left behind, but rather how does this affect their sustainability. But that question is really a bigger issue that FRC needs to face in any case. Maybe this change will make it more apparent that we need to figure that out now.


#28

As a student, this so much. I’m graduating this year, but 2020 seniors are going to have a really hard time balancing FRC, school, and jobs. I already have to cut back my commitment this year, and I’d have to cut it back more if the build season was longer. After bag day, we take a full week/weekend off to recoup and focus on our lives before heading back in (we 3D print a lot so we can get some pretty major mechanisms in our 30 pounds. Case in point- our whole shooter/feeder in 2017). Sure, we could take time off (we already have to take breaks for exams), but we can take time off before nobag too, the penalty is still the same. I’ve spent anywhere from 30 to 45 hours a week working either at our build space, or CADing at home for three years, and all of a sudden FIRST is asking for students to commit up to twice the work to stay competitive. I’m burnt out after 6 weeks. I can’t imagine how bad it would be after up to 12.

My opinions (especially on this topic) do not represent the views of my team.


#29

You already stated that your team works after bag day, so I’m not sure where the “double” time is coming from. Other than the weekend/week you were taking off after bag day, what extra time is being “added”?

30-45 hours a week is already pushing it on the amount of time you should be spending.

Every year we have a discussion with our students and mentors about priorities, this is what we tell them the correct list is:

  1. Yourself
  2. Family/friends
  3. School
  4. Robotics

all of a sudden FIRST is asking for students to commit up to twice the work to stay competitive

There were already teams using this time, you’re not falling behind any more than you were before.


#30

Yeah, I’m definitely a bit of an edge case :stuck_out_tongue: As I mentioned, I’m taking a bit of a step back this year to focus on school.

While 2702 works in a slightly reduced capacity after bag, many other teams (especially teams without a practice bot) work in a much more reduced capacity after bag. As well, there’s actually only so much work you can do on a practice bot. At least for us, we sometimes have to substitute components for others, or omit entire mechanisms. The time to port over mechanisms and code can’t really be more than six hours, so your changes can’t be to complex. With a full bot, this is simply not the case. You could re-build your entire robot! I don’t think 2x time is unreasonable at all, because build season always gets intense as time goes on, and more time would seem to translate to more intensity.

I’m going to have to disagree on this one. For many teams, the 30lb/6hr allowance is more of an issue than time in between comps, as bigger teams can (and increasingly will) cycle team members in and out, or just have less duties on each student, reducing stress on individual students. This probably won’t affect most teams but the small teams are really going to struggle. Burnout is real, especially for teenagers. It’s simply not possible for the same set of people to maintain the full build season workload for up to 12 weeks. Small teams are going to lose time to burnout, while big teams escape relatively unscathed.


#31

I’m curious what your definition of a small team is compared to a big team.

I recently posted a poll to the CHS Facebook group, here are the results:

How many hours does your team schedule each week during build season?
48% - 21-30
42% - 11-20
10% - 31-40


#32

It’s not just size, but the involvement too. 2702 doesn’t have mandatory attendance, and less so now, but in 2016/17, we had ~8 regular students. That’s a small team. We now have ~15, so I’d call us a mid-size team. More than 25 regulars, I’d say that’s a large team.

I think schedule and the actual amount of time spent in the shop are pretty different. We probably schedule around 25 hours a week, but that rarely happens :stuck_out_tongue:


#33

Are you saying you spend more or less time in the shop than is scheduled? What is your weekly meeting schedule?


#34

I’m a bit surprised to hear someone from 2702 say that. While I don’t know that much about how you guys work, your definitely a team that trends upwards throughout competition season, making improvements and tuning things here and there.

In my mind your one of the ONT teams that could benefit most, your small so not needing a practice robot could save a lot of resources during build season that could be put towards getting the robot dialed in sooner (like your sweet buddy climb this year) and then you could spend more time during competition season practicing and doing autos and stuff.

IMO, the difference between a good team and a great one comes down to things like tuning, reliability and drive practice. Look at 2056, they play their first match of the season just like their last match of the season. Sure teams will want to do rebuilds and stuff but that doesn’t make a team good. Without a bag it will be so much easier to be bomb right out of the gate.


#35

We usually end up going over by quite a bit.

Our build season schedule looks like:

3-4 days a week: 3:30PM to 6:30 PM (start of the season) or 8+PM (End of the season)

1 Weekend-day: 9-9:30AM to 4:30 (start of season) or 7+PM (end of season)

We also occasionally call a special meeting if we need to get something done, and occasionally, a couple people will get together at somebody’s house if we need to do some work with the machines they have there.


#36

While nobag should theoretically help our robot (especially the tuning bit :P), I’m more worried about student/mentor burnout and the effect on the lives/grades of students. Part of the reason we improve throughout the season is because we have that weeklong break, and everyone comes back with fresh minds. I fear that having that weeklong break would become quite uncompetitive when nobag is introduced. Putting school first is deeply ingrained in our team culture, 2702 mentors have helped me through many tough problems. I’ll be level with you though, it’s really hard for me to say no to robots. Grade 11 me could handle it, but grade 9 and 10 me didn’t, and I’m guessing the same is true for other students. Robots are cooler than grade 9 geography, and that’s a fact. I was able to spend more time on robots during build season, because it’s only like, 8 weeks (if you take in to account the week off and reduced workload of our post-bag pre-districts) and pick up the geography slack afterwards. This would not be possible with nobag.

Our team’s been growing though, so this may not be a problem when 2020 rolls around.


#37

Yep. That’s us. We build neat things that are often a touch too complicated and need a lot of love an attention to get just right.(Until they fall apart at off-season events.):o I know most robots are like that, but I’ve got to be sort of critical of ours otherwise we won’t improve.

Yup, saving resources will be nice, for many reasons…

There have been other factors the past few years that have maybe had an impact on our slow start to the competition season, but I would say that the biggest hiccup of ours is solved by the dissolution of bag day. Shifting mechanisms and making tuning changes from practice robot to competition robot during unbag period or at competition is always a mess. Being able to do all that work directly on the competition robot will be a dream!


#38

I’m of the opinion that no bag day will have a positive impact on the well being of team, its students and mentors.

I’m also of the opinion that the changes to bag day will have very little impact on reducing burnout. I think the bigger impacting factor to reducing burnout will be the number of dedicated students and mentors that are now involved. We’ve got the numbers and experience to properly delegate tasks instead of needing the same key individuals involved at every step of the way.

2019 should be a much smoother season for us. I expect 2020 will only build on that.


#39

Coming from a team that frequently makes very complex bots that all to often are not entirely finished by bag day I am in favor of stop build because it imposes a reasonable limit on us.

We do build an entire second practice bot and in the weeks leading up to our first competition we use that robot to either develop features that were not finished by bag day or develop fixes/replacements for mechanisms that testing demonstrates flaws in.

Because of this most of the testing period of our first regional is spent dismantalling and reassembling major systems on our comp bot just to get it to match the practice one.

It may seem then that I would be in favor of the NoBag system however it is the nature of Engineering that anything we design could be improved upon indefinitely. The stop build day and withholding allowance force us after 6 weeks to say that the vast majority of the robot is finished and that what we have built we are for the most part happy with.

Whilst I understand that as a team we represent one of the extreme ends of the FRC community and I will ultimately support any decision FIRST makes to make this sport more accessible and benefit smaller teams as the correct course of action, I believe that specifically for my team a removable of stop build day would ultimately hurt us as it would lead to even further over engineering or possible burnouts from students as the build season is effectively extended to 9 weeks.

Of course this is all just hypothetical and I should mention that my perspective like always fails to properly understand the magic the programmers work to turn our 120lb pile of hardware into a functioning robot. So until we experience a season without a stop build day I cannot know how it would truly effect us.

TL:DR Bagging the robot prevents overengineering teams form excessive over engineering.


#40

So the reason I asked for a loose definition of 2nd bot is because for a team like mine, the no bag and no stop is definitely a huge net benefit, even if we don’t build a true 2nd robot. If anything, this helps teams like mine who have had to perform robot transplants more than it helps teams who have the ability to make 2 or 3 bots.

We are limited in team size and in ability to work long hours on the team due to other school obligations and the school being ~240 kids. We also have spring vacation after the current bag day that extends to about week 5. For us, no bag doesn’t necessarily add much more meeting time.

However, with our limited funds and resources, this past season we had to design our robot to be very modular, remove our entire upper arm/intake assembly, and also our electronics, and transplant them onto another kitbot chassis in order to practice. Unbag makes this incredibly stressful on students and mentors, and during stressful times, the ability to teach students is hindered by the tunnel vision we can sometimes have when we need to get something done. If we absolutely have to take apart or put together a robot during unbag time (or at an event), it can hinder the teaching experience.

What I’m most excited about is removing this hurdle so that I can make each meeting as positive of a learning experience and teaching moment for my students. We won’t have to rush (as much) to get things done during a small window of time before/after an event. We also won’t have to make sure that each meeting includes every relevant/necessary student or mentor to accomplish a task during the unbag period, which with our school can be difficult due to how many other activities students are part of.

Overall, I am very happy with this change. We do not plan to really alter our meeting pattern, nor do I think we will change the type of robot we choose to design each year (1 thing done really well). I think the teams who will drastically alter their goals or meeting schedules because they believe this means biting off more than usual will not perform as well. Keep the same goals and build timelines/milestones as normal, I think that is the best way to go.