Proposal - Winning alliance helps tear down the field

In the spirit of gracious professionalism, I am asking for thoughts on this proposal -

The winning alliance and the Impact Award winning teams stay for at least an hour past the event close to help tear down the event. (This is barring any time constraints on bussing.)

Background - seven (eight if you count our double as two) time host of the FiM Lakeview District Event.

We LOVE when teams stay to help tear down the field, if only for an hour past the closing ceremonies. We will stay at other district events to help them tear down their fields for an hour as we know how challenging this is for the host teams.

What gets to me is long standing teams with many members coming to events, winning the awards, and then walking away without helping to clean up. I know this is not your mess and you will not directly benefit by doing so, but the host teams would REALLY, REALLY appreciate you sticking around to help.

This can be tearing down the field, breaking down pipe and drape, wrapping up the electrical cords, or even just a clean sweep of the trash. And I don’t mean stay until the lights go off. Just enough to get the field into the rolling cases or a time limit of one hour. We host teams spend a good 8+ hours setting up and then another long 4 hours cleaning up (and that’s with help!).

So would it be within the spirit of Gracious Professionalism to ask the teams going home with the banners and big trophies to stick around to help for a bit?


I mean, you can always ask but…

I think you answered your own question - no, you can’t depend on it. So you need a different solution.

I’d say this isn’t true. As a team, I’m responsible for my pit, and the area we were in the stands. And I promise, both of those will be spotless before we leave.

But no, the field isn’t a team’s responsibility. Furthermore, if someone came to me and implied “because you won an award, you need to delay you own plans to help us”… I’d walk away with a very bad taste in my mouth.

For the Central Illinois Regional - our team and our mentors have a lot of “behind the scenes” things we do to help smooth the event over. However… it’s all planned in advance. Well known time commitments. People pick and choose what they volunteer for based on when they’re available.

Don’t get me wrong - I know it’s a lot of work to host an event, I’ve been involved in it on multiple fronts. Still, the way to solve this is through recruiting the right set of volunteers up front - not by requiring teams to go above and beyond.

As I understand what you wrote, and as I understand Gracious Professionalism, my answer is a solid “no”.


The solution to avoid pipe & drape teardown labor is simply to not set it up in the first place :innocent:


Perhaps a better option here would be doing what you’ve started already with this thread, promote awareness of the issue you’ve identified; Attempt to encourage local teams at your event to help tear-down (if they can/feel so inclined). I bet some teams aren’t even aware that this help would be appreciated or that they can offer it.

Maybe those running the event could send an email to the lead mentors of the teams attending, and politely ask any teams able and willing to “RSVP” with their intent to help at the end of the event?


What I would say is that setup/teardown is actually kind of a fun teambuilding activity. I’d actually encourage asking around to see if someone (or two or three) will stick around and help with field disassembly.

Required, no. Asking nicely, yes.

One reason I wouldn’t ask the winners (or, for that matter, finalists) to help is that they’re already behind on pit packing so they can get out of the venue. Now, I would have no problem making it known that “extra hands are appreciated”, but for the winners/finalists, to me, the only thing I’d ask is that they take their pictures promptly and orderly and then migrate off the field so it can be dismantled.


Seems like a solution looking for a problem.

One my responsibilities as a VC is to staff setup and teardown. Finding a team for teardown is one my easiest responsibilities. Usually at least one or two plan to stay for logistics purposes alone (they scheduled their bus for late, for example) and at least a few accidentally stay (like a bus running late).

In the Regional system, teams also want to keep the carpet and usually one of the conditions of that is that they help with teardown.

I only want a ton of hands for the first 60-90 minutes of teardown, anyways, at which point I just want 7-10 capable people who can pack and move cases efficiently. Students are really helpful with teardown until a certain point, and then they’re not anymore.

But then how will we inspire people


Our event in Midland has like 5 area host teams that help run it, so we make plans to have those teams stay for teardown (often the same people who helped set it up, so they’re familiar with how the process works). Towards the end of an event we will have an announcement asking “if anyone can stay to help tear down we would appreciate it”, and we’ve never had an issue with running out of help.

Over the years we’ve been getting better at teardown to the point where we can generally have the field trailer packed and the gyms clear in under an hour (I think our record was ~45 minutes one time). Having more hands helps, but having experienced people who’ve done it multiple times helps a lot too.

The main problem with asking a winning team is if that team comes from out of the area and needs to get going to avoid getting home extremely late. Plus as the winners, they’re also the last to tear down their own pits in most cases, meaning they often don’t have a lot of spare hands.
If anything, teams that got eliminated earlier are more likely to have the available manpower to help with teardown right away.

I also think you might be thinking about this kind of the wrong way too. Compelling the winners to do teardown because it’s “GP” almost makes it seem like the implication is they’re somehow inconveniencing everyone else at the event by winning and should therefor make up for it by doing cleanup. This seems like the wrong mindset to me.


It’s incredible what teams will do if you ask nicely, especially if you give them time to plan for it! Identify those big, well-known, and graciously professional teams and send them a direct ask in the fall, just after they’ve registered!

A number of years ago, there was a shipping issue with the field for one of our events. I was at the venue until 10pm and it still hadn’t arrived. We had a team that wasn’t even attending the event volunteer to come in and build the field overnight so a majority of the volunteers could go home and get some sleep before the doors opened the next day. If you ask, teams will step up and help out - sometimes even if it’s last minute and terribly inconvenient. But give them time to plan, and it becomes much easier for them!

Plus, think about the impact of not knowing if your tear-down “help” is actually going to be able to stick around for tear down or not. You’d never know if you’ll have 100 people there to help (WAY too many!) or no one, meaning you’ll need to recruit the volunteers to handle it anyways.


We could just have virtual field walls and have FiA give out time penalties


Just don’t have a field. Cobble something semi-accurate out of cardboard boxes.

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Imagine, if you will, such a system:

“This year, FIRST has partnered with our program sponsor Automation Direct to introduce the Arena Management System or AMS. An road case with four dozen IR curtain sensors and mounting hardware are included to create a virtual safety barrier. Each post will have two line judges monitoring for when the sensor detects a beam break by a team member, and assigning a penalty to the correct team. If a spectator breaks the beam, the judge will interview them and assign the penalty to the spectator’s favorite team, regardless if they are attending the event. All scoring elements will be instructed not to leave the arena. Teams are expected to know where the field perimeter is and not drive their robot past the limits, even if the scoring element disobeys its instructions.”


This sounds like something fun. I’d happy grab a group of students and mentors and pull a late night to help out on some weekend when we didn’t have anything major as a team going on.

Really what I’m circling the drain on… the event weekend is easily the most busy, stressful time for us as a team. Certainty on the timeline and commitments is essential for keeping things smooth, and flexibility is near zero usually.

BUT - outside of a competition weekend - heck yea helping out like Jon described would be fun!

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I agree whole heartedly with this and in no way was I suggesting to NOT plan for a known quantity of volunteers for tear down. And to all those commenting along the way with variations of a theme on just asking for help - yes, we do, and we appreciate all those teams who helped stick around after the event to do so. Those teams hold a special place in my heart as rockstars who help make this incredible program known as FRC run.

I am asking about establishing a cultural norm or expectation that those who walk away with the most hardware give a little time as a “thank you” to the host. So far it appears the community is saying “no” to this. While I disagree with the sentiment, I appreciate the discussion to clarify the culture.

What’s the time penalty for this?


It was mentioned once above but for most teams that go all the way to finals, the end of awards is the earliest they can start packing up their pit. Many teams that don’t make playoffs will be packed and loaded out by the end of lunch, and it’s often been the case that there’s less than 12 pits still there by the end of awards.


How could it be in the spirit if it becomes a requirement?


Concur, we don’t see eye to eye on this yet. I’m still struggling to understand how there’s any correlation between “won something” and the level of thank-you that is appropriate. Win or loose, you thank the event organizers. Changing one’s response based on winning seems profoundly against Gracious Professionalism.

As a separate question, if organizers need more help they should seek additional volunteer hours. Teams can help provide that of course.

Like most things, it’s likely some life experience that has led us to assume different things about how these cultural norms ought to be.


This appears to be a backhanded way of saying that the culture of FRC teams is selfishness. If that’s what you believe coming in, or if this is the conclusion that you draw from this discussion, you are incorrect. The objections people are bringing relate to the practicality of this proposal; things like it being fundamentally unpredictable, or the fact that teams in the finals are required to break down their own pits later than any other teams. They’re also expected to take alliance photos very late.

If you are concerned that there is inadequate help from teams to set up or tear down the fields at events, there are much more practical options event organizers could pursue, such as notifying all participating teams well in advance that they will be expected or encouraged to stay late and help load out, giving them the option of signing up to help. If what you want is get Impact teams to live up to the moniker, maybe organizers make it a requirement for teams applying for the award that they sign up to assist with load in or load out, or some other practical aspect of the event?


I’d go with asking regularly for volunteers, and if like a month in advance you don’t have enough sign-ups, just pick a few local-ish teams to see if any would be able to stay 1-2 hours longer to help with cleanup. If all those teams can’t, then maybe send out to ask rest of the teams in an email blast. Just how our team mindset seems, that we wouldn’t get the whole team to hang after, but probably could get a vehicle to stay later 5-7 people, so that is what I’d work at (4-6 volunteers per team you ask). Buses may need to leave all together, so it is different for each team, but generally feel like you’d get better response asking for fewer people per team.

Another general point is that we often have 2 to 4 students who volunteer on Thursday for regionals, which they’ve enjoyed. We’ve had some other students at times volunteer the whole weekend or at regionals we aren’t attending. Events having trouble filling volunteers could be more direct to teams for where and when they need help for roles that students or adults on teams could help fill.

I’ve probably 15+ hours on setup and tear down the last 2 years at the event my team hosts, I’ve also driven students to events and left as soon as the awards are finished. I’m very thankful for every team that helps with setup and teardown, and I’d be in favor of planning on staying late at local events to help with teardown, but if its not planned ahead its not happening, and I’m definitely not staying late when I have to drive a carful of kids home and find dinner along the way. I’m not telling parents that if we win, we have to stay an extra hour on top of the variability in end times.

I’m all in favor of a cultural norm of staying for an hour of teardown when you live within 20-30 minutes of the venue.