After finishing up the New York City regional, I lost a lot of the respect that I had for FIRST. I don’t mean for this to be a rant or anything, I just want to hear the community’s opinion on a number of things that I noticed over the course of this and previous regionals.
Firstly, the ranking system. This year’s seemed to particularly wonky. At a regional as large as NYC, eight matches per team simply don’t cut it. How can a robot’s abilities be assessed fairly in comparison with the rest when it mathematically does not have the chance to play with/against every other team. A lot of luck seemed to be involved. The large amount of penalties (I saw 120+ points scored on just penalties) also seemed to skew the rankings, especially when fouls were counted as goal/climb points. Let’s face it, not everyone reads the rules. Why punish teams that do by dragging them down? Why not find a better way to rank based on individual performance. I’m not arguing that great teams gravitate towards the top, but shouldn’t the best team deserve first place, the second best second, and so on?
Secondly, rules. In general, I liked the rules a lot. The ones that bothered me were those regarding penalties (this is going to be a common theme in this post). “Obstructing the flow of the game.” What’s that all about? It just sounds like defense to me, not to mention that it’s extremely subjective. When does a good defense begin to obstruct the game? Instead of creating rules like this, why not just create a game in which this is not possible? Instead of placing two obnoxiously large pyramids in the middle of the field, with either side being easily blocked, why not create a climbing wall and leave a wide open field? Maybe place a different, smaller element there instead.
Which brings me to my final complaint. This exact bias in ruling occurred during the elimination matches of the NYC regional this year. (http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/29860861). Not only do I find this unfair, but it all of the refs seemed to disagree on what the large penalty was for. It took us about 10 minutes to find out that it was because of “obstructing the flow of the game.” Well, great. Ten minutes after our match we get the official ruling and just because one of the refs that was friendly and put in extra time to find out for us. I personally ran to the head ref and asked to dispute the penalty. He stated that the decision was final and could not be challenged since they “already moved on.” I asked him to consider watching videos of previous matches in which I would gladly point out more extreme scenarios only a few matches prior which were not penalized. He refused and told me to relax, because “it’s just a game” and the refs are “just volunteers.” Well, needless to say, the majority of us are just volunteers. I personally spent two weeks of my college vacation helping my team and countless hours on the bus to see the regional. He told me that we still accomplished the mission of FIRST, since we learned a lot. He then walked away.
I am completely disappointed with this attitude. It is unprofessional. It is disrespectful to everyone doing FIRST and their efforts. I’m still pondering what the lesson learned was for my team. That life isn’t fair? Is that such a great message? I personally don’t care about winning. I’m done with FIRST. I just want others to get the experience that I got without having such great hopes shattered.
It would be great if FIRST could refine this system by introducing a more refined method of disputing claims via video. I know the volunteers work hard, but everyone gets it wrong once in a while. The true value of FIRST lies in exposing youth to fields that are slowly fading from our schools. If we truly decide to celebrate mediocrity and losses like this, what are we really teaching our youth?
I would like to see a lot more prizes celebrating engineering, programming, and business achievements. What do you guys think? Are we lacking in those?
Looking back, this is a bit of a rant and I apologize, but a large number of people on my team, alliance, and in the NYC regional feel this way. I wanted to see everyone’s opinion.
Thank you for reading. I look forward to your responses.