The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

In the Stereotyping of Successful Teams thread, we stumbled onto the age old topic of the 6 week build season and how it effects competitiveness and mentor burnout. Instead of hijacking that thread, I felt it appropriate to start a new thread.

These were the relevant posts leading up to this thread:

My opinion falls on the side of eliminating the 6 week time constraint as being beneficial to the concept of mentor burnout. Eric’s point about work expanding to fill a deadline is dead on, however a team may have an option now of not meeting EVERY single day for 6 weeks. My expectation would not be that the team stops after 6 weeks anyway, but that they spread the stress from a concentrated 6 weeks, to a less concentrated 8-9.

The way I see it, teams who build a full practice robot and work through the entire competition season, are going to no matter what, unless the rules explicitly disallow this action. These teams will have a second robot, they will have extra software development time, extra time to refine mechanisms and shake out bugs (disclaimer: we are one of these teams).

If you lift the restriction of teams having access to their robots, it will be pretty much the status quo for our team. However, for teams that do not have a practice robot they will now have the ability to tweak and tune right up to a competition. Its hard for me to see how removing the ‘lock up’ portion of the season as doing anything but raising the floor and allowing teams who would otherwise not have the means, access to fine tuning later in the season.

As for mentor burnout- there is no reason a team cannot artificially create a 6 week build season, either by putting a hard cap at 6 weeks, or by spreading 6 weeks worth of meetings over 8 or 9 weeks. I know for my team, having a few more weeks would definitely lighten the load earlier in the season, allow us more refinement on the design side- which means less wasted money on not fully vetted prototypes.

I do think this topic is a very good one and am very curious to hear many different sides of the argument though…


Thanks for putting together this excellent recap thread.

As a lower resource team that has just started to build a practice robot.
I feel that a 6-week build limitation is hurting us more than helping.

Building a practice robot is a lot of work and we would much rather put in the work on the actual robot.

Eliminating the 6-week restriction:

  1. saves money
  2. saves time
  3. reduces stress

It would be interesting to see a survey of Chief Delphi on this topic.

I’ve been basically away from FIRST the past two seasons (I moved to Austria) but I feel strongly about this topic.

We need to get rid of the 6 week deadline. I think this was there when there was a time we all had to ship our robots to the competition. Now, it only serves the purpose of a media point “The kids built this in 6 weeks” (which we all know really isn’t true when you include improvements over the season).

To add what was more elegantly put by Adam…another thing that would be missed without bag time would be “fix-it windows”. I know we would spend several hours the night before just planning these times so we can get everything we needed done in the time window. This was time we could have spent working on the robot (and caused more “burnout”).

I don’t agree with Eric’s argument because the teams that want to continue to improve the entire season are already doing this…it’s just in an inefficient way (two robots…although we would probably still build two robots because our practice bots get beat to heck…)…

If someone from FIRST reads this I propose that a survey question be added about the six week build season to all teams. If there is an overwhelming majority on one side or the other from the end of the year survey then I propose that FIRST implements this change into the FRC program. I personally agree that it would lessen mentor/student burnout for the build season. One other major thing that has popped into my mind is a question for the teams that build a practice robot. How has building a practice robot correlates with student grades. Do they trend up or down after the build season. This would be the only major problem of eliminating the 6 week build season.

No no no a thousand times no.

Anybody who says 6 days a week for a 6 week build season translates to 4 days a week for a 9 week build season is lying. Not simply because of Parkinson’s Law, but because of ‘elite’ teams’ constant need for that extra edge, and ‘lesser’ teams’ need to try to keep up.

Here’s my reality: For six weeks - 36 nights - my wife has to feed, bathe, and put our two sons to bed by herself. For 36 nights, I don’t get to read bedtime stories and tuck in my two boys. I am not willing to make that 54 nights.

Then don’t… Who is telling you that you have to? Self impose your own deadlines. That’s the beauty of it…it’s in your control.

I guess we’re doing Ri3D next year then. :slight_smile:

Seriously. Tell your students and mentors and administrators and sponsors that, purely by your own choice, your team is only going to actively work 36 days out of the possible 54, and let me know what 469’s response is. If they have any interest in returning to Einstein, I think I know the answer.

I’m sorry…but I don’t get your point (or joke)…

BTW… “3. What works for you may not work for me, and vice versa.”

I’m going to go against the grain here and say that the six week season should stay, at least for a while. Once the district system is the norm in FIRST, I could see an argument to go to a continuous build period. There are several reasons for this (burnout, I completely agree with Taylor on this), but one big one I haven’t seen talked about much looms above them all.

Remember minibots? How much variety there was at the beginning of the season, for better or for worse? How a few teams spent thousands of dollars and incredible amount of times iterating to perfect the direct drive minibot? How after a few weeks of regionals, clones started popping up left and right, because teams and the rules made this possible, and everyone asked for them to never, ever be done again, partially because so many teams hit the ceiling of performance with identical designs?

I don’t want to see the 120 pound robots become like this. I don’t want a system where it’s practical for teams to copy what others engineer. The 6 week period makes this impractical to do. With unlimited robot access, I could see teams doing complete rebuilds for championships, bringing even more burnout into play, taxing sponsors and giving a double advantage to teams with good manufacturing support, making FRC robots monotone, and resulting in some spectacular failures that wouldn’t have happened by teams who try a more ambitious rebuild than they can handle

Are folks advocating an extended build season (e.g. 9 weeks) or the elimination of a stop-build deadline altogether?

If the latter, what would you recommend to minimize the advantage a team competing late in the season has over someone who, perhaps necessarily, competes in week 1? Would you attempt to minimize the advantage at all?

We meet 3 times a week during build; twice during the work week and on Saturdays. Later in the season, we meet more frequently as required. I’m pretty well ready to die after 6 weeks now; I can see how making the time allowed longer could help, but I also see where it wouldn’t make much difference and the pain would only be prolonged.

I don’t see the point. Teams competing in different weeks aren’t competing against each other, unless there’s some weird time warp that allows that in the Pacific Northwest :).

The qualification system is still based on how you do in the event you attend. OPR (which improves every week) is not a qualifier for the world championship.

I’m against extending the build season, I can guarantee it would lead to more late build sessions for my teams. I am already stretched thin for 6 weeks and my college hates the fact I miss so many days of class (I still keep my grades up). If it were changed to an 8 or 9 week build season I simply would not be able to be a mentor in my current capacity.

More build time = more days missed of class/work

I have to disagree with extending build season or getting rid of the 6 weeks stop time. I feel that it is impressive to build these machines within the 6 weeks. But the big issue is what about the teams that can only do a week 1 event such as GSR. There build season is only 8 weeks and another team that can only go to week 4 has a more time to work on their robot. It is not a level playing field based on the simple fact when your competition is.

Also with the six weeks deadline this allows our team to develop documents that is used during competition as well as providing a great experience for the students to learn not just how to build a robot but also how to document our build season and robot. The technical documents they create will be better tools for them in both their professional and college careers.

I understand mentors get burnt out but what is the reason for this burn out? Cause i know when it is close to the end of week 6 i feel amazing on what has taken place of not just building a robot but changing students lives forever.

My opinion…get rid of it altogether…

What advantage does a team competing in week 5 have over a team competing in week 1? All the teams competing in week 1 compete with other teams competing in week 1…and then 2, 3, etc…

Are you saying that a team in week 5 will wait until the week 1 districts/regionals and then copy the best designs?

Wow…I feel like EricH today…I think this is the most I’ve ever posted in one day…

I pulled this quote of mine from a 2009 thread on this topic.
This is just an observation I had from Kick-off 2000, but the quote is classic Woodie Flowers:
Back in the olden days (2000) the only kick-off was in New Hampshire, they used to let people line up at a microphone and ask questions after the game was revealed.
After Dean and Woodie had fielded several questions, an annoyed mentor stepped to the microphone and said something like…“Why don’t you give us more time? Why don’t you give us 10 weeks instead of 6 weeks?”
Woodie stepped to the microphone and said with a smile…“Because we like you”!
Dean and Woodie understood even back then that extending build season would only make things worse and simply extend our agony. :slight_smile:

In a district system where district Championship attendance is predicated upon points earned through competition, though, isn’t it plausible that a team competing in week 1 and week 6 is at a disadvantage to a team competing in week 5 and week 6?

The total time spent on the robot may be the same, but the functional state of the robot may be quite different between the former and latter at their first event. In other words, while team A has 7 weeks before they have to compete for the first time, team B has 11 weeks. Our robot would certainly perform better after 11 weeks of work than it does after 7.

I guess, if you presume that everyone is equally handicapped at 7 weeks, it makes no difference. I think our current experience shows us that certain teams do MUCH more in 6 or 7 weeks than others. So, in the end, the teams are appreciably better today would be appreciably better without a stop-build day, but everyone gets better overall. I suppose that makes sense.

Okay, I concede. But I still might die if I have to do for another six weeks.

But wouldn’t that be true also of the robots you would be competing against at that event?

It’s more the latter.

I’m not sure there would be an advantage to competing later in the season. It seems like the level of competition later in the season would increase much higher than an early competition (we see similar now)… that it may or may not be a benefit to compete later. It may be in a teams best interest to register for an early regional and get a robot completed quickly, so they can get a win against a slightly lower level of competition. Then continue to develop their machine as time goes on for additional competitions later in the season.

We have a similar design/build schedule. We are not working every day all 6 weeks. We work Tuesday / Thursday 4:15-7:30pm and Satuday 8am-4pm for the majority of the build season. When we need to work more later in the season, we do…or even after.

So yes, I could easily justify to our sponsor (although we don’t need too) that we would “only” be working 36 out of 54 available days.


I agree that access to your competition robot after the six week build season would “raise the floor” as many have said. By how much is debatable.

I also agree that extending the build process into the competition season would have little to no impact on mentor (or student, parent, coach, …) burnout. It is true that the work expands to fill the time available, at least for most of us I think that would be true.

I really enjoy “continual improvement” and I believe that there is great value to the students in that experience.

The present system of events spread over six or seven weeks with the ability of teams to attend as many as they can afford creates the opportunity for some to benefit from their extra efforts to acquire the resources to evolve their machines.

I do not see much, if any difference, between completely eliminating the bagging requirements versus allowing some limited time through the competition season for working on the competition robot. EDIT: And as stated in another post, there is little difference between no bagging and having a 30 lb allowance.

I do wonder what unintended (and unwanted) consequences would ensue from lifting the “bag and tag” requirement? Would it impact the participation at early competition events? Other than dispel the myth that all of this great work is done in six weeks, I am hard pressed to to see a negative impact.

I am firmly in the camp of eliminate the bagging requirement. The only stop work date should be ship date for the Championship event.