The 6 Week Build Season and 'Student Burnout'

I have created this thread in response to this one:

This is a post that I read in that thread and it got me thinking:

I will add more of my views later (I have posted a brief bit in the other thread), but I am curious, how would the rest of you students feel about a longer build season? Love it? Hate it? Be impartial?

I look forward to reading what comes up.

I for one, would enjoy a longer build season do to my loss at what to do immediately after when the meetings slow down from every day to twice a week. All this free time isn’t my favorite thing in the world, I like to be busy with something that gives me a clear goal and purpose.

To be blunt, NO.

Now I’m probably the most obsessive person on my team when it comes to FIRST, and I dedicate a boat load of time to it and my team.

However from a students view (well graduating student), having more then 6 weeks would be too draining. As it is on my team, and many others in our area, we are meeting 2-3 times a week in competition season, not necessarily to work on the robot, but there’s just so many other things that need to get prepped and worked on for whatever our next competition is. Now adding onto all of that the full ability to work on the robot would mean that I’d be spending more time at team meetings during March and April.

Also I like many other students will probably say my grades take a hit during build season. It’s normally not a huge hit, but there’s still a visible dip. I would not be able to maintain a good final average in my classes if we extended build season.

I think the thing that is being forgotten in the other thread is that FRC is still a High School Robotics Competition. While it is meant to be as close to the real world as it can, it still has to first and foremost be a High School program, and the 6 week build season helps limit it and make it work for the students.

My $0.02

If the build season ran continuously into the tournament season my grades would suffer significantly more than they did this year. For this reason alone I have to opt for a 6 week build season. I would enjoy additional time to build more complex and refined robots but would suffer the wrath of my parents and teachers.

Given FIRST’s long history of a six week build season, I think the best thing to do is to stick with it. Any change would risk significantly unbalancing the current competitive dynamic.

Really, whether extending the build season helps or hurts a certain team (or even individual) depends on the team (or individual) in question (see the quoted material above). I think the only fair method of determining whether a new build season length will help or hurt the FRC community is to conduct an exhaustive survey of how a longer build season would affect every team and create a new rule based on that survey’s results. I think the complexity/reward ratio for such an effort would be too high to warrant attempting it.

Now, let’s step away from reasoning. From an emotionally charged perspective, I’d say “No!”—six weeks is long enough.

After reading through the other thread (linked in OP) I don’t really have any new things to add, but… personally, I’d like to keep the 6 weeks + 3 days, or some variant of it.

Grades. Yeah. Mine definitely slipped during build season this year. If I had had to deal with that while missing school for competitions, I doubt they would be as good as they are, and as of now they aren’t acceptable to my parents.

Pretty close to my thoughts on the topic (there are more issues with changing a system than with the system it would be changed to), but I’m wondering if it would be different if I preferred something that wasn’t status quo.

I can’t speak for people other than myself, but I was definitely burned out by two days after build season, and didn’t really recover until after Championships. That wasn’t because of the six-week build season so much as the way we managed our time, with longer-than-expected hours during build season and then extending our build periods beyond build season. Last year, I didn’t burn out, possibly because our time management was better, with more reasonable hours (eating dinner at home all but three or four nights!) and not changing the robot between every single event. This suggests to me that burnout isn’t related to the time so much as the management of that time, no matter how long the build period is. With six weeks, it’s limited to those six weeks, and isn’t going to destroy a whole semester’s worth of life. (In theory. There are going to be teams, probably including our team, that continue to work on things with the withholding allowance, but six weeks provides a natural cutoff point, where we can force our team to stop working if we need to.)

Imagining FRC without the six week build season, I don’t like where I see our team. While being able to have access to the competition robot after the six week build season could have helped us this year- we redid a mechanism on our robot between every single event, and came to Championships with very different robot from the one we brought to CVR- I doubt that if we had started the season knowing that we had more time that things would have been any easier. We worked up until midnight on Tuesday February 19, and the crunch from the last few days would probably have happened at the end of the build period, whenever it was. But because of the six weeks, most of our team had a break and were able to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities and get their lives back before we fell into the craziness that is competition.

After reading this thread as well as the other one, I’ve gone back and forth on what my opinion is. It’s a really hard call to make, and it’ll impact every team differently because there’s so much diversity among how programs are run.

Specifically regarding 1124 and my own time in the program, I believe a longer build season will help us. We already spend 10+ weeks meeting 6/7 days; it’s a huge commitment and my sanity and grades can’t take anything more than that. But if we didn’t have to build a second robot and could move right into iterating the first one, that’ll take a huge amount of work and stress off our shoulders (in addition to money saved on duplicating the robot).

But for other teams who don’t already spend the entirety of kickoff through competition working, I can see where more time might be a problem. A good start would be the idea posted above about an extensive survey of many more teams than post actively on CD (we’re not a representative sample of the entire community) to see what the majority opinion is and go from there.

A longer build season wouldn’t change much for us. We wouldn’t have to build a second bot, which would be nice. But all that time would be spent perfecting the competition bot.

TL DR We would be meeting 6-7 days a week through champs either way.

A longer build season would probably result in Championships interfering even more with AP exams than it already does. I’m sure there are a lot of FIRST kids who are also in the AP program, and I don’t think anybody wants to have to choose between the two.

I have to say, for me, I could not handle an extra length build season. I love FIRST, I love the time spent in the lab, but honestly, I could not handle an extra length build season. (Disclaimer: A whole ton of this post will be generalizing)

My team is small, with around 5-15 people, depending on the year. The fact of the matter is that we do all of our spirit, pit organization, competition planning, etc, in the time after the robot is bagged. Yes, we do build a practice bot to drive around, but that usually only requires drivers and programmers (some occasional hardware), and we can have others focus on spirit and such. I know for a fact though, if that robot stayed out of the bag, we would be in the lab for a few hours every day, working on improving it (not having the people to spend time elsewhere), then we would go home, and spend time getting ready for the other aspects of competition, such as spirit, pit design, pre-scouting, etc. Some of us work. I personally know a kid on my team who works 3 jobs during build seasonThen, after all that, we would do homework, and try to get a few hours of sleep, As Evan (ehfeinberg) so perfectly put it, “students… we don’t know where to stop”. On a team like ours where everyone has to do everything, we would not stop until we fainted, or died from exhaustion.

I know for a fact many students have their grades take a hit during build season, myself included. In fact, my grades could not handle a longer build season. I am still fighting to recover from the hit I took in January to mid-march, and with finals coming up fast, I am working late nights to pull my grades up. If the build season was longer, my grades only would’ve sank further down into a place that I did not want to be. And, as a result, would be near impossible to bring back up to a GPA that I can handle and be happy with.

Another problem is that many FIRST students, like myself, are very busy. Directly after the season is over (literally the day after stop-build), I am having pre-season waterpolo. Now, I know if build were extended, I would have to cut something, and waterpolo would have to go, because I love FIRST, but I would prefer to be able to do both. I also play in multiple bands, and have many rehearsals/performances in the spring that, if robotics build were to continue, I would have to cancel. I know that I am not the only student who is this busy, as many FIRST members are very active in their communities.

Finally, as hard as it is to believe, some of us do have friends outside of FIRST that we practically never see during the build season, because they have interests outside of robotics (acting, singing, dancing, etc,). In my Dungeons and Dragons group, which consists of my best friends, I am the only member who is in robotics. (Yes, some of them have tried it out, but all of them have other interests, I respect that). The fact is, some of us are teenagers who enjoy being social, and we give that up for 6 weeks to participate in this program that we are very dedicated to. I would be willing to build longer, and have to wait longer to see my friends outside of school, but I would not like it. This is a fun activity, a great experience, and joining was the best choice I ever made, but, I am still a student who would like to be around his friends more. What I am really trying to say is: this is not a job.* We are high-schoolers.

*Yes, I know some teams view it as such, but I am generalizing here

TL; DR: As much as I love build season, My team, similar to many, is short staffed, and uses the time without the robot to work on other aspects of competition. Grades are already a problem with the short time we have, and would get worse the longer the season was. Other activities outside of FIRST do exist for many of us high school students, and FIRST students have social lives that we give up for build, and relish having back post-season.