"The level playing field" in FIRST

With the recent announcement about the removal of stop build day, there’s a lot of discussion regarding whether the playing field is really level in FRC between the teams with a lot of resources and the teams that don’t have as much.

A recent post got me thinking: It seems like one of the largest issues is that the resources needed for a competitive team are relatively high—time, money, mentors, etc. FRC is not VEX or FTC, and that is presenting a barrier to some teams, hurting them even though they’ve done nothing wrong.

So I ask CD to brainstorm: are there additional / new things we could be doing as a community (perhaps that are more feasible without a bag) to help alleviate this issue?

Build more practice fields.


More scrimmages.

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Who doesn’t want more play time anyways? :smiley:

But seriously I’d love to see this happen and it was one of the ideas that inspired this thread.

One of the other things I’m tossing around because it has impacted my former team and is clearly impacting other’s based on Patrick’s post, is that schools have some really funky constraints that they place on FRC teams.

California for example supposedly needs certificated employees present during all robotics hours since it is an extracurricular. Sports just need coaches who go through some training. Obviously if this could change, it would help a lot of teams who are dependent on a few key mentors.

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And show up to your team’s event ready to play.

When a team shows up ready to play, they are also ready to learn, iterate, and get more competitive. Nothing levels the playing field like time on the playing field.

Help more local teams once their robots are not trapped in bags, before events.

While there is a rarely used pre-inspection system in place now once bag day is gone it should be far far easier to make sure that every team is ready to pass inspection before their event. I’d bet in the next 5 years a majority of teams will complete some sort of pre-inspection week 0 event hosted by a local FRC organization or other teams.

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Districts throughout FIRST.
District teams are at a bit time advantage competition wise especially in Detroit where there’s district teams everywhere you look. My team will be lucky if they have a dozen matches when they get there competing against battle tested teams with dozens of matches under their belt.

It’s honestly pathetic how many teams out there are completely unaware of the greater world of FRC and the many best practices that have been developed over time, not to mention things like basic rules and procedures. FIRST and veteran teams both need to step up tremendously.

Some teams have never traveled outside their own region in their existence which I think is partially why FIRST wanted to go with 2 Champs to help remedy that. To expose them to more teams and new ideas.

I’m going to take a different approach - I don’t think FRC should have a level playing field. It’s the varsity sport for the mind. When you get to the varsity level of most sports, funding, resources, and experience reign supreme.

I don’t think this is the program for everybody, nor should it be. You need a lot of time, knowledge, and resources to compete at a high level, and from my experiences and understanding it is extremely difficult for a large number of teams to obtain those things. In my opinion those programs would better accomplish FIRST’s mission (and quite possibly their own) by joining another robotics program such as FTC (or even VRC, Botball, UAV) where the resource disparity isn’t as high and the barrier to competitive entry is far lower.

We shouldn’t push for everyone to be in FRC. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense for some people, and that’s okay. There’s inspiration at every level of play!

I agree that FRC is the varsity robotics sport. The programs you mentioned fill a very important role and also do wonders to inspire students.

I guess the question is where the barriers to entry for FRC should stand—what maintains competitiveness but prevents FRC from becoming elitist? There’s quite a lot to consider to answer that question… ahhh. I honestly don’t want to try and answer because I don’t think my attempt will do the question justice.

+1 to this. I think the more teams that show up to competition with more drive practice under their belt, the more likely it is that the competitions have more depth.

You “level” the playing field by making sure teams are actually ready to play the game when they join.

We have dozens of other robotics competitions that exist. The idea that a teacher and school that have zero experience in any form of competition robotics and don’t have any mentors with experience either should jump in and start an FRC team instead of doing FTC, VEX, BEST, Botball, MATE, etc is so out of this world crazy to me I can’t believe how many times it happens every year. FRC is awesome, I love it, but teams should build a program before they come and play the “varsity sport of the mind”.

You wouldn’t go straight to F1 or NASCAR when you decide to start a racing team why do so many people think it’s okay to dive into FRC. Or if you did, you’d definitely be bringing in people that have already done it before.

Attend multiple events, shadow a local team for a season, compete at off-season events before your rookie season. Deciding to start a team in November (or later) and expecting anything to be level is just unrealistic.

FRC teams are awesome and we will continue to do everything we can to help those teams but signing them up and not telling them how hard it is doing them a disservice. The marketing material should tell every perspective team just how hard it is and how much time and resources it takes to do well. I don’t mind teams not choosing to listen when they are given all the facts but I hate it when I hear teams say they just didn’t know how hard it was going to be. We all know how hard this sport is, we need to let the people coming in make an informed choice.

We should also make it easy to decide to move down to FTC. Maybe HQ should do a trade in program where you can send in your FRC control system from the previous year and get an FTC kit of parts / registration in return.

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This is the greatest idea I’ve heard all day, including the removal of bag day. There absolutely needs to be more support in placing schools and programs into the correct level of competition within FIRST and the transition between levels should be much smoother.

I feel like this would be met with a lot of resistance from teams themselves… even if it does have many benefits. Almost there’s like there’s something bad about “going down to FTC”.

For new teams this isn’t too bad… make it very clear what each program takes and let them make an informed choice. For existing teams struggling, while it does make sense, I have a hard time sitting comfortably with this for some reason…

Edit: I think the crux of my discomfort is should a team who joined FRC a decade or more ago be “priced out” (figuratively, it could be some other resource besides money) of the program?

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I don’t think anyone is forcing teams out, just educating them, giving them the option, and making it easy.

Our acquiring the space for and the purchase of a full-size practice field in the 2017 offseason was definitely a contributing factor to our success this year.

I’m hopeful that this will cause more teams to open up their spaces and bring more teams together.

We hosted quite a few teams at our practice field this year, and we plan to have them over next year as well.

In the KOP for all teams, include an entire kit robot with instructions and example code that can play the current FRC game at a basic level.

Develop Hubs, Alliances, and Coalitions (HAC’s) in more areas. The Central MN Robotics Hub (CMNRH) started just three years ago with 6 teams that struggled to exist. We are now at 18 members and have a strong history of collaboration, building new events for our area, growing our FTC and VEX teams, and much, much more. All of our teams are measurably stronger and more successful than just a few years ago.

For those that would like more information on how we started ours and the logistics of it, just PM me.