The possibility of a yearlong model for FRC

My main thought process is that it can actually help lower the intensity of the build season because some prototyping can be done in the off season.

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Would this be a strict “0 official offseasons” under this setup, since the defined time is before it? Having offseasons only in the summer is (ironically) extremely limiting for many teams who may not be allowed to travel, much less look at the robot when their schools are on break.

I really like this idea, but I think it may not work out well for low-resource teams who can’t put resources toward a new robot that they know won’t quite be what they need for the upcoming season, especially if R14 (FABRICATED ITEMS created before Kickoff are not permitted.) returns in future seasons. Maybe it should be designed to use a robot from the previous year with modifications, or ensure that doing these challenges will give you something usable for the upcoming game and modify R14 to allow anything created for the challenges?

You can do all the prototypes you want now. Then modify any that are applicable to the game in 6 weeks.

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To expand on why I think I liked the 6 week build season: I’m one of those people who can only get one big thing into my brain at once. But I get it deeply into my brain, and can think all about it, when I do so. The 6 week build forces me to put other stuff aside for that time, and put a lot of effort into the robot build.

The same thing happens with other stuff I do. I need to get fully involved in the project, work on it full time (or more), and then I can get it all figured out and make it work.

If I try to spread a project like this out over a long time, it just won’t get the full attention it needs to make it “right”.

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The VEX Robotics Competition and VEX IQ Challenge are “year-long” events. I say “year long” because it’s really primarily the school year. Even the best VRC teams in the world (who honestly could give most FRC teams a run for their money in terms of making competitive robots) aren’t going power cells to the wall every day from September to April. You don’t see many VRC teams experiencing major burnout and fizzling out of existence.

Expansion past a certain point stops adding on hardcore build days and starts distributing the load across a longer time. There’s only so many things a team can do, and past that I believe extra time will be used to decrease the load on any individual day.

When I was a younger student I thought I would do FRC every day if given the chance. Now as a 24-year-old old man I enjoy the slow days when I get them.

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It’s late at night, so I’m just going to throw in my two cents which may be somewhat incoherent.

FIRST is more than FRC, and something I love about it is that many of the programs don’t overlap.

I run FLL Challenge teams from August to November and then can pour that energy into FRC come January. There’s the FRC off-season that I can participate in which is nice because I get to keep connected with my students on a much lower time commitment. FTC runs a little longer though the year and it’s my first time getting involved in that so I don’t know a ton about how much time a normal season will take, and FLL Explore is nice because it’s honestly only 12 hours total, so yeah.

I love being part of a group that really recognizes and encompasses all the FIRST programs. So if FRC was a full year, I would be so tired :sleeping:

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Based on your thought, how great would it be to prototype knowing the actual game? :slight_smile:

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I’m glad this thread was started. Good to hear different perspectives.
The only comment I want to make right now is make the same argument that others have said back when discussions were made to get rid of bag day.
People that liked the 6 week build season didnt want to get rid of it. They were afraid of burnout and extended build days beyond the 6 weeks. I was one of those that didnt want to get rid of bag day.
During this pandemic, I realized I was totally wrong. I was able to achieve balance with my personal life, work and FRC for the first time ever. Didnt feel burnt out at all and I can safely say I speak for all of our students and mentors as well.
For those that are concerned of losing the offseason events and time to prototype. Wouldnt it be better prototyping in the Fall knowing the game? There is also nothing stopping teams or organizations from having an offseason event. I can speak of countless teams that have said they do offseason events to prepare new drivers for competitions. An offseason event doesnt have to be the current game.
If teams absolutely want their 6-week build season back, they can set their team up to start construction in January.

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While I do see the argument that a longer build season would allow you to spread out the work and be less stressed and result in less burnout, but I’ve also never seen Parkinson’s law fail, so I’m included to believe that wouldn’t be the case.


Parkinson’s law

work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion

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I think no bag is the best option. It helps out a team like ours, while changing nothing for elite teams. And it helps lower intensity of a build season for teams with less mentors.

Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I don’t necessarily see a year long model as spreading the effort. We’re already not as “high effort” as some other teams. Getting a break and doing no robotics is still desired. Even with limited, virtual only, meetings this year, students and mentors alike still want a break, and not just skipping a week.

That being said, we could just not participate for the whole year and keep it the same as we’re doing currently. But I would wonder how that fits in with the “low resource teams and inspiration” question.

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We already have a pretty full year:

  • Jan/Feb — Build
  • Mar/Apr — Competitions
  • May-Aug — Sponsor&Community Outreach
  • Sep-Dec — Mentor FLL teams

Plus most of our students are involved in other activities: Band, Jobs, Scouts, Soccer, Swimming, Track, etc

Not sure where we would fit any expansion.

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One thing that we have loved lately is the NEFIRST/BAE Systems Romi Challenges.. If the offseason could evolve (or just continue for our region) to include official versions of those, it could really help newer teams/members. Traditional offseason events are invaluable for our team, and I would not want to lose them, but adding something like the Romi challenges could also help them learn how the process begins from the ground up, before January.

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QFT

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You’ll have to tell me your secrets :stuck_out_tongue: Despite on paper having more “free time” than ever before, this was probably one of the most stressful and overwhelming years of my life. It also made me realize that I really miss the 6 week build season…

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A true year-long program basically eliminates anyone with other major extracurriculars from leadership roles or considerable responsibility on your team. Say goodbye to athletes, theater kids, part-time-job-havers, and countless other students from great extracurriculars who could prove to be assets.

I’ve always wondered why the “Varsity Sport for the Mind” doesn’t line up with other sports seasons…

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Interesting to see how the attitudes of some posters have changed over time with regard to this topic.

The idea of a significantly longer schedule is an attempt to fundamentally change the nature of build season from a short “sprint” into a longer “jog.” Regardless of bag day, the January-March period between kickoff and your first competition is always going to be a high intensity period, in which build season would have be to one of the top priorities in life for many members of the team. But if you more than double that time period, perhaps a fundamental change can occur, in which the build season no longer needs to be a constant sprint (although sprint periods may still occur).

This begs the question, is the high intensity build season a key element to FRC’s inspiration? Can FRC be as inspiring without it?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I would love to find ways to make FRC less burnout inducing.

This conversation is also inherently linked to what “kickoff” means. Sure it’s the game reveal, but it’s also when “work” can start on your robot. I will continue to advocate for greater use (and specifically re-use) of prefabricated components that were made before kickoff. Specifically I think allowing teams to build their drives before kickoff is a beneficial idea that will have the greatest impact on teams on the lower end of the competitive spectrum. Let the teams that struggle to score already have a rolling chassis and focus their efforts on the new game challenge, while higher end teams will always want to custom tailor their drives to the new game anyway.

If FRC is no longer such a high intensity sprint, why must this be the case? Heck, some of those activities you mentioned are already not bound by season. Part time jobs still interfere with the current build season (and perhaps worse with the high demands of current build season). The schools I have worked with have plays in each “season” of the year. Even truly competitive athletes basically end up playing their sport year round in extracurricular leagues.

Instead of making students chose between winter sports and FRC, a reimagined FRC build season might let students choose year-round.

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For us it lines up perfectly with basketball, bowling, competitive cheer, gymnastics, hockey, swimming and diving, and wrestling. Each one of those sports has been chosen over robotics for us in 11 years for at least one kid each.

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I was adamantly opposed to the elimination of Stop Build Day (and wanted an elimination of the withholding allowance as well), until I realized that in order to be truly competitive you need to build a practice robot anyway. I maintain that FIRST is, IMO, way too much work for people whose lives are more than FIRST, unless they’ve got a huge mentor base with which to spread that work around.

But the elimination of Stop Build Day actually makes build season much more tolerable and much less burnout-inducing, as well as cheaper, while raising both the floor and the ceiling at competitions, and I was 100% wrong on the topic.

So with my being totally wrong about Stop Build Day as a preface to this conversation, the idea of eliminating “Start Build Day” kind of makes me want to claw my own face off and cry in the corner. In addition to being a physics teacher and robotics coach, I’m also an author and own a small business (hot pepper infused honey and spice rubs), and have a family I like to actually spend time with.

If the elimination of Start Build Day is specifically structured so that my weekly meetings throughout the fall are better able to enhance the FIRST experience without adding to the workload, I’m for it. If not, please see above re: my face and the corner.

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I would like to avoid a year long model at all costs. It would highly favor those locations that can structure a curriculum around FIRST and have year long classes that focus specifically on the FIRST competition. This would allow year round FIRST development on a specific game during the normal school day rather than having it as an extracurricular. Right now, teams can have class curriculums around FIRST, but they aren’t addressing the game and getting class time to work on it year round.

Other people have already mentioned the time commitment for teams that want to remain competitive.