UNC Asheville's Wild Ride

So my brain has been able to lie to my body long enough that I can sit upright and process what team 422 experienced this weekend.

We had a killer time at the UNC Asheville District Event. By far, it was the most fun I have ever had at a competition. The venue was beautiful, the volunteers were some of the nicest and accommodating we have ever interacted with, the field was frequently ahead of schedule (so much that we got to sleep in Sunday morning) and the teams were welcoming to the two out of state renegades in us and 238. 238 is a team that has been in a district system for its 4th year. The other 23 of us are very new to this. Since I also am a glutton for punishment, I pushed for 422 to register for 3 district events this year. CHS SWVA, CHS CVA, and NC… Guilford County.

When the dust settled on OOD registration, we received a message from the NC head, Marie (who is seriously one of the coolest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting at an event) asking if we were interested in moving from Guilford County (week 1) to Asheville (Week 3). “Maybe they think we can just adjust our schedule since we are relatively local (I knew that Indiana teams were also looking at Guilford) and want to see if we will be flexible so they don’t have to deny teams spots.”

I navigated over to the event roster and at that time I think there were only 23 teams registered. We emailed back and forth and got our trip to Asheville lined up as the 24th team. 238 from Manchester, NH tagged in a few days later as the 25th team.

As the event drew nearer, many people on both my team and other teams going and not going to the event asked me what was going to happen in the elimination bracket. Why did they think I have all the answers? Regardless of my prolific abilities in trolling online communities, I do not have a hotline to HQ. As someone who fears contact with new and strange people (alternatively, I’m really lazy), I never bothered to shoot anyone an email about it, thinking “oh, they’ll just follow the template from [Waterloo 20xx or other tiny event] and cut down alliance captains accordingly”

So after working my early morning shift (5-11am) and driving 2 kids and the robot down in my GTI for 6+ hours, we arrive in NC to find that we are one of -24- teams that will be in attendance. We speculated what would happen with some members of 587 and 1533 (swank drive), then left for dinner without finding an FTA or someone else because we were tired and hungry.

Get back on Saturday morning and our drive team comes back to tell us that all teams will play in eliminations. All 24. 8 alliances.

“What if someone declines?”
“The 1 seed gets 2 robots”
"Would they adjust capture rules, that would require 3 robots on the field and on the batter?
“No.”

So, no offense to the field of teams at UNC Asheville, but some robots being lovingly described as toasters would be an affront to toasters; and the 1 seed was going to get 1 of them, guaranteed. We briefly discussed not pushing for every possible ranking point and just playing to improve our own abilities; after all, we were just here for practice. We are trying to improve certain abilities in the run up to our next official event. Luckily (?) despite us being easily a top 5 scorer at the event, we are not nor will ever be good enough to put up an above .500 record with our match draw, including highlights like 6 matches where partners would get stuck on or fall over in front of multiple defenses.

We got picked 7th at the event (seemed to really fire up the drive team) and led our alliance in scoring through the finals, where some execution mistakes on our part lost us the event to a really great alliance. One thing that helped us is that at the 10th pick in the draft, I believe we grabbed the last team that manipulated more than 1 ball throughout the entire tournament.

Now that you have lived to see the end of my story, I have a few questions and scenarios that I believe are worthy of discussion.

  1. Should there have been a full elimination bracket at this 24 team event? Why or why not? I believe it was not the best decision that could have been made, but is one that was made keeping in mind the integrity of the district points structure among other things.

  2. Should there be a minimum team count for all events in either the traditional or nontraditional structure. If so, what is it? What protocols should there be for recourse to an event not reaching their number?

  3. Should FIRST relax the restrictions on inter-district play to allow teams from outside the structure to populate events? For example, could a team from Knoxville, TN apply to join the NC districts? A team from South Carolina? A team from Virginia? Why or why not?

There may be some other questions that can come from this. I just want to hear what people think about it.

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I’ll bite on this one. I thinking the development of districts around tradition state boarders is the issue. We all know that certain teams are geographically isolated from the population centers in their districts. It would make more sense for those teams to look elsewhere. So, yes, the restrictions should be removed all together, or allow teams to choose which district they will compete in.

This was our first year in districts so we have a lot to learn still. This was definitely a fun event and I agree that things are a lot different when everyone plays. I personally tried to make an effort to help all teams at the event that needed anything fixed or improved because we were going to see them on the field with or against us. Heck, we helped build 5446 a robot in 3 hours when all they had was an AndyMark kit and last year’s code and they finished in 13th seed.

In the future, I think more teams will reach out to help in this situation. I am so glad they did not do a top 6 or we would never have gotten to see some of that intense defensive game play.

It certainly became a roller coaster when during two matches we were the only moving robot or we only had two robots on the field. I felt like the event forced teams to collaborate on a much higher level than the regional model and I loved every minute of it.

You guys were one tire on the carpet away from victory during F-2 and I don’t think many people realized that. I also know you guys had a solid robot and that rankings at this event were too wild to show it.

I hope you come back next year to see the progress:D

1648 also attended the PCH District - Albany event, which ran with 25 teams.

  1. There should not have been a full elimination bracket. While it nice for every team to make the playoffs, this event has implications for teams down the line. States bids, Worlds bids are influenced by this event. In a game like this year, where all three robots are required to get to the batter for a capture, having options for teams to select at every stage is crucial. There is an argument to be made that your alliance should work with the team in question to get them at least on the batter, but if a team is going to have to help modify another’s robot for their alliance, they should at least have the option to choose which robot that is.

District point structures can be modified, as long as it it put in the admin manual ahead of time; frankly, it’s impressive that Michigan/MAR have gone long enough and not run into any situation of similar ilk.

  1. Traditional Structure: 26 teams. This gives two backup teams, and the final selection has three options to choose from.

If an event hasn’t reached it’s number by a given date (say, two weeks after out of district events are opened) start reaching out to local teams who aren’t attending and aren’t doing another event that week and see if they will be willing to come to the event, at a discounted price if necessary.

  1. Wholeheartedly, yes. As long as it’s done ahead of time (say, a full year in advance). A team should be able to compete in the location it determines is best for itself. Why should we be restricted by (mostly) arbitrary state/region borders?

Glad to hear that 422 had a good time in NC.

I think the protocol was Marie asking you if you would be willing to change from Guilford to Asheville which added another team to the event. It’s tough to say what the recourse should be since a regional would be in a different situation than a district. There was an event in Georgia last week as well that had 25 teams in attendance. I believe it’s just a first year of districts phenomenon and won’t be as big of a deal as the districts grow.

Second (third) questions, I’m all for inter-district play and think that it will improve in the second year of districts in CHS, NC, and PCH. The geography of those three districts should make inter-district play more common than its been. You guys were really ambitious to do an out-of-district event your first year in the system.

Fixed that for you.

Y’all should try it. It’s hella fun.

I think a contributing factor to the issue was in NC they have 52 teams but effectively created 160 roster spots when they only needed 104. Teams were bound to gravitate to the 104 that were most convenient for them and Asheville is a pretty incredible city but not one near a lot of existing teams.

I think the fear of piling on events kept teams new to the system away from third plays. I think only us, Zebracorns, and T-Rex are the only 3 teams that planned for 3 regular season plays in the new districts, but I could be wrong. We skipped offseasons this year not just because the game was bad and the metallic macabre machine that we built was fit to be dismantled on sight, but also because we wanted to take full advantage of the district systems. GC would have been a very obvious showing of the benefits (we probably would have course corrected to Hampton Roads as well so we would have played a wider variety of teams) in that we get 12 matches to figure out what we have before we play for points. Asheville was still a good tune up for our drive team, who are all new or new to their positions.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that opening the floodgates to any FRC team would have helped fill out the roster with teams that would earn just as many points as the other non NC teams but I see obvious drawbacks. I do agree for sure that it is something that will change over time; for instance, we will be campaigning to bring more teams across the lines for next year because I almost feel selfish in the amount of fun we had there.

With more plays the teams become more competitive. Most teams previously in NC would only show up to the NC regional, get 10 matches, and that was it if they didn’t get picked for playoffs plus we had a ton of teams coming from out of the region to compete in the NC Regional that had already won other events. This model is really helping our in state teams get better already by encouraging more plays.

Most teams will only do two events in NC. I know T-Rex is going to all of the NC events and we are going to 4/5 of them counting State Championships. Most of the older teams are going for 3 events for practice even though only the first two events count for district points.

Cool writeup Wil.

Or :slight_smile:

Yeah she is! Best FRC regional/district director ever!!!

My two cents as an outsider:

  1. Yes, FIRST should have a contingency in the manual for events with less than 27 teams with details on how that affects district points.
  2. That contingency should be a last resort after the good-faith efforts of the district committee fail.
  3. If the option were offered to Garnet Squadron (in non-district South Carolina), it would get a LOT of consideration.
  4. Yes, Marie is hella awesome.

Glad you guys had fun in North Carolina thanks for all the help and team 587 is now in love with your riveter lol. Hope to see you back next year.

I think a lot of it has to do with promoting new teams as well. Western NC as a whole historically hasn’t had nearly the amount of teams as the Central and Eastern areas in part because they would have to travel 3+ hours to get to the nearest competition. With the competition in Asheville we have seen a handful of new teams in the West and hopefully that will continue next year. All of that probably wouldn’t have been able to happen if there wasn’t enough interest in the Asheville competition.

I think that is only partially true. Don’t forget that WNC has historically been economically disadvantaged. It’s good to see the local colleges, UNCA and WCU, starting to make moves to spread FIRST in the area.

While all of this is true, I don’t see why NC FIRST didn’t try to push teams into the Asheville event by only running 3 districts and eliminating either Guilford, Wake or CU/JCC. There are not as many teams in Southwest VA as there are in Central VA, but a lot of us hoofed it out to the western part of the state for a travel play instead of relying on two district events in our metro area.

I’ll pile in on this sentiment!
Marie does a fantastic job for NC.

Hhm, yeah I’m not entirely sure. As a team located 20 minutes from Wake about an hour from both Guilford and CU, it sure it nice :smiley:
There **was **an effort made to get more NC teams to Asheville though, Marie was in talks with teams after the registration process (likely when you were asked to move to Asheville) to help them attend as well. I’m not sure how successful it was, but I know that it was a situation that was actively being worked on.

I believe the original idea was to run 4 32 team events as opposed to 3 40 team events to both try to lessen travel for teams and spread the events out a little bit more. All the other NC events averaged 32 teams. A couple more third plays from NC teams and the number of teams in Asheville wouldn’t have been a problem.

Us at 238 enjoyed our break from the freezing clutches of NH, and loved the venue, the people, and the environment of the competition. Thanks to 422 and all other teams who put on a great challenge for everyone! We hope to come back next year! :slight_smile:

basically any north Idaho team.

(we really want you guys over here)