What did I miss?

I’m an alumni of 1766 Temper Metal who graduated back in 2007. Some of you might remember me as I was once a rather outspoken individual on these forums. I’m considering getting back into FIRST at some point in the near future and am more then a little lost with the changes. It would seem Indiana now has something called Districts rather then Regionals? I’m sure alot of other things have changed since then in FIRST and I’m hopeful some of you might take the time to brief me on some of the highlights that I might have missed as well as general format differences. If all works out, I might volunteer at an event this year but I hope to visit one at least. Next year would be the year I’d be most likely start mentoring again.

Districts started in 2009 in Michigan. Basically, for the registration fee ($5000 veterans, $6500 rookies) you get 2 events within the district. These are smaller than most regionals at about 40 teams (or smaller). At your first 2 district events, you accrue points (through rank, advancement in elims, awards, etc) to qualify for the district championship (or States when the district is a single state). Then from the district championship you can qualify for St. Louis. So, you get like 24 matches guaranteed instead of possibly only 8 or 10.

2007… bumpers are now required, and show your alliance color (no flags or lights). Robots still weigh 120 lbs, the frame perimeter dimensions have changed a couple times, Championship grew to 600 teams and is in St. Louis, not Atlanta.

We changed from the IFI control system to NI’s cRIO and now NI’s roboRIO.

FIRST changed their logo a bit and revamped the website (now at http://www.firstinspires.org).

In 2017, Championship will be in St. Louis AND Houston, and in 2018 it will be in Houston and Detroit. Australia and Mexico finally got regionals, most of the east coast is in districts, 1114 won Chairman’s (first non-US team to do that).

Welcome back.

I’ll expand on the switch to the district system a bit.

It has been a boon to the mid and lower tier teams that couldn’t afford to do two of the traditional regionals. They now have a chance to do the full engineering process of testing their machines in the real world of a competition, learning from that and tweaking on their robot in hopes of improving its performance in their second event or at the District Championship (DCMP).

It has also opened up Championship to more of those mid tier teams because you qualify on points. As mentioned you earn points at your district events to qualify for DCMP. What wasn’t mentioned is that you carry those points with you to DCMP where you earn more points. The points structure is same but points earned at DCMP are tripled before being added to the points you already earned. This means that teams that had perennially done well but never won it all or earned one of the automatic advancement awards now have a chance at attending CMP.

Earning Chairman’s at a district event is an automatic qualification for DCMP for the team and Robot. Earning Engineering Inspiration or Rookie All Star at a district event earns the team, but not the robot, an automatic qualification for DCMP, but their robot can still qualify by earning enough points. At DCMP only those teams that won one of those awards at a district event are eligible to compete for that award at DCMP.

Because the number of events has increased significantly there is a huge need for event volunteers. Yes the events are smaller but many positions such as ref, field reset still need the same number of volunteers whether there are 32 teams at the event or 64. Because of this I highly recommend volunteering at an event, you will be welcomed and needed. Here is Indiana FIRST’s website where you can get more information about being an event volunteer. http://www.indianafirst.org/

You’re forgetting that we’ve had a major change in the control system from IFI to National Instruments/Labview/C++/Java/other stuff. I think the only thing that hasn’t changed since 2007 are the snap-action breakers and the main 120 Amp breaker. Speed controllers options are greatly expanded, including some with onboard sensing/sensor processing/control algorithms. They’re also loads smaller. No more Spikes, you’re using a custom module for pneumatic solenoids and the compressor, speed controllers for anything else. No more IFI radios, it’s all Wifi radios now, as the whole control system is networked. This is good: onboard camera feedback to driver station, driver station is any moderately current laptop, standardish ENet camera vision libraries. It’s also bad: radios can take forever (30+ seconds) to boot and sync. But over all, the current control system is much, much, much more capable, probably lighter, and certainly smaller. (Yes, smaller and lighter was debateable until the roboRIO + PCM came out, but still.)

Motor rules are significantly loosened, for the most part. Lots of better motor options than esoterically numbered fisher prices or BB that would melt at the first stall. LOTS of better gearbox options. Check out the Versaplanetaries and then cry a little that you ever had to deal with BaneBots planetaries that stripped the output shaft hole on the output planet plate. Or look at the various 2-3 CIM drive gearbox options and wonder why you ever had to deal with BaneBots P80 gearboxes with output planet carriers that shattered under drivetrain stresses.

Also check out Andymark and West Coast Products and probably lots of other places that have FRC specific solutions to things like wheels and all. With so much COTS stuff available now, designs are much easier, so the level of the game is rising to keep the challenge the same.

There’s something about corndogs* and cheesecake** but those are mostly inside jokes that seem to be somewhat recurring on CD, but you might as well be updated on CD culture too.

**cheesecake: has to do with helping teams at events and was coined during conversation about teams building mechanisms to put on other teams’ robots. Google “chief Delphi cheesecake” and you’ll get a sense of things.

*corndogs: ?!?!? I really don’t know.

Oh, VEX also makes a whole line of FRC parts now (which Kevin somewhat hinted at but didn’t explicitly state).

Hi Jason,
You should come to an event or four. Week 2 (March 12-13) is at Harrison High School; Week 3 (March 19-20) is at Warren Central High School; Week 4 (March 25-26) is at Perry Meridian High School; Week 7 (April 15-16) is the State Championship at the Kokomo Memorial Gym.

As you can see, the change to districts doubled the amount of events in the state; the tradeoff is that they’re slightly smaller, more intimate competitions, in high schools rather than universities (although the WHHHS event may have a strong Boilermaker influence).

I’d also recommend you consider volunteering at one or more events; this way you can reintroduce yourself to the game, the teams, and the people that make this state great.

And as always, you’re welcome to stop by our shop at Southport High School. Just PM or call me and I’ll give directions (the school has been remodeled and our shop space has moved).

+1 to this.