2013 Championship: Pros & Cons

Blog Date: 
Friday, May 10, 2013 - 13:35

2013 Championship Pits

I have so much to talk about regarding Championship!  I’m going to break this in to two sections – pros and cons.  These aren’t comprehensive lists, but are more along the lines of what I consider to be highlights.

Pros

  • Conference attendance increased from about 1400 last year to over 2600.  The fact that conferences were free this year probably helped.  I think this increase is great – the more information we can get to teams to help them improve their experience, the better.
  • No wireless issues.  The changes the FRC Engineering staff made to the wireless system, along with the new robot radio, led to robots connecting quickly and without interference.  In addition, we had experts from Qualcomm monitoring the fields, including Einstein, who reported no issues or suspicious activity.
  • Release of preliminary match schedules.  While the schedules didn’t have as many matches as teams would have liked (see the ‘Negative’ on this below), releasing them early seemed to work.  It was fortunate that we had no last minute changes to the schedules, but at this time we plan to release these preliminary schedules again next year.  (Preliminary)
  • Moving some awards to the Divisional level.
  • A number of ‘Inside baseball’, Einstein-specific items that most teams probably don’t care about, but made things better:
    • Practice matches for Einstein teams so the teams and staff could make sure the robots were ready to go when it mattered
    • A new Einstein layout with specific pit spaces for Divisional alliances, a well-defined and monitored perimeter, and a riser for folk behind the scoring table so we could more easily see what was going on
    • An FRC staff member assigned as ‘Einstein Team Liaison’.  Her only job after the Divisional matches were complete was to make sure the Einstein teams were comfortable and were getting everything they needed to perform their best.

2013 Championship Blue Alliance Pyramid Climb

Photo by Adriana M. Groisman (c) 2013

Cons

  • The manual disc count verification requirement led to a situation in which a scoring error was made on Einstein.  It was corrected, but caused significant pain for the teams involved.  I will have more details about this particular incident later.  We will be working hard to have the most accurate scoring systems we can for 2014 and beyond.   
  • Only eight qualification matches for teams, which led to many teams feeling they did not get enough play time and wondering if final rankings accurately reflected team ability.  Teams pay a great deal of money to attend Championship, and we want them to have as positive an experience as possible with all aspects of the event, including the competition portion.  This, too, will be a focus for 2014 and we are already exploring options.
  • Seats, seats, seats.  This was the number one complaint to Pit Admin, by far.  With 100 teams per division, it was hard to accommodate all teams with decent seats.  This lead to running, pushing, saving seats (against the rules, by the way.  See Section 4.14 in the FRC Administrative Manual), occasional serious ugliness between teams, and general dissatisfaction.  My expectation is that everyone will be courteous, but I recognize that if there is a limited resource and too much demand, some people will feel pressured to act in a way that maximizes their personal interests at the expense of others.*  We will be looking at options to improve this situation next year.  There was one other thing that was happening, though, that I believe was beyond the pale, and that was non-handicapped individuals sitting in seats reserved for the handicapped.  There is no circumstance in which this is acceptable behavior. 
  • Closing ceremonies were too long.  FRC will be working with the other departments in FIRST to do what we can to make the Closing Ceremonies more snappy, and end them on time – or early!  We know the long closing ceremony also had a significant impact on teams’ experience of the FIRST Finale.

As I say above, these are the highlights in my mind.   There certainly are more positives and more negatives but, again, this is a summary of the highlights.

I’ll blog again soon.

Frank

*Tragedy of the commons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons).  Not an exact analogy, because seats aren’t ‘depleted’ like a natural resource can be, but similar.

Comments

As a first time mentor attendee I found it hard to go back and forth to the competition field. Having live feeds on big screens in the pits would be awesome for those of use that were on Pit detail.

The seating issue has been ongoing for years and needs to be resolved. Seat saving is against the rules but teams want to sit together - they want to save seats for the people working in the pits or attending a conference or checking out scholarship row. The FIRST experience is about team work and the experience is not as much fun when you aren't with your team. Seems relatively simple to me-assign teams to a group of seats. Leave sufficient seats in the area for visitors and make sure every team has the opportunity to sit in the "good" seats (assign sections or rows based on a lottery).

A change I would like to see is having, in a place with a great view of the field, space assigned for 10 people for each team to seat their PR members and their scouting team.

I am a 15 plus year engineer mentor for FIRST.

I am also a proud parent of (2) boys that played Collegent sports. The Lacrosse teams that played for got me to watch to combined teams in NCAA Finals a total of 5 times. What the NCAA did for these Lacrosse team play-offs were to have resevred seating for the teams that are playing. In Lacrosse Division III play then Division II and the Division I with those team members getting the resevered seating only during their team play.
Having a resevered section of teams that are competing could be an option.

I agree with the previous suggestion. Make section assignments and have them change each day so that everyone gets an opportunity at good seating corresponding with the field they will be on. It was a bad display of GP this year. It is hard because teams bring items for cheering to the stands and they don't want to haul it every time they get up. I would ljke to see this resolved.

Another Con... There was an hour of speakers talking about the Dean's List award and how great it was and how great students nominated for it are. Then they ran through the winners extremely quickly. All we got was the name, and a short pause (maybe 30 seconds) as the students walked up. I'd like to hear more about the students - they all deserve to be up there, but what did they do? What makes them special? I couldn't tell you that about any of the winners. The presentation should be about the winners, not a platform for speeches.

For years now, this whole "no seat saving" rule has seemed to me to be ludicrous and is widely ignored by teams and officials alike. How are you supposed to show any kind of spirit as a team if your members are scattered all over the venue? It's also not fair to force team members to stay in their seats for nearly three days straight for fear of losing space in their team's block if they get up and walk around. Of course you want to have seating available for visitors, but at what expense? Team fracturing and interteam fighting? This should be easy enough to figure out.

I also don't understand how, after doing this for 20 years, FIRST still finds some of these problems and complaints mysterious. When haven't opening and closing ceremonies been too long? They are at nearly every competition I go to. When hasn't scoring of critical matches taken forever and been error prone? There were live match feeds in the pits in Atlanta. Why hasn't this continued? It just seems there are so many lessons either not learned or learned and forgotten. Keep notes on what has worked and what hasn't so future leaders can learn from the past.

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