FIRST Choice

Blog Date: 
Monday, December 17, 2012 - 13:35

Today’s post is a guest blog from Kate Pilotte, FRC’s Kit of Parts Manager:

Last week I asked Frank if I could borrow his platform to talk about the opening of FIRST Choice, the issues we experienced when it opened, and what’s happened since.

Bottom line, there were two unexpected issues that caused problems for a few hundred Teams when they tried to log in and place orders. The first problem was that Teams with numbers under 1000 couldn’t log in for approximately the first 15 minutes. The second issue was a software bug exposed by the high volume of orders. The result was that the inventory quantity on the website was calculated using incomplete data. Both issues have been remedied – the first one was fixed in less than 15 minutes after going live and the second one was resolved Monday evening. We chose to reopen Tuesday at noon so that we could give notice that it was opening back up. Meanwhile, we’ve contacted the Teams affected and offered compensation for the frustration they experienced.

It was gross. For that I’m so sorry. I know that the others here at FIRST as well as the team at AndyMark are also disappointed.

The current system in not perfect in other ways as well, and we are continually striving to improve it. With your help we can do this. Please remember to send any specific or general issues and questions to

Given what happened though, I’d like to dedicate the meat of this blog celebrating your response instead of dwelling on what went wrong (although please know that we’re taking what went wrong seriously, identifying root causes, and adjusting procedures to prevent such issues from happening again).

Of course people were frustrated and expressed it in various ways. A few people dropped their anger bomb (on a forum, on a blog, etc.) and moved on. Others contacted AndyMark and FIRST directly to state their issue and express their dissatisfaction. Those that we’ve heard from directly have been incredibly gracious, even in voicing their discontent. Almost every email had a clear, concise description of the problem. Several offered to help in any way they could. Many expressed sympathy for the situation we were in!

I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve worked for FIRST for 6 years and even the most trying times, I know I’m surrounded by a community that celebrates constructive, supportive thoughts, words, and behaviors. These emails are just the tip of an amazing community iceberg with which I'm honored to be affiliated.

Like many, and probably all of you, I've been reflecting on the travesty in Newtown, CT. Of course, I wouldn’t venture to write about that here – I just don’t have the capacity to address it in a meaningful way - but there’s a meme that went viral in the aftermath that makes me think of you. The meme quoted Mr. Fred Rogers,

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"

The FIRST community is one of helpers. We help each other, students, mentors, teammates, schools, competitors, communities... I am so grateful, as a member of society, for that.

So, what I really want to tell you today is - thank you, so much, for being the helpers.


I agree completely with your post. I love the Mr. Rogers quote too... I would extend it to say that those we see helping are also doing the first steps towards healing. Look for the healers....we have many here too.. I know our "wounds" are not as drastic or serious as those we have witnessed in CT and other places around the world this year and every year, but there are always those that instead of limiting their time on complaints, move ahead towards a solution better for everyone. We should all stand with them.

Thank you for this very thoughtful blog. Here in Chicago we are losing children every day of the week. There are no simple answers but mentorship must be a part of the solution.

On the subject of the kit of parts: for teams which use the PDV how will we obtain the 2012 Labview download? Will it be available at the kick-off?

I have a similar question. If we went for the voucher, is there still something to be picked up at a kick off event? I've got people ready to go to the pick up site but don't want to send them to only return empty handed.

And, thank you for the quote. It's so easy to get angry or accusatory, but so much more important to become active and helpful.

The Product Donation Vouchers you have received are just one portion of the Kit of Parts. Every FRC team will still have a 'Kickoff Kit' that either needs to be picked up at a local kickoff or shipped to the team. More information can be found here:

Thanks so much for your beautifully written set a perfect tone.

Very nice Kate!

As a newer FRC coach/mentor it has been extremely helpful to receive the robot chassis parts before kickoff. I was able to inventory parts from this year and compare to parts in hand in order to really be prepared for kickoff. In addition, I will not have to haul home as many parts from the kickoff location. I know there were issues with the system, but, not withstanding from my standpoint the early delivery of kickoff parts is brilliant and will make my 2013 season go much smoother on day 1.

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