Frank Answers Fridays: June 14, 2013

Blog Date: 
Friday, June 14, 2013 - 12:50

Note that when we answer Frank Answers Friday questions, we’ll be including the full questions as written, with two exceptions.  Several emails we’ve received have included positive comments about the FRC Staff.  These are greatly appreciated, but we’ll be editing those out to allow the focus to be on the questions themselves.  Also, if we received a single email with multiple questions, we’ll extract just the particular question we are answering that day and include that.

This week, we’re answering a question on FIRST Choice, from John Boucher, Team 237.

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Question:

Frank,

I appreciate that we now get to choose what we want in the KOP.   We have had issues with the ordering system.  We were caught in the low team number issue this last time.  Could you discuss what changes are proposed to make this a smoother process? My perfect solution would be to select items from a catalog and have all the KOP's tailored for each team, but that would be a nightmare for the FIRST staff. Thank you for taking our questions and listening to our concerns.

John Boucher 

FRC 0237

Answer:

We’re going to try ‘something new’ within the Frank Answers Friday feature, by occasionally asking experts on the topic at hand to answer the questions directly, in their own voices.  We’ve got lots of great folks working at FIRST and I’d like you to hear from them firsthand! Kate Pilotte, our Kit of Parts Manager, and Collin Fultz, our Kit of Parts Engineer, answer John’s good question below.

Thanks so much for your question, Mr. Boucher. We are so sorry to the teams that experienced issues with their pre-Kickoff FIRST Choice orders last December. For those of you who need a refresher on this matter, information was posted here.

I’ll start with the type of changes we’re not pursuing. We think it is important to keep the system as simple as possible. There’s beauty in simplicity, and while the Kit of Parts has evolved from a few containers of items to a system of material distribution, our goal is to provide as much flexibility for Teams and Suppliers as we can, but still provide a simple system with minimal rules, exceptions, and opportunities for error (i.e. avoiding item drafts, ranked lists of preferences based on team parameters, etc.).

There are technical, “back of the house” changes being made in the system to fix the specific issues we saw (the most obvious being low team numbers not working and inventory confusion). These modifications will fix these issues, but will also improve the experience overall. We will also be using what we’ve learned to better, more appropriately assign credit values and limit items per team more aggressively.

In addition to the functional changes, we also plan to make a few process changes. We fully expect that we’ll make FIRST Choice passwords available before it opens for orders. This will allow teams to test the log in before they’re actually trying to place orders (details and timelines are in process and will be published in the fall). We hope and expect that this will be a very boring, uneventful change, but if it’s not, it gives us the opportunity to fix any missed issues before we go live. We’ll also be assessing what we disclose about items in Kickoff Kits and FIRST Choice before Kickoff – what can we say that’s helpful, but doesn’t inadvertently disclose game information (I say inadvertently, because we may decide to overtly use such disclosures as game hints… anything’s possible).

Regardless of the issues, we’re working to fortify FIRST Choice with more – value and variety - items. So, if you know companies that you think would be interested in donating, please have them contact frcparts@usfirst.org.

Thank you for your question, and enjoy your summer!

 

I’ll blog again soon.

Frank

Frank Answers Fridays is a new weekly-ish blog feature where I’ll be answering ‘good questions’ from the FRC community. You can e-mail your questions to goodfrcquestion@usfirst.org. Please include your name, team number and where you’re from, which will be shared, if selected.

Comments

Is there any way to open FIRST Choice to rookie teams a day or two earlier? These teams are behind the curve, and have a greater chance of not being able to get what they want/need . . .

Frank, Kate and Collin,
Thanks for the response. We appreciate all the hard work the staff goes through and how well it goes given the amount of growth there is in FRC. We appreciate you looking at the problems and letting the community understand what is being addressed.

As a team advisor and a teacher, the FIRST Choice especially AndyMark, opened when I have to be teaching so by the time I got to the order, everything that as a second year team we could have used was gone (out-of-stock). It would be nice to make the start time, when the west coasters would have a fighting chance. Is it possible to have the time open at 3pm or 4pm Pacific time or open at a reasonable time on a Saturday?

I teach in Michigan and have the same problem - sometimes my lunch is late enough I can order then, otherwise I have to do it after school and a lot of stuff is gone.

Is it possible to put high interest items - motor controllers, etc. - in both FIRST Choice selection rounds, but not allow teams that got these items in the first round to get more in the second?

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