Frank Answers Fridays: August 16, 2013
Today’s good question comes from Carl Springli, from Team 20, in Clifton Park, NY:
Based on research performed by Jim Zondag and presented here:
It seems as though the 45 day (6.5 week) build season and robot access period rules that are currently in place in FRC are an archaic hold over from previous years’ rules. The robot build/access period rules came about for practical and logistical reasons. However, they continue despite the fact that the circumstances which seemingly gave rise to these rules no longer apply.
This leaves FRC in a situation where teams with enough resources to build a second practice robot and a full size practice field (my own team included) have a sort of arbitrary and, in my opinion, unfair advantage over teams with limited robot access. It seems as though this presents FRC with an opportunity to increase the quality of competition by raising the floor rather than lowering the ceiling through increasing robot build/access time for all teams.
There is already plenty of discussion happening here:
But it is mostly speculative in nature and has little to do with what FIRST may actually be considering regarding the future of FRC. The fact that there are over 400 posts in this ChiefDelphi thread is evidence of how important this particular matter is for our community.
Why does FRC continue to have a 45 day build season, and is FRC giving any consideration to alternative robot build/access period rules?
Thank you for your consideration,
College Student Mentor
Team 20: The Rocketeers
Clifton Park, NY USA
Carl, thanks for the question. This certainly is an important matter for the community.
I wasn’t part of FIRST when the build season rules were created, so I can’t speak directly to the reasons why they were put in place at that time. Regardless of what the reasons were back then, I can tell you what I believe to be the main reasons we have it in place now: to give students on teams a successful experience with a challenging, short-term, high pressure, deadline-driven engineering project, and to reduce the chance of mentor burnout.
Even if these were not the original reasons for putting the build season rules in place, I think most people would recognize these are worthy of consideration. Caring, knowledgeable, thoughtful individuals may disagree about how valuable these reasons are, but I don’t think they can be dismissed without giving them a good think. I believe the number of posts on ChiefDelphi about this topic speaks to this – from my quick check, it didn’t seem like all 400 of those posts were in agreement on what the build season rules should be!
Still, the short build season does have it’s downsides, and you raise a good candidate: the issue of second practice robots. Teams with good resources – good resources in every sense of the term, mentors, students, build space, equipment, sponsors, etc. – who decide to build and use one do have a competitive advantage over teams that must put their one and only robot in the bag by midnight on Stop Build Day. Some would argue that this, too, is a real-world experience. When FRC alumni graduate from college with their technical degrees, they may end up working for a two person start-up with $1.52 in the bank, or for a multi-billion dollar company that’s been around for decades. Others would argue that well-resourced teams probably work very hard to make sure they are in a position every season to build and use that second practice robot. This, in my mind, is another aspect of this issue upon which caring, knowledgeable, thoughtful individuals may disagree.
This topic has been on my mind lately, and to answer the second part of your question, FRC is carefully exploring it and our alternatives. We are constantly looking for ways to improve all aspects of our program. I don’t want to get everyone excited, though, no change is imminent, and any significant change to this aspect of the program, which represents a core part of what it means to be FRC, would need to go to the very top for approval.
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 email@example.com. Please include your name, team number and where you’re from, which will be shared, if selected.