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.
- 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.
Photo by Adriana M. Groisman (c) 2013
- 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.
*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.