Frank Answers Fridays: June 14, 2013

Jun 14, 2013 Written by FIRST Staff

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.




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


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

Thank you for your question, and enjoy your summer!


I’ll blog again soon.


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 Please include your name, team number and where you’re from, which will be shared, if selected.

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