Frank Answers Fridays: June 28, 2013

Jun 28, 2013 Written by FIRST Staff

This Frank Answers Fridays feature has been getting positive reviews, which is great.  Unfortunately many of the positive comments have been directed toward me personally, when it was actually one of our fine FRC Staffers, Rose Kue, who suggested the concept, came up with the name, and even worked with the FIRST Marketing department to develop the snappy new banner.  Her suggestion fit so well with our new approach to communication, my answer was an immediate ‘Yes!’.  This is yet another example of the great ideas coming from the FRC Staff.  We’ll work to keep the new ideas coming – not all will be hits, but even the failures will teach us lessons that will help to move us forward.

Today’s question comes from Eric Browning, a mentor from Team 3289 in Utah.



Hello from Team 3289.

Since FRC 2011 FIRST has started outrageously scored alternate events like the pole climbing minibots in FRC2011 and the pyramids this year. Smaller teams usually only have time to focus on the main event which has been continually diluted by these side activities. Go onto YouTube and you'll find wheelless robots that were built for climbing only because the reward is so much more it's not worth their time to gather and shoot frisbees (which was much harder than climbing). If the side events score is decreased, maybe we can get back to all-around robots vs. specialized "point bots". Will FIRST see the light on this problem?

Do not answer unless you are going to print my entire question, no editing please.


Eric, thanks for the question.  This gives me the opportunity to talk a little about one important aspect of our game design process.

In FRC, we have a mix of teams with widely varying resources and experience playing on the same field in the same matches.  This creates a challenge for game design.   Our mission to inspire students to become science and technology leaders requires us to deliver ‘just right’ challenges to every team.  A just right challenge stretches you past your current limits so you can grow and earn – with your hard work – a legitimate sense of accomplishment and a more expansive view of your true potential.  Too much of a stretch, though, and the challenge becomes discouraging rather than inspiring.  How can one game provide the right experience to our wide variety of teams?

On the Game Design Committee, we solve this problem by attempting to create games that have a low floor but a high ceiling.  In other words, we try to build in tasks that very basic robots can support, along with tasks that require more sophisticated designs.  We want simpler robots to be able to contribute in a substantive way to the match, while still challenging even our most experienced and well-resourced teams to the point where no team feels they have mastered the game and have nothing more they could have done with their design.  Since every team is different, we present teams with a palette of game options, from which they can assemble their own just right challenge, considering their resources and intended game strategy.  Whether a team’s limitations are driven by experience, technical knowledge, or other resources, the question as it relates to the challenge is the same – what’s the most you can do with what you have?

We don’t always get the mix of tasks and their values right in the game, of course, but in the post-event surveys we sent to teams for 2013, with 2,289 respondents, 78% said the game challenge was ‘Just Right’.  (2 individuals – 0.09% - said it was ‘Far Too Easy’. Maybe they misread the question?)   Also, last night I was at Dean’s home talking to John V-Neun, a mentor from Team 148, the Robowranglers, a team with many years - and trophies - under their belts. John said he found this year’s game very challenging. It sounds like even the Robowranglers had to stretch to meet the challenges of the 2013 game.

I expect that some individuals will disagree with the approach we’re taking, and I won’t say this way of doing things is set in stone, but my hope is that everyone can understand the reasoning behind it.

[Sidebar:  John V-Neun, along with Karthik Kanagasabapathy and Charlie Wensel, were invited to Dean’s home last night as representatives from IFI at this week’s Supplier Summit.  Every year, a team of FIRST staffers, led by Kate Pilotte, Kit of Parts Manager, puts on a Supplier Summit here in New Hampshire that starts with a lobster dinner at Dean’s home and ends late the next day after a series of meetings and workshops.  This gives us a chance to thank our many generous suppliers and get ideas to enhance our Kit of Parts for the following season.]

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.

Add new comment