I apologize for the challenges we had at our events this weekend. While most folks, from the preliminary results of our post-event surveys anyway, still had a great experience, many events were finding themselves running late or delivering fewer qualification matches to our teams than they had hoped.
While we never guarantee a minimum number of matches per team, and the value you receive for your registration fee certainly includes elements unrelated purely to match count, I can understand that District teams especially, had an expectation of getting 12 matches at their events, and in some cases we did not meet that expectation. As a rule of thumb, if an event feels (either before it starts or mid-event) that they need to truncate or otherwise significantly change the schedule, they give me a call to discuss the situation. We talk about the realities of what's happening and our options - how late things are running, what the issues have been, options for starting early, running late, running through lunch, etc - and come to consensus on the best path forward. Reducing match counts is an option, and is always a last resort, but that's sometimes that we're left with, as we attempt to balance all the many competing concerns involved.
The field this year is interesting and includes several 'show' elements designed to make it fun, but it's also very complex to assemble, and literally has 'lots of moving parts' (some put in place to help get us get to ‘real’ real-time scoring) that need regular attention. Also, game design went later than anticipated, which led to less time for sourcing, shipping, and support documentation. We also ran into other issues that are more challenging to control, such as venue Wi-Fi interference and the natural delays with international shipping. All of this, along with the number of elements that need to be reset between matches, has contributed to the delays we're seeing.
Some of these elements are easier for FIRST HQ to control, and some are harder, but we are working on ways to make things better long-term. We are currently developing plans to accelerate the game design process, and are reviewing our resource requirements to make sure that we have the people and support we need to produce the kind of product that works for everyone - teams, volunteers, and the larger community.
Short-term, we continue to develop on-the-fly improvements when we spot issues. Examples include the recent change to peg points less likely to break announced here, and the rule change to minimize a nuisance penalty we were seeing here. Also, as the weeks roll by, we expect the fields to be assembled, and reset, faster as issues with individual fields are solved and field staff become more experienced.
I want to thank the teams for their patience, and to thank all our incredible volunteers for the many hours they spend making FIRST what it is! I’m constantly amazed by the lengths to which our volunteers will go to solve problems and make FIRST happen. Of course, the long-term goal is to not present our volunteers with so many challenges in the first place!
We are working to make things better, in both the short- and long- term, and I can’t wait to see what the teams have in store for us next!