FIRST Robotics Competition Blog

Stop Build Day in 2019 and 2020

Nov 13, 2018 Written by Frank Merrick.




The FIRST Robotics Competition community has been discussing the pros and cons of our traditional Stop Build Day for several years. This discussion has also been occurring within FIRST Headquarters.

Approximately one year ago, we started looking at Stop Build Day through an Equity and Inclusion lens. This brought into focus key elements of the discussion that pushed us towards a more complete evaluation of the practice. The FIRST staff thoroughly reviewed a wide variety of options in handling Stop Build Day and made a proposal that was accepted by FIRST Senior Management. This proposal was then presented to the Steering Committee of the FIRST Board of Directors, which includes Dean, and was accepted by them last month.

Here is the change we are instituting:

  • For the 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition Season, we will continue to have our traditional Stop Build Day on February 19, 2019.
  • Starting with the 2020 FIRST Robotics Competition Season, Stop Build Day will be retired.

‘Retiring’ Stop Build Day in 2020 means teams will no longer be required to stop work on their competition robots on a set date in February.

We are waiting until 2020 to institute this change to give current teams a year to plan. We also recognize it is likely many teams have already made significant plans around the traditional six-week build season for 2019.

We see this change as being part of our commitment to making the program more accessible and flexible for all participants:

  • Retiring Stop Build Day creates a more equitable program for teams globally by allowing for greater flexibility to accommodate for seasonal events outside of the team’s control, including regional/cultural holidays, school vacations, and extreme weather. This change is intended to remove barriers for participation for students and mentors in many parts of the world.
  • Approximately half of all FIRST Robotics Competition teams choose to build a second robot to allow for practicing and additional development between Stop Build Day and Competition, which can be a significant or prohibitive cost to teams; Removing Stop Build Day gives these teams an opportunity to cut their material costs.
  • Under-resourced teams without the financial ability to build a second robot now have a greater opportunity to use their existing resources. The mandated six-week build season was an institutional barrier to their success. We are striving to provide equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

Also, retiring Stop Build Day puts teams fully in charge of their own build season between the January Kickoff and their competition – giving mentors and students more flexibility in project planning to achieve their goals while maintaining other important priorities (i.e., work, family, school).

  • All teams have the opportunity to use this flexibility to improve how they manage time, costs, and other resources during the build season. No team is required to make any changes to their build season---you can still focus your build effort over six weeks if that works best for your team.


We recognize this is a significant change, and the community will have detailed questions. We don’t yet have all the details worked out, but please review the Questions and Answers document here. If you have additional questions or comments, please add them in the ‘comments’ section below. We expect to expand on the Questions and Answers document as we see what additional questions the community has.

Please remember, this change is for the 2020 season, not the upcoming 2019 season.


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PLEASE do conduct a wide-ranging survey of the FRC mentors to see how they feel about this new no-stop-date plan. Some that I that I know are very unhappy with the idea. There are potentially many issues, including (1) Less time for students to pursue other school programs,  (2) The impact on mentors, many with extremely busy schedules and other commitments and (3) The HUGE advantage to the highly-supported top-teams which will make it nearly impossible for smaller or less experience schools to compete on an equal footing.

Thank you for all your great work for FIRST, and I hope it can continue on an equitable and balanced basis. PLEASE SURVEY THE MENTORS, they are the BEST barometer as where this program should go.

--Dan Sternglass, 12-year mentor

Hi Dan,

I've seen this issue discussed endlessly on Chief Delphi and the consensus (even among mentors) has been that the bag (and the crate before it) was a bigger advantage to well funded teams than this extra time will be. My team is large and well funded, so we have the means to build 2 or 3 robots a year. After the robot goes in the bag, we keep designing, keep programming, and keep practicing driving. We do that because we can afford to. Now, teams who can't afford a second robot can do that too. Our competitive advantage against lower-resource teams is going to shrink in 2020, and that's a good thing.

Here, Here!! This is too big an issue to just change. There are so many other areas that will be affected and the impact on students will be extremely detrimental. Small and or poor schools could easily lose students because of other competing opportunities like spring sports. We already have strong competition with winter and spring sports to attract and keep students in our programs. The issue with mentors is even a more contentious one since we have out 2 teachers who are willing to put in the extra hours over the extra 2 months but getting our limited engineering expertise from industry means we lose them over the extra 2 months. Is that gracious professionalism?

I appreciate both plans by not changing this years schedule and removing stop build in the future. My Ski Trip between Stop Build and the first event is still on!!. When planning the rule changes for next year, Please consider the effect on the inspection process. Inspectors could in the past rely on previous events inspections to repair violations to rules for future events. I would suggest additional prescriptive rules for teams and inspectors to follow and leverage pre-event inspections. 

With or without stop build day there will never be a level playing field. Some teams will always be better funded and resourced than other teams, and they will have an advantage regardless. I do understand the concern over time commitment, but each team needs to decide for themselves how much time they are willing to commit. The highest performing teams don't stop at 6 weeks so I don't see how this will be a big advantage for them. I do see it being a big advantage for teams who can't get a functioning robot done in 6 weeks. I also look forward to seeing even more impressive autonomous performance. As for stealing ideas, that already goes on in FIRST and in life, might as well get used to it. I hope it doesn't stop people from discussing their designs, it won't stop me. Anyway, I look forward to the change and seeing even more impressive performance on the field! 

We are a third year team, and in this time, I have had 4 out of 6 mentors withdrew from the program due the length of the current build season.  6 weeks build is already long for many mentors.  If you retire Stop Build, I afraid young teams like mine will not be around beyond 2019.  It is already difficult to get mentors for six weeks. Now to ask them to volunteer for up to 12 weeks will be an enormous challenge.  As a teacher for 13 years, I know that students only work when they know there's a hard deadline and when they know that time's not on their side.  I have rarely seen students perform better because they have more time.  More often, they'll squander the time, believing they have a lot of time, and produce poor results in the end.  

The 6 weeks build timeline is something that my students are proud to tell new sponsors and is something that gives great credibility to the FRC program.

Please reconsider and don't retire the Stop Build Day.

I do not support this decision. A wise man once told me: "schools do not teach students how to deal with stress". For the 13 years I've mentored in the FRC, I saw this program as an opportunity to allow my staff to help guide the students with aggressive timing when designing, fabricating, debugging, etc. I use this program to help the students get a 'taste of the real world' where deadlines must be met. I see this move as a detriment to providing guidance for students in their future careers.

As for my team in 2020, I will be promoting a "stop build day".

I think it's likely many teams will still set an internal Stop Build Day, as their own deadline, as they will see it as the best way to reach their goals. I think this is a great idea for teams that think it best. Removing Stop Build Day as a strict rule allows teams to make their own choices in this area rather than have FIRST decide for them.

Are we missing the point? Small teams, large teams - who gets the most benefit from FIRST? I mentor a team that has gone from 18 students to 5 students to 8 students since I started in 2013. Our students pride themselves on living the First Core Values, Gracious Professionalism and Cooperatition. We have won safety awards, Spirit awards, Last year our 8 students prepared a Chairman’s award presentation, an Entraprenaurship award presentation and nominated a mentor for an award. The year before they started an antic sexual harassment campaign in the school. And oh by the way, Built a robot that got into the finals of their last competition. The awards earned that they prize more were a Judges award for their efforts and the way that they dealt graciously with challenges and breakdowns with our robot. In our second competition four of our team spent the morning before their first competition helping a rookie team gat a robot uplifted to compete. During competition after repairing damage caused by that team to our robot our most experienced builder went back over to help the rookies get their robot fixed. We are most proud of the Gracious Professionalism award. I will mentor this team a long as I can and the students want to participate because of the life values developed and the fun I’m having. Nothing to do with how many competitions we win. Do what you will with build season, We’ll bring our $1200 robot to competition and continue to help others practice Gracious professionalism and cooperation on.

Would a later kickoff (mid January?) solve some of the concerns?

With your decision you forgot the international teams completely. We have to send the robot to a foreign country and the timetable just worked perfect. After the stop building day we shipped the robot and it was there on time. So the international teams will be left with the 6 weeks but not the US team. No fun anymore because the international teams don’t have the same conditions.

We appreciate the very significant challenges that our International Teams face. We realize, however, that all teams face challenges. For example, teams living in areas of the world with frequent school closings during build season because of weather have, for years, had to deal with shortened build seasons. For the most part, teams are able to work through these challenges and still have great seasons. We see many teams that need to travel great distances finding clever ways to disassemble their robots to bring them with them rather than shipping in advance. With no bag and no set Stop Build Day, teams will have greater flexibility to work around these challenges.

If you really retire the stop-build-day. It wouldn‘t be fair anymore. Did you think about the international teams? They have to ship it oversea. They have 6-7 weeks, but other teams maybe have 12 weeks or even more...

If a team goes to week 1 competition and another in week 3, they can make changes and additions to the robot? This is so unfair to small teams with little funding. If they go to week 1 and no other competition, they can't improve their chances of getting to worlds. This seems to be a decision pushed through by large well funded teams who frequently win, their mentors are usually part of FRC management. How about a limit on how much they can spend on a robot if they're going to get more time. Or at least, no additions after 1st competition. At least, FRC should put teams in Divisions based on how long they have been a tezm and how many wins they have had. This would put teams of equal experience together. Some teams win or place top every year and the struggling teams feel they have little chance. Their goal is just to improve from prior years.

Under the current Stop Build Day system, a team attending a Week 1 competition, then a Week 3 competition, would get 3 more full days to work on and practice with their robot than a team attending just a Week 3 competition (They would be allowed to have their robot out of their bag for the entire Week 1 competition, making improvements, practicing, and fine tuning).

With the new system, both teams have the same number of days to work on and practice with their robot. The team attending two events does get more chances to advance to FIRST Championship, and the experience in real competition certainly gives them an advantage at the later event, but I believe the team attending just the Week 3 competition has the opportunity to be more prepared than they would have under the current Stop Build Day system.

Also, I believe teams can have very successful seasons without winning an event. At a typical Regional, more than 85% of the teams don't win, yet there are still many successes for those teams.

We're a new team that was recently founded in Beijing, China and we're finding that the stop build day severely limits our build season. This is especially the case because we have our Chinese New Year Holidays where most of China shuts down to celebrate the holiday (which is deeply rooted in tradition). As such, it is extremely disruptive to our operations. Is there any way of applying for a 1 week extension to this season's Stop Build Day? It seems somewhat unfair that we are forced by circumstances to give up a whole one to two weeks of our build season while others maintain their 6 week seasons.

Unfortunately, we don't grant extensions in situations like these. Many teams have circumstances that cause them to miss a week or two of build time. In regions affected by snowstorms, for example, teams often can't meet for the equivalent of one or two weeks during build season. For the 2019 season, teams should do their best to plan in advance for any potential loss of build season they foresee. In 2020, of course, there will be no Stop Build Day so there will be no specific build season to extend.

I am not sure how I feel about this, yet.  I have read several of the comments/arguments for and against the new no 2020 Stop Build Day plan.  Some good points were made by both sides.  I do have a few questions/comments. 

Are the rules about working prior to the game introduction changing also? 

More equity could probably be achieved if fabricated (according to FRC rules) materials from previous robots could be reused as as long as modifications are made (e.g. u-channel used on 2019 robot can be used on 2020 robot as long as it is further processed by changing the length, drilling new holes, or other modifications).

Even more equity might be established if the registration costs were reduced.


Not sure if this has been covered yet, however I have som issues with being an international team shipping a robot to champs. As an Australian team, we must send our robot by the end of week three to have our robot arrive to champs in time. This inherently puts us way behind any team that is within easy travel proximity of champs, moreso than it does already with food, housing and transport etc. What is going to uphold this fairness, or is it something foreign firsters will just have to suffer through being 4/5 weeks disadvantaged of other teams?


I mentor a 2nd year team, and we have been pulling many nights to 9-10pm, plus working weekends, holidays, snow days, etc. It is taxing on the kids, mentors, and mentors families. This is supposed to be fun, but being away from my family and working nearly an entire school day AFTER school ends is not my definition "fun." I hope that getting rid of the stop build day will benefit students and mentors. I know it will benefit us, and will allow us to actually go home and see our families. 

I just learned of this new rule today and even though I don’t participate in the FRC program I can speak to burnout and team objectives.  Full transparency, I run VEX teams so I won’t pretend to know the specific issues FRC or FTC brings BUT our season begins in the summer(pre-planning and goal setting) and, if we’re lucky, runs to the end of April at Worlds. Honestly, that amount of time provides ample opportunities for me to “teach” the kids programming concepts, build techniques and game strategy and I can’t wait until the new season begins. Are we tired, sure, but I feel much better knowing that the kids learned something instead of how to become stressed. For us, the whole season is an improvement and learning session.  I say wait and see how it will all work out. If keeping a self imposed 6 week grind works then keep doing it.  Ultimately the goal here is to have FUN and not make stressed out kids, parents and mentors.  Life will do that all on its own. 

Many comments above center on the leveling of the playing field between teams.  When are we going to require that the robots have a majority of student built content?  Teams that have outside help from "sponsors" or where the mentors essentially design and build the robot seems like areas we should explore.  This change opens the door for more student involvement by eliminating the time pressures of the stop build date.  Is headquarters discussing this aspect?

Will the retirement of stop build day change the event schedule?  Will week one still be 7 weeks after kick off?  Will we start to see events in 4 and 5 week?   I have to work on next years schedule. 


We currently have no plans to change the event schedule for the 2020 season. Please note the dates of the 2020 FIRST Championship:

Houston: April 15 through April 18, 2020

Detroit: April 29 through May 2, 2020


Jamee Luce

Team Advocate, FIRST Robotics Competition

Numerous rules were predicated on the original bag rules.  It is critical to understand how these are changed. 

Where will we be able to see this document?

When will we be able to see this document?

At competitions, teams are given 3 days to compete with the first day giving teams a chance to work on/repair robots before the qualifying rounds. Will this stay the same without the stop build day or will something different take place?

Regional events in 2020 will still include a practice day. And while we can't predict what changes to schedules beyond 2020 may be made, we'll be sure to notify the community as far in advance as we can of any significant changes. In the meantime, you can find links to details about your events here: 

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