FIRST Robotics Competition Blog

Event Preferences – Some Questions, Answered

Aug 24, 2017 Written by Frank Merrick

EDIT: The information found in this blog has been supplemented and posted as a separate FAQ document, which you can find here.

Last week, we blogged about the upcoming shift to a preference model, away from first-come-first-served, for FIRST Robotics Competition team event assignment.

A few folks asked some questions. I tried to consolidate. Answers are below.

When will closing times for preference submission be?

Closing times will be Noon Eastern. This time will ensure our full IT, team support, and FRC staff are available to deal with any issues that may arise. This time also allows us to run the preference process shortly after closing, once again checking for issues before the planned release of the assignment to teams.

Teams will have a full seven days to enter their preferences. As we’ve said before, the best way to ensure you are on time is to plan to be early. With teams in 26 countries for the 2017 season, it’s not possible for us to pick a time that is convenient for everyone. If you would prefer a midnight (your local time, I’m assuming) deadline, you may want to consider setting that as the internal deadline for your team the midnight before the absolute deadline from FIRST.

Also, please remember you can adjust your preferences as many times as you wish until the deadline, without penalty. You could submit a preliminary list shortly after the preference window opens to ensure you don’t miss the deadline completely, then adjust if necessary before the window closes.

Doesn't this mean local teams may get locked out of events they need to attend?

This is unlikely. We know some teams have only one or a small number of events they can attend for financial or other reasons. We want to make sure those teams get into the events they need.

Just as in prior seasons, Regional Directors and District Management will be able to reserve slots at events. These reserved slots won’t be part of the automated assignment process. The intent of these reserved slots is to accommodate later registering teams and those needing access to that particular event. We occasionally go to extreme lengths, including expanding event capacity or asking better-resourced teams already registered at the event to relocate, to fit these teams in.

Teams will have full control over which, how many, and in what priority events are added to their preference lists. If you truly can only go to a single event, you should put just that event on your list, and you are guaranteed to at least be waitlisted for that event. If you are waitlisted for the event after the assignment process is run, you should then reach out to your Regional Director or District Management explaining your situation and ask to be moved into the event. If you have a clear and compelling reason why you can only attend that one event, they will do their best to accommodate you.

Conversely, you should put as many events on your preference list that you are able and interested in attending. This increases the chance that you will get registered for an event when the event assignment process is run and you can avoid the delay and uncertainty associated with waitlists.

To which events does this process apply?

This process applies only to District and Regional events. FIRST Championship and District Championships already have rules for qualification and FIRST Championship has a weighted randomization process for the waitlist.

Also, this does not change the rules for which teams can go to which events and the timing of sign-ups. As an example, District teams still won’t be able to register for Regionals until unrestricted registration opens.

Will we know our lottery number?

No. Each team that submits first round preferences will receive a unique random number from a very large pool (think at least 1 million numbers) after the first registration period closed but before the assignment process is run. The assignment process will then be run from the smallest number to the largest, processing each team in turn. Every team will come out of their turn either being assigned or waitlisted to an event, and teams will be notified of their results.

Teams assigned a lottery number during that first preference period retain that number for the second round. Teams that did not submit a preference list during the first round but did submit during the second round will receive their lottery number after the second preference period closes but before the second round assignment process is run. These teams, too, are assigned a unique random number from the large pool, so the lottery number for these teams will be scattered among those already assigned from the first round. The assignment process will be run again, this time from largest lottery number to the smallest.

Keep in mind that for both rounds, all teams will be able to identify a single event at which they would like to be waitlisted if there are no available slots at any of their preferenced events. This waitlist event can be any one of the events they have preferenced.

We had considered a scheme that would pre-assign lottery numbers to all possible FRC teams before preference submissions opened, but it created additional complexity in an already complex system. Under the current plan, we could only tell teams their lottery numbers after first registration is complete, and these would not include lottery numbers from late registering teams. This raises questions of how valuable knowing your lottery number would truly be to you, and what level of resources FIRST should divert to putting this feature in place and answering the questions that will inevitably follow.

Are home events still a thing for some Districts?

Yes, Michigan and PNW will still be doing home event registration this season. Every Michigan and PNW team will be assigned a home event, and just as in prior years, when they register for their initial event, they will find it very easy to get into their assigned home events, and more difficult to get into non-home events. More details will follow on this aspect of registration later.

More Information

We will have more information coming out in later weeks.


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Since FIRST has decided to have a "lottery" for selection of events, it seems unfair that a team may responsibly decide which events will be beneficial for their members in advance of the selection period, enter their selections into the system promptly, and then through a random drawing get wait listed for their events.  Meanwhile, another team can enter their selection at the last moment and have preference over a punctual team.  Based on the narrative a team may even miss the first selection period entirely, and then have preference in subsequent periods over a responsible team.  

I understand the reasoning for wanting to go to a system that does not involve whose team has the fastest refresh rate on their system.  Perhaps there could be a way to weight those teams that apply within each 12 hour period.   

In my opinion, at the very least, if FIRST is determined to make event selection random, then each period of selection should be independently random.  A team given the least desirable selection number in the first selection period should not have the least desirable selection in subsequent periods.  I see a scenario where a team plans ahead, enters early, gets assigned number 999,999, and has to settle for 5th and 6th choices on their list.  This situation will be especially difficult for densely populated Regionals and District Events.  

Does the same lottery condition apply to unrestricted registration?  

How about implement a snake draft concept?
i.e. Period 1  "The assignment process will then be run from the smallest number to the largest, processing each team in turn."  
      Period 2 The assignment process will then be run from the largest number to the smallest, processing each team in turn. 

I'm having a hard time with this system and your responses to teams who have resource and/or geographic limitations that confine them to one and ONLY one regional. Statements like "This is unlikely. We know some teams have only one or a small number of events they can attend for financial or other reasons. We want to make sure those teams get into the events they need" or "If you truly can only go to a single event, you should put just that event on your list, and you are guaranteed to at least be waitlisted for that event" make it sound like FIRST thinks only a few teams have serious funding or other restrictions that limit and confine them to one regional competition. My team is one of those. Our state regional (Colorado) has a fair number of teams for whom our regional is their second or third one on their march toward the championship. Oftentimes those teams have already qualified for the championship before they get to our regional. Oftentimes those teams are from regionals that are several states away from our state. For many of us, at least in our state, that our regional is the only one we can afford to attend. Priority should be given to teams that are actually in a region. I doubt that you meant it that way, but it sounds like FIRST is saying that if you can't afford multiple regionals, well tough luck folks.

If you allow waitlist on 1st preference, and get on the waitlist. Does it still check the 2nd,3rd, and 4th preference to see if opening and give you that ,  or does it quit checking once you are on a waitlist?


The system checks for open slots at all preferenced events before assigning the team to their waitlist event. Waitlisting is at the end of the sequence. If you are waitlisted, it means none of the events you preferenced had openings.

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