FIRST Robotics Competition Blog

Stop Build Day 2018

Oct 05, 2017 Written by Frank Merrick

About one year ago, in this blog, we revealed the results of an extensive survey we did of the community regarding their thoughts on Stop Build Day. No survey is perfect, but if this one showed anything, it showed that there is no strong consensus one way or the other on this topic which is so fundamental to our culture and how we operate.

We have seen and considered several schemes for modifying the Stop Build Day concept. These schemes were even a topic of conversation with several Woodie Flowers Award winners at their recent annual gathering. They, too, had no consensus on this topic. It’s not clear that any of these options would be significantly better for the great majority of our community than the system we currently have. Given where we are right now in the calendar, and that even if we knew of an option we were comfortable with it would need to be run by folks outside FIRST HQ, the 2018 season will retain our traditional Stop Build Day.

We recognize the current system has drawbacks. We are still open to considering options and changing things in the future. This decision is final for 2018, but not for 2019 and beyond.


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I wonder if anyone read any of the comments on chief Delphi. I found the questions on the survey to me vague, misleading and poorly written. No wonder there was no consensus, as the questions weren't straight forward.

As a rookie team last year, we had not experienced it before. We liked the idea of a Stop Build Date but we realized quickly at competition that the intent of it was not being followed. The teams with the resources were building two robots so the disparity of the haves and haves not became more evident at events. The way we see it the only one who benefits from the Stop Build Date is the manufacturers of robotic components.


These statements represent my experience and my view as a mentor. The more I think about how FIRST is structured, more I fall in love with it. Amazing organization! While mimicking how professional life works, it helps all participants to develop vital skills in order to be successful in their future career choices. 

There are a few areas, I think, a little consideration will make some difference. 

1. Calling it "Competition" sure brings a little fun to the process. However, some teams are taking this to the whole new level to " Win at all cost!" While the whole process is supposed to allow student members to run the program, learn and grow, it seems there are teams where adult members are more involved than student members in designing and building the robots! Will calling it "Celebration" rather than "Competition" make any difference? Should FIRST recognize ALL participant teams with a certificate or plague in qualifications and regionals? 

2. Stop Build Day in theory makes a great sense. It mimics professional life experience where there are deadlines, pressure, etc. But, when we think about giving these kids an opportunity to be exposed to STEM, enjoy the experience and consider STEM related career in the future, the whole experience should be enjoyable and fair. Some of the issues we must consider; resources, funding, access to building especially during after school hours, weekend, holidays and breaks, mentors, parental involvement, student population, the distance students must travel to and from school, etc.

We are an inner city school with over 80% of our population qualify for free or reduced lunch. They travel from all over the city, some nearly two hours to and from school. There are local holidays, Regents exam week, PD days and Winter Break all within the build season. Access to building during these days when schools are not in session is very challenging and limited. Just during winter break, we may lose 8 days! Due to location of the school, we have a huge problem attracting and retaining any mentor or professional. Parental involvement is  so limited. We can continue with the list for extended conversation. I am sure everyone understands the inequalities in the playing field. If FIRST was based on professional sports mentality, we could go ahead and say it is fair! The best teams win! But, it is not! FIRST is based on promoting rather than prohibiting! We can never even the playing field! Elite teams will always find a way to do great either by building multiple robots or having abundance of resources, mentors and parental involvement, etc. However, we can help disadvantaged teams to have a better experience, and therefore a better chance to seek STEM fields, by relaxing Stop Build Day regulations a little. We want kids to have fun, learn, accomplish some form of success and  have hope for the future. Let's let them succeed in their capacity! Otherwise, the robot build in "El Barrio" will never have a chance to compete with a robot built in Detroit, Houston, Silicon Valley or Seattle! 

FTC does it well! Can FRC follow? 


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