Securing venues for the competitions turned out to be a very difficult mission for the Events and Scheduling Subcommittee.  Most schools in the area were reluctant to take a chance on a new type of event that might cause damage to their facilities.  The mass destruction that many feared never materialized and building administrators expressed satisfaction with the events that were staged and have offered to host again in the future.  Compounding the scheduling problem was the fact that many school gyms had been booked for the entire season when the committee called to make requests.  Future OCCRA schedules will be made 6 months in advance and letters from the principals of host schools have been gathered to allay fears of future prospective hosts.  The ISD followed a standard procedure for facilities reservations but it took personal calls by several key committee members to gain the necessary authorizations and secure the OCCRA venues.  The decision for the first OCCRA season to have four events was made because only four venues could be secured.  Six events were held in 2001 and six are planned for 2002.

Committee members felt that the events needed to be fairly uniform.  Rules, refereeing, etc. needed to be consistent.  Since there were only four tournaments in OCCRA’s first season, there were only three volunteer referees used for the season with at least two working each event.  In the future, officials may be required to attend a workshop to get certified.  This would enable them to then be paid a certain rate for each competition that they officiate.  Sports leagues in this area generally require the home team to compensate the officials that the sports league provides.  Although this may be done in the future, for now OCCRA will probably continue to use volunteers with FIRST experience.

OCCRA 2000 used a playing field that consisted of two 12’ X 24’ carpet lengths seamed together with duct tape to form a 24’ square.  A DaimlerChrysler engineer who volunteered his time built a goal structure.  The field border, necessary to contain both erratic robots and the game balls, was built from 2 X 4’s and PVC piping by a teacher-volunteer. OCCRA only had to pay for the materials, so the entire field was made for under $1,000.  While this may seem like a lot, it works out to be less than $60 per team and, except for the carpet, the field is reusable.  We expanded the field size in 2001 to 24’ by 30’ with a 3’ carpet border on the field to protect the gym floors from robots tipping over the field perimeter.  This required a third roll of 12’ carpet but it has probably saved some floor damage.  A surprisingly high cost that was not anticipated was the cost of tarps and tape.  Tarp covering is fairly inexpensive per square yard but you need a lot when protecting gym floors: all of the walkways, the pit area, and the field had to be covered.  Do not get cheap with the tarp: heavier nylon tarps protect better and can still be folded up fairly small.  Remember that robots will sometimes fall over and go out of control; cover several feet beyond the field, pit, and walkway areas where robots and tools will be used.  Duct tape can be used to secure the field pieces to the carpet or tarps, but whenever things had to be taped to the gym floor it was discovered that duct tape was unacceptable.  Duct tape left too much residue and in some cases would damage surfaces, so OCCRA used special “gaffer’s tape” that holds just as well but tears off cleanly and leaves no residue.  Unfortunately, gaffer’s tape costs three to four times as much as duct tape.  Gaffer’s tape can be purchased through video production companies (at least two in our area sell it) so grit your teeth and pay it: this expense will be worth it.

Teams who hosted events paid many of the expenses, just as sports teams do: usage fees, custodial fees, security…etc. were the responsibility of the host schools.  Permission slips, health care forms, insurance issues, etc..... were handled the way they are currently covered by high schools sports teams.  A template for schools wishing to hold events was created so that expectations would be clear for the host schools.  (View that here)

A web page for the league was developed and maintained by one of the participating teams (see and to link to the OCRRA page).  This page answered questions, gave schedules and other league information and posted the results of the tournaments. These pages have not been maintained in the off-season but, hopefully, will be maintained in the future.  We are still looking for a volunteer to do it!
The subcommittee on Events and Scheduling had to establish a timeline, select dates for tournaments, secure facilities and personnel for tournaments; coordinate planning of competitions…etc.  It takes a small army of volunteers to put on a well-run tournament.  Fortunately, the kind of educator, student, parent or engineer who were likely to get involved in this type of an enterprise proved to be the kinds who were quick to volunteer.  OCCRA events were always well staffed with volunteers.

Each tournament needed volunteers who could run the scoring system, videotape the matches (which was shown to the audience via projectors and screens), stage the “on-deck” teams, run the replacement parts table, inspect and weigh all robots, provide color commentary and make all announcements.  

The winning teams at each of the OCCRA tournaments received attractive Plexiglas trophies.  In addition to awards for the top three place finishers at each of the OCCRA regional tournaments, there were five additional awards given: Creative Engineering, Best Play of the Day, Most Beautiful ‘Bot, Spirit of the Competition and a special Judges’ Award.  All of these had specific criteria (see Appendix I for some examples) except for the last one, which was intentionally left to the discretion of the judges.  Rewarding accomplishments other than just winning broadens the definition of success and reinforces many other valuable qualities such as team spirit, cooperation, and perseverance.  Judges were given complete freedom in their selection process but were always encouraged before each tournament to look for the opportunity to spread recognition to as many teams as possible.  A set of judges at one of the events decided to work independently of each other and rate teams by a numerical score within each award category.  An objective tally of the numbers was the sole, objective consideration in determining the awards.  That tournament saw one dominant team capture half of all the possible awards and left some bad feelings with the other teams.  The other tournaments had judges who rated teams individually but then convened as a group to reach consensus on each of the awards.  This method produced a wider “spreading of the wealth” and would become the suggested format for all future judging.  



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