Idea to Expand Participation

shafeeq
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Idea to Expand Participation

Postby shafeeq » Mon Apr 25, 2016 1:06 am

For the last several years, everyone has been saying that we need more teams competing. But we always run into the problem that to compete, you need to:
1) Build or buy a buggy.
2) Qualify a driver
3) Practice (if you want to be good).
4) Show up to the start of your race.

In every other IM sport, you just have to do 4. And 3 if you're serious. So the buggy & driver are the big barriers to entry - they both take a ton of time & effort before you get anything out of it. There have been various "minor league" proposals with simplified buggies to get around 1, but they still run into the need to qualify the driver.

Watching the Grudge Match heat this year, it hit me: alumni heats pair qualified buggies & drivers with push teams that only show up on the day of the race, and aren't (currently) part of the team providing the buggy & driver. Why can't we do the same thing except with push teams made up of any 5 non-buggy students? How many of the Greek houses or ASA/TSA/KSA/etc. clubs would compete in a "minor" division if all they had to do was provide 5 pushers at the right place and time, and a buggy appears in front of them?

Obvious points:
Where do the buggies & drivers come from? The large teams have 1-3 buggies that won't be in finals. In some recent years CIA, SDC, Fringe? have had more buggies than push teams. The A & B drivers have chance at a finals race. Why not give the C & D drivers a 2nd chance in the "minor" race? So you have a minor race where, e.g. a DTD push team is pushing Spirit's D buggy. You could allow pre-planned major/minor pairings. Or you could have the minor teams draw from a hat to find out which buggy they get to use.

Why would a "major" team provide a buggy & driver? It's one more thing to compete for. For the driver & mechanics, it is just as challenging as the major race and they're already doing the work to prepare for that anyway. There could also be a financial incentive - every minor team pays an entry fee and the major team collects prize money based on how high the minor team using its buggy+driver finished. Probably needs sponsorship to make this worthwhile.

What if the football house pairs up with a fast buggy and crushes everyone? They'll have won the minor trophy. If they're happy with that, great. But if they're competitive, they're going to want the major trophy. So either they start a major team of their own, or join a major team, in which case the major team gets the credit for the win. The random buggy assignment works against a powerhouse minor team - they might get a slow buggy.

Won't existing small teams decide that they'd rather compete in minors? Maybe, but the fact that they compete now says they'd rather be the worst major team than the best minor team.

Is it safe? With no experience, seeding is going to be a crapshoot, so there might be some close freerolls, but that happens already. The pushers probably do need at least a minimum of training to avoid doing something stupid with a buggy. Perhaps have a designated practice day for all the minor teams, perhaps on one of the sparsely attended weekends.

Where do we find time for more heats? There's plenty of time on Day 2. And the minor teams may bring a crowd that sticks around for finals, to make up for the sparser crowd due to major teams being eliminated after prelims. The trouble is that if Day 2 is going to rain out, the minor races still need to happen. So we have to squeeze them into Day 1. If it's 2-3 heats, that should be possible. If it is 10 extra heats, then that's a good problem to have. The major/minor balance will probably have to be tweaked over time as both competitions evolve.

Any thoughts?

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Re: Idea to Expand Participation

Postby Pope on a Rope » Mon Apr 25, 2016 1:45 pm

For the last several years, everyone has been saying that we need more teams competing. But we always run into the problem that to compete, you need to:
1) Build or buy a buggy.
2) Qualify a driver
3) Practice (if you want to be good).
4) Show up to the start of your race.


in the context you used, by 'compete', you really mean participate. There is a difference between participation and competition. Knowing the difference will help us understand why there are fewer orgs participating and why their efforts may seem feeble.

You also failed to include, to participate you need to attend to the duties associated with participation (meters, sweeping, flagging, barricades, bales...). These take people.

So, there are 5 elements of participation.

Participation != competition.

To compete, one should have a possibility of doing well against other competitors. a level playing field is needed. Major sports struggle with this. We do not even try.

What does it take to move from participation to competition?

6) Recruit a really good push team (this was the biggest difference between top teams this year)
7) buy or develop a really good set of wheels (almost everyone is there now)
8) buy or develop a reasonable buggy/prep (there are a few teams where this is still an issue)

If you look at who did well this year, they have the following in common:

They have been well funded for an extended period of time allowing accumulation and refinement of buggies, prep, and wheels.
They have been on a pace of least one new buggy every 3 years or more.
They are large in terms of membership or barriers to joining are low
They have a significant alumni population
With the exception of sig epp, they have push teams assembled from the 13,285 students attending CMU. Sig Epp is relatively large but not 13k large.

Those are the elements that differentiate the competitors from the participants. The most common thread is that they are generally large in terms of members or potential members and well funded either as a result of their size or by student activity fees.

What do the other teams lack: $$$, push talent and in some cases, alumni population or buggy tech.

It is really hard to imagine that a frat with 20 to 30 members can put together a push team on par with any independent or even that of a house with 100 members. It is also hard to imagine that they could pull together, out of their own pockets, a budget capable of building a buggy annually.

When faced with those challenges to being competitive, it is not too hard to see why simple participation is not very attractive. Putting in the effort and paying out of pocket to have your ass kicked by someone against you never had a chance and who you are also probably funding (via student activity fees) is simply not attractive.

So, how does one make it so smaller teams can compete? it is about the $$$$ and access to talent. your proposal does not address that.

Is competing in a minor league version of buggy attractive? I do not know. Seems like the wildcard is which buggy you get and what sort of prep is has. Not sure how that is determined but it feels like a crap shoot. I do know that your proposal will make the rich teams richer via renting buggies to the poor teams. That does not seem like a a way to to address the growing gap.

So, how do we fix the financing? The last thing this race needs is another cia, fringe, or sdc or spirit buggy. And yet, we can set our clocks by the appearance of at least 3 next year. So, cut that shit out. Rather than pour more $$ into another round of builds, how about raining money on the frats as incentive for building buggies, and fielding teams. Concurrently, cut the funds for other independents so that a new buggy is not possible every year. Bust up whatever scheme SDC uses to fund their stuff and spread that stuff around. Give the shoe bank to the poor.

And how to deal with the talent pool? Raising the barriers for participation is not the answer. It might be easier to simply kill the rule about who can push for a frat. At least then the playing field is closer to level. I am clearly biased in this as my home team, is in the best position to benefit from such changes.

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Re: Idea to Expand Participation

Postby Elmo Zoneball » Mon Apr 25, 2016 2:00 pm

My first concern with this proposal is the unintended consequence of it may be to drain many off many of the existing marginal teams out of the current competition, and into the new "minor league," rather than causing currently non-competing orgs from entering the "Buggy minor league."

You'd end up with SDC/CIA/FRINGE/FISHING CLUB the only ones left in the real competition, and that would get pretty boring.

A second concern of the minor league: when would the minor league teams get to do push practice if they don't have their own driver and buggy? The owners of those buggies would be busy using them for both push practice as well as FR practice.

It's one thing for Buggy alumni to show up on Race Day and throw together an ad hoc push team using people who have had 4 years of practice pushing buggies. It's a horse of a different color when you expect 5 people who have no experience pushing a buggy, timing Hill #3 pick ups, or doing exchanges, to just show up on race day an compete. It would be a bit of a farce, I'm afraid.

I think to solve the conundrum of lack of competitors, one had to first identify the operative reason why so many orgs are choosing to not participate. I suspect the reason why many fraternities do not bother is their perception that the game is rigged against them. They have to fund their own teams out of their own pockets, whereas independent orgs get funded by student activity fees. That's manifestly unfair. If independents want to race, they should be self-funding just like the Greeks are.

Are Greek teams limited to pushers who are members of their fraternity? If that is still so, that is also an unlevel playing field -- if independents can choose from anyone who is a student to be on their push team, then the same prerogative should be afforded the Greek teams, out of fairness.

I'd suggest the solution to lack of participation can best be solved by addressing those issues first. There may well be more that can be done in addition, but start by removing the biggest impediments first.
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Re: Idea to Expand Participation

Postby Elmo Zoneball » Mon Apr 25, 2016 2:38 pm

1. level playing field (see previous posts for details) -- all orgs can draw team members from the entire undergrad student body, require orgs to self fund, etc.

2. if more still needs to be done AFTER #1, do what is done in auto racing -- the cheapest way into auto racing is a STOCK class of race cars. So, get some buggy alumni to design a simple fool-proof buggy design that can be built with fiberglas and other cheap materials (no carbon fiber, no unobtanium) that's easily fabricated (moldless design?, no vacuum bagging) and publish it online with build instructions for anyone to use.

To race in the STOCK class, the buggy must conform to the specification. Impose a weight minimum, so there's no incentive to try to lighten the buggy excessively. (If you really want competition, use the loaded weight, like they do in horse racing, so every buggy + driver weighs exactly the same.) This would make for some interesting racing, with the focus on the push teams and good driving.

You could throw in a wheel spec that forbids tire treatments, but this would likely be troublesome to police, so it may not be feasible, unless you just spec the wheel and hand them out on race day 10 minutes before the team's heat, like the used to do in OSBD.

This would enable orgs to build a fundamentally sound though not state-of-the-art buggy for, let's say, under $1000 in a weekend or two, and get into the race in a class with buggies of the same specification, and would be a excellent entry level/stepping stone to the full Unlimited Class (i.e., the current buggy competition) when the Team is experienced enough to make the jump. A 20 member team could be up and running on an investment of $50 each, and the buggy would last several years unless wrecked severely.

You could even impose a claiming rule that is used in car racing, to limit technical improvements -- the claiming rule says any team can claim any other teams vehicle at any time, for a set price -- this is done in car racing on motors, so that no team spends big $$$ to equip their motor with unobtanium parts to outperform the rest of the field win all the races. If they do, a competitor simply "claims" their engine for a set fee. Thus, there is no incentive to cheat. Do the same with the buggies; any buggy winning a Stock class race can be claimed by any other team for some set fee -- $2500 perhaps. This is a disincentive to cheat on the Stock Class construction rules.
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Re: Idea to Expand Participation

Postby cmhayes » Mon Apr 25, 2016 8:40 pm

This is something I have a lot of interest in, and as I mentioned at the end of finals races the next sweepstakes should set this as a goal to tackle.

For the organizations on campus that don't compete in buggy there isn't much interest to start a new team. We at the BAA reached out to a few larger organizations this past year and didn't get a response. There is a lot of crossover between buggy orgs and not buggy orgs that may lead to all buggy interested students already participating. For example Apex had 3 members of Society of Women Engineers this past year. And the Apex chairman in 2013 was a Sig Ep (left to be Sig Ep chairman in 2014).

Adding teams just to add teams weakens the sport, I believe the sport needs stronger teams. Alumni may hate these ideas but hear me out.
1. More cooperation between frats -
This year SAE had a day 2 quality push team but their buggy is lacking, rolling only faster than 1 team (Apex's Ember). Sig Nu has fast buggies and always has. If these two frats competed as 1 team they would have more man power and could show up and practice more and they would have been in competition for a trophy. Sig Ep started in buggy by linking up with Fringe for 2 years. This could lead to the growth of a strong dedicated house that would be able to compete otherwise.

2. Increase required rolls
I would like to see required rolls for drivers raise to a number around 25 for experienced drivers and 40 for new drivers. Remove the rule stating most rolls must occur in the fall because there are a lot more chances to roll in the spring. Implement a rule that new buggies must roll at least 5 days no matter the number of rolls to prevent a buggy that is clearly unfinished (hydra breaking during races is a major example) from being put on the course and putting drivers at risk. This will require teams to be more dedicated and thus improve speeds but also safety because there will be more practice. Having strong dedicated teams is more important to the sport and competition than having AEPi, Sig Nu, Sig Ep and SAE throw in a token 3 week effort.

3. Allow Frats to recruit non brothers
I would allow the Frats to have 2 pushers per push team be non-brothers. Now they can do what SDC did and recruit the football team members that come to their "events" to raise their competitiveness on the hills. Mechanics can be non-brothers if the fraternity is okay with that allowing them to recruit just like the independents.

4. Fall Push Practices
Once or Twice a week in the fall there should be open hill push practices to try and get some non-early rising students to come out and get a taste of buggy. These would start before rolls (1st or 2nd week of school) and occur until mid October when it begins to get cold. There are a lot of students who do not want to wake up early that you may get to come out to rolls if they had a later in the day option to try it out. Also increases practice thus increasing competitiveness and speed.

5. Single Wheel Supplier
This is going to be the most controversial and i'm not sold that it will help much if at all. Finding good wheels is tough and costs a lot of money. A good carbon fiber buggy can be built for under $1000 dollars fairly easily (both ember and phoenix fell below this number and while ember kind of sucks phoenix is solid just has way too much epoxy in it to be competitive). Wheels, good luck getting good ones for less than that (unless you buy ze wheels for $200 each and alter your buggy to fit these). At this point SDC CIA Fringe Spirit Pike and Sig Nu have comparable wheels anyway. It would not hurt any of those teams to be on the same wheels. The teams with smaller budgets would be brought in line and now the experience of older teams with prep and the better buggies show through. Sweepstakes would work with a polyurethane supplier and would have a batch of wheels made at the beginning of the year. The wheels would be divied out at the beginning of the year based on how many buggies each team has rolling. You can practice on whatever you want but for truck weekend, raceday and mini raceday only the Sweepstakes branded wheels would be acceptable. Make the hub design something not easily immitable with a very noticeable/unique color. Add a wheel check as part of drops or after the heats during a safety check. All buggies have to be brought into maggie mo breed hall right after their last heat and the previous years safety chair performs this inspection.

Thoughts?

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Re: Idea to Expand Participation

Postby shafeeq » Mon Apr 25, 2016 8:42 pm

I agree about competition vs participation. In many sports, trying to compete out of your weight class is going to end in disappointment. We can try to level the field by crushing the strongest down to the level of the weakest and anyone can win, or we can break up the participants into classes that are level within them, so the competition within a class is fair. We already have separate classes for men & women for the obvious physical disparity, so why not also by restricted or unrestricted team membership, or by level of seriousness, if those are barriers to overall competitiveness?

The aspects of buggy that keep us interested years later are the ones that only show up in unlimited competition - a stock race is more fair, appealing to a wider pool, and more competitive, but doesn't inspire the level of craziness that buggy does. So we need both a "low barrier to entry, fair" competition while keeping the athletic & technical challenge that buggy currently has at the top level.

The women's field has always been unrestricted - except for the couple of sororities that entered and were handicapped by the restrictions. But still the talent isn't uniformly distributed. So I doubt that unrestricting the men's field will level the talent imbalance much in reality. But the _perception_ that "we can now compete as a small house" may be more important than the reality of "we probably aren't going to recruit pushers hugely more athletic than our brothers." If PiKA and SigEp want to keep restricting themselves to their own brothers and still compete, then more power to them.

Before the university started cracking down on Greeks, the big fraternities could count on having 5 brothers more athletic than 95% of the CMU population. So the bigger recruiting pool available to independents helps them find participants, but not necessarily to compete overall. Witness CIA's big-but-rarely-fast-enough-to-make-finals decade of the 2000's.

The Greeks point to the independents' activities fee funding, the independents point to the Greeks' access to pledges and a pre-existing team bond. They all matter, and we'll never agree on exactly how much. At this point, except for SDC, the big independents are mostly funded by their alumni & student's pockets. Because they're big, they have a lot of alumni, so it keeps perpetuating, same as it did for the large houses.

Big teams heavily benefit from economy of scale - the incremental cost & effort involved in going from a 0 to a 1 buggy team is huge, but going from 3 to 4 is small. Having gone through that entire progression, I think the only way for a small team to overcome its overhead is to get a helping hand from a bigger team, or put in exceptional effort. If you break up a big team, you're left with two struggling teams.

It has always been possible to set up an independent shell around a Greek team, but nobody's tried until Pika/Fish. Will they continue, or go back to being PiKA? It's always been possible for a push team worth of Greeks to join an independent & push together, but I don't think anybody has done that since SigEp in they year before starting their own program.

If cash is the main barrier to entry for a new team, that's a solvable problem - there are plenty of decent buggies pushed into retirement by the teams with build-every-year production lines, and there's activities fee funds available to every team, maybe they can make a case for a startup grant from the BAA. We can shower money on the Greeks or anyone else, we can offer handbook of all buggy knowledge, but those don't help get people out of bed on the half-dozen weekend mornings to qualify a driver, so I think the ultimate stumbling block is the initial commitment required.

The chores need to be done with or without a new team, so the existing teams can either cut the new team a break for their first year and hope they pull their weight the next year, or insist on the new team doing their share from the start and thus help ensure the new team won't return. Any new entrant needs to experience the fun part of buggy and get hooked before they realize all the unpleasant parts.

The economy of scale and basic buggy competence of large, established, teams is why I think they're the most effective option for providing buggies for the minor league. Arguably, this is the avenue for Greek minor teams to get to use the fraction of an independent buggy that they've paid for via activities fee. The major teams will be doing their chores and freerolls because they need to for the main competition. Their D buggy exists already and needs to be present for its main races, so there's little additional cost to using it again in a minor race - there's only the risk of crashing & breaking it the minor race. So either the "rental fee" just needs to cover that risk, or sweepstakes has a fund to reasonably compensate teams for damage in a minor race - odds are pretty low that they'll have to pay out.

Most decent buggies freeroll within a second of each other, so are already close to equal. Ballast and stock wheels would level them even further, so the minor event becomes entirely a push competition. A no-practice event would be farcical, but completely fair and give non-buggy people a taste of buggy with the least possible effort. Practice would of course be better, and the major teams have enough freeroll days when they are short on manpower that they'd probably welcome any minor-league pushers (and the chance to watch and recruit the good ones). Push practice would be more congested though.

It's a legitimate worry that some single-buggy teams would move down to the minors. But if the minor league is well-populated, there's the chance that more minor teams will want to move up than major teams move down. If the minor league grows into the main event then the "borrow a buggy from a major team" plan will no longer work, but we'll have a much bigger buggy community to figure out how to deal with it.

As an experiment, can we talk 3 teams into providing a buggy each for "competetive exhibitions"? If the buggies are equal, they can run multiple times with different push teams if needed.
If we can't find at least a handful of fraternities & clubs to enter a "no-barrier-to-entry" introductory event, will we ever find any to step up to the effort involved in a full program?

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Re: Idea to Expand Participation

Postby shafeeq » Mon Apr 25, 2016 8:53 pm

I've never liked the build-every-year plan, but eliminating it may be counterproductive - instead of building one average buggy every year, with an occasional better one, those teams might start reliably turning out one better buggy every 2 years (see SDC, PiKA), which is harder for a low-budget team to match on its first effort. And the supply of 4-year old retired buggies dries up. Plus, with their newfound spare time, they might focus more on wheels or something else that tilts the playing field more than the buggy did.

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Re: Idea to Expand Participation

Postby Allison » Mon Apr 25, 2016 10:45 pm

Last year, when the four fastest men’s teams were within a second of each other (if you count PiKA), it was competitive but people on this forum were still unhappy about how slow it was. It doesn’t seem like we actually want to encourage competition simply by making it harder for the top teams to compete. Instead, we need to help new teams and teams that aren’t competitive participate, grow, and get faster.

For fiscal year 2016, independent orgs that are JFC funded were allocated “$1,000 if they participate in Buggy, and $500 for each team that races, capped at four teams, or $3000.” This raceday there were 5 Greek organizations (if you count PiKA), who entered a total of 10 teams. Following the JFC metrics it would only take $10,000 to level the funding field. Additionally, this metric adds some incentive to field more teams because for any org with less than 4 teams, more teams is an easy way to make more money.

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Re: Idea to Expand Participation

Postby Pope on a Rope » Tue Apr 26, 2016 1:08 am

I would allow the Frats to have 2 pushers per push team be non-brothers.

why only 2? 2/5 vs 5/5 is not level!

5. Single Wheel Supplier
This is going to be the most controversial and i'm not sold that it will help much if at all. Finding good wheels is tough and costs a lot of money. A good carbon fiber buggy can be built for under $1000 dollars fairly easily (both ember and phoenix fell below this number and while ember kind of sucks phoenix is solid just has way too much epoxy in it to be competitive). Wheels, good luck getting good ones for less than that (unless you buy ze wheels for $200 each and alter your buggy to fit these). At this point SDC CIA Fringe Spirit Pike and Sig Nu have comparable wheels anyway. It would not hurt any of those teams to be on the same wheels. The teams with smaller budgets would be brought in line and now the experience of older teams with prep and the better buggies show through. Sweepstakes would work with a polyurethane supplier and would have a batch of wheels made at the beginning of the year. The wheels would be divied out at the beginning of the year based on how many buggies each team has rolling. You can practice on whatever you want but for truck weekend, race day and mini race day only the Sweepstakes branded wheels would be acceptable. Make the hub design something not easily immitable with a very noticeable/unique color. Add a wheel check as part of drops or after the heats during a safety check. All buggies have to be brought into maggie mo breed hall right after their last heat and the previous years safety chair performs this inspection.


This reads like a rule proposed by one of the few teams that is on the outside looking in wrt wheel tech. I am fairly sure that with the exception of hydra, and possibly orca, every buggy out there could run ze wheels which are almost exactly the size of xootrs. Not all the fast ones are from ze. I think the fish have a strong preference for the little wheels and the difference in performance they provide.

The authorities did exactly this at derby and moved to a stock wheel after it was clear that our (CSSN )edge in wheel tech was not going away. Now, the field is down to ~ 1/3 the size it was when it was an open wheel formula. If this idea does fly, then use stock xootrs handed out minutes before the race and handed back after. Sort them well. ban heating, ban trucks and ban tents. Otherwise, you will see these suckers treated and heated to the edge of sanity. chute carnage will be the norm as teams push for an edge with whatever they are given and that edge is not friends with turning.

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Re: Idea to Expand Participation

Postby DAConley » Tue Apr 26, 2016 10:26 am

Good discussion, but let's get it straight...this is about TRADITION. I fall into that classification of Greek alum from past powerhouse now longing for the days of old where BUGGY was a dominated by Greek competition with several established competitive independent orgs - which is good - competing year after year to gain bragging rights on campus. Key message the younger guys need to understand...the Greek alumni base wants to see the Greeks compete again, among themselves and with the established independents and any new entrants, not a stock car race with a level playing field where teams just 'show up' for raceday. Hell, we have a lot of that now and it's hard to watch. We want more participation by revitalized Greek entrants, deeper teams (A/B/C/D), technical advancement, and people making an effort...actually investing time and effort to gain an edge and earn the right to say: We Won the Race!, We were Fastest in the Freeroll!, We didn't Spin this year! (Really.... this was an objective for many an org!)

This should also be the objective of the University: to demonstrate the engineering / program management skill set the sport builds and the uniqueness vs other university traditions. In essence - look how f'n cool this is! (See Tom Wood's references in HoB discussions about spectators from the community!) More alumni that get excited and come back for Carnival generally equals more money donated to the University, which is what they really want from the alumni. I don't know anyone that gets excited and comes back for Booth...do you?

Lots of good ideas in the string, thanks for the thoughts. My own take:
- Fraternities need to realize this themselves, learn how to play nice with the University, other Fraternities, regain a respected presence on campus, and grow their ranks. Only then can they grow their participation in Buggy, because it is a numbers game. Will take time, hopefully not too long!
- Stock cars, stock wheels, stock teams will do for this sport what it has done for others - see Mark's synopsis of US SBD.
- Expanding org rosters is not a rule change, it's by choice. All are free to do what they want, but yes in today's environment, the fraternities are at a disadvantage. Participants need to be on the org roster, question is really how well this is policed by Sweepstakes administration. When is the roster established, and should it simply be the entire study body?....Ahh, no.
- Transparency on Activity Fee funding of all orgs? YES....allow Greeks to apply for the same funding. They contribute to that poll too. Independent orgs have alumni bases just like the Greeks that help with the organizational learning and funding aspects of a program. The university just needs to make this one fair to all...including any new entrants. This was an argument years ago, no longer applies. Easy enough to take it off the table.
- Do you really think Zoo or Pika will offer wheels to the masses? I don't think many understand the years and tens of thousands of dollars these orgs have invested to develop such technology. Buy cheap wheels online, get there fast. Do it yourself, over time and get further along....that's competition.


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