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  #61   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 09-02-2009, 10:15 AM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

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Originally Posted by Paul Copioli View Post
...I still hold to my belief that if you are truly the best candidate to represent your State / Region then your robot and team should be able to attain more points than 50% of the other teams.
I concur.

The robot is still the vehicle that this program uses to foster inspiration. Continually saying it is not about the robot starts to sound like 'the robot is not important', which I don't believe to be true. As was also pointed out earlier, the CA candidates are succeeding both on the field and in the presentation room. All of the District CA candidates qualified not only for the State Championship, but also for the World Championship. I'm just not seeing any disservice being done to the CA teams. All of this discussion makes me wonder why people are trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist. I thought that was exactly the kind of behavior that kept us from getting the important stuff done.
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Unread 09-02-2009, 10:25 AM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

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Originally Posted by kramarczyk View Post
The robot is still the vehicle that this program uses to foster inspiration.
The robot is NOT a lie.
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Unread 09-02-2009, 10:48 AM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

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Originally Posted by Wayne C. View Post
This past spring we at the NJ regional team have been working hard on a model similar to the Michigan model but with our events on weekends at the very start of the competition season window. It might allow travel to distant Regionals in the later weeks. We wanted to implement in 2010 but it looks now like that will not happen.

It is true that teams who normally stay close to home would benefit from the large increase in the playing times and get a bigger bang for their buck from the robot. This appeals to many. FIRST would also see a reduction in Fedex usage- something that overpowered them this year.

I however agree with you that I would find it hard to support a model that took up the entire competition season and disallowed for travel to other regions. Frankly for us it is the travel and playing with new friends in other parts of the country that makes FIRST enjoyable. I would hate to think of being restricted to playing the same teams over and over again because of a restrictive model. No offense to the local teams but we see each other all the time and we do have an extensive off season calendar here in the NE.

The Championships might offer a travel op but I do not have much faith in what I am hearing about locations for the future. Sorry.

Of course the proper way to do all this is to have a much more extensive competition season with a local tier followed by a tier series of regionals and the championship. I cant see that big a change occurring any time soon since it would cost $$$ and lots of time for the volunteer base.

Travel to new regions, especially warm ones after a cold hard build season, can be a great incentive for the team and a goal to work for. And if I wanted to play the locals continuously I would go back to coaching sports.


OK - off the soap box

WC
This is an issue that I have with the 2 different models. Why should teams that have the benefit of doing both while other teams cannot. If you are in the one model then you should have to stay there with no crossing over to the other unless both models are open to all teams in all areas.
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Unread 09-02-2009, 11:20 AM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

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Originally Posted by Paul Copioli View Post
So Jim Zondag and I were having a discussion last night as he is drafting a proposal to FiM to change the point system slightly. Two items regarding Culture Changing Awards (CCA), specifically the Chairman's Award (CA), came up:

1. If you are slotted to win the CA, which is decided Friday, you will not win a technical award or any other award. While this is not a written rule, look at the historical data and it is overwhelming.

2. You can only win this award at one district. All of the other awards do not have this restriction.

#2 above is the single biggest argument to give the CA more points. My opinion is 10 points (if someone wins GM Industrial Design twice they get 10 points, 2 * 5).

The automatic bid is not scalable and I still hold to my belief that if you are truly the best candidate to represent your State / Region then your robot and team should be able to attain more points than 50% of the other teams.

Paul
Thank you for looking into this and working out a solution. I give the FiM group a lot of credit for listening to the FIRST public and adapting.
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Unread 09-02-2009, 11:39 AM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

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Originally Posted by kramarczyk View Post
I concur.

The robot is still the vehicle that this program uses to foster inspiration. Continually saying it is not about the robot starts to sound like 'the robot is not important', which I don't believe to be true. As was also pointed out earlier, the CA candidates are succeeding both on the field and in the presentation room. All of the District CA candidates qualified not only for the State Championship, but also for the World Championship. I'm just not seeing any disservice being done to the CA teams. All of this discussion makes me wonder why people are trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist. I thought that was exactly the kind of behavior that kept us from getting the important stuff done.
Wisdom.

There shouldn't be division between robot and Chairman's in the manner being discussed. All the facets of the FIRST competitions enhance and contribute to the competition. They also help students and mentors develop parts of themselves that were laying dormant, awaiting an opportunity to be discovered and realized. This is made of win. (Don't believe me? Volunteer at an FLL event and watch those students shine as they prepare for the judging aspect of the competition. Look at their preparation and their enthusiasm and be prepared to be inspired, yourself.)

If FIRST is going to depend on the teams and their leadership to help build the roads that FRC is going to travel, then the leadership of the teams has to find ways to be supportive of the whole picture and each other, building networks. The big picture that many teams strive towards - supporting the robot competition, the Chairman's Award and the other awards, along with pulling off an event of high caliber and integrity - showcasing excellence.

Talent and skill comes in every shape and form and non-engineering mentors, working alongside and with, the engineering and technical mentors, can provide terrific opportunities. We can be role models in this, working together and respecting each other. In CD we have spent a great deal of time discussing the value of the technical side of things and it easily shows itself on the field. The non-technical side of things shows itself on the field (by how teams conduct themselves) and in other areas of the competition. They each are facets/parts of the same competition and should be respected as such. If teams just want to build the robot and compete with the robot, that's fine. In my opinion, they are missing golden opportunities to celebrate and more fully understand what it means to be an FRC team, but it is just fine.

I agree with Mark, I don't really think there is a problem.
There shouldn't be.
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Unread 09-02-2009, 12:53 PM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

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Originally Posted by Paul Copioli View Post
#2 above is the single biggest argument to give the CA more points. My opinion is 10 points (if someone wins GM Industrial Design twice they get 10 points, 2 * 5).
Personally I think the Chairmans should be worth the same amount of points as being the alliance captain of the winning alliance.
Quote:
Originally Posted by FIRST
Overview
The Chairman’s Award was created to keep the focus of the FIRST Robotics Competition on our ultimate goal to transform the culture in ways that will inspire greater levels of respect and honor for science and technology, as well as encourage more of today’s youth to become scientists, engineers, and technologists.
The Chairman’s Award represents the spirit of FIRST. It honors the team that, in the judges’ estimation, best represents a model for other teams to emulate, and which embodies the goals and purpose of FIRST. It remains FIRST’s most prestigious award.
If it's the most prestigious award, shouldn't it get the most points?

But any recognition of Chairmans and the other culture changing awards is great.

I would agree that Chm, EI and RAS should only get points for one event.
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Unread 09-02-2009, 01:26 PM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

If people are looking into tweaking the FIM rules, something from last year bothered me. It was teams getting a third district and getting the extra open bag time. I think getting a third district at a reduced rate is great but it just doesn't seem fair to the other teams that got to touch their robot only twice. What i'm trying to say is if you get a third event you can't open your bag till your at the event. Also, if they set the rosters early enough and see that they need to fill in with third event teams, why not open it up to out of state teams. Sure, those teams wouldn't earn any tickets to atlanta but niether do the michigan teams.
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Unread 09-02-2009, 01:44 PM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

I'm going to take a moment to reflect on this situation as a means of seeing a forest for the trees at the macro-level, and not solely based upon the merits of the specific FRC District Model at the micro-level. So bear with me for a (somewhat) short moment.

Before you read anything else in this post, read the question below, then think about it for at least 30 seconds in your head before reading anything else. Consider it exercise to get the creative thinking juices flowing again, as they tend to coagulate during the non-build-season times of the year. ;-)

How did a car end up in nearly every driveway in America?

No seriously, think about this before you continue reading with the same fever as when you saw your first-ever FRC Game Hint!



























Okay, that wasn't so bad, was it?

So how did a car end up in nearly every driveway in America? It certainly wasn't by taking a $10,000 Cadillac, replacing a few shiny chrome and brass parts, and shaving 20-30% of the list price. Rather, it was when Henry Ford's greatest innovation, the modern assembly line, was able to drastically alter how cars were made, for a fraction of the price. $300 for a Model T put car ownership into the realm of possibility for most of America.

Now please don't take this the wrong way, for I mean no harm, but it's always seemed to me that the FRC District Models are taking the eliminate-shiny-brass-from-Cadillac method. On the whole, it's still a Cadillac, just not as shiny, but still easily costs thousands upon thousands of dollars to buy one.

If our goal is to genuinely put a FIRST* team into the majority of schools in America, should we take the eliminate-shininess-of-Cadillac route or should we take on the Henry-Ford-style-innovation route to put a FIRST presence in most schools?

Most rational people would not call Henry Ford elitist because he was able to put an inexpensive car into the hands of most Americans. But last year, I was repeated called elitist for suggesting a similar Henry-Ford-style method for growing the FIRST program - the FIRST Tech Challenge. (Also the Vex Robotics Competition, if our goal is to increase STEM awareness and not just expand the "FIRST-brand-name". But that's another discussion for another day).

The FIRST Tech Challenge costs a fraction of what even District-Style FRC costs, for teams, for events, for sponsors, for everyone. If our goal is to genuinely put FIRST into the majority of schools, this is how we will do it. For less than the price of a FRC control system, you can run at least one FTC team (including registration, most expenses, and materials costs) for a year. Think about that.

While the Districts are great for reducing internal costs for FRC teams, as well as running cheaper events, this isn't the method that will get FIRST in every school. FTC/VRC is that solution.

Now last year I brought up this point, a bunch of people attacked this idea as [paraphrased] saying "why should we even have FRC in the first place if FTC is so good?" This argument is a classic case of misapplying a macro-level concept to a micro-level concept. This kind of argument makes as much sense as saying "why do we need airplanes (and/or high speed trains) when you can drive anywhere in the country?"

Think of FIRST like a pyramid. At the base, we have FLL and JFLL. This is the foundation of the program, as well as the largest group. It's versatility, inexpensive nature, wide age range, and general small team size easily makes it the largest possible program. This group largely learns and is inspired through self trial-and-error of building/programming their robots, as well as their research project. It's also the cornerstone of FIRST, providing for a solid base of inspiration starting at a young age.

Moving up the pyramid, we have the middle group - FIRST Tech Challenge (also Vex Robotics Competition). Right now this market is largely untapped. There exists huge potential for growth in this area. This group in general is slightly older than FLL, and slightly younger than FRC, but heavily overlaps both areas. This group learns and is inspired through a mix of self-learning through trial-and-error and a more active mentorship to teach students about more advanced topics, such as gear trains, torque, etc. The costs for FTC/VRC are more expensive than FLL, but less than FRC, so the number of FTC/VRC teams would generally be less than FLL but more than FRC.

At the very top of the pyramid, is FRC. Like the light shining for dozens of miles from a seacoast lighthouse, FRC is the guiding light of FIRST. FRC is the program that everyone looks to for inspiration and guidance. This program specifically deals with older, high-school students, and by it's very nature necessitates a much larger amount of mentor involvement to be successful. Because of the increased costs, this program isn't economically feasible to put in the majority of high schools, but rather best suited for rather large team sizes with students coming from all over.

A heavily-biased FRC District Style growth model will probably be able to achieve maybe a 10-20% (at most) market penetration into high schools across the country. But a more balanced model of FTC/VRC and FRC would easily be able to make it into nearly every high school. In fact, as of this writing, several states, such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, are in the process of getting either a FTC/VRC team into every high school in their states, which is quite a large task. Unlike what most people assume, we still have large rural/agricultural areas up here in New England - we're not all one giant Boswash megalopolis.

But why am I skeptical about the growth potential of slightly cheaper FRC? Connecticut, as most people know, is the richest state per capita in the nation. (Please don't take that as being snobbish, it's not, it's simply the facts. The majority of people in "Da Cutt" don't wear popped collars or drive their parents convertibles to their yachts. Most people in Connecticut are average people). Getting on with my point, Connecticut has 169 towns/cities and no unincorporated land left. Not every town has a high school, but some cities have two or three high schools. All in all, I'd estimate FRC market penetration at about 20% in CT.

For about the last eight or so years, the number of teams in Connecticut has been relatively steady, around 30-35 teams. let's assume that an average FRC team spends $20k, and a district level competition will shave 25% off total costs ($5k in this case). This means that instead of a cumulative total of $600k-$700k supporting 30-35 teams, we could have about 40-46 teams with same amount of money. This could increase market penetration to about ~23%-27%. Not a particularly large growth amount. (And remember, this would be near the top end of what most other states could accomplish. We have lots of high-tech companies in the area (especially in Central Connecticut and the Worcester-Boston-Manchester triangle, and our state is small enough that even the remotest of remote rural areas aren't more than a 45-60 minute drive from our urban/industrial centers).

But why has the number of teams here remained steady? Even in the richest state per capita, we have a hard time attracting enough sponsors to support a significantly larger number of teams. If teams get innovative and an over-arching entity imposes "regulations" to guide funding sources more efficiently to teams who need it the most, we could probably pull in another 10 FRC teams. But such a system may meet philosophical resistance from some teams and people, despite actually benefiting the state's FRC teams in the long run.

So what do we do? FTC/VRC. Being a lot cheaper, we can much easier foot the bill to spread out to virgin STEM schools and start inspiring their students, while continuing to help our current FRC teams through this economic recession. Using these programs, we'll most likely easily get a STEM competition into nearly every school in our state. AND THAT IS OUR GOAL, TO GET S.T.E.M. COMPETITIONS INTO EVERY SCHOOL.

In the end, this all boils down to exactly the same lesson we are learning from this recession about always expecting continuous postive economic growth, continuous growth of housing markets, continuous market growth for financial derivatives and sub prime mortgages, etc. Expecting these to continue growing forever is foolish. Expecting FRC to continue growing forever is also foolish. There will be a limit, not a hard limit but rather quite fuzzy one, where even the inexpensive District-Style FRC will simply be unable to pass.

Not everyone can afford a Cadillac. Not everyone can afford a million dollar McMansion. And the important thing to realize is that there is no shame in this. There is no shame in not living a million-dollar Paris Hilton lifestyle. But there is a lot of shame in trying to live beyond your means. And right now, I think FIRST is trying to make the same mistake our economy made, and trying to invent new means to live beyond our means to continue our opulent lifestyle instead of realizing there's no shame in seeking less glamorous but more sustainable growth. And just like how our economy came all crashing down to correct our errors, if we try to overstretch FRC, market forces will eventually "correct" us whether we like it or not into a more sustainable fashion.

So Mr. Wise Aleck, since you seem so smart, what's your solution? If the decision was up to me, I'd put a significant portion of the effort and capital (both money and man-hours) that could be used into creating new district-level competitions into vastly expanding the middle-tier programs of FIRST Tech Challenge and Vex Robotics Competition, while still keeping a modest effort to continue growing FRC (for large portions of the country, I don't think we are near the economic limit of number of sustainable FRC teams). I'd also create a new campaign, one using the lessons learned from this recession, to be more humble with it comes to growing our program. No longer would pure growth "We started 7 teams!" be rewarded as the end-all-do-all, but rather "We created or saved a total of 7 FRC teams and 12 FTC/VRC teams, for a total audience of 300 total students." Sure, it's not as catchy, but it's vastly better for long term sustainable growth. I also wouldn't penalize regionals such as Michigan for trying new models and methods (such as district-level competitions) to internally reduce their costs, but would make it known that actions like devaluing cultural awards over technical awards is highly discouraged. (Although I don't have definite data to prove it, I'd guestimate there is a pretty strong correlation between the number of engineers on a team and number of technical awards won. This isn't a bad thing, as the idea of engineers and students working together is one of the basic core values of the program, but FIRST is primarily a vehicle for changing the culture, not bolting pieces of metal together. Even if the culture changing awards are usually won by the teams who win technical awards, it's the philosophical meaning behind them that necessitate their continued stay inside FIRST. And it's not an either-or situation, supporting the culture awards does not have to detract from the technical awards. They can both easily co-exist).

And for the teams who want to get more bang-for-their-buck, and have the chance to compete in more matches for cheaper amounts of money, I would give them strong encouragement to start literally DOZENS of off-season competitions in their area. Let local teams run these events, and use them as a fundraiser to help fund their team. A great example of this system is here in the Northeast. There are literally over a dozen off-season competitions within a six-hour drive of almost anywhere in the Northeast. Most of these are small, and with registration costs ranging from $50 to $350, they represent a HUGE bargain. It's not uncommon for a team in the Northeast to attend up to a half dozen off-season competitions from May through November. Many teams around here are year-round teams, and continue meeting the entire year. And with this system, we help both other local teams raise money to fund their programs, as well as have the ability to compete in dozens upon dozens of matches at very little cost.


* FIRST DOES NOT EQUAL FRC!!!
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Unread 09-02-2009, 01:44 PM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

Good discussion here. As best as I can see it, the district model presumes two things:

1. More FRC plays per season inspires more students toward science and technology futures while instilling in them a stronger social conscience than their non-involved peers.

2. Making FRC more accessible in "FRC-dense" areas is the best way to spread FIRST's mission, goals, and ideals.

The funny thing is, I don't think any of us have any data to support one way or another here. Unless we really had a handle on all of our team alumni, found out exactly what they are doing today - who's involved in STEM-related education/work and who isn't, then find out how many of those alums carry with them the "social-conscience/volunteer" piece FIRST places such a priority on with the culture-changing awards and culture, THEN find out how many plays per year their teams had in FRC ...

then we'd really know where to dedicate our money, people, and time. Right?

If we're talking only about making FRC more affordable and accessible to areas that are already involved in FRC heavily, then the district model certainly serves a purpose.

But, if we're really talking about the core mission of FIRST, I'm not entirely sure if the district vs "regular" model discussion even matters. The fact that FIRST has other programs, including FTC, and none of that is really a part of this whole discussion bothers me a little.

For years, both inside FIRST offices and out in our communities, I've heard a lot of discussion and reporting on # of FRC plays, # of FRC second plays, etc and I still am not quite sure if this metric matters at all to what we're supposed to be doing for our global future.

Is it cool and exciting when we're there and do we get to win more stuff? Yeah, but ...
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Unread 09-02-2009, 01:47 PM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

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Originally Posted by Mark McLeod View Post
Greetings Teams:
[/font]94% of team leaders, mentors and team members rated their District Model experience as “good” or “excellent;”
This stuck out. This seems to be all about the mentors and FIRST. Don't they forget it's all about the kids, and if they're not learning or having fun, it's a waste?
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Unread 09-02-2009, 02:18 PM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

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Originally Posted by Joe Matt View Post
This stuck out. This seems to be all about the mentors and FIRST. Don't they forget it's all about the kids, and if they're not learning or having fun, it's a waste?
The term "Team Members" here is used generally to mean students as it is limited to age 19 and under. Looking only at the Team Members numbers they fall essentially inline with the overall numbers. 94.4% of the "student" category rated the overall tournament experience as good or excellent.
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Unread 09-02-2009, 02:20 PM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

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Originally Posted by Joe Matt View Post
This stuck out. This seems to be all about the mentors and FIRST. Don't they forget it's all about the kids, and if they're not learning or having fun, it's a waste?
Joe, please go read some of Dave's posts from around build season. It's not all about the kids, it's all about the partnership between the mentors and the students. (And, a good mentor is also a good student...) Also note that this is the overall number for the team survey.

If the students aren't learning, being inspired, or having fun, they'll quit. This is their option. If enough students quit, then the team no longer exists, and the problem definition changes.

What I'm surprised at is how few students responded to the survey, comparatively. Off the top of my head, about 150-200 mentors and about 100-150 students responded. (I haven't looked at the results in a couple of weeks, so these figures are probably wrong, but I do remember that more mentors than students responded.) This may have to do with the distribution methods, but the ratio of students to mentors responding was low for what the number should probably be. I don't know why.
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Unread 09-02-2009, 04:06 PM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

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Originally Posted by EricH View Post

What I'm surprised at is how few students responded to the survey, comparatively. Off the top of my head, about 150-200 mentors and about 100-150 students responded. (I haven't looked at the results in a couple of weeks, so these figures are probably wrong, but I do remember that more mentors than students responded.) This may have to do with the distribution methods, but the ratio of students to mentors responding was low for what the number should probably be. I don't know why.

My guess would be three-fold for the low student turn out.
#1 The university that did the survey sent it out after the season was over, which puts you late into the "I don't care or am too busy" portion of the school calendar. This is especially true for Seniors.

#2 The team leader/contact may not have passed things. It happens.

#3 Have you ever asked for a student to get a permission slip to be signed? Have you ever read the numbers of submissions for Scholarships? I was amazed at the IRI that a really great scholarship was not given out because..... NO ONE APPLIED!!!
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Unread 09-02-2009, 04:35 PM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

i know on my team and a few others around, this survey was not even given to the students.
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Unread 09-02-2009, 05:01 PM
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Re: **FIRST EMAIL**/FIRST Adds District Event Model Alternative to FRC Program

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Originally Posted by fuzzy1718 View Post
i know on my team and a few others around, this survey was not even given to the students.
Well that's a little disappointing, hate to say it. :/
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