263 needs help.

Hello everyone,

I feel it only fair to warn you, this may be a long post. I am posting because of the apparent demise of F.I.R.S.T Team #263, Sachem Aftershock. The teams advisors had to leave due to personal issues and left us without teachers. We cannot operate out of our school without faculty supervision. We have asked several other teachers to take us on and some have agreed, however now it seems the school district doesn’t want us to restore the team. Our district last year had two high schools, actually it was technically one school with two separate campuses. One held 9th and 10th graders, the other held 11th and 12th. In the senior campus, we held robotics, but anyone in the four grades could join. Now we are two high schools, separate buildings far from each other. A lot of clubs were eliminated because they couldn’t be run at both schools. Since we know it would be overkill to run two teams we wanted to run it as run team between two schools. I know this has been done before in F.I.R.S.T. Our school isn’t being very cooperative however and we fear the damage may already have settled. We’re planning to attend the next board meeting to discuss it, Does anyone have any better suggestions?

Some examples are always nice. When you go to the meeting, bring in a lot of info about the teams in FIRST that are multiple high schools into one team and show all of the benefits of such a program. Some of the benefits of multiple high schools are diverse views, bringing together parts of the community, so on and so forth. Although I’m sure you’re not going to, I’ll just say, don’t whine or anything of the sort. Be professional. Gracious professionalism at it’s best. See their point of view, and relate your views to it and show that what may appear to them as something bad, may actually be good. Present your team at it’s best and look good. Dress up, be presentable. Hopefully everything will work out for you. I wish you the best.

Sorry I didn’t have any better ideas on what to do. I try.


Definitely attend the board meeting and find out EXACTLY what issues they have with your team. As JAH said definitely present your team. Have as many members as possible go to show support. Let them see for themselves how many people will be affected by the extinction of the team. This would include not only students but mentors, parents, and teachers that devote time to the team. One question I have is with the new teachers you asked. You didn’t mention if you asked teachers from both schools. If you asked or can only get support from one school than the other school may feel left out and possible issues may arise.

The teachers were asked from both schools . One of the problems faced by the team is that there are no teachers left, and the ones that used to appeared to do it for the wrong reasons.

I am a current member of the possibly non existent team 263.

Multiple examples of successful programs that are multi-school. Many administrators cannot understand how FIRST works and would assume a high level of competition between schools on the same team. Show them it works.

Try to find an ally on the board. Talk to them in advance. Get some support on the board before you talk to the board.

Prepare a written speech and then give it to people who don’t know a lot about the program. You can get good feedback and questions to make your presentation stronger.

GP to the ultimate. Show respect to the board and administration. Show how positive you can be without cutting the other view down as ‘wrong’.

Let us know how it goes.

If it’s any good, I’ll throw 1293’s story thus far out.

We’re one district with three high schools (the furthest two being at least thirty minutes away from each other). Two (Irmo and Dutch Fork) are rivals in EVERYTHING. If there is a contest both enter, it’s a rivalry.

The FIRST team this year went marvelously. There wasn’t any inter-school quibbling (alright, the odd joke about Dutch Fork engineering–we’re human) that I know of. The only thing I noticed was a somewhat disproportionate amount of Irmo and Dutch Fork students. Chapin, our third part, is pretty far away from Irmo (where we built), and amounted for about four students out of some twenty or twenty-five. Of course, Chapin is also a much smaller school, so take that as you will.

But if there’s one thing I can tell you about talking to school boards…well, here’s the short list.

  1. Speak slowly and clearly. They won’t approve anything they can’t understand.
  2. Visual aids help. Pictures, slides, shoot, the robot itself can all be useful. Just make sure you don’t drone on too long.
  3. Like Chris said, overdose on GP (if that’s possible).

In our case we don’t have any teachers who come to meetings. Redondo has learned to trust us 3 main parent/mentor/volunteers. In an unusual move, my husband has keys to the school and security codes. That trust was earned over a period of time.

Manhattan Beach used to support our team, but now doesn’t officially. We’re hoping that will change since they have a new Principal.

Because our situation is unique it sometimes has been a struggle to get permissions, keep a place to work out of, get in school bulletins, in school yearbooks, etc. We plug along a step at a time.

This is our 9th year as two rival schools on one team. Do attend the school board meeting, ask your parents what they can do, get to know teachers, educational advisors, invite them to trips (we recruited a teacher and ea who don’t attend meetings but support our team, and go on trips).

Matt, many teams have gone through a variation of what your team is experiencing

1)It sounds like a lot is going on with restructuring the schools in the systems.The school board, the teachers, the administration aren’t the enemy. Your job, along with the hard core teammates, your parents, your mentors is to help them understand what FIRST is about.

  1. Like most FIRST school-based teams, you need a teacher. (I think 294S situation is unusual in that there is so much liability associated with teams.) Is there at least one teacher willing to take this on as the lead adviser? Best would be a teacher from each school. This is key. FIRST is tough on teachers and mentors. Have this teacher join NEMO for support.

  2. Contact the school board and make sure you are on the calendar. Don’t just show up. Prepare an agenda and stick to it. Prepare a presentation. Bring the robot. Keep this to 10-15 minutes. Talk about the scholarships available ($4.5 million last year). Do you have any information on what your alumni is doing now? Can you get any testimonials from them? Talk about fund raising and the business skills that are a part of any successful program. Do you have the funding set for the coming year for at least one competition? I couldn’t tell whether the school has funded you in the past. Be very clear in what you are asking for.

4)If you think it will help, I can send you a copy of the testimonial written by the president of all the school boards in Maryland, about our team, but really about the benefits of FIRST. PM me with an address.

RAGE has always had students from multiple high schools. We feel it is one of our strengths. There are issues we need to overcome each year, like asking permission of each school board to travel, but it can be done. The key to having a team with multiple high schools is organization. If you get off the ground, be sure to elect a team student liaison from each school. His/her responsibility would be to get the policies for travel, permission slips, and anything administrative like that from each high school. Policies vary from school to school and you want to be sure to meet each school’s expectations.

Don’t forget to look at the FIRST website for materials. The Annual report and other media materials provide a wealth of information that is presented in a professional format for you to use.

The board members of Sachem High School do understand how the program works and how well it does work there. The superintendent started the team back in 1998 and had a major role in starting the SBPLI regional. The problem of keeping the team alive is not in the administration, but in the method they are using the split the schools, and the obvious adviser problem. Their logic in the split is, two schools, each separate but equal to the other. A club that exists at one school has to be at the other with equal funding. The FIRST team isn’t the only club to suffer from this rule, but its the main one. Also, there is some recent sponsorship changes and position changes in the companies who sponsor 263 that will make acquiring any money a difficulty.

After the 2002 season, our main adviser, Carl Erickson, left the team when he was promoted from Regents Physics to AP Physics and wanted to take a break for a few years to adjust to his new work load, understandable. The adviser who did all the paperwork previously, took over the team and persuaded a computer course teacher to co-lead the team. Neither were very interested in managing the program, so as a result myself and the other student leaders ran every aspect of the team in 2003 aside from the paperwork for the school. After we graduated, the team had a very rookie-aspect to it, and the advisor’s didn’t like the idea of myself and other leaders coming back to help out/train new leaders, so as a result the advisor’s were forced to run the team, and saw the amount of time that needs to be invested into a team. They had stuck around for the money until then, but then it just became not worth it for them since there was really no interest on their part. Sachem pays robotics advisor’s the same pay bonus as they do to the head football coach. Bottom line, not the ideal FIRST advisor’s you’d want to continue a successful team.

My advice to you now is simple, before school starts contact Mr. Erickson and see if he has heard about whats happened, and get his suggestions, maybe he can talk to a few friends and get an adviser. You could also try going to Mr. Mac, the APC Physics teacher. If you can find an adviser, you’ll probably have to settle with a one regional dual-school team to pilot the idea and make sure it can work with the busing back and forth method Sachem has thought up for you. Having been a 3 year member and previous team leader, I’ll help you guys get things together again if you want it, and I could talk to a few teachers if you wanted me to. Contact me if your interested in giving it another shot.


For the past 7 years Team #64, the Gila Monsters, has been open to students from two different school districts with five different high schools. We are rivals in all areas from sports to state exams, but we come together as one unit when it comes to FIRST.

If there is anything we can do to help, please feel free to contact me.


I’d like to thank everyone for all their help, we’ve taken your suggestions to a heavy discussion and we’re working on our presentations.

However, a recent turn of events may prove them unneeded, we just find out today the school hadn’t completely terminated the program, despite us being told so, we’re trying to make a discreet advisor swap from our old ones, still listed, to our new ones without much trouble. We’ll be posting our results soon I hope.

Cross fingers for us everyone!