Advice for a potential rookie team?

I’m thinking of trying to get an FRC team started at my high school. I learned about it because last school year I spent a lot of time with my school’s main tech teacher. I remember him mentioning that our school, Harriton High School, used to have a FIRST Robotics team, but it doesn’t any more. I assume because of lack of interest. I already spend a great deal of time with robots regularly. I’ve been in another middle/high school competition, Science Olympiad, for 5 years now, and I always do the robotics events. Last year, the robotics event was called Sumo Bots, which works just like you’d think it would. These were nothing like FIRST, though: the weight limit was 2 kilos, and the rules were a page or two. My friends and I built a bot that got 1st place at the regional and state level, and 8th at the national level (out of something like 4000 teams nationwide). There’s a great youtube video of it here. It was the most fun event I’ve ever done. Unfortunately, they’re changing it to a robot arm this year. Of course I’m going to build that too, but I still feel hungry for the excitement of building a real robot on wheels! So I looked up FIRST, and it seems to me like something I’d love to do if I could get the chance. But there are some problems. First of all, there’s the money. I’ve already sent some emails about organizing with the school, but I’m almost positive we’re going to need to raise the majority of the money on our own, or through sponsorship. Secondly, so far I only know of 1 other person willing to work on the bot. We have other friends that would be interested, but I doubt we’re going to get the 15 or so people it seems like you’d need for this kind of thing to work. And thirdly, I have other obligations. I’m not sure yet how much time I’ll be able to put into this over a 6 week span. So I figure I should tap into the experience of those of you who have already been on a team, or maybe even started one! So, any suggestions on how to make this work? My friends and I appreciate any insight you can give me. :slight_smile:

2011 was my school’s rookie year. It was chaos.
But only because we didn’t know how much work it was going to be. We didn’t do the research. We showed up to our regional with 12 kids and three teachers, myself included. Other rookie teams we saw at a quick build day had 20+ kids, a handful of teachers, and a few professional engineers as well.

My advice is seek out a teacher that believes in the cause. It can be hard but you’ll need them to get some of the paperwork done. JC Penney provided us a grant last year, and we’re applying again as a second-year team (fingers crossed). They have $10k grants for rookie teams this year. Apply! NASA also has grants. Apply!

FIRST teams do not have to be attached to a single school, so see about getting students from the surrounding area, too.

You’re actually in luck. Lower Merion HS has a robotics team, 1712 DAWGMA.

Get in touch with them ASAP and they’ll help you get started or help you find a way to maybe join their team.

http://dawgma.lmtechclub.org/contact/

Or one of their other mentors on here:
http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/member.php?u=5183

The best help is when you get 1 on 1 attention, so please contact them first.

This could be a deal-breaker*.

Building an FRC-class robot takes a lot of effort, even if you don’t wish to be competitive. The alternative is to spend big money and not be allowed to compete because you don’t have a robot. Not fair to your sponsors.

The advice to get in touch with Team 1712 Dawgma is excellent. Do that. After some time with them, you’ll be much better prepared to start a team.

(Full Disclosure: In the past, teams have showed uyp at competition with a pile of parts, and others have built them a functioning robot in a day. But, trust me, this is not ideal)

*Assuming you don’t have a dozen very dedicated colleagues that’ll take up your slack.

Hehe, same, so so true. My best advice is to do as much planning as you can and try to not pull too many late nights.

You already have a good start with yourself and another student. That’s how teams get going. When other students find out what you are doing, they will want to join.

A team of 12 is not bad for a first year. Having too many students makes it hard to keep everyone busy and 12 students can build a good rookie robot and do the tee shirts and other things that a team needs to do.

There is help out there for you. Go to the FIRST website (usfirst.org) and look around. One page

(http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc/content.aspx?id=5504)

tells you exactly how to go about starting a new team. One of the things you need to do RIGHT NOW is get in contact with the Regional Director in your area and instructions are on this page for doing that. The Regional Director’s job is to help get new teams going (among a lot of other things). He or she will find you mentors, sponsors, and most importantly, money to start your team. It takes about $11,000 the first year to get your team going. That’s more money than anyone would expect your team members to raise by yourselves. That what sponsors are for–to provide funds and mentors to help your team.

One thing you will have to do is find an adult at your school to act as coach, or sponsor, or whatever your school calls “club leaders”. That person doesn’t need to know everything about building robots, but does need to commit to being with you during meetings and while you are building your robot, so it’s an important, time consuming job.

And great news–since your school had a FRC team in the past, you already have a team number! FIRST never re-issues team numbers, so when your team gets going, you can claim the number that was given your school.

Good luck getting your team going, and keep asking questions, questions, and more questions. Unlike other competition teams, EVERYONE in FIRST wants you to succeed and everyone will be willing to help. Don’t let yourself get discouraged before you ask for help.

Dr. Bob

P.S. Did I remember to tell you not to be afraid to ask for help???

Not always the case. There was a FIRST team at my high school that folded but FIRST gave us a new number probably because no one from the original team was involved in what became 1732.

I think the most important thing is finding a dedicated mentor with some FIRST experience to mentor your team or atleast guide you. 1712 and your regional director is a good place to start.

Well… It’s a little more complicated than that. Take a look at the rookie criteria; those cover the new number/old number dilemma.

Secondly, so far I only know of 1 other person willing to work on the bot. We have other friends that would be interested, but I doubt we’re going to get the 15 or so people it seems like you’d need for this kind of thing to work

Remember, the biggest selling point of the FIRST program is Inspiration! The idea is to attract people who wouldn’t normally be interested in robotics, and show them how exciting it is. Focus on recruiting, and remember that there’s a lot required for a FRC team beyond the construction of a robot as well.

And to echo the comments of others, to be successful, work hard, and ask for and accept every bit of help you can get. Other local teams are a fantastic resources.

Thanks for all the help guys! I know a lot of people at LMHS, so I’m sure I’ll be able to contact and meet with their team for help. Looks like contacting places like NASA and JC Penny would be good for sponsorship, and I’ve found our region’s website, so I can contact them. Of course, I’m waiting on a reply from that tech teacher to see if he’s willing to help us start a team, or can tell us who would. Until then I don’t think it’s a good idea to contact people like the regional director. Thanks though!

Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. CD is a great place to get your answers. We were all rookie teams at some point.
Take a look at USFIRST.org as well for more info on how to start a team.

Not pulling late nights? yea that isnt possible, well not for dedicated students :slight_smile:

Let’s not scare 'em away yet! :stuck_out_tongue: it is totally possible, if you use your work time correctly :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Remember, you’re not a one-man team. This shouldn’t be as big of a problem as you may think. It’s not like Science Olympiad, where all of the pressure for each event usually lies on two or three people - everyone should be expected to pull some weight (it is true that some will pull more than others, but nobody should be doing everything).

No matter what, everyone is going to win some and lose some when you do multiple activities. If you miss a student council (I’ll just use that as a running example) event to go to robotics, then skip robotics for the next event. Balance as much as you can. Explain to whoever’s in charge of student council what FIRST is, that you’re working towards a final product and have a deadline, and that you’re not just playing around with computers. Make sure that they understand that, while you may be missing some of their events for robotics, robotics is also missing you because of your obligations to student council, and give them a schedule. Now, if by “other obligations,” you mean “I have a job,” that’s a different story. It’s a purely personal choice, but most will say that your job should come before robotics. It’s entirely up to you what to do with that (I had an after school job for two build seasons, and I just came to robotics after work. My friend, on the other hand, worked at a pizza shop, and did robotics on weekdays and work on weekends. Depends on your schedule).

It sounds like you’re off to a great start already! Good luck, and hopefully we’ll see you at the competitions :slight_smile:

I said don’t pull too many, they tend to upset parents and administrators, especially if you make a habit of it.

Come up with a road map and plan how you want your team to be in four years. A dedicated roadmap will not only help relieve some stress for your rookie year, but it will help with becoming a team that doesn’t struggle with building a robot every year and has time to do the other parts of first.