Choosing Competition Team?

tl;dr: Fair ways to do it?

Our team relies on an honor system of signing in and signing out of the shop, then calculates average hours per week and takes everyone above a cutoff. However, there be issues.

People can log hours but not be productive, and because shop hours are our sole criteria for choosing people who go to competition, productivity isn’t taken into account. If we let productivity influence the decisions, the door is opened up to the subjectivity of student leadership, since we don’t have any adults involved enough to moderate. That’s slightly unfair and potentially creates accusatory situations, which we’d like to avoid.

So, got any suggestions for a nice unbiased method? What does your team do?


254 has done many different methods over the years but here’s how we currently select from our pool of 100+ members.

We break down the “competition team” into nesting groups:

  • Travel
    –On-Call Pit Crew / Fit-it Team
    —Pit Crew

Pit Crew are students who have skills that make them critical (such as wiring, or programming), or they want to maintain the robot and do a pre-match checklist. They all talk to visitors and 1-2 of them talk to judges. These are usually sophomores or higher, and are picked by the FRC Competition Director and the Lead Pit Mentor, hours are not usually a factor because these students have specific skills so niche that there is a clear demarcation. Typically 10 students including drive team.

The On-Call Pit Crew / Fit-it Team adds the rest of the committed students, especially passionate freshman, and these students spend time doing pre-match strategy, “cheese-caking”, and fixing/helping other team’s robots. They are not usually in the pit but may be called in if their particular subsystem breaks. Many enjoy watching matches and doing “qualitative scouting.” Some years we’ve had these students rotate into the pit crew and do a checklist for a few matches. These students are often picked based off hours. Typically 10 more students.

For travel tournaments where we stay in a hotel, other students can only come if they reach a certain threshold of hours (typically about 80hrs by the end of the 6 week season) as we have a limited number of plane/bus seats. This list can be adjusted by faculty and mentors based on a student’s academics or behavior. These students are usually scouting (quantitative and qualitative), cheering, or meeting other teams. Typically 10-15 more students to reach a maximum of a 35 student travel team.

To actually answer your question:

-Try breaking down the various tasks you need done at competition and begin by assigning the most difficult, niche, or important ones to those members that possess those skills and are clearly critical to their area of expertise.

-Then add in as many other students as you can take based off some quantitative measurement, like hours, and leave “close-calls” up to faculty/mentors.

-If faculty or mentor support is not available then maybe the bias/subjectivity of individuals can be reduced by making these decisions be something like 2/3 majority of the entire student leadership team.


Are you saying you DON’T allow some of you team to attend competition? Even as spectators or “spirit” team?

I suppose if the team is paying for transportation/hotels, or students are missing school this is a big concern.

Idea (which we’ve never fully implemented): student leadership logs completion of work by students in their sub-team area. So, programming lead logs who has uploaded to Git… CAD lead tracks contribution to designs… etc. Then a mentor who has the power of allowing or denying a student to attend has more evidence to support their decision.

We take every student that qualifies for competitions with us, so we don’t have a hard cap on attendance at events. We have been trying to maintain a consistent and manageable team size overall though, and the number of students we can handle during travel helps determine that ideal size (right now low 40s is working well).

Our requirements for attending competitions are based on three things: attendance, grades, and a point system. For most of our competitions the attendance requirement is simply showing up to >50% of our full team meetings. The grade requirement is mostly set by our school and prevents students who are failing courses from missing school for competitions.

Our point system exists to put some burden of responsibility on our students and to ensure that we are only taking students that have contributed to the team in some fashion. Once a student feel he/she has accomplished something (as a guideline around 3-4 hours of work), he/she is responsible for asking a mentor to sign off on a point. Our first competitions require just a handful of points, FIRST championships requires more (10 points this year).

It is very rare that a student doesn’t have enough points to qualify to attend a competition, but it creates enough of a bar that if a student really isn’t contributing to the team we have data to prove it. We put it in place a number of years ago when we had students who would show up to meetings, play video games or otherwise not contribute, then expect to miss school to go to competitions with us. That hasn’t been much of a problem in recent years, but we like the system for other things like varsity letter requirements as well.

Having a medium sized team of about 20 students, usually we take whoever can come. There is technically a restriction for grades, but we’ve never had to call anyone out on it.

Anyone who isn’t in the pits, a driver, or presenting Chairman’s is scouting.

My team also logs hours spent in the shop and there is a cutoff requirement of hours. As for the productivity of some people, you could have documentation for what gets done on projects everyday and make sure the names of everyone who worked on that project is documented and what they did (to make sure they don’t lie, you could have the project leader do this).

We also have grade requirements we need to have and if someone’s grades don’t meet the requirements, even if they have the hours then that student cannot attend.

Good luck finding your competition team!

Well, we try to align Prom with Worlds so that it makes it easier for 4607 :smiley: !

In all reality, we are a fairly large team with 57 members and 15 mentors. Now, not all members have a fair share in the game; some give little, some give a lot… but all members do contribute to the team. We do abide by our State HS league association’s rules (MSHSL) as well as the schools attendance and grading policies when it comes to student’s dismissal from school.

We try to accommodate all (students, mentors, family) for each regional we attend. Our primary (home) regional is in Minneapolis (about 1 hour from Becker) and therefore we do not stay overnight - so for logistics it is just the travel to and from our home regional.

We have attended a Duluth Regional the past two seasons and this has been our ‘away’ regional. We on 4607 see things a bit differently than some teams as the regional events are not just about the competition than they are about celebrating what the team has accomplished the 4-5 months leading up to the competition.

This has been rewarding due to a large following where ever we go. However, this year we started to notice a portion of the members treating the team as a ‘social club’ and not a sincere and serious endeavor. It has lead to some distraction at times and a not-so-vibrant fan base in Duluth this year, but that could be due to our poor performance at that event. So we will be looking at how we operate in the coming seasons, but I really do not like to limit the amount of students attending these competitions as I feel that the events can be a catalyst for our future leaders on the team. I think that we will be laying out more stringent guidelines - aka ‘forced family fun’!

We’ve had a “field trip” cap of 25 students for school-day events; Saturday is open to all team members. The only year this team was much larger, 2015, it basically came down to “who is most needed?” Drive team, pit crew (chosen by each department head) and chairman’s team were first in line, followed by those filling such functions as scout, ambassador, mascot, and so forth. In most if not all cases, nominations were by student leadership, with the head coach making the final decisions (which ran VERY close to the student nominations).

For cost students typically have to pay their own hotel costs and food outside of the sponsored meals. For St. Louis next week I know we decided to pick a hotel that comped the room for the bus driver which we’re grateful for.

In order to travel with the team we have a number of things students have to comply with. We follow the same grading criteria that all sports have to for travel & build. You have to attend at least 80% of build season meetings and of course make it to Kickoff unless there’s an emergency

In terms of what students get to go, it really goes off of merit and observed productivity that also go with your other required criteria. While I understand it’s difficult staying objective, the opinion of a student leadership group on the team is probably one of the best ways to figure out who will be the best choice to bring with you. It should be something they need try to figure out from an objective standpoint. I know it’s hard to stay rational with that but it is for the chances of the team. Since it’s up to them, the student leadership should try to figure out what issues they could most likely encounter and who is the most productive/can get the work done in a worst case scenario. Those are the people you should make sure to bring.

Having your drive team, safety captain, and leadership is always a priority, but also having a handful of people from each sub team and as many scouters you might need if there are people working on the robot/talking to judges. In my opinion t’s definitely about answering the question of “What are things that can go wrong?” and leading to “Who can fix it efficiently with time and travel resources?”

For competitions on school days, my old team took a pit team and drive team for the practice day if it was a local competition. For the other days, or if it wasn’t local, we would take anybody and everybody that wanted to come and could pay for it if they were passing all their classes.

With our team steadily growing we have had to adapt, I have not been involved with hours and the go/no-go list in… long thoughtful pause pretty much ever, so my opinion may not carry that much weight here…

Have you tried logging fundraising hours separately? We have, for years, given 2x hours for fundraising events, since these usually means >90% productivity time. You can be sure that those hours are real and contribute to the team without someone being liberal with their shop hours.

Grades also are a factor, but the school, and lead mentor(s) handle that aspect.

I would imagine this system would not scale well to 50+ dedicated students that put in the time and have skills. Just thought I’d share.

We have the normal grade requirements that all activities at the school have, and when students are going to miss class there’s a form they have to have their teachers sign approving it (which is only a problem if a student is really struggling).

Aside from that, we do have an attendance requirement. Students have to attend at least 50% of the scheduled meeting time for their subteam. This lets us separate out the business team, which has more meeting requirements in the off-season than during the build season, and lets us break the meeting times up so that (for example) the programming team, drive team, and build team are not all trying to use the robot at the same time.

50% attendance really isn’t that hard to hit. We had 4 students not get to that point this year. It’s not so much that they tried but barely missed - they were all under 33% attendance and had whole weeks where we wouldn’t see them, and weeks where they only showed up to part of one meeting. We also provide “extra credit” attendance hours to help students - for example, we attend 2 week-0 events, but only one of them counts for required hours. Attending both gives you an extra ~8 hours! Aside from these 4 students, we only had 2 others that have below 80% attendance (the limit for lettering).

We feel attendance is a good enough metric to use. If students aren’t being productive at a meeting, it really is a failure of the team leadership (both mentor AND student). We need to find ways to engage everyone, keep them interested and working towards the team success. It’s worked for us so far.

Team 74 takes all students who meet
A) the grade criteria set forth at the beginning of the year
B) the attendance criteria set forth at the beginning of the year.
We always make sure that the most dedicated students can travel with the team, so they would generally get priority, but luckily our team is small enough to take all of our students to competitions.

If you have a team that is too large to travel as a whole, choose students that are essential to making the competition work well for you (e.g. pit crew, drive team, scouting team), similar to what Andrew suggested.

Last year we went to a competition that was a bit out of town, and we had to stay in a hotel. We could only take 10 people or so. The coaches and mentors picked based on attendance and contribution to the team. Unfortunately it’s a bit of a vicious cycle, since people who can’t come to competition have less motivation to come to meetings afterwards.

1072 has few enough students that anybody that signs up can go (typically 25-35 from what I saw this year).
115 had over 100 students on paper, and indeed at least 50 people would want to go to competitions. Because mentors were unable to manage more than 35-odd students, generally something similar to what Andrew wrote above would be used: core crew goes for sure, active students/distinguished students would go next. For the local regional (SVR) all students were invited to come.