Entry Fee Increase---hurting teams

I am interested in finding out how many other teams are almost destroyed by FIRST’s latest price increase?

I understand that many components in our kits, competition etc are very expensive. But at this rate, team numbers are going to decrease, as well as rookie team recruitment.

There are several options that could solve these problems. Eliminating most of the kit components (many things end up in trash) If teams had vouchers for their motors, and other necessary components, and if kit inventory lists were released early, teams could gather up the things they want to use–this would require kits to be sent to rookies only maybe. Veteran teams will have vouchers to order the motors they choose to use.

The computers on the robot and control station could also be used for 2 seasons. This would reduce the costs by at least $1000 each year that it was reused. I know that this component is updated every few years, but why not reuse it at least 1 year.

There are many, many other creative ways to cut costs. We just have to be willing to explore these methods with an open mind.

I know that many teams are “super-funded” and a thousand dollars is no big deal. But for many teams, we are already stretched as far as we can go. Another thousand increase for 1st regional and then another thousand for championship —that is a $2000 increase if a team wants to go to both events. That $1000-2000 dollars was the money for our metal and parts for robot, and some travel money. This is a HUGE problem for many teams now. I would really like other teams that are hurting to respond—without feedback, no one will ever think this is a problem.

What I can see happening is that the “super-funded” teams will be the primary participants at the championship and at a 2nd regional.

The rest of the “budget–challenged” teams will be doing good to attend 1 regional.

I am not trying to offend the “super-funded” teams–I think that is GREAT that you are able to do so many wonderful things, and pave the way as really good examples. So please don’t take it that way. I am simply trying to be a voice for teams that are really struggling right now—it seems that maybe no one has heard our pleas for lower fees. My own team is struggling—and I know of many others. Recruiting new teams is almost impossible now—the price tag is just too high for teams that don’t have a corporate sponsor with deep pockets.

I have already noticed that enrollment numbers are REALLY low in many regionals. Some have 10 or less teams signed up. I predict that there will be many regionals with less than 25 teams. Another point is that teams may sign up, but until they send in their payment—it isn’t a sure thing.

My message to FIRST----you may have priced yourself out of business. This price increase will not only cost many veteran team to quit, or consolidate with nearby teams, but rookie growth will also suffer. I hope that this price increase will be reconsidered soon.

I totally agree with you. As a noob of the FIRST competition, I have seen all over in these boards pretty negitive things about FIRST and the teams as far as how things are going to work. My teal also has a bit if a hard time with money but we are very well-determined people in a society where community service is usual. We’ve estimated our cost to be around $20,000 dollars which we can cut off by about $12,000 thanks to sponsors that we can get, but $6,000 is still pretty hard to get. I think there should be sponsors for the FIRST programs even, since they can’t get enough money and need to overly price us. If they do that, then the overall risk rating of FIRST going bankrupt will decrease. Until they do that (or to get more sponsors if they already have some), in 3-5 years, FIRST is going to be non-existant as far as I hear.

Uh, sorry to inform you but…

a.) we have more local teams than ever, 3 more, plus the vets.
b.) in one day for a car wash we made $600. I don't consider Sparky super funded, but that helped.
c.) If all else fails, you can join BEST ([www.bestinc.org](http://www.bestinc.org)). It's free and from what I hear, great.

When it boils down to it, it’s not like FIRST is charging us extra so they can fly Dean & Woody around first class more. I’ve talked to the people IN FIRST and they can say this is needed, and kinda said that last year the prices should have gone up.

And please, FIRST won’t go bankrupt. Dean will sell his house before that happens. Or atleast North Dumpling.

The dark hour is approaching!!! :stuck_out_tongue:

Seriously though, that is just the nature of this competition…like i said before there is no workshop on maintaining a team…only one for starting a team.

We would be well over 1000 teams now if half of the fallen teams, remained. Unfortunately the emphasis is starting new teams (NASA Grants etc) and there is little to help a veteran team in trouble (ex. 147 - Deep Thunder). Until we have an emphasis on both starting and maintaining teams we are going to see the amount of teams dwindle in certain areas. Florida for example has been on a downward trend of net gain of teams for the last few years. Most likely similar things are happening elsewhere, but I’d have to research nationally to find that out for sure. I only know Florida for fact which is why I reference it.

I know that my old team (992) was unable to do FIRST this year due to the price increase, and is instead doing the MATE underwater robotics competition.

Is FIRST expensive? YES
Is the payoff huge for FIRST participants? YES
The chance to interact with the likes of Dean, Woodie, Dave Lavery, John Abele, Steve Wosniak, … do I need to continue?
When was the last price increase before this one?
The increase was made public very early so teams could add to fundraising, sponsorship pushes, and grant writing efforts.

If you’re having a difficult time finding the 2K have you tried using a flyer like this one?
Lots of ideas for fundraisers are also all over these boards
Lots of grants out there for after school programs, technology-based learning, NASA programs, etc too…

I do realize the increased fees have had an impact, but it all comes down to how hard your team as a whole is willing to work at it. As for the “super-funded” teams you speak of, you’d be surprised to find out how few of them really exist. Don’t be fooled by large corporate names, it doesn’t always mean that they are spending huge dollars and the ones who are spending big bucks frequently spread it out over several teams or pump money directly to regional sponsorship.

I believe that the problems that people are having has nothing to do with the increase. The problem is with sponsors. I work in the real world in the field of communications. As the market goes up and down so does our work load. Businesses will spend money if they have it. This last 2 years I have seen a decline in spending and on these boards I have seen posts of teams saying that their sponsors have had to cut back and even some of sponsors going under. This makes raising money a little tougher. There is the point that veteran teams sometimes get lazy when they have some big sponsors. When the money starts to dry up then they have problems finding more. Our team does fairly well. We are probably in the top 1/3 of teams in the way of funding. We are always trying to get new leads and bring in new sponsors. It takes a lot of time and effort but is worth it. The fact that we are Canadian also makes it a bit tougher. That $2000.00 increase that you see is about $2800.00 CDN.

As for FIRST raising prices, I say if they need it to continue to provide the excellent program that they have, then do it. I have seen FIRST trying to reduce costs and I do not believe that there is a lot of wasted money. The staff have been overworked for years as they try to keep staffing to a minimum.

If we must lose some teams then I really feel the loss. I would hope that if there are a few strapped teams, rather than folding, that they would join together an make a single team and share resources. FIRST is too good of a program to leave. I hope that business picks up soon so that the sponsorship money will again begin to trickle in

We’re out this year! It’s our third year and losing the NASA money along with the $1000 increase has done us in. We need about $22,000 to bring a modest size team from Hawaii to a regional. We have to fly so that accounts for over half our budget. We have no option of driving to a regional to save money. $600 car washes don’t put much of a dent in $22,000 in bills!!! It seems a shame to me to be part of the United States and yet the high cost of flying has left us out as orphans from these National competitions. I’m hoping we can save up enough over a two year cycle to still compete but in the meantime we are also entering MATE (underwater robot contest) to keep the interest up. Hope we can make it back…its had a great impact on our students but we may have to look at more affordable models instead.
team 1056
Hilo, HI

maybe its FIRSTs competitive (if you ask me, that means capitalist) nature that causes them not to choose such a pricing scheme. As it stands, teams pay for what they get. A system like that is paramount to welfare with wealthier teams that attend multiple teams paying part of the cost of poorer teams that attend only one regional. I’m not saying I disagree with a pricing scheme like this (I need to think about it some more before making a decision), I just want to point out an effect of that system.

If your team is really stuck, and has no way to make up the money, considering making a last ditch effort to parents and the community. Where there is a will, there is a way, and there’s aboslutely no excuse for any team to completely give up, unless the team simply doesn’t care anymore. For teams switching to MATE or BEST, well, they’re still trying, they’re still inspiring kids to go into science and technology, and that’s really what the goal of any of these programs are.

So, you know what, in the long run, does it even matter if you do FIRST, or BEST, or <insert program name here>? You pick what’s right for you, and make sure that you motivate at least one high school student to go into science and technology, and you’ve made a difference, you’ve accomplished your goal. If you don’t have the money for FIRST, rethink your objectives, rework your mission, but do not give up. Think of all the children who’s lives you could have changed, just by showing them all of the amazing wonders in the world of science and technology.

YET?? There is no perfect solution. I’m still agast at teams stating they need $20,000 to run a team. We started with $6000 in 2001 and did one competition and the students loved it. We still struggle to raise $10,000 a year - This may be the year we go back to doing one competition. And as far as traveling expenses go, students have to pay, its that simple. They have to pay if they go on a band trip, football camp, etc… Currently 90% of the $$ we raise goes directly to the reg fees, since we have acquired lots of extra materials over the years. Fundraising needs to be creative and parents need to be involved to continue to participate in FIRST. We never had a large corporate sponsor (and thus never lost one), so I guess it’s easier for me take…

I agree with those who say to modify the KOP to reduce costs. Rookies (1-2 yr) get them, Vet Teams (> 2 yr) get some vouchers or coupons. Maybe just open up the motor rules entirely - say any 12 VDC motor rated under 300 W (max 6). Let the rookies learn with some different types given in their KOP. Maybe the only identical item every team gets is the InnovationFirst control system. Whatever the solution is, I think it will need to be fairly drastic to seriously reduce costs. I find it hard to respond to parents who ask what the $10,000 in reg fees is going towards. It doesn’t go to the regional competitions, and the KOP isn’t worth that much! I know that it takes a lot of effort and work by very qualified people to make FIRST run, it’s just hard to convince parents of this.

my 2cnts

Ooh… that looks VERY interesting…

keeps tabs on BEST, MATE, and any other robotics program I stumble over…

Need options in case we don’t raise enough to participate in FIRST =\

You seem to be describing BEST, where each team pays effectively nothing, perhaps a bit of money for travel costs, and the regional hubs take care of all the money issues. From what I understand, BEST is kind of like a minature FIRST competition, everything is on a smaller scale, and teams return controllers at the end of each season.

I’ve never done BEST, but I like the idea of FIRST better, provided teams have the money for it, only because with FIRST, you gain a better sense of how the world works, dealing with issues like fundraising, but you also can build much more complex robots, but once again, you need the money.

So, bottom line, as I said last night in this thread (look a few posts up), if you have the money, do FIRST, everyone will have a great time. If you don’t have the money, do BEST, inspire some kids, change their lives, you may not have as much fun (or fustration), but you’ll at least have made a difference.

Then again, you may have even more fun since you won’t be worrying about fundraising and whether or not your team will lose sponsorship or if you’ll be able to afford FIRST’s latest price increase, etc. Or possibly just because BEST is also a challenging program. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, and don’t assume FIRST is necessarily better cause it’s bigger, more expensive, and more complex. I’m quite certain you can have loads of fun in both BEST and FIRST simply because I know I have.

I’m sorry if that sounds rude or something, but I’m getting slightly annoyed at BEST being panned as FIRST’s little brother, the horrible zone that FIRST teams are relegated to when they can’t or won’t pay to play in FIRST.

My team is greatly hurt by the increase. After we finished our march comp. last year, we found we were low on funds and needed to cut some expenses, no were out an extra 1K which hurts us greatly, after we get the kit, we’ll only have like 2K to do everything (I mean everything)

So go find more money. If 2k isn’t enough to build a robot, raise more. Consider this raising the bar on the business side of the competition. Yes it takes more work to go and get another $1000, but it can be done.


Consider for a moment that a team might already be working incredibly hard just to scrape together their current level of funding. Perhaps many teams, I’m not sure as there’s disturbingly little in the way of statistics on FIRST teams. Yes, there are additional team grants. A total of 200 of them for teams in need. It is entirely possible that there are more teams in need of these grants than this. Just because your team has had to work fairly hard to raise enough money, don’t assume that other teams aren’t already working harder than that. And don’t assume that rookie teams will be able to handle a 20% price increase for their very first year when they’re still working on their basic organization and motivation already.

This just in, as an email blast from FIRST. It definitely applies to this thread:

Hello. This is an important announcement for all FIRST Robotics Competition teams. You may be the only person on your team to receive this message, so please be sure to share it with the rest of your team in a timely manner. If you think that other members of your team would also like to receive these announcements, please encourage them to sign up at http://listserv.leapit.com/cgi-bin/lyris.pl?join=frcpublic.

If you would like to stop receiving these messages, please see the bottom of this message for instructions.

Greetings Teams:

FIRST is pleased to announce that we will be awarding up to 200 “FIRST Team Assistance Grants” in the amount of $1,000 each to qualifying teams.

Please go to http://www.usfirst.org/robotics/grants.htm for full details including application deadline date and how to apply. Don’t forget to check out all grant offerings currently available!!

Go Teams!

Andy B.

I say FIRST is more fun, mostly because from reading the BEST site, and trying to understand what it tries to achieve, FIRST has more in the way of electronics and controls, which is my area, what I consider fun. BEST seems, to me at least, to be about 3 or 4 years behind where FIRST is, control wise, but that’s because they simply don’t have the need for controls as advanced as we do. If I’m wrong, feel free to correct me, but that’s the impression I got from reading BEST’s own site.

I hate to burst your bubble, but FIRST isn’t just about building the robot, that’s what BEST is about. FIRST is about building a robot, yes, but also about everything required, including money and community support, to get that robot built. You can always find more money, sure, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but the money is there, you just have to work, perhaps harder than you’ve ever had to, but it’s still there. Rake leaves, do a car wash, bake sales, car raffle, toy sale, krispee kreme sale, auctions, any number of fundraisers will do. Look on the forums, plenty of teams have said they can’t find the money, yet they got new ideas for fundraisers, turned around, and made the money and competed. There’s even a fundraising forum, a perfect place for any team to ask questions and get new ideas for fundraisers.

So, don’t complain about the price increase, or your lack of money. Unless you’ve tried every fundraiser possible for your team to do, you’ve worked as hard as you do during build season to get the money, do not complain that your team has no money. FIRST isn’t just six and a half weeks over the winter, it’s a year long commitment, the question is are you willing to commit all the time to it, or do you just want to build a robot and take the rest of the year off?

Sorry if I sound harsh, I’m just tired of hearing teams complain that there’s absolutely no money out there, because I can assure you, if you look hard enough, all the money you need is there, it’s just waiting for you to find it.