FAHA: Biased Competetions

Sometimes the truth is not always what they seems. I used to form a lot of opinions about what’s true or not without evidents backing them up. Some of them were about teams and how they acted in competitions. Eventually I learned that the only way to find the truth is to open yourself to other people’s point of view. Since then I’ve learned many things I never thought I would’ve.

The following FIRST-a-holic is concerned about something he/she saw during competition, and I believe he/she deserve some honest answer. Please answer with facts and not with more accusations and guesses. Claims without evidence to back them up will not be welcomed.

This weekend as I was spectating the certain regional i went to, i noticed a few things that seemed a little fishy about it. The main sponsor was advertised EVERYWHERE… the announcers would say all these great things about teams with that sponsor, and nothing great about any other team. Also, teams with this sponsor had special priveledges, such as students being able to go anywhere with a special access pass, and being able to have power of other students at the competetion. Also i noticed that not one of the teams that were sponsored by them (a bunch) were NOT in an elimination alliance. I was wondering if teams with a main corporate sponsor that sponsors many teams are encouraged to get along “better” with other teams of the same sponsor, or if all these things happened by coincidence?

It is true; things are not always as they appear. Sometimes an apparent conflict of interest is either unavoidable or unanticipated. For example, my organization sponsored a regional last weekend and will sponsor another next week. As the driving force behind getting us involved in FIRST, we had to wear a number of hats – volunteer, VIP tour guide, and engineers on our rookie team. We’ve come to understand how a team member’s access to most any area at the event would look a little fishy, because it was. We could not avoid doing all jobs simultaneously. Next week my engineers and I will be with our team. The other tasks will be delegated. Unfortunately, the fishy smell will linger because we all work for the same organization, but the ones who have privilege will not be the ones who’ve given their blood, sweat, and tears to the team.

My team is currently sponsored by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Corporation. At the New Jersey Regional, BMS & Johnson&Johnson team up to pay for the regional I do believe; BMS also sponsors 7 teams at the event this year. I am one of those people who cannot say enough for what BMS has done for me, my team, and our experiences with FIRST over the past 3 years. Not once have we ever been asked to pick another BMS team as an alliance, and but we do get along with the other teams. For the kickoff they host a giant meeting between many of the teams, and at the NJ regional this year we took a picture with all of the teams. Generally all of the mentors know one another, so we are constantly meeting the coaches and students of other BMS teams. We share our parts, tools, everything. Not that we wouldn’t do this with other teams at will, but you go to your friends first when you need something right?

With all this said, the number of teams sponsored by one company makes it hard statistically to not see multiple ones of them in the playoffs. Given that BMS is willing to donate enough $ for 7 teams, they are also willing to give the resources needed for excellent robots. Last year at NJ #25 was seeded #1, we were #3, and we took #1029(?) as one of our alliances. Again with so many teams, chances are that one of the 7 closest pits to you is going to be sponsored by your sponsor.


As one of those Infineon teams that were everywhere at VCU, I can say that things arn’t what they appear to be too. There are two parts of this mail-box that need to be addressed- the ‘specialness’ and the elimination rounds.

For the elimination rounds, I doubt that there was any push or FIRST mafia behind the decisions. Second, it’s toally possable that the announcements for the teams influenced the opinions of the alliances. We may never know, but in FIRST, we just have to hope that people play fair.

As for the ‘specialness’ that these teams had, it’s just unfair. Giving them privalages above normal people in a competition setting is not right. Just because one team has a sponsor should not allow them more benifits when it comes to the regionals or championships. I would be mad if our team or another team had a pass that got them into free breakfasts or better parking. It gives them an advantage that’s not right. Now, what would be a better solution? How about instead of passes, giving the teams a free coupon for a free pizza or sodas at the concession stand? It shows your support without the whole VIP status thing.

I have to interject a small point here.
Who really pays for the regionals?
Several posts have indicated that various sponsors pay for them…
Do the math…
50 teams X $4000 entry fee each is $200,000

WE pay for the regional… and yet our sponsors don’t get mentioned…often times all our sponsors and mentors get is a small acknowledgement during the awards ceremony.

I would love to see what the real figures are for a regional and what has been paid out. I have seen a figure of $200,000 bandied about for the cost to put on a regional. I just wonder where the money goes…

sorry to vent… but sometimes these questions must be asked…

the $4000 you pay doesnt all goto the regional costs

the Kit-o-parts is very expensive

and there is the entire FIRST organization that is funded

to make a local regional happen requires some major local sponsors - I dont know the figures, but its huge.

While there might be some that take advantage of specific situations, I think the majority of people and companies that play multiple roles work hard to separate them and avoid any perception of a conflict.

Many of the judges, referees and other volunteers at an event are also a part of another team. They may have others teams they especially like or dislike for some reason, but they leave it at the door when they come to volunteer. The events are better with people who play multiple roles because they can bring a perspective that someone totally independent from a team can bring.

As with everything in life, there will some who appear to get special treatment - the teachers kid, the coaches daughter, the sponsors team, but I would say most of the time that is really not the case.

As for the cost - I can’t say if it is too high or not. We were just at the Phoenix Regional. FIRST had to rent the facility for at least 5 days - 1 to set up, 1 for practice, 2 for competition, and another to clean up and leave. Everything had to be shipped there and to the next stop. There were computers, video cameras, projectors, volunteers to be fed, medals to purchase, and on and on. None of it comes cheap and often facility rules will dictate what volunteers can do and what must be done by paid facility people.