FIRST® and the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC) wish to engage more youth, high schools, and communities in robotics programs to help students prepare for a world where careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) will be critical to sustaining future innovation.
In order to achieve this, the FIRST organization has recently worked on creative ways to make the FRC program more accessible and affordable to all by:
Opening up more tournaments across the country; and
Lowering the costs for FRC teams to participate (such as our recent price reduction for Veteran teams as well as grants to Rookie teams).
Thanks to the efforts of many dedicated volunteers, *FIRST *in Michigan successfully piloted a District Event Model format in the state of Michigan during the 2009 season.
Instead of the three traditional Regional events staged in 2008, seven lower cost, local District Events were held in 2009, each hosting 40 teams. Based on the points earned in participating in two of these District Events, approximately half of the Michigan FRC teams qualified for the Michigan State Championship event. Most teams realized time and cost efficiencies due to the closeness of the District Events. All teams had the opportunity for more “plays” at these District Events, and the same number of Michigan teams qualified for the FIRST Championship in 2009 in Atlanta as did in the 2008 season.
The results of a survey given to Michigan team members and volunteers who were involved in this pilot were overwhelmingly positive, and participants also made additional recommendations which could be incorporated into future FRC District Event Model seasons.
The highlights of the recent Michigan District Event Model survey include:
94% of team leaders, mentors and team members rated their District Model experience as “good” or “excellent;”
The District Event Model approach met its goal of providing more “plays” at a generally lower cost;
80% of prior participants rated their District Event Model experience as the same or better than their experience in 2008 on multiple measures;
94% of tournament volunteers reported it was “likely” or “very likely” that they would volunteer next year and were satisfied with the training and support they received; and
The ability to reduce travel costs because of the expanded number of local events in the District Model was seen as a benefit.
The entire Michigan District Model survey can be viewed at: http://www.usfirst.org/aboutus/content.aspx?id=46
FIRST** Board Approves the District Event Model Alternative for Future FRC Seasons…**
Subsequently, the FIRST Board of Directors assessed the entire Michigan District Event Model pilot including, but not limited to questions such as:
Did the new model meet the goal of providing more opportunities to compete at a lower cost?
Did the new model deliver high quality, engaging tournament experiences for teams, coaches, mentors, volunteers and others?
Was the District Event Model pilot able to successfully recruit and train needed volunteers and tournaments officials? and
Did the District Event Model exhibit a level of quality and excitement to meet *FIRST *standards?
In August, 2009 the FIRST Board of Directors voted to make the District Event Model an approved alternative competition format for future FRC seasons. The Board agreed that FIRST staff should support local efforts to expand the District Event Model into other regions – when and where appropriate based on local circumstances. Among the essential elements for successful implementation of the District Event Model are a high density of FRC teams in a limited geographic area and an experienced and dedicated local volunteer base.
Will the District Event Model come to my area?
FIRST headquarters staff and Regional Directors will work with local volunteer committees to evaluate the potential interest and feasibility for applying the District Event Model in the 2011, or later, season. It took very careful planning and tremendous volunteer support for* FIRST* in Michigan to successfully execute the Pilot. With their cooperation, we will build on their experiences to make FRC even more accessible in the future.