Just a “throw it out there question”

has there been any teams that say at this point not reached funding and thrown in the towel or have disbanded for lack of interest-

it seems unlikely but looking back over all the teams list from past competitiions some teams stayed for 3-4 years and then were never to heard from again

is there an average life span of a team


team 497
team nerd:confused:

How could a team possibly “retire” from a lack of interest?? That seems alittle hard to believe…

I think it would be interesting to know the average life span of a team too, but that would take awhile to figure out…


I believe the average life span of a team would be 4 - 5 years. You can’t forget that some teams have been here since 1990’s and others try to stay in as long as possible. Although they may not like having their team disbanned, they don’t have a choice. One reason might be, money problems. Another would be, lost of interest. Another would be administrative problems. Once you come to think about it, there’s alot of politics involved. I know our team will stay as long as possible.

Things can look pretty good one season and pretty gloomy the next year. If we do not pick up a major sponsor, this will be our last year. A team can not spend a year begging/ worrying about raising 1000’s of dollars. It takes the fun out of it after a while.

That’s what our team does. We do not really have one big sponsor. We spend alot of our free time fundraising and trying to get small donations from a variety of business’. And whatever money we’re short by time we go to competitions, comes out of our own pocket. I personally haven’t had to pay that much because I’ve gotten a couple sponsors and such on my own.

Speaking of having a wide financial base, if anybody would remember, one of requirements for receiving a Kleiner Perkins Grant this year was a wide base of sponsership.

Our team is headed into it’s 5th year. I suppose if 4-5 is truly the average then next year will be fun. What I do notice however, it that there is a definate gap between 5 year teams and 10 year teams. A large number of teams seem to have 3-5 years, but few have 6-9 while there are a few VERY well established teams that can claim 10 years.

Does anyone else follow this sort of trend? If your team can establish itself it usually has to do so within 4-5 years?

Or do you think that it is simply the probablilty of encounter a devastating problem after 5 years of running a team.

The people are the team, when there is a will there is a way. Ultimately I think it boils down to the ability and will of the constiuents of the team.

I remember several things said about a strong organization.

One thing that stands out to me is that is should not be based on one pivotal person. Basically the team should function if it loses any one person.

I realize now that this post have very little direction, but the complexities of running an organization cannot be summed up to merely politics.

That is what makes FIRST. The Students and Mentors. The Robot is merely what sticks them together.

This is a very hard year for us as well. We mabye have 10 people total in our club that actucally does anything and any money that is found on the floor is ours! We are having a hard time with the money too. If it doesn’t get better, this may be our last year!! I hope thisn’t so due to me being a junior this year, but I will try as hard as i can to keep this team togther. Just my high school has like 580 kids tops, so there isn’t too big of a selection for kids to come and join us. Hopefully I am wrong, but it seems as this is our last year (5th year too…)

I believe its a multi surfaced problem but would include funding, interest, and in some cases, a teacher willing to continue to do it.
I know in the school I left there was a scramble to find a robotics coach to replace me. In the end it was a retired engineer who is on the books just for robotics.

Funding is always a problem. if it were just 5k for the regional and a scramble to make national if you won the regional I think it would be easier, like in most HS sports. Its the multi regionals/nationals that start really running up the budget.

Interest. The life span of a HS student is 4 years. if the core of the team graduates with no replacements then that will kill a team also.

In the long run it should get easier. Once robotics become established in more places it will start to be expected at a school. i.e. funded by the school to some extent (yea the sky is blue in my world also, well not now, its raining)

I hope schools explore the option of merging several schools together before bailing on FIRST

Later all


As a member of one of the few ten year teams, it is easy to envision a number of things that can result in a team “going out of business.” We have been very lucky in having the same corporate sponsor for the ten years. We have had an adequate number of engineers, working mostly on their own time, and we have had enough teachers to keep our team running. Since 1998 we have had our own workshop in a warehouse owned by the local electric utility.

FIRST is expensive, it requires teachers and engineers willing to give up most of their spare time for 3-4 months of the year, and it requires the support of the school board. We have been lucky in having all these factors remain in place “for the duration.”

Unfortunately, FIRST, even if you have a successful team, doesn’t have the community support of, say, high school football. It takes work from many different directions to keep a team together for a long time. If we can get our communities as excited about FIRST as they are about sports, that would be great. We haven’t gotten there yet.

We’re on our fourth year over here, and it is definately getting harder, financial crisis aside… Getting an influx of new members is always hard and finding members who stick with it is even harder… Many people have distorted views when they begin their trek into this competition, and disillusionment with the job happens…

As it would be, leadership also gets to be a problem… Teachers, it seems, come and go, and adults sometimes run out of time to volunteer(sp?)… Things get tough, but sometimes it is possible to perhaps take a break for a year or so, and come back stronger than ever…

If there are any teams who have done that, could you post your stories?? I’m sure we’d all love to hear them…

I am starting my 7th year with TechnoKats. Both our team and I personally have had some highs and lows over those years, but overall, it has been great.

We have had our ups and downs in regards to both competitive success, and in regards to how well we worked as a team. We had a very rough year in '97, where we didn’t do very well in the competition and had too many “people problems.” mainly among the adults. I came very close to quitting the team after that year.

I’m very glad I decided not to quit. In '98 I got my first chance to be a competition coach which was a job I had wanted from the start, and we won Nationals. Winning Nationals was by far the most exhilerating experience I have ever had, at least related to a competition, and I have had some success at other types of competition (model airplanes) at national and international levels. I think a big part of what made our team’s winning FIRST so special was having 10,000 noisy spectators out there during those last few matches. Maybe being part of a team rather than competing as an individual also added something to the experience.

Now that I’ve said all that, while nothing beats winning, if you have a good team that works well together, you can learn and have fun, even though not every team can win. I’m starting my 5th year since the year I almost quit, and we have 5 or so other adults who have been with the team for at least 5 years, including our lead engineer and lead teacher.

One constant is that we never have as many people as we’d really like, either students or adults. We have had a number of engineers show up a time or two, but when they learn the realities of what is involved during the “build season,” they disappear not to be seen again. Still, things always seem to work out, and unless something very unexpected happens, our team should be around for a long time to come.

Just to add my two cents:

This is the school 9th year and this is my 8th year. We are getting out because of the things FIRST has done.

It cost us about $35,000 a year to run our program. This has been funded in so many different ways.

FIRST has taken the wind out of this program for saying you can not go to the nationals unless you win or have done something in the past to be able to go or be a even team.

For us not to go to the national is a big thing. It has taken us a long time to do well.

So after they announced how this year is going to work, we went out and saw how we can teach robotic and do everything FIRST is trying to do by going to battlebot.

Not all team leave because of funding.

Some leave just to go somewhere better.

*Originally posted by Mike Norton *
**Just to add my two cents:

So after they announced how this year is going to work [nats qualification], we went out and saw how we can teach robotic and do everything FIRST is trying to do by going to battlebot.

Not all team leave because of funding.

Some leave just to go somewhere better. **

IMHO, if you think you can capture the whole FIRST experience with BattleBots, more power to you. It is hard for me to believe though. Sure, BattleBots might be well known throughout our age group, and I am sure the participants there have a lot of fun but, FIRST has provided me, and so many other people over the years, with an experience designed to be both energetic and educational.
Money is an issue for every team. No one is alone in that respect. The concept of qualifying for Nationals, I think, will make everyone try to build a better bot! No longer will that part just ‘do,’ it will be the part that will work, because it is the best concept that the team can think of. Best of wishes with BattleBots, but don’t forget FIRST.

Wow. of the reasons to drop out I would have bet money on “not being able to go to the nationals unless we won our regional” as not being a reason.

I think we all saw this coming. If not this year then next year. Disney can’t accomodate 700 teams. I’m not sure I would be willing to compete in a 700 team field.

At a 40% growth rate FIRST had to do this

I look at the nationals as evolving into what HS sports does.

If you do well you move on to the ‘State Championships’. In our case ‘State’ is another name for Florida.
Mock Trial has this type of setup. As do Band competitions, Academic competitions…

I guess what puzzles me is we call it a competition but some people get upset when you want to use competitive criteria to decide who goes to the Nationals.
And for the record. My old team made the finals a few times but never won a regional.

I hope Mike reconsiders next year. a long time team (61) is a huge assett to the FIRST community .
In any event, have fun.

(I’ve also looked into the HS BattleBots. Seems they need to work on it a bit more)


Leaving FIRST for Battlebots??

I suppose nothing can change the minds, but FIRST is a competition, and hence making Nationals a qualificatory (I think I used the right word) event, I see no problem… It’s part of the competition…

As for learning robotics at Battlebots, well yeah you can learn robotics by just playing with erector sets and so forth… It’s all the other things you learn the makes FIRST different… Teamwork, quick thinking within a group, and working within deadlines, just to name a few, are things that probably won’t come up…

These are just my opinions of course, so take no offence to any of them… But if I want to take mindless agression out, I play video games, or wreck RC cars… Good Luck with Battlebots though, and keep all use FIRSTers in mind!!

If you’ll look in the one of the team charters presented by first, one of the goals is to “Build a team before building a robot”

No matter where you go, no matter what you do, you’ll end up doing just this.

For a successful organization to prosper, which is effectively what each FIRST team is, an organization, there are many factors invovled in keeping a project like this going.

Instead of thinking, why teams fold, perhaps the better question is to appreciate how long a team can persist.

There are an innumerable numbers of factors involved in running a team, and making the year a success. Leadership, Money, Community Support are just a few.

When I think of a FIRST robotics team, I think, wow, that’s a group of students and engineers who have worked together to basically form a business. It’s the real thing guys, the money isn’t just for fun anymore.

My personal opinion, while battlebots seem to be a “good” robotics competition, people forget that FIRST is not simply a robotics competition.

I forget who I heard it from, but I remember someone saying, “Competing in the Robotics competition is only half of FIRST. creating an effective team is the other half”

I’m not saying that teams have not faced trials that have broken or tested them to their limits, in fact this is true for our team two, which has a primarily student leadership.

While we have had our conflicts, and even had people leave the team over them, the fact that we survived through them has only made us stronger.

There is no better emulation for the real-thing than the real-thing.

I appaud every team who participates in FIRST, and my respect goes to those who have persisted for so many years.

No matter how much money your team may have, there is no team without the people.

I hope that some people will resonate with this idea, this is what I’ve gotten out of FIRST.

There are a number of reasons teams drop out, it can really be anything. My team has what I believe is a very non-typical situation that is making things very difficult to date.

Our problem is not funding, our problem is not lack of interest, or lack of engineers… Our problem is our high school’s administration. The town our team is in is so caught up in politics and legalities (and on top of that, extreme lack of organization and communication), it is becoming vitually impossible to accomplish anything. We literally have funding for all non-travel expenses. It is in the opinion of most everyone on the team that students will be responsible for their own travel expenses, however those expenses will be offset by team fundraisers and any corporate sponsorship we receive through March. First, they tried to block travel to Toronto. Then, our main teacher became ill and may not be able to participate this season, so the administration is complaining we will have no one to open the lab and that teachers should not have to put in hours after school. So we went out and found some other teachers in the community who are excited they can help out – after hours. They still don’t get it. Next, they complain that student travel expenses are not covered. Their reasoning is: What if there is a student who cannot afford to go? Well, apparantly, from this view, it is better for no one to go than for most to go. I should also mention that the school district refuses to provide any funding at all. So we come up with another solution. Our team will have a pool of money that can be used to pay for any students who sign up for the team and let us know well ahead of time that they cannot afford the trips. I can’t wait to see their dissappointed faces when they find out we overcame another one of their technicalities and to see they throw in our way next. One of the administrators was furious last year when our team appeared on the front page of the paper. One of the parents on the team was yelled at because the administration thought that we were “going to the papers” to gain support for our team. They complain that there aren’t enough women/minority on the team, but that’s exactly part of the purpose of FIRST and what we’re trying to do. They’re the one’s blocking us.

FIRST is great, but the politics of school systems is rediculous. It’s as if they don’t care about the student’s interests at all, but rather their own personal quests for power in the community.

I think it’s these types of things that end up killing teams. They won’t succeed in killing my team.



Your district reminds me of ours. They seem determined to throw every obstacle in our way, totally ignore us most of the time, and then try to take credit for any successes we have.

We were originally signed up to go to Toronto. That, unfortunately, is no longer a possibility, nor is flying to Florida if we qualify (yay 26-hour bus trips). We also don’t get any money, and don’t have anywhere in school to work. We have to walk across the street to work in a middle-school woodshop to build our robot, since our Auto Shop is not accessible this year due to construction.

It’s annoying, but sometimes you just have to live with it.


It's great to hear that you have a great resolve for the livelyhood of your team.  I have had the same resolve when faced witht he same adversity and resonate with you.

However, regardless of what you do, the school is part of everything you do. You will have to work with the administration whether you like it or not.

We have a different scenario, we have a strong support from our administration. Perhaps it’s because our organization is rooted so deeply now with the school?

I don’t see any reason why the school would purposely try to get in your way though, there must be some other reason why they would prevent you from doing these things. Perhaps it is time to find out. Maybe they feel as if it was in the school best interest not to let you travel?

In any case, It’s heartening to see your resolve, but at the same time remember who your team will have to live with for, pretty much forever :slight_smile:

I love it when they say FIRST is the only way you will learn the great lesson of life.

Robot building is one part. I will agree to that. being done in 6 week shows you thing can be done quickly. Going out and getting money and getting lots of people involved in robotics is great.

But Battlebot does a little more.

You build a great robot to do a task. if it is a great robot they will make a toy looking like your robot. They will even pay you if you win. You do not have in invest alot of money to compete.

They will even advertise on TV so lots of people get hooked on robotics. You might not see all the working behind battlebots but they are getting more people involved in robotic then FIRST has.

If you have not try to get funding for battlebots you should. It is alot easier than FIRST. Just because more people know about it. I have middle school kids now wanting to get involved because they think its cool and fun. This opens a door for so many more people to get into robotics then ever before.

Mabye FIRST will get the point of getting the TV air time so it will become a house hold name. just like battlebots. Everybody want to be on TV.

To when people put battlebots down look at the new picture.

If you ask must non FIRST people if they ever heard about FIRST robots they would say no. But ask anybody if the have heard Battlebots and they would say yes, even if they don’t play with robots.

That is saying alot about who is getting the word out.

It is easy to get a group of kids to get a robot into battlebots than into FIRST.

So that is saying more people will turn to another game. And yes you can learn everything FIRST is trying to teach by going to battlebots. and maybe more.

I do still hold FIRST on a high level this will be are 9th year in it. But sorry to say are last. FIRST has only force are hand and took the even playing field away.