[FRC Blog] Sibling Teams and an Expanded District

Posted on the FRC Blog 8/24/22 by Fiona Hanlon and Collin Fultz

Sibling Teams and an Expanded District

Written by Fiona Hanlon, FIRST Robotics Competition Team Experience Specialist & Collin Fultz, FIRST Robotics Competition Sr. Program Manager

Sibling Teams

Many of you are familiar with organizations hosting a single team, but sometimes organizations host more than one FIRST ® Robotics Competition team. We know that some teams have added a second or even third team to their organization. We are defining multiple teams associated with one organization as Sibling Teams and have created guidelines to follow. These guidelines will also be shared with judges.

Expanded Peachtree District

We are excited that the Peachtree District is expanding to include FIRST Robotics Competition teams from South Carolina! We are so thankful for our Program Delivery Partners from Georgia and South Carolina for partnering to make this change happen for 2023. As both organizations said in their email last week announcing this change, this partnership will give both states the opportunity to make FIRST ® programs more accessible to youth in their region. Good luck to teams in both states in the larger Peachtree District!

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For increased visibility/easy quotability, the new guidelines are:

Guidelines for Sibling Teams

FIRST Robotics Competition defines multiple teams associated with one organization as Sibling Teams. We know that many teams (whether from the same organization or not) will work very closely with each other when not at an event. This document was created to help provide guidance to Sibling Teams.

Our focus in FIRST Robotics Competition is on inspiring young people to become STEM leaders. As such, we understand that some organizations have created additional teams in order to help give more experience to their students. It is up to each organization to decide what works best for them when considering creating additional team(s). However, these guidelines have been created to help ensure equity at events and Sibling Teams must follow these guidelines.

The guidelines are as follows:

  • If an organization adds a new team to their organization, they must register the team within the FIRST Dashboard paying close attention to what classifies them as a Rookie or not. (please refer to the Rookie Team Criteria Document and the Separation/Combine rules)
  • Student members may only be registered to a single FIRST Robotics Competition team at an event. Students can change teams between events, but at an event, each team should have designated students.
  • If Sibling Teams plan to submit for the FIRST Impact Award, they should choose one of the following options:
    • Only one of the teams submits for the FIRST Impact Award, or
    • Each team can submit but should have different submissions and presentations
  • Sibling Teams will be considered separately for all other awards and judges will use the information provided to them by each team individually to assess the team and robot. Each team should be prepared to cover all relevant information with the judges.
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Hmmmmm…
I’m thinking my team is not alone in this odd situation:

High School District with multiple schools running FRC teams, but in the FIRST Dashboard the W9 info is the same for all of us, because each school does not have its own tax info.

Is the physical school that the team works out of the “organization”, or is the tax exempt entity in the FIRST system the “organization”?

I will email FIRST about this and see what they say. Overall I don’t think it matters much for current teams, but if a new team forms at another HS, they may be deemed a non-rookie sibling team under this new guidance.

For reference, our Team W9 has “Huntington Beach Union High School District”, and the district’s address and tax ID.
Under School/Organization tab we have “Marina High School, Huntington Beach”.

Does your School District consider each of your teams to be part of the same organization? Do any of your teams feel they are “sibling teams” with one another? Do you share mentors, build spaces, and/or physical resources?

If not, you’re probably safe to continue operating exactly as you have been. I don’t think this guidance would even impact the rookie formed at another high school in your area. This is aimed more at teams like 494 & 70, 11 & 193, 4653 & 4652, 1923 & 1914, 2234 & 2095, 288 & 244 & 216, and 2468 & 2687 & 2689 (and plenty of others) that tend to operate out of the same build spaces, with the same or overlapping mentors, some degree of financial and fundraising overlap, and sometimes even twin robots.

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If your teams already operate as fully separate teams this would have no impact as all these rules do is force some separation onto those teams.

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Yeah, I think this is the answer. If two teams are already operating independently of each other and the only thing they have in common is their financial entity, I read the only substantive change being that you’re now called Siblings. If both teams present for the Impact award, they’ll obviously be different presentations if they’re independent teams. Each team will also provide independent answers to judges, making them remain eligible for all awards.

And, if the district adds another team, the rookie criteria isn’t changing, it’s just being pointed out.

This was a helpful reminder that the Chairman’s award has since been renamed “the FIRST Impact Award” (as of July 11th this year). Totally slipped my mind, and took me a minute to figure out what we were talking about :sweat_smile:.

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Niagara FIRST Siblings just doesn’t ring the same…

And we already knew those Grandville Dogs were from the same litter.

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I’m glad that FIRST made these designations and put more definition into what is good practice for these teams.

I REALLY like the fact that sibling teams can each nominate WFFA and Dean’s List candidates.

Andy B.

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Expanding upon this, I like the implicit rule that Dean’s List students can only be submitted by one sibling team (as they have to only be on one roster per competition, and thus would only be on one roster at the event they’re considered for Dean’s List).

I also like that the same mentor can be submitted by multiple teams for WFFA, if the sibling teams so choose (there’s no limit on the amount of rosters a mentor can be on per competition). That being said, if an organization were to intentionally exploit this aspect in an effort to effectively double the character limit of the WFFA essay, that would seem rather slimy to me. So, my $0.02 would be, if multiple sibling teams submit the same mentor for WFFA, use the same essay.

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In theory, a mentor might be nominated by two teams that are not siblings, without either team being aware of the other’s nomination. In such a case each essay would be unique.

Multiple nominations of the same mentor does seem more likely if the teams are siblings, though.

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I fully support collaboration between teams (including shared workspaces, resources, and mentors), and like the ability for teams to give more hands on experience to students than they could with a single team, but I also think explicitly leaving the door totally open to any interpretation of sibling teams opens it up to abuse.

Consider Team X, a team with lots of students and money. In the past, Team X built an identical practice robot. This year they had the same season, but registered Team X.2 to compete with their second robot. They have two drive teams, but otherwise run as one team with a (large) shared pit crew, scouting team, etc. They can even do it for around the same cost, if each team attends one regional each they only have to pay for the additional champs registration.

However they can now severely mess with rankings and event outcomes:

  • They have a higher chance of getting a good schedule (and then can pick themselves)
  • The team with a worse schedule can throw matches to help the other team rank higher
  • If they end up on different alliances, the one less likely to win can intentionally throw
    • If we end up with round robin structure at all events this becomes even easier, since you can strategically throw matches or tiebreaker points to influence who makes top 2, likely helping both your teams make it into finals (related take: RR tiebreakers are fundamentally flawed)
  • The lower ranked team could threaten to throw, allowing themselves to fall to 24th pick
  • By strategically registering for regionals they can “block out” other good teams from qualifying to champs, becoming an increasing possibility if they register 3 or 4 teams
  • If both teams make it to champs:
    • They can then withdraw the one that ended up in a worse division and/or that has a worse match schedule
    • They can have both teams play and then one of them throw quals matches to mess with rankings in a division to prevent other good alliances making it out
    • If they both make it to Einstein, they can strategically throw matches (see RR point above)

I’m absolutely not saying any of this has occurred in the past, or that it would be undetected if it was someday attempted, but I don’t think it’s a good path to start down.

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FIRST’s response to my question:

Thanks for reaching out, we love hearing from the community! Having the same tax ID does not necessarily mean they are sibling teams. We purposefully left the guidelines a little vague on what constitutes an organization as we know that some teams operate out of schools, others outside of 4-H Clubs, and some are completely independent. There is no one-size-fits-all and this is simply guidance.

We wanted to address the scenario we saw where some teams were breaking and adding another team to their organization and they worked together all throughout the year, sometimes they built the same robot, sometimes it was different robots. The main goal of this is to help provide guidelines for everyone as we were starting to hear questions from other teams and volunteers on what is/is not allowed.

We hope this clarifies. Please let us know if this helps or if you have any other questions.

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I hope and think we have solved this already with gracious professionalism and Coopetition. I like to think that the teams big enough to build to sibling teams size are built on a strong base of integrity and professionalism.

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Some of your points are already covered by rules which typically are included each year…

H105 *Asking other teams to throw a MATCH – not cool. A team may not encourage an ALLIANCE, of which it is not a member, to play beneath its ability.

H106 *Letting someone coerce you in to throwing a MATCH – also not cool. A team, as the result of encouragement by a team not on their ALLIANCE, may not play beneath its ability.

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There was a hypothetical situation that I thought of this year that seems a bit more relevant given this new guidance for sibling teams.

My hypothetical was that with the second pick teams in regionals not auto-qualifying for champs if they were part of the winning alliance, the captain or first pick team could ‘adopt’ the second pick team members so that they could attend champs. (This may still be relevant if the non auto qualifying rules persist next year given that we will be sticking to one championship event.)

With the guidance, at least for sibling teams, it seems that FRIST is okay if teams want to do this.

Of course, there is always limits considering travel and costs, as well as the logistics of organizing this, but if those were non issues, there is hypothetically nothing stopping teams from doing this. There was nothing stopping teams from doing this before, so also I’m curious if this was attempted previously.

In my opinion, this won’t be a big deal until someone pushes this in a very egregious manner.

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(Going a bit off topic from the new rules around sibling teams)

Yes, but this rule only prevents a team asking another team to throw a match, or being coerced into throwing match. There is currently no rule against a team choosing to throw a match on their own.

I don’t think sibling teams with the setup @Rachel_Lim describes could ever outrun the rumor, or outright accusation, that they are colluding with questionable intent… and likely before the end of the first day of comp. I’d hope that when alliance selections rolled around the rest of the alliance captain teams would decline invitations from them, or not invite them. This would scuttle a lot of team plans to win the event, and take a huge amount of courage, but would send a message that such behavior is unwelcome.

I can dream can’t I?

Regardless of whether anyone actually would, as the last few years of political life on earth has shown us, leaving the option on the table and hoping that others would do the right thing on good faith can lead to abuse of the system. Better to just eliminate the possibility than lend it to chance.

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For what it’s worth, my now-defunct college competition allowed for collusion between sister teams. One of the sisters pinned us in a corner while the other went on to score points, even though we’d beaten both of those teams handedly in earlier rounds. The whole thing was set up to encourage collusion really. Which led our team to expand from a robotics team to a full-blown organization with many teams. Unchecked, I assume this change would directionally do the same thing.

However, the powerful thing is that FIRST now both defines what “sister” status is, and requires teams to identify themselves if they fall into that category. With this information, FIRST can take preventative measures. For example, limiting the number of matches where sister teams are on the field simultaneously… or a rule for preventing both teams from advancing…

This has the potential to be very dynamic-changing for FIRST. But I’m fairly confident they have the tools to control it, and have no doubt they’ll use the tools they have to the fullest extent.

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