FRC Blogged - Frank Answers Fridays: September 20, 2013

Posted on the FRC Blog, 9/20/13:


Frank Answers Fridays: September 20, 2013**

**Blog Date: **Friday, September 20, 2013 - 20:39

Today’s good question comes from George Chisholm, from FRC Team 1334, The Red Devils, in Oakville, Ontario, Canada:


*Hi Frank,

My question concerns the NASA $5000 award to winners of Engineering Inspiration at US events. How is this fair to the winners of the five (now seven) events in Canada and the one in Israel (plus the new one in Mexico)? To truly demonstrate Gracious Professionalism, FIRST should either turn down the award from NASA or make alternative arrangements to support the teams not eligible for the award because of where it was won. In the scheme of things, the $45 000 involved isn’t that much. EI is EI and should not be affected by international borders.


George Chisholm, Mentor

FIRST Robotics Team 1334

The Red Devils

Oakville, Ontario, Canada*


George, thanks for the question.

Every team sponsor has its own set of reasons for sponsoring teams, and all have restrictions on which teams they sponsor, and under what circumstances. Some of these restrictions are based in law, others are a choice. In the past, state organizations in the US have sometimes required teams to not only be from their state, but also compete at an event within their state, in order to receive sponsorship. Teams in Mexico have benefited from strong local sponsorship, but of course that support is only available to teams who are from Mexico. I wouldn’t characterize restrictions like these as unfair. It’s the sponsor’s right to decide where they want their money to go.

*FIRST *is very grateful for all our team sponsors. I would bet our teams are too! While not every individual sponsorship opportunity is available to every team in FRC in every circumstance, this is not a reason for us to turn down sponsorships when they are offered. Geographically-based sponsorships are best secured by individuals or organizations from the regions involved. If you see a sponsorship available only to teams in Mexico or Washington State, you can bet some person, or some group, from that area worked very hard to make that sponsorship available. If this is something you are passionate about, maybe there is something you can do, working with the very strong *FIRST *Robotics organization in Canada, to secure local sponsorship for the Engineering Inspiration Award winners at the events in your country?

I’ll blog again soon.


NASA cant give money to teams outside the US because its government money.

I would honestly have a problem if NASA money went outside the US (especially with the way the US economy is). It’s also why (to my knowledge) I’ve never seen anything NASA-related in FRC outside of America.

IIRC from another thread, don’t many of these teams that win EI get grants from more local sources?

And to add to the question, what would happen if an American team won EI at an international event?

I think FIRST could try going to, atleast for Canada, their space agency and seeing if they would be willing to match the same sponsorship that NASA does for US teams.

And I think if an American team won an EI in an International event NASA would still pay.

Why would it fall on FIRST to seek funding from other sources? A corporation makes funds available, understandably places restrictions on how these funds may be spent, and supports teams that qualify for these funds. It is not FIRST’s responsibility to make sure these sponsorships are ‘fair’.
In the past, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development have paid the $5,000 registration fee to CMP to teams who have qualified via RCA, regional winners, or RAS. FIRST did not have to approach all other states, provinces, regions to make sure they all reciprocate.

I’m not saying FIRST has to, but just that FIRST did go to NASA for sponsorship way back when. And you dont think it is FIRST’s responsibility to give IT the same EI opportunity that US teams get? What if NASA changed the EI money payout requirement to only teams from Florida, Texas, California, Alabama, Virginia, and Ohio because that’s where NASA installments are? Would you be ok with that? Because it is the same prinicple as not having a funding sponsor for IT EI winners vs NASA funding those EI winners from the states.

I would be okay with that. NASA has the right to give their money to who they want to. Any sponsor can (and should) decide who they support and under what conditions. It’s their money, they decide what happens with it. Simple as that.

I hope this didn’t sound rude or arrogant. I’m just sometimes blunt with what I say.

No, its perfectly understandable. I guess I’m just trying to say this from a perspective that FIRST should have. Should FIRST allow a portion of teams a greater advantage during the year vs other teams? Like when the conversations started up about how FiM teams were getting 2x, 3x, and sometimes 4x the amount of matches per year before Champs vs anyone else because of districts. FIRST then came out to say that they were going to try and level this out by adding in more regions for teams to get more matches. That was a FIRST team problem that was solved/being solved by FIRST. So why is it hard to believe that this FIRST team problem cannot be solved by FIRST?

It’s not hard to believe FIRST could solve this at all. Is there an easy fix? Yes. Should it be fixed? No.

When it comes down to it, this is a choice of NASA to put this on, and has nothing to do with HQ wanting a monetary attachment to the award. NASA being an American Agency has every right to look out for American interests above another. This is their choice, and it is not FIRST HQ’s job to intervene and level the playing field.

There will always be advantages some teams have over others, just as it is in the real world. Just as much as we try our hardest to make borders not exist, in the real world they are still a factor you have to work around. When trying to secure a contract, especially with governments, you bet where your company and workforce is located against where your competitors are plays a huge factor in whether you are awarded the contract or not.

But each company is compared based and competes on the same standards set forth by the one offering the contract.

I’m not arguing the teams’ resources but those given to teams by Main FIRST Sponsors. If teams want the chance to win/company wants the chance to win the contract, then everyone needs to be offered the same reward for winning EI/each company should be held to the same standards.

Your team has sponsors that do not directly donate to our team. I’m okay with that.

But the NASA money given to the EI winners is a “sponsorship for everyone.”

How do you figure? It’s a sponsorship for American teams who earn the Engineering Inspiration Award.
As a team that hasn’t won EI, I do not begrudge the winning teams.

I know, thats the point of the OP. And I never said anyone begrudges anyone who has sponsorships or gets monetary rewards that other teams get.

I will personally sponsor any FRC team registered in the state of Nebraska that wears blue shirts (with black text) and had won the Gracious Professionalism award in their 2nd year while competing at a regional in Mexico. Their lead mentor must be named Mike and have experience with underwater welding.

I will find this team and hold you to that standard.

I want to expand on this one a bit. I think you’re on the right track, but you’re missing something.

The one offering the contract may be regulated by other standards, that HAVE to be passed on to their contractors. For example, ITAR. For a U.S. company that doesn’t deal with potential weapons applications, no big deal. For a U.S. company that deals with weapons, potential weapons, and their applications, HUGE deal. And, in short, ITAR means for the latter company that foreign parts/persons are going to require lots of paperwork, if they can even show up at all. (I won’t even go into sanctions…) Oh, and did I mention: Much of the U.S. space program has been based on Air Force research for weapons systems.

Because the one offering the contract (sponsorship) in this particular case happens to be a government agency (NASA), ITAR and/or other standards regarding dealings with non-U.S. entities almost certainly apply. NASA has to comply with those, and the simplest way (and maybe the only way) is to offer to only U.S. entities.

tl;dr: NASA may want to offer the sponsorship to everybody that wins the EI, but the rest of the U.S. government probably has a regulation against it somewhere. NASA’s hands are therefore tied in that respect.

To be blunt, I am actually pretty appalled by this question. I can’t imagine any FIRSTer thinking along the lines of “If I can’t have it, nobody can.” I would not expect NASA to give money to international teams, even if they were not restricted by law. That means that the sponsorships NASA offers should remain solely in the U.S. FIRST does not have a responsibility to level the playing field for international teams in the same way that it is not responsible for providing the same benefits to Chairmans teams. And international teams should be happy for U.S. teams, not jealous. You don’t hear anybody complaining that Michigan has an awesome sponsorship program (it really is awesome). How is that any different?

I’m sorry if I insulted the asker. It is just that I perceive this question as really immature in nature.

As I was reading your reply, I noticed something that got me thinking about something similar to the theme of this thread. Currently, the FIRST website domain name is I assume that the “US” stands for “United States” unless is actually means the word “us.” Is it right/fair for FIRST to show affiliation with one country over another now that it is international?

I do not mean to start a heated “my country is better than yours” discussion. I just find it interesting in the similarity to the NASA funded grant.

This 2012 thread has some information on this topic.