FRC in Europe

Hello Chief Delphi, I am a member of the Wired Devils, and I was wondering what FRC was like in Europe? I am specifically interested in how it works for teams in the Netherlands and Germany, and how the opinion is on teams from Europe, and how many people have overcome the issues of starting a non-North American team. If anyone can answer my questions, thank you!

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I know Israel is the country I’ve seen the most non-American FRC teams from, and I’ve seen more Chinese ones than European ones too. Good question, I can’t say I’ve ever actually interacted with a European team.

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4481

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The Rembrandts (4481) are some of the biggest proponents of FRC in Europe. https://teamrembrandts.com/ For the most part it’s a team here and there, most with some sponsorship from the US.

My hope is to see a regional in Europe in the next few years, and I’ve made it clear to Don Bossi that I will personally work to make it happen.

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I think it would be good to look into why FRC has taken off in places like Israel and Turkey, but not in places like Germany, France or the UK. I think the reason it took off in Israel so well is that they invest so heavily in technological development (which can be seen in things like the Iron Dome defense system). I don’t really have an answer for how FRC hasn’t taken off in a place like Germany’s Ruhr region, an industrial and economic powerhouse by all accounts, and why it has taken off so well in the area of Istanbul, still growing well even after the Turkish economy has slowed down in recent times. My guess is it has something to do with policy and how much FIRST and FRC are marketed in those regions.

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I will add that, although FRC hasn’t really taken off yet in Europe*, some other FIRST programs are. There are now FTC competitions in Spain, England, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Romania. I don’t know about FLL or JrFLL, but I believe there are also a good number of European teams from those competitions.

* Is Turkey in Europe? I don’t know. I think it is.

I can answer for Israel:
It’s because we had the right people to bring FIRST to Israel, and becuase we had the support of a big technological institue in the financial side.
All you need is People and Money.

It also works in Romania - they are one of the largest FTC regions - they had a famous people that used their name to raise funds and support.

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Thanks! I might want to get in contact with them then. Thank you for sending a link to their website

I started in a Mexico’s team (not Europe, sorry) back when there were no events in Mexico, and I can tell one of the biggest problems is having to go compete to other country (in our case the U.S.). The program has grown strongly since the first event in Mexico opened.

My experience with European teams has always been positive and you can see the same resilience we had back when we had to travel long hours to get to an event.

  • I have known team 5553 Robo’Lyon from France since they started, and they’re awesome people. I am sure you can ping them to learn more about their experience as an FRC team in Europe.
  • Team 5412 Impossible Robotics from the Netherlands attended the Mexico City regional this year and traveled with my former team (2283) to Bayou. They sent a very small committee of students and mentors because moving the whole team was just too expensive (as far as I heard).

I would emphasize more the “people” part. If there’s a will and a committed organization (school, non-profit, or company) the rest of the requirements become easier to tackle.

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Perhaps US influence and relation has a factor in play here.

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Thank you, also mind sharing the difficulty in starting a team more, and how your team did it? I am trying to help create a team in Germany, but it is hard with there only being one team there

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Geographically: Only the fragment west of Bosporus Strait. The bulk of the country is considered to be in Anatolia (Asia minor)
Geopolitically: Turkey in a prolonged application process to the European Union, but has not been accepted.

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About half of Turkey’s teams are in Europe, Geographically. (~40 teams IIRC, I have never bothered to count because I don’t really care about that stat much). About 20% of Turkey’s Population is in Europe, and 3% of its land area. (İstanbul… it’s a crazy city).

Turkey happened because my family (through our foundation) made it happen. It was a long hard process to get to where we are today, and things are snowballing in a good way now so we’re flying. I hope that the economy holds up enough to let us continue to fly because the students get sooooo much out of this. Oh man. But this is an extremely expensive program - and culturally that’s a harder barrier to cross on this side of the Atlantic.

Presently our regionals are in Asia (by about 3 miles), so we can’t really say we have a European regional yet - though Blair did last year at our first İstanbul Regional :stuck_out_tongue:

You need both money to fund teams, or at least cover a portion of registrations as a motivator, and you need local full time people to make it happen(like me and my 2 co-workers). Without those two things it will be extremely hard. Even with those two it ain’t easy. We started in 2007 in Turkey due to my grandfather having graduated from the school 2905 is from we had connections with them, so we told them our annual donation was going to robotics starting in 2008. Thus 2905 was formed. from there we worked from abroad to try to help new teams start here and there, but we weren’t doing too much. mostly supporting teams that popped up after they popped up, not so much proactive work. in 2015 I graduated college, and I and my coworker Ayse were hired to bring a regional to Turkey. (I work for Yüksel Inc., and volunteer my corporate time to the foundation, Ayse works for the foundation). We held an off-season in 2015 - we bought kits of parts for the rookies that cost us a lot of money, and gave them to the rookie teams for like $500. The 8 veteran teams paid a lower registration fee but we didn’t give them a kit. We pulled a game out of the closet, Aim High, brought some volunteers from the U.S., and put on an off-season with 19 rookies and 8 veterans. Man were we rookies back then.

in 2016 we played Rack’N’Roll (+20 rookies at the event)
in 2017 we switched to Steamworks and had a real FMS to run the field (+20 rookies at the event)
in 2018 we did Power Up (+27? rookies at the event)

We did that for 3 years, in the process starting like 45 new teams (bringing the total to 53). in 2018 we finally had our first Regional in Turkey, and things have been going crazy well since, despite the economy collapsing. But our foundation helps a ton for the teams. So there’s that. We did the off-season again in 2018. We aren’t doing them in the future likely though, we can help teams more other ways, now that we have official regionals we can bring schools and sponsors to show in Turkey. We have 79 teams competing this year from Turkey, making us the third largest country in FRC :slight_smile:

Basically, it’s not an easy process, and it takes a lot of dedication, time, and money.

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Wow that is amazing! Just curious, do any European teams come to the regional in Turkey?

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We had two teams from Poland, one from Switzerland, and one from Ukraine this year, as well as two from Brazil, one from Afghanistan, and one from Libya.

Last year the team from Norway came.

They’re all a lot of fun to have! And they seem to have a ton of fun too!

Also as a side note - I know the veteran polish team - 5883, who won chairman’s at the Bosphorus Regional, is really interested in getting a regional going in Poland.

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Ah… This subject is like filleting a fish, lot’s of pieces and information to unravel with long backgrounds.

I’d like to start of with the fact that besides FRC, the entire FIRST program is growing tremendously in Europe. In special FTC is getting bigger and bigger due to heavy progressions in especially Romania, the UK and the Netherlands.
It’s what @yarden.saa said: all you need is people and money. Where in my opinion it’s 1/3 people and 2/3 money.

To start FTC or FRC teams and a competition here there are lots of hurdles for teams to overcome, one of the biggest is sourcing the right vendors and parts from the United States. Everything we buy from the US is multiplied by roughly 1.4 for the added TAX , Shipping cost and Import costs. Besides that the travel part is expensive for the teams/students; each team has their own approach on funding the trip.

Within Team Rembrandts we’re working with a sponsor-bonus-funding agreement. If a student arranges a sponsor or multiple they get a small discount on their entire trip. For a twee week regional the travel and housing costs are roughly 1650 dollar depending on where you’re going. Depending on their “sponsor-buy-in” they get a discount somewhere between 50-300 dollar.
This means a good/lucky/hardworking student still has to pay ± 1400 dollar on average (most students have to pay the full price). This year we’ve went to California regional with 60 team members; all paying their own trip.
Some teams pay the entire trip for a student; we at Team Rembrandts believing in a better sustainability of our entire program if we can invest money in tools, facilities, parts, media, branding; whatever is needed. That’s why most of the money that sponsors pay is invested in the entire team budget.

This is I guess the European FRC team side of the story. Besides parts-availability, travel expenses and of course shipping a road-case across the Atlantic ocean is all very pricey. We’ve shipping 2 road cases this season, a pit flightcase and robot flightcase. From Amsterdam to California week 1, California week 1 to week 2, California week 2 to Detroit, Detroit back home; roughly 7000 dollar. (Thanks to our logistics partners FAES and CEVA… And Killerbees for arranging hosting option of our pit flightcase :-D!) And this is while FIRST pays for the robotcase from california to detroit. So already a lot of matters to shave costs there as well. (Ofcourse our own choice to ship two roadcases… who’s that crazy right?)

Then looking at FRC growth in Europe, I’m VERY happy with @AlexBurchard his side of the story on the Turkish side; saves a lot of writing for me haha! Thanks but that says it mostly.

FIRST HQ wants a proven track record with a sustainable program before investing their money into a official FRC regional. Besides that there are rules on the amount of rookie teams there are allowed, how many teams have to be playing for 2 or more seasons and they all should come from one country. I think it’s like 24 teams minimum from one country total (veteran and rookies combined; don’t have the numbers on the top of my head. Sorry)
To achieve such a program, team by team takes A LOT of hard work and dedication from many mentors, schools, students etc to start a European team when the only competition availability is international.

Turkey did it the perfect way and it’s 100% by the book of how a good FRC culture should be “made”. But usually it mostly takes money to start sadly enough; looking at our FIRST program in the Netherlands there is no big influencer or foundation or company who invests heavily in FTC or FRC yet. I’ve been working on growing FTC in the Netherlands since 2013 with only a small budget per year… It works, teams like it but it takes a lot of time. We’ve started with ± 16 Dutch teams back them and currently we’re around 35. We’ve hosted international FTC events of around 45-55 teams per season all mostly organised on voluntary basis.

This season we’ve taken major steps, switching to the metro-league concept; basically the district model for FTC. We’ve gone from 1 regional to 4 qualifiers and 1 Dutch championship. Sadly this meant we had to close borders for most of the teams; although it worked greatly for all the Dutch teams. Increasing their performance and awareness in their schools since they have 3 playing opportunities (2 quals + Championship). This still was organised by our foundation, still on voluntary basis.

For next season I’ll be working on FTC in the Netherlands together with 3 partners mainly; and a lot of volunteers involved of course. The plan is to have 6 qualifiers/league meets and 1 championship. Increasing to roughly 45 teams. We’d like to get FTC sustainable, grow a lot of teams and then start the “Turkish Approach” somewhere in a season or two. Where we’d transition with 10-20 FTC teams to FRC and run a off season event for a year or two. Then we’d like to host a official FRC regional if the program is successful enough.

The UK and Romania have grown FTC tremendously in a very short time frame, money is a big influencer. We’ve been in the talks with FIRST HQ to start a European regional with all the teams in the EU and some rookies; would add up to the 24 pretty quickly. I assume Turkish and Israel teams would love another regional close by but FIRST doessn’t fancy it. They’re scared of unsustainability and don’t want a regional to rely on a lot of “international/external” teams. (And it’s their good right to be “scared”, it’s gone wrong a couple teams before. Brazil if I’m not mistaking…)

Maybe an Australian team can pitch in how they’ve started FRC? IIRC; they’ve had teams registering and not competing. Giving them a team number, parts to work with and build robots in the off season. After a couple of years they had enough teams and starting building the program officially. And it was a combination of the Turkish approach; FIRST doesn’t really want to support this anymore. And play it more by the book such as Alex described.

Soo uhm long story short? There is a lot to it… Every country and team in the EU wants a “EU” regional. Where it’s difficult to convince people that the Netherlands is 1/10 of “square surface area” the state California for example. Combining borders and countries seems to be no solution yet in the EU.

That’s why we’re focussing on growing our FTC program, finding more and bigger money along the way, creating experienced FTC teams and start more FRC teams once we’re comfortable enough.

That’s my 5 cents. Feel free to ask more :smiley:

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To add to this - we weren’t allowed to count European teams towards having regionals in Turkey similarly to how they can’t count teams in Turkey. FIRST is very conservative about it, but they have their reasons. It’s a big hard thing we’re doing, and to be fair to them, their initial mission was the U.S., and they want to make sure they don’t harm that mission in allowing us to propagate outside the U.S., which is fair. Hard, but fair. Over time, inşallah, there wıll be regıonals in Europe I can send my teams to, I know the ones who can afford the crazy cost of travel LOVE it, and I’m sure some would travel to Europe :slight_smile:

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A problem we face here in Turkey, just took off on an airplane in the last hour, currency. The lira lost 7% of its value against the dollar in the last hour. (yesterday $1 was 5,50TL, today $1 is 5,90TL)

How does that affect us:

Veteran registration was 27.500TL yesterday
Today: 29.500TL
Last year: 19.000TL

European teams perhaps have an advantage there, since the Euro is worth more than the dollar the program is “cheaper there” (at least for their sake I hope so!!) But if the euro weakens, registration costs go up. Registration is not a fixed or entirely predictable price outside North America/U.S.

But this affects everything. We buy motors/electronics/game pieces from AndyMark, in dollars. So you can multiply any price times 5,9 then add 20% tax on top of it, and shipping across the Atlantic.

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I second this a lot. I remember when we were caught in a similar situation back in 2015 because the Mexican Peso lost so much value against the dollar, and we had to allocate way more resources to get our parts.

(Has not gotten better, btw)

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Team 2283 was the only Mexican team competing from 2007 to 2009 (as far as I remember). It was a joint effort between the school (the Universidad Panamericana’s High School), a sponsor (General Motors Mexico) and FIRST Mexico.

I can’t highlight enough how important it is to have advocates for the project who can guide the process of starting the team, get the funds and ultimately look after the team’s sustainability. I would say that the first year is just half of the effort. The second part of the challenge is the second year, and the third, and so on. Having a sustainability plan is key when opening team sin new countries because it’s easy to lose the rookie team inertia.

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