Help Choosing a Travel Team

Hey everyone! So our team has just recently managed to raise the funds to go out of state and compete in a second regional. Normally we can bring a large majority of our team to the regional as it is only 1 hour away. This is not the case for this regional as the drive will take at least 8 hours. The problem here is we have a large group of skilled juniors and seniors we’d like to take, however a fair number of freshmen and sophomores have also worked really hard in order to go. Is there any particular way we could pick the people who go? We want to take our skilled older members, but also want our underclassmen to feel included and want to come back in the years ahead. There’s obviously the idea of a lottery, but we’d like something a little more merit based. Thanks!

I’m going to assume you’ve looked into buses, hotel costs, and all of that and decided that you cannot feasibly afford to bring all the students you want to go without charging an exorbitant trip fee. If you haven’t you should.

My team almost always brings all the members that “qualify” (are in good academic standing, showed up to meetings, contributed, etc) to our trips, but I can tell you how we choose our early team and sort priority after that.

The first sort we use is “can they actually go”-- can they afford the trip (financially and academically). If a student can’t afford to go academically, they shouldn’t be going. And if your team can’t afford the bus to get the full team there, I’m assuming there are limited “scholarship funds” available.

Second sort is whether they are needed. Identify the drive team, pit crew, and presentation team-- the people that the team cannot compete without. This list probably isn’t longer than ten people.It doesn’t include seniors who are really good at machining but can’t be on the pit or drive team.

After that, it’s a lottery. Just make sure it’s a fair selection process-- if you want to make sure you have some underclassmen there, say “we’re going to take at least 5 freshmen, 5 sophomores, 5 juniors, 10 seniors” (numbers are adjustable-- that’s just an example). Use a random line tool (like to select from among the subsets.

Overall, just make sure your selection process is clearly communicated to all involved and is fair and agreed upon ahead of time. Save yourself the trouble by getting the entire process right the first time.

On team 842, we have what we call a spreadsheet called a requirements list in which all members are sorted based on what they do for the team. For example, you can earn points by mentoring FLL teams, attending public events, posting what you did on our activity sheet each day as well as money raised. This way we take the top people from the list when it comes to trips. Of course all members are aware of the list and what is on it on the first week of school. This takes any bias out of picking members to go on trips.

Yeah, we simply have a small team and aren’t really big enough to take a lot of people. Thank you!

We had something similar, however our captain got rid of it because he was irritated with how everyone has not been working because they’ve just assumed they could go. As of now no one is assured to go, so work is going forward.

On our team, all traveling team members are required to pay their share of the travel costs. The team does not pay for the hotel or charter bus. The Mentors, students, and parents all pay travel fees.

Our Boosters will fundraise and help pay for those who are unable to travel for financial reasons and will pay their fees.

Our only limitation is academic and schedule conflict.

What Nick wrote.

Basically, students who contributed get to go. The ideal would be objective measurements of ‘contribution’, such as attendance, work on the team (including non-technical work), behavior, grades, etc. If you have not been measuring these things*, then it becomes more subjective, and you should have mentors involved.

There also may be a cost to travel - our students have to contribute to the cost of travel, but how much depends on team budget. It can be well over $400 to attend St Louis. Students who can’t afford it can (privately) ask for financial assistance.

If there’s enough money, everyone can travel. But if they misbehave, their parents must come pick them up - even if it’s a plane ride away…


*Why not? Next year!

We’ve recently begun to have a problem with a student who cannot assume his role, he’s part of our leadership group but has constantly been insubordinate to the captain, ignores our mentors, and is really rude to our new workers. The problem being with this is that he is still a big part of the build team, and we don’t know if we can honestly replace him so hence he feels untouchable. Is there anything we can do about this?

Tell the student that he won’t be allowed to travel unless he fixes his behavior. Most of the kids you’ll find in FRC who you might have trouble with aren’t really bad kids. I’m sure that person wants to help the team, so if you communicate to him that his current behavior isn’t working for the team, then he’ll change it. Kids in FIRST care about their teams.

While it would certainly cut down on stress of fundraising a whole lot by making each student pay their own travel costs, I would imagine a quarter of the students at most would be able to actually afford it given the financial background of the area and the students of the school. As a result, the travel expenses have to come from the team’s funding and so the list is needed because we wouldn’t be able to take everyone. Just one of those situational circumstances. Again though, if the students want to go on trips, they will earn their way to the top of our requirements list.

Whatever you choose, make sure all of your students know how the team was chosen. That can help with making sure people won’t be mad/jealous if they don’t get chosen.

Everybody can be replaced, and will be replaced in 4 years or so, or less (depending on time to graduation). Looks to me like this particular student needs to find out how much less time he has before being replaced. If you ain’t a team player, why do you want to travel with a TEAM?

We had a very similar issue a few years ago and it truly challenged our team. Unfortunately I can’t tell you that it worked out well for us, mistakes were made which caused some deep wounds to both students and mentors. It caused a schism in our team that year which took a lot of time to heal… only truly being moved past when that student had graduated. We need to remember that we are here to teach more than engineering. We should be teaching these students how to interact with the mentors and other students with respect. Gracious professionalism starts at home. Ignoring, condoning, or rewarding inappropriate behavior does not teach them the right lessons.

I could not agree more. Despite our student’s very inappropriate behavior, a decision was made to allow him to travel with our team. However, the decision making process and the caveats described to him were not made public to the team members or mentors. This made it possible for the student to manipulate people to think that he was being unfairly treated when issues continued on the trips. I understand that schools often have policies regarding discussing the handling of disciplinary situations, but openness of your process is critical to handling this type of situation.

This is also my personal sentiment. The student needs to know that their behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated or condoned because they are deemed “useful” or “necessary”. They (and possibly their parents… and friends) may not appreciate it at that moment, but it will help that student in the future. Everyone needs to learn personal responsibility and that they only deserve what they earn… and that the scale goes in both directions (i.e. you get credit for what you do to help, but also lose points when you do things which negatively affect the team). Although it may seem like they cannot be replaced in the short term, you still have time to train someone to fill in their role. Regardless of whether their replacement is as good as them, it will be better for your team in the long run.

I had this very problem earlier in the year. It was exacerbated by the fact he was the only returning member from last year’s team and he was elected President by the departing members. As a rookie coach I made a lot of mistakes and one of them was letting that election stand and then tolerating his inappropriate behavior towards the other team members and myself.

I’ve already informed him he will not be President next year and I’ve made clear to the team I am selecting leadership positions, they will not be voted on.

I am also going to institute some sort of “contribution/compliance” tracking system. First on the list is, “If you don’t journal in the engineering notebook then you weren’t here and it didn’t happen”.

No student is worth the disruption and insubordination. It is disrepectful to everyone involved and undermines the kids who are doing the right things. I wish I had acted more directly sooner. Lesson learned.

I would love to hear more details about what are on your tracking sheets!

I think the answer depends a bit on what your goals and objectives for the trip are.

If the trip is meant to be a fun weekend, reward for the hard work of the season, etc. and more focused on the experience of the trip, then go with seniors, who are ending their FIRST Student career soon, and then others who have put in the most time. Make the trip a reward for hard work.

If the trip is meant to be a competive weekend where you hope to win the event, awards, qualify for CHP, etc. then you need a different approach. Make the decision based on who will be able to best support the TEAM performance at the event. Who are the best for the drive team, for the pit team, to talk to judges, to scout? Make this list and then add some others based on the reward stucture above if you can take a few more.

So, it depends on your goals for the trip.