Help Getting Robotics to become a Varsity Sport

Hi I am from Team 2036, and we are trying to get Robotics to become a Varsity Sport at our school and from CHSAA (Colorado High School Activities Association).

We are looking for tips and suggestions from other teams which have succeeded in making Robotics an official varsity activity in their school district and state. I know that in other states and school districts, participating on the Robotics team is the equivalent of participating on the Varsity Football team.

I believe this is important, and will help all Colorado teams (and not just ourselves) make Robotics a more integral part of the education system.

At that point, don’t you have to go through HSL (Highschool State League) for participation?

Like in Minnesota everything “varsity” is through “Minnesta Highschool State League” and all the athletic awards come from them and stuff.

This is something that a lot of teams have looked into and discussed on Chief Delphi. A search for “robotics varsity sport” returns these results. I think looking at some of those threads might be very useful to you. Good luck!

smurfgirl’s link is defective. I am posting one for the search she suggested.

I don’t think you can share search links. . .

Yeah, now mine isn’t working either.
Oh well, I think the message is to search and see if you can find what you are looking for.

Yeah, after a time search links die. But, searching for smurfgirl’s term “robotics varsity sport” still works.

This is also on our, Team 842, Action Plan. We were successful last year in having the district pay “coaching pay” for any robotics coach is our school district for this school year and future years. That’s a step in the right direction. We have spoken with the District Superintendent about Varsity letters, as well as providing funds for robotics teams similar to other “sports.” He is and has been very receptive. Keep pressing the issue and please keep all of FIRST aware of what you are doing. We will do like wise.

Not much discussion on this topic lately! I hope that means more schools are now awarding them. We successfully convinced our principal and Athletic Director with this video. Feel free to use it if it helps. I have a higher quality one that I can send you, but it wouldn’t upload to youtube.

One of the simple things I was told a while back was “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.”

Aside from my first recommendation: the most logical thing I can tell you to do is to get to know your administrators. Everything is easier to do when those on top like you.

There are a few key items:

  • First, get support from the school administration. Invite them out to the build space and the competitions. Ask them to let you do a short presentation at a board meeting (with the robot) to tell them what the team is all about. Don’t talk about varsity at first - let them get to know your team and support the program before you start asking for things.
  • Once you have their support, let them know how much work is going into the program. How much time do students spend doing team activities? Compare that to various sports programs at your school… We’ve found it’s very comparable.
  • After you’ve been around for a few years, you can bring back alumni (or just talk about them) who went into engineering and/or got scholarships/internships because of your program.
  • Talk to them about the teams successes. Were you featured on the news at any point? Did you win a regional competition? What awards have you won over all?

The key is to get the administrators on your side. Get them to see that the team goes through everything a varsity sports team goes through - funding issues, recruitment, practice, competition, awards, scholarships and college placement. Eventually they’ll come to understand that a varsity sport doesn’t have to involve athletics.

Do you want to be linked to sports or do you want to get credit? Our team is a ninth period class which requires attendance and participation, takes place all year long, has grades that affect GPA and is only available through school registration. The students on the team petitioned the school board for recognition and they responded that class requirements, a regular curriculum, etc. were needed. The team responded and now it is a class for up to 60 students.

Al, could you elaborate on the process and requirements of this?

We have a curriculum wherein the class meets every Monday night from 5:30 to 8:30PM. During the fall we discuss various robot design criteria, work on group activities and build VEX and FTC robots in small groups. Included in the Monday night sessions are safety training and testing, a little introduction to the various sub teams and software classes. Once kickoff occurs, the team meets almost every day for brainstorming, prototyping and field building. Once we get into the build, mechanical, field, software and electrical teams meet at the playing field on different nights and on weekends to work on the robot and field. All of these are in addition to the Monday night meetings. Mentors are consulted on the level and regularity of students on their sub teams to assess for grades and travel decisions. Students are informed as to what their robot grade levels are weekly and mentors are kept informed of students grades in other classes as well.
Grades are determined by attendance, Monday is mandatory attendance with other subteams setting their own schedules with a mentor(s). We can’t expect every student to attend every meeting outside of Mondays but we track their hours and interest while they work. The drive team and any travel candidates must maintain minimum grades in both other classes and robot class. We have about sixty students that start in the fall. Some drop the class and some do not make grades, attendance, participation or fundraising minimums to travel. We take a small group to one regional, everyone who is not flunking can attend the Midwest Regional (our home regional) but their ability to travel to one, two or three days is dependent on their grades and the need for drive or pit crew on those days. About 35-40 will travel to Champs depending on all of the above factors, and parent permission. Our biggest problem is having counselors informed and knowledgeable about the program. Some counselors will inform parents and students that they cannot participate in sports, band, etc. or that the program is only open to juniors and seniors. Many of our students participate in a wide variety of other activities including honors classes, scouts and church groups and do just fine in robotics. We see about two to three Eagle Scouts every year, four year band, orchestra or jazz band students, soloists, marching band, football, soccer or baseball and student government. Most students will schedule their life around robotics and other events. One of our drivers gave up a European Tour with the Jazz band to attend IRI.

Thanks Al.