How do I help my area move to districts?


Time for a little background to be added to this thread…
First, key volunteer roles require level headed, mature people with specific abilities and experience. Some of the wording in this document is directly lifted from my requirements for Lead robot Inspectors and for Inspectors. While Inspecting may look easy for the casual observer, it is not. We just make it look easy. The Inspection staff is tasked with insuring that robots are ready to take the field and compete. We regularly assist teams with robot and team issues and I depend on that staff at every event to be able to deliver bad news and get the team working towards a successful weekend. We train LRIs to recognize when a smile is turned into a frown and to correct it, immediately. In talking with other key volunteers, their desire and training are similar. My requirements for inspectors at a minimum is that they have actively worked on a team building a robot for at least two years. That means I want them to know how to read and interpret rules on the fly to assist teams. Inspectors must pass a test to be allowed to inspect. Even then, each inspector will be evaluated by the volunteer coordinator, the LRI and the regional committee for future volunteer assignment. In addition, any complaints lodged by teams will also be considered. In rare cases, a volunteer may not be the best fit for that role for a variety of reasons.
Any LRI is also expected to fulfill the role of Inspector for several years before being considered as an LRI candidate. During training, that individual will again be evaluated by the LRI and volunteer coordinator under which they train and shadow. It is only in this way can we insure that an event will be successful and the students each volunteer works with receive the highest possible experience.
As to maturity, that is also judged by how a volunteer presents themselves outside of FIRST events as well as when volunteering. While social media seems to be a benign entity, it is not and it is public. When a volunteer expecting a better role, complains in public, degrades staff or committee decisions and purports to know “the real reason” behind certain activities, that is never a secret. Volunteer coordinators need to know that they have the best person in each position because we are putting students at risk if we don’t.
Some volunteer positions do not require the level of maturity or experience that other roles demand. We still need volunteers and I am sorry if you think you deserve a different role. My recommendation for everyone is to self evaluate their daily activities as a future employer. Would you hire someone who complains in social media (including CD) about their current employer, decisions made and activities for which they have no real knowledge? I would not.
While many posters, presenting themselves as knowledgeable students in Minnesota, are arguing that the Minnesota committee is preventing a move to districts, you are not in position to know what the committee is doing. You have no knowledge of what it takes to move to districts, the restrictions placed on the committee by FIRST, the state and local jurisdictions, the financial needs or the on the demands for volunteers, including local committees. If you think that the committee is doing a bad job, I would point to the explosive growth in Minnesota, now at 208 teams. I would point to four regional events serving well over 50 teams at each event. I would point to the high standards for volunteers, especially judging staff and inspections. I would point to the expectation that more events are needed and the work they are doing to assist Iowa and Wisconsin. I would point specifically to the great LRI and inspection staff I observe at MN events. I would point to the preparation of rookie teams that allow them to have a great first experience. I think that Minnesota is doing a spectacular job for FIRST and I hold them up as an example for others to emulate.
It is rare to find someone who is still in college or recently entering the workforce to be able to handle the stress and demands of any Key Volunteer position. It is actually hard to find that in someone who has been around for years.
Want a real test? How would you handle a team who shows up for your event at 142" frame perimeter, weighing 130 pounds, with no way to mount bumpers to the front of their robot and a pickup mechanism that extends outside of the frame by 2 feet? Think about how you would deliver the news, how to keep the team engaged, how to get the team working towards a compliant robot. How would you keep the smiles coming and allow the team to keep their pickup in a compliant fashion. That is what our LRIs and Inspectors are facing every week. Compared to Judges working with Chairman’s teams or Engineering Inspiration or Rookie Allstar, our job is easy.


Frankly, I think some of the most short sighted and unprofessional posts on this topic both on CD and social media have not been from the MN alumni and their supporters, rather from the established adults chastising this group. Al’s point about the perils of social media is absolutely appropriate, however this is something that everyone should be considering, not just the group of alumni who are regularly being called out.

This reminds me a lot of how millennials are regularly called out for simply being younger and having different perspectives. In the end it’s the ones who are calling them out in unprofessional in ways that end up embarrassing themselves and looking uninformed.


That last part is what is really bothering me right now. When older mentors who don’t inherently have more experience due to age are talking down to college aged volunteers and implying they are inherently immature, I have very little sympathy for any region craving volunteer growth.

As a mentor, I try my hardest to never pull the age card on my kids. Having been through it as a student, I know that it can feel like one of the most condescending things to hear.

Last post for me in this thread, it is really not worth it. PM to comment on my posts.



I don’t believe I’m one of those students who has said that the Minnesota Committee is preventing a move to districts. I know for sure that I’m not one of those students who believes the Minnesota Committee is doing a bad job, to the contrary, I believe they’ve done a great job as evidenced by some facts you reference.

I would, however, like to be in a position to know what the committee is doing. Their decisions affect my involvement with FIRST, and the involvement of everybody else in Minnesota.

You are mostly correct in stating that I have no knowledge “of what it takes to move to districts, the restrictions placed on the committee by FIRST, the state and local jurisdictions, the financial needs or the on the demands for volunteers, including local committees.” I say mostly correct because I do have some knowledge, but not nearly enough. I think everyone in the state would benefit from having a broad knowledge of the situation that MN FIRST is dealing with. There is no reason, that I can see, that would make secrecy a requirement.

If the general population has a broad understanding of the situation, we will be more equipped to help. If we understand what is going wrong, we can become a part of the solutuon. If the general public understands the issues, we can provide accurate, and educated feedback with an understanding for how difficult some issues are.

The fact is, people don’t understand how the transition to districts will work, nor the problems associated with such a transition. Once that problem is resolved, we can start making real change happen.


As this thread approaches a point where it is best off locked up from the denizens of this corner of the internet, I just want to make sure that it’s pretty clear it’s now impossible to buy into the meme that Minnesota can’t move to the district system because of a lack of a volunteer base.

Sure, my only experience with Minnesota comes from
a) flying up there to canoe one summer (it was great, thanks nature!)
b) the Saints beating the Vikings in the NFCCG (sorry Vikings fans)

but I live in a region that really seemed to hate the idea of moving to districts. Just couldn’t seem to find x or y. New executive director for the state’s 501c3 comes in and says “yo, we’re doing this now” and people FREAK OUT. WE’RE NOT READY! HOW WILL THE EARTH CONTINUE TO SPIN WITHOUT HAVING A DEEP BENCH OF GAME ANNOUNCERS [or other KV position here]."

We’re going into our last week of districts and hell yeah, there have been growing pains. We had to wait 3 hours to get inspected at our first event. But hey, my first thought was “wow, guess we need to get some of our to-be alums trained up to be RIs” not “wow, guess I need to tell the internet how much districts suck.” We went to the first event to spectate and hoo boy, some stuff was rough. But hey, first district, a lot of KVs brand new to their positions, refereeing is hard this year and the barrel plugs on these radios are nightmare fuel. The only problem was the grotesque number of the infernal FRC parody videos everyone had to sit through.

The biggest victory of the district system? Coaches got an email a week before the district saying “hey, we NEED people for these positions.” I ring up a couple alumni from the local college and they leap right into it. We had one alum get the opportunity to go from high school senior last season to Game Announcer this season. And he KILLED it. One of the clearest, most enthusiastic and confident GAs I have heard in a long time. Sure I’m biased because I know him, but also I know that he was very green but wanted to do the job well. He will be doing the job this weekend and I expect great things.

If he was a Golden Gopher instead of a Hokie, he would be told he wasn’t even old enough to run FIELD RESET this year. How are you going to engage your alumni to further advance your program when you tell them to man safety glasses until someone almost quite literally dies? MN’s RPC has triggered an aggressive expansion of teams but seems to balk at the idea of aggressively expanding their volunteer base. Why?


It’s quite amazing how far the document diverges from the one published by GuamFIRST. I compared the two documents so you can see for yourself-- it’s almost eerie how the two letters have the same format but vastly different messages. Not half as destructive or offensive. Great job GuamFIRST!

GuamFIRST volunteer path to advancement.pdf (170 KB)

GuamFIRST volunteer path to advancement.pdf (170 KB)


I disagree, the messages are almost identical down to the actual wording.

Happily, when students graduate from teams and/or from college, they often want to give back to
the FRC program!
With the growth of FIRST Programs in Minnesota, many students are graduating from teams
and/or from college and wanting to give back to the FRC program.

GuamFIRST staffs our events with people who volunteer often and energetically.
DO volunteer often and energetically.

In your personal communications (including social media), maintain an awareness of how
your voice may be heard by your audience.
When not at an event, be aware that everything you do reflects
on FIRST. This is especially true with social media – Tweets, posts, or blogs can easily cause
issues for volunteers. Stay positive, think about how your post will be perceived,

It is just written in different style because it was written by a different person. It is the same message.



So now that this thread has brought to light the falseness of Minnesota’s “lack of volunteers” problem, are there any actual problems preventing Minnesota from transitioning to districts??? The last two threads I read about MN and Districts, this was unequivocally the primary/only problem cited by many individuals. Argument doesn’t look so strong now.


I respectfully disagree. Only one of those documents makes me want to volunteer.


Yes, they are different styles. One of which is vaguely insulting. The other is more encouraging.

More bees with honey than vinegar.


From an outsider’s perspective: One problem I think MN has is that the entire state is run by one RPC. Most other districts took several RPCs, and combined them, allowing for a wealth of expertise. Unless MN starts to divy up the load on to more planning committees before the switch, the transition in that regard could be rough.

Getting the volunteer base is a struggle every district goes through, but having to grow planning committees by 10 in the first year isn’t.


The message may be the same, but the presentations are completely different; night and day. Two salesmen can present the same pitch for the same exact product and get drastically different results.

GuamFIRST: Tells me waht they look for and how they staff their events. Insiteful!
Minnesota: Tells me how I should volunteer. You don’t know my journey, Minnesota.

GuamFIRST: Reminds me that as a volunteer, a represent the community, and people will look up to me.
Minnesota: Scares the $#!& out of me by guilt-tripping me into not making a social blunder, because “they’re always watching!!!”.

HUGE tone differences.


I’m obviously not picking up on what people are seeing as “destructive or offensive” about the document supposedly* published by MN FIRST. The two letters look to me like they have exactly the same message. The only substantial difference in style I see is that one is written in an active and instructional form, while the other is more passive and conversational. If I were just starting out as a possible volunteer, I know I would appreciate the specific guidance of the first one more.

  • It was presented here as second-hand information, and I don’t see a reference to it on the mnfirst web site.

Considering the letter discussion has continued to dominate this thread (to my dismay), I do have a question. How was the letter published/distributed? Was it posted on a MN FIRST website for prospective volunteers? Was it e-mailed to all volunteers on the VC’s list? Was it emailed to a specific group of volunteers? Was it released for public consumption at all?


Was distributed at a presentation by a guest speaker of sorts.


If you have not done so, please read my previous post #75.

I think the biggest tone difference between the two that particularly strikes a negative cord with the college aged audience is in the following passage:

…Many of these students are motivated to pursue specific volunteer goals – they
want to be an FTA, or a Head Ref, or an LRI, or an MC or Game Announcer. When we connect
with these passionate people who desire to be a Key Volunteer, GuamFIRST works to advance
them towards their goals by helping them form into mature and experienced volunteers, often over
several years of development.
GuamFIRST has provided this document as a guide for
understanding our volunteer advancement program.

…Many of these students have specific volunteer goals – they want to be an FTA, or a Head Ref, or an LRI, or an MC or Game Announcer. These Key Volunteer positions take a mature, experienced volunteer, and will take at least several years to work towards. Use this document as a guide as you work towards your volunteer goals!

GuamFIRST: We will help you get to where you want to be.
Minnesota: You’re not mature enough yet, but if you work toward it, maybe you might be some day.
College kids LOVE to hear that one!

You have to be blind as a bat to miss this one.


Sometimes districts are annoying. It’s one more step to get to St. Louis




I don’t think this post positively contributes to the discussion in this thread.

Please try and bee a bit more productive next time!


sorry man this thread just isn’t what i want it to bee about