How do team select new members?

So how do teams select new members each year? The team size thread made me want to ask this.

Our team is limited to 25 participants. Veteran members pretty much get back on free. New members attend a couple of meetings which introduce them to the team. Applications are handed out, filled, and returned. This year, two people entered all the applications into an anonymous database - no names or handwriting. The applications were shown to the veteran members on projector and we voted based on qualifications such as seniority and ability to commit to the team (obviously very important). The votes were tallied based on approval. Each veteran member made a list of 8 people they would approve of being on the team based on the applications and then everyone’s lists were tallied. The 7 most approved people were the initial ones to be on the team. The officers then went back and reviewed them carefully to see if perhaps someone else was close to being in that top 7 (yeah, we have a lot of returning members) and was still very qualified. A couple minor changes were made and presented back to all the veteran members. The teacher then approved/finalized the list.

I would consider the TechnoKats an equal opportunity team. Whoever shows up to the call outs and meetings will be on the team. Every year we would (and I’m sure they still do) get a large amount of people in the fall, and that number would reduce itself down to around 35. The TechnoKats do have a selection process for team positions such as team leader or robot operator, and there are a few different applications for many spots. After the adults recieve these there is a voting session held during a meeting to elect these new student officials. The TechnoKats do become more strict when it comes to who gets to travel, aside from the grade requirements students must attend a certain amount of meetings and participate in a level that is approved by the adults. In the past this has come to hurt a few people when it came to traveling time, and it looks like this year they have a new “point system” to help with this. All of this is explained in great detail in the . It’s a great handbook that has been developed over the course of 4 or 5 years.

Ditto with 384 Clark. We welcome anyone who his well behaved, works, and loves what they do. When it comes to travel, it changes due to money. Last year we only brought 12 to Annapolis, but another 7 students drove up on their own time and money to see us on Saturday. That’s a 3-4 hour drive, and they were there before we were!

We take 'em as they come.

We have around 70 members and at times I kinda wish mabye we should do tryouts, but no one on our team wants it to be exclusive. Members have to post a certain # of hours outside of general meetings to come to regionals, but we will never turn anyone down at a meeting who wants to learn.

Ummm. There are many ways to get team members to join.

  1. A Walkin Where students just walkin to the robotics room.
  2. Hold a team orientation during PTA nite.
  3. If you want kids from technical courses to join invite the teacher and students of that specific course to attend a competition.
  4. Have current members spread the word about robotics to their friends. (which i’m almost positive is whats being done already!)

People who know me know how I feel about application systems, and those that don’t, IM me if you want to know, because I’m not going to rewrite it here.

My team lets anyone and everyone join, when it comes time for the big trips, any travel ones basically, we decide in a team meeting who should go, usually our drive team and our specialists, then devotees who don’t fit that category until we run out of plane tickets or hotel rooms or whatever limits us.

Our team has an application process that begins extremely early in the fall. All veteran members are offered a slot to return, and then we open any remaining spots to applicants. The main reason that we use this application system is that we have (officially) a twelve student team. The major benefit of such a small team is that everyone gets a huge amount of time working with the robot. It is a hands on experience for everyone. By the end of the build season we are all very close (after spending eight hours a day for six weeks together, you become friends, or you die.). It is a great experience to be a part of, and I am sure that it would be very different if we had a sixty person team.

Of course, after the applications are done, anyone who wants to build a robot without being “officially” on the team is welcome to join us in the shop after school, and they can be added to the roster if they show a lot of determination. We try to keep our team small, but we welcome anyone who is willing to make the commitment and join us.

Many teams treat FIRST as an early occupation for students, i.e. they must try out for a position on the team relevant to their interests. While this may suit many teams and lead to student success, our team takes a much more broad approach: ‘Let’s inspire EVERYONE!’

If a student comes to our meetings, they are on the team. If a teacher participates in activities or fundraisers, they are our ally. And we found out, amazingly enough, that this lack of organization/mass inspiration lead us to a successful year with many supporters of our team.

I’ve managed to find that the students I probably might not have picked specifically for a programming or driver’s position end up being the most involved, most dedicated, most inspired students. The only thing I can ask of other mentors is that they give everyone a chance… this program benefits those people who dedicate their time to benefit others. It’s a win-win situation.

Well, right now we dont really have a problem with selecting members. The team is small enough that I take what I can get.

I don’t know what I would do if the team ever did get too big. I not really a fan of applications (besides, that means I have more paper work, and I’m not a fan of that either) and as we are the only educational extracurricular activity in the school, I really don’t want to turn people away. And I think right now we have enough work to keep about 300 people busy. Guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.


Although I support the totally open approach that some teams have, some schools/teachers (such as our own) have problems with this sort of ambiguitiy and lack of an official decision as to whether a certain person is on the team or not. In my opinion, the restrictions are understandable (a robotics competition is pretty much a four-day weekend, and if someone who has no intention of going decides that they’re suddenly “on the team” despite not having expressed any interest before…), and I’ve concluded that the spirit of FIRST is not significantly hurt from that.
What I think does hurt, however, is a sort of elitism that develops if membership is restricted to people who are declared “more qualified.” I can see not expending limited resources (maybe not everyone will be able to attend natinoals), but everyone should be exposed to FIRST in some way or another, whether they’re “on the team” or not.

My team allows whoever wants to join to join. We started out with almost 40 members this year…its weeded itself out to 25 by now and I doubt anyone is going to leave the team now of the people we have.

Also to add, we are VERY close to a regional here, so we let everone go to the VCU regional. Our onl stipulation is that if you get out of school on Thurs and Fri, you have to come on Saturda, and vice versa.

Select? Whoever wants to join 93 can join … everyone is welcome. :slight_smile: edit But to stay on the team, students must maintain a C average and not be failing any of their classes.edit To attend competitions, though, members must fufill a certain criteria (attend so many fund-raising events, show up more than once every great while, etc.) if you want to know the specifics, send me a PM!

Well, many teams seem to let anybody on the team (granted that they behave and are doing well academically), but for us, it is not possible and limited to 25 per year. All vet members have a slot if they wish. If we could have a lot of people, that’d be great, but too much is also a problem since that affects productivity. Our lab just got 24 new workstations (which play Halo nicely) and I am sure that they will be of great distraction to even the 25 people that we have.

To say that the application process is unfair is unfair. Our team looks at everyone’s application anonymously and we decide based on:

Seniority - If that person is a senior and has only this year to participate, then they should.
Commitment - The person needs to be able to be there everyday for most of the time. It’s only 6 weeks and things need to get done fast.
Overall application - Did the person put time into the application? Some of the ones we received included phrases and fragments, which we immediately rejected.
Desire to learn - Did the person also show a desire to learn? The ability to want to learn is more important than any prior background and teaching is a goal of FIRST. We do ask if the students are taking PLTW courses and what background they have, but when we initially look at the applications, those sections are not shown to be fair.

Another topic that was started within this topic was how members were selected for trips. Well, for us, it is similar to what has been said. A minimum number of hours is set and people have to meet that requirement. They also have to be passing classes.

It seems with 246 that since the team is small anyway, whoever shows up is a part of the team if they want to be. I hope to turn things around to the point where they start considering applications because there are too many people - and then fight them because I don’t like that idea :slight_smile:

1020’s approach, as Amanda mentioned, is also very open. Back in the day, when Shrutish and I started putting the word out to start the team we had nothing, so we instinctively latched onto anyone who gave us a second glance. And I think that just kept on going and turned into what it is now.

In general there are two ways that FIRST teams attract students to be on the team:

  1. The team conducts an application process and screens the students
  2. The team accepts any student who wants to join

I am a big proponent of #2.

For instance, there are two teams. Both have student application processes.

Team A conducts an application process and only accepts lathargical slackers who don’t seem to have a direction in school. This team wants to reach out to under-achieving students and try to turn them around. This goal is very ambitious. Many students may not succeed in this program, but the ones who are impacted are huge sucesses.

Team B conducts an application process and only accepts high achievers who have much ambition and above-average GPA’s. The goal of this team is to challege these students and provide an opportunity for them to shine in a field where they can excel.

Call me crazy, but if I had to implement an application process on a FIRST team, I would choose to do it the way Team A did it. The students on Team B already “get” the fact that they need to go to college, get advanced degrees and make an impact in the world. The students on Team A don’t “get it” and need direction. These students are obviously un-inspired for many reasons and FIRST can make a big impact on their lives.

So, if a kid has low grades, they cannot fill out an application very well, or if they cannot interview very well… why keep them out of FIRST? What is the goal of FIRST? - to INSPIRE.

This is my case for letting anyone on the team. Let them on… give them a chance to participate. Then put requirements on them and set goals for them to achieve in order to travel with the team. Sure, some students will still slack off and not meet some of the requirements, but the ones who do turn things around are very proud of their accomplishments.

This is just my opinion. I’m interested to hear why teams conduct application processes like Team B above. If you are really stringent with your application process and your team only lets in the “best of the best”, then I challenge you to loosen your requirements to let in some students who need to be inspired.

Andy B.

I agree 100% with Andy. (Surprise, surprise :wink: ).

This may surprise some people, but my Sophomore year of High School (1999 season), I applied to join the Shenedehowa FIRST team (they had an application process back then), and was rejected!

It was a terrible experience, I had the toughest time trying to figure out why I wasn’t good enough to join our FIRST team. The next year, I reapplied and was accepted… but… I missed out on a whole year of this robotic-fun we all know and love simply because some committee decided I didn’t meet their needs. In my opinion, this shouldn’t happen to ANYONE.

FIRST is about inspiration, simply being there is often good enough. Not everyone needs to be a super-active participant on the team to benefit from the team. Heck, the first time I was inspired by this program was when I SAW Shen’s 1995 robot sitting in the shop. Any involvment is GOOD involvment.

Take everyone. (resources permitting).
You never know what positive impact you will have on a student’s life.


We do an application process and select our students. We used to accept anyone that wanted to be on the team, but thanks to budget problems, we have had to restrict the number of people that can be on the team in the last few years.

We try to be a combination of Team A and Team B that Andy mentioned above. Our reasoning is that we try to mix in the underachievers with the overachievers in hopes that the overachieving students can guide the underachievers toward inspiration. This has worked fairly well for us over the years. In fact, one of our senior students this year is poised to be a very good student leader. In fact, he is now involved in a program they have at his school aimed at helping younger students that are having trouble fitting in. He’s now a very popular guy at his school. When he started on the team, he was more of an underachiever struggling to fit in at school. It appears that his participation on the FIRST team helped to guide him to where he is.

Our feeling is that if we choose all underachievers and the only role models are the engineers, the students might not be abel to relate. We’re hoping that they have some student role models as well.

FIRST off, I applaud and admire Andy’s views. Without a doubt, he and 45 are a class act and represent what FIRST is all about year in and year out. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Andy and talking with him and it remains one of the highlights of my experiences in FIRST.

103 does use an application, recommendation and interview process. While this is exclusionary in a sense, it also helps the prospective students to understand what FIRST is and the different opportunities that exist in the program. Through the process we try to help the prospective students find where they would best fit in on the team - animation, design, manufacturing, programming, web design, etc. This process is a valuable one for the officers that help conduct the interviews as well. There’s learning on all fronts and the goal is always to educate and inform - not to find reasons to leave people out.

Also know that our team is like most that don’t use a “selection process.” We always wind up with close to 40 at the start of the year and the numbers dwindle by build season somewhat. We also have a diverse population on the team, including some of those aforementioned “need to be inspired kids”.

During the season interested middle school students travel to competitions to see what it’s all about. In addition, every spring after the Championship, we travel to our middle school technology classes and introduce the program to every seventh and eighth grader in the building. We do demos in every aspect of the competition, let the students run the robot and troubleshoot simple circuits, distribute applications, and do our best to inspire as many as possible.
In the end, those interested step forward and take part. Many of our new members take on “exploratory/introductory” roles at first to help them find a place on the team that fits them.

At the end of each season the advisors also do an “exit interview” with each student to learn more about their personal experiences and how we can help make it better for everyone in the future.

This makes sense to me. It’s good that teams are letting in kids that need some direction, and I can see a need to limit the number of kids on the team. We just don’t have the luxury of many students in Kokomo High School wanting to be on the team… so we can still accept everyone who wants to be involved. Every year, it suprises me that although KHS has 2000 or so kids from 9-12, only 25 or 30 are interested in TechnoKats. This year, we had a strong recruiting push, so more kids are interested.

Here is our situation right now and how we are dealing with it:

We currently have 60 interested students. That number will probably dwindle between now and March. From our experience, there is no way that 40-60 students will be fully active on the team. But… it would be nice to allow this number of students to attend the competitions, while being fair to the students who put in much effort.

As an answer to this issue, we will be keeping a point system to track student’s involvement. Students get points if they show up to activities and are involved. The top 10 (+/-2) points getters will have their way paid to all competitions. The next 30 students will need to pay 1/2 of their way to all competitions. If any student past those 40 meets a minimum amount of points (in our case, 40 points), then they can go with the team to a competition, but they have to pay their full way.

All students can still fundraise, but they are not required to do so… they just need to pay their share. For the top 10, their payment is through their effort (working in shop, doing demos, mentoring FLL, etc.). This plan has these benefits:

  1. It rewards the kids who put in much effort
  2. It provides a means to be a part of the team for students who are also active in another activity (part time job, sport, etc.)
  3. It places a finite dollar amount on our travel budget.

As Clark said above, this system is highlighted in our team handbook, at TechnoKats Home Page, under “Resources”. I hope this new system works… I’ll post some opinions at the end of the year about how (or if) it worked.

Andy B.