We’re not there yet, but with our current growth rate I can see my team exceeding 50 members within the next few years. Why is that number important? It is the number of students that can easily fit in a coach bus (not including seats reserved for teachers/mentors). If you are a team that limits its travel to a single bus and your team size exceeds the available seats on a bus, how do you determine who travels with the team?
Number of hours put in is the first metric I would use but in general, it would be who the mentors/leadership agreed were the most committed.
If i mentored a team, traveling super far away, I’d only bring those that actually do their work and not distract others.
Either you get 60 hours of build season work time and you can go to comps with the team, or you don’t, and consequently, you don’t. That’s the strategy 5052 employs and from what I’ve seen it’s effective.
1072 has not limited the travel team in years past. In recent years we’ve seen a huge jump in recruitment, however, so we’re planning on capping the travel team next year. The specifics are still up in the air, but most likely it will be based off of productive hours spent in the shop.
We had around 100 signups this year before the season started, and by the end of the season saw around 50 people going to competitions, including Champs.
Travel budget is most likely the single biggest drain on your annual budget.
We are starting to struggle with this exact issue as we have begun to travel a bit more in the last three years. As we began the search for how to “draw the lines”, we asked exactly the same question. Our first approach was to look to large local and successful teams to begin modeling our process after. I suggest the same approach may work well for you.
Our first step was to determine what the makeup of a “Travel Team” could be. This is a slightly fluid number and can change from tournament to tournament, and year to year. Fro example, our approximate number currently is between 20 and 25 students.
Now that we have a target number to work with, we need to figure out our benchmarks that must be achieved. (There will always be students that you NEED to go, but for some legitimate reason can’t meet the benchmark. Plan for how to handle this.)
Some benchmarks to consider:
- Hours contributed. (This can be rated on top X number of students, Minimum required, Actual productive hours, etc.)
- Off season attendance. (Attendance outside of regular FRC Build and competition season.)
- Contribution to the team. (Not everything has to be measured by hours.)
- Skill set(s). (This is completely team dependent. For example, the one and only student who knows how to drive the robot.)
This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are dozens of metrics that can be used. This list is not arbitrarily ordered, it is just how I would suggest you start. YMMV.
We do the same except 100 hours of build season or off season events/fundraising
This is our first year going to a regional where we had to stay overnight and what we did was made roles and figured out what roles we would need filled at the competition(Tech, Driver, Scouting, Mech, etc.) and chose the best people to fill those roles. If there were other people who wanted to go and they put in a significant amount of their time into the team, we also let them go. The only people we didn’t encourage to go were people who didn’t give a significant amount of time to the team and wouldn’t be productive.
So this year, we had 2 hour cutoffs for our regionals due to the large size of our team (over 120 student). We had a set number of hours that needed to be completed to go to our local competition. We then had a higher number of hours to attend our distant competition. I don’t recall the exact number of hours, but almost all students made the cutoff for our local competition, and many made the cut for our distant competition.
To attend either competition, students had to complete 3 fundraising/outreach hours and 2 shop-cleaning hours (to help keep our machine shop that our school generously lets us use clean).
After passing all the requirements, they could go with the team.
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What you have is a killer plan. It won’t be as effective the first years but will take off.
Students will be not only pushed by the requirements but themselves and others. And even if they got the most hours, they could get turned down for not excelling in the other points.
I spent 65 hours working with software and drive team over spring break alone.
I believe the local cutoff was 40 hours. I too am blanking on the other one.
A question which has been asked many times on CD, and what you see above is essentially the common answer - teams set thresholds or competition based on shop hours worked, outreach hours, funds raised, and so forth. Note that you want to make the measurable hours appropriate - try not to count hours in the shop chatting about non-team topics and/or playing video games, and don’t ignore hours at home programming, CADding, scouting, and so forth. Sometimes the limits are a lot smaller than the fifty which will fill a bus - 3946’s school administration will usually only allow 25 students to travel/attend competitions during school hours, and teams who fly have a significant burden for each person who travels, so the problem is there for what I believe is a significant majority of teams.
Another consideration is: how much does the team depend on key individuals? Examples would be drive team members, chairman’s presenters, pit crews, scouting, and in some cases mascots/cheerleaders. You either need to check these key positions against your requirements well in advance of each event, or recognize that either you may be short on a key position or making an exception. This is one of those issues you probably won’t encounter in any given year, but which is a good one to have a plan/policy in place before it becomes an issue.
My team is not close to 50 team members, we don’t have to travel more than 2.5 hours to a comp (unless we go to a regional in the future), nor do we travel on coach buses, but I think I can help.
I would make sure that the student leadership is there. At least on our team, among the students, the student leadership knows the most about our program, and that is what a judge is going to judge you on: how well your students can build a robot and spread STEM/FIRST into your community and how well your students can communicate that to others. That being said, make sure that they are commited, which is probably not going to be hard if the pool that you pull your student leadership from is 50+ people.
Next, I would go with number of hours put in during the build season. The people with the most hours in (after the student leadership) are the most valuable members of your team at a competition because they are (in theory) the next most able to explain your program to judges/other teams, as well as they (in theory) know the next most about your robot.
Also, use dicipline and grades to determine who gets to go to competitions. For example, if a students grades are suffering, then do not let them travel with you because they clearly have other priorities. Also, if a student can be considered an issue (in a diciplinary way), don’t let them travel because that is just another thing for your coaches to handle, and they probably already have enough going on at a comp.
Best of luck!
This year we (the mentors) decided we could bring X kids on the travel team, and looked at attendance first. If there was anyone in the top X for attendance but we felt wasn’t a top contributor (like if they spent a lot of time messing around and not being productive), or vice versa, we adjusted the list.
Next year we’re implementing an hours-based minimum requirement. To be eligible to travel you will have to have attended at least 75% of regularly-scheduled meeting hours, completed at least 20 hours of outreach, and participated in fundraising activities TBD. Among those that meet the minimum bar, we’ll evaluate who is needed for an essential role (drive team, pit crew, scouting lead, etc) and who has worked hardest and contributed most to the team.
We decided it was super important that if it came down to choosing, we wanted it to be as transparent as possible. Thus, students were ranked in the following order:
- Team requirements - Grades and other requirements that were a must per school policy.
- Drive team - They worked incredibly hard to get were they are, and have higher standards than most already. Plus, you have to drive the robot somehow.
- Mentors comfort in taking the student on a large trip
- Seniority - The younger you are, the more chances you have at going in the future.
It went something along those lines.
We ride in mentor’s cars and school vans to our competitions, and our team’s student population has always been around the 10-14 mark. But starting this off-season we are going to start only taking the Drive Team, Pit Crew, and Safety to set up the night before. Any scouts & other members will be showing up the morning of. Its mainly just to save a little extra on lodging costs and logistical planning time.
I like it because we can increase our productivity with less people crowding the pit on Thursday (or Friday), but everyone still gets to experience the fun of an FRC competition.
“What are you gonna do to contribute to the team and its goal at this competition?”
Does the kid have a good answer? Is that answer good enough to be worth the cost of sending the kid? Cost both monetary and otherwise in the realm of taking 50+ kids to competition (team culture, mentors have to keep an eye out/babysit, etc.)
Some kids won’t have a great answer but won’t have a bad one. Maybe it’s a budding Freshman who wants to help however they can but doesn’t know exactly what that means. It’s on you to make those hard calls, but also keep in mind how that budding Freshman will benefit for the next year.
Greatest downfall of this question
Many dont know the meaning of FIRST as they’ve never heard of it before, are joining the team to learn what it’s about. Even as a freshman, i still didnt know until the start of junior year. I really wish i didnt waste any more time.
In the past for teams I’ve been apart of, it’s been eligibility based on grades, fundraising minimums, permission slips, mandatory attendance and first-come first-served, with spots opening up and offered to specific students as others become ineligible.
For locally-distant competitions, the lead mentor of the team + input from student leaders determined the “competition team” to travel and stay in a hotel instead of commute the hour every day. For the most part, if you had to ask if you would be apart of the “competition team” the answer was no.