How to Deal with a Liar

You can just drive your Frc robot over their vex robots. That aughta help with recruitment.

In all reality my suggestion is similar to that. Show students an Frc robot and a vex robot next to each other and ask which one they’d rather build. A even decently well made Frc robot is way cooler than a vex bot.


This is a pretty good idea. We had (2017 season) about 25 active members in a highs school of 3500 students. We organized a live demonstration in our school during lunches. We drove our robot around and had it climb, etc. People thought it was really cool, and many were interested in joining. So just showing people the robot in a setting like that is great to raise awareness.

Of the 247 teams MN has had since FIRST started, 207 of them were active in 2017. Of the 40 teams that are no longer active, 12 of them lasted only 1 or 2 years (I’ve heard, but have no data myself to support, that many teams are lost after 2 years due to the expiration of rookie grants and inability to find additional funding).

Unfortunately, as we continue to try to grow the program here, our retention rate is probably going to get worse. We’re pretty well saturated in the metro area schools and the larger schools across the state, which means growth has to come from progressively smaller rural schools, which are incredibly hard to keep running year after year, due to limited availability for local funding, the smaller number of students involved, and the difficulty in finding local area mentors to replace those that retire from the program.

As you can see from the attached image (generate from data I maintain, and believe to be accurate), the number of new teams added each year is declining, while the number of teams retiring has increased, resulting in the total number of active teams starting to level off. Retention in 2016 and 2017 was closer to 95%, with 9 teams retiring each of those years.



Market FRC as an “all-star” program for those who love vex but want more. In addition you can make FRC available for grades 10-12 and vex for 7-9, possibly.

Coexistence will best come when you try to work with your competition rather than fight with them. Who knows, maybe having the vex team(s) for middle school and early high school will feed the best students to your FRC team.

Let me preface this with the statement of “I am not trying to pick a fight about this or start a debate.”.

What impact do you believe reaching the effective limit of your regional space has had on growth over the years?

Noticing trends in MI prior to FIM District the growth appeared to be plateauing at a little over 1/2 regional capacity (I’m ball parking here) And MN seems to be plateauing a little higher (likely fewer double plays? I recall MI was fairly heavy on them during the 05-08 period)

I’m mostly asking this to see if Field of Dreams lied to me or if you build it they will come.

Another point I’d be curious to look at is if dense or sparse growth results in more sustainable teams. Have you done any investigation on that? You allude to rural schools being harder to maintain teams and it jives intuitively but I’m curious if you’ve done any digging into data.

But my final question - For the 40 teams that failed, does MN FIRST do any sort of exit interview to determine cause of failure? (IE, is “loss of rookie grants” a theory or was it a cited cause? What other causes have you found?) IMHO this is where HQ is really disappointing me, they should know why teams fail but, to my knowledge, they have no data collection here.

As far as this limiting growth: I believe it does have some effect but not necessarily a very large one (personal opinion). I do not think it is too difficult to get into ONE MN regional, as they do waitlist very early and prioritize in-state teams. Since (correct me if I am wrong, my team has only ever been to one regional per year) most rookie teams only go to one regional, getting started is not too difficult. And MN FIRST is very very helpful with finding funding for teams as well.

However, from my experience, it is definitely more difficult to get into a Duluth (week 1) AND a Minneapolis (week 6) regional than it should be. As a member of a team that has historically only gone to one regional, but is looking to do two next year, we are most likely going to have to travel out of state for one of them, solely because all four are operating at capacity with waitlists. That is not to say that teams do not do it (1816, 2052, 2502, 2509 come to mind among others) but it is probably less teams than it could be if there were district events, for example. And I think we can all agree that 2+ events makes a team much more competitive. Let’s not bring the MN districts discussion into this thread too much though.

To everyone who emphasized Coopertition… Three cheers!

You must spread some Reputation around before giving it to Lil’ Lavery again.

To everyone who emphasized competition… Three (collegial) Bronx Cheers / Raspberries!

Take a look at what Big Lavery had to say a few years ago. It’s still valid today. … A little less time spent on turf wars …

To me the path to success seems clear:
[li]Contact the School Board. [/li][li]Ask for some time (30 minutes for 6-8 slides/pages, plus Q&A). [/li][li]Give a balanced, very brief, and accurate description of the various STEM programs available (FIRST and VEX aren’t the only ones by any stretch). Throw in some STEAM if you feel good about doing that.[/li][li] Use pictures, accompanied by simple tables, and captions. Memorize what you want to say. Don’t “read” the presentation to the Board.[/li][li]Tell the Board that you are going to give them some amplifying information about the two organizations that they might need to learn about immediately, and that that are your personal favorites (FIRST & VEX = VEXIQ, JFLL, FLL, FTC, VEX, FRC).[/li][li]Describe how each overlaps and differs (schedules, costs, hands-on time, student/adult time-commitments, barriers-to-entry, competition/scrimmage costs, etc.). [/li][LIST]
[li]They are all excellent. If you find yourself describing any one as better, instead of different, rethink your biases.[/li][li] Carefully stick to facts, avoid slipping into bogus cliches such as VEX doesn’t include CAD (you can use CAD in pretty much any program involving physical equipment), or any of the other opinions we all know and love.[/li][LIST]
[li]This is tough to do. Ask a bigot from each/all camp(s) to review your material, and use their feedback to prune out biases and mistakes.[/li][/ul]
[li]Close the presentation by:[/li][ul]
[li]Encouraging the board to avoid thinking one-size-fits-all (it doesn’t in sports, and it doesn’t in STEM).[/li][li]Reminding the Board that STEM programs create happy voters, and attract businesses.[/li][/ul]
[li]Use a bushel basket to catch all the money they throw at you.[/li][/LIST]

In my opinion, a region that has a strong VEX presence is a region ripe for funding and starting some FTC and/or FRC teams for the students who have wrung all they can out of the VEX program/calendar, and are ready for a different/next challenge.

The person who gave the board the bad information will be discredited when you shine an unbiased light on the true situation, and give advice that is obviously unbiased and useful. And that (plus a little follow-up) should be all you need to do.


For the most part we know why each team retires. Top three reasons are funding, small team size (not enough students interested), and lack of mentors.

For the other points… I’ll get back to you. I had a few thoughts, but it’s going to require some data analysis over a larger dataset than I keep myself (which means diving into the TBA API, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while now). Give me a few days :slight_smile:

Isn’t this the same ignorance the OP is complaining about (in the other direction).

We shouldn’t try to create more conflict and instead ideally try to evolve past that into mutual understanding.

Both programs are awesome, and have their own merits.

You know…

I’ve got a funny feeling that some folks affiliated with VEX (corporate, at least) have read this thread. Some of them are probably also affiliated with FRC teams, and could figure out the MN state of affairs very quickly (via grapevine if by no other method). I’ve also got a funny feeling that if they could identify the person (they may already have done so), they’d be having a little, er, “chat” with him/her. Because the folks I know over that direction aren’t the type to put up with this sort of behavior for very long, once it got to their attention, given some sort of firmer evidence than “he said she said”, and at the very least would probably look into allegations.*

You might not need to do anything about the person. School board, on the other hand…

I would also present the hard evidence that the person is bluffing–team growth, FRC partnerships, etc.–to the board. Nothing beats a bluff like showing a really good hand.

*I’m not affiliated with VEX in any way, shape, or form. But I know people who are.

I’ve posted about the TBA data GitHub repo a couple times, might save you some API calls.

While maybe some effort, this seems like some good advice.

Second option, maybe the Vex teacher doesn’t want FRC because of the high costs and limited resources within the school/district. It sounds like Vex is doing well in this school, I think there is a world in which the best thing to do is simply let that train keep rolling.

Speaking as a person who is helping build a “STEM Pipeline” in my community, it isn’t always feasible to incorporate any/every STEM program into that pipeline.

Sometimes you gotta respect the work others have done and try not to rock the boat.


Our experience (Your milage may vary) - In trying to launch the FLLjr, we encountered a lot of resistance. We were very confused at the concerns that were listed and the resistance. After asking around, it turns out that a teacher was just about to launch a tech club using wonder workshop robots. Do you know what we are doing?

Fundraising for him The FTC and FRC teams will be helping out as junior mentors. In helping him, we were able to educate him about FIRST and FLLjr. He decided to move his program to second semester, clearing the way for SIX FLLjr teams in the fall. Now our young elementary kids will have a FULL year of after school STEM.

I wonder if there is a way to work it out to get the maximum robotics in your district. There may not, but I hope so.

Where’s the fun in that? :stuck_out_tongue: I got everything setup last night to pull the data I want, kicked it off and went to bed… only to find this morning that it crapped out when the computer went to sleep. Oops! Got it running again (and turned off the sleep option) this morning, should be able to do the analysis this evening. When I get it all done, I’ll probably upload the results to the white papers section and split this into a different thread so we don’t tie up Ryan’s thread with a tangentially related discussion.


I am responding merely to make sure that the correct facts are out there.

First, VEX Robotics has no employees or contractors in MN. As the president of VEX Robotics I would know.

Also, I know I have said it before, but I will say it again. VEX Robotics does not run robotics competitions. We are a robotic platform provider focusing on classroom, homeschool, and afterschool / workshop educational products and after school competition robot kits and parts.

We partner with many organizations, including TSA, BEST, PLTW and FIRST to provide product for their curriculum and competitions.

Our largest partner, the REC Foundation runs all of the VEX Competitions. We are contracted with them to provide the equipment and contribute to Game Design.

Now, the RECF has a representative in MN, as well as, volunteers that run events. They are called Event Partners. These EPs are VEX enthusiasts and sometimes will get overly enthusiastic about the program.

Neither VEX, nor the RECF, encourage promoting VEX Competitions at the expense of other programs. When we get actual evidence that this is happening we take corrective actions with the individual.

VEX, as a for profit product company, thinks that the more programs a school participates in the better. Some of our best customers participate in PLTW, TSA, BEST, FIRST, and VEX competitions.

We spend an incredible amount of focus on in classroom usage because, quite frankly, I believe that extra-curricular robotics competitions, while fun, are not enough to change the way our children and young adults learn.

Now for a bit of editorializing. Minnesota enthusiasts for both VRC and FRC are the most “aggressive” I have seen. For this one example you have laid out in your initial post, I have 3 e-mails in my inbox complaining to me about similar behavior by FRC enthusiasts. In discussing with FIRST HQ, the FRC folks do not endorse that behavior, just like the REC Foundation and VEX do not endorse that behavior.

In any case, we are trying to raise the tide and want schools to participate in as many programs as they feel they can afford.


PS - One last thing: if it isn’t obvious from my post, VEX is spelled VEX not Vex. Our style guide is linked here for anyone who is interested.

Thank you very much for setting the facts straight Paul. It wasn’t my intention to throw any shade at VEX, and I hope it wasn’t taken that way. I just want for both programs to be successful where possible!

I guess I’ll never get the whole animosity thing between these folks. Whether it’s VEX or FRC, they both achieve the same goals. It makes no sense to fight over which is better.
vEx vEX Vex VeX FrC fRc Frc FVERXC

Shame on me. :frowning: I know better.


In my previous post, replace “VEX” with “RECF” or “VRC”.

Also, replace VEXIQ with “VIQC”.

As a long time VEX competition member and as someone that has grown programs in both Pennsylvania and now Delaware let me add some points based on what I do here in Delaware.

Since it’s competitive robotics I talk about the number of competitions and where they are. More competitions is what I strive for and as I start new clusters of teams I push for them to have some kind of event that will allow them to play with other teams.

I talk about the equipment required to do both VEXIQ and VEX EDR, in the minimal case I talk about only needing hand tools (pliers really help with some of those tight VEXIQ pins) and EDR tools to cut, file and sometimes drill.

I talk about the skills needed by the mentors. For EDR it’s minimal fabrication skills (my spiel is if you know your right from your left (righty tighyt…) and can button a shirt, I can teach you the rest,

I talk about the time commitment needed. I want at least 125 hours per year from some combination of mentors. That covers 24 weeks at 2 hours per week of build, some extra night/weekend sessions and 4 all day (8 hour day) events.

I talk about cost, initial costs for the robots that would be good competitors (about $400 for IQ and about $1500 for EDR), costs for registrations, costs for each event (in Delaware around $25-$50) per team.

When someone says what about FIRST I can do the same set of numbers. I do talk about the extended fabrication skills needed for FRC and what running an FRC team entails. But I can do a pretty good apples to apples comparison between FLL<->IQ FTC<–>VEX FRC <–> VEX since I’ve done most of the programs. (My only FLL experience is briefly helping out on a team and helping at an event).

People ask which one is better and I always go "It depends on what you want to do, skill levels of mentors and the desire of the roboteers. In any case, the combined programs in the USA with Botball, Sea Perch, TSA, etc. added only get to ~5-7% of the eligible students in their states.

I did a summer demo at a Maker’s Faire and got pushed by a parent to talk about the FIRST programs vs VEX, I was able to do a down the line comparison of everything. At the end, he was impressed and allowed that he was an FTC parent and I knew more about FIRST than he did.

Bottom line, there is room for all the programs. One of the things that one of my schools looked at was dollars per roboteer. In that case the programs that use VEX come out slightly ahead with doing the same number of roboteers per robot (3.5 for FLL/VIQ and 4.5 for FTC/VEX)

No liar words needed.

And in Delaware it seems to work, I started 14 teams last year. For this yea just went to the kickoff for a group of 10 robots, and have commitments for 25 starting in the fall.