Inter-school Team Membership

Is there a policy, stated or assumed, regarding a student’s joining a team that’s based in another school?

Over the years we’ve proudly accepted members from outside our school. Not a lot, in fact four total. Sometimes the student’s own school didn’t have a team; other times it was because they knew several members of our team, or our team was more fun / serious than their school’s. We never thought twice about the “appropriateness” of this, but in fact touted this in our Chairman’s entries.

A long series of discussions began today, starting with a question on insurance. Our school’s insurance can not cover students on our team from other schools. Anyway, one thing lead to another, and it wasn’t long before the question came up of should we be doing this?

Does anyone know what FIRST’s standpoint on this is? Or does anyone know the rules of other schools?

I’d appreciate whatever insights you can offer. Thanks in advance.

That thread had a bit of information regarding teams with multiple schools, and probably contains a few excellent resources you can contact.

Our team had people from other schools before starting teams at those schools, but there is always flexibility in that sense. Obviously, insurance is an issue, but you may want to come up with some kind of team policy that protects members regardless of whether they attend the same school.

For the past three seasons our team has not been able to meet on school property due to both renovation issues and an apparent lack of support from the school’s administration. As such liability has been a concern for us for a while.

We have all students, regardless of originating school, and their parents sign waivers. In the waiver we try to lay out the potential for harm as well as the behaviors and protective gear needed to minimize risks. In the end, each person is responsible for their own safety as well as for the safety of those around them.

As of yet, I have not seen a FIRST rule that is against what you are doing, as many teams have done or do this currently. As long as you can get things worked out with the schools, insurance, etc, then it should be fine. Hopefully more teams can provide info on how they deal with those issues, or the link Eugenia provided will offer some help.
Good luck!

This is a insurance - school policy issue. Our team is made up of students from 2 high schools in the same school district. This issue came up this year and my understanding was that if a student that does not attend public school but is in resident and would qualify to attend public school in the district could join the team with out any special process. If a student wants to join the team who does not attend public school in the district and does not meet the requirements for residency in the school district could still join the team but there is a formal process to go through to get permission to join the team. This probably varies from school district to district and state to state. I would advise to look at the school districts policies pro actively and not find out about the policies after there has been an incident involving an out of district team member. The repercussions could be immense.

Well, first off, this is a team policy, not a FIRST policy

Our team has 2 schools from 2 districts. There are teams like 1506 and 68 that encompass entire counties, taking students from any school in each, public or private, even homeschools.

Like others have said, it’s primarily liabilities that you need to be concerned about. Taking on the additional students is great if you have the time to make sure that their legal stuff is set to go

I think this sounds like one situation where having a meeting with the team, the parents, and a few schoolboard / school administration members would be handy. It would give you a chance not only to present the benefits of the Robotics team, but also an excellent opportunity for everybody to discuss insurance and hopefully come to a working plan.

All I can say is that if you do have a meeting to decide your team’s policy on inter-school team membership, please push to allow outsiders to be involved.

I went to a very small private junior high school which was able to start up an FLL team. I had a great time and was team captain my 8th grade year. After leaving junior high I have moved on to yet another small private school for my high school education. My school does not have a team, but I still knew I wanted to be involved in robotics, and was lucky enough find a team at my local public high school. My experience there thusfar has been INCREADIBLE and I don’t know what I would have done with my high school years had I not been allowed to join the team. On the flip side I believe the team has benifitted from having me on the team, because I have brought a level of leadership and enthusiasm that is needed to maintain a healthy program.

I think that if a student from another school is willing to take the trouble of commuting from school to school to be involved in your program, let them be involved. FIRST is all about opening new doors for students and their futures and it would be shame to close one on them.

If your schoolboard is unwilling to accept these outside students, I would say they just don’t get FIRST and what it stands for. So show them. :slight_smile:

My $0.02,

Mike C.

We at Team 1902 have a unique situation (I think) Last year my son was on a team at a school he did not attend. At the end of the year the school decided he could no longer be on that team.

We have formed a multi-school team but we are not run by any one school. We are a separate entity. We have non-profit status and are in the process of applying for our 501C-3. We will take kids from any school or home-schooled students. We are partnered with the 4 schools that have students on our team now. All the principals are behind us and help us out with FDLE screening for our volunteers. They also help out with absenses during competitons. We have also requested a facutly liason from each school. This year we only had one. This year we built out of a mentors garage and we still met in my living room. Mostly parents are in charge of major decisions.

We invite all the principals to every event, even when we visit the sponsors. This is a win-win situation. No teacher is required to be present at every build day or to do all the paperwork. All our finances are run through a team account that has nothing to do with any school. And no school can tell us who can be on the team, or that we can only attend certain events. Its very much run like a club sports team.

We also can get the whole community behind us because our schools are so close, no rivalry problems.

I hope this helps

I appreciate all the feedback from everyone, it really is helpful.

To provide a few more data points to consider … ours is a private Catholic school, not connected with any local school board. The students have come from other towns, sometimes from schools without FIRST teams (which no one has issues with), and sometimes from schools with FIRST teams (which is the sticking point). As friendly as we like to think we are in FIRST, the neighboring schools do have a rivalry in most other sports and activities.

So, I suppose the question should be: What do people think about joining a FIRST team in another school when your school has a team?

While there are several students from other teams who hang out with us so much so that they seem like team members, we don’t really have the case of students officially joining from a school that already has a FIRST team. I suppose there could be local team personality or scheduling conflicts that would force a student to join another team, and I’d rather have the student join then drop out of FIRST and the engineering experience altogether.

Although we all compete hard on the field in FIRST it is of course not about rivalry, but cooperation, so a robotics team has one fundamental difference from a normal competitive high school sports or academic team in that we want every student from whatever background to “win.” The competitive aspects are confined to the field of play, while outside the 2 minutes the students are learning larger life lessons and bringing us all up to a greater experience.

This is a difficult message to get across to administrations, since we are fostering a point-of-view that can be quite foreign to the normal team mentality of inter-school rivalry, but is really very much in-line with our “education for all” society.

Our team is sponsored by Hauppauge High School, but year-to-year we’ve always had students from several other surrounding districts as members. Some are invited to encourage the startup of new teams, others are from teams that have collapsed, while still others are from schools that won’t support a team in the foreseeable future.

The inter-mixing of multi-district students isn’t limited to official team members. Just this past season we had students and mentors from 10 or 11 other local school teams working alongside us in our high school robotics lab off and on throughout the build season. In some instances, schools lacked particular expertise or mentor experience with one aspect of the robot or another. Some lacked specific equipment, such as a lathe, that they’d drop by to use to produce a part, while others had zero equipment and built major parts of their robot with our tools. Some disadvantaged or rookie schools lacked raw stock that we were able to provide and machine. It isn’t one-way either, our team students did their milling at another local school. Most of us have the visits to rookie teams to get them out of the KOP and onto their wheels or treads.
The rewards for blurring school borders are broad. Students are much more socialized with other local teams and instead of one animator or programmer they have a larger peer support group.

A Postscript on insurance issues: In our case, while non-students working on school grounds are covered by the district policy, transportation (by district buses for instance) insurance to off-site events does not cover non-district students or adults. That does add a wrinkle for out-of-district students in that they have to make their own arrangements to get to the events, unless the Team has chartered a bus, although we still accept responsibility for chaparoning them and the same rules of conduct apply to all. An alternative to school bus transportation is typically provided by parent car pools.

They way we have solved this issue was we started a 4-H club. Since then the robotics program was removed from the local high school and restarted as a 4-H club. 4-H has insurance that covers everyone in the club as long as they become a 4-H member. Our county covers several schools and it’s not a problem to accept students from other schools, even Jr High students help with the team. It would probably be a logistics nightmare to restart or move your team to 4-H, but I thought I would mention this in case there is anyone out there that might be interested in this approach for a new team. It’s been working very well for us. In fact, you get an automatic 503©(3) status when you are part of 4-H, insurance, and few extra things. There are few things you can’t do, like have raffles because that’s considered gambling. However there are way too many positives that outweigh any negatives if any. There is also the ability to accept 4-H members across counties, although we haven’t had this case yet.

Boy Scouts of America is another organization where you can form a team and automatically have your insurance coverage and tax-exempt status. It’s not Boy Scouts, but a separate co-ed organization called Venturing focused on males and females aged 14-21.

I’m going to leave the “should” question out of this (the answer to that is, “yes, you should include any age-appropriate youth who wants to participate”), and I wanted to focus on the insurance question.

In my years of wandering through business I’ve heard this “our insurance won’t allow it” statement used as an excuse for lots of restrictive policies. The majority of the time what is really being said is, “we don’t want to allow this, but if we blame our insurance, we can get away without having to justify ourselves.” It is an appeal to an absent authority that cannot be appealed to, and is meant to end all discussion. If you haven’t read the actual policy yourself, I wouldn’t trust anyone’s interpretation. It’s possible that your school is stupid enough to buy a general liability policy that only covers enrolled students, but I doubt it. Let’s think of all the things that this opens up the school to:

  1. A non-enrolled sibling of a student comes on campus with mom and slips in the bathroom and hits his head on the sink. Will the insurance cover this non-student?

  2. The school is playing a basketball game against another school in the gym. The opposing team’s center jumps up and slams his head into the bottom of the backboard. Will the insurance cover this non-student?

  3. Neighborhood kids come over to play baseball on the sports field after hours (with or without permission). One of them trips and breaks her leg on a sprinkler head on the field. Will the insurance cover this non-student?

  4. A family brings a student’s best friend along to the science fair. The friend breathes some spores from a biology experiment plant and has a serious allergic reaction which puts her in the hospital. Will the insurance cover this non-student?

Let’s think about the kind of insurance a school would really want. They would prefer a liability policy that would cover any person on school grounds for any reason. A liability policy that excluded certain people would open up teachers, administrators, and the school board to personal liability in the event that any non-student was injured on school grounds. I wouldn’t buy a restricted policy, would you?

Even if the school inexplicably excludes non-students from coverage, it’s a pretty easy problem to fix. Inquire as the cost of a liability rider to allow non-students to participate in extra-curricular activities on campus. Have the team include the cost of this rider in their fund-raising. It’s just a question of money, not a real problem (like fitting in everything you want on the robot within the weight limit…).

I’m not saying that someone is making up stories, it just seems likely. There’s always a way if it is just about money.

There is another program called Learning for Life. It is the old Exploring program from the Boy Scouts. Exploring is more of a carrier oriented program than Venturing.

If you have a lot of interest from one particular school, perhaps you could talk to the school about merging teams. Morristown and Greenfield did that this year… 393. Morristown had the team and they “adopted” Greenfield. It seems to be working out great so far.

Sorry if that doesn’t help.


We “adopted” a senior from a nearby school this season, and we got him hooked into volunteering or mentoring for a FIRST team/competition near the college he’ll go to.

I’m not sure about any insurance issues we had, but we did talk with his school’s principal about letting him join the team and partcipate in the trips.

As was already mentioned multiple times, the main issue here is liability. There are two main ways to address this. The least expensive is to create your program under an existing 501 ©(3) non-profit group [4-H, Boy Scouts, Learning for Life - Exploring, etc.]. The other, more expensive option is to create your own 501 ©(3) organization.

MOE 365 was part of Learning for Life at our inception. We have since incorporated and purchased insurance that covers our members. I would imagine that most situations involving members from two schools joining to form a team, if schools are amenable, could work out a liability arrangement. However, if not, one of the two options above is what you’ve got. Unless your group has other reasons for creating a 501©(3) organization, you might want to go the lesser expensive route.

If you are planning to take the leap to creating a 501©(3) non-profit, there have been some very good threads relating to the process. Also, MOE gave a presentation at this year’s FIRST Robotics Conference on this topic. Charts are available on the FIRST website.

Good luck!

As a teacher, let me say that it is frustrating to see this much enthusiasm in a discussion, knowing that the discussion is off track. Let me see if I can get us back on track.

There is no need or interest in merging teams; there is no need or interest in forming a 501©(3); there is no need or interest in getting the Boy Scouts or 4H involved.

We are a private high school with a FIRST team, surrounded by towns whose schools have FIRST teams. (Within 15 miles of our school there are probably 10 schools with teams.) We have students from these other schools that have been on our team, and this is the source of the question:

Is this typical, desirable, or a potential source of problems?

Thanks again for the help.

Mr I:

Sorry to assist in getting this discussion off-track. Some say I am skilled at that :smiley:

My response to your question is “it all depends.”

My follow-up to your question would be “why are these students joining your team when their schools already have teams?”

My second follow-up is “what do the teams at the schools these students are coming from think of this?”

Answer these two questions and you will be well on your way to knowing if you have problems or not.