Looking to Start an FRC Team

**I realize it is competition season and many of you are very busy, feel free to skip down to the questions or not respond at all, I completely understand.

Hi my name is Kevin O’Connor, and I’m a FIRSTaholic.

Now that we got that out of the way I’ll start with a little information about myself. I’m a junior in High School at Math and Science Academy in Woodbury, MN. I have been participating in FLL for 6 years, 4 as a competitor and 2 as a mentor. This year I earned the Youth Mentor of the Year award for my efforts in helping my younger brothers team reach 4th place at state in their first year of competition. My high school, MSA, is the largest participant in the state by number of teams (7), despite having only 350 students in grades 6-12. Despite this huge participation in FLL, there are very few high school age students interested in MN’s high school FLL program. I have found that the main reason for this is Lego’s just aren’t cool by the time you get into high school.

That brings me to my goal, I am attempting to start an FRC team at my school for next season ('06-'07). I have checked out the webcasts of the Boston and Sacramento regionals, every FIRST podcast I could find, the FIRST Starting a Team FAQ, the ASME guide to starting a team and the 2006 FIRST Robotics Competition Game manual in an effort to learn everything I can about how FRC works. I have also read the thread regarding starting a team in Syracuse and looked through any material referenced there.

Here are the questions I still have about the whole process:

  1. Do you think it is possible for a HS Junior to be the driving force behind a team starting? Adult leadership seems to be much more of a factor in FRC than it is in FLL, how important is it to have parents that are willing to be heavily involved? Are the Adult leaders usually parents or are they usually mentors/engineers from the community?

  2. What type of equipment do we need to have to build the robot? Do most teams use the machine shops of sponsoring corporations or schools?

  3. What kinds of places do your teams use to set up the playing field? How much room is required for storage of the robot, parts, and playing field elements?

  1. Yes it is possible to be the driving force behind starting a FIRST team. All it takes is one person to step up to the plate to get things going. The more help you can find (teams in the area that are all ready started) the better and faster things will go. Trust me, there are plenty of teams out there that are willing to help even if they aren’t from your area.
    Adult leadership is a big part, mainly for safety reasons. This is because you as a student will be working with tools that you way not know how to use, it is always best to have adults around to help you learn about the processes of making parts as well as help you with any questions.
    Mentors/Parents, it doesn’t matter. Whoever wants to help, let them, the help will always be needed. But it is a good thing to have at least one engineering type mentor, even if it is a parent who knows a how to fix a car. Mechanical skills help allot when building the robots…allot.
  2. All you need are a drill of some sort, and a hack saw. Yes band saws and drill presses are nice to have and make things go faster, but all you need to have is something o cut with and something to drill with. Nice tools to have though are a drill press and a band saw, as well as a mill and lathe.
  3. We use our sponsor’s building to build the field in, you don’t need an entire field setup, all you really need are the basic components so you can test your robot.

One thing you didn’t ask about, and is a big key, is money. Money is what keeps teams alive and it is better to find a sponsor than do 30 bake sales a year. Yes it may be hard to go and find just one company willing to dish out all of the money, but you cans till have multiple companies with a $500 or so donation (banks are a good resource)

CD (chief Delphi) is a great resource in finding help with particular topics that have anything and everything to do with starting a new team. My guess is that you will have a team started up for next year and you will do great.

My suggestion is to talk to Wayne Cokeley from Team 25. They started a program called RINOS (Rookies in Need of Support) and this program & 25 will have a lot more information to offer you!

My team was started by a junior, his best friend, and his parents, so it is CERTAINLY possible for a student to be the major force behind it. Talk to EVERY teacher in the school, even an English teacher might be interested! Sometimes just a teacher and a few parents is all it takes, but even if you end up engineer-less, parents are a HUGE help! Each year my team holds 2-3 parent meetings to let them know what’s going on and how they can get involved. If you’d like, I will gladly email you a copy of our parent handbook. :smiley:

Our first year, we didn’t even have a machine shop, so it is capable to do without one. My suggestion is to get whatever tools your parents/mentors/sponsors have, and use them! Never say no to something offered! Space has always been a struggle. Ask your school if they have an empty classroom or even some spare closet space. Field components generally DO take up a lot of space, but you don’t necessarily need them. Try to find other teams in your area and see if you can use THEIR field parts, most teams are more than willing to lend it out, or at least offer its use at their own school.

Finally, fundraise like CRAZY. Car washes, and even little things tend to bring in a lot more cash than you expected. Also, try to get a nice letter and some general information (Brochures) about FIRST and your team to show possible sponsors. I know our rookie year some of our members went door-to-door looking for fundraising from all the major businesses in our area. I can also give you some of our generic fundraising stuff, if you’d like to use it for a model!

Let me know, and best of luck!
Sara “BandChick” Reffler


First of all kudos to you for even thinking about starting a team! I spent 4 years in high school, participating, and 2 years in college - so far - mentoring and it’s been a fantastic experience the whole way through! ChiefDelphi is a great resource - glad to see you’re here!

**1a. Do you think it is possible for a HS Junior to be the driving force behind a team starting? **

I think a high school junior can be a driving force behind a new team, but cannot be the driving force. You will need support from the school - usually in the form of teachers to run the program, students to participate, a place to work, and hopefully monetary support - and community as well.

**1b. Adult leadership seems to be much more of a factor in FRC than it is in FLL, how important is it to have parents that are willing to be heavily involved? **

My team now (#857) is kind of unique, in that it is run entirely by college students from Michigan Tech and one high school teacher. Our HSers parents will cook a meal or two during the build, and we have one who travels with us to competitions but that’s about it. Because of this, we do FIRST, a little community service, and some team building.

My high school team (#93) has a fantastic parent organization! If you’ve ever seen Team #93 do lunch at a competition, that’s all organized by the team parents. Their parents are much more active on the team, and it shows a lot.

Bottom line: No, you don’t need parents who are heavily involved, but it’s great if you can have them. (Right now, we’re trying to figure out how to get ours more involved!)

1c. Are the Adult leaders usually parents or are they usually mentors/engineers from the community?

Again, Team #857 is run completely by college students and one high school teacher. 7 or our 11 college mentors are former FIRST participants, though, and have seen how the program works - many have 4-6 years under their belts, so far. Nifty fact - the 7 mentors come from 4 different FIRST teams (#33, #93, #111, #818) and have a total of 50+ years of FIRST experience!

Most teams are run by both teachers from the high school and mentors (engineers or otherwise) from the community.

2. What type of equipment do we need to have to build the robot? Do most teams use the machine shops of sponsoring corporations or schools?

Most teams do use machine shops in some way, yes. But it isn’t necessary to have one. I wouls say the ‘staple’ tools are:

  • allen wrenches
  • nut drivers
  • screwdrivers (both philips and flathead in various sizes)
  • a hammer
  • files (various types and sizes)
  • a drill
  • a hacksaw

Other tools that are nice to have are:

  • a sawzall
  • a dremel
  • a drill press
  • a lathe
  • a mill

… the list goes on.

3. What kinds of places do your teams use to set up the playing field? How much room is required for storage of the robot, parts, and playing field elements?

We’re actually looking for a space to work right now. The requirements are 1000 square feet of workspace and heated. Currently, we work in an garage about that size, at one of the school district’s building (but we’re being kicked out because they want to run an auto class in there). During the build, we had half a playing field set up in our workspace and it didn’t take up too much room.

like the two above me said you don’t need a full machine shop to build a robot, the team i mentored last year all we had was a class room, 1 table top drill press, a mitre saw and your basic tools like allen keys, hammers etc

  1. Absolutely. The two most important qualities are are passion and determination. Getting a High School Teacher on board is important and I think should be your first step.

  2. Most teams I’ve found build directly out of their schools. All you need are some basic metal working tools such as drill press, band saw and grinders. If not there are alway hand tools. Not every team has a lathe or welding capablities while some build primarly out of wood or pvc.

  3. Field tends to be the most varied. Many work out of an abandoned building. Others the high school gym. The amount of space required depends on the game. A small room or even large closet might work.

Let me know if you need any help. Over the past few months I’ve been trying to create a team in Owego NY so have collected alot of information. I’ve placed a copy of my FIRST Robotics Owego Proposal in the CD White Pages. Hope its of use to you: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/media/papers/1805

Thank you all for your quick and informative responses.

Special thanks to Katie for her thorough reply and Jeff for the link to his Proposal Powerpoint. Creating a similar presentation was on my list of things to do and now I have a wonderful model to help me along.

THe reason I didn’t ask about fundraising is because, due to the hard work of many of you, there is a weakth of information available about fundraising for FRC. I have compiled a list of potential corporate sponsors and am getting a list of local businesses to contact from another organization at the school.

Unfortunately, it looks like I only have 2 teams (1623 & 1816) nearby according to the map on the FRC website. Which brings up the question, is there any better way to get in contact with a team than just calling up the high school?I found a link to a website for 1623 the link is bad or the site is down and I can find no contact info at all for 1816

Hi, I can probably answer any general questions about how we (1816) got started.

Try to get a NASA grant. That’s my advice.

As a Sophomore who started up my team during part of my freshman year and this past year, it is defiantly possible for a Junior to start a team. During this past year, our team had several mentors who were from the local college. Once you have 1 or 2 mentors, they can see if they can get any of their friends to join. Parents are really helpful though out the season and can help in all prospects in FIRST. Our team had a similar problem with storage. The way we solved it was taking up a window cabinet in the school to hold everything. Its also a great way to show the school what FIRST does and what your team is doing. It helps raise the awareness of FIRST and gets the interests of students. Hopes this helps

I applaud you for what you are trying to do. I’ve got a regional this week but I’ll take a few minutes to add my two cents:

The best way to get support from the School, teachers, or students is to show them something. It’s probably a little late to get anyone to drive or fly to a regional this weekend, but it would undoubtedly be a good time and you’d learn a lot. Likewise with a trip to Atlanta. The next best thing is to put a presentation together including videos and approach anyone in the school who you think will help you support the team. My son got up in front of all the teachers in the school at one of their in-service meetings to explain what we were doing his junior year on 288. We got some help for that year at least.

Once you’ve got some school admin or teacher support, then arrange for one of the nearby teams to bring their robot and do a demonstration. That is a great way to show what can be done and for your new team to hear what being in FIRST is like. It’s also a great experience for the team doing the demo. I know because we’ve done demos many times for new teams and many other groups.

It looks like you’ve already got a connection with 1816. If they don’t have a contact with 1623, call the school. FIRST may also have a way to contact them as well, but you might have better luck with that after regionals are done. Things are hectic now.

Good Luck and please keep us posted!

Mr. O’Connor,
I am going to have to make this very short, I lost my longer post a few minutes ago. I am an alumni of team 967, Linn-Mar Robotics, from Iowa and am currently attending the U of M.
I would be interested in helping you (or team 1816 for that matter) as I can and I am sure that there are others at the U who would be interested, though time will dictate how much they (and I) can assist.
Feel free to give me a PM or email (prefered) and I will see how I can help you out.
Thanks and good luck,
Ryan Miller

  1. Do you think it is possible for a HS Junior to be the driving force behind a team starting?

this might’ve been said before but this is just my opinion about it.

A junior can be the driving force behind it, i mean why not, if you have the passion, the dedication, and time for it, go ahead. but you cannot do it alone, you are absolutely right, mentors are a BIG part of FRC. As an assignment, you should find mentors first, try going to a school teacher (if any are interested to host), go ask a local robotics team if their mentors know anyone who woluld like to be one themselves, and try to get a word out. Mentors are amazing people who will make the team you will create an actual FRC robotics team one step at a time : ]

Another option may be the FIRST Vex Challenge. It serves as an amazing low-cost alternative for FRC. It could be in conjunction with FRC, instead of FRC, or as a stepping-stone to FRC during your HS’s first couple years of involvement with FIRST, or a number of other things. All you really NEED to build an FVC bot is a programming kit and a vex starter kit, but I would recommend getting more. The total part cost for a typical FVC bot runs around $500-750, including the programming kit. Likewise, the only tools you NEED are the two allen wrenches and the one hex wrench supplied in the starter kit, but I would reccomend a dremmel, vice or other clamp, hack saw, loc-tite, lots more allen wrenches, file and wire cutters for more intricate work. But the total cost of FVC tools is typically no more than $100-200 dollars, even with replacements and extra tools. An FVC team only nees 4-10 students, and preferably 1-3 adults to help with administrative duties (like travel). The travel costs are less than an FRC team (don’t need as many hotel rooms, a full bus, etc.), but still not incredibly cheap (depending on the length of travel to the desired competition). Team registration is also cheapER, but still not cheap. I’d reccomend trying to find at least one sponsor to help with costs.

As for FRC. Yes, it is possible for a High School student to be the catalyst behind the creation of a team, but you need support. FRC Teams typically recquire a minimum of 10-15 students, but it can be done with less. I’t is also incredibly helpful to have at least one adult mentor with mechanical/engineering expierience and one with programming expierience to help guide the students. It also helps to have a school faculty member to act as a school sponsor and help coordinate activities with the school.
Work space can be a team member’s garage or basement, a classroom, wood/metal/autoshop, warehouse, barn, or many other locations. The only NEEDED tools are a drill, wire cutters/strippers, hack saw, phillips, allen, and flat-head screwdrivers, clamp/vice, ** SAFETY GOGGLES **, hammer, file, and tape measurer. Dremmels, soldering iron, bench tools (drill press, grinder, sander, band saw, etc.), arbor press, calipers, mill, lathe, etc. are all very useful, but you can live without them. All of these tools (with the exception of the mill and lathe) are available at Home Depot/Lowes or other hardware/home improvement store, and it is highly likely that a team member and/or parent will have access to them.
Materials can be a simple/cheap as wood and pvc (along with the Kit of Parts supplied to all registered teams). Bots range from “boxes on wheels” to the beautiful and intricate wonders of aluminum, plastics, CNC machining and welding.
The field isn’t essential to build, but I highly reccomend building at least the scoring attributes (goals, scoring objects, etc) and any element incorporated in your autonomous programming (such as the light or Infra-red of previous years games). Teams can often share fields if they are nearby.

i actually agree with Sean (Lil lavery).
If you don’t have enough resources or much information about the robotics systems, FVC is a good way to start. From there when the team feels like taking the next step, you can move on and create a FRC team (which requires alot more money than the FVC).
if you need any additional help, feel free to contact.

You could order our award winning Team in a Box DVD. This DVD/CD disk set has been helping Rookies, Veterans, Regional Directors, and Senior Mentors around the World, and the best part is that its free.

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Best of Luck with your journey through the FIRST experience!!!



Also check out the Resources page on the NEMO (Non-Engineering Mentor Organization) website - the white papers are also available here on ChiefDelphi, but are in one convenient place on the NEMO website. NEMO provides support to all four FIRST programs’ team mentors who are involved with the non-engineering aspects of the team. Things like fundraising, recruiting mentors, teambuilding, planning travel, etc. NEMO has compiled papers on these topics as well as what to expect at competitions, creating a packet to give to potential sponsors, etc.

I’ll be glad to help out if you have specific questions. Congratulations on recognizing that FIRST is something you’d like to see at your school!

team 1816 now has a website-- www.edinarobotics.com

Be sure to check out our RINOS (Rookies In Need Of Support) page on our website. There is a manual for rookies there with some usefull information for starting a team.

Best of luck! :slight_smile: