Max Age for FRC Participants?

The thread on minimum age got me thinking a bit regarding the program we are spooling up in Baltimore.

The overall goal of the program is using FRC as a training ground for the skill sets that local area firms need out of their future employees. While we are not frowning on our students going to a 4-year college for a STEM degree, the mentor brain trust doesn’t see this as the only option and is looking at getting our students jobs within 6 months after graduating high school in a technical field (high goal I know) or into a 2-year technical program to enhance their skill sets for employment.

Currently our team is drawing from 6 local area high schools and has 10 students involved. The way the program is currently structured is not too dissimilar from community programs run across the country. However, I am wondering if it would be possible to include other members of the Baltimore community as participants. The definition of “Youth” in public policy circles is up to age 24. From what I can tell in the manual there isn’t anything outside of a vague “pre-college” definition.

So the question I have is: Does anyone know if there is anything against the rules to pull in participants that are not in college but are up to 24 years old?

This is a good question. I do know that some of our international friends participating are slightly older than your average US high schooler.

The idea of recruiting some people working on apprenticeships at community colleges is interesting to me.

I would interpret “pre-college” to mean “enrolled in high school, but without having yet graduated”, or whatever equivalent to that may be.

However, the only meaningful restriction on what a student can do vs what a “mentor” can do is in presenting for awards (Chairman’s) or being on the drive team. So involving people older than the “pre-college” definition in any other capacity on the team is just fine.

Construction trade programs are really big in Baltimore. There are like 3 that run within a quarter-mile of my house. I would really like to hook a few participants that might have just left high school but don’t have a huge direction yet.

I think FIRST programs have the ability to change a few lives but for what I would like to do it requires a bit of bending of traditional assumptions of the program.

I think the only real issue is drive team has to be High School or younger. Aside from that there should be no problem. If worse comes to worse you list them as mentors on the team roster. This way they can still work in the program and get inspired in STEM hopefully.

The internal structure of your team is up to you. I know there are some teams that draw distinctions between “junior mentors” and “senior mentors,” with the former consisting of college students and team alumni. Perhaps such a structure could work for your team if you draw in local 18-24 year olds.

I really like this idea.

I was more or less a “junior mentor” in my first year of involvement with an FRC team. I learned a ton about FRC, robotics, fabrication, etc. And even though I had pre-existing experience with software engineering, I still learned a lot about the particular tools and processes we use, including how to explain things in ways that high school students understand. A great learning experience all around (and one that should never end, even with the promotion to “senior mentor”).

In addition to this, 1257 heavily suggests that alum take a year off before becoming a mentor. That way they get their work-load in order and helping the team doesn’t mess them up. I’m on my off year right now, technically.

Sounds a bit like my background. I went to a vocational high school (graduated 1977) and studied drafting. I worked as a draftsman on co-op my senior year designing concrete batching plants.

I had no thought of going to college until early in my senior year of high school. My drafting teacher came by one day and asked what my plans were. He said he would kick my butt across the room if I didn’t go to college and become an engineer. (You could get away with talk like that back then.) I thought he might do it, so I applied to college and went.

My teacher knew me and my skills and pointed me in the right direction. This is one of the things I like about FIRST: Students get the chance to work with engineers, see how they think and solve problems, and get at least some idea of what engineering is like. Lots more information than I had when I went off to college.

Maybe a few of the students you’re trying to attract may discover college is an option for them - just like I did.

You are too old to drive a FIRST Robot. :stuck_out_tongue: *

I think this is a great idea that has a lot of potential.

As others have pointed out, other than a few very specific rules, there is a choose your own adventure on design, build, programming, scouting with a lot of different systems that work for different people.

I will say that in general, some age separation between a primarily HS program and mentor program is beneficial from a sorting out social situation stuff. While not the majority, there are frequently issues related to having an under 21 age "mentor’. There are a lot of good examples as well of programs that make this work, and specific situations where problems have arose.
Some example “problems”:
Young mentor transition from skilled student to mentor may want to do “too much” relative to the teams standard interaction.

Young mentor may have authority/respect issues.

Dating or Romantic Involvement Policy. I think before venturing into such an area, making sure you have good policy to cover your team as well as a strong understanding from individuals involved is paramount to avoiding difficult situations. Some folks are more flirtatious than others and when this is in a “mentor vs student” dealing it can become problematic. Once it is problematic, it can escalate to something pretty serious pretty quickly.

While youth is wasted on the young, in FRC knowledge can be wasted on those a bit older. Often those with the most enthusiasm, energy, and sometimes FRC specific knowledge are those that just graduated from HS and college. Unfortunately, they tend to not have a lot of vacation time or work/school schedule flexibility. They also tend to have less general $$ for paying for travel and hotels. Those that have more engineering experience and vacation accrual tend to have family commitments that can make participating difficult.
Using team funds to “sponsor” a non-HS student can get tricky for some teams. Expecting mentors to pay their way can be hard on a college or 1st year employee who is already using most of their vacation to go to a regional and possibly World Championship. Paying for 1 mentors room and board without paying for others can lead to internal leadership struggles/politics.

Most of these can be mitigated with clear team policy, people willing to respect those policies, and/or cool heads when expectations are not met. As a leader, you can set standards and team policy and educate those involved. For the other two parts, you can only do your part by modeling good behavior and being as good a communicator as you can be.

*As a mentor when Mike was a student, I believe I can take a poke at him…

Basically a lot of the current models I see for the program are around having other older members as mentors which I am trying to steer away from. More of treating it as an odd duck of an apprenticeship (to a degree) is the closer model I think.

Maybe there is space for putting a bit more thought into this as we compete through this year. I feel as though I have bitten off enough to chew on for a rookie campaign. Thinking this is more of a 3 year stretch goal.

I will take the written policy angle to heart as we get things rolling into the future.

You haven’t seen me drive… it is a scary experience :stuck_out_tongue:

This is a fair assumption.

Technically, there is nothing (aside possibly from child labor laws) preventing a FRC team from being composed entirely of adults, and hiring for pay students off the street to drive the robot.

(I’m curious - has there ever been an FRC team such as this? I’m not talking about another mentor/student-built debate, I’m talking about a team that didn’t even pretend to have students as the focus or major element.)

I can’t say that there’s ever been such a team. Can’t say that there hasn’t been one, either, but I would say that if such a thing ever did happen, there would be some kind of outcry in the community when people found out. (To put it mildly…)

Big problem with that scenario is that there’s an awful lot of places that students are vastly preferred if not required (interacting with judges, interacting with inspectors, interacting with the Head Ref), and somewhere along the line somebody’s going to figure out real quick what’s going on. Cue massive discussion with HQ/RDs/FSMs/event officials.

I heard rumors that way back in the day some teams operated close to this model, but I am talking before 2000, and just rumors. I also heard that Chairman’s Award and Woody Flowers awards were mechanisms to help promote a change in the culture of FRC.

In modern FRC (say after the start of 3v3). I have only heard of a few that would approach such a model. I knew of some friends that ran a team, and had difficulty getting students to stay engaged. They moved the team to a couple different schools as the students tended to lack regular participation. The team went under, and much of that leadership started a new team, that eventually merged into a new school, and now is a well integrated school/Kids/mentors. Their goal was to engage kids, but due to logistics and other factors, it took a while to actually reach that goal, and would have looked like adults doing robot and recruiting kids to compete with it at times.

I will say when I started FRC in 2002, I thought a lot of the machines were built by adults. Over the years, and especially once districts started, I got to know the teams better and found they had different mixes of mentor and student involvement.

I Michigan, where it has been easier to start a team for may years, I have come across several teams that were a single family. Often a parent and a child are the drivers behind the team, and then a couple friends recruited to help round out a roster. Some of those simple teams have evolved into some incredibly well known teams. Others tend to drift off once the student/parent graduate.

What interests me is the idea of a driver who starts at an unnaturally young age (~7 years old) and drives until the FRC-legal maximum age. If that’s 24, you have a driver who will end his or her career with nearly 18 years of driving experience.

Of course pushing boundaries like this is against the goals of FIRST as a program, and wouldn’t be the best course of action, but just imagine how great a driver with 18 years of experience would be…

I imagine there’s a point of diminishing returns here.

This mentality, run amok, is one of the dystopian futures I worry about when I (in my personal opinion) see robot-excellence crowding out exposing-students-to-STEM in some CD conversations.

And, I have toyed with a non-mean-spirited version of the idea myself; especially when thinking about student/mentor fun in off-season events.

That sort of possible unintended consequence (the quoted thought) is definitely something to keep in mind when thinking about changing FRC or similar programs.

You get more of what you reward and celebrate … AKA … The dog you feed grows.

That said, coming up with a way to use FRC to attract students to STEM careers, regardless of whether the careers include a 4-year college stint, sounds 110% thumbs up to me.


The question is if it’s after 4 years or not.

Kacey says our daughter can’t drive until she’s 12… I didn’t even bring up her being in FIRST or driving at all…

Daughter Heard driver and Dadam Heard Coach is gonna be the most adorable dynamic duo on the field. Just need FIRST to allow non-humans on drive team so Punky can be [strike]human[/strike] doggy player.