Middle School Drivers

We have chosen a drive team, and currently one of our drivers is a middle schooler. While he is able to perform well I am wondering if it is best to choose a highschooler as they have been more involved and know the robot better and since very few drive teams have middle schoolers, they will “fit better”. Does anybody have experience with this or any advice about middle schoolers on drive teams?

I know there have been threads about this before, but those were about the legality not the benefits or lack thereof.

Driver selection should come down to talent, poise and knowledge of the robot. If the person selected meets this criteria, I don’t believe age should pose an issue as long as they’re a dedicated team member. Maturity does play a part but I’ve met really mature middle schoolers, just as I’ve met some really immature high schoolers.

Don’t let age be a limiting factor when choosing your drive team. If your driver/operator is skilled, charismatic, mature, dedicated, and knows the robot, and your best candidate is a middle schooler, go for it! It is likely they will stay as a driver for a while and have the most experience come three, four years down the road. 254 for example, tries to pick young drivers with lots of potential so they have the time to learn, and grow to eventually be great.

Most people will point out that there is no rule against having a middle school student as a drive member, or even as a team member, you need to do what is best for your team from both a competitive and team dynamic standpoint.

There is no right answer but what makes your team happy.


We have chosen a drive team…
It’s often pretty damaging to morale & team dynamics to re-open a process that was finished & closed with decisions made. Even asking the question publicly is a vote of no-confidence, whether or not a new driver is selected. If you are not confident in your driver’s ability due to their age, that should have been a deciding factor when you were choosing your drive team. Decision’s been made.

Your driver will be fine.

If you want to be super-duper-extra-safe, train a backup.

Honestly, I think it’s better to have a driver that is young and interested and knows thenrobot. His/her interest will only sprout and your drive team will be in good hands for many years to come. As I recall, 330 had a driver who had been driver since middle school when they won worlds in 2016 (and the driver proved to be a hero uprighting the robot when they tipped over)

330 also had a middle school driver in 05, the other time we won the Championship. In both cases the middle school student put in many hours of practice on the practice robot, in addition to being extremely familiar with the robot and its subsystems.

If I recall correctly it was actually the arm driver that did most of the work in righting the robot. The base driver had to be ready to move when things got straightened out without moving so fast we went back over. But sometimes knowing when not to move is the hard part…

While Middle School students are welcome on the team, they do have to meet extra requirements. Like they need a parental unit present during team activities and especially Build.

I am the former driver of 330. I started driving in 2011 when I was 11, and it was a great experience. I started hanging out with the team when I was 6 while my dad was a mentor and my brother was a student, so I was very experienced with the team and FIRST in general.
While your driver may be well skilled I think it is important to not how emotionally taxing that role can be. I remember that my parents were worried that I would be treated differently by other teams and I am grateful to the mentors that were by my side making sure that didn’t happen.
As Chris said above me, it was Ethan our operator in 2016 that was quick on his feet to right the robot. We worked as a team, and I think that is important when picking drivers, they need to work well together while staying calm. As others have said above me, maturity, calmness, teamwork and practice are the keys to a good drive team.

An awesome driver can make up for a lot of awful robot.