MN districts. Where are we now compared to 2016

There hasn’t been a been a district thread for roughly 2 years as far as I can remember and I want to know what has changed since then. The thread I’m referring to got kinda out of control so if this thread turns out like that then I will PM a Mod and ask for this thread to be shutdown so please keep it GP.

These are some of the questions I want to ask people who are in-the-know:
1: How far away is MN from districts?
2: What are the steps left before we can take the leap to districts?
3: Is the leadership of MN FIRST actively trying to move to the district format?
4: Are we any closer to districts than we were compared to 2 years ago?

Everyone is confused. We should really be asking “When is the Medtronic Foundation District going to be established?”

We can call it MFD for short. #TSIMFD

Pretty optimistic Anonymous name… MN Districts 28 might be more reasonable.

I know nothing, I see nothing… but I’m still down to speculate.

  1. I’d say a better question to ask would be “How far away is FIRST HQ from forcing various regions to go to districts?” The answer to both questions would probably be the same. I’m not sure that HQ is actively pushing regions to pursue districts.

  2. The first step would be for the leadership in the state to have a desire to go to districts. MN leadership currently has no desire to go to Districts by my understanding (I don’t speak for them so I can’t say this with 100% confidence). The next biggest step would be convincing MN Regional Donors to buy into the district model. It has been stated that MN sponsors “like big events” and that they would be less willing to contribute financially to events in high school gyms.

We certainly have come a long ways in terms of key volunteers. I would say we have a little ways to go, but volunteers certainly aren’t the most limiting factor at this point.

Another small yet important step in this process is educating the teams as to what the district system is and getting their feedback. There are still many teams in the state that have no idea there is even another option.

  1. See above. I feel pretty confident, but not 100% confident in my answer.

  2. Yes and no. Yes because we have grown our volunteer base significantly and have made progress in many other aspects. Just look at the 2018 state champions… it used to be that all the top teams were limited to the metro area. We now have exceptional teams all across the state. We also now have regionals all around us in neighboring states. The argument that we would need to include all surrounding states in a MN district is a lot less valid now that there are so many other events in the region.

No because there is still no desire or real push to go to districts from the top. I have a feeling there is something happening that may help to change that though.

  1. Far
  2. One big step is actually making us address this elephant in the room. Sure we all like to complain about it on Chief Delphi, but the district discussion is fairly dead at most events I have been to, and what discussion is limited to the few of you I do see, and other passing small talk.
  3. I think MN FIRST is sort of happy with the status quo right now. Moving to districts is not the easiest thing to do (especially with the unique situation of the state championship and the almost necessary inclusion of ND in the MN district). I think there are other things that are seen as a higher priority.
  4. Not really if I’m going to be honest.

I could go into further detail but my work break ends in one minute

The first step for any change in competition format is to form a non-profit organization to oversee the FRC team experience within the state. All of the districts are set up that way - A local non-profit that contracts with FIRST to provide the FRC experience. It’s also how FLL Jr, FLL, and FTC operate, with local affiliate partners like High Tech Kids here in MN. Without such an organization to take on the legal and financial responsibilities, you can’t do anything.

Before that can happen, you have to figure out if the state boundaries are the right ones to use - what about North Dakota, Western Wisconsin, Iowa? All have been heavily involved with MN events in the past, and many MN teams attend events in their states (Great Northern, Iowa, Seven Rivers regionals). Getting any sort of growth started in Eastern South Dakota would be greatly helped if it was included in this discussion as well. Those are important discussions that involve the leadership from each of those states and regionals, and there really isn’t an easy answer.

For some history, there have been a few aborted attempts to form a non-profit in the past few years (It seems to be something we’ve been talking about forever). I won’t get into the details on why each one failed. The RPC met just last week to discuss a new effort, and from my point of view it has a much better chance of succeeding. But nothing in life is certain.

Even if it does succeed, that doesn’t mean districts will follow, or if they do that they will soon. That decision would have to be made by the organization’s Board of Directors, with input from their Advisory Council and employees. There are other paths such an organization may chose to follow, including piloting the “Super Regional” model that FIRST talked about back before Districts came around, or even keeping with the current Regional model. Until such an organization is formed, it’s impossible to know where it would lead us.

Also, lets not let this discussion lose sight of the fact that MN had a great year. More teams at champs than we’ve had before, more competitive at champs than we’ve been before (it was the first time we’ve had a team rank 1 on a division!), and having 2/3 of the Chairman’s Finalists (and 3/6 over the past two years) is simply incredible.

  1. Sadly it looks like we are many many years away
  2. Honestly I think there needs to be a massive culture change in Minnesota. There is too much division and lots of opposition to change (from the leadership and from teams/other groups). Remember that GoFirst doc that was brought up is year or so ago?
  3. I’m going to be brutally honest even though this might be unpopular and say that based on conversations I’ve had with people and things I’ve heard it looks like MNFIRST is actively avoiding/preventing going to districts. There is a disconnect between what the leadership wants and what the teams want.
  4. No we are not any closer and won’t be unless drastic steps are taken.

I know I have a pretty negative outlook on this but honestly I haven’t seen much to be positive about. Let’s hope that changes…

These thoughts are my own and do not reflect that of my former team

Congratulations on a strong season from MN team! It is clear there is something in the water in MN, as teams are getting better every year up there.

Just wanted to highlight that MN’s large-event regional structure is still the worst in the country at advancing a proportional amount of teams to Champs:

This is one strength of the District system, or frankly just hosting smaller Regional events. Something for the RPC to be aware of, as well as any MN teams hoping for some change in the future.


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I think there’s a big problem with the perception of what MN FIRST actually is. It’s not an non-profit entity. It’s not an organization. It’s a website. That website acts as the public face for three Regional Planning Committees (Twin Cities, Duluth, Grand Forks) that are made up of volunteers working for FIRST. Note the “working for FIRST” part - it’s not working for a local organization.

+1 it was an incredible year for the state!

The hardest part about convincing the leadership to move to districts is you are likely asking many of them to work themselves out of a job.

FWIW, last summer Wisconsin Regional Director said FIRST was pumping the breaks on districts, citing there would be no new districts in 2018.

In fairness, this is really on FIRST HQ - they could fix how regionals advance teams to champs without a lot difficulty. It would be as simple as assigning wildcards by points and assigning each regional a number of wildcards based on the size of the regional.

If only there were a format that based the number of championship slots on the percentage of the team population your region makes up. Some day we’ll create this technology.

And then Texas happened for 2019. I haven’t heard FIRST’s opinion on Districts from an official source. It would be interesting to see if HQ is still pushing regions to pursue the district system.

1: No idea.
2: No idea.
3: No idea, but it doesn’t look like it.
4: No idea.

I’ve been out of this discussion for a couple of years now, and some of the responses here have been very interesting to see how peoples’ opinions have and haven’t changed in the mean time.

Overall, I think the biggest thing that has changed, though I’m not sure how much of it is my perception versus reality, is that there do seem to be a lot more visible alumni volunteers (and mentors) at events (or, at least the Minneapolis regionals, which were the only ones I visited this year) than there were in 2016.

I’m curious why you think this. In my observation, districts require a bigger volunteer organization that a set of regional events that serve a similar number of teams. Are there specific volunteer positions you think go away when districts arrive?

Matt’s comment is about paid positions (typically at the RD level and funded by HQ) that may change when a franchise organization takes responsibility for executing elements of the FIRST program in the region.

OTOH, might just change who’s paying them… Food for thought.

What I’ve heard is that HQ isn’t forcing anybody right now, they’re leaving it up to the areas in question.

That being said… I would guess that MN, NY, and CA are the linchpins. If any two of those three go to districts, it’s probably game over for regionals once the “anywhere else” district is figured out–particularly if WOW is district–but it’ll take a couple of years to go that route.

Ok NY and CA… get your stuff together! Lead us to the promised land! Let’s see Rev 3 put into action!

Not necessarily. Every single district system has at least one full-time employee. A significant portion of RDs are retired from their main career.

NY needs to see multiple things change before we get our stuff together. None of it is very easy, since not everyone wants to acknowledge that problems exist in the first place, let alone try to fix them. Minnesota seems to be in a similar spot.