paper: Growth of FRC

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Growth of FRC
by: FRC4ME

The number of teams participating in the past fourteen games in graph format

Illustrates the rate of growth of FRC in previous years. One will note that the graph is linear, rather than exponential, implying that the program’s overall growth rate is both healthy and sustainable.

Growth of FIRST.xlsx (10.8 KB)

Here the real question is when we lose a team, for whatever reason, what is the return rate? I think we are losing way too many teams because of the Chairman’s award. The Chairman’s award has started an arms race in FIRST. Who can start more teams (FRC, FTC, FLL).Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Growth will take care of itself if FIRST keeps a good product.

Something other than participating teams that might be interesting is the highest team number to compete… That would show how many teams are dropping out each year.

I agree, a bit … but not completely.

Starting teams is good (and should be encouraged), but the real work (and where the awards should really look into) is the sustainability of the started teams. If 75% of them fail after the first year, is that really what we want?

Creating fewer, but more sustainable, teams in the long run will provide FIRST with a far better base than starting 100s of unsustainable teams with no plan to become sustainable.

I’d love the Chairmans award judges to start asking about business plans for the teams that were started and how those plans will make the teams sustainable for the forseeable future.

Totally disagree. The positioning of the Chairman’s Award is precisely and IMHO correctly done.

What is very lacking is information about how to sustain a team. And there could be more focus by FIRST and in the FIRST community in rewarding teams that focus on sustainability.

The KPCB award is the most appropriate. Most teams spend way too little time pursuing or thinking about this award. I think it is wrong that this award does not have any more status inside the FIRST community than it does.

I say this from a perspective of a team that has won RCA and KPCB awards.

Even though the EI is a higher ranking than the KPCB award we made a strategic decision to go for the KPCB at the recent Peachtree Regional.

We can take what is in the business plan (our mission) and the fact that there was recogition for our plan AND execution of said plan and put it in front of potential sponsor/partner/stakeholders/mentors/community.

I will be giving a lecture on this subject at FIRST Conferences 2010 in Atlanta for anyone wanting to learn more about achieving sustainability.

I don’t claim to be an expert but I am happy to share what we think works.

While I don’t necessarily think that the Chairman’s Award has a significant effect on the number of rookie teams each year, I do think that misguided corporate and government initiatives have to shoulder at least some of the blame. It is great when local/state/national governments see value in FIRST and want to commit funds to bring the program to more students, but throwing money at the problem via registration fees and grants is only half of the battle (and arguably, the easier half).

The other half is mentorship, sponsorship, sustainability plans, and technical support - real grass roots efforts that ensure that a team will be around for a long time. Even the best “Chairman’s”-caliber teams in FIRST are stretched pretty thin when they try to apply that quality of support to more than perhaps a couple of rookies at a time.

Perhaps even more telling is the rate of change of team growth, which I’ve included below.

1998 48
1999 72
2000 101
2001 143
2002 127
2003 145
2004 140
2005 64
2006 122
2007 192
2008 203
2009 169
2010 134

So there was a huge drop in team registrations for 2005, which steadily increased through 2008. It seems we are now growing at a slower rate, but previously it seems that it is a quite cyclical process.

I don’t think that linear growth has much correlation to sustainability. I think that once a system like this hits saturation, it takes an exponential increase in resources to accomodate a linear growth in results.

Think of it like this: Once a cup is full of water, it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you pour more water in… it’s going to overflow. The only thing that will help is getting a bigger cup. Eventually your cup becomes a bucket, which is inherently different than the thing you started with. Sure, it still holds water, but it’s not really the same.

This does happen and the existence of a comprehensive business plan was a feature in at least one Chairman’s speech this year.

I’ve heard from many veteran teams (we talked to many of them this year as it was our first year with a chairmans submission) and many stated that the number of FLL/FTC teams started was the most important aspect, not the quality/sustainability of said teams. This made me a bit concerned as to the motives for creating FLL/FTC teams.

It’s good to hear that others are also concerned about sustainability.

I am genuinely curious about what causes you to reach those conclusions. Do you have any specific data that shows teams are leaving due to the Chairman’s Award? Please, not anecdotes about one or two random teams that mentioned something about the CA in the middle of a whole bunch of other reasons (we get way too many one-off stories about individual incidents that then get generalized to the entire population - these anecdotes are interesting storytelling, but informationally devoid). Rather, I am seeking real information from a statistically meaningful sample size that specifically cited the CA process and/or effects as their reason for leaving the program.

I am curious about this because I have exactly the opposite impression. Right up front, I will state that this is my own perception based on the particular series of anecdotes that I have encountered. I have not conducted a quantified survey on this particular question (yet). But I have received numerous stories about teams that remain in the FIRST program specifically because of their efforts associated with the Chairmans’s Award (this includes reading all of the nearly 200 CA and Rookie-All-Star write ups that I receive every year as part of the NASA grant process). There are quite definitely teams that have never done well on the competition field but consider themselves very successful in FIRST precisely of the CA, not in spite of it.

Again, I have not quantified it, but it I certainly have the impression that there are many more stories like those than there are of the CA efforts causing teams to leave. If there is real data to show that impression is incorrect, I would genuinely like to obtain that information. Because that would imply that a rather significant recalibration is needed by many people concerning the effectiveness of the CA.

-dave

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Alright, I checked the team wiki. It was pretty useful for the middle aged teams, but no so useful for the newer teams.

Year - Smallest team #, largest team #
1999 - 207, 335
2000 - 337, 488
2001 - 492, 716
2002 - 743, 999
2003 - 1000, 1237
2004 - 1239, 1497
2005 - 1498, 1680
2006 - 1713, 1987
2007 - 1980, 2150 <— not sure whats up between here and '06
2008 - 2337, 2544 (very little data)
2009 - ?
2010 - ?