pic: Leveraging FIRST members?

My dad recently noticed this on the NI website while picking his sessions for NI week '08. Personally, I found this really non GP/FIRST-like… look at the session title I’ve pointed out with an arrow… what do you think?

I’m not surprised…
It’s how industry has become, taking advantage of one another in the easiest way possible.
Plain and simple, but there is their help that they are offering which is appreciated. This is the new platform, and it’s also inviting to new people to get them hooked to it.

What they call getting involved with local teams at minimal effort, I call sponsorship.

Although the message is written in a non GP sort of way, it sounds like some good publicity for FIRST and an easy way for teams to get sponsorships. A win-win situation as you would say.


To us, it may seem like un-GP and kinda not nice, but to them, it’s just Business.

When I first read this, I thought “Why are they treating us like this, we are an elite organization that anyone is welcome to, this is just disrespectful”. But I started to think, they may not plan for it to end up this way, but in the end this will be good for us. Sure the companies may want nothing but our money for our cRios, but seriously, now they know about us. Isn’t that one of FIRST’s goals. Now these companies that develop for the new cRio know about this amazing organization that is changing our lives as we speak. In other words, what is bad now has a good purpose for the future.

Its how business is run. In the long haul it will be good for teams who are looking for mentors and sponsors. Don’t look into the words too much. Its all just business. Be happy NI supports FIRST so much.

This is industry at it’s best. This is actually how real life is, its not all like the FIRST “life” a lot of us grew up to, we need to be exposed to this some.

The real world isn’t sugarcoated like everything in FIRST tends to be. People speak plainly, and let’s be real. While it may be a nice feel good story for companies to sponsor FIRST, the bottom line is the bottom line.

Companies rarely donate out of the goodness of their hearts. More often they donate because of tax breaks, or because they know that by investing in a program that will produce engineers, mathematicians, scientists, technicians, etc, they will be enlarging the pool of skilled workers they can tap into for their own benefit.

Isn’t Andy Bell is one of the NI guys who was talking to anyone who wanted to learn about the new controller in Atlanta? I also think he was on a First team in high school. In the last part of the description he is making a call to businesses learn how to help out local teams.

Businesses do what is best for them. In many cases, businesses sponsor FIRST because it produces engineers that have a favorable opinion of the companies that sponsor them. The real world isn’t sugarcoated as Cory said.

EDIT: This isn’t a bad thing. We shouldn’t look at this as unGP. NI is not making any money selling us the controllers, but they are fostering relationships hopefully. It is the same thing as Autodesk giving us Inventor. It is the same thing as businesses giving discounts to students. Businesses want to foster lifelong relationships with customers, and if they can do it while the customer is in college, then all the better for them. At the same time, we get to experience their product, and save lots of money doing it. If we decide to do business with them in the future because we are very satisfied with their product then we also have gained from the experience.

Businesses look out for their own interests, but often when a business looks out for its own interest in the long term, it also benifits the community in the long term.

Not everything in the kit is free and in many cases FIRST buys components from companies at discounted rates. Without knowing the cost to NI to make the crio, and the cost of them to FIRST a statement about the money making objectives is all just speculation and will lead to nothing but arguments.

Also I think that Autodesk giving inventor is not quite a comparison. The financial investment for Autodesk is much less as the difference in cost between 1 and 10,000 copies of inventor is almost nil. Once the software is developed the cost of a dvd is almost none, where as NI has a physical cost of hardware and manufacturing is guaranteed to be higher.

As for the topic of this thread and the title of that session. It may seem like poor word choice to us, but who is the audience it is intended for? If they are NI sales reps, tech support, and NI users, They are talking about how they are increasing the userbase overnight. Even if the wording represents NI’s true colors why should it matter? This might be one of the cases where the ends justify the means. Seriously, who cares if they “leverage” robotics users if we as a community get the benefits that a large cooperation can bring to the table.

Exactly. And, you see, this represents a significant business opportunity for these ‘other’ companies who feed off the NI business. 40,000 new customers is not a trivial number. Andy and Mark have made a full-time business out of it, but do we call them un-GP for taking our money?

Remember, if it was written like “Here is a chance for you to donate money to a high school robot team” how many businesses would show an interest? None. It has to be written like it is to attract them.

It’s the perceived income that attracts them, they will make money and develop really cool stuff for our teams, sell it inexpensively to us, and get hooked when they stop by to see what we’re doing this January.

Think of it as bait for the unwary. Once they’re hooked, we got 'em. So, who’s leveraging whom?



Archimedes said that given a place to stand and a long enough lever, he could move the Earth. I’m proud to be part of that lever.

Additionally, once NI starts to get its payback from this huge investment, we will truly be able to tell other potential sponsors that they would be stupid not to help us.

First I wanna say that the word choice was very poor, as the term “leveraging” can very easily be conceived as “taking advantage of”

But honestly I do not think the intent was to plot and scheme in some dark back room on the many ways to undermine the FIRST goals and use and abuse FIRST students! It’s really just trying to capitalize on a business opportunity. If you think about it, everything in the kit of parts is in essence an advertisement. Every FIRST team member now recognizes AndyMark, Inc. as a reliable source for FIRST materials because of the useful items they put in the kit of parts. NI has now made a HUGE investment into the kit of parts and FIRST, they should be allowed to use this new advertisement.

I think many of you are looking too darkly on the choice of words, when “leveraging” isn’t a four letter word, but a long established and accepted business practice. All of the sponsors of FIRST, and any other program or sporting event for that matter, expect to see return on their investment. Do you think those sponsor logos are plastered all over a NASCAR ride because they like the sport, driver, or race team? They want their investment to convince you to buy their product.

Computer and software manufacturers have been doing this for years, too. How many of you have purchased computers, hardware, and software at “student” rates? How many of you, as students or professionals, have requested literature or product samples from companies for evaluation? The companies aren’t doing these things to be nice to you. They hope and expect that if you use their products as students, or as samples, you’ll be happy and comfortable with using them and convince your employers to use the same products when you enter the workforce or for a new work project.

This is all NI is getting at. If they and their business partners support FIRST and our teams, and make our use of their products enjoyable and successful, they’ll likely benefit through future sales. Not necessarily to FIRST teams, but to companies you’ll be working for.

One of the reasons I enjoy volunteering as a FIRST mentor is that I get to work with products I don’t normally use in my 9-5 job. It’s fun, it’s learning, and I end up with a more diverse knowledge base. If I was to ever change jobs and my employer suggested using a cRio controller for an industrial automation project I could say… “Yes, great platform. I used it in FIRST and I already know how to use it. Buy it and when do we start?”

We also become a very large test base for the manufacturers. If we have difficulties with using the cRio, NI can use the feedback to make improvements and changes. Those changes might help a “paying” customer avoid a costly mistake which could lead to a poor product reputation and potential loss of sales.

Remember, FIRST is FIRST, and business is business, but both can, and should, work together so both can win. :wink:

It only seems that way because the intended target of this message was not anyone from a FIRST team. It supposed to be for NI employees and other corporates. Its a huge difference when you look at the target audience and who they are trying to influence.

Again, don’t look into the words too much.


Please just drop this topic as it has been explained multiple times.

I think it’s sad that kids have learned to not only accept, but defend that these companies are not acting in the interest of anyone but themselves and that the notion of doing something simply because it helps someone out is absurd.

It is possible to do something simply because it is a good thing to do and gain nothing from it in return; except maybe for the satisfaction we find in helping others.