QotW 08-31-03: Making the cut.

This week, I’d like to rescue and rekindle an interesting debate that was a bit off-topic for the thread that it originally appeared in.

Some teams are open enrollment and will let any student join and participate to their ability. Some teams maintain criteria for membership that may involve fundraising success, academic performance or hours committed. Others allow a small number of students to participate and rely on a process of applications, interviews, and decision-making to select those students from among many applicants.

Question of the Week 08-31-03: Should FIRST and FIRST teams encourage active processes that cater this program to certain groups of people? Are membership applications and minimum grade point average requirements necessary?; beneficial?; right?

If you believe that FIRST and FIRST teams should actively pursue engaging specific groups of people, which groups? Why? Should the academic elite be given priority, or is it better to limit team registration to minorities and women?

I am not satisfied with the answers I received (or, more appropriately, did not receive) in the aforementioned thread and I believe that a good look at the original purpose of FIRST, how it’s grown, changed, and adapted – if it has – and how we feel about that is necessary and rewarding.

I understand that teams all do things different ways, so I want to ask, respectfully, that you each be intelligent, thoughtful, and thorough in your arguments so as to ensure that people do not misperceive the posts as hurtful or malignant. Thanks.

My team has a rather intensive application process that each new member must go through. I feel that this does help us well in keeping out people who aren’t right for the team but I beleive it also keeps out a lot of people who could have been potentially great FIRSTers.

Everybody that applied for my team was accepted but many people just didn’t apply

I don’t think turning people away by telling them no or making them not want to apply or whatever is right. However, having an open “come on in” acceptance procedure would lead to a very unorganized un productive team.

And it is here where I find myself split.

On our team, we have to fill out an application. Our application contains basic info (name, grade, etc.) but it also asks us questions such as why we want to participate in the program (free trip to Houston, TX wasn’t a good answer). To the best of my knowledge, no one who put in an application for our team has been denyed entrance into the group. This is because our mentors feel it nesseccary that if someone is even considering something such as engineering as a carrerr, that the student be given a chance, and a great oportunity to find out if the fields of science and technology are right for them. Our sponsor, General Motors Proving Grounds, has far exceeded sponsorship requirements in their attempt to help our team to provide this opportunity to all interested students.

On my team we just let the people come, by the time build rolled around we weeded out most of the slackers. By a week or so in the rest was gone. We only had like 10 to 15 people left by nationals I think. We started with a good amount, don’t recall how many. Anyway I think there shouldn’t be any rejection of students, if they’re not gonan work for it then in the end they lose. We have only enough money to take certain people to nationals and thats what we did, drive team, programmers and mechanical heads. They worked the hardest and know it best. The rest of the team was more than welcome to join in on the regional and offseasons though. You don’t need to weed out the kids who jsut want the trip and the like. It happens on it’s own.

When I originally joined my team many years ago it was an open process, anyone and everyone was welcome. For my time on my former team it provided a very diverse yet positive environment for the team. It provided a situation where all were placed as equals…no matter what your GPA, group of friends, jock, science geek, or even adult mentor. The only requirements were that you were a respectful person, got stuff done, and for the most part did not fail your classes. Toward the end of my time on the team there was some talk of starting an application process, however this was strongly opposed by many of us because in our eyes FIRST is about giving chances to those who right now may not be that well off in school. My thought is that by doing anything like that, you take the Inspiration out of FIRST. I have heard so many stories come out of this program about people who were on their last leg in high school and found this program, getting a second chance and eventually going on to win scholarships and recognition they never thought possible. If you take that chance away from someone just because they have some minor mess ups or a not so great GPA because they weren’t inspired by the system, than the mission of FIRST has not been completed in my eyes. In the end, everyone has there own opinion, I just believe that everyone has the right to be given a chance in this program, and ultimately it is there own actions which will determine whether they can handle the trials and tribulations that go with FIRST.

*Originally posted by M. Krass *
**This week, I’d like to rescue and rekindle an interesting debate that was a bit off-topic for the thread that it originally appeared in.

Some teams are open enrollment and will let any student join and participate to their ability. Some teams maintain criteria for membership that may involve fundraising success, academic performance or hours committed. Others allow a small number of students to participate and rely on a process of applications, interviews, and decision-making to select those students from among many applicants.

Question of the Week 08-31-03: Should FIRST and FIRST teams encourage active processes that cater this program to certain groups of people? Are membership applications and minimum grade point average requirements necessary?; beneficial?; right?

If you believe that FIRST and FIRST teams should actively pursue engaging specific groups of people, which groups? Why? Should the academic elite be given priority, or is it better to limit team registration to minorities and women?

I am not satisfied with the answers I received (or, more appropriately, did not receive) in the aforementioned thread and I believe that a good look at the original purpose of FIRST, how it’s grown, changed, and adapted – if it has – and how we feel about that is necessary and rewarding.

I understand that teams all do things different ways, so I want to ask, respectfully, that you each be intelligent, thoughtful, and thorough in your arguments so as to ensure that people do not misperceive the posts as hurtful or malignant. Thanks. **

FIRST was meant to get kids interested in science and technology. I personally feel anybody should be allowed as long as they contribute to the team. This can include robot building, animation, fundraising, and any other thing a team may need. But you shouldn’t have to apply.

*Originally posted by Matt Krass *
**On my team we just let the people come, by the time build rolled around we weeded out most of the slackers. By a week or so in the rest was gone. We only had like 10 to 15 people left by nationals I think. We started with a good amount, don’t recall how many. Anyway I think there shouldn’t be any rejection of students, if they’re not gonna work for it then in the end they lose…You don’t need to weed out the kids who just want the trip and the like. It happens on it’s own. **

Same thing on our team: if you’re dedicated enough to keep working and come to meetings, then you’ll be around when we decide who goes to competition (rookie year and we didn’t have enough money to go to Championships, so it was “who gets to go to the regional” instead). If you’re not there to add your name to the list of people going to the competition, you don’t go. As to meetings, anyone who came was welcome, and not that many people were dedicated enough to come.

This year might be a bit different because people know what we’re doing and we’re more organized, but I plan on doing it by people who are involved in the exchange of work or ideas: if you’re contributing to the meeting or trying to get something out of it, you’re welcome to be there, but if you’re disturbing others or being counter-productive in general, you don’t belong there and need to leave.

Team 691 has an application and interview process. Nowadays, it’s mostly to figure out where to place people, as I was told that everyone who applied got in. However, this wasn’t always the way. The fact that we actually have a class for robotics unfortunately does limit how many people that we were able to take in. I think over 200 people applied and there were only 35 spots in the class. Back then it was the advisor picking the team and he said about something about choosing people he saw the “spark” inside of them. Everyone who didn’t make it into the actual class was very welcome to come to all the build sessions and all the meetings. I mean, essentially everything for the team was done outside of the classroom and the only thing done inside of it was just managerial and leadership things and that was pretty clear. So many people who were not in the class did eventually help out during the 6 week build season and were very dedicated. In fact, many people who were chosen to be in the class and didn’t do any outside work probably later regret that they got in because they received a low grade whereas the people who went to build sessions on their own who weren’t in the class got the true “FIRST experience.” Robotics was truly a lesson that many didn’t learn until college: You get out what you put into it.

The question about GPA, it’s always a very tough one. We were a club that was a class at school and thus had to follow the rules of other classes that were similar (band, choir, sports teams, ROP, ROTC, etc). This meant that you had to have a 2.0 GPA. Before I get a lot of flak for this, I do see the reasoning of the administration. Argue with me all you want about FIRST being the real hands on learning and classes just being busy work but I’m just trying to look at it through another perspective. 2.0 is a C average and if people aren’t pulling that without an activity like robotics or a sport, how will they pulling hours and hours with their team. As idealistic as it is to say that we should gauge people’s success in high school by how many real world skills they’ve learned, there’s no way to measure it. Grades aren’t the best indicator by far, however it’s what we have now. It’s just like getting into college: Grades, SAT scores and 500 word personal statements might not show the true dimension of a person suited for a college but how else would they do it? It’s not an ideal system but it’s a realistic one. Furthermore, with a minimum GPA, I know many involved with robotics, sports, or other activities of the like that were pushed by this requirement to do better to make it on the team. Just another way to think about it.

So the goal of FIRST as I have come to believe it is to inspire students in science and technology, and despite the minor ramifications imposed by the school and the leaders of the team, I still think we are able to achieve this. We have never had to deny a person because of interest: business, animation, building, programming, we cater to that all. Although there is the GPA requirement, we still have quite a span so it’s not simply the academic elite. We have people in the AP/honors classes as well as many who aren’t. We don’t need to use a pseudo kind of affirmative action to get a mix of races and gender, as I recall that not even coming to mind when I was doing interviews. In fact, I think the only recruitment that was active was simply to get more management so students would be responsible for all aspects of the team.

There’s more I wanted to write, but I’ll leave it at that at the moment. I just want to emphasize that although there was a selection process to get into the actual robotics class, there’s no way we could stop or even want to stop people from coming on their own time while we were building and doing other things for the team. Thus, I think it was a fair process and in the spirit of FIRST.

You have to maintain a 2.0 GPS to even be at my school so it’s not much of an issue with my team. One thing that did really “urk” me though is we had to go around getting a grade sheet filled out and signed by all our teachers. This was in order to go on the trip. My grades are my business and other teachers and the robotics teacher has no business looking at them even if they are good :wink: . I didn’t like that at all.

As for robotics being a class, it is at my school and the reason for that is we get some money that way to pay for materials and things but we were a better team when nothing appeared on report cards and transcripts.

VERY IMPORTANT
If robotics at your school is becoming a class and is not receiving money or any other substancial benefits, do not let it happen. Many of our students really disliked the assignments and grading policy and attendance and the such. Unfair grading tactics were used. The “class factor” turned many students away. Robotics is for fun and your own learning experience, not a grade for someone else to look at. It is obvious to you, your team members’ and your teacher/coach how much devotion you have and how much you got out of the program and there is no putpose for a grade. Some students join for an “easy A” which is the wrong reason. Giving grades to a FIRST robotics team takes all the meaning out of the program and breaks many people hearts as it has my own. Let peolple participate at their own level and let that be that. I know I haven’t explained this too well but just trust me: stay as a club. Robotics is about team work and fabrication along with many other things, but not essays.

My old team was a multi school team with no real direct ties to any of the member teams. Only one really acknowledged our existence. That school did have criteria for going on trips, but it was rarely enforced. The other schools didn’t have anything to do with us. A kid could be kept off the team if his parents asked him not to be allowed on, or the coaches saw some overriding reason, but I don’t think that ever happend.

I think that our team was better off by not being tied to any school. I keep hearing about school boards canceling trips and such things, and I wonder why any team would put up with that kind of meddling. God invented idiots, that was for practice. He then invented school boards.

-Andy A.

On our team, anyone can join (although the school has a few rules on being able to do extracurricular activities, namely, you cant be failing more than 1 class). We can’t refuse people, or even kick them off either.

As long as the people who join the team help out and pull their weight, I don’t have an problem with anyone joining our team. I hate it when people come to the team, don’t help at all, and then expect to be driver (our policy is the hardest workers get to drive), or some other position of high importance/ responsibility. If you don’t do any work during the build, don’t expect to be doing much the rest of the time either. The good thing is that most people who join our team for the wrong reasons either 1) drop the team when they realize how much work it is, or 2) change their reasons for being on the team and make a positive contribution. So we haven’t had many people recently who are in it for the wrong reasons, or don’t help out.

So I think that as long as they actually do something and pull heir own weight, anyone should be allowed to participate in FIRST.

I’m not sure what Dillard does but at our school we accept anyone that wants to join. For the past two years we have had everyone in a robotics class then only take a certain number to attend motorola during the six weeks. The rest are there to work on fundraising and learning about various items. We just use the standard 2.0 GPA that is for anything extra at our school. I’m not to sure what we will be doing now because interest has dimminshed so much they have done away with the class.

FIRST is about inspiring those who never even thought about a career in science and tech. I didnt even plan on going to college until I got involved and now I’m motivated not only to go to college but to become an engineer. If there were grade requirments I wouldnt have been involved and my grades would be nowhere where they are today.

Our team uses an application and an interview to determine who makes the “cut” for next season’s team. This way, our mentors can determine who is serious about being on the team and who isn’t, and it also gives them a general sense of where the person wants to work.
I forget our team’s GPA standard, but I know there is one. I do know if you fail a class you’re kicked off the team though. The above is beneficial to the team in the long run because we won’t have to deal with members who aren’t serious about FIRST later on.

I do support our team’s standards, but at the same time I realize they may be preventing a few great potential FIRSTers from joining. However, I guess it’s just part of maintaining a decently sized team (usually around 30 members). If too many people joined… chaos would ensue. There can only be so much work for so many people…:]

We used an application, but it was mainly just a broad screening to see if people were really interested. We had a few short-answer questions, and required a teacher recommendation. Basically, with that, we could find out if the applicant was a serious student and good worker (from the recommendation) and also see why they were interested. It culled the people who were really not interested, and just in it for college apps, and screened out a few people who should have been spending more time on school than robotics. All in all, I think we only ever rejected 3 people or so through apps.

Starting this year, Team 25 has put in place a set of membership requirements. Any student can join us if he/she completes the following requirements:

  1. Permission to participate - Each member must sign and have signed a permission to participate form that allows the member to participate in team activities.
  2. Shop Safety Course - All members who will be working with the robot in any way must successfully complete a safety course provided by the team.
  3. Fund Raising Requirement - Each member must individually fund raise $xxx towards their personal travel expenses prior to January 1st and the start of the building season
  4. Academic Requirement - Each member must maintain academic eligibility as per NBTHS school rules
  5. Code of Conduct- Each member must review and sign off on the “Code of Conduct” in order to participate with the team.
  6. Community Service- All members are required to perform 10 hours of community service. All projects must be preapproved by the team CS coordinator who will maintain a log of all activities.

Team 25 often starts out the year with over 50 students eager to participate. During build season, however, because of the immense work and dedication required, this number often drops to about 20, give or take a few. This is the first year with the new membership requirements, so things might be a bit different. The requirements, particularly the community service, help to make sure that we have dedicated, hard-working memebrs that have FIRST’s goal in mind.

I personally think any student should be allowed to participate, as long as he/she is helpful and active. FIRST, to me, is about inspiration, not elitism.

One thing that did really “urk” me though is we had to go around getting a grade sheet filled out and signed by all our teachers. This was in order to go on the trip. My grades are my business and other teachers and the robotics teacher has no business looking at them even if they are good . I didn’t like that at all.

I guess that is standard practices for most schools. My school does the same thing except it is only for stuff like sports, and some other things I really can’t think of off the top of my head.

First I’d like to say that this has been a very interesting thread.

As for our club, we are going to be participating in a couple of competitions on top of FIRST (we’re also doing BEST and mentoring several FLL teams). Also, not only will we have a build team, but we will have a scouting team, technical team, financial team, etc. Since our club has more than doubled in size since last year (from ~30 to >60 students), we are doing an application process. It lists the students preferences as well as an essay question or two describing why they want to be a part of the team they picked, why they would be good for it, their transportation situation, etc all so that we will know which team best suits them. There are limits on the number of people that can be placed in each “team”, but this is to maintain a semi-even distribution of students between the teams, and to prevent the insanity of having 30 people trying to build a single robot while 0 people are trying to find sponsors to help us actually get to the competition :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyways, the system is designed to have interested students start out on the teams with fewer prerequisites and gain the experience necessary to move to those with more if they wish (for example, someone could be on the BEST build team one year and gain the knowledge to move up to the FIRST build team the next).

Also, we realize that a lot of students may not get their first choice for team picks, but when we go to a competition (barring any shortage of transportation, lodging, etc, or lack of parental permission or other significant reason), EVERYONE goes, because our team is the club as a whole, each sub-team is important in its own right for getting us to the competition.

We feel that this is the best system for our particular team. While we are only a second year team and are just trying this subdivision of responsibility for the first time this year, we are excited about the new system. We will not turn anyone away. They may not get their first choice for team picks, but anyone can be on the team.

Very interesting to see what teams have put down.

1020 is pretty much an open team: no applications, no restrictions, nothing. If you come on our team, we are more than welcome to have you. We hope you enjoy your time with the team and ultimately learn something about friendship, respect, determination, challenge, and most of all, teamwork.

My team (365) has always been open to any student from any school. We primarily recruit students by having them sing an interest sheet at school assemblies and other exhibition events. After the 2001 season (2nd year), we realized our team was too large (49 students according to my records) and many students had nothing to do. The leaders of the team decided that about 35 students was the max number of students we could handle and keep busy.

In the 2002 and 2003 seasons we had hundreds sign up on the interest sheets. Starting in 2002, all returning team members and prospective new members were required to fill out an application. All students that filled out an application were invited to the Kickoff meeting in September but some did not attend. Then the new students learned more about the program, and some decided they could not make the time commitment. Lucky in the last 2 years, the hundred of sign-ups naturally weeded down to a dedicated team of about 35. The team never had to make any cuts.

This year we have downplayed recruiting in all exhibitions to focus on encouraging schools to develop new teams. Since we helped Rob Kelly create a new team at Middletown HS we are not allowing any new students from Middletown to join our team. [edit] We still ended up with about 50 applications [/edit]. Strangely enough the most applications were from Charter school of Wilmington which did not have an assembly. We will have to see how many people show up for the Kickoff Meeting on Monday. As always, team leaders are preparing to cut people if necessary (hopefully it will not be). If we do have to cut people, it will be the hardest decision our team has ever had to make.

For my former team, 1018, it is very open. We did fill out applications, but no one was cut. Everyone who fills one out is on the team. This year I think they are adding an interview too, but just to see which team you would best fit into. We managed to keep a steady number of people through the build season, but then after our last regional, we started losung people, but I have heard that most are back again this year.
Eric