Rookie Entry Requirements Are Too Loose

  1. It’s harder to get a sponsor to sponsor another team if the teams it is has sponsored in the past failed.
  2. It is harder to get a school/community to start a new team if a previous team in the school/community failed.
  3. A failed team does nothing to continue serving the students that were/would be on it.


Can you provide sources or data to support these claims? I suspect they are true (to an extent), but basing decisions off of suspicions and assumptions isn’t a good idea.


I have offered to serve on a FIRST committee that explores these questions but have been turned down.

From another document. The committee might be charged with this scope:

  • Learn why local teams fail through exit interviews and surveys; publish findings
  • Learn the long-term effects of failed local teams on the program, the school, the students, and the community (is there any “scorched earth” effect where a failed team reduces a school’s likelihood to get back into FIRST in the future-- or is there an opposite effect??); publish findings
  • Learn if there is any correlation between being publicly recognized as a successful team (e.g. by receiving awards, by demonstrating high performance, by receiving media attention, by attending championship events, etc.) and the likelihood of retention (or is there an opposite effect?); publish findings
  • Find the risk factors for impending team failure in the region; develop a triage system for evaluating teams that display those risk factors; publish findings
  • Seek out teams that display those risk factors for potential intervention; report them to the regional-level FIRST franchise organization with suggestions for assistance
  • Find and advise FIRST and the regional-level FIRST franchise organization on the policy changes that can be made to the program that will cause less teams to fail


The assumption in question is that other teams need to operate in a particular way. If you require teams to have a budget over $10000, then you are assuming that a team needs over $10000 a year to succeed and be healthy, probably because your team or other teams around would need that much money to be successful. But you don’t know the exact circumstances of the new team (maybe they receive many in kind donations, or already have access to technology/tools).

Now you might be arguing something slightly different, closer to what Citrus_Dad is arguing. That is, setting standards may preclude some teams that would be sustainable from participating, but on balance it is better for the program. This argument makes more sense to me. Regardless, though, any hard requirements imply assumptions about what leads to a successful team which may be wrong for any particular team.


There was a rookie team in South Africa this year, mentored by a team from Australia. There are <> always teams willing and looking to partner up, and mentor others. What could help is a more organized way to find and establish the mentor/ mentee relationships.


Wow, you type fast :smile: thanks quote=“notmattlythgoe, post:41, topic:349975”]
It’s harder to get a sponsor to sponsor another team if the teams it is has sponsored in the past failed.

Ok, I can understand, and agree with this. What if we’re could find a way to give them a year to find a sponsor? It seems kind of hard to convince a sponsor that you team is worthy of you haven’t actually done anything yet. I know teams do it all the time, but being able to show someone you can and will actually make a robot and show up to competition (1 out of 7 don’t make it through their first year right? ) would go further to convince a sponsor than just going in with barely an established team. I should think. That doesn’t mean the team will stay sustainable, but I think it would inspire more confidence in sponsors.

I’m afraid I don’t have any real experience with this. Most of the schools I know contribute very little to nothing to the team itself. So I don’t think they would be overly concerned if the team folded, maybe a little sad… maybe, but it probably wouldn’t affect their next to non-involvement they currently display. And if a new team started they would possibly get the same amount of involvement. For reasons that have major involvement, I would think they wouldn’t be ALLOWED to fold. The school would help support them anyway.
But I don’t really know, like I said, not a lot of experience with it.

So you’re not going to Inspire the students that would have been on it because the future students wouldn’t benefit?


There are other programs out there that are just as inspiring and much easier on the wallet than FRC.


For every success story, there’s another team who is struggling with nobody giving help.


I totally agree! And perhaps for a great number of teams that would be the best option. Maybe we should make sure the teams that want to be rookies have information for these other programs available to them. Is no secret that FRC is expensive. Look at how much it is just to register. But I don’t think telling someone they can’t even TRY and make it is a mistake.


If they are just as inspiring and cheaper, why do you still participate in FRC as opposed to those other programs?

I think VRC and FTC have a role to play, but the elephant in the room is that FRC is viewed as the “big leagues” and there’s a reason that even those of us who have tremendous investment in VRC and FTC stick with FRC. There’s a implicit message that’s being sent when there’s middle school teams and “JV” teams in FTC and VRC. Telling a student or community that they don’t have wait it takes to survive as an FRC team and they should go play with the little robots instead is 100% the wrong message, IMO. We don’t change the culture if we only let those communities of opportunity play in the big leagues. We don’t change the culture if only the teams that have the inside connections to professional engineering sponsors get to play* with the big robots. We don’t change the culture if we further expand the inequalities presented to students and widen the digital divide.

*And let’s be honest, it often takes an inside connection to get these types of corporate sponsors. Outside of a handful of generous grant programs (NASA namely), many of these companies require an employee to be associated with your team in some fashion (possibly just as a parent) in order to apply for grants.

We all agree that the sustainment of teams is too difficult and too expensive. I don’t think the answer is to raise those barriers even further. I think the answer is to find ways to make it less difficult and less expensive.


Not quite sure I agree with you here Sean. Famous footballers and baseball players still inspire plenty of people without the NFL being overrun with high-school and middle-school footballers. FRC is, as FIRST puts it, the only sport where anyone can go pro. These two concepts may seem at odds at first, but it’s entirely possible to give someone enough of a background to properly prepare themselves going in, to understand the true cost, true way things work, without locking them out. We also can’t change culture if we give them a taste of the programs, for all they do right, and then rip it away from them due to costs.

Is it $6k for rookies? No, that’s just registration, and FIRST has slowly been updating their verbiage to indicate there are other costs you should be aware of. That the kit isn’t the only thing you need, that you probably want to move before your first event, etc. The rookie requirements are “too low” as-is because their avenues for success are too narrow. It takes a lot of luck, passion, experience, and asking the right questions to survive. Our question probably shouldn’t be “how can be keep people out” but rather “how can we be sure those who join don’t leave for preventable reasons”.

Starting in FTC or VEX and moving into the “big leagues” as you put it has produced some of the most competitive rookies in the world, looking at Wingus & Dingus and Crossfire. It’s a valid approach, so let’s not arbitrarily rule out ways into the program that evidently work.

Edit: And to amend this, I’m looking at this from the perspective of someone not at HQ. I can’t change registration costs, or the materials published by FIRST, but I can go to competition, ask senior mentors and district coordinators for contact info for new or struggling teams, and provide as many resources, links, and lessons as I can to these teams, to try and help them succeed.


But high-school and middle-school football and baseball players still play fundamentally the same game. Ignoring the football concussion debate for the moment, you can still play tackle football in youth and school leagues. It’s not as if every amateur football player is forced to play flag football or two hand touch. Young players graduate from teeball to baseball pretty darn quickly.

Ask many female baseball players how they feel about being forced to play softball instead of baseball.


BTW I’m really not trying to argue just for the sake of arguing. I appreciate a thread like this trying to come up with SOLUTIONS. I’m just not convinced the assumption is correct. I don’t really have a problem with failed teams. They tried, they didn’t make it. It happens.

One thing I have discussed with others, concerning sustainability, concerns Michigan more than most (I would guess). With all of the state grants and money available you will find teams (people) trying to “game” the system. Maybe starting a “new team” every year for the grant money. I’m sure there are some protections in place to help prevent that, and numbers for that would be difficult to get at best, but it is a concern I have.

With all of that, I think making sure teams are well informed of what it’s going to take to become sustaining is vitally important. And having a team to turn to again you need help I think is something EVERY team should have.


I didn’t even realize there were rookies that didn’t compete their first year. At that point though I think it opens up questions about malfeasance. Anyhow, while I can somewhat agree overall with your post I still don’t think we should completely ban teams from competing as long as they can pay the registration dues. I do agree that we should make at least 5 students complete the STIMS process and put them into contact with other teams and regional contacts but at the end of the day you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink - teams should rise and fall on their own merit.


That I can agree with wholeheartedly. Maybe then improving the quality of program of FTC and making it match it’s original purpose for existence (context for those unaware) would help then? I am by no means an expert but it seems that some shine and polish would do quite a bit of work towards making FRC’s attrition better because then folks might not just sign up for the sake of looking and not better inspiration-wise? The students I’ve met through FTC have been no less inspired than FRC students.


People trying to game the system is a whole separate issue and I don’t think we should base the our rules or debates around them.


I noticed this year that the ONT district is recognizing all rookie teams with a plaque. I suspect that the motivation to do so, at least in part, is to attempt at retaining a greater number of these rookie teams.

I could be completely off base, but that’s my best guess.


It’s a larger issue of sustaining the community. If FIRST puts forward a program where 50% of the teams fail after 6 years, program sponsors are less likely to invest in the program. In addition, neighboring schools are less likely to invest in bringing in a new team if they understand that these teams fail at that rate. Schools frequently (most of the time?) provide a teacher as some form of a mentor, and often (most of the time?) provide space for the team. If they make that investment (and yes, taking a teacher’s time is an investment) and it fails half the time, they are much less likely to jump in than if they know that these teams are sustained 90% of the time. Education institutions are conservative in resource allocation. Perhaps the key reason that we don’t see them investing in FRC teams whole hog is because they are rightfully skeptical of the success rate of those teams. In contrast, they might choose VEX’s Project Lead The Way because it has more support and is more sustainable. I’ve seen several established teams get fantastic school district support, but only after proving they were sustainable. Why not have sustainability standards that attract school support earlier?


We’ve been around for 8 years now and we’ve never had more than 2 sponsors/ donate more than $1.5k (including grants).


A more general rule I’m trying to get at is that a team should not instantly collapse due to one sponsor leaving (see JCPenney), maybe mandating a budget of at least 6K excluding your largest sponsor would be a better criterion.