Rookie Entry Requirements Are Too Loose


Why do we insist on supporting unrealistic expectations? I think being realistic about what a school or community can accomplish with its current resources is not a bad thing. That said, I don’t think the basic tenets that Caleb laid out are a large barrier. I would shift the threshold date back to December 1 to recognize the school year, and lower the sponsorship requirement to $1,000 (because that turns out to be fairly easy to get as a round number.) The minimum number of students is an absolute must (and yes we need to fix STIMS to do that) because a truly functional FRC team needs at least 10 students.

BTW, $1,000 sponsors are not big corporations. They are the local companies that see the value of STEM education in their community. The corporations start at $3000 and higher. Rookies should be able to land the $1,000 sponsors. Connecting with the local business and education community is part of entrepreneurship which is one key component of FRC.

For small rural HS, the solution is likely FTC or VRC, just as 7 man football is the solution. It’s being realistic.


First, we have resource and training requirements for lots of other activities. Try buying a house, for example! Perhaps that’s not on point, but it brings me to my second point.

As I pointed out above, teams failing affect the program as a whole. Carrying on my house buying analogy, the multiplying bankruptcies of people who should not have been allowed to buy a house spiraled into the worst economic crisis in 70 years and required more than a trillion dollars to bail out the U.S. economy. Perhaps the analogy is too extreme, but it still illustrates how letting someone just do what they want without regard to the consequences can spread ill fortune to others. We’ve shown how team failures are not isolated. You need to present an argument (not a dismissive note) that demonstrates how the effects are isolated and of no concern to other teams.


This looks like a pretty good list of sponsors, and even the inkind are of significant value. Boeing has given us a significant amount through their national program, which I presume is the same for you:

The Boeing Company/SOLIDWORKS/Raytheon/Olin Pump/Software Anywhere/Universal Machine Shop/Pyramid Logistics/Industrial Metal Supply Co./OCRA/Build It Workspace Los Alamitos&Marina High

And what are you getting from the 2 high schools? Do you have a workspace there? A paid teacher as a mentor?


okay, but what about the senior who really wants some experience in FRC before they graduated but their team can not find enough sponsors or materials to fit your “requirments”… If a team wants to join first robotics competition and they have the money to attend competitions, they should be able to join… Many times an experience matched with a failure for students is better than no experience at all. You can learn from failure and the FRC experience and I don’t think anyone should take away the right for any team to join, as long as they have the money for the KOP and the primary regional competitions.


Just one high school. The workspace is in Los Alamitos, and hosts the Los Al high school team. We’re only out of Marina High School. And no, we do not have a paid mentor/teacher position (that’s me, I just do this out of the goodness/foolishness of my heart).

I should clarify, I don’t think it is unrealistic to “force” teams to prove some sort of financial solvency to enter FRC. I just wanted to point out that we’ve been pretty successful with less. But a rookie team in our school district did decide to take 2019 off due to finances.

We had financial issues ourselves when the JCP money ran out. Luckily we applied for and received a NASA grant that year. And then we gained a Raytheon parent. So, yes, we have been very fortunate to have two large sponsors each year, and several smaller sponsors ($500-$1000), as well as companies who will cut and weld parts we design.


The whole idea of the thread is that enforcing entry requirements for rookies would allow FIRST to affect more students more meaningfully in the long run. It’s easy to say “whoever can afford the entry fee can do FIRST”, but if that policy means that companies are less willing to support teams over the long run, then maybe it actually leads to less students able to participate in FIRST.

It’s hard to determine, though, which restrictions (if any) would have the desired effect of making FRC more healthy, which is kind of the point of the thread.


BTW, I have admired the success of your team. I’ve known that you don’t have the same resources as many other teams. I always put you on my list of teams to watch at a regional.


Mike Corsetto, our technical lead mentor, did not go to Los Altos High but joined 114 anyway. FRC generally does not have the school attendance requirements that sports teams have, so that student if so motivated has the option of approaching and joining a neighboring team.


One note on this, while it is certainly easier to allow students to join a team from a school they don’t attend, I have found some Districts have too many liability roadblocks if that student does not attend a school in that District. Ran into this before where a student came to some meetings but could not use any of our transportation to events.

Not super relevant to the thread though.


Yes, I can understand the dilemma better after your explanation. Thank you. And I agree an investment from schools can be very important. I do think schools can sometimes provide a stability you can’t find with a community program. I think finding a way to get a bigger buy in from schools would be great.

I wonder maybe if you had a dollar amount and a team could have many sponsors. I understand not wanting a team to fall just because one sponsor pulled out. I would think many smaller donations that add up would be more sustainable. I know we get many $500 sponsorships. Sometimes even from families or individuals. I could see having something that says you need several sponsors.

I think you hit the nail on the head here.


I’m doing my best to keep my responses to a minimum as I’m getting unreasonably emotionally invested. I think zucker42 summarizes my thoughts well enough that I’ll point you at those if you want to know what I’m thinking.

As another general point for this thread, I’ll remind everyone that I said I was spitballing ideas in the OP. I’m not married to any of them as written, just of the general opinion that the entry criteria really need to be much stricter than they are presently.


Comcast, Lockheed Martin, Leidos, Merck, and NAVSEA are all sponsors that fall between $1-$2.5K for my team. Knowing their grant structures, I know this also holds true for many other teams in the Philadelphia area. Each of those are pretty large corporations (save NAVSEA, which is a branch of the US Navy). The only sponsors we’ve ever had donate $3K or higher have been tied to registration grants and the individual seasons we received grants from Google (2016) and United Therapeutics (2018). I think you may have a skewed view of the financial situations of teams with vastly different operating budgets than 1678.

This does not match up with the reality of our school district’s policy, either. You have to be a Lower Merion School District student or a home schooled student within LMSD area to join into extracurricular activities at LMHS. Perhaps other districts are more lenient (or the FRC team simply did not tell the district they had students from other schools on the team), but our experience has not matched yours on this front.


I think one big problem is that people are looking for a 1 size fits all solution here where there probably isn’t one. Each rookie team faces a completely different set of challenges with sponsors, school districts, etc. so having 1 solution or 1 rule isn’t the right approach imo. As many others have suggested I think the best course of action is to heavily encourage rookie teams to partner up with veteran teams because in general they have more resources and experience and can adapt to the situation much more easily and effectively.


Nah we don’t have more then 3 sponsors at 1.5k and we have been a round for awhile and plus all of this isn’t necessary anymore not a proven stat. But upwards to 90 percent of the new mentors are alum who know the ins and outs of first already better then there counter parts when the where on the team



Yeah…I’m not sure about the $1000 sponsors aren’t big corporations thing.

The only really big donations ($5000-$10,000) our program has are from large engineering companies like Bechtel, Honeywell, and FLUOR.

We then average a few $1-2k donations from companies like Shaw, Bridgestone, and Southern Nuclear.

Our team has been around for 16 years, and things like this haven’t changed much over time. I’ve only been in charge of our team for a year now as head coach and I’m doing what I can to learn from others success to improve our financial standing, but it’s definitely a climb.


Dude, learn to write coherent sentances. Use proper grammar, spell things correctly, etc. This is Chief Delphi, not Reddit/Discord. Also don’t make up facts. They’re fake news, you’re fake news, and your presence here on this website is taking away from the overall experience on the site. Trolling isn’t funny. People will read your comments and if they don’t know better, they’ll be led to believe your incorrect statements.


Having some sort of means test for new teams would not be a bad thing. I think it is important to ensure that new teams know what they are getting into. While there are exceptions to every generalization, the current widely held belief is that that small, low funded teams, without contacts in the greater FRC community have a higher dropout rate. The dropout rate is also higher in the first years. To me, the takeaway would be to validate this belief, investigate and understand why, try and fix the fixable issues, and then set the bar to screen out the most obvious failure points. I think that having a traumatic experience in FRC for one or two years and collapsing is likely to be a overall negative experience.

We try and be realistic with the time and money demands for both new students and new mentors. While we have low team fees, to join, the costs to attend events are clearly called out in our Student Handbook, and covered in the team kickoff events we do in the fall. We also require participation in fundraising activity as a entrance gate to going to events. It costs way more than the FRC registration fees to field a reasonable robot and attend 2 events (we are in the ONT District). While we do not require students to attend events, we do attempt to explain why we believe they are an integral part of the program and of high value to the overall experience.

I think First laying out a reasonable budget for a season along with the resources you will likely need (space, equipment, time commitment) will create more realistic expectations for new teams considering the program. Personally I think First has switched to a focus on growth, and potentially lost focus on sustainability.


This post resonated with me, and I was intrigued by the question of:

How good are a collection of reasonable people at predicting the sustainability of rookie teams?

I thought that the judging process for the Rookie All Star Award might be a good approximation of this. Some big caveats:

  • Of course the judging for the RAS occurs during the season, well after any screening/application process could serve to select only the most promising potential entrants to the program. So we should account for any growth that occurs from application time to competition time that would make the team more sustainable.
  • The RAS award description doesn’t actually contain the word “sustainability,” but it certainly talks about rewarding teams with “a young but strong partnership effort” between “school or organization and sponsors.” I feel that the RAS is generally understood to acknowledge teams that the judges feel will be a force for good in their communities for many years to come.

Since @Caleb_Sykes gathered and presented a lot of great data for 2014 rookies, I decided to also look at 2014. There were 83 unique teams identified as Rookie All Stars at the 94 regional and district events in 2014. There were 3 duplicate winners (congratulations again 5012, 4944, and 4930) and 8 events with no winners.

Teams lasting at least x years 1 year 2 year 3 year 4 year 5 year 6 year
All 2014 rookie teams who competed in 2014, based on Caleb’s table above 100% 88% 81% 76% 71% 67%
RAS winners 100% 98% 94% 90% 88% 82%

So if you were to make a random selection of 2014 rookies who actually competed in 2014, 71% would still be around in 5 years. However, of the group of teams selected by the RAS judges, 88% were active 5 years later.

I think this shows fairly well that it’s possible for independent judges to gain some valuable insight as to the long term sustainability of new teams, and use this insight to make a pretty reliable prediction.


I agree with improving resources for rookie teams; however If one believes that there should be an additional budget requirement other than the current registration cost then one is definitely misunderstanding the purpose of FIRST.