Rookie Entry Requirements Are Too Loose


@dcheek6 Who are you replying to? There’s a lot of different ideas being tossed around here.

Also, you have last year down as your rookie year. There is something to be said about the vast experience from many of the contributors here. I’m not going to discount what you have to say right way, but careful about saying you know more than others who have invested a lot into this program.

There is still much to learn.


I am replying to the original comment. Correct if I’m wrong, but isn’t the purpose of first to like encourage people to get involved in STEM and develop an interest in technology. If we put super strict rules on who can start a rookie team we take away how inclusive First can be. First is supposed to be inclusive and accessible to those interested, not a place for classism.


FIRST is more than FRC.


Another spitball here.

How about some kind of required orientation at the beginning of the school year for rookie teams.

And I mean a fairly thorough orientation.
Typical costs for building an everybot and traveling to one event.
Resources available
Work involved for getting sponsors
Heck work involved for everything that is not a robot.
Time commitments
Other FIRST options like FTC

Initially, I wasn’t, but now I’m actually more for rookie teams SHOULD start with FTC. (No experience, I just hear it’s a lot easier to get running) After that has been established, then start an FRC team. (Sorry MI)

Yeah, it may be a bit of a let down to start the JV team, but if it gets the program moving I’m all for it.

My experience is from starting a FRC team as a rookie mentor and we were drowning most of the time, so there’s your Water Game.


Cool, I and I think everyone here agrees with purpose as you see it.

The issue being discussed is whether or not throwing new teams into the deep end of the pool and seeing how many float (the current way it’s done) is a good idea or not.

After starting a team, I would say it is not. Sure we had the two year rookie grant to pay for the event, but my second year in we had $300 to build with because we did not know what resources were available.
They were one of the lucky teams because some school personal change higher up wanted the team to work and helped make it work. (As the last mentor, I had left a few months before due to a family emergency)




What I would love LOVE to see is the following from FIRST HQ (or the local RD/district coordinating organization):

Hello. We see you have expressed interest in creating a new FIRST Robotics Competition team. We have identified some alumni who live in your area, they will be contacting you shortly to help you organize your team. Have a great day!


I critiqued the specific criteria from your first post, but I do think the idea of screening has merit. An application system like Nemo and Nate have discussed would be more flexible to accommodate the different strengths and local demographics each team has.

One of my old managers shared with me the idea of Principle vs Rule based management. Rules are easy to enforce but inflexible and unaccommodating. Principles (in this case a human considered application) let you get the “spirit” of what you were intending with rules while allowing you to account for unique situations.

Would having an application itself increase the preparedness of teams when joining? I have heard of a similar idea with letters being signed to “avoid bias” during recruiting actually reducing the amount of bias seen in hiring, with no other changes (having trouble finding the research now). An application, even if not evaluated, may on its own increase awareness of the challenge in sustaining a team.


Agreed. Just like those Chairman’s Award submissions we do, an application would first be an exercise in self-reflection.


I don’t believe people are advocating for “super strict” rules. I do think that people are trying to address the very real problem, of new teams making it through the first 4-5 years, to the point were they hopefully achieve critical mass and becoming sustainable. Some of the issues are that the rookie grants mask the funding issues, and that a very small core group can launch a team and be successful during the time that that group is involved. Many mentors are also parents. When their children leave the team, many do not stay involved. If the passionate core keeping the team going was these students/mentors you are going to have a big problem, when the founding students graduate high school.

The funding issue is a very real problem. FRC is expensive. The event fees are substantial, the cost to build an everybot are significant, and the travel/hotel costs can be a show stopper for many families. We happen to be in a District with no events local to our city, so that is 2 out of town events. We tend to make it to District Champs, so that is a 3rd. Last year we made it to Worlds, which was challenging from a funding perspective.

A lot of the issues, are outside of building a robot, and may not be particularly visible to a student, especially a fairly new student. This is also true of the mentors if they have not been involved with creating and sustaining other volunteer organizations. Building and sustaining volunteer based organizations is an entire other layer of complexity on top of just designing and building a robot and building a robot in 6 weeks is already hard, especially for a new team that has to learn everything.


One potential problem with extrapolating too much from the RAS data is that when judged for RAS, a team has just endured a two month trial by fire. It might be harder to judge before the season. The data might be the best proxy we have though.

Also, I think applications are potentially problematic because a lot times people tend to be application averse, even when they would be accepted.


Perhaps a team that does not meet the “requirements” set in the means test can be given the option to forge ahead anyways, knowing the risks, or they can be pointed to other programs other than FRC that can achieve most of the same goals with resource requirements.


I personally think, based on years of being a FIRST Senior Mentor for my state are that putting in some criteria to start a team will not be helpful in encouraging sustainable growth.

Teams fail for many reasons and the number of sponsors and the amount that a given sponsor donates are not even on the list.

There is a systemic problem with the way FIRST is organized and run in most areas.

There are RD’s, who are Directors of a given Regional or Regionals. Their primary job is to obtain the funding for a given Regional(s) and to recruit new FRC teams. It is not uncommon for them to have zero contact with the people who run the other FIRST programs in their state.

Traditionally FIRST has given an RD a target growth number and that number has been based on previous growth. So grow 10% last year and FIRST will expect the RD to grow another 10%. So RDs are essentially penalized for a year with strong growth. The bigger problem is that when an RD gets a lead they are there to sell them on FRC, not FIRST. The RD that I worked with in my first year specifically told me after we met with a potential school that I was telling them too much, that we didn’t want to scare them off.

Sometimes you do get a lead at the school district level and while they may be all in to spread FIRST programs across their entire district and even have funding for that the problem is that you need the right person to actually run the team that is at the building level. So in these situations it is not uncommon for a teacher, often new, to be told that one of the “perks” of their job is that they get to coach the FRC team, or that they can earn extra money with the coach’s stipend if they take on the FRC team.

W/o the right person the team will almost certainly fail and that is far and away the most common reason that teams fold, the lack of the right person, ie someone stupid enough to put in the hours needed to have a sustainable team for a very very small boost in their pay. Oh boy you get to increase your work load 50% for a 5% increase in pay!! No one stays around for any length of time under those conditions unless they have full buy in to the program and its benefits. The ONLY way you find out if the person is right for that and will have full buy in is to throw them in the pool and see what happens.

The FTC and FLL partners also get goals for team growth and again when they get a lead they also go there to sell the school on FTC or FLL, not FIRST.

So the first step in solving the sustainability issue is to fire all the RDs and partners and hire RDs who are directors of a region and not a Regional. This is what we did in the PNW and as a FSM under FIRST WA that didn’t have an RD and Partners for individual programs in the traditional sense when I got a lead I went there to sell them on FIRST and not a particular program. So I helped them figure out what program was the right program based on their particular situation. Some times that meant steering them into FTC and not FRC. Other times that meant converting FTC teams into FRC teams and vice versa.

As others have mentioned teams that fail are a problem for the program long term. I’ve went to those schools that have had teams in the past in an attempt to bring them back. It goes one of two ways. #1 “We love the program but I just can’t find anyone to take on the responsibility.” or #2 “Yeah that didn’t work for us” You also have those teachers who have done the program and left out there telling people to save themselves and run as fast as they can. I’ve been there at a round table where I had someone stand up and say the problem with FIRST is that they recruit you and then you are all on your own. (Note they said this referring to having a team before there was a FSM in my state).

The other issue that has also been brought up in this thread is the bit about leading a horse to water. As the FSM I’ve tried in vain to contact the person who has signed up a new team and got zero response. When they do show up at an event and they couldn’t run away or ignore me you would be amazed at the number that say, yeah I saw your emails and probably should have responded to them. Meanwhile I’m busy rallying the troops to get them a robot that is actually fully assembled and can at least drive in time for their first match.

TL/DR; Having these proposed requirements will do nothing to improve sustainability as the most important thing to sustainability is the right person leading the team, not money or number of sponsors. Those JCP teams didn’t fail because funding went away, they failed because the school voluntold someone that they were privileged to be chosen to run the team that the administration wanted to start because they got wind of the grant.

The long term fix, which I suspect will be implemented in the next 5 years will be to “fire” all the RDs and Partners and create local organizations who are responsible for all programs in their area and running a proper season for FRC and FTC, ie the district and league play systems.


I don’t think the question of what $ level constitutes a “corporate” sponsor invalidates my point that a $1,000 contribution by local companies and entities is too high a bar for rookie teams.

As to the point about eligibility for team, you’ve given one anecdote. That may not be valid for a wide range of teams.


fwiw this is probably still true, I think normal Caleb isn’t going to be able to make it to this thread anytime soon, so just treat the guy posting as :angry: Caleb instead.

One thing that I’m certainly not trying to do here is discourage anyone from joining. Probably one of the most ridiculous of my original suggestions was that all of this be sorted out be Sep 1. Why would I want that date to be so early? It’s honestly because I don’t think it’s a good model for some kid to hear about FRC in October, get a teacher to register their team by December, and then be scrambling during competition season to secure funding for their events (and 1/7 don’t even get that funding). If you’re trying to build something sustainable, you don’t need to start an FRC team IMMEDIATELY. Honestly, you can still build up the core of your team, you can shadow another team, go to events, secure funding, build your branding, the list goes on and on. You really don’t need to have a team registered to do these things. Then in August, you can submit an amazing application or whatever and get easily accepted, and now you’ve actually built something that I believe will last.

Basically, if someone tries to tell me that they can build a sustainable team, but that they NEED to start it THIS YEAR for it to work because X is a senior and is going to graduate, I’m going to call BS on them. That team won’t do so well next year after X is gone anyway.

I get that this can sound mean to people new to the community, but I’ve been around 10 years so hopefully I’ve gotten a little perspective in that time. Just trust me when I say that FRC will still be around for you next year. If I were tasked with starting a new team right now, I would be organizing and building a foundation well into 2020, and my team would not compete until 2021. That’s because I don’t think I’m capable of building something sustainable by the 2020 season, and hopefully I know at least as much about running an FRC team as someone brand new to the program. :slightly_smiling_face:


We were approached by a national education agency from outside the U.S. about helping them set up a half dozen teams. They wanted to do this immediately and be up and running for 2019. We responded that they needed to take time to establish and instruct those teams and then launch in 2020. We used this same analysis to make this recommendation. You start teams for the incoming freshman, not the outgoing seniors. To be honest, it’s really too late for the seniors if they haven’t gone through most of the FRC process.


The proposal here isn’t to exclude people from FIRST, but rather whether to steer them to FTC (or even VRC) instead where they likely will get an inspiring experience and the team will be more sustainable. That in turn can be a step to creating an FRC team when they meet the criteria.

One of the big risks of failure is that the FRC experience is so overwhelming that those in the local community interested in inspiring STEM education through robotics might think that all such programs are overwhelming and simply don’t try FTC or VRC in the future. We don’t want to inappropriately discourage them if these other alternatives are more likely to succeed.


I could say the same to you; Corsetto is also only one anecdote. My hometown district policy is the same as Sean’s, which accounts for 2180, 2191, and 2495. This seems to be the case for most teams I’ve spoken to in my area, which I did a few years ago trying to get an interested friend in a nearby town without a team onto one somewhere. I was unsuccessful in finding one close enough.


I don’t have experience with 4930, do with 5012 and 4944. They are among the most successful teams in many facets from their generation. I think this further validates the notion that judging could be valuable in assessing viability.


Fair enough. Our team has had intradistrict transfers and member from local private schools on the team. And I know of other students who are not attending the high school where the team is. But this may be the nature of California schools that appear to allow more intradistrict transfers.

Regardless, as pointed out by me and others, it is not good policy to create a team for a single student’s desire. To be honest, if that student is already that motivated, they don’t need further inspiration in STEM. They should be directed to other activities to become more immersed in STEM.