If we break the original proposed requirements of the thread into a more general form, we have:
-Demonstrate familiarity with important knowledge resources (info, tools, forums, etc and having made contact with other teams that can help them)
-Minimum number of students
-Minimum budget & number of sponsors
-Deadline for these requirements to be met
We can quibble over what exactly the numbers and dates should be, but these generally seem reasonable to me. Out of the four, the $10k/3 big sponsors seems like the only one that might be a genuine barrier to teams that have a real shot at making it. I’d like to see some evidence that loss of sponsors is a major cause of team dissolution before implementing something like that.
The one big contributor that’s not on the list is mentors. “Conventional wisdom” a couple years ago (which I think still holds) was that the main reason most teams die out around 3-4 years is that they were mentored by parents who lost interest once their own kids graduated. There’s no easy checkbox-solution to this that we can require rookies to follow, but perhaps there’s something FIRST can do to work with these teams and make them more sustainable.
And the question remains: If a team exists for three years, does decently well at competitions, has lots of fun and inspires three years worth of kids, would it really be better for them to have never existed? I can see how a school or sponsor would be soured on FIRST after supporting a team that never competed, or barely scraped together a very poor robot once or twice before dissolving, but a short lifespan doesn’t necessarily mean a school or sponsor will perceive their investment as having been worthless.
I think a holistic application would be the best way of determining whether a prospective rookie team is prepared to participate. Last summer I met a student who wanted to start an FRC team at her school. She spent the summer trying to round up sponsors and mentors, with limited success - one teacher willing to mentor, and $850 in grants. We talked in detail about her goals and options, which included joining a local community team herself, joining that community team as a group and then branching off the following year, starting an FTC team, or forming a rookie FRC team and trying to bootstrap it somehow. In the end she decided to start an FTC team this year, and work on attracting more mentors and sponsors so that they can eventually move on to FRC. I think this was a smart move, not because of any one factor, but based on their whole situation. If a team has less than $10k, or no non-teacher mentors, or any other red flags, they should be required to demonstrate that they understand what it takes to complete a season and have a viable plan to overcome their barriers. And be gently redirected into other options if they don’t.