Should FIRST expand beyond robotics?

In FIRST’s current survey they asked the question:44. If FIRST were to expand into science and technology programs beyond robots, would members of your team be interested in participating?
Would you?

This is something that deserves a discussion rather than a multiple choice answer.
Do you have any suggestions for FIRST?

FIRSTprobably could not answer this as these are only ideas they have, but my question would be what? What would we expand into?

Yes… And no.

No because they’re very successful with robotics as it is. Sticking with what works is the easiest path, and one that should work well.

Yes because robotics is easily seen as “Oh, you’re a nerd/math whiz/waaayy too smart for me”, so you probably want something else.

As for what to expand into, I can think of some high-school level science/technology competitions already in rocketry. What about a design-your-own R/C airplane event? Given a stock plane type, modify it any way you like to accomplish an objective (speed, lift, maneuverability). It’d probably be less expensive overall (my Aero Design team, which builds fully custom planes, has a budget lower than just about any FRC team’s), has a built-in mentor field, and can be as easy or as hard as the teams make it.

I suppose other engineering-based types of competitions could be used as a model. Maybe introduce smaller versions of some of the college-level competitions like solar powered cars/aircraft, mini-baja for rc cars, rocketry, etc.

Science competitions based on social networking experiments like the Darpa Red Balloons.

I hope it wouldn’t compete with current events, such as Science Olympiad, but would organize something completely different.

I would MUCH rather see FIRST partner with like-minded STEM organizations to promote all similar programs.

Duplicating the efforts of other organizations, when we already collectively reach so few students, schools, and communities is a waste of resources - especially for a small office that is already way overworked and underpaid.

Agreed. You should not fix whats isn’t broken. The only kind of expansion I have in mind would be to either start new teams which we (FIRST Teams) have been doing throughout the years, or a start of a new field of competition, like an addition to FRC, FTC, FLL, etc. It could be a scientific discovery/research project that each team does, or something like that. Until we have thorough idea that we KNOW will work, I recommend keeping FIRST they way it is.

My thoughts.

Agreed, I find this an extremely interesting concept, and believe it is not needed. On my team, we rely heavily on science and technology to support our robot. For example, decisions such as plate thickness and flange locations aren’t okayed without FEA. This is an incorporation of the technology element. We’re also forced to experiment with new designs each year, incorporating the science element.

I would be interested in some sort of comptetion other than robots, maybe something like Formula or Baja where we need to build something that a human can drive. There are obvious issues with this, saftey being the primary one. Simply limiting the maximum speeds of the vehicles would eliminate much of the point to a competition like this, so they’d have to be extremely creative in how they ensure driver’s saftey.

All in all, I think that FIRST should expand beyond only robots, though not for the sake of incorporating more science and technology.

For FIRST to expand in any area, they would need to expand their staff, first. It is my opinion that they could expand their staff now - in order to handle the needs and demands of the teams in the programs they already have in place at the current time. One area that comes to mind is continuing to work to develop methods of sustainability for the teams that have formed and are forming in FRC - strengthening regions that are in need of mentors, program development, and support. When the programs are developing consistently and the staff is not overwhelmed or buried under the current system, then expansion into other areas could be looked at. If they are seriously considering expansion in the near future, perhaps the staff that they bring on board will help strengthen the current programs and system in place, understanding the true nature of the programs and the demands placed on teams. That would be key.


I honestly have to say no.

Right now FIRST needs to sit back and determine what their goals are. Do they want to grow the program in the United States/Canada or do they want to grow the program outside of the Americas? (This is mostly and FRC problem) Doing the latter will take considerable man power and time. IF FIRST does not commit to expanding outside of the Americas it would be possible that FIRST could expand into other markets but I think this would be among the gravest mistakes FIRST could make.

If they do they need to go after a completely different set of people, do not go after the obvious future engineers. They should target the more athletic crowd. Perhaps with competitions involving designing running aids, javelins that fly better, or the like. Show the students that instead of working harder they can work smarter.

At Purdue, we would do a program called the PTS Creativity workshop. It was lead by a professor that had a Creativity course in the ME department. He also lead Pi Tau Sigma. The point of the creativity seminar was to integrate Junior year students with a company for 1 weekend. Basically it was a 2 day event where students and company reps brainstormed and worked on proposals for a major problem the company had. I was able to participate 2 years, and it was a wonderful opportunity.

I started to add a lot of details, and then remembered I signed a NDA (I can’t remember if it was with Purdue and the Companies, or just the companies) so had to remove a lot of it. If FIRST sponsored weekend programs similar to this weekend I would be all for it.

If FIRST were sponsoring other Engineering and Design projects like FLL or FTC where engineers are not allowed to work WITH the students, I would not participate. There are a ton of other great programs and projects that students can do on their own. I would only support additional programs that allow the mentors to work WITH and not FOR the students. FIRST would do well to have additional programs like this that do not require the high monetary and time commitment.

I still remember (12 years later) some of the engineers I met those two weekends. To me, they were just your average everyday Superhero engineers (just like the Green Ranger).

This would pull in the same group of future engineers, only the more athletically oriented ones. I am an excellent example of this. I swim for my high school team, rock climb, run, and lift weights. I am also a co-leader of the CAD team. I’m sure there are many students ouit there who are in a similar situation.

I don’t totally disagree though. I think that expanding FIRST to a more real-world application would challenge students more. Perhaps each team would have to come up with a better way to accomplish some everyday task. The parts would be done soely in CAD, and then submitted. These parts could be jud::ouch:: ged (sorry, my friend clicked it) on ease of production as well as whether or not they accomplish the task.

Yes we occasionally get them but if we were able to take the stereotypical football player and show him that he could be a better player by using his brain wouldn’t we all be better off? Hopefully someone smarter than I can come up with a challenge to draw in THAT sort of person.

I’m all for that, though creating an engineering challenge for the non-mechanically minded will prove to be extremely difficult. I agree that FIRST should investigate a challenge like this though.

FIRST isn’t a robot advocacy society. FIRST has a vision and a mission to promote STEM education and change our culture. Creating a new program within FIRST creates significant challenge.

I think the award structure at FIRST should contemplate and emphasize things teams are doing to encourage STEM activities of all types in addittion to the FIRST key values.

There is a ton of interesting things students can do in the STEM field that complements FIRST.

full disclosure: My statement may sound a little self serving in light of our other STEM related awards but I can personally attest to how much this activity has enhanced our FIRST activities.

I feel that the FLL themed competitions and research project provide a great STEM addition to the robotics competition. In the years I have coached an FLL team our students have:

NanoQuest: Observed many items under a microscope & had their hair imaged in a scanning electron microscope
Power Puzzle: Toured solar powered buildings & made potato batteries
Climate Connections: Visted and discussed weather related issues with the local ambulance association
Smart Move: Climbed aboard a blimp (Snoopy I) and talked with the pilot and crew

Having a themed research project at the FRC/FTC levels might be a managable expansion of the program. My recommendation would be that the final presentation be handed in as a video (or in addition to live presentation), rather than a live presentation (done in a room with only judges present) so that others could view the presentation and learn from it.

Merle Yoder
Mentor - Granby GRUNTS Team #3146
FLL Coach - Granby Red Blox

FIRST needs more Graphic Design, Industrial Design and other artistic focuses. Imagry is becoming bigger and bigger each year, video has become important and even photography is a key componant to a team.

Granted that Art is the total opposite of Science and Technology, but when you see teams that promote with their visuals and graphics and design, everything just looks so much more unique.

I wouldn’t say that Art is a total opposite. You need an artistic touch to market to the masses. You can come up with technology for say – a car, but if it doesn’t look good/cool/appealing, its not going to sell. IMO Engineering, Art, and Business all go hand-in-hand.

Topic wise - FIRST does tend to preach that “anyone can join and benefit from the experience” but when it comes down to some of the perks (scholarships) all of the popular schools are “engineering majors only”. While I firmly believe the ‘triad’ of Engineering-Art-Business are all needed to sustain a team, Engineering hugely overshadows the other two. I think FIRST needs to decide if it wants to be more open to “non-future-engineers” and work on supporting those students as well. I don’t think I would call that “expanding beyond robotics” as much as just supporting the various ‘subdivisions’ within the robotics programs beyond the future engineers and programmers.

Personally I believe the limiting factor for growth is not how it approaches STEM, but rather the type of individual it attracts. This question infers that they are not looking to attract individuals outside of the STEM community, but rather expand their impact within STEM.

I wish they would take a note from NEMO, and see that the organization should extend its program to reach the brilliant minds outside of the STEM community. I think it would be interesting if this question was asked:
If FIRST were to expand its robotics program beyond science and technology, would more students at your school be interested in participating?

I would love to see the brilliant minds behind art, business, and journalism get behind the FIRST program, and in doing so I think the program would increase public interest.

I’m with Rich on this one – FIRST’s niche is making science competitive. If FIRST wants to expand outside of that niche, they should not do it alone. Even if they wanted to expand into another robotics area such as SeaPerch (SNAME/ONR would love that one, lol) or Rocketry, they should partner together rather than try to compete with those organisations.

The juxtaposition of using robotics to inspire is that while robotics may be all-encompassing for engineering, it also has the most demanding perceived prequisites – Math, Science, Spatial Relations and a myriad of others. If FIRST could encourage students to learn these things and get GOOD at them at a much younger age via in-school curricular influences, I’m pretty sure no FRC teams would have any problems recruiting students. Luckily there are many other types of established STEM initiatives such as MathCounts, Science Fairs and even reading programs that could both alleviate these fears and get FIRST into the classroom. Yet if FIRST wanted to wander into these areas, they would be much more effective if they had partners.

An interesting question. With equally difficult answers.

I say yes, or at least kickstart another program off. I think FIRST should support the IGEM competition. It’s basically a new field of computer engineering principles applied to the world of genetics. Many people call it synthetic biology. I think it’s fascinating. So, i say yes, and in the direction of other scientific and technology fields such as biology.

What else is there? Oh, i guess i misread the question… They are thinking of expanding outside science and technology. Interesting. I say go for it, but im not sure it will be easy. My advice is to expand into other areas of science and technology, since that is what they deo best. Stick to your strengths. :slight_smile:

The cool thing about the IGEM competition is they already have a “kit of parts”, but the “kit” is open source genes… So, when you want to make a bacteria do something cool, all you have to do is use the standard parts. Pretty cool stuff. :slight_smile:

That’s my two cents.