Small teams: what are your rules on membership status in reference to attendance

This was hastily written late at night so I apologize if anything is unclear.

As a small rookie team with 11 students on our roster with an average attendance of ~4.5 students starting in October we are trying to get more students but also to get the current students to attend more often. We are a non-school based team which gives us a few issues like students getting rides (we are trying to carpool when possible) and more need of company sponsorships.

We are considering trying to get more commitment by saying students need to be at 50% of the meetings during build season (remote attendance is recognized) and must attend at least 2 demonstrations or fundraisers which would be in the off-season. This is the actual language used in our team manual as it stands.

Eligibility: Students must put in a certain level of involvement to be considered an active member. In order to be considered “active”, a student must meet these requirements:

  • Attend a minimum of 50% in team activities during the build season. (Kickoff to Competition)
  • Follow the expected behavior outlined above.
  • Be productive on the team and comply to shop and safety rules.
  • Participate in two or more demonstrations, fundraising, or Super Hornets team outreach activities each offseason. These activities and hours performed must be approved by a team mentor.
  • FIRST recognizes ages 14 through 18 for the FIRST Robotics Competition division. We allow slightly younger students under certain circumstances with permission.

Active status for all students will be reviewed by the end of January. Final status will be announced by February 10th… Active students will be allowed to compete as Super Hornets in the March and April FIRST Robotics Competitions.

This is partially based on hearing from larger teams that they require like 70-80% participation but I think that may be because they are a school based team and they transport the kids to the competition in buses which have limited room.

I would be very interested in your thoughts and advice, perhaps keeping, rewording, changing or completely removing this section along with other things you might put in your team manuals.

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Personally, don’t think that asking for 50% is too much. The way I look at it is, if you showed up to football practice 50% of the time, your barely if not at all on the team. Obviously, this is different, with that being said I think your wording is sufficient. Personally on my team, we don’t receive anything from our school but a space to build, no transportation or funding, and we require 75% and 95% for our captains.

EDIT: Based off of what @tmpoles stated, I forgot to also add that we do not charge anything to be a part of our team. We want everyone to have the opportunity to be apart of this program if they so choose.


We ask that during build season students attend 2 weekday meetings a week as well as our Saturday meeting. For us, we can only fit so many students on our team working at Chrysler, and so it is a privilege not all students at our school get to have to be on our FRC team, so we think it’s fair to expect that students have enough interest to come that often.

We also expect students to attend all competitions unless they have a legitimate conflict that they have worked with our leadership about.

We also do interviews every year for both new students and returning students. Getting on the team as a freshman does not mean you’re guaranteed to be on the team all 4 seasons. We treat it just like any other sports team at a school would. These interviews are also very helpful for addressing any issues students are having, as well as giving the students a direct opportunity to discuss what they think about the team could improve, what they would like to get more involved in, etc.


We’re a smaller team as well, with around 15 students total/7 experienced students. I know it’s tough because you want to get things done, but not at the cost of having people who don’t make a commitment showing up and then reaping the rewards of others hard work. We recommend at least two days a week during build season, and certainly take commitment into account with key roles.

For us, there’s a $0 fee to join the team (excluding travel and hotels). As a community group, we get people from all walks of life/socioeconomic class and try to make things accessible. But, we do need to make money somehow, so we require returning students to fundraise $1000 (Or equivalent in kind) each before “bag day” or when it would’ve been. You get a 50% discount if you recruit a student and they join the team, and students who join later don’t have to pay the full 1000, it’s adjusted lower. Returning sponsors count towards that as long as the student is responsible for keeping in touch with them.

If you don’t raise this* you’re still able to attend competition if you want, but you’re not going to get assigned a role. We’ve found it’s both helped in getting people to actively participate (want to have a role? Fundraise. Want to get sponsors? you should probably do stuff on the team so you can actually have a good presentation), and also help push recruitment by giving that incentive to bring a friend.

Hopefully that gives you some ideas!

*Of course there are special circumstances, but that’s the general concept


50% is fair. As a team that started out much like yours - off site build and all - we recognize a few more problems in transportation and such. But when the students are there, well, they don’t drop in and out as might be the case at school. The real reason for having any bar is that in early times we had a few kids who drifted in and out, not doing any helpful work and sometimes being counterproductive. Then they wanted to add to our biggest expense…travel costs. This is not fair. We expect to move into a new STEM center at the school next season so things will change a bit then.

We don’t charge students at all but as an official school activity we have to charge $20. We get our money’s worth by having access to some school printing facilities etc.

Of course when making any change to a small team you will have to ask if said changes might knock your numbers down below some critical threshhold.


Thanks for your answers so far.

I would be interested in the approximate size of your teams and how that affects your answers.

At the moment we are planning to have the families fund their own transportation, hotel and team shirt costs. That may change in the future once we get more sponsors.


We run around 10 students most years, with 2-3 mentors, only one of them full-time.

We have no set rules for attendance except “show up when you can.” The kids in robotics are often in swimming, basketball, the spring musical, work part-time jobs, etc, etc–a hard requirement would almost definitely knock out the swimmers and musical members, and we have had many swimmers and musical members go on to careers in STEM in part because of their experience on 1551.

Realistically, we usually have 4-5 students who make 95% of the meetings, and the rest make what they can. Running an even pseudo-successful team with only 1-2 kids per grade level is a ton of work by not many people, and every year the kids surprise me with their dedication and passion for fielding a competitive machine.

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My team is at its record largest size this year, at 16 students. We are working out of one small (ish) classroom in the school but hopefully being relocated to a larger space in the school this upcoming summer. Our school doesn’t give us much in terms of monetary support, so we’ve been kinda worried about travel costs for 18 people (2 mentors). (EDIT: We charge a $50 yearly fee for each student to travel, but for other clubs in our school it is double that, so I think it’s fair.) To make sure that everyone who comes to competition is involved and committed, traveling requires meeting a 50% attendance requirement, which I think is more than fair considering how tight money can get during build season. However, we fully understand that grades are the most important thing, and that schoolwork does take precedence.

(Full disclosure: I am a diehard and I had perfect practice attendance last year even with like 27 school event absences)

We sit right around 40 students every year, generally try to sit around 10 per grade, all of this fluctuates by a few students year to year though. This is the maximum amount of students we can physically handle at our work space.

For our team:

-Students must have at least a 3.0 GPA by the end of the first trimester (Thanksgiving) and retain that throughout the build season, which is checked every two weeks during build season
-Students must attend 12 of the 18 available hours of our preseason training
-Students must be at the FLL, Jr. Expo that we host and volunteer at least 12 of the 24 available hours of the FTC MI State Championship that we host
-During build season, students must be present at 6 of the 17 available hours, spread over at least two days, each week
-Any behavioral issues will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis

Our team is a little bigger than yours, about 25-35 students each year.

Same here, but with 16. We may even be a little bit over, but it’s not a big deal. A big part of the reason we are moving is because we’re projecting for even more growth next year. We’ve never had to turn someone away who wanted to join because we had too many people and I hope we don’t have to… (Small school problems I guess)

When I first became a mentor, our team was underrepresented at our school and not expected to last into its 3rd year, so we grew our roster to change that. Most people didn’t know we existed and those who did dismissed us for our small size. Because we took anyone and expectations were extremely lax, much of our team was essentially deadweight. However, with 25 students on our roster the administration took notice and doors began to open for us. Had I implemented the strict rules that other teams have we would’ve never gotten those numbers.

Since then, we’ve pulled back on recruiting as we no longer have the mentor and transportation support for a larger team. What we do have is a very close-knit group who communicate and work together well, which has been great despite a lack of a formal set of rules and expectations.

Tl,dr: Sometimes you gotta take what you can get to do what’s best for your team.

We are a small team of around 13 kids, 2-3 local parent mentors, and a handful of remote-ish mentors.

I would be wary that instituting a “minimum attendance” rule could discourage kids from showing up at all. I’m not saying it will, but rather it could. On my prior team (admittedly a much larger one), we had a relatively lax rule for travel events (40 hours in build season) - most kids get hooked onto the program at the events themselves, so it’s important to make sure the “maybe I’m interested, maybe I’m not” kids are able to attend events. Offseasons are a big help for this.

On a vaguely related note (although not one you’re necessarily asking about), I don’t believe that instituting strict team structure on a small team is necessarily always useful. If you show up, you have work to do. If you don’t, then don’t expect to be given responsibility for a part of the robot. Don’t sacrifice the education of other students due to the lack of attendance from another.

If you have to “underbuild” because you don’t have enough physical hands to build the robot you want - that is okay!! Don’t sweat it. Build what you can and teach who you can. Just do your best!

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Those are the same numbers we aim for. It seems to be a pretty good sweet spot for our current situation.

We like to say “everyone who wants to builds robots can build robots, just not necessarily make the FRC team”. We really treat it like a sport, with FRC like our varsity team, the only difference being most students on the FRC team will start as freshman on the team and be on for all 4 years. We sometimes take 10th graders depending on the season, rarely take an 11th or 12th grader.

For those who do not make the FRC team, every student at our high school can participate in VEX if they like, and our OCCRA team is open to any student interested.

Jonathan L.

Last season we were a team of 25…and graduated 11. With emphasis on our farm system and a bit of targeted recruiting we are back up to 22. If the move to the STEM center goes off OK in the next 18 months we plan on aiming for a future team of 30. Mentors, including a variety of niche roles and “team parent” types…about a dozen.

On our 50% requirement we make exceptions where appropriate. Time taken off if grades need to be pulled up (we check weekly) does not count against your percentage…assuming it works! And we make allowances for family situations sometimes. People are not robots. Now, as to whether some robots have sufficient personality that they are perhaps people…another discussion altogether.

When we were smaller (17-23 members with 75% being constant in attendance) we had the following attendance policy:

  • Members were allowed 3 “unexcused” absences during build season.
  • An absence was considered excused if the member notified a mentor that they wouldn’t be attending.
  • If the number of excused absences exceeded 30%, we’d have a meeting with the member to discuss their commitment to the team.

I must add that we are a school-based team with a room dedicated to robotics.


As a small team we do as follows:

 1. 10 hours a week
 2. Participate in at least 2 fundraising events
 3. Get these done or you can not participate or come a long to competitions

We have a set amount of hours each kid has to get in, but we do the 10 hours a week during build season because that way the kid can’t try to get their hours in just in the last two weeks or the first two weeks and not show up the rest of the season until it’s time for the fun part (competition). This really helps show who is dedicated and who wants to learn new things and not just show up the day of competition.

We have 20-30 students each year. We have a travel requirement of 50% meaningful attendance (showing up and playing on your phone doesn’t count!), and a lettering requirement of 80% (lettering requires some additional things, too). The way we see it, you get from the team what you put into it. We want everyone to get the most out of it that they can, but not everyone can support the time needed. We aren’t going to turn someone away - even if they can only show up once a week, what they get from that may be the inspiration they need to pursue a career in engineering after graduation.

That may not be the right answer for every team, though… smaller teams may find that someone that can’t attend much is more of a distraction when they are there, taking away from what the team can accomplish. Larger teams may find that they just don’t have the room for non-dedicated students, or enough things for everyone to do something meaningful and beneficial. Find the right rules and incentives for your team, to get it functioning the best and benefiting its members as best it can!

This year my team implemented a minimum attendance requirement:

  • 60% of meetings to “be on the team” (be allowed to attend the local regional with us)
  • 75% of meetings to be eligible for the travel team
  • Anyone can come to meetings and work on the robot, regardless of attendance status

At the end of the fall semester (meeting about 7hrs/week since school started), we have 13 kids at or above 75%, 7 kids between 60% and 75%, 4 kids between 50% and 60%, and a couple kids below 50% who are still coming when they can. Looking at the past couple years, our team is overall about the same size as it has been, but individual students’ attendance is up on average. In the past we’ve had a sharp divide between students who came 85-100% of the time, and students who came 30-40% of the time, with nothing in between. It’s hard to attribute whether the attendance requirement has actually motivated students to show up more, since we’ve also made other changes this off-season, but I think it’s helped.