[Split Thread] The pros and cons of having two Championship Events

I’m curious. Which of the Championship events have you attended?

Also, how are you measuring “student experience”? (I’m aware you don’t have a metric. I’m more trying to understand the thought process)

Have you ever tried explaining the 2 championship model to someone outside of FIRST? It honestly lessens the impact of what you’re talking about when talking about the championship, and you can see it in their demeanor. In addition, as a recentish alumnus (class of 2016) who has attended championships in both models as a spectator (and the old model as a student in 2015), it definitely feels like the championship(s) have been watered down and cheapened. The old championship felt like a championship. The current model feels like a convention. Part of that may come from the venue limitations, however, I don’t feel like that’s fully the case. In addition, Einstein feels cheapened from what it used to be. Round robin doesn’t have the same impact that the bracket style tournament had. In the bracket style, every match felt important. Every team was always fighting for their shot at the championship. Now, there’s Einstein matches that you could go grab a snack during, because the 2 teams competing are already effectively eliminated.

EDIT: In addition, the move to the second venue for the finals is really dumb, in my opinion. It kills all tension built up, and honestly it lasts too long.


I understand now; you learn something new everyday! As someone who is mostly an individual contributor professionally, I wasn’t previously aware of the nuances of where in-house experience should lie.

2010-2016, and both Houston and Detroit this past season.

I don’t mean to drag this thread too far off-topic, so I’m putting the response in a spoiler. Mods: feel free to split this into a new thread if you feel like it’s necessary.

I want to preface this with stating that this is only part of the student experience, and that two championships is not the sole contributing factor.

A big part of the magic for me as a student was the sports-like atmosphere of FRC. Geeking out about teams all over the world, constantly arguing over the minute details of which robot was better than another, watching terrible-quality streams of tournaments halfway across the country during lunch at school; we very much interacted with FRC like a lot of students interact with a professional sport. It wasn’t just the experience of participating on a team that had an impact on me, but being a fan of the whole program.

Citrus_Dad explains how this affects philosophy on how teams should be run more succinctly then I could describe it:

I and many other alumni around my age feel like some of this magic has been lost over the past few years, for any number of reasons. Many of us who felt this way as students have continued to be involved as volunteers and mentors, and we feel like the student population as a whole seems more insulated; people more than ever tend to only pay attention to teams in their local area. Championships seems like a unimportant, irrelevant thing to them if they’re not at the level of competing for it. They have fun attending, but it seems like it’s more of a fun field trip, and less of the “Superbowl of smarts”.

I don’t just want to inspire students to particulate in STEM; I also want to inspire students to be fans of FIRST and continue to support this program as volunteers and mentors. To me, it seems like the most scarce resource in producing high quality teams is good mentors, and I want to inspire as many kids as I can to turn into those mentors in the future.

Some of this culture shift was gradual, but a big chunk of it was sudden around the 2014-2015 time frame. Given how sudden it was we looked for what changes would have happened shortly before that time period. I don’t quite remember the exact timing, but I believe that Don Bossi coming on as President and Dr. Murphy stepping down from a BoD position were two major changes in years prior.


Actually, yes, all the time. We explain FIRST to everyone that will listen, and I have never once had the experience you’re describing. At most, I may get a “that’s a little odd, but it’s cool.” But usually, we’re presenting in an area that very heavily rallies around high school sports, and they comment that it’s no different than any other high school sport. Parents who joined the first year of the split that said they actually prefer the split because it gives more teams the opportunity. I’ve talked about this extensively in other threads, but I can honestly say that MARS would not be the team it is today if it weren’t for that first and subsequent championship experiences. We would not be impacting the thousands of lives we are if it weren’t for the championship experience. I’m all for bringing that experience to more people and more teams. My students are still gaining a life-changing experience attending the championship, and I’ve noticed no change in that inspiration post-split, other than now more students can have that experience. It’s the job of the board and President to consider FIRST’s mission and vision, and act in ways that advance those ideals. The championship, in the grand scheme of things, is miniscule compared to the potential FIRST has right now to do spectacular things, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

To go back to a previous point. Football is the biggest high school sport in the country. Almsot every high school has a team, and yet, there is no national championship. They have hundreds of times the number of teams we have, and have hundreds of times the number of “championship” events. And yet, it’s still the sport this nation still rallies behind without even blinking. This is true of pretty much all high school sports, actually. If FIRST really is to grow to be the sport that’s in every high school, maybe the idea of a single world championship isn’t a sustainable one. Maybe we’ll be in a world someday without any championship beyond the districts, because we have 100,000 teams. Maybe that’s the way to grow and scale the program to get to the point where we have a “team at every school” like Dean’s vision. And if that’s the way to go to get this program to more communities, I’m in, let’s try it out. Why am I saying all these things? Well, because those are just some of the challenges that are going to be facing our organization in the next 10-20 years or more, and it’s going to take some weighty, controversial decisions to get us to where we all want to be: FIRST in every school.

I’ll agree with you there. I’d be fine with keeping Einstein in the convention center for now.


If FIRST keeps moving further away from a single championship, I expect many teams to look elsewhere for their competitive robotics. FIRST heavily benefits from being their only competitor at the large robot level. I wouldn’t be surprised if a competitor popped up which offered the golden age of FRC (2010-2014) experience with a single championship and top level production value. If that happened, I’d expect many teams would move to them. If that happens, then you won’t have a team in every school. I know if that happened, I’d definitely take my time to that place, and I know others would as well. This isn’t a high school exclusive sport. This is the top level. What top level sport do you know that only declares a state champion.



They should really hold the whole division playoffs in Ford Field in Detroit. However, I’ve heard rumors that they’re just getting rid of it entirely next year, to match MMP being unavailable for Houston.


As previously mentioned, high school football (the “national championship” there is an award based on ranking evaluation / polls, not a competition). Even college football didn’t have a national championship until recently–prior to that there was only conference championships and various bowl games between conferences. Even today it’s not actually an official championship (the BCS and CFP were/are not NCAA sanctioned), and it’s at least in part based on polls, not head-to-head competition.

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NFL is the top level sport for football.

Sure, that may happen, and there could be a thousand teams to replace every one that leaves if we offer more localized access to competitions. That competitor fractor will face the same sustainability issues we’re seeing in FIRST a few years into its history. Not a single national or worldwide nonprofit organization has grown to the level they’re at without major changes. The model FIRST was using in the 1990s is DRASTICALLY different than the “golden age” you’re describing, and that age is pretty different from today. I’m sure there were mumblings when certain changes were implemented. Go back and look at old CD threads about the original move to the alliance model. Many had similar concerns, adn thought it would be the end of the “real” FIRST, and reminisced about the “glory days” of FIRST before the alliance model. Many felt it watered down the competition. But look where we are now, hardly anyone involved today remembers the days before, and we’d probably not have it any other way.

Just because a few teams leave because of mentors’ personal opinions doesn’t mean it may not be what’s best for the organization as a whole. I’m not saying I’d support or not support that move, but to be honest, the people who really care about that are those that are currently involved. We should be looking more to the people and communities that AREN’T involved. I’m sorry, but if I had the choice between being the elite, only accessible to communities few and far between, and being able to take over every school and give every student the ability to be a part of the FIRST family, I’m choosing the larger, more accessible any day of the week. FIRST’s mission isn’t to be the elite, or the inaccessible, or the EXclusive. We’re INclusive, and it’s our mission to change the entire world. I’m not saying anything for sure, because I’m not FIRST. I’m just saying we may have to face tough decisions to get there. If we’re really going to see the change we want to see in this world, we’ve got to be everywhere, not exclusive.


And is a professional sport, not high school. We are talking about high school robotics here. If someone wants to create a professional level robotics league, that’s different.


If we’re making the analogy to the NFL, since the NFL are professionals, our job in FIRST is to create those professional players in STEM, not to BE them. NFL is adults, high school football is high school. Our job is to get into every school and inspire every student we possibly can, not to be exclusive and elite. We’re never going to change the world by being EXclusive. Our job is to go into every school and get kids involved in robotics and STEM, so that one day we will have millions more professional players in the field.


“awarded based on rankings from USA Today and the National Prep Poll.” I.e. Not really a national championship playoff system, just rankings or arbitrary inter-state games that were self-dubbed “national champions.” Locally, though, they usually go through playoff brackets at the state or conference level. At any given high school, earning the state or conference championship is the title they care about. We have parades and celebrations when teams go to the state playoffs, and when they win the state playoffs, it’s the biggest thing to happen to that school. There’s nothing beyond it, at least not that’s sanctioned and all-accessible like FIRST’s model currently is.

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The streams are better quality now, and the events closer to home.

There are many more teams in each local area that are putting out robots worth paying attention to. (And IFI teams still get plenty of attention.)

NASA, F1, MotoGP, Battlebots, rally racing are all decent analogies here.
FRC is a high school Varsity league.


If it was a high school-only competition, you wouldn’t see a lot of the elite teams we see today building robots WITH MENTORS that wow everyone.

FRC back in what I view as the “golden age” was treated as a world-class sport. It was an option for all people. They called the world championship the Super Bowl of Smarts.

Now it’s just a dorky dinky high school sport that brings in only people already in on ‘nerd culture’, and perpetuates stereotypes about robotics students with the super cliche themes. This was made incredibly evident by attending 2017 and 2018 events. People coming to our events before themes thought it was cool and respected it, even if it wasn’t for them. Now, if we bring someone from ‘outside the tent’ into an event, they blow it off and laugh at it.

EDIT: yes, they laugh at it. We brought in people from our high school to 2 of our district events this year and it was an awful experience for all those involved.

Dean’s mission was to get science and technology leaders to be respected and looked up to by all children the same as movie stars and athletes. I think the current direction of FIRST goes against that.


I’d have to say that 3.5 years in, the public opinion of two champs from the majority of people that I know in the program preferred one championship.

In terms of student experience, I most definitely agree on the side of the student championship experience being worse and worse virtually yearly:

Atlanta>St Louis>Detroit. 8 championship visits, both in FLL and FRC.

BOTH programs quality of event has deteriorated significantly in terms of student experience…

No more opening parade with all the countries represented :frowning:


No more talent show, no ice cream social, no playing in a dome, no playing on Einstein, significantly less walking by FRC teams competing, less global presence at events.

One positive of FLL now is they don’t end a day earlier than FRC.


Worse and worse closing celebration, no more nice fireworks display (Houston brought this back for a little bit, imo seemed lower quality than Atlanta) No more stadium playing for most teams -> No more stadium playing at all? Missing out on half the awesome teams, metal bleachers, traffic jams every time you try to walk to the pits.

I’m sure i’m missing several things here.


Just saying, we’re seeing exactly the opposite effect here. STEM and robotics is now respected at a level it never was before, due to FIRST’s reach. FIRST is growing, and our communities are rallying behind our robotics teams like never before.

Ever try to start an FRC or FTC team in a rural area? It’s not a secret FIRST has always been more accessible to teams in wealthier or more populated areas. Efforts to change that are a GOOD thing. Districts, and more localized events is really helping with this in many places. Competitions are more accessible (as a team in the regional model, we’re spending upwards of $20,000 per event to travel) and becoming more mainstreamed.

As someone who was involved in FIRST during this so-called “golden age,” I’d say there are some remarkable strides being made here, and FIRST is becoming more and more accessible. That’s a good thing!


FIRST has always been a high school competition. I think you’re misunderstanding Dean’s mission in creating FIRST. To quote from Wikipedia:

FIRST was founded in 1989 by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen, with inspiration and assistance from physicist and MIT professor emeritus Woodie Flowers. Kamen was disappointed with the number of kids—particularly women and minorities—who did not consider science and technology careers, and decided to do something about it. As an inventor, he looked for activities that captured the enthusiasm of students, and decided that combining the excitement of sports competition with science and technology had potential.

Distilling what sports had done right into a recipe for engaging young people, Kamen says, turned out to be relatively straightforward. “It’s after school, not in school. It’s aspirational, not required,” he explained to me.

“You don’t get quizzes and tests, you go into competitions and get trophies and letters. You don’t have teachers, you have coaches. You nurture, you don’t judge. You create teamwork between all the participants. We justify sports for teamwork but why, when we do it in the classroom, do we call it cheating?”

Most of all, it was a nonjudgmental space, where in contrast science and math in traditional educational settings had been soured with embarrassment and uncertainty.

Mentors are an integral part of inspiring students. Working side by side with professionals does not mean that students aren’t building/designing/being inspired by the robots (cue mentor built debate). The program has always required the robots be driven by pre-college students. How is that not a high school competition? Does the fact high school football teams have adult coaches not make them high school teams? Coaches don’t touch the football during games, but they certainly have a lot of say in the strategies, training, etc, in some ways more than mentors do in FIRST.


Is this a bad attempt to troll? If not, take 30 seconds on Google to find the tournament crowning the high school football champion. When you find it, you can come back here to show it exists.

Otherwise, asking for a source is pretty silly. How would one provide a source of something that DOESN’T happen?


So it seems your concerns are mostly due to the venue. not the two championships. Atlanta’s venue is now not an option with the soccer team playing there, and the stadium moving further away from the convention center. St. Louis’s team moved out, and the city is in financial trouble trying to figure out how to keep it open. Don’t expect it to stay around much longer. Where else are you going to find a football dome attached to a major convention center? The model we were using for the venue just isn’t really all that available anymore like it used to. That has nothing to do with the split.

Some of the things you mention are things I’ve noticed too, but it has not had a dramatic impact on the experience our students have or the meaning they get out of the experience. And to be frank, that’s what I really care about. I care about my students and the impact the FIRST experience is going to make on their lives. And that hasn’t changed one bit post-split.