The Ideals of FIRST have Changed...

Disclaimer: I love first if I didn’t have to go off to college and leave this all behind. I would do this for another 50 years. I love the opportunity that FIRST has given me, and I hope I can return next year as an Alumni.

Prompt: I feel that FIRST has lost its objectivity. There is no room for the smaller and almost more devoted teams. These teams make up the 75% that don’t go to Nationals or has mass funding or really devoted mentors. This thread was written in response to the " when do mentors go too far" and the “Worst call ever…” Teams that can afford more regionals, manpower and special interests, seem to always ‘stamp-out’ the other teams. Plus FIRST is not about the people, its about the robot and how well it does in competition, because no ones asks your team for advice, if your the last seed on a list; they ask the team first seed.

People can give me all the heat they want because I am merely stating the obvious. Teams with the most funding, mentors, and special interests do well and that’s how the program robotics programs continue. But for team like mine, the program is now nothing because we are losing our Head mechanic, head software and hardware, and team president.

Remember don’t hold anything back. I want to know your real opinion.

I watched as my team graduated over the past 4 years people that wouldn’t pass high school without the inspiration FIRST gave them let alone go off to college as they all did.

You all know my personal experiences with FIRST.

The team I speak of here is a low budget team that worked hard and fits your description, yet still I, from a large team that you described, honor them.

I myself have gone through FIRST knowing that its ideals are there. I watch high school students get excited over thinking, science, and engineering.

It’s a success, and the ideals are there. Come on by to NJ, I promise you the ideals are alive and well on the North East.

Never give up hope. The good is out there, and it’s still strong.

Well just because you are a well funded team does not mean that you are not about the principals of FIRST. Take a walk around the Hall of Fame and look at the hard work and dedication these teams have given to FIRST. They have not changed and their hard work and dedication has directly affected FIRST. Without them FIRST would not be nearly as strong as it is now.
FIRST may have gotten more dynamic but the basic principals are still there if you look close enough.


You were on a FIRST team
next year you are going to college.

Mission Accomplished!

That was the idea behind FIRST.

Look past the robot. Look past your team. Science and technolgy are studies worth devoting your life too.

Best advice I can give to you is to let FIRST go for a few years now, dont look back. Whatever it is you are taking in college, plunge into that headfirst

put everything you have into it, like you did on the days before the bot shipped, or in the pits during an event

Know that with hard work and a spark in your eye you can change the world, maybe not for everyone, but for some people - you can make a difference.

There are things to do in college that are WAY more awesome than FIRST - you will see for yourself.

You are pointed in the right direction, now run with it!

I can sympathize and empathize with your feelings and the situation your team is in. It is where I found myself just after the 2001 season back on The Sea Dawgs (Team 258). My team’s teacher advisor moved to Washington State, and roughly 1/3 of our team graduated as seniors, including myself. I was lucky enough to be able to come back and lead the team 2002-2004 as a college student, and keep the team alive and for the most part competitive on just the money I put into the team from my personal savings, but I have seen many more teams fall. You’d be mistaken if you claimed that 258’s eventual demise was as a result of the big teams squashing the little teams. 258 fell because of an apathetic administration and their disdain for programs other than football or performing arts.

Homestead doesn’t have to be one of those schools whose team drops out in situations like this. Ask for assistance on their behalf, or tell them to ask for themselves. There are many other teams in the area who would be more than happy to accept Homestead students onto their team indefinitely, or until there’s enough support at Homestead to sustain a team. If it’s mechanical, electrical, or programming guidance that the team needs, and not recruitment of students then your problem is even easier to solve. There are many former and current mentors on teams all over the country (many in the San Jose Bay Area like myself) who are more than willing to aid any team who asks for their help. Last year alone I mainly mentored 254, but I helped more than 10 teams in California, and gave advice to a few from out of state and even outside of the country.

You aren’t alone, Chris. We’re here to help. Please let me know via CD, PM, IM, Email if I can help you out in any way. Good luck.


The title of your post says that FIRST’s ideals have changed. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought FIRST was about inspiring students. Are the students on these small teams being inspired? I can’t speak for other teams, but our team was pretty small this year, only 11 members. Granted, this was our first year, but I saw other rookie teams twice our size.

You say that the larger teams stamp out the small ones, and that the program is nothing since you are losing four important members of your team. If you had members who knew everything they needed to know to complete a FIRST season with no hassles, then the program would be nothing. There would be no need for it anymore. If those members are graduating, then I’m sure younger students will step up and take their places.

Maybe the larger teams do have an advantage over the small teams in competitions. But a small team can still inspire its students. Of course the students want to do well, it’s part of the fun! But does it really mean you aren’t inspired just because people don’t come over and ask your team for advice?

FIRST is not all about the competitions and how teams place in them. FIRST is about what you learn to get to wherever you got to, whether that be first seed or last. If you learned something, and you were inspired to keep trying, then I say FIRST has succeeded.

I built a robot, I learned from it, and now know every square inch of every engineering principal on that robot. I am going to stand by my robot and try to compete as hard as I can as a testament of sorts to my efforts and knowledge over a rigorous 6 weeks in the beginning of each new year while in High School. Yes, it is a competition based robotic attraction, its not a bunch of classroom learning sessions. The people are really what it is about… some of the time through the robot.
I speak as a driver and builder. I devote all of my time to these things, these things changed me, through a robot that I built. I cannot speak for everyone in FIRST because I am just one person who does X things in a plethora of various activities, BUT Last time I checked, fund raising requires person to person interactions, character building. The last time I checked, the design of a website was supposed to appeal to the masses, which requires a webmaster to focus his attempts to communicate his thoughts and visions about a team to the people who may view the site. Those activities aren’t about the people??
What I am getting at is every aspect of FIRST that I have ever seen is a benefit to someone. It is a positive “vicious” cycle in which everyone benefits.
My team also suffered immense personnel loss this year from last year saying goodbye to our head machinist, head travel official, and last but not least our head adviser…btw.

First off, just because you’re going to college now doesn’t mean you have to cease involvement with FIRST. That defeats the ideals of FIRST. Every person should give back at least as much as they gained from the program, and hopefully much more.

Yes, there are situations which put teams at a competitive disadvantage, but the competition is the tiniest part of what FIRST is about. Dean has flat out said on numerous occasions that the competition is not fair, and it not meant to be. This is just like real life–it isn’t fair, and never will be.

You don’t need to have a large budget and throngs of people to build a successful robot, let alone run a successful team (and when I say ‘successful team’, I mean that the kids are being inspired). Some of the things teams are able to do with very few resources are absolutely amazing.

Like Bill said, there are resources out there. People are willing to help each other, as a result of the ideals of FIRST. Everyone wants to see all the teams at a regional with working robots–even the number one seed. This is one of the reasons that we work with other teams.

Why are we on this website? Because we want to help each other, and make FIRST about the people.

What I have meant to say is that Teams with great spirit and commitment are usually cut out of the spotlight. I mainly wrote this because I;m graduating and my team is being left with nothing because this was the first year that we have been back since our start in 2001.

I Don’t care if our team gets honors or awards, i just want these kids to have fun, but if the program does not survive then whats the point. I mean the kids were inspired at the wrong time, They came to the comp. and said “why didn’t you do this?” and the response I had to give them was we did;t have enough
(time?, money?, manpower?, enthusiasm? commitment?) and because we couldn’t get our team to really see the bigger picture they just started to bail on our efforts and the few that were really dedicated to this project, had to face the burden of the work.(Which was about three Seniors)

plus another blow our mentor that started the team will be retiring from our school next year and we will have no program. What i really need is some serious inspiration and some people who think that this is just a joke to realize what they are really doing.
Thanks for your quick feedback.

Whenever I hear something like that, I have to post my personal story.

About the robot:
From here

First of all, before I begin, I think FIRST is what you make of it (I think I borrowed this from a spotlight). The below is my interpretation of FIRST, and is by no means the only interpretation of FIRST.

Personally, I do not believe that FIRST is simply a robot building contest. As it has been stated before, the robot is merely a “by-product” of the competition. We build a robot because FIRST tells us to. A robot is just a way of giving us inspiration, and I believe that everyone can be just as inspired with another object. Say the goal was to build a car. Would it be harder? Of course. Would FIRST need more engineer involvement? Yeah. Would teams need more money in order to compete? Most likely. Would everybody be just as inspired? You betcha.

FIRST, by definition, is a competition, as was stated before. However, it is not a normal competition in that it is every team for themselves. FIRST is so much more than that. Just look at some anecdotes from previous seasons, such as six hour robot (everybody descending on a team with no robot’s pit and build a robot in six hours). This is were the whole cooperatition idea comes in.

In addition, there are so many things to do in FIRST besides actually building a robot. That is another reason why I think it is impossible to define FIRST as simply a robot building contest. There are chairman’s award people, animation people, PR people, Inventor people, NEMs, and many other positions that I’m sure I have forgotten.

Here is sort of a story from our team proving that you do not need to be working on the robot to make a difference in a FIRST team. One member of our team (you know him as DCA_Fan or George) has not really worked on our robot at all in his four years as a Beach Cities Robotics team member. This does not mean he is not working; in fact it is the exact opposite. In his work with our Chairman’s entry, our website, as well as the website for SCRRF, he has made just as much as an impact as any other team member, if not more. It was largely because of him that we won Chairman’s in the Southern California regional last year.

Me personally, I only touched the robot twice this year. One day I attached the drawer slides on our arm, and the other I tried my hand at driving. The rest of the season I have been working with Inventor to try to expand BCR’s horizons as a “robotics” team. I like to think that I’m making a difference not only on our team, but in Dean’s scheme to change the world.

In conclusion, I think that the fact that the Chairman’s award even exists is enough to prove that FIRST isn’t just about robots. If this was solely a contest, who would care about changing the community? Making a positive impact in the community and inspiring is truly what FIRST is about to me.

I hope you find that relevant.


i wouldn’t necessary say it’s about how the robot performs in the competition but how much knowledge a student gains from actually physically working on the robot, from design work to building it. it can not work but still a student could walk away with a lot of knowledge.

the people that are in FIRST make it a better program. the mentors in FIRST are some of my heroes in life. i can only wish to be as a great mentor as they have and always will be.

FIRST is really about learning truly and will always be that way. it would be great to go to the Championship but it’s not always possible. and winning isn’t everything. you won already by being in apart of FIRST…it’s really an honor to call yourself a FIRSTer former or present

so my team has done well over the years but really i don’t care that much about the awards. yes i love to see we won them but i care more about the knowledge I’ve gained. I don’t know that many people that can say they can tap on a milling machine. that’s just plain cool for me.

FIRST is great experience to be apart of I’m just sorry that some people i know aren’t there for the full ride. you experienced it you can let go. i know i just can’t. there are more things in FIRST that I’m apart of like RCU not just building the robot so that’s where my dedication will be going to. I’m headed to college to so I’m not sure how my FIRST involvement will go but I’m glad though I’ve been apart of FIRST for the past 6 years.

I would love to have a new potential member ask me that question at a competition. They just showed interest and understanding in what is going on. Explain, we could have done that if we had X,X,X,X things, YOU can help the team to get the things needed to do those neat little things like the one you just pointed out!

Just like Bill said… you are not alone man.

A lot of times, a lot of us get feelings like this. But then again when you look back and see what has been possible in your life just because of FIRST, you forget all these.

4 years ago, when I started high school as a freshman, I didn’t have a single clue where I was going, what I was going to do. I joined the robotics club at my school and didn’t even get the true meaning of FIRST when I first attended Championship. Sophomore year when I went to my 2nd competition at Florida regional and was more interactive with other people in FIRST, I realized that it wasn’t just ALL about the robots. It’s about US, every single thing that FIRST, mentors, engineers do … its all for US, so that we can find a better life that is ahead of us. FIRST is the reason I decided to pursue my career in Mechanical Engineering. Just like John V Neun, I have a dream that I want to accomplish. It’s all because of FIRST.

As far as teams who don’t get to go to championship, they have worked as hard as each team has throughout the season. FIRST appreciates every single team who made FIRST grew to 1000 teams now.

I am also a senior and going off to college next year. But I will be back to FIRST, because FIRST has given me a life.

FIRST and the community welcomes you back to come and join us even when you are attending college. I hope to work with you someday. :slight_smile:

You can also serve FIRST as a volunteer. FIRST always has need of those.

Have anyone who wants to continue participating join another team. There are multiple teams around the peninsula that will accept anyone from another school who would like to participate. You could probably have a good deal of luck developing a partnership with another team.

Team 100 has had members of four different schools on the team at different points. In 2003 we “merged” with a school that couldn’t form a team, and for over a year there have been more members from that school than the original.

If you want your team to survive, there are many things you could do. Use ChiefDelphi as a resource, I can guarantee you will find many mentors who are willing to help you[Not to forget, past threads. You will find a lot there]. Go find a successful team around your area who is willing to mentor you. Sorry to say, but you might have to start over as a rookie team. You could also sit down with a positive mindset, and create a game plan to make this team survive - I know it’s possible, but you’re better off getting some help. As Koko Ed said, you could also volunteer at FIRST competitions because FIRST always needs volunteers. I know you’re possibly feeling heart broken right now because of the situation at your end, but there is a way, and if you’re willing enough, you will find a way out. Good luck and feel free to ask for help.

Ok, if Im understanding this correctly, you had a team in 2001, nothing for 3 years, you put together a team for this year

and now you have 3 seniors graduating and your (only?) adult mentor is retiring?

Is that the situation?

The intention of FIRST is for corporations to team up with highschools and form teams. If your team was able to attend events with no corporate sponsors, no engineers? no professionals other than a HS teacher, then yes - you had a very minimal seat-of-the-pants sort of team this year

and it will be very difficult to sustain a team like that from year to year.

If this is the case, then your school needs to find a corporate sponsor. That is the idea behind FIRST, for HS students to work with engineers and scientist to see what a career in those fields would be like. If you dont have a sponsor, and no engineers, and no technicians… then I dont know how that is suppose to work, except for the things you can pick up working with other teams in your area.

The burden does not fall on FIRST to find sponsors for each team - they do help match up sponsors looking for schools, and verse visa - but the primary responsibily of matching up sponsors and schools falls on the sponsors and the schools.

The best advice I can give (if Im not off the track and in the woods by now) is:

  1. Set up a parent / student group at your school to look for a corporate sponsor.

  2. contact FIRST and see if there are corporations in your area looking to start a ‘new’ team.

If you managed to have a team this year with no sponsorship, my hat is off to you - that is an incredible accomplishment. I think you will find it incredibly difficult to continue in that mode year after year.

You need to connect with a company that can supply funds, facilities, equipment and engineers and scientists - the experience your students will have will be totally different.

EDITED TO ADD: you need to do this now if you want your school to have a team in 2006. Most companys appropriate their community service funds in january, so you are already 5 months behind in that respect. But it is possible to find corporate sponsorship over the summer, and start up again in the fall.

Our team lost its corporate sponsor after the nationals in 1998. One of the parents rallied several other parents, two teachers and a bunch of students to work together to find a new sponsor. We pulled it off, but it was a lot of work. We talked to over 300 potential sponsors, and ended up with two companys, one of which (Gleason) is not only still our primary sponsor (7 years later) but they are also one of the sponsors of the new Rochester (fingerlakes) regional.

maybe something better than you can imagine will come of this - you never know!

I disagree with the notion that “teams with great spirit and commitment are usually cut out of the spotlight,” but this really isn’t the point that you’re trying to put forward in this thread. You’ve put so much energy into your team, and now that you’re leaving along with other people who have been the cornerstones for your team you’re concerned that the team will fall because the other students who are being left the team were apathetic this past year. I can understand the feelings you have, having faced the same situation when I was a graduating senior. Like I said before, this doesn’t have to be the case.

If you really want your fellow schoolmates to continue being able to participate in FIRST, I would strongly suggest getting them in contact with people like Cory or myself. We’re in the area, and we’re very active members of the FIRST community. We can help hook your school and/or your schoolmates up with another team or give them the support they need to continue on with a new faculty member.

You’ve got to try to do what you can to keep your team’s head above the water, but if after you’ve given it your all and it still drowns, at least you know you gave it all you could and didn’t throw in the towel with some energy left in your tank. I did this with 258. I’m proud of my hard work trying to hold that team together and I’m proud of everything I did as a member of that team, but I’ve moved past it and put it behind me knowing that I did all I could and then some.

Please, Chris, if there are any students who will be at Homestead in 2006 or beyond who would like to participate in FIRST send them my way. I’ll make sure that they end up on a team, and get something out of this wonderful program. Seriously, email or IM/PM me or have them contact me.


Very, very true. 675 has been without sponsorship since it’s second year. (we’re in our fifth) A team without a sponsor is a hard thing to keep going. It takes a lot of time and effort. It will seem like the work never ends.

The best thing to do when you don’t have a sponsor is to start looking for alternate means of funding the team. Right now, team 675’s biggest money maker is our LAN partys/all nighters. These can start small. We’re just moving past using free demos on live cd’s towards hosting our own servers for more modern games. The all nighters also gave the team a lot of extra work time during the build session. (something like 90% of the wiring, and 50-70% of the arm got built that night)

It’s a struggle, but you definatly feel good about yourself after it’s all over.

I have to somewhat agree.

I think all of us on the average sized teams or smaller teams see that we kind of get overlooked. We’re the teams that have been around 3-4 years now and don’t need mentoring or anything, yet other teams that either haven’t really taken off yet or rookie teams run towards the same teams we had mentor us as rookies. I mean Team MAX loves haveing people ask us for help and stuff, but just going to compeitions with other awsome teams make us feel overlooked because vetran teams seem to hang out with other vetran teams, and rookie teams always seem to go running to those teams to ask for help and stuff.

Those teams in the hall of fame make it seem almost impossible to model our programs after. I think Buzz is the only team close as far as amount of team members that most midsized teams could compare to, but even Buzz has the sponsorship and money behind them to do great things. Most of the teams in FIRST aren’t lucky enough to have companies like Xerox, hamilton Sundstand, and Delphi back us up with the money and comitment they give those hall of fame teams. My team was lucky to get 2,500 bucks in sponsors this year, that’s it. You really can’t compare Team 191 to Team 1071 or Team 175 to Team 1027. All four teams get it done and are regional champions over the years, except you have two teams with money to have fancy gadgets, look great for the visualization award and people to do great stuff in the community for the chairmans award. The other 2 teams aren’t the greatest looking robots, have simple design, and bearly have enough kids to build the robot, let alone worry about awards.

I know team 1071 is kind of in a situation where winning is everything to us now. We really don’t care about the chairman’s award because we pretty much concede we can’t win it with our team and the compeition we’re up against (our location also dosen’t help much for community involvment). This year we knew our website wasn’t going to be an award winning site, we didn’t have a cool looking robot, we didn’t have anything special in our design, so if we didn’t win the regional we would have just packed up and beat the Hartford traffic because we knew we didn’t get any awards.