They're just volunteers!

Every year teams have bad experiences with volunteers but this year, for some reason, seems worse than other years. Some of the stories I’ve heard have left me baffled.

I understand that these people are volunteers, and people are allowed to make mistakes. I also understand that some of these people are long time volunteers and have been allowed to act like this for a long time. Why is the experience of the team not being put first in the eyes of many of these volunteers? Why does it seem that so often some volunteers are allowed to throw their weight around for their own enjoyment and nothing is done about it?

When I heard one of these stories I asked why the team had not submitted an NMIR. I was told that they were afraid of retaliation being taken on their team. Why are teams living in fear of their own leadership?

Below are some of the stories I’ve gotten from just this year alone. Some of them are ones you can just shrug off and move on, but others are just shocking. How is any of this acceptable?


  • “One of the joys I get out of this is finding ways to cause panic”
  • “I am the rulebook”
  • “Your bumpers are too low” [Stands on the pool noodles}
  • " I don’t care if Al okayed it, I’m the LRI."
  • [Puts foot on scale while weighing robots as a joke]


  • " It’s in the unwritten rules"
  • " It doesn’t matter that your robot physically can’t break the vertical height rule. It’s what we saw on the field."
  • " If I gave you the points for your climb, I’d have to give your alliance a red card."
  • " Don’t give them any awards. Their drivers are college students, just look at their beards."
  • “The velcro that holds the panels in place on the field is not required”
  • “Any damaging contact by a defender in the frame perimeter is an automatic red card”
  • “Air tanks are an explosion Hazard”
  • Threatened to throw a team off of the field if they sent someone to the question box

Pit Admin

  • “You ALL need to go to the stands for opening ceremonies.”
  • “You can’t be here with your robot because you didn’t sign up. You have to bring your robot back to the pit, can come back and sign up without the robot, and then you can bring your robot to the practice field”

Safety Inspectors

  • “What is your plan if there is a bomb in the building?”
  • " Not having a dedicated student walking in front of your robot cart yelling “robot” is a safety hazard"
  • “Students that are caught running in the pits, will be forced to take supervised walking laps of the pit area”
  • “You have to turn the robot off before touching it”

There are also some volunteers that are absolutely a pleasure to work with, who put the experience of the teams first. To you , thank you.


What’s annoying are safety inspectors criticizing our team because we don’t have the time or skill to be like the safety award winners even though we have the stuff to pass safety inspection. It’s also annoying when the safety people wait outside of your pit until all mentors are gone and then almost bully the safety captain. And telling us 4 people in the pits max, but only telling it to our team.


This one is the worst one tbh.

But in all seriousness, it does seem that issues with volunteers seems to be front and center this year. Wonder if it has something to do with training, or if teams are just more open in discussing their past experiences now that they’ve seen other teams talking about it?


Because of Safety Inspector issues in the past, we do not allow unsupervised conversations.


I’m the safety captain on team 1787 and the safety judges never came to talk to me or my team about safety at the Miami Valley Regional


We’ve got 1 mentor who can’t be everywhere at once

Red shirt safety people were telling people at FLR that you aren’t allowed to pull a robot cart. :slight_smile: You have to have someone push it from behind and have someone in front not touching the cart.

We also had to fight our way back to our pit after our last qual match. They kept insisting we must go to inspection immediately.

FTA insulting our programmers due to our drive team not wanting to turn the robot on until we finished lining up in order to avoid issues with our >5 second KOP gyro calibration.

But they’re just volunteers.


The LRI/RI need to verify that your robot is not illegal to play in playoffs should you get selected. There would have to be a major issue caused in your last match to justify you not being inspect immediately after your last match.


Our four bar climber needs to be manually collapsed back within robot frame after the match. It’s easier to do it in the pit rather than smack middle of inspection line.

There’s also no rules about saying when you need to be inspected before elims. Technically you could inspect after alliance selection, if you wanted to.


This is the worst. One of the reasons I hate to use any form of jokes/sarcasm in FIRST is it confuses the kids and can ruin their day.

Why would a volunteer take joy in someone else’s misfortune?


You should ask 2996 how their students were treated in the box when questioning why an automatic climb was not awarded their alliance in QF 2-1 in Denver, when their robot was hit by a defender while climbing in the Hab Zone.


To balance this out tho, we had an inspector who was very good about helping us find wire and parts when we had to rewire most of our bot


@Drakxii Please quote a rule? Section 11 doesn’t put time constraints on this required re-inspection for Playoffs.


I agree, a “joke” to a volunteer, might end up with a kid crying because they think their robot is over weight. FRC is really hard and stressful on students and mentors, no one should be trying to make it more stressful.


I’m afraid i cant turn off the robot without touching it.


Yes 100%. These “jokes” are present in some regional volunteer cultures, and I wish they weren’t.


Ok, I will bite. One time I had a very new and green Robot Inspector tell us that our surgical tubing powered ball launcher from 2014 was unsafe if the tubing broke because it would fly into the stands. After discussing with him that a cut tube would fall like a limp noodle he exclaimed “what if it flies into the crowd and hits a baby!?!” to which point I actually just demonstrated and cut one of the tubes. Thought he was going to have a heart attack, but it was fine as it flopped into the bot, the LRI passed it, and we moved on joking about it many years later.

Long weekends, bad food, hundreds of miles, give them the benefit of the doubt and when in doubt…GP. Ive always found a reasonable soul behind an unreasonable demeanor even if I have to go over someones head at an event.


Our interactions with the ‘red hats’ has been among the most disappointing aspects of the last few years.

The practice of not allowing unsupervised conversations seems appropriate, which is a sad state.

But if one more safety inspector tells one of my students to put on gloves while using a rotating power tool I’m just gonna scream.


Wait this happened at my event too. I thought it’s because a rule changed and we weren’t allowed to have up to five people in pits. Is this not the case?

I’ve never seen a volunteer say anything about having 40+ people in your pit (common sight right after alliance selections)