Trying to start a new FRC team

Hi all, I wanted to start an FRC community team in the fall and I was wondering if you guys have any tips for me? I’m new to FRC but I’ve been involved with FTC for the past two years. Thank you so much guys and I hope you’re all doing well during the pandemic.

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I’m not trying to discourage you but it’s going to take a lot more work than usual due to the replay of the game and sponsorships pulling out.

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The key thing is to get your necessary resources in place. Here’s the list as I see it:

  1. Topcover - insurance and a legal way to receive and spend donations.
  2. Build and Practice Space: just that. Where to you build and train?
  3. Money: For tools, robot parts, uniforms, and (depending on your circumstances) to be able to pay for build and practice space and insurance.
  4. Mentors: Find some. They don’t necessarily have to know robotics per se, but they have to know how to build and fix things, and it’s really helpful if they’re willing to learn. TBH, I think this is the key resource for most teams which perform highly year-over-year.
  5. Students: Duh. The more the better, and especially the more varied their interests, the better, because you need to get all the required resources to be able to compete.

Added: Work with local teams. 99+% that they WILL help you; this is part of the FIRST DNA. Even if they don’t stand a snowball’s chance of winning a chairman’s award, they will help; that’s how we roll.

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I would reach out to the FIRST Sr Mentor in your area. https://www.firstinspires.org/ways-to-help/volunteer/first-senior-mentor-program/current-senior-mentors

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Along that note, I would also recommend reaching out to local FRC teams in your area for support.

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Where are you? Given a location, you can probably find a team close to you willing to provide locally-adapted advice.

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Based on their FTC team number being in Greenwich, CT I’d say team 3104 is the closest.

If you are dead set on starting a team. Start fundraising now. Now now now. Immediately. When you have $10K in the bank, set that aside for tools and supplies in your first year.

In the interim, spend a season shadowing a healthy team in your area, not necessarily a great team or the best team but one that has been around for 3 years at least and can attest to being around for another 3. Ask them a ton of questions. Get to understand the program both technically and culturally.

Keep fundraising.

Now that a season has passed, build a robot with your own team and plan to compete with it at your nearest offseason event as a new rookie. Figure out all the things you are missing, all of the tools, all of the motors, all of it.

Keep fundraising.

That list of gaps tells you where to spend money prior to the season starting and your first year of competition as a rookie team.

Keep fundraising.

Does this process guarantee you success? No.
Does it require a lot of work and time? Yes.
Is it the fastest path to rookie points and awards? No.
Does it actually work? Yeah, it seems to.

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We are a school-based team, so I can’t speak to all of the legal things that go along with setting up a community team but here a couple (I think) good tips:

  • Reach out to other teams in the area who have experience for guidance for your specific situation
  • Start small: Don’t make a custom chassis your first year, don’t go overboard on a design you don’t have the materials for/the tools for/the money for/the time for/etc
  • Local businesses are great resources for sponsorship; When you ask them for money, speak about the inspiration and workforce that you are bringing them. Also, try and get mentors from these sponsors
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Can’t highlight this enough. I’ve helped 22~ teams through their first season. The fastest way to kill a team is to lowball how much you need in fundraising. $20k should sort of be your floor.

Starting a rookie team takes a LOT of work. A lot. It’s doable, but it’s more work than you’re expecting by a wide margin. It’s even harder this year because of expected funding issues. Use your resources. CD, Discord, The Compass Alliance, FullCircle, the FRC Anthology, etc are all just a google search away.

Edit: I think you might be the same guy who I replied to on reddit. Same stuff applies. One of the biggest barriers to a community team is the workspace, so you really really really need to get that hammered out ASAP.

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I started a team last year after several years as head engineering mentor with another team, time as a student and a background in robotics. Goodness gracious was it a lot more work than I expected!

We worked out of a makerspace so that was already set up with all the CNC equipment you could ask for. I had recent experience with FRC parts and we built an off season robot for practice. We also had help from local teams and our first competition was still awful. We spent something like $30k our first year- mostly just out of my pocket. Fundraising on top of this would have been even more work I didn’t have time to do. And that’s only the engineering side not the other 80% of the work to coordinate running a team.

Did I mention its a lot of work? I can’t imagine doing this starting without a shop, experience and money. If I had it to over again I’d have stayed a mentor on another team. Good luck.

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I know what your saying, and I don’t disagree but personally, I find that smaller teams bond better and learn more. I am just sharing my opinion, don’t want to start an argument on this thread :slight_smile:

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You can’t do anything if you don’t get people. Recruitment is critical. My suggestions for that are:

  1. Find a good location to have the team meet such as a school so that you don’t have transportation issues causing people to turn away
  2. Set up a website and do other obvious things to spread awareness
  3. Find people who are social magnets cause they can recruit very easily
  4. Build a robot (like a T-shirt cannon) that can be used at assemblies that can get people interested
  5. Do a lot of outreach events. Having events at middle schools that feed into your school are the place to recruit 8th graders so they’ll be ready to join the team as freshman the next season

I would strongly recommend that there are at lease 10 people on your team at an absolute minimum. More people means more dividing and conquering, but it means less say and less to do for each person on your team and conflicts are more likely to happen when someone gets pushed out.

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If you are in Greenwich - we *Team 2067 Apple Pi) are a community team in Guilford - just up the coast.
The basics that you need: 501C3 status to be a non profit and get $ from sponsors, Insurance (we get both of these by being a 4H registered team.)
You need space to work in, and tools to work with. Many threads on CD talk to what tools.
You probably really should have multiple mentors, doing it alone is not advised.
Oh and you need some students!

Enjoy the ride - kind of a tough time to start a team.
Feel free to reach out to us any time for help. (PM)

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First, I want to say good luck with any direction you decide to go.

Next - what is your motivation? I can make assumptions, but I think it’s important.

  • are you a student that wants to be in an FRC team?
  • are you the parent of a student that wants to be on an FRC team?
  • are you a teacher/FTC mentor that wants to start and run an FRC team?
  • are you a local area person that wants to have an FRC team available that you want to be on, but don’t want to run the team?

If you are anyone other than the person that will run the show this first year, 3 years from now, and 5 years from now and beyond, find an adult who will. (https://johnvneun.com/blog/2020/5/20/team-improvement). This adult needs to be as excited or more than you are about FRC. It needs to be someone who has the authority to spend money, make schedule decisions, will communicate all the important information to everyone, handle any kind of drama or legal issues that come up, and all the administrative aspects that probably go unappreciated year after year. Ideally, it’s not the same person as a technical mentor because really there’s enough admin work to keep one person plenty busy…But some of us are crazy enough to do both.

If you are a student and unable to find an existing FRC team to join or an adult that is excited to start and run an FRC team for the next 5+ years… Then I really think FTC, Vex, or Vex AI are your best choices.

I helped start an FRC team in the summer of 2014. I had what feels like an incredible amount of things fall into my lap where it felt OK to start a team. It was still one of the hardest things I’ve done, and I don’t think I’d do it again.

To recap some things that fell in place. Like, with almost no real work in my part other than talking to the right people.

  • immediately had $25k in sponsorship. 10k from two different sponsors, and 5k from a 3rd
  • immediately had two other mentors that had done FRC. the 3 of us combined for over 20 yrs of FRC experience. Nowadays that would disqualify you from being a rookie - which is a different conversation but incredibly dumb
  • we were at a school with a principal that had previously been in a school that feeds the Robonauts, 118. She knew what the FRC experience could bring for our kids, and made a very large space available for us and was willing to champion for us within her school district.
  • we had 7 kids in the team before we were even able to register, and built the precursor to Everybot in a garage over the summer to take to some offseason events.
  • We had about about 25 students (almost all freshman) before January
  • we had parents that had previously started booster clubs, so they took on the effort of creating a 501©(3) for us to have a non-profit status very quickly
  • we quickly built a network of awesome teams that really helped us, including 118 and 3847.
  • one of our sponsors donated a trailer to us that they were going to be getting rid of anyway
  • we wrote and received the rookie grant, bringing our budget to 30k+. A lot that first year went to just building up our space with some tools and toolboxes

As silly as it is, we kind of inadvertently followed the guidelines and meet the suggested criteria from the FIRST Guam rookie application criteria: Paper: GuamFIRST FRC Rookie "Application" it’s worth a look.

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Hello, I am also relatively new to the community. Could you elaborate as to what you meant by replay of the game and sponsorships pulling out? Or provide any links?

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More info from FIRST

The ongoing impact of the pandemic presents significant and unprecedented challenges for all, including our community. Recognizing these challenges, including the need to minimize team total participation costs, and the fact that nearly half of the FIRST Robotics Competition Teams were unable to play the 2020 game due to the disruption of the season, FIRST has determined that the 2020 INFINITE RECHARGE game will be replayed for the 2021 FIRST ® GAME CHANGERS, powered by Star Wars: Force for Change season. Over the next few months the Game Design Team will be looking at adjustments to the game, all of which you will learn about at Kickoff in 2021.

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As far as sponsors, as you probably know, the economy is struggling and we expect budgets for sponsorships will be cut.

I see. So while this may not pose as much of an issue for a team without a robot already built from this years infinite recharge game, a completely new team will suffer.