Dave, how much overlap is included in those numbers, or are those estimates readily available? I know there are PLTW students on FIRST teams, as indicated by a PLTW-related question on average of once or twice per year on these forums. I’m pretty sure some folks do both BEST and FIRST, as evidenced by some discussion in the team registration thread for this year. We all know that a number of VRC teams/students are in FIRST as well. I’d even be willing to bet that there is overlap between BattleBots IQ and FIRST.
Also, how many of those are U.S. versus non-U.S. students? Sorry to the international folks out there, but if you count the international students, you REALLY need to add in the countries they’re from for better comparison. It’s like giving X overall statistic in American football, but you give the average across all levels, including all the pro teams, when you’re really talking about U.S. high school, college, and arena football, but not the NFL and the CFL (the Canadian counterpart to the NFL). You don’t get good data that way; in fact, you get the type of double-edged sword known as a statistic in the wrong place.
Just curious to see how the numbers change when you remove a couple of factors that can improve participation numbers. And add to the challenge of expansion, because who doesn’t like a challenge? We want people to know that we’re out there. We want people to give us a try for a season or so. But if they want to try VRC, BBIQ, BEST, Botball, the IEEE robotics competitions, whatever else you can come up with, then we have to let them do that without any form of penalty. Let’s face it, for some people, FIRST is not a good option. If we say, “FIRST or nothing” [insert other competition as appropriate], we just lost.
Allow me to digress a moment. Here at SDSM&T, there is a student organization that covers many of the competition teams–13 teams, at last count, with at least two more known to exist on campus. By analogy, the organization is the world of competitive robotics as inspiration, and the other teams are other methods of reaching out. So far so good? Well, nobody really cares whether you’re on Baja, Formula, Aero Design, ChemE Car, Ham Radio, or any other team, or multiple teams; in fact, I know of at least one person who is on two teams. Every team I just mentioned can stand for an individual robotics competition. Guess what? We shouldn’t care, either.
There’s more, though. Borrowing tools from other teams is a chronic habit in the main lab for these competition teams. So is supporting them and working together on projects that affect everybody (like fixing a garage door to the lab that you ran off its tracks while trying to get the large vehicles in out of a sudden rain). Sure, there’s some friction, but it’s quickly smoothed over as we work together. Is there any reason that we can’t do that with the non-FIRST competitions? I think not!