Watcha Say?


So, here is my situation. I am trying to convince a school in my area to start an FRC team, their robotics program is still extremely young. Currently they only have bought a couple of Bio-loid kits. There are two teachers however, who are extremely interested in starting a robotics program. One is the shop (metal and wood) teacher, he is extremely young (22-ish), and seems really excited about FRC because “you get to fabricate all the parts yourself”.

There is a second teacher, who I believe is the head of the science department, he is older (40-50) and is also very interested in robotics. However, he saw a presentation on VEX competition a couple of weekends ago and he seems to be really into that idea. His main aim in the program appears to be spreading robotics, he is very excited about the possibility of starting teams at other schools and maybe hosting a regional within a couple of years. As a result of this, he likes VEX because it is really easy to start teams.

What can I say, and what links can I send them that will appeal to the each of them (a link to a good Kamen speech would be greatly appreciated).

PS they also apparently have a handful of kids, that they have talked to personally about a robotics program who are very interested, is it a better idea to try and get the groundwork going with these kids, or to announce right away?

EDIT: The reason I am doing this, is because I would like to go to the school next year. I wish to move, in part because our FRC team (at my current school) is almost dead, and in part because this school is a self-directed school, which is awesome.



The biggest hurdle to starting and maintaining a FIRST team is money,
and I can only imagine that it is even bigger for international teams.

That being said, if you attend WPI they will help out quite a bit with travel expenses, significantly lowering the barrier to entry.

Also think about your own team, and how you raise the money… If you have big $$ sponsors, they may be on board to help with a rookie team.

I’m guessing the older teacher will most likely oppose you on money, not scope. So the best thing is to come up with some form of a plan for that school to raise the money. I think he’ll come over pretty quickly if the plan seems feasible. Also if the team is close enough to another school, they may be able to enter into a partnership, where both schools work to build one robot.

I’m familiar with programs that have started off in FTC, with the full intention of growing to FRC, which they eventually do. I’ve also seen programs that are 100% VRC, and they enjoy every bit of it, including hosting events, building 3-4 robots in a week, etc.

What I’m saying is it all depends on what you are trying to do. Spreading the word of robotics can be done across each platform, but perhaps it’s easier to convince a group of people to spend $500 as compared to $5000 in order to “learn.” If you want competition, my opinion is that nothing beats an FRC event, and competing in one is beyond exhilarating.

Looks like your club is facing two different views, and I’d urge you to explore both views. Perhaps go with VEX for a couple of years. Build a strong foundation of community organization and gather sponsors. After a couple of years, hit the FRC scene full throttle. The opposite view is go ahead and go with FRC, and during the off season, do VRC, host an event, inspire teams, etc. (For the past few years, my team has taken the latter approach)

I know that my post doesn’t lay out a clear answer, and unfortunately, I don’t think there is one. Just like all robots you have/will build, building a team requires making decisions and dealing with the consequences.

  • Sunny

Lemiant, I noticed in your location you are from Canada. Whereabouts are you located? I might be able to put you in touch with another local team who would be interested in helping out.

  1. I have done both FRC and FTC (although granted not VRC), and I vastly prefer FRC. So in response to the suggestion of doing VEX for a bit and then doing FRC, I would normally be all for a program like that, except I have a short term focus, I want to be on an FRC team. (I eddited my original post with a bit more about this)

  2. I am in Calgary.

You’ve probably already found this, but it has a bunch of useful stuff, IMO -

OK, next step: Get your local FIRST Leadership involved. See the post above, follow the link in Step 2, pick “Canada”. OK to go with FRC for now, but FTC is not a trivial competition, don’t get discouraged if at first the teachers want to focus on it, mostly for financial reasons.

Aw darn, I was hoping you were somewhere in Ontario lol. I would start looking at the team rosters for regionals that are close to you and then try contacting local teams for some guidance. They likely have experience dealing with the school boards in your area and probably have a few leads on where to start fundraising.

When my friends and I started the team at our highschool years ago, we were at first a joint team with another local school in the now defunct “Canada First”- an early and failed attempt to bring FIRST to Canada. This introduced us to the idea of the robotics competition and when Canada First went belly-up and our partner school went their own seperate way we decided to enter FIRST during their inaugural year in Canada. Encouraged by Mark Breadner formerly from team 188 Blizzard, who worked for the Toronto District School Board at the time, we basically started by getting a couple teachers on board on a “If we do this will you open the shop for us?” basis. Then we cleared our intentions with the school administration. In retrospect I don’t know that either the teachers or admin thought we would ever get the project off the ground. Mark helped us get the school board to sponsor our entry fee and after scraping together enough cash to build the robot, the rest is history. That first year our team was 100% student driven. We literally just went out and did it. In the years after, the faculty got more and more involved and by the time I left the team it was very much intergrated into school life. We gained more sponsors and even managed to get some mentors to give us a hand. Unfortunately due to the way the team was started we never had a strong mentor base. Since we had accomplished so much ourselves we never thought we needed them. The team was and I believe to this day, still is primarily run by students with alumni returning to mentor. I don’t know that this is the best way to start and run a team but that’s how we did it 11 years ago and 854 is still a very strong team today.

Yeah, I am fairly sure that there is only one team in Alberta, my current team :stuck_out_tongue:, and we’re hardly in a shape to give much help to another team.

I tried the “contact regional director” link, however at the moment it is timing out. I’ll try again later.

Thanks for all the help so far.

Why not have the new school join your current team?

Rather than two teams competing for interest and resources, combine the two, retaining the experience, identity and resources of the old team, while giving it a boost and some new perspective and energy. Having multiple schools can help grow/strengthen the community involvement, keep the team going when one school has low student/faculty involvement, and reach and inspire many more students (the goal of FIRST, after all).

Starting a new team isn’t a trivial task (Speaking from experience) and you definitely want to avoid doing it at the expense of an existing team.

I might be wrong, but let me get this straight,

You are on an FRC team right now and they are going down hill, and you want to move to this school in the same town to get on this same team?

Well if both schools are in the same town you might be able to do a joint team (I know 118 and a few other teams do it) This might be a better option because you can have the mentors and experienced members from your old team come on to the new team, you’ll get the funding from the old team to help with entry fees for the “new” team and the members who are on your old team still get to compete on in FRC team plus you get the resources that would come with the new team!

For what it is worth, I have been on both an FRC team and a (basically rookie) FTC team, and here are my $.02:

Yes, FRC is a lot more fun, because it is more “condensed” into a shorter amount of time, the competitions are quite serious and big, the build season is crazy(as is the amount of work/knowledge needed),and there are way more spots to go to championships. It requires at least 2 dedicated mentors (1 really dedicated mentor might work, but would not work as well), and medium sized group of highly involved students. The cost is quite high, and so is the skill level required.

In contrast, you can get away with a smaller group of dedicated students and maybe only 1 mentor on an FTC team. The cost isn’t nearly as high (although it is still expensive), and one can learn what is needed by himself or herself. Downsides are that the competitions are much smaller, there are less spots to championships (although I think there are many spots at the VRC championship), and the overall feeling isn’t quite as intense or serious.

Of course, their milage will vary, but those are my impressions.
Hope this helps, and I wish them (and you) luck!

Hi guys,

Thanks for the input. MattC you are exactly right in your evaluation. The problem with integrating the two schools is that, there a LOT of baggage at my old team, its not just going downhill because of a lack of involvement. There are two mentors at my team who are decidedly counter productive (I am glad that they come out to help us, but their attitude suggests that they would far rather be grade 12 students who can do everything, than mentors who guide us in any way. I’m sure that this is linked to a desire to create the best robot, but that’s not the point of FIRST. The point of FIRST is to teach students.), who our coach is rather attached to. Our coach, although very nice and willing to spend the crazy hours with us (thank you Mr. Weisensel, we couldn’t do it without you.), has been doing this for 8 years and by his own admission no longer has any interest in the program. And finally the attitude of the whole team is one of a team who is not serious. I would rather not attach that baggage to a new team.

My 2 cents,


You mean overproductive.

As a mentor, I can say that it is darn hard to not get deeply involved in construction. It takes a conscious effort.

You can bring this to them, as a group, and ask if they might back off a little, so students can have some fun too. But you do risk them leaving, since everyone needs their WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). If hands-on is their WIIFM, and they can’t get any, they will leave.

Yeah, mentor burnout. Real common.

He should try it one more year, but this time he needs to do a LOT less and delegate MUCH more to students. Either they do it or they don’t, but it’s not HIS team it is the students’, and if they don’t do it THEY fail.

The students need to be aware of the facts, and know that if they don’t carry the team, the mentors won’t either. And the mentors have to stick to this, eve if it means the team fails.

In return, students get to work real hard, and mentors can have a life outside FRC for those months. Hard to do, but it can be made to work.

Show Mr. W this post as a conversation starter.

Just a quick word of warning; remember that FIRST’s goal is not to teach, but inspire. While they are often intertwined, they aren’t the same thing.

I’ll reiterate that adding another school to the mix will help relieve some stress on the faculty and mentors. Don has good advice as well. Starting a new team with new mentors won’t fix this; it may be another 8 seasons, it may be next season, but mentor burnout is a team killer that needs to be handled now.

It sounds like you’ve gotten something out of your FIRST experience, even if you are frustrated now. If this is the case, you owe it to your team, your mentors, FIRST, and yourself to help your current team rather than just abandoning it.

You know… I have a feeling that if you were to ask Team 1114 for some help, they would be laying out plans in front of you.

There are few members from Team 1114 that are on this forum. Try shooting them a pm…

Good point, I will remember that. I don’t mean to be hating on our mentors, they have helped a lot and I respect that. It’s just that they often design without us instead of with us, and its frustrating.

The thing is that, that is pretty much how our team is run right now. Mr. W spends time at the school so that we can be in, but it is us and our mentors who do almost all of the design and building. It is not so much that this hurts us, it is just that I have had engaged coaches in the past (on an FTC team), and I know how much it helps.

I do not think that doing this would actually make the mentors back off, but I guess it can’t hurt.

This is the truest and hardest thing you said in your post. I did get soooo much out of this program. It is just that I have put so much into the team (both in hours and in effort to work with mentors who don’t seem to want to work together, and with people who don’t seem to care (although I’m certain that the students care, the way they act is just a function of the atmosphere)), and its tiring to have it improve the team very little. It seems like the team is stuck in a rut, and that is the reason that I would like to start again. Still, I see your angle :confused:.

Thank you for your advice,