What Contributes the Most to a Team's Success?

While all of these answers combined make a strong team my question is which aspect most contributes to a team’s success.
I’ll go with experienced mentors. The students are a variable. At the most they can stay four years (six if you take them in middle school and in rare cases they have been around even longer) but veteran mentors who stay with the team year after year after year are the ones who keep the fire going. And even after they have graduated many of the students become those mentors who take the lead (which is partially what Dean wanted. Take what you have learned and pass it on to the nest generation). The other things are nice and all but team can and have lived without them. Without good mentors teams don’t last long.

I believe experienced mentors contribute MOST to a teams success. With experienced mentors you can teach a student how to machine something, weld, run wire, program etc. I agree with Koko Ed, after 4 (or 6) years students leave. We are graduating 50% of our team this year, we will only have ~7 students returning next year, but at least we know that 2 programming/electronics mentors, 3 mechanical mentors and 1 awards mentor will stick with the team.

Why do we need a mental exercise to put only one group on top?

All are important. All bring something unique and important to the endeavor.
GP usually guides us to try to stay away from creating pyramids of importance when it comes to people’s contributions. Every group and individual should get accolades for their contributions without getting their nose rubbed in the assertion that there is someone more important than they are.

Reminds me of the some conversations I’ve heard that try to assert that the animation subteam is less important than the mechanical subteam. Those assertions dramatically limit the benefits of FIRST and overall team cohesion.

I lead the mechanical subteam- and I’ll dive into a lecture about GP when any other mentor or subteam member starts trying to convince others that their function is more important than someone else’s. The pie is as large as you make it. Appreciate everyone- stay away from which group or function is the most important.

If anything, I would say the volunteers and sponsors that are not affiliated with any specific teams are most important- they only give - they don’t get to compete or win anything. They make the benefit pie huge.

As Ed notes, these factors all lead toward success. However, some of them are essential to success.

I voted for dedicated students. As important as mentors are, without students there is no team. The mentors can only do so much; there must be students there to inspire. That said, good mentors can provide inspiration so that students become more dedicated. See what I mean about several of the factors being critical to success?

Similar connections can be made to support by sponsors, school and parents. Without sponsors, there’s no money to fund the team. Without parental support, the students won’t be there to get inspired. Etc.

From what I’ve seen, dedicated students get that way because of strong leadership, usually from a mentor (who is just as likely to be a teacher, as an engineer, or some other title)

The big thing is that the team works as a team, and everyone pitches in.

I went with dedicated students, and by extension student leadership. Experienced mentors make great resources, but if kids are dedicated, and motivated (which can be done by their peers) they can find the answers to their questions.
I would take a group of 15 dedicated students with full access to the internet over 10 incredible engineers and 15 students who think it’s a club.

A great example would be team 2345. I love those guys. They built a competitive robot with minimal resources out of a parents garage with only 11 kids.

And if you think it’s resources, my example brings in team 1939. As far as I know, they have a cordless drill, a socket wrench set, and a hacksaw. Last year was the first time they missed elims at KC and they made up for it at their second regional as a finalist and #2 seed.

Other: A valid (rigorous) design process.

Inexperienced mentors, some half-hearted students, mediocre facilities, support, sponsors, scouting, etc can all be managed, but without a solid design, (produced bya good process) the robot will generally not perform well - and nothing can make up for that.

This was a tough question Ed, thanks for bringing it up. :smiley:

I thought really carefully about this, because (as noted) all play a very important part in a team’s success. But all of those factors can be fairly sub-optimum and you can still end up with a great robot.

Just below design is “Driver Practice”, because a superb drive team can overcome a lot of bad robot. This sort-of implies a practice (or prototype) robot.

We have built 2 robots for the past few years, and it makes a huge difference (and thanks to Paul Kloberg for pointing that out to us). The first one is “good enough” and finished around week 4, then we take what we learned from building that and make our ‘production bot’ in the last 2 weeks. They don’t have to be identical (pretty close though), but they always must use exactly the same software.

The advantage to continuing development on code and driver practice after ship date makes the difference.


I think the answer to this question really has to do with how you define success. Is success defined as a blue banner or a moving robot or just the teams teamwork?

My definition of success is the teammembers leaving the team with a better understanding of what they want to do (and don’t want to do) with their lives … and with that I’d say Experianced mentors teaching not only about robotics, but about life in general.

Dedicated Students.

Without the students pushing to get the robot done, there will not be a robot. The mentors will not finish the robot for the students. Experienced mentors is up there too, but without the students, what is the program? I believe the core of the program is the students, has always been.


If you’re not having fun, you aren’t inspiring students.

Dedicated students:

Without the students, there would be no robot in the first place.

I vote for dedicated students. As one of the student leaders on my team, I can say that it’s been a difficult year for many reasons, but mostly because there have been students that don’t seem to care. They just have no idea on the engineering process. The students that don’t do much or don’t seem to care don’t realize how much work needs to be done. They are the people who think that you can draw up a design, and in a few days or weeks, it will magically appear.

Another very important factor, which is right below dedicated students, is good student leadership. Team 573 has the philosophy of students doing almost all of the work, unless something is dangerous or nobody knows how to do it. For a team like ours to operate, the team needs a few senior members who have the technical know-how and a decent engineering base. That way, they can teach other team members and make the jobs of the mentors a little easier.

Another point that I feel is worth mentioning is more of a competition specific factor, but it still makes or breaks a team. A good drive team is necessary. Over the years, I have seen students trying to drive robots where they either couldn’t control it(either it was too complex or it was a design flaw) or they just didn’t know the technique. Last year, I saw plenty of teams who either drove back and forth in a straight line, had trouble getting against a wall, or getting penalties because they drove somewhere they shouldn’t have. A good coach is just as important. They need to know how to communicate with other teams and watch the field at the same time. The human player also needs to know how to do what they are supposed to. Lastly, they all need to know the rules inside and out.

A team is a team because it is a team.

Dedicated students inspire parents and mentors, dedicated mentors inspire students. They both work together to get dedicated sponsors who are inspired by the TEAM. The partnership inspires the school to be more supportive.

Perhaps I define success in a different way than you do, but my conviction always lays with one of the best quotes I’ve ever heard:

Build a good team, good robots will follow.

I agree with all the choices, but would say a balance between collaboration and participation by all team members, students and mentors is something that will sustain a team year-in and year-out.

In what I have seen this year a successful team has a balanced between dedicated students and mentors. No students= not bot or team. No mentors= lost students.

This was our 5th year as a team we had ~15 good strong members on the team 5 seniors, 3 juniors, 2 sophomores, and 3freshmen and 2 great mentors. But after 2010 we had lost all of our seniors, who had been there since the first year. Our main mentor found a great job and had to take a break for a bit and A couple of team members had to take a break for school. This left us with 3 seniors, 1 junior, and 3 sophomores and one mentor. After regionals we had met a GREAT mentor who has been in first since 2001? So now we had 2 great mentors. At the start of the 2010-2011 season, we had 30 newbies come in. We jumped to a small team, to a team around 35 (2158 has never had a team this big). After BEST and VEX, at FRC kick off we had only lost 10 members. so we were around 25 strong, still a HUGE team for us. During the FRC season because of our dedicated mentors, we probably have built, and cadded one of our best robots. Because of some very dedicated students and even more dedicated Mentors we did it. Designed and build a great bot. But that's not all we did, came up with a KILLER chairmen essay, started on a real web site, and much more stuff. All with 2 mentors 1 teacher and 10-15 very dedicated students. Here's the catch, we didn't have a ME mentor, but we had, One mentors who is an EE, the other is getting her PhD in physiology. This shows how very dedicated mentors and students will make a successful team.

I voted for “Parents”. If parents are involved with the team, their students are probably going to be dedicated, and the parents can do some things that mentors may not be able to do due to regulations. A dedicated group of parental boosters, while it doesn’t show up as much as the mentors and students with their heads stuck in the robot, can be as vital or more vital than the rest of the categories.

Dedicated students. More specifically, students WHO GET THE POINT OF FIRST.

I bet that the majority of people who didn’t answer students are involved with a team that already has good students. If you were on a team without them, you might vote differently.

Because unless participating students are capable of wanting to learn, wanting to have fun, and wanting to help others do the same, nothing gets done. The final robot is something nobody learned from, built almost completely by mentors who are worried about having nothing to compete with. Enthusiastic mentors and students with ideas and motivation get tired of trying to get the majority of students to care about what they’re trying to say. They also get tired of trying to design or build a robot or component while everyone else plays online video games, watches pirated movies, or play cards and board games. Some of the non-contributors become trolls, and tell dedicated and interested participants that their ideas suck while doing nothing themselves.

Being the majority, the lazy people and trolls stay. A very frustrated and fed up dedicated minority abandons all hope and stops showing up.

I’m unfortunately speaking from my experience this year and last year. Most interested and experienced mentors and some dedicated students have stopped showing showing up, and recently, I have too (although I will be at the regional competition on the last day to meet some successful teams).

I honestly don’t know why most people on my team joined. Because they literally couldn’t care less about Gracious Professionalism, the engineering experience, or anything else FIRST tries to promote. The only logical explanation for them being there is the school’s free internet connection or that it would look good on their college application. And the only reason they were accepted into an remained on the team was because we needed to prove we had above a certain number of students to be sponsored this year, so there were no restrictions on joining or staying.

For the reasons described above, the robotics team isn’t taken very seriously at all at my school, and students that should be the most interested in FRC don’t join. It’s a death spiral.

CONCLUSION: If you don’t have enough students that want to learn, have fun, or participate, everyone who does will pack up and leave, and the team will implode. This is why an FRC team’s rookie year is the most important. It sets the standard.

My team is 100% student everything. And I still think that mentors are the most important factor. Without mentors a team will end up like mine. having literally no continuity between seasons, essentially being a rookie every season.

Mentors are also what guide the students. Even if the students build the robots completely, they need a mentor to show them how to make a robot or do anything. You simply cannot learn what is never taught. A few students are self-starters and who can learn on there own, however FIRST is about inspiring the kids who wouldn’t be able to do it on there own. Thus for a team to truly be a success it needs mentors.

Students come and leave but mentors and teachers stay with the team. My team’s history goes back only until 2008, and that is only because me and one other student have been on it that long, otherwise it goes back until 2009, and then 2010 once those students graduate. Thankfully, we have mentors now, so hopefully team 691 will be around for a while after me and the other student leaders leave.

A great student member exists for at most 5-6 years, a mentor doesn’t have a set amount of time with the team.

I voted “other” because honestly is making FRC 3320 pull a 180 this year and become so impressive now is because they meet all year round.

Each student has been training and self-teaching LabVIEW, Inventor, or 3ds Max Design since June 2010. The team has the dedicated students, mentors who care, and everything else listed in the choices but I think what really gave 3320 the change this year is that they’ve had the seat time to hone their skills off-season.

Looking back, around May/June 2010, N.A.C. Team 93 had a group discussion about the next step to take. And as part of it we were asked what in or on the team was the most important. We came up with a list about 10-15 items long. What wasn’t included on that list was the robot because it isn’t the robot that is important. It’s the people, because FIRST isn’t about building robots, it’s about building people by using robots as a fun and exciting tool. What I’m seeing here is that that is very much true because it isn’t anything like the practice robots or facilities that are overwhelmingly important. It’s the people.