What Makes a FIRST Team Successful?

What Makes a FIRST Team Successful?

There have been some posts here on Chief Delphi recently (fortunately only a very few) that made me think carefully about what makes a FIRST team successful. Let me state clearly these are my opinions and not that of NASA, the Robotics Education Project, or any member of Team 254 except myself.

My answer is, if your team showed up at a regional and had a robot to bring to the field, you were successful. If you kept your attitude positive, and never quit trying to improve your performance, it doesn’t matter if you lost every match and seeded last, you were successful. If you finished the season and no matter how ‘well’ you did, your only thought is: “I can’t wait for next year.” You were successful.

Here are some additional characteristics of successful team:

  1. Team members of successful teams respect each other and treat other teams with respect. In other words, they practice “Gracious Professionalism.”
  2. Mentors of successful teams have or can acquire the knowledge for the team to technically successful. Mentors of successful teams know when to let the students make their own decisions, and also know when to intervene. The only real reasons to intervene are if rule number 1 isn’t being followed, or if something unsafe is about to happen.
  3. Successful teams can acquire the resources they need because they build a “community of support” around the team.
  4. Finally, successful FIRST team members know they always can improve themselves, not just as a FIRST team, but as people who can offer something of value to society.

A long time ago I had a conversation with a senior NASA manager, when I mentioned that he must be really happy since the team from his center was doing so well, he said: “These are all my teams, and they all are doing well.” I never forgot this perspective. So in one way, I feel there really is only one team, and the name of that team is FIRST.

In FIRST, success = inspiration.

It doesn’t matter if you have a well performing robot or not. If you can make a positive, inspirational impact in the community (like 254 has), then you are an inspiration to somebody. It’s not just about inspiring at the competition (although that is nice), but inspiring students, future students, or even adults. If this happens, FIRST has met it’s goal. Too many people are losing sight of this lately.


Success can be measured on many different levels. I think any team that has changed any person’s attitude on science & technology or inspired a member to pursue engineering constitutes success.

However, I think success should be relative to the goals of the team. If an 8th year team is only inspiring one student a year then there is a problem. Veteran teams need to be held to higher standards in terms of success.

Fostering teamwork skills, gracious professionalism, and project management are also skills that students should learn. I don’t really know any way to tangibly measure the success of this.

Just my 2 cents.

It seems to me that people often confuse the success of the robot with success of the team. They’re two entirely different things, at least in FIRST.

If you managed to build your robot within the 6 week period as team and it runs you are successful.
If you are able to come back as a functioning team year after year after year you are successful.
If you are able to not only inspire your own students but other students in the school who are not on the team you are successful.
If you promote not only the growth of your own team but of other teams at other schools you are successful.
If you graduate productive citizens of the world who willingly want to give back not only to the FIRST community but to society as a whole you are successful.
Success can be neasured in more than just a trophy. It can be measured in the difference your team makes in the world around it.

definately all of that, but somethings that I think are a must for having a successful team are:
-repsect for eachother (students to mentors, and mentors to engineers)
-individuality, but at the same time teamwork, becuase without the unique concepts of an individual, its impossible to brainstorm; but at the same time teamwork, cooperatition, and being open to new ideas
-have fun!!! if you’re not having fun, its hard to be successful
-and last but not least,pizza, our team would not be successfull without pizza :slight_smile:

I’m so tired of pizza. :stuck_out_tongue:

A relevant read:


I personally find the reverse much more true: inspiration = success.

In 2005, our team came in 27th seed at our regional. We were not picked for the finals, even though teams lower than us were. But we used the camera, and we got it to almost score in autonomous during a practice round. We were the only ones at our regional that could consistently find the vision tetra.

We accomplished this because the team was inspired to attempt something we knew was beyond our (then) current capabilities. We pushed ourselves and succeeded, and no one was bitter that we didn’t place well because we had been inspired, and we’d succeeded in our own way.

Along these lines, there were many robots at Chesapeake last year who did not pass inspection/ were not running on Thursday. But by Friday morning, they were all up and running, with stickers.

You can guess what happened. We put out the all-call.
One of the 2nd year teams who benefited from some help was just telling this story, amazed at the help they got. I got a phone call last night from someone relaying the story, told by the students and some team alumni. This inner city team had a great year. All the team seniors went on to college, all with scholarships-many in engineering, they made it a priority to sign up for the Championship for this year, they are doing well with fundraising and community support. They are excited and willing to help with the many rookies we have this year. They had some rocky times, yet were able to stay inspired .

RE: the last paragraph. I agree. See up there under my name. :slight_smile:

A team can define success for themselves in many ways. If a team has most of their team graduating into science and technology universities and colleges, the team is successful in promoting the notions of FIRST(Most teams, hopefully). If a team is good at promoting themselves, they are successful at that(E.g. MOE for green). If a team is good at winning, they are successful with the game(E.g. 71 Beatty). I think every team needs to decide what they want to be successful at. It is not likely that there will be a team that is good at EVERYTHING. Therefore teams needs to analyze what they are good at and capitalize on it. Because not all teams are lucky and are bounded, they should at least embrace the values of FIRST and promote science and technology. But then, Everyone makes mistakes. New ones every year. But they learn through the process and pass on the knowledge to other teams and the community. To me, any team that operates sanely or insanely(thats 95%) is successful. They just need to operate consistently. Here in team 25, thats our focus. As we say in RINOS, “We build FIRST to last”.

In my opinion, what makes a team successful is not necessarily winning. I think it’s how much they do for the community and how much the team inspires there students to learn. Most mentors aren’t in FIRST just to win, they are in it to teach and inspire students to do the best they can. Don’t get me wrong everyone likes being #1 but I think that #1 is relative. I also think that a team has to be organized and everyone has to know there place and spots on the team, and veterans should help the rookie members to know what they like and teach them to stick to it.

My thoughts,

This is totally my opinion about what makes a FIRST team successful… (adding to Koko Ed’s post)

  • When there is no conflict between the members of the team.
  • When members are dedicated enough to wake up at 4 a.m. Sunday morning to go do fundraise for the team.
  • When the members on the team work as they are a family.
  • When that team’s members volunteer at any robotics/tech event (offseason, FLL, fundraising) and have the most volunteer there.

on the above 4 points, it’s a story of one successful team I have seen growing for the past 2 years.

The only thing that makes a team “successful” is when you have fully met the values and goals that you have set forth in your team “mission statement”.

WHAT??? You say that your team doesn’t have a mission statement? How can you have a TEAM if you don’t have a common objective in mind.

Every company starts with a mission statement so that every employee is marching to the same beat. A good FIRST team mission contains:
a) who you are (description)
b) who is your customer? why are you doing FIRST robotics
c) what makes you different than any other team?

Once you have answered these questions, they csan be used to judge your own success at the end of each season. Only when you look in the mirror can you determine your own level of “success”. It’s self-imposed, not in the eyes of others.

At a much more pragmatic level, organization is what seperates a team full people with really cool unrealized dreams and a team that is trying to figure out it’s alliance picks.

Pride. As has been mentioned over and over, it’s not about winning. It’s about being able to show up to competition proud and go home even prouder, no matter how you scored.

I’ve found that once you have pride in your team, you can start winning. Not the other way around, although that seems to make more sense.

In my own opinion the success of the team is not how many awards you win, or who you beat but rather what you get from the experience. To me what makes a successful team is diversity. When there are different people working together all wi8th different ideas it tends to make a greater, more grand outcome. Really the best way i can put it is you don’t see the person working next to you as a team mate, you see them as your freind.

There is so much to be leanred in a short amount of time. With the many different minds more ideas can spread which equals more learning. in adition to that working with other teams and exchanging more ideas just adds in a whole to the FIRST experience.

I consider my team very successful because through the short 6 weeks we are able to pull together and do everything and help out other teams as well. (^-^)

I have always defined success in FIRST as “contributing to the excellence of the organization”

I know we all love FIRST, I love FIRST, but there are many opportunities out there for a dedicated mentor to have a positive influence on a handful of students. FIRST needs to be more than that. As mentors we need to expand our thinking beyond how will I influence the students on my team. In FIRST we have the opportunity to influence 10’s of thousands of people. We are try to change a culture.

Keep contributing the excellence of the organization and we will all succeed!