What To Do With A Dead Team

For those of you who’ve been in touch with team 5180 this probably won’t come as a shock, but the team has been forcibly disbanded by our school. Upon coming back to school team leaders were informed that the team had lost all funding from the school district and would no longer be allowed to function. This came after last year’s season where, as some of y’all know, our mentor was fired at the start of build season and we were unable to actually work on the bot for weeks because of it. Simply put, 5180 is dead in the water and lacks the infrastructure or funding to exist as a community team.

So now the question is what comes next? As a team do we need to file some sort of paperwork to officially decommission the team? Would it be possible to have the team lie dormant for a period of time until it would be able to compete again (if at all)? And lastly, has anyone else had to deal with this kind of situation? A lot of our team put all of their being into FIRST and having it taken away like this has kind of left us with a robot shaped hole in our hearts. Any clue as to other programs that could help fill that?

Sad truth: This happens. Sometimes it’s the teacher, sometimes it’s the school, sometimes it’s the mentors–but sometimes forces combine that a team just can’t shake off.

There’s nothing to register with FIRST–when the team doesn’t register, it just doesn’t compete. That said, the team number remains attached to the school; if it starts back within 3 years under current policy, then the team gets that number again. After that, it’s the team’s choice to go with the old number or start as a rookie team again. (Knowing Blythewood, this already happened once with 1959.)

I don’t know the status of the other Richland 2 teams (Westwood and Ridge View), but that might be something to pursue. Garnet Squadron downsized to FTC last year and is still cooking; PM me and I can connect you with them too. And even if Blythewood to USC is too far a drive to do on the regular, many FTC teams exist either as 4-H clubs like Garnet Squadron or even as just an unincorporated group of families.

And if you need a fix, SCRIW is October 14th. Robot or no robot, you’ll be among friends. :slight_smile:

If you have a school nearby that does not have a team try moving the team there. My team was nearly disbanded due to the same issues and a few others, and after doing that we were able to survive, although this may be my team’s last year. Anyway you can also try finding someone well known who is an engineer or even is not an engineer and they may be able to convince the school to help. My team has my mayor and my governor who helped.


I respectfully disagree that your team is dead. I sent you a PM. Here to help if we can.


Where there is a will there is a way.

Our team receives zero dollars from the school or district. It means a lot of fundraising and parent support is needed.

Our neighbor team’s teacher quit after their rookie year (and they also get no money from the school… same district). They found a teacher who was willing to hang around and grade papers while they worked.

Don’t let the bureaucratic decisions of the business-minded school district get in the way of your team’s education. Like others said above, find a nearby team who wants to gain some members; find another teacher who is willing to push for a your team’s use of school space; or pick up and move into a parent’s garage.

Sorry to hear that. I don’t speak for FIRST, but I don’t think you have to be affiliated with a specific school - 1868, Space Cookies, is a very successful team here in Silicon Valley that’s affiliated with the Girl Scouts.

When 972 folded in 2008 after Overdrive (nobody had heard of STEM and robots weren’t cool) 668 took the interested students in, even though it was a different school district. The students returned to their school in 2016 and restarted 972, as 972, this time with a lot of support from the school and parents, and with one of their original mentors (me :)).

Looks like Blythewood is a small town, is there a local newspaper/TV? Getting coverage like “Local robotics team looses funding, students are determined to continue but need help!” may help. Lions or Kiwanis Club, Chamber of Commerce, etc? Figure out how to become a 501©3 charity, which means donations are tax-deductable. Hit up the Chamber of Commerce to get help doing it, somebody there has to know how.

(I admit below that I’m drawing some conclusions without much data, apologies if I’m wrong.)

Wow - Wikipedia says about Blythewood:
For the period 2007–2011, the estimated median annual income for a household in the town was $105,234, and the median income for a family was $118,611. I would hope there would be some businesses that would support you. Is there a local Farmers’ Market? 972 used to get a booth and, with students in their shirts, hang a basket on their bot to collect donations. Put up a sign that tells of your plight. Take some quotes from the FIRST stats on how many kids go on to college/STEM careers.

Zillow says your average home value is $212K, are there a lot of real estate agents? Some may want to differentiate themselves by having their name on your 'bot/shirts.

Form an FTC team? It costs a lot less, you don’t need to do all the metalworking, and you don’t need a truck with which to haul the robot around.

University of South Carolina has an engineering/comp sci. scholarship for FIRST students:
https://www.firstinspires.org/scholarships => South Carolina, so USC has to know it’s a worthwhile program, contact their Dean of Engineering/CompSci.

Best of luck! Keep us updated as to your progress!

You could also go the community team route. Having been on both, a school based team has many logistical advantages but community based teams certainly are possible.

2706 is in our 3 year as a community based team. Our first year we built out of the back storage hallway of a rec centre. Our second year we had a split space with programming working out of a commercial/retail space and the design & fab team working out of a electrical shop’s garage/warehouse space. This year we are partnering with a very small private school. We also have partnered with a local library and use their meeting rooms.

We get zero funding from any school board, and raise all money through corporate sponsorship and team fundraising events.

The biggest advantage is that we can open up membership in the team to the entire community and have approximately 50 students from more than 10 schools, across a number of school boards. Not being tied to a school means that we are not dependant on the whims of the school or board administration, plus we remove the single point of failure that is typical of many teams (the sole teacher who is passionate and committed to FRC).

We are a community-based team that used to be a school-based team. There are some distinct advantages to being a community-based team. The main one, for us, was not having to follow school rules. For example, we rented a passenger van to go to Houston; our school would have required us to charter a bus, and that would have been prohibitively expensive. When our school district closes for snow (which happens, you know, DURING BUILD SEASON), no school activities are allowed to be held.

The real question is whether you have adults who are willing to put in the time and effort to push forward.

Being a community team is not impossible, it is hard but can be done. 885 has been around for 15 years and was drawing from up to 14 different communities. Vermont is a little tricky to get kids and money from because of the lack of interest or knowledge of FIRST but we’ve made due and we’re still around.

Green MacHHHHine (3129) downsized from FRC to VEX following the 2010 season. It allowed us to:

  • essentially slash a 0 off our annual budget
  • hold our meetings/build in a team member’s garage
  • attend 3 competitions + World Championships every year (we were a 1 regional + 1 off-season team in FRC)

We also operated without any school support (both in FRC and in VEX) and drew students from several local schools as well as home-schooled students.

The team retired for good following the 2014 VEX season, but I’m thankful to VEX for providing us with 4 years of awesome FRC-style challenges at a more manageable scale, great international competitions, and countless opportunities to teach and inspire students. I would highly recommend giving VEX a look.

I was is in this situation as a sophomore in high school, with a team I had put a lot of energy into helping make better. I know how painful it is to feel like you are losing something so important to you. I hope you and your team’s community are handling that okay.

When this happened to me, I realized that everything happens for a reason. What I can tell you is, if you and other people want to continue doing FRC-- it isn’t too late. Find a community team, start a community team. And if this isn’t possible, then you can always volunteer at competitions (WE NEED MORE OF THEM). Some of the best volunteers have continued with FIRST when their team disbanded through volunteering.

Not to be too cliche, but when one door closes another one opens. Maybe that involves FRC, maybe it doesn’t. I know this doesn’t stop it from being painful, but just have faith that everything works out the way it is supposed to.

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5499 has experience in transitioning to a community team. If you do end up trying to do it, feel free to message me with any questions.