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FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®)
There is no right way to organize a FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) team and no two teams, just like no two robots, ever look the same.
Look at how other teams do it, take what you like and leave what doesn't fit your goals.
Above all please don't look down on other teams just because they don't share the same goals or methods as you. There is room enough for all styles and approaches, and each in it's own way is a valuable experience for the students.
Include mentors and parents in your plans, so they too have a defined role, but you can have your mentors work hand-in-hand, stand back and advise only, or even do some specialized work that'll simply amaze the kids. Parents can be overbearing, but they are invaluable if they have a well defined task, such as, organizing team food for late nights and weekends or providing transportation. Plan too on growth or modifying your organization as circumstances or goals change.
- Decide first on what your focus and team emphasis will be (fun, education, college admission, leadership development, business-school partnership, internships).
- Decide what you can reasonably support with the number of members you have (student/parent/teacher/mentor) and the number of leader quality students available, e.g., if you have 5 chiefs and 20 indians start with a team organization that has a few non-critical open-positions that younger students can grow into as they develop confidence and leadership skills.
- Decide on your team philosophy & style:
- Decide what you hope to accomplish (a good time, develop leadership skills, increase college admissions, win scholarships)
Search for keyword "Handbook"
FRC Team Organization
2011-FRC Team Organization
included in the annual game rules
The Big PictureHow does your team fit into the big picture of FIRST organization? What is the FIRST organization?
Looked at from a team perspective, here are brief descriptions of the overall FIRST organization that's important to individual teams.
- FRC Organizational Chart + 1-pager
- FRC Communication Chart + 1-pager
- FRC Competition Event Who's Who + 1-pager
- FRC Competition Event Volunteers
- FIRST Management Bios
Long-Range Strategic PlanEach team is unique, but all can benefit from a bit of thoughtful pre-planning and one of the best places to start is with a strategic plan. A strategic plan can be made a bit easier than the more detail oriented business plan (see below).
A Long Range Strategic Plan (LRSP) is a useful tool in setting, measuring, and maintaining long term goals and your success as a team in meeting those goals.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
The plan doesn't have to be tremendously complicated, in fact too much detail is unrealistic and can be burdensome, because we expect team circumstances and personnel makeup to evolve and change over time. Grouping some goals into 1-year, 2-year, 3-year, 5-year, 10-year buckets gives the team both immediate goals to strive for and long range goals that only the freshmen might see to fruition.
The team works hardest and actively on the immediate and 1-year goals, but does at least a little bit of work on some of the longer term goals, too. Don't get the idea that every goal has to be actively worked on, in fact you need some almost unattainable stretch goals that won't be accomplished until after you're gone.
An LRSP is a living document, expected to be revised year-by-year to reflect changes in team philosophy, removal of goals that have finally been achieved, modification of goals that just don't seem as important anymore, addition of new reach goals...
Take a look at FIRST's strategic plan: FIRST_Strategic_Plan.pdf
(archived copy: FIRST_Strategic_Plan_2012.pdf)
Business PlansA business plan lays out details about how you will raise funds, how you will spend those funds, how you recruit students/mentors/parents/teachers, how you will gather school & community support, robot build space, travel organization, etc., etc., etc. Don't kill yourself over the details though, expect your business plan to grow and develop with your team. It's really a framework to direct your team growth, spot where you're weak, and plan for contingencies. 1/3 of FRC teams have less than $10,000 in annual support and 50% have less than $16,000 to give you an idea of the minimum funds required to raise and manage.
Checkout the Junior Achievement website for entrepreneurial ideas like their Jr. Achievement Business Plan Outline.
Here's a sample outline tailored for an FRC Team: FRC Business Plan Outline
- What's the initial plan for raising your registration funds? Bake sales, sponsor appeals, school board, education grants...
- What kind of budget are we talking about here? Start-up expenses, registration fees, construction costs, equipment costs...
- How will your cash flow be handled? School PO's, teacher/parent/student outlay and reimbursement, booster club treasurer...
- What's your team management going to be like? Teachers, student board of officers, sub-team leads, sponsor mentors...
- How will you market and recruit members? Students, teachers, mentors, sponsor partners, booster supporters...
- Where are your facilities to build going to come from? School, sponsor, personal garage, rented/donated space...
- How will you divide the labor for designing/building/shipping the robot?
- How will team travel be organized and handled?
- What is your outreach going to be? Elementary/Middle school involvement, community parades/events, charitable works...
- What is your growth plan? From small beginnings great things can grow, but planned growth gets you to where you want to go.
- What are the risks the team faces? School administration support, funding support, teacher support & burnout, mentor expertise support & burnout, student support & detrimental impact on other school work, loss of critical officers to jobs, college searches, girl/boyfriend, cars, competing sports/club responsibilities.
- What is the plan to mitigate each risk? If you lose your major sponsor, what’s the plan to make up the funding? If you lose your teacher how have you been promoting robotics to other teachers? School board robot visits to keep the team in the administrations eye. Dual-student captains to spread the responsibilities. Mentor appreciation & active recruitment. Sustainability/continuity plans and alternative plans.
- Evaluate your progress periodically (have a plan for it). Goals may change with the makeup of the team. Are students, mentors, advisors, sponsors being lost or gained? Is school Administrative support evident, how have they participated or been actively involved? Are more students going on to Engineering, science, and technology in college?
Team 358 Organization
2013 FRC team handbook - from FIRST
Summer 2011 Revisions
For hand distribution, normally these 8.5x11 standard print versions are reformatted as booklets, because we feel those are less daunting and are a more friendly format.
Important: These are also available as Word documents. Simply replace the ".pdf" with ".doc" in the link to get the original documents.
Officer Handbook (, 405 KB)
Student Handbook (, 410 KB)
Mentor Handbook (, 482 KB)
Parent Handbook (, 470 KB)
Advisor Handbook (, 598 KB)
Handbook Appendices (, 375 KB)
Additional General Documents, as well as Hauppauge specific paperwork
What Makes A Good Team Member
2004 Officers Manual (blast from the past)
Team 358 has a four-fold organizational structure:Student Officers/Students
Student OfficersStudent officers are decided by popular election with advisor approval. The positions change somewhat from year-to-year, however, we always have a President and Vice-President. Leadership styles also vary from year-to-year, impacted by college searches, after school jobs, etc. Some Presidents lead by example, while others share leadership and distribute the work load and productivity. All Officers are expected to share leadership responsibilities and lead the other team members by example and direct supervision. Typically, our Team President serves only one term, while other positions, e.g., Head of Engineering, typically turn out to be multi-year terms. A President is expected to have previously served in other team leadership positions.
Responsibilities in the Fall include:
- New member recruitment
- Team meetings
- Training/teaching skills to new members
- Off-season events, such as, Homecoming parade, Safe Halloween, local competitions
- Team outreach activities, such as, workshops
- Coordinating tasks with mentors (robot, practice, cart, pit)
- Running Build meetings, organizing sub-groups
- Communicating progess, meeting times, etc. to members
- Organizing the shop tools and materials
- Packing for Competition
President -- organization and delegation of responsibilities. Responsible for member fundraising efforts, team meetings, dedicated to being at all meetings possible, present in Pits to field Judges and other visitor questions, team-to-team socializing, etc.
Vice-President -- shares and carries out presidental duties. Usually expected to become President the next year (therefore must not be a senior), however, "President" is an elected position and you know how elections can be. Also, failure to perform will impact advisor approval.
Secretary -- Communications. If you don't hear about it, it's this one's fault. Responsible for pestering the Advisors, Mentors, Booster Club to be sure everyone is equally informed. Methods of communication include the team website news, schedule, special events list, email, school PA announcements, passing the word in the hall, Club Activity bulletin board in the Commons, etc.
Treasurer -- handles the funds from school fundraisers, works with the Booster Club treasurer
Scout Master(s) -- work with the Scouting mentor(s) to develop scouting system, evaluate game discriminators, investigate event teams. Watch hours of game videos, spend days on the Internet watching posted robot videos, photos, game debates on ChiefDelphi, etc.
Head of Engineering/Machine Shop/Pits -- knows what we have and where it is, is the lead on robot construction and repair. Organizes our competition pit, battery cycling, etc. Usually a multi-year position.
Head of Computing -- robot programming, website, extras.
Public Relations -- posters and other advertising to the student body, HS Yearbook entry, short articles/photos for local papers.
After the primary leadership positions, additional positions are appointed by the officers with the concurrence of the Advisors, such as, Scoutmasters and Chairman's team, outreach programs, fundraising efforts.
Typical Officer Breakdown and Responsibilities (, 21.9 KB)
The advisors are appointed by the Board of Education. At least one must be a faculty member, however, the faculty member does not have to be the Lead Advisor. The Lead Advisor is also the FIRST Main Contact. Our team generally has two full-time and one part-time advisors. Additional faculty members may be enlisted as chaparones on trips to competitions, or other special events.
The Advisors have overall responsibility for the team--think benevolent dictators. Team continuity and long-term grown and improvement falls on their shoulders. They are responsible for handling the school finances, team purchases, administrative reports, arranging for chaparones, and have the final say in critical team decisions. Oversee student leadership and the team to avoid favoritism, cliques, nepotism, and activities detrimental to the team and it's image. The Robotics room must have an advisor present at all times the room is open. They are responsible for seeing that students and mentors receive proper training on the machines and safety operations. The student members elect officers and are responsible for day-to-day team activities, and set the tone for the team, e.g., are we to be a competitive team, or an easy going club. The advisors make sure the officers carry through with their responsibilities. Advisors make the hard decisions and politically unpopular but necessary calls, taking the brunt of critisism. Advisors make sure the students stick to their plans, such as, being competitive by selecting the competition drive team for the season based on driver tryouts and merit rather than popularity.
The mentors have a rather loose organizational structure based only on the primary expertise or interest of the various technical advisors/mentors/parents. There is a lot of cross-disipline effort, for instance, electrical will help out on mechanical systems. One of the three school advisors must be in the room with students at all times and act as the offical chaperones on all trips, but each has their preferred specialty and tends to mentor the students working on that sub-system.
Control System/Sensors/Programming sub-system
Parent Booster Club
The booster club consists of parents who are Non-Engineering Mentors (NEMs). They take care of all the behind the scenes responsibilities, primarily fundraising and organizing team travel plans and arrangements. They represent team interests at Board of Education meetings, keep the team in the eye of the Administration, and encourage and coordinate parental support. They mentor the students in the areas of fundraising, button making, and spirit activities. Multiple positions may be filled by one parent.
Team Building, Leadership, CommunicationAt the beginning of each year you have a lot of new members, new officers, new mentors and it's worthwhile to take some time for team building exercises. They get all the new faces familiar with one another and it's an opportunity to learn everyone's name. Leadership exercises also get the new Team officers operating smoothly in their new roles and responsibilities, and of course smooth Communication is critical to getting anything accomplished.
These can be extended to include engineering or MacGyver mental challenges to bring out the creativity and initiative in team members. Things like egg drops, paper plane contests, mousetrap cars, etc.
Here are a few team activity websites: trust exercises, more exercises, still more exercises.
Recruiting MentorsYou want mentors? If you are really serious then make this effort into a real campaign with a chairperson and committee devoted to locating and recruiting new mentors. Your best success will come from spreading the message out through your existing mentors, parents, and teachers. You want the message to spread to family, friends, neighbors, and the local pool of retirees. If you have an after school or summer job then include your managers, supervisors, and co-workers.
For ideas, check out the National Mentoring Center.
RecognitionBe grateful for your volunteers that make your team so wonderful and let them know in no uncertain terms just how much you appreciate them. Thanking sponsors is discussed elsewhere, but at the end of each season our team remembers and recognizes each person responsible for making the season a success. The following are some of the gifts we've used.
A team DVD of the events of the season for every team member, student or mentor
Season DVD (.jpg, 81 KB)
Certificates are easy to do right.
Certificate of Excellence (.jpg, 180 KB)
Graduating Seniors have received a team photo autographed by all the other team members.
Senior Photo | Senior Frisbee
Here are some past gifts from the team to each technical mentor (male or female). Team Advisors have also received gift cards donated by the students.
Female mentors and Booster Club ladies have been presented with flowers and/or a gift.
The spouses of mentors, without who's support our mentor's could not spend such long hours with us, are each presented with a flowering plant to constantly remind them where their spouse is!
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