Mentor Manual - FIRST | For Inspiration and Recognition of Science

Mentor Manual - FIRST | For Inspiration and Recognition of Science
2016-2017 FIRST® Tech Challenge
Mentor Manual
2 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Volunteer Thank You
Thank you for taking the time to volunteer for a FIRST® Tech Challenge event. FIRST® and FIRST® Tech
Challenge rely heavily on Volunteers to ensure events run smoothly and are a fun experience for Teams and
their families, which could not happen without people like you. With over 4,600 Teams competing annually,
your dedication and commitment are paramount to the success of each event and the FIRST Tech Challenge
program. Thank you for your time and effort in supporting the mission of FIRST!
Sponsor Thank You
Thank you to our generous sponsors for your continued support of the FIRST Tech Challenge!
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Additional thanks to: Steve Pendergrast and the Pope John XXIII Regional High School Robotics Team for
contributing content from their book, FTC® Robotics: Tips, Tricks, Strategies, and Secrets.
All building instructions for this guide were modeled using PTC Creo/Elements Pro software. PTC, The Product
Development Company, Creo, Elements/Pro, Mathcad and Windchill are trademarks or registered trademarks
of Parametric Technology Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries.
Photos by FIRST®, except: pages 42, 67, 69, 73, 75, and 78 by Scott W. Nichols from The Webb School
Qualifying Tournament 2014, page 25 by Dan Donovan, and pages 31, 34, 51, 84, and 89 George Marchant
Photography. All photos used by permission.
All graphics designed by Freepik.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
4 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
How to Use This Manual
We recommend downloading this Manual, looking through it cover to cover once (or at least skim through the
Table of Contents to familiarize yourself with what’s covered), and then keep the downloaded version saved
and readily accessible on your electronic device. When you need to look something up, open the file back up.
The PDF version of this Manual is easily searchable: you can click on any item in the Table of Contents to
immediately go to that section of the Manual.
Throughout the Manual there are underlined, linked items that take you to other areas of the Manual or in the
Appendices, clicking on these will bring you right to the item-no scrolling or searching required! In addition,
there are items linked to webpages, if you are connected to the internet, clicking on these items will bring you
right to the webpage. Lastly, many of the Appendices are available as PDF or editable Word documents (as
applicable) and can be found predominantly from the Rookie Resources Page or the Veteran Resources Page.
Throughout the Manual, you will find boxes with additional information
Reminder
These boxes
highlight key
information you’ll want to
remember.
Revision
1.1
1.2
Date
05/12/2016
08/01/2016
In the
Classroom
These boxes
highlight tips for teachers
using FIRST in their
class.
Inclusion
These boxes
highlight ways
to build team by
including all members
fully.
Tip
These boxes
include tips and
tricks to help the team
have an easy season.
Revision History
Description
Initial Release
 Formatting updates
 Updated Sponsor Thank you image
Contents
How to Use This Manual.................................................................................................................................... 4
Introduction...................................................................................................................................................... 13
What is FIRST® Tech Challenge? ................................................................................................................ 13
FIRST Tech Challenge Core Values ............................................................................................................ 13
What is the FIRST Tech Challenge Mentor Manual?.................................................................................... 14
FIRST Tech Challenge Coach’s Promise ..................................................................................................... 14
Gracious Professionalism® .............................................................................................................................. 15
Youth Protection Program ............................................................................................................................... 16
Youth Protection Expectations and Guidelines ............................................................................................. 16
NOTICE OF NON-DISCRIMINATION .......................................................................................................... 16
FIRST Tech Challenge Glossary ..................................................................................................................... 17
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Season Timeline .............................................................................................................................................. 19
The Mentor Role .............................................................................................................................................. 20
What is a Mentor? ........................................................................................................................................ 20
A Mentor… ............................................................................................................................................... 20
Spectrum of Involvement .......................................................................................................................... 20
A Mentor’s role includes… ........................................................................................................................ 21
Rewards of Mentoring .............................................................................................................................. 21
Possible Mentor Contributions .................................................................................................................. 22
The Teacher Mentor .................................................................................................................................... 22
The Mentor as a Facilitator .......................................................................................................................... 22
Advice for Mentors ....................................................................................................................................... 23
Twelve Basic Guidelines for Mentors ........................................................................................................ 24
Mentor Time Management ........................................................................................................................... 24
Effective Mentor Time Management ......................................................................................................... 24
Registering the Team ...................................................................................................................................... 25
Registration.................................................................................................................................................. 25
Purchasing Robot Supplies .......................................................................................................................... 25
Registering for Events .................................................................................................................................. 25
Funding the Team ........................................................................................................................................... 26
How much does it cost to have a team? ....................................................................................................... 26
Business/Strategic Plans ............................................................................................................................. 26
How much funding do we need? .................................................................................................................. 26
Funding Sources .......................................................................................................................................... 27
Fundraising............................................................................................................................................... 27
Grants ...................................................................................................................................................... 27
Sponsors .................................................................................................................................................. 28
Program Sponsors.................................................................................................................................... 29
FIRST Tech Challenge in the Classroom ......................................................................................................... 30
Classroom Resources .................................................................................................................................. 30
Standards ................................................................................................................................................. 30
Teacher Mentor Training .......................................................................................................................... 30
Classroom Tools ...................................................................................................................................... 30
STEM Connections................................................................................................................................... 30
College and Career Resources for Students............................................................................................. 30
Share and Loan ........................................................................................................................................... 31
Teacher to Teacher Classroom Resources online .................................................................................... 31
Building the Team............................................................................................................................................ 32
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
6 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Team Identity and Spirit ............................................................................................................................... 32
Team Overview ............................................................................................................................................ 32
Team Size ................................................................................................................................................ 33
Age Range ............................................................................................................................................... 33
Time Commitment .................................................................................................................................... 33
Finding Team Members ............................................................................................................................... 34
Suggestions for Recruiting Students ......................................................................................................... 34
Selection Criteria ...................................................................................................................................... 35
Finding Team Mentors ................................................................................................................................. 35
Recruiting Mentors ................................................................................................................................... 36
Recruiting New Technical Mentors ........................................................................................................... 36
Recruiting New Non-Technical Mentors.................................................................................................... 36
Additional Suggestions for Recruiting Adults ............................................................................................ 37
Team Meetings ................................................................................................................................................ 38
Working with the Site Host ........................................................................................................................... 38
Meetings ...................................................................................................................................................... 38
General Guidelines for Effective Meetings ................................................................................................ 39
Setting Expectations ................................................................................................................................. 39
Working Together ........................................................................................................................................ 40
Communication and Brainstorming Tools for Meetings ................................................................................ 40
Language Tools ........................................................................................................................................ 40
Learning Styles ......................................................................................................................................... 40
Team Roles ..................................................................................................................................................... 41
Student Responsibilities ............................................................................................................................... 41
Assigning Team Roles and Responsibilities ............................................................................................. 42
Developing Leaders ..................................................................................................................................... 42
Transferring Ownership to Students ......................................................................................................... 44
When transferring ownership to the student.............................................................................................. 44
Teambuilding ................................................................................................................................................... 45
Creating a Positive Team Dynamic .............................................................................................................. 45
Keys to Creating a Positive Team Dynamic ................................................................................................. 45
1. Teambuilding ........................................................................................................................................ 45
2. Mutual Trust and Respect ..................................................................................................................... 46
3. Equality of Labor................................................................................................................................... 46
4. Communication..................................................................................................................................... 46
5. Facilitate ............................................................................................................................................... 47
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6. Draw Everyone In ................................................................................................................................. 47
7. Keep Students Engaged ....................................................................................................................... 48
Building Teams that Build Robots ............................................................................................................. 48
Managing Stress .......................................................................................................................................... 49
Resolving Conflicts ...................................................................................................................................... 49
General Guidelines for Resolving Conflicts ............................................................................................... 49
Managing Mentor to Mentor Conflicts ....................................................................................................... 50
Managing Parent/Volunteer Conflicts........................................................................................................ 50
Managing Team Conflicts ......................................................................................................................... 51
Self-Assessment .......................................................................................................................................... 52
Community Outreach ................................................................................................................................... 53
Using the FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge Logos................................................................................. 54
Logo Requirements .................................................................................................................................. 54
Career/College Preparation.......................................................................................................................... 54
Discussing and Exploring Career Tracks...................................................................................................... 54
Internship Opportunities............................................................................................................................ 55
FIRST on the Resume .............................................................................................................................. 56
College Planning .......................................................................................................................................... 56
FIRST Scholarship Opportunities ................................................................................................................. 57
Networking ................................................................................................................................................... 58
The Engineering Notebook .............................................................................................................................. 59
Engineering Notebook Format ..................................................................................................................... 59
Electronic/Online ...................................................................................................................................... 59
Handwritten .............................................................................................................................................. 59
Requirements ........................................................................................................................................... 59
Engineering Notebook General Requirements ............................................................................................. 59
Engineering Notebook Suggestions ............................................................................................................. 60
Building Robots ............................................................................................................................................... 62
Safety for FIRST Tech Challenge ................................................................................................................ 62
Supervision............................................................................................................................................... 62
Apparel ..................................................................................................................................................... 62
The Workspace ........................................................................................................................................ 63
General Safe Practices ............................................................................................................................. 63
Kit of Parts ................................................................................................................................................... 63
Planning ....................................................................................................................................................... 64
Developing Strategy ..................................................................................................................................... 65
Brainstorming ............................................................................................................................................... 67
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
8 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Effective Brainstorming for FIRST Tech Challenge ................................................................................... 67
FIRST Tech Challenge PushBot Guide ........................................................................................................ 68
Designing a Robot ....................................................................................................................................... 68
Robot Drive Train Design ......................................................................................................................... 68
Robot Mechanism Design......................................................................................................................... 69
3-D Modelling Software ............................................................................................................................ 70
Prototyping ............................................................................................................................................... 70
Building ........................................................................................................................................................ 71
Modifying Parts......................................................................................................................................... 72
General Building Best Practices for FIRST Tech Challenge ..................................................................... 72
Wiring .......................................................................................................................................................... 73
Programming ............................................................................................................................................... 73
Software ................................................................................................................................................... 73
Programming ............................................................................................................................................ 74
General Programming Best Practices for FIRST Tech Challenge ............................................................. 74
Iteration ........................................................................................................................................................ 75
Navigating the Competition Season ................................................................................................................. 76
Preparing the Team ..................................................................................................................................... 76
Game Challenge and Rules ...................................................................................................................... 76
Drive Team ............................................................................................................................................... 76
Pit Crew.................................................................................................................................................... 76
FIRST Tech Challenge Tournament Structure ............................................................................................. 77
Types of FIRST Tech Challenge Events ................................................................................................... 77
Tournament Registration.............................................................................................................................. 77
Finding Tournaments................................................................................................................................ 78
The Registration Process ......................................................................................................................... 78
What to Expect............................................................................................................................................. 78
Tournament Logistics ............................................................................................................................... 78
Tournament Areas .................................................................................................................................... 79
What to Expect at an Event ...................................................................................................................... 80
General Guidelines for Tournaments ........................................................................................................ 80
Supervision and Safety ............................................................................................................................. 82
Inspections................................................................................................................................................... 83
Robot Inspection ...................................................................................................................................... 83
Field Inspection ........................................................................................................................................ 83
Queuing and Rounds ................................................................................................................................... 83
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Game Play ................................................................................................................................................... 84
Autonomous Stage ................................................................................................................................... 84
Driver-Controlled Stage ............................................................................................................................ 84
End Game Stage ...................................................................................................................................... 85
Scoring ........................................................................................................................................................ 85
Question Box Etiquette ............................................................................................................................. 85
Qualifying Points vs. Ranking Points ........................................................................................................ 86
Alliance Strategy and Scouting .................................................................................................................... 86
How to Get Noticed by Alliance Scouts..................................................................................................... 87
How to Select an Alliance Partner ............................................................................................................ 87
FIRST Tech Challenge Judging and Awards ................................................................................................... 88
Why Judging Interviews? ............................................................................................................................. 88
How Judging Works ..................................................................................................................................... 88
Preparing and Practicing .............................................................................................................................. 89
The Elevator Speech ................................................................................................................................ 89
The Judging Interview .............................................................................................................................. 89
Appropriate Behavior ................................................................................................................................ 90
Judged Awards ............................................................................................................................................ 90
Submission Requirements ........................................................................................................................ 90
Awards Determination Process................................................................................................................. 90
Video Awards ........................................................................................................................................... 91
Other Awards ............................................................................................................................................... 91
Dean’s List Award..................................................................................................................................... 91
FIRST Future Innovators Award ............................................................................................................... 91
Outreach Activities for Teams .......................................................................................................................... 92
Advantages to Outreach .............................................................................................................................. 92
Types of Outreach ....................................................................................................................................... 92
Workshops ............................................................................................................................................... 92
Demonstrations ........................................................................................................................................ 92
Trade Shows ............................................................................................................................................ 92
Presentations ........................................................................................................................................... 92
Online ....................................................................................................................................................... 93
Finding Outreach Opportunities ................................................................................................................... 93
Creating Your Own Outreach Event ............................................................................................................. 93
Celebration and Recognition ........................................................................................................................... 94
Celebrating the End of the FIRST Tech Season........................................................................................... 94
Recognize Team Members .......................................................................................................................... 94
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
10 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Recognize Seniors and Outgoing Members ................................................................................................. 95
Recognize Sponsors, Mentors, and Volunteers............................................................................................ 95
Host a Local Event ....................................................................................................................................... 95
Maintaining Team Longevity and Sustainability ............................................................................................... 96
Why Longevity and Sustainability? ............................................................................................................... 96
Goal-Setting and Self-Assessment............................................................................................................... 96
Building Leadership ..................................................................................................................................... 97
Funding ........................................................................................................................................................ 97
Developing Community Support ................................................................................................................... 97
Archiving Information ................................................................................................................................... 97
Passing on Leadership to a new Mentor ...................................................................................................... 98
Appendices...................................................................................................................................................... 99
Appendix A: Resources ................................................................................................................................. 100
Game Forum Q&A ..................................................................................................................................... 100
FIRST Tech Challenge Game Manuals ...................................................................................................... 100
FIRST® Headquarters Support ................................................................................................................... 100
FIRST Website: firstinspires.org ................................................................................................................. 100
FIRST Tech Challenge Social Media ......................................................................................................... 100
Product Support ......................................................................................................................................... 100
Team Development Support ...................................................................................................................... 101
Feedback ................................................................................................................................................... 101
Appendix B: Season Planning Tool ............................................................................................................... 102
Appendix C: 10 Steps to Being an Effective FIRST® Tech Challenge Facilitator ............................................ 104
Appendix D: Sample Team Roster ................................................................................................................ 107
Appendix E: FIRST® Tech Challenge Sample Budget ................................................................................... 108
Ways to Reduce Expenses for Rookies ..................................................................................................... 109
Ways to Reduce Expenses for Veterans .................................................................................................... 109
Optional Costs ........................................................................................................................................... 110
Appendix F: FIRST® Tech Challenge Team Roles ......................................................................................... 111
Appendix G: Team Judging Session Self-Assessment .................................................................................. 117
Appendix H: Sample Resume ........................................................................................................................ 118
Appendix I: Engineering Notebook Samples .................................................................................................. 120
Appendix J: Types of FIRST® Tech Challenge Events ................................................................................... 124
Unofficial or Endorsed Events .................................................................................................................... 124
Official Events ............................................................................................................................................ 124
Advancement Structure.............................................................................................................................. 125
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Event Descriptions ..................................................................................................................................... 125
Appendix K: A FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Reflects: Competing in FIRST Tech Challenge .................... 127
Appendix L: What to Expect at Events ........................................................................................................... 129
Appendix M: FIRST Tech Challenge Awards Categories ............................................................................... 133
Appendix N: Sample Business Plan............................................................................................................... 139
What is it? .................................................................................................................................................. 139
How to Write It ........................................................................................................................................... 139
Additional Resources ................................................................................................................................. 139
Sample Strategic/Business Plan ................................................................................................................ 140
Cover Page ............................................................................................................................................ 140
Contents ................................................................................................................................................. 140
1.0 Executive Summary .......................................................................................................................... 141
2.0 Team Impact and Goals ................................................................................................................... 142
3.0 Sustainability .................................................................................................................................... 142
4.0 Outreach and Recognition ................................................................................................................ 144
5.0 Resources ........................................................................................................................................ 144
Appendix O: Robot Order of Operations ........................................................................................................ 145
Appendix P: Case Studies for Training .......................................................................................................... 146
Instructions ................................................................................................................................................ 146
Case Study #1 – Recruiting Team Members .............................................................................................. 146
Case Study #2 – Teambuilding Conflict ..................................................................................................... 147
Case Study #3 – Parent Question .............................................................................................................. 147
Case Study #4 – Defining Team Roles ...................................................................................................... 148
Case Study #5 – Good or Bad Idea?.......................................................................................................... 148
Case Study #6 – The Question Box ........................................................................................................... 148
Case Study #7 – Taking Pictures ............................................................................................................... 149
Case Study #8 – Help the Alliance Partner ................................................................................................ 149
Case Study #9 – Ungracious Mentor .......................................................................................................... 150
Case Study #10 – Bad Winner, Sore Loser ................................................................................................ 150
Appendix Q: Sample Press Release .............................................................................................................. 151
Online Press Room .................................................................................................................................... 151
Content Elements ...................................................................................................................................... 151
Other Tips .................................................................................................................................................. 152
Sample Press Release for Teams .............................................................................................................. 152
Appendix R: Build a Booth ............................................................................................................................. 154
Spread the word about FIRST.................................................................................................................... 155
Booth Design Tips...................................................................................................................................... 156
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
12 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Appendix S: FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge Promotional Materials ......................................................... 157
Hand-Outs ................................................................................................................................................. 157
Media and Press Tools .............................................................................................................................. 157
Presentation Materials ............................................................................................................................... 157
Appendix T: 2016-17 Rookie Team Resource List ......................................................................................... 158
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Introduction
What is FIRST® Tech Challenge?
FIRST Tech Challenge is a student-centered activity that focuses on giving students a unique and stimulating
experience. Each year, Teams participate in a new Game that requires them to design, build, test, and
program autonomous and driver-operated robots that must perform a series of tasks.
The playing field for the Game consists of the FIRST Tech
Challenge game pieces set up on a foam-mat surface,
surrounded by a metal and Lexan Field frame. Each
Tournament features Alliances, which are comprised of two
Teams, competing against one another on the playing field.
Teams work to overcome obstacles and meet challenges,
while learning from, and interacting with their peers and adult
Mentors. Students develop a greater appreciation of science
and technology and how they might use that knowledge to
impact the world around them in a positive manner. They also
cultivate life skills such as:




FIRST Tech Challenge is
MORE THAN ROBOTSSM!
While competing, students
develop personal and
professional skills they will be able
to rely on throughout their life.
#morethanrobots
Planning, brainstorming, and creative problem-solving.
Research and technical skills.
Collaboration and teamwork.
Appreciation of differences and respect for the ideas and contributions of others.
To learn more about FIRST Tech Challenge and other FIRST Programs, visit www.firstinspires.org.
FIRST Tech Challenge Core Values
Volunteers are integral to the FIRST community. FIRST Tech Challenge relies on Volunteers to run the
program at many levels, from managing a region to Mentoring an individual Team. Our Affiliate Partners
coordinate the program in each region or state. These Affiliate Partners fundraise, run Tournaments, hold
workshops and demonstrations, market FIRST Tech Challenge locally, handle public relations, and recruit
Volunteers and Teams. They are a tremendous resource for Mentors and FIRST would not exist without
them.
FIRST asks everyone who participates in FIRST Tech Challenge to uphold the following values:











We display Gracious Professionalism® with everyone we engage with and in everything we do.
We act with integrity.
We have fun.
We are a welcoming community of students, Mentors, and Volunteers.
What we learn is more important than what we win.
We respect each other and celebrate our diversity.
Students and adults work together to find solutions to challenges.
We honor the spirit of friendly competition.
We behave with courtesy and compassion for others at all times.
We act as ambassadors for FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge.
We inspire others to adopt these values.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
14 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
What is the FIRST Tech Challenge Mentor Manual?
The purpose of the FIRST Tech Challenge Mentor Manual is to:



Provide new Mentors with a foundation of knowledge
and ideas to get their Teams up and running smoothly
in the FIRST Tech Challenge.
Familiarize new Mentors and Team members with the
FIRST experience.
Help returning Mentors develop a deeper
understanding of the Mentoring process as their FIRST
Tech Challenge Team evolves.
The Manual focuses on the skills and concepts needed for the
development of the following general goals:





Making the Mentoring process easier for rookie and
veteran Teams.
Providing a clear understanding of the Mentoring
process and relationship.
Developing reciprocal learning between student and Mentor.
Providing Mentors with general information, tips, best practices, organizational tools and strategies,
planning tools, and guidance to manage a Team effectively throughout the season.
Direct Mentors to other resources to support them in their role.
FIRST Tech Challenge Coach’s Promise
As the Coach of a FIRST Tech Challenge Team, you are responsible for honoring and communicating the
Program’s Core Values to Team members, Team Volunteers, and others affiliated with your Team.
FIRST expects all Teams to abide by the Program rules and guidelines as they exist now, and as they may be
set forth during the season.
FIRST Tech Challenge Mentors will receive updates,
additions, Volunteer recruitment, screening, and
supervision guidelines for the Team via e-mail and/or
postings on the FIRST Tech Challenge Team Email Blast
Archives webpage. We encourage other members of the
Team to opt in to the weekly Team email blast by signing
up in the Team Registration or email
ftcteams@firstinspires.org.
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Gracious Professionalism®
FIRST uses this term to describe our programs’ intent. This is one of the most important concepts that can
be taught to a young person who is learning to get along in the work world. At FIRST, Team members help
other team members, but they also help other Teams.
Gracious Professionalism® is not clearly defined for a reason. It
can and should mean different things to everyone.
Some possible meanings of Gracious Professionalism® include:




Gracious attitudes and behaviors are win-win.
Gracious folks respect others and let that respect show in
their actions.
Professionals possess special knowledge and are trusted
by society to use that knowledge responsibly.
Gracious Professionals make a valued contribution in a
manner pleasing to others and to themselves.
An example of
Gracious
Professionalism®
is patiently listening
to a Team’s question
and providing support
despite having several
pressing things to do on the
day of the event.
In the context of FIRST, this means that all Teams and
participants should:



Learn to be strong competitors, but also treat one another with respect and kindness in the process.
Avoid leaving anyone feeling as if they are excluded or unappreciated.
Knowledge, pride and empathy should be comfortably and genuinely blended.
In the end, Gracious Professionalism® is part of pursuing a meaningful life. When professionals use
knowledge in a gracious manner and individuals act with integrity and sensitivity, everyone wins, and
society benefits.
Watch Dr. Woodie Flowers explain Gracious Professionalism® in this short video.
“The FIRST spirit encourages doing high-quality, well-informed work in a manner that
leaves everyone feeling valued. Gracious Professionalism seems to be a good
descriptor for part of the ethos of FIRST. It is part of what makes FIRST different and
wonderful.”
- Dr. Woodie Flowers, National Advisor for FIRST
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
16 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Youth Protection Program
The purpose of the FIRST® Youth Protection Program (FIRST YPP) is to provide Coaches, Mentors,
Volunteers, employees, others working in FIRST programs, team members, parents, and guardians of team
members with information, guidelines, and procedures to create safe environments for everyone participating
in FIRST programs.
The FIRST YPP sets minimum standards recommended for all FIRST activities. Adults working in FIRST
programs must be knowledgeable of the standards set by the FIRST YPP, as well as those set by the school
or organization hosting their team.
Youth Protection Expectations and Guidelines
Coaches and Mentors are expected to read and follow elements in the FIRST Youth Protection Program guide
that are labeled as required are mandatory in the United States and Canada, and may not be waived without
the approval of the FIRST Youth Protection Department.
FIRST recommends that the standards set forth in the FIRST Youth Protection Program guide be applied
outside of the United States and Canada to the extent possible. At a minimum, local regulations regarding
youth protection must be complied with.
Forms are available here: http://www.firstinspires.org/sites/default/files/uploads/about/FORMS.zip
Information on the US Screening process is available here:
http://www.firstinspires.org/sites/default/files/uploads/about/us-screening-2016-2017.pdf
Information on the Canadian Screening process is available here:
http://vimeo.com/30137373
Everyone working
with FIRST Teams
should be familiar
with the FIRST YPP
policies.
You can find FAQ and additional information about the FIRST Youth
Protection Program on the FIRST website at:
http://www.firstinspires.org/resource-library/youth-protection-policy
NOTICE OF NON-DISCRIMINATION
United States Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST®) does not
discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs and
activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination
policies: Lee Doucette, Youth Protection Program Manager, 200 Bedford Street, Manchester, NH 03101, 603666-3906, Ext. 250.
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FIRST Tech Challenge Glossary
As with learning anything new, part of the learning curve is learning the “lingo”. Below are some important
FIRST Tech Challenge terms that you will encounter in this Manual:
Affiliate Partner – coordinates the Event structure, Team recruitment and support, and funding for the FIRST
Tech Challenge program in their region.
Awards – all Teams participate in Judging Interviews which the Judges use in determining the winners of
FIRST Tech Challenge Awards. Read more in the Awards section of this Manual or on the Program Awards
webpage.
Coach – anyone assisting the Team who is not a student Team member and works to help the Team achieve
their goals. Each Team must have two adult, screened Mentors. Coach and Mentor are used interchangeably.
Competition Season –Teams compete against other Teams in Tournaments. Tournaments start as early as
October in some regions and culminate in the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championships in April. Read
more about the FIRST Tech Challenge Tournament Structure and different Events or visit the Events
webpage.
Coopertition – means that Teams support and help one another even as they compete to the best of their
ability. Read more on the FIRST webpage.
Engineering Notebook – Teams document their experience both as a Team and with the Robot and compile
everything together in a Notebook which they share with Judges. Read more and see examples in the
Engineering Notebook section.
Events – FIRST Tech Challenge Events can happen anytime during the year. These include informal
workshops and trainings, scrimmages, or Tournament Events. Read more about the FIRST Tech Challenge
Events or visit the Events webpage.
Game Challenge – in September at Kickoff, FIRST Tech
Challenge announces the annual Challenge in which Teams will
compete with their Robots. Information on the Game is published
in the Game Manual Part II released at/during Kickoff.
Game Design Committee (GDC) – Volunteers from various
fields, including science, technology, and engineering, who
design the annual Game Challenge, write the Game Manuals,
and moderate the FIRST Tech Challenge forum.
Water Game – an ongoing
joke around FIRST Tech
Challenge and FIRST Robotics
programs just before the
Game is revealed.
Game Manual Part I and II – read them, know them, love them. They outline everything Teams need to know
about building the Robot, the Game Challenge, Engineering Notebook, Judging/Awards, etc. They are
published on the on the FIRST Tech Challenge Game webpage – Part I is released in July and Part II is
released on Kickoff.
Gracious Professionalism – means that Teams support and help one another even as they compete to the
best of their ability. Read more in the gracious Professionalism® section or on the FIRST webpage.
FIRST Tech Challenge Forum – Teams, Mentors, and Volunteers connect to ask questions and read answers
about the annual Game Challenge and/or participate in information sharing.
FIRST Tech Challenge Sponsors – FIRST Tech Challenge is grateful for our global sponsors. Read more
about FIRST Tech Challenge Sponsors.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
18 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
FIRST Tech Challenge Vendors – several companies provide materials to the FIRST Tech Challenge
program and Teams. These include the Kit of Parts vendors: Pitsco (TETRIX) and HiTechnic (MATRIX),
Modern Robotics, and Intelitek (Technology training materials).
Kickoff – the FIRST Tech Challenge season commences in early September with the annual Kickoff. Many
regions host Kickoff events. The FIRST Tech Challenge program release the Game Manual Part II and all
information about the Game Challenge on Kickoff Day via the Game Page.
Kit of Parts – materials Teams can purchase to use in building their Robots, choosing between TETRIX or
MATRIX, and purchasing the Android phones, sensors, and modules. Read more on the Registration and
Costs webpage. Read more in the Purchasing Robot Supplies section.
Mentor – anyone assisting the Team who is not a student Team member and works to help the Team achieve
their goals. Each Team must have two adult, screened Mentors. Coach and Mentor are used interchangeably.
Team – a group of students grades 7-12 who come together to form a Team, design, build, and compete with
a Robot in the annual FIRST Tech Challenge Game Challenge. Read more in the Building the Team section.
Team Email Blast – stay connected and get the latest news from FIRST Tech Challenge. Teams can sign up
in the Team Registration Portal where it is called “Email Broadcast”. For other ways to stay connected to
FIRST Tech Challenge, check out the FIRST Tech Challenge
Resources section of the Appendices.
Team Registration – an online platform where Mentors can
register, setup the Team’s account, order Kits, complete
payment, and manage Team information. Read detailed
information on the Information Management Systems Support
and Resources webpage.
Tournament –Teams compete against other Teams in
Tournaments. FIRST Tech Challenge Tournaments start as
early as October in some regions and culminate in the FIRST
Tech Challenge World Championships in April (event
seasons vary by region, but always start with the Kickoff in
September). Read more about the FIRST Tech Challenge
Tournament Structure and different Events, our season
timeline or visit the Events webpage.
Virtual Events – training calls and videos produced by the FIRST Tech Challenge staff as well as experts.
View the current schedule and past events on the Virtual Events website and more training videos on FIRST
Tech Challenge’s YouTube channel.
Volunteer Roles – all of FIRST relies on Volunteers throughout the season, including Mentors, but also
Tournament Volunteers. Read more on the FIRST Tech Challenge Volunteer Resources webpage.
Youth Registration– an online platform where parents/guardians can complete registration information for
their student. Housed on the Dashboard when you log into www.firstinspires.org.
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Season Timeline
The FIRST Tech Challenge in North America and Mexico is a year-long program, starting with Registration in
May and ending with the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championships in April. The Competition season varies
from region to region, but can start as early as October and run as long as March, for Teams that advance.
The following chart details the different aspects of the season and when they happen:
Apr.
Mar.
Feb.
Jan.
Dec.
Nov.
Oct.
Sept.
Aug.
July
June
May
Registration Opens
Pre-Season
Kickoff
Build and Practice Season
Qualifying Season
State/Regional Championships
Super-Regional Championships
World Championships
Be sure to refer to the Season Planning Tool in Appendix B.
For more information, refer to the FIRST Tech Challenge Season Timeline webpage.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
20 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
The Mentor Role
What is a Mentor?
Mentoring is an important part of the FIRST program and
largely contributes to the program’s success. If done
correctly, this learning process builds and expands Team
member's self-confidence as well as their knowledge. If
the process has a strong foundation and works properly,
adult Team members come away with as much as
students do. Read about one Mentor’s Impact in this
FIRST Tech Challenge blog post.
Every adult on a FIRST Team
is a Mentor, simply because
he or she leads through
guidance and example. It is
to remember
students need guidance,
structure, encouragement, and
most of all, a fun
A Mentor…
 Requires no special skills, but should have
patience, dedication, and a willingness to learn
alongside the Team.
 Is any person who works with the Team in his
or her area of expertise, for as little as one Team meeting or as many as all of them.
 Helps provide valuable support and serves as a resource in his or her area of specialty.
 Directs the process the Team follows to solve the yearly Game Challenge, without providing the
solution him or herself.
 Is a coach, teacher, motivator, and facilitator.
In FIRST Tech Challenge, it is important that Mentors and
students are equal and that the relationship is a
partnership. Each person works collaboratively towards a
mutual and beneficial goal. To succeed, all of the Mentors
and Team members must commit to this.
Each Team must have at least
two Mentors that are 18 years
old or older.
Mentors should also be willing to acquire some basic
knowledge of programming and Robot building. Many
Teams enlist the support of a technology teacher or
technical Mentor for additional assistance. FIRST strongly
encourages Teams to invite people with backgrounds in engineering and programming to share their
knowledge and experience with Teams.
Spectrum of Involvement
Each Team will need to determine the balance they require or desire between the Mentor coaching, helping, or
doing. This is true for running the Team, funding the
Team, and designing and building the Robot. FIRST Tech
Challenge does not outline rules or expectations for how
the Team should function and how much/how little a
For Mentors teaching FIRST
Mentor should be involved. Ideally, the Mentor will gauge
Tech Challenge, the spectrum
the needs of the Team and then slowly release
of involvement of the Mentor
responsibility to the Team so that the members build skills
may be based on the structure
and confidence. For more information on release of
of the course.
responsibility, read the Developing Leaders section of the
Manual.
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A Mentor’s role includes…
 Inspiring students in science and technology.
 Actively sharing knowledge and experience with the
Teams to help foster intellectual growth.
 Motivating and engaging students in meaningful
activities.
 Balancing effective work habits with FUN!
 Allowing students to do as much of the work as
possible.
 Encouraging the Team to welcome and include all
members.
 Providing students with opportunities to make choices,
both good and bad.
 Encouraging students to take risks and be inventive.
 Allowing and encouraging independent thought.
 Creating, encouraging, and facilitating open, honest
communication within the Team.
 Fostering a reciprocal environment of trust and respect
for every member and his or her ideas.
 Encouraging accountability within the Team.
 Facilitating Team activities and discussion.
 Developing roles within the Team.
 Coordinating help.
 Maintaining equipment and purchasing supplies.
 Communicating with Sponsor organizations.
 Registering for Competition(s).
 Planning and scheduling meetings, visits, and trips.
 Acting as a liaison between Team members, Mentors, parents, and Volunteers.

Informing students and parents about what is expected of them in terms of their commitment to the
Team each step of the way.

Being a champion for Gracious Professionalism and role modeling the principle within the Team.
Rewards of Mentoring
 Adults share simple concepts of teambuilding and cooperation they have learned through job
experiences, as well as their knowledge of specific, and perhaps complicated engineering tasks.
 Mentors grow and learn new perspectives from the young minds brainstorming and working under
their tutelage.
 Through teaching others, Mentors develop a greater understanding of their own area of expertise.
 Team members learn technical and organizational skills so well that they take on some Mentoring
roles.
 Young Mentors gain valuable work experience by training, coordinating, and facilitating in a
collaborative Team environment.
 Mentors strengthen their connections with the community in which they Mentor.
 Participation in FIRST is an overall amazing experience and a lot of fun!
 Create opportunities for student Team members to learn and grow and become. Watch John
Fogarty explain his FIRST experience and the impact it had on his life at the 2013 FIRST Tech
Challenge World Championships.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
22 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Possible Mentor Contributions
 Engineers can teach the Team the necessary skills for the Robot’s design, while demonstrating the
engineering design process.
 Programmers can teach the Team about programming principles and help the Teams to
troubleshoot programs.
 High school or college students can help Teams work through programming or design challenges,
share strategizing methods, and serve as role models.
 Marketing experts can teach students about promoting their Team to others, including other Teams,
Sponsors, or the local community.
 Graphic artists can provide advice on Team logos and T-shirts as well as website design,
promotional materials, etc.
 General Volunteers are valuable to help with scheduling meetings, providing transportation and
snacks, assisting with fundraising, or providing carpentry assistance for Field construction.
 Teachers and guidance counselors can help with Teambuilding, conflict resolution, or college and
career exploration and preparation.
The Teacher Mentor
Approximately 65% of FIRST Tech Challenge Mentors are also classroom teachers. Some teach FIRST Tech
Challenge in their robotics class, while others coach the Program as an after school club, and still others fall
somewhere in between on the spectrum of possibilities. In this instance, we are speaking specifically about the
Mentor teaching in the classroom.
While every FIRST Tech Challenge Mentor needs to know and uphold the policies and values of FIRST and
FIRST Tech Challenge, Teachers will need to also know, understand, and follow the policies of their school.
FIRST Tech Challenge has resources to help Teacher Mentors:




List of resources for Rookie Teacher Mentors
Standards Alignment Map (2012)
Gear Up with FIRST Tech Challenge in the Classroom! 2015 Virtual Summer Conference
Read more in the FIRST Tech Challenge in the Classroom section of this Manual.
The Mentor as a Facilitator
As a Mentor, it is important to be involved, but it is equally important to make sure the process is directed and
completed by students. Mentors differ in the amount of instruction they give their Teams. Some give very little,
and others give much more. While Mentors are often teachers, it is important that the role they play on a Team
be that of a facilitator. The difference is outlined below:


Teachers communicate knowledge they have learned on a given subject to one or more people,
Facilitators enable communication within a group so that everyone contributes knowledge and
experience toward the solution.
Students will gain the most from the experience if they are the driving force behind the actual Robot planning,
building, and programming. The Team should design and build the Robot with only limited assistance from
adult Mentors. This way, students may become complex problem solvers by finding solutions themselves and
developing confidence in their ability to do so.
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Students:
Are facilitators.
Are available to help the Team complete its
work.
Provide direction that support.
accomplishing tasks and Team success.
Help the Team stay focused on the jobs that
must be completed.
Help the Team communicate effectively and
improve the way members work together.





Are project managers.
Are directors.
Drive the goals of the Team.
Are creators, innovators and problem solvers
Make final decisions about Robot design and
strategy.
Note: Mentors must be directly involved when safety is a concern.
Read more tips on facilitating in Appendix C: 10 Steps to Being an Effective FIRST Tech Challenge Facilitator.
Advice for Mentors
Mentoring a Team can be one of the most rewarding
experiences in a person’s life. Like any great reward, it
involves a commitment of time and energy. However,
it should not be taken too seriously!
The goal of FIRST Tech Challenge is to help students
have fun with Robots while they become comfortable
with technology. Whether or not the Team is
successful at a competition, Team members win just
by participating.
In your Team’s rookie year, focus
on enjoying the first year of
participation as a survey of
program. The objective should be
to fully experience FIRST Tech
Challenge. Once a Team has a
positive experience, based on
realistic
your students will
overflow with ideas next
It is important for every adult to remember that there
are responsibilities that come with the adult/student
relationship. Young people look up to people they trust
and respect, and will look to Mentors as role models.
A Mentors' actions will be closely watched and their behavior will be perceived as appropriate. Be intentional
and conscientious in your behavior and language.
Prior to meeting with students, have a meeting with all Mentors to set expectations. This can give adults an
opportunity to ask questions they may not want to ask in front of the students, openly discuss topics such as
diversity, and discuss ideas and potential problems or concerns about working with young people. If this is a
school-affiliated Team and the school district has an individual who works with school or business
partnerships, they should be invited to this meeting to help answer questions.
FIRST Youth Protection Program has clear guidelines regarding adult and student interaction. Many school
districts and organizations that Teams are affiliated do as well. The Mentor must understand all of these
policies as well as how to enforce them, and communicate these policies to every adult working with the Team.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
24 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Twelve Basic Guidelines for Mentors
1. Be a mixture of honest guide and cool teacher.
2. Avoid the temptation to do the work or to deprive Team members of the
chance to discover the right answer on their own. Mentors should guide
a Team without directing it. This creates the best learning and growth
experiences for Team members.
3. A Mentor’s behavior and attitude can and will influence how a Team
chooses to respond to the environment around them throughout the
season and at events. Demonstrate and encourage GRACIOUS
PROFESSIONALISM at all times.
4. Foster discussions between all Team members and groups.
Discussions are critical for effective brainstorming and strategy
development.
5. Patience is a necessity. Practice it, especially with the most trying of
students.
6. Never use sarcasm while teaching or helping someone. A good Mentor
never resorts to sarcasm and anger to hasten the process of learning.
7. Mentoring is a two-way street. It is as much a job for a teacher as it is for a learner. Practice both with
equal humility.
8. Never let students indulge in fruitless activities during learning hours. Find something to teach in all
activities and try to make every activity an educational experience.
9. Infuse enthusiasm in every activity and part of the Challenge. To spur creativity, mix humor and a
passion for learning and discovery.
10. Get involved in technical and non-technical experiences. Be supportive to students in both regards.
11. Be the Team cheerleader, enthusiast, and leader. Happy Teams win accolades and learn the most.
12. Forging relationships and gaining friends are far more valuable experiences for Team members than
participating on an unhappy Team and gaining meaningless trophies.
Mentor Time Management
As a Mentor, additional time will be needed each week, beyond Team meetings, to prepare and coordinate the
tasks already discussed.
Effective Mentor Time Management
 Be aware of the Season Timeline and keep your Team focused on upcoming elements.
 Create a realistic meeting schedule. Consider personal and professional commitments, major
holidays, and school events.
 Keep a Team calendar posted in the work area. Note key dates, deadlines, and
meetings.
 Entries in the Team’s Engineering Notebook should coincide with these dates. See the
Engineering Notebook section of this Manual for more details.
 Have the Team contribute to the selection of deadlines for certain parts of the project, so that they
will feel ownership over the process and support Mentors in ensuring all deadlines are met.
 Do not accept procrastination. Be firm about deadlines and do not accept “we have plenty of time”
as an excuse for not getting things done. Refer to the calendar that was created with Team input
and regularly remind Team members of deadlines.
 Coach students on time management, including breaking larger tasks into smaller steps with
deadlines.
 Ask for help. Work with other Mentors, parent Volunteers, Mentors in training, and Team members
to accomplish Team goals, track progress, and meet requirements on time.
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Registering the Team
Registration
Registration for the FIRST Tech Challenge can be accomplished online through our FIRST webpage. New
users will be asked to provide contact information for the creation of a new Username and Password.
The following resources will be helpful in registering:

Information about registering can be found on the Register Your Team webpage.
Once logged in to the Team Registration, a user can:








Edit Team information.
Register for the season.
Apply for grants (if applicable).
Access the Storefront to pay season registration fees and order materials (see Purchasing Robot
Supplies below).
Once registered in the Team Registration, connect with your local Affiliate Partner for events (see
Registering for Events below).
Obtain Team access to the official FIRST forums.
Ensure that each Team member is registered and has obtained parent consent in the online Youth
Team Member Registration System. Read Information on registering Teams.
Print a Team Roster, which is required at check-in for Events. View a sample Team Roster in
Appendix D: Sample Team Roster.
Purchasing Robot Supplies
Once you have created a Team in our Team Registration, you will be able to purchase supplies or kits through
our FIRST Tech Challenge Storefront. This Storefront can be accessed multiple times and you are able to
purchase up to one item from each section. Registration is automatically placed in your Cart upon entry,
however, you are able to purchase supplies or kits at a later date if necessary. Read about the FIRST Tech
Challenge Kit of Parts Options.
Registering for Events
Once your Team is registered and paid for the season, you will be able
to register with the FIRST Tech Challenge Affiliate Partner in your
region to compete in Events in your area. There are a variety of Events
for Teams to compete in, so be sure to check out the Events webpage
for more information.
To find Events in your area, go to the FIRST Event Portal and select the
information that meets your regions criteria. Events are added from May
until October, sometimes even later, so be sure to keep checking back.
Each region offers varying numbers of Events and has different policies about how many Teams each Event
can have, how many events a Team can attend in the region, and whether they will allow Teams from outside
their region to participate. Be sure to contact your Affiliate Partner (info can be found in the FIRST Regional
Contacts Portal) for more information about the Events in your region.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
26 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Funding the Team
How much does it cost to have a team?
On average, it can cost from $2,000 - $4,000 for an FIRST Tech Challenge Team to get started. This amount
is variable, depending on the number of tournaments the
Team attends and how far they need to travel. Use the
modifiable budget in Appendix E: FIRST Tech Challenge
Sample Budget or on the Cost and Registration webpage
and the advice listed on how to reduce costs.
A typical FIRST Tech Challenge season costs may include:

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



$1,300 Rookie Team Kit-of-parts*
$275 - Team Registration Fee*
~$150 - Qualification Tournament Registration
(each Event)*
Extra tools & parts for the robot (variable)
Lodging and travel costs to attend tournaments
(variable)
Team T-shirts & flare (variable)
*These are required fees.
Business/Strategic Plans
Many Teams create a business plan which they include in their Engineering Notebook which outlines how the
Team is organized and their plan for Team sustainability. Your Team does not need to do a business plan,
however the business plan is required for a Team to be considered for some of the awards. It, and the
Engineering Notebook, are optional, but highly recommended. At the very least, the Team may find it useful
when creating goals, the strategies to accomplish the goals, and the necessary fundraising to sustain it.
Be sure to check out these resources:

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
Marketing and Business Strategies for FIRST Tech Challenge Teams (video)
FIRST Business Plan Overview training (video)
FIRST Tech Challenge Fundraising Guide
Appendix N: Sample Business Plan
How much funding do we need?
Before asking for any funding, your team should develop a plan that answers the following questions:

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


How much money does your Team need to get started and for what? (ie: a budget)
How much money does your Team need to sustain it for multiple years?
How much money does your Team plan to raise through fundraising efforts?
How much money does your Team anticipate raising through grant opportunities?
How much money/in-kind donations does your team plan to raise through sponsorship?
How will you promote a business/organization if you receive a sponsorship? (Logo on team t-shirts
and flare, etc.)
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Funding Sources
Teams are responsible for obtaining funds to sustain their Teams. Most Teams secure funding through a
combination of grants, fundraising activities, and sponsorships/private donations. While many Teams seek
funding for just one year, long-term funding can ensure there's continuing support for your Team. The following
sections provide both information and resources available to assist your Team in its fundraising efforts.
In addition, there are several comprehensive resources available to your Team, including:


Fundraising Resources webpage.
FIRST Tech Challenge Team Fundraising Virtual Event Training (video)
Fundraising
Teams use a variety of means to gather the funds they need each season. Some have support from their
school or sponsor organization (such as the Girl Scouts), but a lot of Teams rely on fundraising. This might
include:
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Team dues or parent donations.
Bake sales, car washes, tag sales, shirt sales (see Booster.com), etc.
Fundraising events, such as Uno’s Dough Raisers, where local restaurants donate a portion of the
night’s sales.
Fundraising campaigns, such as Tupperware, where a certain amount of the sales profits collected
by the Team are donated.
Creating and selling team “swag” – for example, some Teams 3D print key chains, etc to sell.
Many websites now exist for “crowd sourcing”, where a group posts their fundraising goal and asks
family, friends, and strangers on the internet to help them with their fundraising efforts. Examples
include GoFundMe or GiveForward.
For more tips, check out this list on SignUpGenius.
Grants
A grant is money that is being given by a business or organization with a specific purpose. For example, there
are grants for teachers to help them pay for field trips. Most grants have an application process that requires
time and work to complete and they usually want to know a lot of information about your Team and how you
will be using the money. There is a lot of grant money available, and sometimes people do not know about the
opportunity or just don’t apply. For FIRST Teams, there are a few places to find grant money.
FIRST Tech Challenge is supported by a strong network of businesses, foundations, educational and
professional institutions, and individuals that provide grants and other levels of support. When funding is
available, FIRST Tech Challenge offers grants to Teams. Read more on the FIRST Tech Challenge Grants
webpage.
To learn more about regional grants available for FIRST Tech Challenge Teams in your area, contact your
local Affiliate Partner. Use the Regional Contacts tool to find their e-mail address.
Lastly, lots of companies and organizations offer grants for new initiatives. This will require a lot of research
and filling out paperwork, including a grant proposal, but it is really worth the effort. Be prepared to hear no
each time you ask, but don’t give up! The more you ask, the closer you get to someone saying yes!
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
28 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
For more tips, check out the following online
resources:

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CESA #2
STEMgrants.com
GrantWrangler.com
Afterschool Alliance
STEMfinity
Connect with other Teachers and
staff in your school or district,
especially the Guidance
Department staff. They may be able
to connect you with other
resources or be willing to help coMentor or support the Team.
Sponsors
Local businesses and other organizations often want
to sponsor local Teams, because:
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FIRST Tech Challenge Teams support the employment pipeline and the local economy.
FIRST Tech Challenge prepares students to work as part of a team while nurturing leadership skills.
FIRST Tech Challenge helps students identify and become proficient with problem solving
methods.
FIRST Tech Challenge builds confidence in students.
FIRST Tech Challenge provides opportunities to promote their business or organization.
FIRST Teams are encouraged to seek sponsorships not only to help fund the purchase of the Competition
equipment and registration fees and maintain Team longevity, but also to highlight the collaboration with
businesses and other organizations. Sponsorship can be done on a variety of levels, including cash donations,
item donations (ie: tools from a hardware store), or in-kind donations (ie: a company might embroider your
Team T-shirts for free). Have a list of what you are in need of prior to asking for sponsorship.
Start by asking your Team to make a list of businesses and organizations that they have a personal
relationship with. Possibilities include:
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A business owned by a family member
or friend.
A business in which your family or
friends are employed.
A business they regularly visit (dentist,
restaurant, etc.).
A business or organization that strongly
supports the FIRST mission.
Parent/teacher organizations.
Local groups such as the Elks Lodge,
Kiwanis, or IBEW, etc.
Keep in mind that most Sponsors make donations
because they are personally asked by someone
they know. If you don’t ask, you will never know if
they are willing and able to support your Team!
When collecting Sponsors, remember that a cash donation, an in-kind donation, or an item donation are all
equally helpful and should receive your Team’s thanks and ongoing support. Some Teams write thank you
cards and send photos, some put Sponsor logos on their shirts, websites, or Pit displays, other Teams send
end-of-the-season reports and explain how the Team did and how the sponsorship helped, and still other
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Teams give gifts to their Sponsors. While each of these are nice (and you should always thank your Sponsors
in some way), most Sponsors are more excited about supporting your Team than receiving the benefits.
Program Sponsors
FIRST Tech Challenge Global Sponsors Rockwell Collins and PTC receive recognition at each official FIRST
Tech Challenge Event. Rockwell Collins is the Official Program Sponsor, PTC is the CAD and Collaboration
Sponsor, and Qualcomm is the Official Control System Sponsor. Teams do not need to do any additional
recognition for these Sponsors unless their Team receives additional support from Rockwell Collins or PTC.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
30 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
FIRST Tech Challenge in the Classroom
Lots of Mentors are teachers using FIRST Tech Challenge in their classroom in part or full. We surveyed the
FIRST Tech Challenge community in the Spring of 2015 and learned quite a bit about our Teacher Mentor
community. For example, they not only teach: Math, Science, Engineering, and Technology, but also:
Business, English, Art, Humanities, and Special Education, primarily in grades 10-12. We also learned that
while one third of the respondents do not use FIRST Tech Challenge in their classroom, they want to. Whether
a Teacher Mentor is currently using the Program in the classroom or hopes to in the near future, the message
was clear that they would like some support to be successful in using FIRST Tech Challenge in the classroom.
Classroom Resources
Like all teachers, FIRST Tech Challenge Teacher Mentors need more money, more time, more space, and
more support to be successful. It is our goal that the many resources in this Manual provide some of the
support Teacher Mentors are seeking. If you are a Teacher Mentor doing something awesome in your
classroom or you have a suggestion for improving or adding to our existing materials, please email
ftcteams@firstinspires.org. Here are some resources for FIRST Tech Challenge Teacher Mentors:
Standards
 FIRST Standards Alignment Report (2012)
 FIRST Tech Challenge Standards Alignment Map (2015) – includes Common Core Math, Common
Core English, Next Generation Science Standards, and the 21st Century Learning Skills.
 The International Engineering Educators Association Standards Alignment Map (out 2016).
Teacher Mentor Training
 FIRST Tech Challenge virtual summer conference: Gear Up with FIRST Tech Challenge In the
Classroom!
 Mentor 101 training (video)
 Building Teams that Build Robots (coming soon)
 FIRST Tech Challenge in the Classroom Resources
Classroom Tools
 Intelitek Training for Teams
 Intelitek Training for Teams – App Inventor – 5 hours of content
 Intelitek Training for Teams – Android Studio (Java Programming) – 12 hours of content
 PushBot Build Guide
 Appendix P: FIRST Tech Challenge Case Studies
STEM Connections
 FIRST Tech Challenge's Real World Robots
blog series
 FIRST Tech Challenge Engaging Girls in
STEM video
 FIRST Tech Challenge’s Networking Tips
blog
 FIRST Tech Challenge's FIRST Ladies blog
 The Connectory’s list of STEM Resources
The Teaching Tolerance website
has great classroom resources
that also focus on diversity and
inclusion of the content and
instructional practices.
College and Career Resources for Students
 FIRST Scholarship Program and Search website
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FIRST Scholarship Resources webpage
FIRST Alumni and Internships webpage
Scholarships and Looking Ahead to College Virtual Event (video)
FIRST Tech Challenge blog post: FIRST Scholarships: It’s Not Hard, but it Can be Hard to Get
Started
Read more in the Career and College Preparation section of this Manual.
Share and Loan
Teachers often get ideas from other Teachers, and to help foster a community of sharing, FIRST Tech
Challenge has created space on the FIRST Tech Challenge Forum for Teachers to ask questions or each
other and share what they are doing. Many Affiliate Partners have resources for Teachers, so be sure to reach
out to your local Affiliate Partner. They may also be able to facilitate an in-person workshop or training
specifically for Teachers (some already do). FIRST Tech Challenge also has a FIRST Tech Challenge
Facebook group which is another way you could connect with other Teacher Mentors online.
Teacher to Teacher Classroom Resources online
Here are just a few websites that offer resources to Teachers to use in their classrooms, often created by
Teachers. Some are free, some are not:
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PBS Teacher Resources
Teachers Pay Teachers
Discovery Education
Edutopia
Library of Congress Teacher Resources
National Archives
National Science Teachers Association Resources
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32 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Building the Team
Team Identity and Spirit
There is more than just camaraderie on FIRST Tech Challenge Teams. Many Teams become extended
families, with strong, lasting relationships. Students and adults absorb knowledge from each other and grow
through a teambuilding and learning process from
which everyone benefits. Read this FIRST Tech
Challenge blog post about The Importance of
It is important to ensure that the
Teamwork.
Team dynamic remains positive,
supportive, engaging, and above all,
FIRST Tech Challenge Teams and their members
fun. Throughout the experience,
come from a variety of backgrounds. New Teams
Team members will face long hours
should not expect to be like every other Team, and
and days working on the Robot and
experienced Teams should not expect to be the same
Awards submissions. Whenever
from year to year. Each Team will have a different set
possible and appropriate, keep the
of skills, experience, and ways of doing things. Each
atmosphere friendly and add
member of the Team impacts the dynamic and
laughter.
capabilities of the Team, so each time a new member
joins, the Team dynamic will change a little. Take time
to get to know each other and find an approach and
style that suits the Team and its goals.
Teams are encouraged to develop and promote Team identity. It helps to unite the Team and develop a sense
of belonging and group pride. It is also a great way to help Judges, announcers, and audiences to recognize a
particular Team at a competition. It can also help Teams create a “buzz” about what they are doing in their own
communities. Read more in Building Teams That Build Robots section.
Encourage Team identity by creating and adding the Team name and logo to Robots, T-shirts, or hats. Create
a Team cheer, banner, or website and hand out fliers or other giveaways that will make the Team memorable.
Team Overview
When organizing a Team, consider Team size, diversity,
age and skill level, as well as time commitment and
scheduling. Remember, Teams grow and change as
student interests and abilities develop, and as they move
through the educational system. Be prepared for roles
and responsibilities to shift throughout and between
seasons. What a Team member was interested in last
year might change as they grow confident and look to
explore new opportunities.
Teams can be formed in any environment and need not
come solely from a school. Organizations such as Boy
Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H Clubs, church youth
organizations, home school communities, or a group of
interested students are excellent starting points to form
FIRST Tech Challenge Teams.
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Team Size
Every Team is different and there is no "ideal" number of students on a Team. Ultimately, the size of a Team is
based upon the Mentor’s preference and the interest of the students. You also want to ensure that every
student has an active role that they love, and has the ability
to learn other roles: too large of a Team and this becomes
harder to do, while too small of a Team may end up with
Team members being overwhelmed with too much
If you have a single-sex
responsibility. Strive to achieve the right size balance for
Team, try to find ways to
your Team. In addition, some events will have a 10 student
partner with other Teams in
limit for access to the Pit area, so larger Teams should
order for your Team to get
define Team member roles clearly in advance.
experience working with all
genders.
 The minimum number of students is 1.
 The recommended number of students is 10.
 The maximum number of students allowed is 15.
Age Range
A FIRST Tech Challenge Team is made up of pre-college students designed for students in grades 7-12.
Students cannot be older than high school-aged if they are a participating Team member. College students
and others who have completed high school are welcome to participate in the role of Mentor or Coach.
Some Mentors find that it is best to stay within a four-year age-span for Team members. Depending on the age
and maturity level of the Team, there may be social and developmental differences with mixed-age Teams.
This can work as an advantage, but Mentors should be prepared to deal with Team members from a variety of
levels.
Note: Some younger students may be comfortable with the technology and eager to participate. However, the
head-to-head nature of the Competition may be overwhelming for younger students. Mentors with younger
students should be sure to discuss the nature of the FIRST Tech Challenge Competition and prepare students
for developing offensive, defensive, and other game strategy skills.
Time Commitment
Time commitment for Mentors and Team members will vary with experience and a Team's dynamics. It is
important to discuss duties, time commitment, meeting times, and dates up front. If students cannot make a
reasonable number of meetings, Mentors need to consider this. The level of commitment should be generally
the same among all Team members. If the Team commitment is not high, the Mentor should not step in and
complete the work: the Team needs to learn to take responsibility for the project and completing it, or not if that
is the case.
Creating a meeting schedule should be a Team effort and should take into consideration the students’ ages,
school schedules, and their level of experience in FIRST Tech Challenge. Set the Team’s schedule according
to its goals. For example, a rookie Team may require longer, more frequent meetings. Read more in the
Mentor Time Management section of this Manual.
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34 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Time commitment guidelines:
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FIRST Tech Challenge recommends starting with
two shorter meetings, or one longer meeting per
week during the Teambuilding stage.
During the design and build phase, meetings
should take place more frequently, as indicated
by the Team’s needs. Depending on the role
division, not every Team member may need to be
at every meeting.
Sessions lasting 2-3 hours are generally the most
productive.
On a 6-8 week schedule, plan to have the Team
meet for at least 10 hours per week.
If an Event is scheduled more than eight weeks
from the Kickoff date, a less intensive schedule
can be created.
Finding Team Members
When recruiting students for a Team, it is important to understand the population of the school or local
community and focus recruiting efforts on attracting a broad range of students. Make sure recruiting efforts
reach a cross-section of the school or community. Recruiting new students based on status on the honor roll or
membership in the Science Club automatically limits the number of potential applicants. Recruit by targeting
the entire school and welcoming individuals with different skills and experience. Include and encourage a
diverse range of individuals to help with recruiting. Students are more likely to be interested in participating if
they see and hear someone with whom they can identify.
Suggestions for Recruiting Students
 Use FIRST videos that show a diverse population of students having fun.
 Hang posters in the school, at the local library, in businesses and organizations, especially at/in
Sponsor organizations.
 Publish notices in the local paper.
 Include promotional materials in school
When planning your
newsletters or on school web sites.
recruitment, think about what
 Hold a student assembly where there is a
you can do to attract a wide
FIRST Tech Challenge video and a demo.
pool of candidates, such as
 Have a local or previous year’s Team put on a
reaching out to diverse groups
demonstration at a school or community
in your area.
event.
 Give an overview of FIRST Tech Challenge in
a series of classes where a variety of students
are enrolled.
 Engage adults from local corporations, university students, and FIRST Alumni to speak about the
value of participation.
 Enlist FIRST Alumni and participants on other FIRST Teams to spread the word.
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Selection Criteria
The number of students who wish to join a Team will likely
be more than the Team can accommodate. Use a variety of
criteria to select them. Make sure that the criteria used for
selection will not exclude students who could potentially
make valuable contributions to the Team.
Effective selection criteria might include:
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Using Grade Point Average
as the sole criteria for
selection may potentially
exclude eager students who
could
benefit from the
A minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) such as
2.0, as opposed to selecting students with the
highest grade point average. Keep in mind that
some of the best kids to have on the Team may not have a great GPA.
Commitment or interest in a STEM field of study or career.
Recommendations from teachers, coaches, supervisors, employers, or community members, etc.
A strong commitment to the meeting schedule, without conflicting commitments to other teams,
clubs, or employers.
Diversity of backgrounds, skills, or experience will create depth to the Team.
When there are more students who meet the minimum criteria for participation than there are spots on the
Team, it will be necessary to decide which of the students will be invited to participate. Be as objective as
possible in the selection of Team members. Think about Team growth and development over time. Encourage
students who may not have been selected this season to participate in upcoming seasons when spots on
Teams may open up or interest levels may prompt the establishment of new Teams.
If you have a large pool of interested students, consider starting additional Team(s) to accommodate the
interest. Many schools have multiple Teams and Mentors should consider creating additional Teams when
possible. Adults can be recruited to act as Mentors or existing Mentors may choose to start a second Team
themselves.
Finding Team Mentors
Anyone can be an FIRST Tech Challenge Mentor. Time and interest are the only requirements. As with the
Team, having a diverse pool of Mentors only benefits the Team. Some Mentors bring business expertise, some
technical expertise, some are great at marketing, while others have leadership skills with experience in building
strong teams. An FIRST Tech Challenge Team can use all of these skills.
Each Team will need at least two screened, committed adults to see them through the season from start to
finish, but these do not have to be Mentors with technical
skills. Mentors can recruit other adults to serve a shorter
time commitment and act as technical Mentors. For
example, a Team might need help with wiring their Robot, so
they find an electrician who comes in for two meetings to
help them learn wiring skills and perfect their wiring plan.
Note: the electrician does not solve the problem.
Lots of adults will want to help the Team, but be unable to
commit to the whole season, so understanding the strengths
and weaknesses of the lead Mentors and the Team’s needs
will help to identify the areas where additional support will be
needed. Target your recruiting efforts to those areas.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
36 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Recruiting Mentors
Mentors may be parents, teachers, engineers, college students, Scout leaders, FIRST Alumni, or members of
the local community.
When recruiting a Mentor, be sure to consider diversity. Young people may be more comfortable if there are
Mentors on the Team with backgrounds similar to their own. Students can also learn a great deal from
individuals with varied life, work, and learning experiences. Below are just some tools which may be used to
recruit a diverse group of Mentors.
Recruiting New Technical Mentors
Always start by identifying the help you need and the time commitment that assistance will require. Some folks
are happy to help if they know it will only require a few hours from them.
It’s important that you know your community. Truly, a wonderful technical member could be anywhere, just
waiting for you to ask them for help! Start by polling your Team’s parents and families and see if there are any
technical Mentors in that group. Also, many Mentors from FIRST® LEGO® League and FIRST® Robotics
Competition would be happy to support a FIRST Tech Challenge Team, so ask the other FIRST Teams in your
area, including other FIRST Tech Challenge Teams. Some Teams or Mentors might also be willing to skype
and offer assistance long-distance.
If you are still unable to locate the help you need, try these locations:
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High school teachers or college professors
Leaders of community organizations, such as the IBEW
Leading corporations in local communities, such as Rockwell Collins or PTC
Local chapters of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME): http://www.asme.org
Senior Corps: http://www.seniorcorps.org
Society for Women Engineers (SWE): http://www.swe.org
National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE): http://www.nsbe.org
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE): http://www.shpe.org
Recruiting New Non-Technical Mentors
Some Teams don’t need technical help; they need man-power for printing, stapling, painting, coloring, driving
to events, cleaning, fundraising, etc. Or they might need help developing a Business Plan or to talk about
college and career preparation. As mentioned earlier, always start by identifying the help you need and the
time commitment that assistance will require. Some folks are happy to help if they know it will only require a
few hours from them or if they can do the work while watching their favorite TV program at night.
Next, ask the Team members and their families, or the other FIRST Teams in your area, including other FIRST
Tech Challenge Teams. If you are still unable to locate the help you need, try these locations:
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Teachers, coaches, school administrators
Community organizations, including Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, but also Elks
Club, Kiwanis Club, etc.
Leading corporations in local communities, whether technical or not. Lots of companies encourage
their employees to volunteer.
Senior Corps.
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Additional Suggestions for Recruiting Adults
 Be sure to recruit new adults Mentors each
year as well as new students. This will help
add talent and new ideas to the Team, curb
If your Team is a diverse mix of
the tendency to do things in the same
students, consider reaching out
manner in which they have always been
to potential Mentors with some
done, and keep repeat Mentors from
of the diverse qualities of the
becoming exhausted or burnt out.
students to provide positive role
 Encourage parents to get involved. Even
models. For example, an all-girl
parents without technical careers or
Team might recruit a female
experience can help students with other
engineer to Mentor the Team.
tasks including preparation for public
speaking with Judges or Sponsors, creating
Pit decorations, marketing, publicity, or
fundraising.
 If your Team is affiliated with a school, organization, or church, see if other adults in that community
would be willing to help.
 Never turn down an offer to help. During outreach efforts, adults might come forward and ask to
become involved. Find out where their strengths lie and determine how they can best help the
Team.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
38 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Team Meetings
It is important to set a regular schedule and procedure for
Team meetings. Make sure all Mentors, Team members,
and parents are aware of commitments and the procedure
to be followed at meetings. For more tips, refer to the
Mentor Time Management section and the Time
Commitment section of this Manual.
Teams can meet anywhere that is appropriate. For a
school-based program, the school itself is ideal. Schools
usually have the computers and space to set up a Playing
Field (for more information on setting up a Playing Field,
refer to the Game documents available on The FIRST Tech
Challenge Game webpage). Depending on the situation,
Teams may also meet in a private home, a meeting hall, or
a company conference room.
Things to consider:
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Be sure that planned activities and work hours do not conflict with the host’s use of the space.
Evening or weekend use of the building may require special authorization. Be sure to ask
permission to use the site’s computers to program the Team’s Robot. Before installing software,
check with the site host.
Schools may require background checks for any adults working in the school. These take time. Ask
the site to explain any adult supervision and child safety requirements to Team Mentors.
Select a work place that has as many of the following as possible:
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Internet access
Enough space to host the entire Team, the computers, and all supplies.
A secure place to store the parts and partially assembled Robot between Team meetings.
Good lighting, at least in the work table area.
Simple sets of tools for working with parts.
Work tables and chairs.
Space for at least a partial practice Field. Room on the ends will be needed for drivers. Note: a fullsized Field is 12’ X 12’.
Working with the Site Host
Meet with the person in charge of the host site and ask for a Volunteer to act as liaison between the Team and
host. Explain the concept behind FIRST Tech Challenge, and that the benefits of having a Team extend far
beyond the Team members. Email a progress report to the liaison once or twice a week and ask that he or she
update others at the site about the Team’s progress.
Meetings
At the first Team meeting, outline a list of rules and procedures to be followed throughout the coming weeks.
Work with students to establish these rules and explain that some are inflexible (such as rules about safety,
Gracious Professionalism, or respect), and other rules may be open to revision as the Team evolves and
discovers new approaches to problems or procedural challenges (such as who completes documentation tasks
in the Engineering Notebook and at what point in the meeting this occurs).
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General Guidelines for Effective Meetings
 Maintain an accurate email list that includes parents.
 Start and end on time. This helps parents and lets
Check out Building
students know that punctuality is important and that
Teams that Build Robots
time must be used effectively.
for more tips on using
 Keep most meetings in the range of 2-3 hours. This is
Team meeting time.
long enough to get organized and accomplish
something, but focused enough that students do not
lose interest. Aim to meet for about five hours per
week, starting immediately after the new Game is announced. Time management is a key factor in
a Team’s success.
 Toward the end of the season, meetings may need to be longer for testing and repairs to the Robot.
 If a meeting is right after school, have a snack ready at the start. (This also may help ensure
students will show up on time). Make clear rules about eating and drinking near the Robot, tools,
and Playing Field.
 Schedule approximately 15 minutes at the start of each meeting for a check-in or Teambuilding
activity to set the tone for the group and how you will use your time together.
 Schedule approximately 15 minutes at the end of every meeting for clean-up. If some Team
members are going to stay and work longer, clean-up should still be complete at the end of the
normal time. This should include maintenance such as sweeping the floor, cleaning up from snack
time, and dumping trash. In terms of clean-up, Teams should be encouraged to pick up after
themselves. The Coach should do nothing more than lock doors when the Team is done.
 Take pictures of Team meetings and events. Use a checklist of Team members so there is a few
pictures of each student.
Setting Expectations
 Clearly communicate meeting schedules. Meeting notices should go out weekly, at least a day
before the meeting. Include a short description of the purpose of the meeting, but keep emails brief
and to the point.
 Take attendance at the beginning of each meeting. Set clear expectations for participation from the
first meeting and follow up with Team members who are frequently absent. Not every meeting will
involve every student. Some meetings may focus on programming, while others may focus on
driver training.
 Keep students aware of deadlines. At the beginning of
each meeting, have a brief progress review and set the
objectives for the day. Document objectives and
progress in the Engineering Notebook at the end of each
meeting.
 Identify what the Team is working to accomplish and
establish criteria for agreement as necessary. It is also a
good idea to write the objectives for the day on a board,
a large piece of paper, or another visually prominent
place in the workspace. This will help students stay
focused throughout the meeting.
 Review the Team’s Engineering Notebook, Team goals,
and the Team calendar weekly to see if the Team is on
track.
 Ensure students are sharing tasks.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
40 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Working Together
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Have some Teambuilding activities to help all members of the Team get to know each other and
some of their key interests.
Teach members how to organize the tools and parts according to an established system, or have
the Team agree on a system of its own. Label the locations for storing different items.
Use brainstorming techniques to get input from everyone and write down all ideas. Weigh
alternatives against the objective criteria that have been previously established. Some common
techniques are weighted voting, combining similar ideas, testing the feasibility of an idea, and group
consensus.
Write down any decisions and state which ones will be implemented.
Be sure to ask if there is anyone who does not understand the solution/plan.
Implement the selected solution and make sure what is put into practice meets the original intent.
Communication and Brainstorming Tools for Meetings
All students learn differently. Many students come to FIRST Tech Challenge lacking skills and/or confidence
and the Team can be a great way for them to gain both. Intentional choices by the Mentors to organize the
Team and meeting times in ways that are professional, effective, and inclusive will role model to the students
the skills you are trying to teach. Use the tools below to facilitate instruction and learning at meetings or
competitions.
Language Tools
Use a variety of approaches to get students to contribute to the conversation. These words and phrases will
help facilitate the group, work with all learning styles, and encourage the Team members to use logical thinking
skills. Consider...
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What would happen if?
What do you think?
How do you think we should approach this?
How do you suppose?
Think about what might make…
Visualize...
What could we try?
Compare...
Learning Styles
 When people use their senses, they take in information and they learn. Some people learn best by
seeing something, others by hearing, and others by hands-on activity. For many people, it is a
combination, but one style of learning probably dominates the others. It is important to understand
the characteristics of these different styles in order to reach every person.
 Talk to students about the way they learn and about which experiences are the most effective and
engaging for them. Use a free online test like Edutopia’s Multiple Intelligences Test to help if they
are not sure what works best.
 If the majority of the group uses a particular learning style, be careful not to always use the style.
You can help them develop other learning styles, push them out of their comfort zone, and be
inclusive of all learner styles in the group by diversifying the strategies you use.
 Some students work best on their own. Be mindful of balancing the amount of group work time and
individual work time.
 Read Tolerance.Org’s Civil Discourse in the Classroom for tips on facilitating group discussions
(effective whether your Team is a classroom Team or not).
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Team Roles
The FIRST Tech Challenge program incorporates a lot of
skills and tasks which allows for a tremendous amount of
individual and Team growth. However, without proper
management of roles and responsibilities of Team members,
it will be very easy for the Team to get overwhelmed or off
track. Proper division of labor will allow the Team to leverage
individual strengths and skills, but also allow for each
member to also develop new skills. As such, most FIRST
Tech Challenge Team members take on multiple roles. It is
suggested that each student be on at least two subgroups:
one in which he or she shows strength, and one in which he
or she can learn from others.
Be cautious of stereotyping.
For example, a girl should
not be handed the
Engineering Notebook and
told that she is in charge of
writing and
It may be beneficial to rotate roles so that everyone has an opportunity to try different tasks. Students often
discover they enjoy a new or unfamiliar task. This can also prevent boys and girls from falling into stereotypical
gender roles.
Student Responsibilities
Some Team members will quickly reach a point where they can work independently, while other Team
members may need more direct support from an adult Mentor for a longer period of time. Do not judge how
quickly they move from one phase to the next. Keep in mind that everyone is an individual, comes from a
different background, learns at a different rate, and in different ways. Celebrate and facilitate each person’s
accomplishments, both large and small. All students on the Team, regardless of their experience or skill level,
should be working towards the same collective goals.
All students are expected to:
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Commit to the project.
Work towards an improved understanding of science and technology.
Understand the engineering principles and process.
Be held accountable for their roles on the Team.
Take individual responsibility for their assigned tasks.
Develop trust and respect for adult and student Team members.
Augment their skills.
Learn to prioritize work effectively.
Learn when to ask for help or clarification.
Complete tasks with a high level of independence.
To keep students engaged and challenged throughout the process, it may be beneficial to move them into
roles of greater responsibility, or to take on the role of Mentor to other Team members, or other Teams.
The peak of the Mentoring process occurs when a Team member develops the skills, both technical and
people-oriented, necessary to widen the skill circle to include mentoring others.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
42 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Assigning Team Roles and Responsibilities
 Discuss responsibilities with the whole Team.
 Be specific when talking about each individual’s role and
responsibilities.
 Team members will usually have ideas about what they
want to do; programming (building, research, marketing,
etc.), but be aware of the student who might be pushed
out of doing what he or she really wants to do.
 Also, be mindful of those who avoid certain tasks.
 Remind the students often about the importance of
collaboration, teamwork, and sharing the load.
 Instead of assigning roles, think of ways to accomplish
this so that Team members feel as though they have a
part in the process. Talk about skill sets, projects, and
sub-projects, sub-Teams, enjoyment, time constraints,
and rules set by the school or by FIRST.
 Challenge students. Encourage Team members to push
the limits of their own comfort level and to try something
new.
 Make sure that everyone has a clear understanding of his or her roles and responsibilities.
 Recognize that Team members will graduate or move on. Key positions should be staffed with a
veteran and an understudy whenever possible, as replacements will eventually be needed. This will
help to ensure long-term Team strength and development.
 Help students prioritize their roles and tasks. Get students involved in the creation of timelines and
the identification of key milestones. Help them to connect key tasks and roles that are associated
with the completion of each milestone.
Appendix F: FIRST Tech Challenge Team Roles outlines several examples of the roles or sub-Teams that are
often established on a Team. Remember, students should be on more than one sub-Team. Make decisions
that work best for the Team, but also make an effort to balance leadership.
Developing Leaders
One of the key outcomes of FIRST Tech Challenge, beyond the Robots and STEM skills, is the invaluable life
skills Team members develop, including a variety of leadership skills, such as:
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Positive Attitude
Responsibility
Working in groups
Decision-making and delegation
Time management
Organization
Planning and problem-solving
Self-motivation and motivating others
Professionalism
Written and oral communication
Adaptability
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In addition to benefitting students’ personal and professional
growth, developing leadership qualities in each Team
member will benefit the Team. First, having a strong pool of
"Leadership and learning are
qualified members allows the entire Team to reach for
indispensable to each other."
bigger goals. Second, it fosters Team longevity and
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy
prevents Mentor burnout. When veteran members reach out
and recruit new members, they are provided with
opportunities to lead and the support they provide allow the
Mentors to focus their attention on other Team management
tasks. When Team members help other Team members, it fosters a positive environment of support and
camaraderie from which everyone benefits.
Developing strong leadership skills requires good Mentoring, including role-modeling and providing
opportunities for growth. Some people will take on challenges, others might require encouragement, and still
others will require it to be given to them. No matter how it is done, once faced with a challenge, Team
members will require support in the form of encouragement, resources, and feedback from their Mentors. A
good primer on challenge and support is available online here:
http://www.wilderdom.com/theory/GrowthChallengeSupport.html.
A key factor to developing leaders is to allow students to take on more responsibility and ownership as they
progress. Over time, members of the Team grow in knowledge and understanding, and are able to teach and
guide others on the Team. Read this 2015 FIRST Championship Conference on Building Leadership.
It is important to foster a safe learning environment for
Team members. Students should be encouraged to be
creative and experimental. Mentors should emphasize that
students should be comfortable with both the idea of
success and of failure as an important part of the process of
discovery and innovation.
There are many resources available on the web which will
be useful to Mentors as they work on developing leadership
skills among the Team. Here is just one example:
http://leadership.uoregon.edu/resources/exercises_tips.
Team members should be coached on the concept of selfefficacy and how Achievement Starts with Belief. There are
also lots of great quotes, poems, and inspiration items on
the web as well. Try doing a google search of “leadership
quotes” and sharing one at the beginning or end of each
meeting to promote an atmosphere that focuses on
leadership qualities.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
44 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Transferring Ownership to Students
In certain areas, the Mentor becomes a sustainer rather than a teacher. This is an example of transferring
ownership from Mentor to Student, which allows the students and others to initiate and complete tasks.
The four simple steps below describe this transition. In this
process, the Mentor gradually passes responsibility to the
student. The Mentor begins the process by demonstrating a task
while a student observes. The process is complete when the
same student is able to perform the task independently as the
Mentor observes.
1.
2.
3.
4.
I do, you watch.
I do, you help.
You do, I help.
You do. I watch.
In the classroom, students
look to Teachers as having
all the answers and the
power, because of the way
traditional grading works.
Teachers can still
relinquish some
responsibility for learning
and grading to students
by: including selfassessments; peer
reviews; design-your-own
projects; and even Job
Shadowing projects.
When transferring ownership to the student
 Be sure he or she is fully prepared and knows the
subject well.
 Provide encouragement and make sure he or she is
comfortable and wants to shift to a Mentoring role.
 Inform the rest of the participants of what is
happening regarding the shift. This will curb ideas
that the new Mentor is assuming a role not assigned.
 Provide supportive feedback as they develop in the Mentoring role.
Through Mentoring and facilitation, students learn how to complete various tasks. As a result, the student has
a clear understanding of the skills and is able to answer any questions relevant to them. This process results in
more time for the Mentor, now able to assume more of an observer role, and allows the student to work as a
Mentor to other students.
This Team evolution not only builds trust and respect, but can also help prevent Mentor burnout. As students
who were Team members move into the role of Mentor, it also encourages new Team members or
underclassmen that may be unsure of their capabilities to join, participate, and add new life to the Team.
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Teambuilding
Creating a Positive Team Dynamic
There is a lot at stake during each of the Competition
stages so developing an environment of trust and
respect between all Team members is a priority and is
part of the Mentor’s role. Mentors set the tone for the
Team dynamic through their own demeanor, actions, and
words. Everyone on the Team needs to know all Team
members are valued and they are honest, respectful,
and dependable. Stress this point at the very first
meeting and encourage this attitude among the Team
members throughout the season. Remember, every
Team should work towards a balance of work effectiveness and FUN!
The true goals of FIRST Tech Challenge have very little to do with winning medals or trophies. If a Team can
look back at the end of the season and say even one of the following, they have succeeded.






We learned how useful and fun math and science can be.
We did something we did not think we could do.
We respected and considered ideas from everyone on the Team.
We helped our community.
We figured out how to manage time, deal with setbacks, and/or communicate ideas.
We had fun!
Remember to take breaks for snacks, games, and getting to know each other. Breaks should be timed to
maintain productivity, but students should be granted some freedom in how they spend that time. Student
managers can be assigned the task of timing the breaks and refocusing the Team afterward.
Keys to Creating a Positive Team Dynamic
1. Teambuilding
 Many Teams have Teambuilding events and
other activities prior to January so new Team
Choose activities that are
members can get to know each other in a fun
accessible and welcoming
and relaxed environment. These activities can
to every Team member. One
help make Team members more comfortable
way to do this is to ask each
and can build the foundation of a good working
member what activity they
relationship.
like, and then trying to do
as many as possible
 Teambuilding exercises allow members to
throughout the season.
communicate feelings in a positive and healthy
way, and encourage Gracious Professionalism
as they work together toward a common goal.
 Letting students have fun together allows them
to develop communication skills and respect, leading to smoother progress when work resumes.
 Encourage laughter. Laughter builds camaraderie and diffuses tension.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
46 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual

Host a Teambuilding night to showcase talents
and hobbies. Have students and Mentors be
prepared to share information about themselves
in an informal atmosphere. Possible activities
include a karaoke night or talent show, a pizza
party or spaghetti dinner, or a simple games
night.
Encourage Team members to
communicate with each other,
not through the Mentors.
2. Mutual Trust and Respect
 Relationships between all Team members, including the relationship between Team members and
Mentors, should be based on common goals and should build on mutual trust and respect
throughout the season.
 It is important for Mentors to be approachable and available to students.
 Communication is the key to building trust and respect on a Team.
 All Team members should follow through with commitments made to the Team. This includes
Mentors as well as students.
 Respect all ideas. Make sure everyone treats all brainstorming and ideas with respect. Allow people
to disagree with or challenge an idea, but do not allow them to Judge an individual.
 A mutual foundation of trust and respect is critical for a supportive learning environment. Everyone’s
voice should be heard and all ideas should be listened to with a patient and open mind. Part of a
Mentor’s role is to listen to Team members and to keep lines of communication open. While every
idea or suggestion may not be usable, expressing a clear concept or idea is a great learning
experience, and may serve as inspiration for other, more effective ideas.
3. Equality of Labor
 Students should feel that they are part of the thinking, contributing, and doing process for the Team.
They should feel they are equal with their peers and that their efforts are of equal worth.
 Equal contributions of time and resources among Team members should be considered when tasks
and roles are assigned to Team members.
 All efforts of Team members and Mentors should be appreciated and recognized.
4. Communication
 Set clear goals for the season including expectations for success at functioning as a Team.
 All Team members should know what is expected of them and how responsibilities are assigned.
 Let the students know they will have a large part in building the Team’s Robot once they have
learned and practiced the necessary skills.
 Everyone should know their ideas are important and will receive consideration. Mention this often.
 Keep the group focused. It is the facilitator’s job to keep the Team discussions focused on the topic.
 Always be an alert and active listener.
 Include everyone. Bring quiet Team members into the discussion and work to prevent those who
feel comfortable with communication from monopolizing the conversation.
 Unite the group. If there is a problem within the Team, allow the Team to communicate its
frustration, decide on a course of action, and then help them move forward.
 Do not take sides. Keep conversations to facts, not emotions. Do not let things get personal.
 Paraphrase what has been heard from the others, or get someone else to do it. Another listener
may be able to correct or explain something that has been misunderstood.
 Build on ideas. Encourage people to build on ideas that have already been presented.
 Record ideas. Document brainstorming ideas and decisions for future Team reference.
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Avoid re-hashing. Do not reopen discussions that have already been closed or decisions that have
been made unless absolutely necessary. Team members should agree up front not to rehash
unless all members of the Team agree to do so.
Be aware of verbal and non-verbal cues. It may be necessary for a Mentor to step in and help
students work through communication difficulties. Validating a Team member’s feelings will
encourage them to discuss problems when they arise. Sometimes acknowledgement or positive
feedback may be all the response a Team member needs.
5. Facilitate
 Clarify the task without doing the work. Define it as a simple task or a complex set of jobs that will
take weeks to complete. Make sure the Team understands how the task fits in with their goals and
objectives, as well as what is expected of each individual. Provide a realistic deadline for the task
completion.
 Be aware of one person’s potential impact on the group. Facilitators do not need to be experts in
the topic being discussed, but if they are, they must be careful not to lead the discussion to a
preconceived outcome.
 Get to know the group, its members, their goals, and their differences. This helps Mentors
anticipate conflict and turn the experience into productive learning.
 Prevent group paralysis by watching for problems in achieving consensus, allowing adequate time
for discussion, and being prepared to step in if the group cannot make a decision. Knowing when to
push the decision on the group, or to make it, is a skill good Mentors develop over time.
6. Draw Everyone In
 Most Teams have one or more shy students who
do not like to speak up in group discussions. A
little coaching and encouragement might get them
Looking for ways to engage
to open up in group discussions over time, but for
students? How about making
others, allowing them to be quiet is exactly what
a STEM-focused project
they need. Also, try not to call on them to speak
STEAM-focused with ideas
out unless they have told you that that is a helpful
from the STEM to STEAM:
tool for engaging them in group discussions (lots
Edutopia Resource Roundup.
of shy people find being called upon painful and
awkward). Role model reaching out to them for
their opinion after the meeting and Team
members will start doing so, too. See if you can
make group decisions after a recess or small
group session where folks talk in pairs or informally and then decide. This may give quiet students
the opportunity to have their opinions voiced.
 On the flip side, some Teams have extremely outgoing or talkative students who want to dominate
the group discussions. Again, coach these students on better group behavior or tricks they can use,
such as waiting until three other people have spoken before they share their opinion, or allowing
them to speak up once per discussion topic. Don’t yell or belittle them in front of the group, because
this may teach the other members of the group that this is an okay way to treat them.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
48 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual

If your Team has a special needs or disabled
member, ask them how they would like to be
involved in the Team and what support they will
For more thoughts on how
need from you as the Coach and from the Team
have a diverse Team can
members. Bear in mind that they might not be
benefit everyone involved,
able to articulate their needs, but they should be
read the FIRST Tech
able to express areas of interest. Treat them as
Challenge blog post Team
you would any other member, providing support
Recruitment: Who Are You
where needed, and share with the group only the
Missing?
issues or concerns that they have asked you to
share. Do not ignore their needs or disability, but
provide support so they can participate on the
Team to the depth every other Team member is
participating. Role modeling inclusiveness and support will help other students learn how to treat
this Team member as well, and not leaving it to the Team member to coach the Team (unless they
want to) on how to treat them may make them feel more comfortable.
7. Keep Students Engaged
 To maintain group enthusiasm, encourage new Team members to share observations about their
experience at meetings or events. This will help to bring new members out of their shells and inject
the Team with a new perspective and fresh ideas. It can also lead to lively, engaging discussion
with more experienced members who can share their experiences and build on the ideas put forth
by new members.
 Let members try out/take on new roles, especially if they return to the Team for another season.
 Play Robot games during Team meetings and allow all Team members to participate in different
roles. Small challenges and games that involve driving, picking up, or moving objects with the
Robot can serve as try-outs for the Drive Team, or provide a fun way for all Team members to
develop a greater understanding of how the Robot works. Experimentation with different roles and
strategies will benefit the individual and the Team as new approaches are tested and new abilities
and interests are discovered.
 Get creative by involving the Team in marketing and
Team identity tasks. Allow all Team members to
participate in the development of a Team name and
logo or naming the Robot for this year’s challenge.
Create decorations for the pit or props and
costumes for events.
Building Teams that Build Robots
For more useful information on Teambuilding, check out the
resources available on the Team Management webpage,
including:



Building Teams that Build Robots
Team Organization and International Connections
Gear Up with FIRST Tech Challenge! Summer
Conference 2014 presented by The Bears from
Mexico (video)
Achievement Starts With Belief
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Managing Stress
Watch for signs of serious stress among Team members. There may be an appropriate reason to intervene.
Ask if they need help or suggest they take a break and do something fun to clear their heads
To reduce the pressure of meeting deadlines and meeting Team goals, help Team members clarify tasks and
develop strategic plans for individual jobs. Ensure they understand the task list by defining tasks and their
complexity. Make sure to show students how the task relates
to the timeline.
Deal with stress as soon as
Remember that Team meetings and competitions take place
you notice signs – the more it
in very controlled environments, so Team members may
builds, the more problems it
need some time and space to physically move around,
will create.
relieve stress, and take a physical break from problemsolving or competition. Physical activity can break the tension
and help students maintain focus in the end.
When tension starts to take over a Team, there are two easy fixes: laughter and movement. Take some time to
be silly, go outside and play Frisbee, throw a ball around, or use available indoor space to play a simple game
like “Statue.” In “Statue” one student moves around the room as the rest of the Team remains in a fixed pose.
When the individual student is not looking, the other students may jump, wave their arms or move around. If a
statue is caught moving, he or she becomes the individual who walks through the field of statues. There are
more teambuilding games on the web, including: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/team-building-activities/.
Resolving Conflicts
Most of the time, groups can resolve interpersonal problems on their own in time. Teams that resolve problems
on their own learn to function independently, which indicates that Mentors should avoid intervening as much as
possible. However, Mentors must be aware of and help to regulate group dynamics. Since time is short with
the FIRST Tech Challenge season, it may be necessary to intervene and help with the problem or task. It may
be enough to simply comment on an interpersonal issue.
General Guidelines for Resolving Conflicts
 Conflict in groups often arises from role confusion and process clarification. Start the season off
with clear expectations and roles for all of the adults, students, and even parents. This should head
off a lot of conflict early on.
 Never tolerate bullying or behavior that belittles or
minimizes a Team member’s contributions.
Use your Guidance
 Be conscious of personalities and interactions
Department to help resolve
between Team members. Effective Mentors use the
Team conflicts. An objective
similarities and differences of Team members as
opinion often helps to diffuse
assets to help the Team get work done.
the situation easier.
 Pay close attention to what and how something is
said.
 Try to diffuse sparks by calming a somber,
defensive, or explosive atmosphere. Sometimes
simply noticing and showing concern will defuse a situation, but one of the best ways is to inject
some kind of humor. It is hard to resist a smile, a pat on the back, a silly walk, or a wacky voice.
 Encourage frustrated folks to take a few minutes to relax.
 If a dispute arises, help the Team resolve it. Give both parties time away from the group to relate
their side of the story, talk through the issue, and then re-focus everyone on a productive task.
 Be specific about what behaviors need changing and offer praise and support for desirable
behaviors.
 Be sensitive to the situation. Some conflicts or disputes should be taken seriously.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
50 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Managing Mentor to Mentor Conflicts
When conflict arises between two of the Mentors, it is important to address
or diffuse the situation amicably as soon as possible. The students are
watching and will notice tension quickly. Any conflict can sour the
experience for everyone, but especially so if the conflict is between the
adult role models. Here are some tips for dealing with Mentor to Mentor
conflict:







Start the season off with a Mentor meeting. Be clear about the
Team’s goals and objectives. Clearly state how you would like
Mentor and Coaches involved and what your expectations are
appropriate behavior.
Educate all Mentors on the FIRST Tech Challenge Core
Values, Gracious Professionalism, and Coopertition. Use the
Appendix P: Case Studies to help Mentors see conflicts in
action and understand the appropriate behavior expected of
them.
Determine if the conflict needs addressing or will it pass on its own.
Is the conflict a personality clash? Some personalities will not mesh easily, but the individuals can
learn to appreciate the strengths each brings to the Team. A Lead Mentor can help the Mentors in
conflict to notice and appreciate their individual strengths, and then find ways for each person to
feel they have a contribution to bring to the Team.
Is it a Team management or organization issue? One of the Lead Mentors should work with the
individuals to remind them of the Team’s goals and philosophy and get the Mentors back on board
with the plan.
Notice the timing. Is it due to impending deadlines or competition? Is it at a competition? When
tension rises, so will individual stress levels, creating an environment ripe for conflicts. Remind
conflicting Mentors about the goal of the program and that it is about celebrating the students. Ask
them to take time to cool off if need be.
Does the conflict involve one or both Lead Mentors? If there isn’t an adult on the Team able to step
in and mediate the conflict, find a local advocate (ie: school staff person, Guidance Counselor), or
contact the local Affiliate Partner for assistance.
Managing Parent/Volunteer Conflicts
Involving parents and other adults with the Team is essential in many ways. Parents and volunteers can help
with transportation, fundraising, and encouragement. However, some adults may become overly emotionally
involved and that may lead to conflicts. Here are a few tips for dealing with adult conflicts of the parent or
volunteer variety:



Start the season off with a parent or volunteer meeting. Be clear about the Team’s goals and
objectives. Clearly state how you would like adult involvement and what your expectations are for
parent and volunteer behavior.
Educate all parents and volunteers on the FIRST Tech Challenge Core Values, Gracious
Professionalism, and Coopertition. Use the Appendix P: Case Studies to help these adults see
conflicts in action and understand the appropriate behavior expected of them.
Determine if the conflict needs addressing or will it pass on its own.
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Prior to Competition, remind adults of the
appropriate behavior and emphasize how
anyone associated with a Team can affect how
IMPORTANT! Anyone
the Team is perceived by other Teams,
associated with a Team can
Volunteers, and Judges. In addition, remind
affect how the Team is
these adults of what behaviors could impact a
perceived by other Teams,
Team’s experience on the Playing Field,
Volunteers, and Judges.
including Match disqualification. Note that unruly
and inappropriate adult behavior may lead to the
Event Director asking the adult to leave.
Head off problems early: if a parent or volunteer makes a comment or acts in an ungracious way,
coach them early in the season and be consistent. Be kind and Gracious, but set the tone and
expectation that if the behavior isn’t changed, they may not be allowed to participate more fully in
the Team.
Managing Team Conflicts
If the Team asks for intervention on an interpersonal issue, ask what it has done about the problem before
proceeding further. The Team members may have taken no action as a Team, and instead may rely on Mentor
intervention, rather than solving it on their own. They may simply need help identifying a problem or in coming
to a point where they are willing to address their problem(s) as a Team. Should conflict arise, here are a few
tips for addressing it:






Head off conflict early in the season by setting clear expectations for the Team, appropriate
behavior, and be clear about each Team member’s role(s) on the Team. Spend time just on
Teambuilding so individual members can learn about and become comfortable with each other, and
also learn the value of working together as a group.
Determine if the conflict needs addressing or if it will pass on its own in time.
Is the conflict a personality clash? Perhaps the students can work on different projects to avoid too
much contact (they don’t need to avoid each other, just reduce the amount of contact). Also spend
some time on Teambuilding activities for the whole Team that emphasizes understanding and
valuing everyone’s strengths.
Is the conflict about competition? Some students are overly competitive in everything they do and
this can lead to conflict. Remind all students involved (as necessary) of the Team goals and
expectations, and that individuals must learn to work together for the success of the Team, not their
own successes.
Is the conflict about another Team or another Robot? Help the Team members to let go of focusing
on other people’s behaviors and results and instead focus on their own accomplishments.
Read the tips on the Center for Women’s and Children’s Health Network Conflict and Negotiation
webpage.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
52 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Self-Assessment
Whenever we set a goal, we need a marker for whether or
not we achieved the goal. Sometimes this is easy to do: the
Team wants to build a Robot that can scoop up a ball and
dump it into a scoring goal in Competition. If the Robot
completes the task, then, goal accomplished. However,
sometimes the goal has more subjective results. For
example, the Team wants to improve their public speaking
and outreach skills. How will they know they achieved that
goal? When the goal is set, you will want to determine the
markers for achievement. You can get external or internal feedback.


Self-assessment is important
in the classroom, too, and an
easy activity. Consider doing
self-assessments after each
individual or group project.
External feedback – someone or something outside of the individual or Team determines the
outcome based on the goal and markers.
Internal feedback – the individual or Team determines the outcome based on the goals or markers.
This is called self-assessment.
While we can all easily determine our own success, we often value external feedback more highly than internal
feedback. Academic grades and test scores, competition results, and even levels of pay and raises are forms
of external feedback that we view as validating our success. However, when we set our own goals and
markers, and then assess our own achievement, this too is valuable. And in fact, maybe even more so as it
also helps develop our sense of self and build confidence levels.
In FIRST Tech Challenge, you could say that external feedback is provided on how a Robot performs on the
Competition Field through scores and how the Team does in the Judging Interview through Awards. However,
the reality is that these are markers established by FIRST Tech Challenge as part of the Competition. When a
Team comes together to start the season, there are other, more valuable goals to work toward other than
scores and Awards. Teambuilding, individual growth, leadership skills, confidence, fundraising, community
outreach… all of these aspects of being a Team are incredibly rewarding even if there isn’t always a way to
honor them on the Competition Field or in the Awards Ceremony. FIRST Tech Challenge knows the value of
all of these goals and skills, and encourages Teams to engage in defining goals, establishing markers for
success, and developing the habit of self-assessment.
Read more about self-assessment in this 2014 FIRST Tech Challenge blog post. Use the tool in Appendix G:
Team Judging Session Self-Assessment to reflect on your team’s Judging Interview or adapt the tool to use in
outlining and assessing any and all of your Team’s goals. As a training tool, watch this 12 minute TEDx Talk by
Jia Jiang: Lessons Learned from Rejection.
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Community Outreach
A vital component of FIRST Tech Challenge is helping to build the FIRST community by introducing more
young people to the experience, and by celebrating science, technology, and engineering. Outreach Events
include activities to encourage students and Mentors
to join existing robotics Teams or to start new Teams,
as well as to raise awareness of robotics in education
in general. While it may seem counter-intuitive for
Teams to try to create new competitors, the bigger
picture is that FIRST is not really about the
competition, but about changing the culture by
inspiring students. The more Teams there are, then
the more students there are to inspire.
FIRST stresses community involvement in several
ways, including Dean’s Homework, with Gracious
Professionalism, and with recognition via FIRST Tech
Challenge Awards, such as the Inspire, Motivate,
Connect, and Promote Awards.
Suggestions for Community Outreach
 Contact regional FIRST organizations and Volunteer to support their activities.
 Get parents involved. Parents are their children’s greatest supporters. They are incredibly
valuable as Volunteers, cheerleaders and advocates for the benefits of FIRST. Give parents
the opportunity to learn more about what their children are doing and to develop their own
enthusiasm and appreciation for science, technology, and engineering.
 Assist in the development of new FIRST Teams. Mentor another Team or simply act as a resource
for a new Mentor or for a community member who is interested in getting involved with FIRST.
Recruit new Mentors. Read about FIRST Tech Challenge Teams Mentoring Teams in this FIRST
Tech Challenge blog post.
 Lead a workshop for a local partner. Help other Teams in the local community develop their
skills and abilities by supporting them as they learn a new programming language or work with
a new mechanism. Share the experience and knowledge that has been gained through
previous years of participation. Read about FIRST Tech Challenge Teams doing outreach in
this FIRST Tech Challenge blog post.
 Hold an open practice, build day, or scrimmage. Use the Tournament Guide to help located on the
FIRST Tech Challenge Volunteer Resources webpage!
 Do a demonstration at a local event or community center. During outreach events, make
sure that there are regular opportunities for Team members to briefly describe the Robot
and what Robotics means to them.
 Promote FIRST in the community through positive word of mouth and local media, where
appropriate. Create flyers to hand out at events or create a press release about upcoming
events and distribute it to local newspapers or websites or use FIRST Tech Challenge
Outreach & Marketing Resources webpage.
 Participate in community activities and service opportunities. Wear your Team or FIRST Tech
Challenge gear and talk about your experiences. Read this FIRST Tech Challenge blog post
on Making it Loud.
 Learn how the Team can improve their Outreach and benefit their Team in the FIRST Tech
Challenge training video Marketing and Business Strategies for Teams.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
54 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Using the FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge Logos
Download the FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge logos, the FIRST Branding & Design Standards, and the
Policy on the Use of FIRST Trademarks and Copyrighted Materials from the FIRST website at
http://www.firstinspires.org/resource-library/ftc/team-outreach-and-marketing-resources.
Logo Requirements
Positive Promotion:
 Use FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge logos in a manner that is positive and promotes FIRST.
Unmodified:
 Use the FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge logos without modification.
 Use the FIRST name and the circle, square, and triangle as seen on the FIRST website or
letterhead – retain the same proportions and angles, and use it in red, blue, and white, or in black or
white.
Authorized Use:
 Currently registered FIRST teams and participants may use the FIRST and FIRST program logos in
a way that relates to their FIRST team names and activities. If you have any questions regarding
whether it is okay to use a FIRST or FIRST program logo, please send an email to
marketing@firstinspires.org, and include details regarding how you wish to use the logo.
Advertising Use Approval:
 All Teams and Sponsors must obtain approval from FIRST prior to incorporating our logo in any
advertising. Send an email request for advertising approval to marketing@firstinspires.org, and
include a description of the ad content, where it will appear, and whether it is paid advertising.
Career/College Preparation
Participation on a FIRST Team provides students with many opportunities, and for most, it is a chance to
explore career possibilities. Some students enter the program knowing they want to pursue engineering, but
lack specific understanding of what a career in engineering might look like. Others come in with no ideas of
what they want to do. The opportunity for exploration and skill building is ever-present with FIRST Tech
Challenge, so this is a great occasion to take advantage of that
and help the students on the Team with the huge, and often
overwhelming, decisions about their future. The following
Be cautious of making
sections provide just a few ideas on how to engage students in
assumptions about a
conversations about career preparation and college planning.
student’s college and career
These are optional, but easy to do without adding much work
opportunities. Provide the
onto the Mentor(s), while benefitting the entire Team.
same resources and
support for all students
An invaluable resource is the local high school Guidance
until they say otherwise.
Department, so be sure to see how they can assist in this
process and what tools they might already have that you can
borrow or use. Some communities also have organizations or
businesses that help prepare students for career or college,
which might have resources to share as well.
Discussing and Exploring Career Tracks
Mentors, whether technical or not, can help students learn about a variety of careers and how the skills they
are learning can help them prepare for that career. One simple way is to talk to students about how you made
your way to your current career and what your work entails. Ask all of the other Mentors, and even parents, to
do the same. If a student expresses interest in mechanics and one of the Mentors works in the field, encourage
them to talk about the field and the training required.
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Another easy method is to find out what areas of work your students are interested in, and then bring in
professionals from those fields to share with the students what their career entails and what kind of training
and education is required. If possible, take Team field trips to various companies and see what they do firsthand, especially any manufacturing or engineering companies.
For students who have no idea what they would
like to study, help them explore areas of individual
skill or talent. Encourage them to try out all the
various elements of the FIRST Tech Challenge
Program, from design to programming to building
the Robot, or developing the business plan,
marketing the Team, raising funds, or presenting.
One of the strategies guidance counselors and
teachers use is career assessments. If the local
high school guidance department offers one,
encourage your students to check it out. If not,
there are plenty on the web. Encourage them to
take two or three different ones and then compare
the results. Some assessments ask questions
about various career tasks, while others focus on
asking questions about personality or environment
preferences. These assessments should be considered tools for understanding interests only and the
information should be taken with a grain of salt. No test can accurately understand and assess the nuances of
every individual, nor predict what would make them happy and fulfilled in a future career. Here are examples of
online assessment tools:




Your Free Career Test
Career Colleges Assessment Test
eLearning Planner Career Assessment
Human Metrics Typology Test
A lot of students worry about making the “wrong” decision in selecting a career or college, but as experienced
adults know, there are no real wrong decisions. Every experience teaches something new that leads to the
next experience. However, since it is stressful for students, Mentors can help by talking to them about their
strengths and coaching them to consider a career in an area for which they have a passion.
One way to do this is to talk about the idea of “flow”: when we are doing something that uses our innate gifts
and brings us a sense of purpose and inner joy, we are said to be in “flow”. One way to measure that is to think
of times when you were doing something and you lost track of time – when time seems to stop or fly right by
because you were engrossed in what you were doing or having so much fun. What were you doing? What
about it made you feel that sense of “flow”? Talking to students about this idea, or showing them Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi’s TED talk on the topic of happiness and flow to provide them tools for assessing how they
might like to spend their time at future work.
Internship Opportunities
A great way for students to explore careers they think they are interested in is with job-shadowing or
internships. Again, encourage students to work with the local high school Guidance Department if possible, but
if that is not an option or doesn’t work out, students can identify and create their own opportunities with a little
research and self-promotion.
If a student knows they are interested in computer science, help them identify a company or individual who
works in the field. Reach out to the owner and see if they would be interested in allowing the student to job
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shadow or put together a paid/unpaid internship. Sometimes age is a factor in whether the student can do an
internship, which is why they might need to do a job shadow instead; either way, they will have the opportunity
to see the profession in action and they can put the experience on their resume.
FIRST Alumni Programs are piloting an Internship Portal that can shed some light on some of the many
potential internship opportunities with FIRST supporting organizations.
FIRST on the Resume
A lot of people think high school students are too young to
have a resume, but it is a great life skill that they can
practice. While most colleges do not require a resume for
their application process, they will accept it and add it to a
student’s application file. It never hurts if the resume has a
diverse set of information on it and/or emphasizes items that
are not highlighted by the application, college essay, high
school transcripts, or test scores. In this case, it can be a
chance to highlight how their FIRST experience has
prepared them for challenging and professional work. Check
out Appendix H: Sample Resume.
Networking is important on
the resume, too. Students can
use contacts as references, to
review their resume, or to get
ideas on internship
opportunities and how to
leverage those experiences.
Listing a Mentor or Coach as a reference is a must. A
resume has typically 3-5 references, and a person should include people that represent a wide representation
of the person’s involvements. Students typically include teachers, ministers, sports coaches, club advisors, etc,
and an FIRST Tech Challenge Mentor/Coach would be a perfect addition.
Resumes are divided into sections, and FIRST could fit into a number of them; truly it all depends on how the
student chooses to format their resume. Here are some places it could show up:

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Academic Work – if the student is able to get academic credit for their FIRST Tech Challenge
experience, it could fit here.
Computer Skills – if the student has learned a computer skill above and beyond what average folks
know (such as CAD, Java Programming, etc) they could list each program they are skilled in here. If
they are not skilled, they should not list it.
Presentations – if the student or Team has done presentations or community outreach where public
speaking is involved, they can list that here. Judging Interviews do not count here.
Community Service – if the student or Team has participated in community service or outreach
activities, they should list them here, including if the student Mentors another FIRST Team.
Travel – if the student travels outside their state for a FIRST event, it could go here.
In addition, check out Appendix G: Sample Resume or this 2015 FIRST Championship Conference to see
examples of the above items and other ways of showcasing the FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge experience
on a resume.
College Planning
Some families have been preparing their children for college since birth – or at least since they started high
school, but this is not always the case. Sometimes high schools provide training and resources for students in
exploring and preparing for college, but again, this is not always the case and some students might not take
advantage of the opportunities presented in school. Furthermore, a student who doesn’t know what they want
to do when they grow up will likely not know if they want to go to college.
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While it is not a required role of the Mentor to assist in college planning, it can be easy to spend a few minutes
of one or more meetings talking about various careers related to the FIRST Tech Challenge skills the Team is
learning or STEM in general (as discussed above) and sharing information on what college degree(s) might be
required in order to work in that career. In addition, Mentors who have attended college can talk about the
application process, what college work is like, and how to maximize the college experience to increase the
potential of finding employment in a given field after graduation.
Some other ways that Mentors can assist students with college planning might include:

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


Discussing the differences in various degrees (ie BA vs PhD).
Discussing the differences in types of schools (ie Technical College vs University.
Discussing ways to pay for college, including FIRST Scholarship opportunities.
If there is a nearby campus, take a Team field trip to check it out and have a tour, specifically
looking at the departments or buildings where the academic programs Team members are
interested in are housed.
Assist students in completing their college applications (if you feel comfortable in doing so),
including reminding them of deadlines, proofreading materials and essays.
Discussing and helping them to Explore Career Tracks.
Share this 2015 FIRST Championship Conference on How to Apply to College with your Team.
Pointing them to resources in their school or community, including:
 Guidance Counselors
 Teachers or professors
 Community organizations or businesses
FIRST Scholarship Opportunities
Participation in FIRST qualifies FIRST Tech Challenge students to access to more than 16 million dollars in
FIRST scholarships. Most scholarships that are part of the FIRST Scholarship Program are offered by specific
colleges or universities for study on their campus, or require a major in a specific field (like computer science),
but others do not. Students planning on college should start exploring the scholarship criteria early, even as
freshman or sophomores, and should plan to apply in their junior or senior year. Each year the scholarship
database is updated and added to as the opportunities grow throughout each year
For more information on FIRST Scholarship Program, check out the following links:

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FIRST Scholarship Program website
FIRST Alumni and Internships webpage
FIRST Tech Challenge Scholarships and Looking Ahead to College Virtual Event (video)
FIRST Tech Challenge blog post: FIRST Scholarships: It’s not Hard, but it Can be Hard to Get
Started
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Networking
One of the most important things that a Mentor or
student can gain from their time in FIRST Tech
Challenge is the incredible exposure to other
Mentors, Teams, Volunteers, etc. Every time you
meet and interact with someone new, it is
networking. Networking is one of those business
‘buzzwords’ that people throw around a lot, but what
it really is boils down to this: expanding the group of
people you know to include more people similar and
different from you. Each person you meet enables
you to learn something new, and taking advantage of
these relationships by learning and growing, or
getting to know even more people is an essential life
skill. Helping students learn how to network, to talk
about themselves, the Team, the Robot, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST is just one more skill that will help
them throughout their life.
Getting connected can happen in the Forums online, on social media, via email or skype, and especially at
outreach events and FIRST Tech Challenge Competitions. Coach students on the importance of networking
and how to take advantage of the opportunities available to them - and role model this skill, too.
Here are some great FIRST Tech Challenge networking resources:

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


Check out and participate in FIRST Tech Challenge social media.
Join the FIRST Alumni group on LinkedIn.
Check out this FIRST Tech Challenge blog post on Networking.
Read about how one Team Built International Connections through FIRST Tech Challenge in this
blog post.
Connect with Team-created groups such as FIRST Ladies.
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The Engineering Notebook
One of the goals of FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge is to recognize the engineering design process and “the
journey” that a Team makes during the phases of the problem definition, concept design, system-level design,
detailed design, test and verification, and production.
Throughout the building of the Robot, Teams encounter obstacles, lessons learned, and the need to draw
things out on paper. This is where the Team will use an Engineering Notebook. These notebooks follow your
Team from Kickoff throughout the Competitions. Judges review the Engineering Notebooks to better
understand the Team, their journey, and Robot design. Teams should carefully read Section 7 of the FIRST
Tech Challenge Game Manual Part I, for more information on the Engineering Notebook.
Use the Engineering Notebook to:

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

Record meeting tasks and outcomes
Document obstacles that will be faced
Highlight lessons that will be learned
Sketch or draw ideas for development and testing
Record the results of development and testing
Document Team decisions
Engineering Notebook Format
Teams may choose to record their season with either handwritten, electronic, or online documents. No
distinction is made between handwritten and electronic Engineering Notebooks during Judging.
Electronic/Online
Teams may choose to use electronic or online programs to create their Engineering Notebook. For the
purposes of Judging, Teams MUST print out their Engineering Notebooks, double-sided and place them in a
binder, no larger than 3” thick. Use additional binders if more space is needed. All pages must be numbered
from within the program you are using and in order. Only one copy is required per Team.
Handwritten
Spiral-bound, laboratory, or documentation notebooks are often
available through your school or local stationary supply stores or
utilize a binder (make sure to number your pages).
Requirements
Whether electronic or hand-written, use the following criteria:
1. Team Number and Team Name must be clearly
printed on the cover of the Engineering Notebook.
2. Numbered pages are required so that pages cannot
be substituted or deleted.
3. Only one Engineering Notebook is required per
Team.
4. Multiple Teams may not share an Engineering
Notebook.
The English department
may require students to
write in journals. They may
have resources to share,
advice to offer, or allow
students to receive credit
in English class for writing
they are doing in the
Team’s Notebook.
Engineering Notebook General Requirements
The FTC Engineering Notebook is a complete documentation of the Team’s Robot design. This documentation
should include sketches, discussions and Team meetings, design evolution, processes, obstacles, and each
Team member’s thoughts throughout the journey for the entire season. A new notebook should be created for
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60 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
each new season. Be sure to check the current season’s Game Manual Part I, for the most up-to-date
guidelines and formatting requirements.
Engineering Notebooks should contain the following to be eligible for all of the Awards (see Awards Categories
or the Game Manual Part I for more information):





Team Name and number MUST be clearly displayed on the front of the Engineering Notebook.
A summary page (read the specific requirements in the Game Manual Part I)
An Engineering Section (info in the Game Manual Part I)
A Team Section
A Business/Strategic Plan
Engineering Notebook Suggestions
Review the Engineering Notebook Guidelines and Self-Assessment, Appendix I: Engineering Notebook
Samples, and the Engineering Notebook Examples on the Team Management Resources webpage and
discuss them when planning the Team’s Engineering Notebook and how it will be used to support the Team’s
experience. Additional tips include:

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

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Make sure the Team name and number are on the cover in a neat, professional manner.
All notebook entries should be completed in permanent ink, and not in pencil.
Pages should not be removed or replaced.
No pages or large areas should be left blank. Empty spaces should have a single diagonal line
drawn through them to indicate that no information is missing from that page.
Organize the Engineering Notebook so that an outsider will understand the Team and its journey.
Start the Notebook by introducing each Team member and Mentor with a brief paragraph and
photo.
Document a failure as precisely as a success. Failures may outnumber successes considerably, but
there is always something to learn from them. This demonstrates innovative thinking and a critical
investigation of new approaches.
Be as visual as possible. Try to include a picture, diagram, sketch, flowchart, etc.as often as
possible. This will help Judges process the information more effectively and quickly.
Everyone on the Team should make a contribution to the notebook. This provides everyone with at
least some experience with documentation and creates a well-rounded notebook. Train new
students on correct Notebook procedures and have them do some practice entries before writing in
the actual Notebook.
Consider including a list of the Team members with a photo and a few details about their role on the
Team and/or personal interests in FIRST or STEM.
Document everything! Include:
 Sketches and photos
 Discussions from Team meetings
 Design evolution
 Processes
 AHA! Moments
 Obstacles and resolutions
 Each Team member’s thoughts throughout the journey.
When adding photos or outside information to a hand-written Notebook, tape or glue the item into
the Notebook and outline them with permanent ink. This will indicate that something was there if it
falls out.
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Make entries at every build meeting. Consider prompting students to start making entries at least
half an hour before the end of the meeting. Include task and reflections for each of these build
meetings.
Many Teams include lists:
 Outreach Activities
 Awards received
 Teams they’ve started and Mentored
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Building Robots
Safety for FIRST Tech Challenge
One of the first things a Team should review is safety. Introduce the topic at the
first meeting and mention that each person will be responsible for both Team and
personal safety. Stress safety at each meeting and post a list of safe practices in
the meeting area!
Some Teams come up with a system for monitoring Team safety and use a
checklist to document both good work habits and the safety blunders of Team
members. This information can be included in the Engineering Notebook.
Ensure students have at least one partner at the work location, while traveling,
and at the Events. This way, if an accident or problem occurs, there is help nearby. When traveling to Events,
make sure students also have the Mentor's contact information and room numbers.
Supervision
 Adult supervision is required at all times, especially when using power tools and electrical systems.
 Students should be trained on the proper use of tools and pass a safety test before using them.
This includes simple hand tools as well as power tools.
 Mentors cannot be everywhere at all times. Students should speak to Mentors if they observe other
students acting unsafely.
Apparel
From the first meeting, make sure all members have the appropriate clothing for working in the work space
and around the Robot, including ANSI-approved non-shaded safety glasses. Rose, Blue, and Amber tints are
FIRST approved, but reflective lenses are not, because participant’s eyes must be clearly visible to others at
all times.
 Make sure that each person has safety glasses and:
 Labels their glasses with their name and Team number, and has a place to store them.
 Wears them at all times when working on the Robot or when in the vicinity of someone
working on the Robot.
 Wears the required side shields.
 Wears safety goggles over corrective
eyeglasses if they are not
FIRST has strict requirements
polycarbonate or a similar material.
for safety glasses/goggles use
 Is especially careful when near grinding
in the Pit area and on or within
or machining equipment.
five feet of
Playing Field.
 Wear close-toed shoes. These are required at
Safety
glasses
are required at
all FIRST events and should be required at all
all
FIRST
Tech
Challenge
Team meetings.
competitions. Without them,
 Wear appropriate clothing when working. Do
students will not be
in
not wear loose clothing, dangling jewelry, or
these
areas
other items that could be caught in the
machinery. Long hair should be tied back for
the same reason.
 Use ear plugs to protect hearing loss when
using loud equipment or at loud events.
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The Workspace
 Keep a first aid kit in the workspace at all times, including disinfectant and bandages. Bring it to
Events. Any accidents should be reported immediately to Mentors. Make sure there is a telephone
in the workspace at all times, in case of a more serious injury.
 Have a fire extinguisher in the workspace, and that everyone knows where it is and how to use it.
 The workspace should be kept clean and uncluttered. Cords should be kept out of walking paths
and tools and materials should be kept in a designated storage area when not in use.
General Safe Practices
Encourage students to be aware of their surroundings at all times. Walk through hazards in the workspace and
ensure students understand the necessary precautions for dealing with:

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Stored energy hazards, electrical, mechanical, and pneumatic springs, chains and gears, batteries,
pneumatic cylinders and lines, extended “arms,” bound joints, and lifted weights.
Hazards of the Autonomous Mode.
Electrical hazards.
Pinching and crushing hazards.
Trips and falls prevention.
Horse play of any kind cannot be permitted in the workspace. Even small motors and mechanisms
can be dangerous.
Always turn off the “kill switch” or unplug the external battery before doing any repair or adjustment
to the Robot.
Inappropriate emotional or physical behaviors/actions cannot be permitted. Establish a reporting
procedure for this type of harassment and discuss it with the group.
Kit of Parts
Teams can order their Robot supplies in
the Team Registration in what is called the
FIRST Tech Challenge Storefront.
Registration is automatically added to your
Cart. You are able to enter the Storefront
multiple times and purchase up to one item
from each category. Awarded grants will
appear in the Storefront and automatically
deduct from the final total. If you do not
see a grant that you were expecting,
please DO NOT check out. Please check
again in a few days.
FIRST Tech Challenge has created
resources to assist Mentors in ordering
Robot supplies through the Team
Registration:


2016 Storefront Walkthrough Instructions (coming soon)
2016 Storefront Walkthrough Video (coming soon)
The chart below details each of the FIRST Tech Challenge Storefront Kit of Parts options and what is included:
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Categories
Set of Parts Name
What’s In The Set
Cost

Teams may purchase
ONE of these Control &
Communication Sets
Teams may purchase
ONE Electronics Modules
Set
Control & Communication
Set 1
$284
Control & Communication
Set 2
$318
Electronics Modules and
Sensors Set
$365
TETRIX FTC Competition
Set
$580
MATRIX FTC Competition
Set
$550
Teams may purchase
ONE of these
Competition Sets
Moto G phones (2) & protective
covers (2)
 USB Hub
 Micro to USB OTG Cable
 Moto G phones (2) & protective
covers (2)
 USB Hub
 Micro to USB OTG Cable
 Logitech Gamepad F310
Controllers (2)
 Power Module
 DC Motor Controllers (2)
 Servo Motor Controller
 Advanced Sensor Module
 IR Sensor (Seeker v3)
 Reflected Light Sensor (EOPD)
 Analog Touch Sensor
 Phone to Power Module Cable
 USB Cables (4)
 12 volt Power Cables (3)
Storage bin and 843 heavy-duty pieces,
including:
 Brackets, mounts, hard point
connectors
 Structural channels, angles, and
plates
 Wheels and gears
 Omni wheels
 Battery pack and charger
 Servos and DC Motors
 Fasteners and tools
Storage bin and 1,000+ parts, including:
 12v battery and electrical
components
 12v motors with built in encoders
 Heavy duty servos with metal
gears
 Metal gears, channels, triangular
plates
 Wide wheels and dual Omni
wheels
 Beams and fasteners
Planning
Right away, take the time to have Team members complete some additional training, including:

Have a Mentor or knowledgeable Team member unpack the Kit of Parts for the rest of the Team
and explain what all the pieces are and what they can do.
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If you have the time, have the Team build the FIRST Tech Challenge PushBot. No need to program
if you don’t want to get that deep in, but just building the chassis and wiring the Robot can help the
Team understand the basics and what the Kit of Parts is capable of.
Have Team members complete at least the first part of the Intelitek FIRST Tech Challenge Android
Platform Training modules:
 Part 1: Platform elements, how they work, and how they interact
 Part 2: App Inventor
 Part 3: Android Studio (Java Programming)
Use the tools below to challenge students to think ideas through in a constructive and positive way.
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Project Maps are detailed timelines. Creating a visual project map is helpful in identifying tasks
Team members will need to accomplish.
Mind-Mapping is a visual writing and note-taking brainstorming process that can help Teams
break through creative dry spells. This works well with flip charts or sticky notes placed on a wall
and separated into categories.
Cause-Effect Diagrams to help Teams
brainstorm, discuss, and diagram the cause
Check out the Office of Quality
and effect of each situation on the list. This is
Management’s Facilitator’s Tool
a helpful tool to use before the season
Kit for resources on planning and
begins.
brainstorming with Teams.
Problem Identification and Multiple
Solutions will encourage creative Team
thinking. Teams identify the problem and
create more than one solution to it.
Logic Trees are also useful for brainstorming. Diagram vertically or horizontally, using boxes and
arrows. Brainstorm for a solution, being sure to include sub-problems and solutions to each. Logic
trees assist in handling of problems by:
 Facilitating clear definitions using a visual representation of the problem.
 Clarifying contributing factors and their interactions and effects.
 Partitioning problem solving into sub-Teams, without losing sight of the whole.
 Improving communication between sub-Teams.
 Assessing various obstacles, such as expertise, materials, and time constraints.
Developing Strategy
Developing an effective strategy for Game play is part of the FIRST Tech Challenge experience and is vital to
a Team’s success. As a Team builds and programs its Robot, it is important to make decisions about strategy
and incorporate them into the design of the Robot. One key consideration is the balance between offense and
defense.
A Robot geared towards a more offensive approach may be built for speed and agility. It may be smaller and
lighter so it can move around easily to pick up Game Elements and/or to avoid or overcome obstacles on the
Playing Field. This Robot will also be more easily moved around by other, larger Robots.
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A Robot geared towards a more defensive approach may be larger, heavier, and more stable. This Robot may
not move as quickly or pick up as many Game Elements, but it may also be less likely to tip or be moved out of
position by other Robots. The focus would be on scoring a few valuable points and preventing other Robots
from matching one’s own efforts.
Teams should brainstorm strategic ideas and carefully discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different
approaches. See the following table for an example of this.
Strategy
Defense
Offense
Possible Results
Turn an opponent away from
its scoring position.
 This strategy focuses on preventing the opponent from scoring.
 It also takes time away from one’s own scoring ability.
 Make sure not to be overly aggressive or to pin the other Robot.
These actions are not permitted in FIRST Tech Challenge.
Occupy an opponent’s
preferred scoring
position.
 Can be easier than trying to move another Robot out of position.
 This takes time away from one’s own scoring ability.
 Make sure not to be overly aggressive or to pin the other Robot.
These actions are not permitted in FIRST Tech Challenge.
Focus on one scoring element.
 This strategy allows for very specialized or focused Robot design
and operation.
 It may limit scoring ability if opponent plays successful defense or
if one scoring mechanism on the Robot fails.
Focus on several
different scoring
elements.
 This strategy increases the likelihood of scoring, even if an
opponent plays successful defense or if one scoring mechanism on
the Robot fails.
 It requires extra training and quick thinking to switch between
strategies.
 If one scoring mechanism fails, another approach can be used.
Make the Robot heavy.
 This makes the Robot harder to push around on the Playing Field.
 It also gives the Robot better traction on the Field surface.
 Unfortunately, this strategy may also make the Robot more difficult
to maneuver.
Make the Robot large.
 This strategy helps the Robot effectively occupy strategically
crucial space on the Playing Field, which means that other Teams
cannot use it.
 It may make the Robot harder to push around on the Playing Field
but also more difficult for the driving Team to maneuverer.
 It may make the Robot more likely to be selected as an Alliance
partner for defensive purposes.
Keep the center of gravity
as low as possible.
 This saves time and effort from righting the Robot because tipping
will be far less likely.
 This can be an advantage when stability is important for Games
with ramps.
Build
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Brainstorming
Before moving into approaches for a Game Challenge, it is important to make sure everyone understands the
Rules, compliance restrictions, and has read the Game Manuals carefully. Clear up any questions or confusion
about these things before moving into the brainstorming process. Training for programming, etc can come
later, however these pieces can vastly improve what students know about Robots, the Kit of Parts, and the
potential designs.
Effective Brainstorming for FIRST Tech Challenge
 Discuss general strategies for achieving different objectives without referencing specific
mechanisms.
 Discuss strategies without deliberating on how a Robot would actually achieve that strategy (e.g.,
shooting the ball through the air, elevating the ball without shooting it).
 There are many different mechanisms to do each of these tasks, but do not talk about them yet.
Note any ideas for mechanisms if they come up, but keep the conversation focused on big ideas
because talking about the mechanisms too early may lead a Team to overlook the best solution.
 Nothing is rejected unless it is clearly impossible, or clearly against the Game Rules.
 List specific mechanisms that can implement each strategy.
 Try to be comprehensive and do not reject ideas unless it is impossible or against Game Rules.
 For big ideas, try to think of every possible class of mechanism that could implement that strategy.
 Document all ideas in the Engineering Notebook. They may be useful later.
 Evaluate alternative designs and the advantages and disadvantages of each possible mechanism.
 Think about speed. Will this mechanism generally be faster or slower than others?
 Consider accuracy. How consistently does the mechanism achieve the desired result?
 Complexity is an important consideration. Will the Team be able to build it and keep it working and
properly adjusted?
 Think about the size of the Robot. Will this design fit in the Robot’s required dimensions?
 Consider programming requirements. Does this mechanism require sensors and programming
that might be difficult to integrate?
 Rank each mechanism according to how likely it is to be the best solution. Consider how each
mechanism will help to score points in competition.
 Try to solve all of the problems. Explore all possibilities.
 There are time limits, so always consider speed when evaluating different designs.
 Start with a basic, solid design, and then improve it incrementally, using sensors or refinements.
 Start simple, test and take measurements, identify ways
to improve, make those changes, and then test again.
 There is always the option of sticking with or going back
to a simpler design.
 Test thoroughly.
 Avoid single points of failure whenever possible! Always
consider what the result would be if one single item on the
Robot failed. Would this take the Robot totally out of action,
or just be a minor irritation? If there is a single point of
failure, check it constantly and make sure it can be quickly
repaired by the pit crew if necessary.
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FIRST Tech Challenge PushBot Guide
In 2014, FIRST Tech Challenge asked two Teams to design, build, program, and test a competition-ready
Robot that was simple enough that a new Team could not only build it successfully, but compete with it also.
We then asked them to write out step-by-step instructions with pictures and the result was two awesome
PushBot Guides: one for MATRIX and one for TETRIX. Last year, we saw quite a few PushBot or modifiedPushBot Robots at Competitions around the country. With the changes to the FIRST Tech Challenge
technology, we needed the Robot and Guides to be updated, and the result is one PushBot Guide which will
have extensive Appendices (available on the Robot Building Resources webpage). You can read more about
the creation of the PushBot Guides in this FIRST Tech Challenge blog post.
Designing a Robot
It is important to remember that design is an iterative, everchanging process and that effective design involves making
compromises. In general, it is best to keep design simple
whenever possible. Simplicity of design is a key component to
a successful outcome and student involvement. In the
engineering world, simple solutions are much more desirable
than complex ones. The complex solution has many more
places to fail, is more difficult to repair, costs more, and its
operation is less intuitive. Students are sometimes drawn to
complex solutions. Keep reinforcing the principle of simplicity.
Ask the Team to distil its ideas down, to make the solution as
simple as possible. Driving and operating a Robot can be
challenging with a variety of obstacles on the Playing Field. At
times like this, a simple Robot is far easier to use than one
that requires many complex steps to perform a task.
It is often better to be very
good at one thing than
mediocre at
Once the Team has decided
what to do, it must figure out
how to
accomplish the
task. The biggest challenge
with mechanism design is
Team member's lack of
What?
Think about what the Robot will need to do, what it can do to win the Game, and what kinds of objects the
Robot will need to manipulate. These discussions all involve trade-offs and compromises, as it may be
impossible to do everything at once. Teams will need to decide what is most important.
How?
Once it has been decided “what” the Robot will do, it is necessary to figure out “how” the Robot will do it. This
is often more difficult. It is easy to decide “We need the Robot to pick up a parking-cone,” but it is difficult to
figure out a feasible way to do it within the FIRST Tech Challenge restrictions. This is where experimentation is
important.
In general, FIRST Tech Challenge Robot design can be divided into two major categories: drive train and
mechanism.
Robot Drive Train Design
One of the major systems of the Robot is the drive train, the system that moves the Robot around on the Field.
There are many different drive train configurations, but they all consist of:



One or more motors
Some means of transferring their torque/motion to the floor (a wheel, etc.)
Some means of steering
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The most traditional drive train configuration is called “skid-steer,” sometimes called “tank drive.” This is a
system in which each “side” of the drive train is powered independently; turning is completed by running one
side forward and the other side in reverse.
There are many options and drive train design is often a matter of personal preference. It does not matter what
the drive train looks like, as long as it is capable performing the following specific tasks:



Moving the Robot at a “reasonable” speed without overloading the motors.
Turning/Maneuvering at a “reasonable” rate without overloading the motors.
Overcoming any required Field obstacles. (Climb stairs, etc.).
The Team ultimately determines what defines an acceptable performance. Experiment and determine what
works best. There are ways to tweak the drive train to enhance performance in several areas, but like most
aspects of design, trade-offs and compromises will need to be made.
Robot Mechanism Design
In addition to moving around the Playing Field, a FIRST Tech Challenge Robot has to manipulate various
objects. Manipulation is perhaps the hardest aspect of the FIRST Tech Challenge, especially for newer Teams.
What looks simple to humans can be extremely difficult for a Robot. Reality quickly sets in after the Team
begins to experiment with the Game and begins to understand the difficulty involved. Try to create an elegant
system that effectively utilizes the available resources to accomplish as many tasks as possible.
Most years, the FIRST Tech Challenge Games include
several different methods of scoring. Each Team must
decide which methods of scoring are most important and
how they will accomplish them. It is often impossible to
design one system to do everything, and this is where
every Team must make design compromises. It is
important to help Teams prioritize Robot functions, design
as many options as possible, and attempt to build
mechanisms that perform multiple tasks.
Do not waste time trying to get
a perfect working model right
away. What is learned from the
quick and rough prototype may
completely change a final
approach. Try to get multiple
sub-Teams working on various
solutions simultaneously.
Competition and learning can
be effective motivators.
Use real world examples for design inspiration. Look at
past FIRST Tech Challenge Robots on the TETRIX site or
take field trips around the community to look at machines
and mechanisms that are used to accomplish tasks similar
to those required for the competition, such as forklift trucks
or cranes. Look through books or conduct online research into different machines and their functions.
Take those ideas that apply to the task, and work to convert them to the challenge. After the Team researches
mechanisms for a while, brainstorm, and then prototype the ideas the Team selects.
Notes:


Try to minimize the weight and complexity of manipulators. Large, heavy accessories bog down the
Robot, waste batteries, and cause navigation to become less predictable and repeatable.
The more complex a design is, the more likely it is to fail during competition. Design elegance is a
difficult thing to achieve. Encourage the Team to look for simple solutions that will work consistently
at the event and be better in the long run.
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3-D Modelling Software
Another option for design and prototyping is the use of 3-D modeling or CAD (computer-aided design)
software. This kind of software uses computer technology to design and document design. Elements can be
modeled and assembled in the software to test and observe their
efficacy. The FIRST Tech Challenge Registration Kit includes
instructions on how to download a one-year Team license for
3-D design lessons and the
PTC’s CREO CAD software, Mathcad Prime and Windchill
PTC Creo software could
Product Lifecycle Management software. This software is
be used in many different
provided via a generous donation by PTC.
classes: drafting, art, math,
engineering, computer
While learning to use these types of software can take some
programming, etc.
extra time, it is a valuable skill for students to learn, of great
benefit when designing and prototyping a Robot, and an
excellent experience for students interested in drafting and
design for future careers.
Team resources for 3D Printing include:


PTC for FIRST Teams
3D Printing for FIRST Teams blog series by PTC
Prototyping
The Kit of Parts provides for an infinite number of design possibilities. It is easy to build something, test it, and
then rebuild it into something else. Brainstorm a multitude of ways to accomplish the Team’s goals, and then
test them to see what works best. This is called prototyping.
Once there is something with which the Team is comfortable, do not be afraid to modify it so it works better -and then do not be afraid to modify it again! Design is an iterative, systematic process. Emphasize to students
that it is okay to try things again and again to improve the machine and increase results.
Students, especially new Team members, should spend some time simply playing around with the parts. This
can take place before the new season’s Game is announced, and it is vital for students to develop an innate
understanding of what the parts are capable of doing or not doing, how
they fit together, etc. After the Game is announced, experimenting with
parts with the Game goals in mind can still be useful for visualizing
solutions.
During initial prototyping, do not worry too much about size or material
limitations. Focus on getting something that actually works to solve a
Game problem. Once a concept has been proven, Teams can focus on
reducing the size or bringing the design back into materials compliance.
Try multiple prototypes for each sub-system and worry about hooking it
all together later. Use two-dimensional corrugated cardboard, plastic, or
foam models to quickly determine feasibility and dimensions.
Cut everything to scale. Once precise dimensions are determined, use
the prototype parts to trace for cutting the real material. Keep these
templates to be used as “cut sheets” in Hardware Inspection. If new
templates are made, be sure to mark the old one “OBSOLETE” to
prevent confusion.
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Objectively evaluate the prototypes before deciding which mechanisms to use. Often students and adults get
emotionally invested in ideas or directions. To get the best mechanism, set aside those feelings and use
objective evidence as the only criteria for judging one design versus another. Document all prototyping and
testing carefully. Even if considerable time is spent and a mechanism is rejected, this provides a valuable reallife engineering experience, and demonstrates sound decision- making and innovation to the Judges.
Building
Once planning, brainstorming, design, and prototyping are completed, building the Robot for the Game
Challenge can begin. Each year, the FIRST Tech Challenge Challenge will become available to Teams at
Kickoff in September. Be sure to check material limits, types of materials, dimensions, and building strategies
for compliance with FIRST Tech Challenge rules. Ensure that the Team is very familiar with these rules, and
that they are checked regularly for updates.
Notes:


From year to year, the minimum required parts
and compliance standards will change, so make
sure to consult the most current Game Manual
for details.
It is also a good idea to keep receipts and
document any parts that have been purchased
for use that have not been provided in the
FIRST Tech Challenge Kit of Parts. These can
be helpful to have if questions come up during
Inspection at Tournaments.
Use colored tape or small labels
to identify small hex keys that
are not marked clearly with their
size. Ensure
know
which hex key size or color is
used with particular
In addition to the tools provided in the Kit of Parts,
additional tools may be required to assemble the model, customize elements, and modify the Robot as
required. Remember to review safety practices and safe tool handling with students before anyone gets to
work.
Recommended Tools









Allen Wrench, 7/64"
Allen Wrench, 1/8"
Wrench (open end / box end), 5/16"
Wrench (open end / box end), 1/4"
Hacksaw, 32 tooth blade
Hand Files (flat and round)
Wire Strippers
Wire Cutters
Needle Nosed Pliers
Additional Power Tools





Soldering Iron
Jigsaw
Drill
Heat Gun
Extra Vise Grip
Helpful Supplies








Shrink Wire Wrap
Electrical Tape
Black, Red and Green Wire
Small Zip Ties
Blue Lock Tight
Gear and Axle Lubricant
Extra Fuses for 12V Battery
Cable Ties
Before beginning construction on the Robot, ensure students have had time to play with the elements and get
used to how they are assembled. Remind students that the design they are building may not be the final
design. Part of the engineering process is determining where problems are occurring and finding new solutions
for them. A Robot design may not work out as planned, or may not work well for the objectives a Team is trying
to reach.
Teams should not get locked into continually trying to improve a bad design. Sometimes it may be necessary
to step back, rethink, tear down, and rebuild a Robot. Times like these are great opportunities to return to the
Engineering Notebook to investigate other concepts and strategies that were recorded during the
brainstorming, design and prototyping stages of the development process.
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Modifying Parts
Metal (non-electric) parts can be drilled, cut, or otherwise modified to create customized elements for each
Robot. This provides an excellent learning experience for students, but also requires a little extra caution. Try
not to cut metal parts unless it is absolutely necessary. Remind students that building supplies are limited, so
they should always measure twice and cut once. Students who are unsure should have a partner or Mentor
help them double-check their measurements and angles until they are confident doing it independently. When
customizing metal parts, it is important to smooth or cover any sharp edges. These precautions should be
taken to avoid injury, but also to prevent damage to wires and other components as Robots compete on the
Field.
General Building Best Practices for FIRST Tech Challenge

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









Consult the PushBot Guide for general building practices.
Design to facilitate easy repair. Make sure that every part is accessible and easy to fix for quick and
painless pit repair.
Build the Robot for competition. Consider the outcome of different types of collisions and add
guards and bumpers in the design to minimize impact. Protect wires and position motors so that the
end of the wire is inside the Robot body.
As screws, nuts, and washers are removed from the Robot or from early prototypes, check them for
damage and discard or mark parts that are no longer perfect.
Keep drive wheels symmetrical. Asymmetrical wheels will make the Robot behave differently when
turning in one direction or the other, which makes it more difficult for the drive Team.
Investigate and experiment with gear ratios.
Investigate and experiment with traction.
Make sure that only flat metal or plastic elements are under or around the battery mounting position.
Sharp objects, screws or nuts are dangerous in this location.
At the end of each build session, unplug all
chargers.
Always double-check to make sure that fuses are
matched exactly in type and amperage, and
never use anything other than the correct fuse to
bridge the connection because batteries can
overheat and catch fire if too much current is
drawn.
Reroute wires through channels where possible,
for safety, and to prevent entanglement.
Position the kill switch where it will be least likely
to be accidentally tripped during Game play.
Watch the Materials to Enhance Robot Design
instructional video for more ideas.
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Wiring
Wiring is one of the most important components of a Robot.
However, wiring often does not receive the same care and attention
as the rest of the Robot. Even the briefest of power interruptions
can cause communication system to have to reboot. Good wiring
allows Teams to create tight connections and to better troubleshoot
problems as they occur. Such wiring takes a lot of patience and
practice, and Teams should budget time accordingly.
In addition to building a great Robot, there are best practices for
general wiring of the Robot – good habits to start as soon as
possible.








Make wiring diagrams
Use the proper tools
Label the wires
Keep it neat
Use proper wire management
Tie it all down
Be careful with power switch placement
Conduct proper maintenance
For more information on wiring best practices, check out these resources:


Robot Wiring Guide (pdf)
Gear Up with FIRST Tech Challenge!: Virtual Summer Conference session: Robot Wiring
Troubleshooting (video)
Programming
Software
There are two programming software options that
Teams can use to program Robots for competition in
the FIRST Tech Challenge. These tools, the App
Inventor and Android Studio, vary in functionality and
cater to users of different levels. Teams will need to
determine/select a programming package based on
personal preference.
For those who have some experience with the
software, but little experience applying it within the
context of FIRST Tech Challenge, sample programs,
programming guides, and video tutorials have been
provided with the online activities for Teams in the
following resources:




Occasionally, a software vendor
might make changes to their
programming package. Make sure
to check the
webpage for software update
advisories and software update
links.
Intelitek Training materials
PushBot Guide
FIRST Tech Challenge Technology Forum
Robot Building Resources
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Programming
It is always a good idea to have more than one Team member responsible for the programming and to have all
Team members familiar with it. A good way to achieve this is to assign each Team member a tutorial to
present to the rest of the group.


Create a flowchart to make the programming more of a Team effort, and to keep with good
programming practices, have the Team create a flowchart of the program as a group effort. Keep
the flowchart simple and only outline the major steps of the program as blocks. Leave it to the
programming Team to fill in the details of each block, with the understanding that if they get stuck
on a block, they can, and should, ask the rest of the Team for assistance.
Test and Archive once the programming Team is ready to test the program, have them prepare a
simple set of instructions and turn the testing over to a testing Team. It is better to have Team
members who are not intimate with the code do the testing, following only a simple set of
instructions.
FIRST Tech Challenge Android-Based Technology
The Android-based technology uses a point-to-point system. Teams should refer to the below resources
during the season for additional help:
 Intelitek Training materials
 PushBot Guide
 FIRST Tech Challenge Technology Forum
 Robot Building Resources
General Programming Best Practices for FIRST Tech Challenge
 Always back up programs before the start of each programming session. A copy of the last
working version should always be available, in case of a broken program.
 Create flow charts of code and include them in the Engineering Notebook.
 Create comments on the code, right from the beginning. This helps with debugging, or a situation
arises where another programmer needs to step in and take over the role.
 Avoid cryptic names. Variable names are much more readable and less likely to be forgotten over
time. (“MotorLeftFront” is much more descriptive than “mtr_S1_C1.”) Give multiple variables that
belong to the same physical structure or concept the same prefix.
 By the time autonomous programming begins, structural changes to the Robot hardware should
be complete, in particular, anything that has to do with wheels and drive train. After any significant
hardware change, the autonomous programs must be tested and re-adjusted if necessary.
Remember that a simple thing like changing wheel size will change the Robot’s speed.
 Do not try to accomplish all of the tasks for the entire Challenge at the same time. This is
especially true for the programming Team. Working through each step individually may be less
exciting for students, but is a more accurate and efficient approach to the problem in the long run.
 Allow some settling time after a motion or turn. Allow about 100 milliseconds to let the Robot finish
all of its movement actions before beginning again.
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Design repeatable tests for all major subsystems.
Document baseline tests in the Engineering Notebook.
Compare improvements with the baseline and document
them as well. Track how well the autonomous mode works
at different battery levels, so there are no surprises. Test
light sensors under different lighting conditions.
Make small changes and test frequently. If several things
are changed at once and something does not work, it can
be hard to figure out where the problem is.
Make sure to practice using the same version that will be
used at the competition. The final practice before any
competition should be run using the latest software, so
there is time to address any new problems that the
changes may introduce.
Think about all the ways a system could fail and conduct
trials to determine them. Figure out which failure modes
are the most prevalent and concentrate on fixing them
first.
Iteration
It takes a lot of planning and trial and error to build a successful
Robot. One of the advantages to the Season Timeline is the
opportunity for Teams to continue to work on their Robot before,
during, and after Competitions – and again before the next level of
Competition. Teams are constantly seeing what other Teams are
doing, learning new skills, and identifying strategies that might require changes to the Robot. Don’t be afraid to
change your Robot! The engineering process depends on the willingness to try something new, scrap it, and
then try something else.
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Navigating the Competition Season
Preparing the Team
FIRST Tech Challenge Competitions are different from almost any other experience your students will have
had, so helping them be prepared for what they will encounter will allow them to be more confident and
focused on the Team’s objectives for the Event. The following sections provide lots of information and tips on
helping the Team know what to expect and be prepared on how to perform on the day of Competition. Also
bookmark this helpful webpage on Preparing for Competition as a review tool prior to heading off to your
Event.
Game Challenge and Rules
Each year at Kickoff (usually in mid-September), a new Game Challenge and Game Manual Part II will be
released, outlining the overall concept of the Game, problems to be solved, Rules, guidelines, and policies for
the FIRST Tech Challenge Game. All Team members should read the Game Manual carefully as soon as
possible.
Before diving into the Challenge, begin by discussing Game Rules extensively without referencing Robot
design at all. Make sure everyone on the Team has a good understanding of the Game before moving into
brainstorming, so that no time is wasted on ideas that may not be permitted or that might be ineffective for the
Game as a whole.
Watch the Kickoff video released by FIRST several times, but also read the Game Manual very carefully for
important details that may be only mentioned briefly in the video. Have both Mentors and students read the
Game Manual thoroughly and ask questions.
Create a Team handbook that outlines all Team responsibilities, rules, procedures, and commitments. This will
help to ensure that everyone, including parents, understands how the Team operates and what the rules are.
A contract can be another effective tool to set expectations. Have everyone outline concise expectations and
come to an understanding of what is expected of
each member and the Team as a whole.
Drive Team
 Must wear their badges to be allowed
access to the Field If applicable).
 Needs to know where the Robot Power
switch is located.
 Needs to have a plan for who will
position the Robot on the Field and how.
Pit Crew
 Keep the Pit area clean and organized
so tools are easy to find if/when needed.
 Needs to be prepared for informal
Judging conversations should the
Judges stop by the Pit display.
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FIRST Tech Challenge Tournament Structure
The FIRST Tech Challenge program is both competition- and merit-based. The Tournament structure is tiered
with levels of advancement that lead to the World Championships. Teams advance by accumulating Qualifying
Points and Ranking Points received on the Field and through Judged Awards. To learn more about the
advancement and ranking process, review the Game Manual Part I.
Types of FIRST Tech Challenge Events
There are many types of FIRST Tech Challenge Events. Some Events are “Official”, meaning that they are a
part of the advancement structure for the FIRST Tech Challenge. “Endorsed” means that the Event is not a
part of the advancement structure for the Program, but the Event is hosted by or sanctioned by a FIRST Tech
Challenge Affiliate Partner or FIRST Tech Challenge Headquarters. Other Events are “Unofficial” and could be
hosted by anyone with an interest. Official and Endorsed Event information provided by the Affiliate Partners is
promoted on the FIRST website and via the @FTCTeams Twitter and Facebook accounts. Unofficial Events
are not promoted by FIRST or FIRST Tech Challenge.
The FIRST Tech Challenge competition season runs from mid-October to late April and includes several event
types. Team saturation generally dictates the number and type of events in a region. Encouraging others to
become involved and building the FIRST Tech Challenge community is the best way to encourage more
Events in a region. Read detailed information in Appendix J: Types of FIRST Tech Challenge Events.
Tournament Registration
Most FIRST Tech Challenge Events are open and free to spectators from the public. Encourage parents,
siblings, Sponsors, and friends to attend the Tournament and to cheer on local Teams!
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Finding Tournaments
It is the responsibility of the Team to find and register for FIRST Tech Challenge League, Qualifying, and
Championship Tournaments. Events are generally filled on a first-paid, first-served basis and many FIRST
Tech Challenge Affiliate Partners coordinate their own registration process, so make sure to check the Affiliate
Partner’s website to determine how the Team can apply.
There will be a listing of confirmed Championship Tournament sites on the Events portal website beginning in
late September or October. In October, Teams apply either online or directly with the Event organizer for most
Tournaments.
It is important to note that Championship Tournaments usually require advancement through a Qualifying or
League event, and some Championship Tournaments are open only to Teams in a specific geographic area.
Always check with the Affiliate Partner for the event(s) that determine a Team’s eligibility to attend.
In order to receive FIRST Tech Challenge updates during the season, be sure that the Team's profile and
contact information in the Team Registration System is up-to-date and complete before registering for a
Tournament. Both primary and secondary contact information should be verified for accuracy.
The Registration Process
Once the registration period ends, confirmed Teams receive detailed information from the FIRST Tech
Challenge Partner hosting the Event. This information includes specific details about the site, special
instructions, forms, and schedule information. Teams can expect to pay a fee to attend a Tournament. The
Tournament coordinators will inform Teams about fees and payment procedures.
Contact information for Affiliate Partners in each area can also be found on the FIRST Regional Contacts
portal. An outreach can be made to these individuals if Tournament information is absent or there are
questions. Do not miss an opportunity to compete.
Notes:



The Event schedule may not be complete until
the season is well underway. Consequently, the
Tournament registration process is separate
from the on-line Team registration process.
Due to limited site capacity at some
Tournaments, registration does not ensure
acceptance at an Event.
There is no limit on the number of Tournaments
in which a Team may participate, as long as
space is available. However, participation in the
next Tournament level is based on the Team's
performance in its first three Tournaments only.
This rule applies at all levels of Competition.
What to Expect
Tournament Logistics
Once a Team has registered for a Tournament, either through the FIRST Tech Challenge website or with a
local Tournament organizer, it is a good idea to check the Tournament website (if applicable) regularly for
changes and updates. Every Tournament is different in some way. FIRST gives latitude to Tournament
organizers to adjust the format to match their conditions. If there are specific concerns, always double-check
with the Tournament organizer.
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Before the Tournament:
 Confirm Event start and end times, parking details, what to bring, food service, and so on.
 Ensure that each Team member is registered and has obtained parent consent in the online
Youth Team Member Registration System (STIMS).
 Any Team members lacking the completed registration at the Event will be ineligible to
participate.
 Print a Team roster in the Team Registration System. Be sure to include any signed Consent
and Release forms for students not registered via STIMS.
 If travel to a Competition is required, follow school or other Sponsor’s procedures.
 Make sure that each driver is properly insured and that any relevant, completed paperwork,
such as school permission slips have been signed and gathered.
Tournament Areas
Registration Area
At the Registration Table Tournament Volunteers will collect paperwork, forms, and Engineering Notebooks.
They will tell Teams where to find the pit station, the competition area, judging rooms, and where Teams
can eat lunch. They will also give Mentors a schedule for their Team.
The Pit
The Pit will be the Team’s home for the day. A specific location may be assigned at registration, but some
Events have areas that are first-come, first-served. Check with the officials to confirm that spectators are
allowed in the Pit. Some facilities allow only Team members, Coaches, and Mentors in the area. Regardless of
the size of the station, be Gracious and make sure the Team remains within the confines of the allotted space.
Generally, Teams will have a table provided in their Pit area to set up a display for other Teams to see, show
off their Robot, and make minor repairs. Some, but not all, venues will provide chairs. If the Team has any
posters or banners, they should be set up to
showcase Teamwork and Team spirit. Bring
additional chairs as needed.
Electricity may be provided in the Pit, but it is a
good idea to make sure that laptops are fullycharged. Some venues have no power other than
a few scattered laptop-recharging stations, so
plan accordingly. A heavy-duty extension cord
and a power strip can be very useful. Be sure to
arrive with everything the Team needs. Many
Tournaments send out lists to assist with this.
Read this great blog post and see several
pictures of the FIRST Tech Challenge Pits.
Practice Playing Field
Many Tournaments provide access to a practice
Field where Teams take turns running rounds. If
there is a Field, scheduling is often tight and
reservations may need to be made ahead of time.
Remember to use Gracious Professionalism when sharing the practice Fields with other Teams.
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Competition Area
The Competition area is where the official Playing Fields are located. Referees score the rounds in this area.
There will be seating for fans and Teams not part of the Drive Team.
Judging Rooms
Generally, but not always, judging takes place in rooms that are separate from the rest of the Competition,
and occurs before the Matches begin. Teams will report to each of these rooms at some point during the day,
so make sure that locations and arrival times have been clearly communicated and understood. Always show
up a few minutes early for a scheduled Interview time. If there is a schedule conflict, inform an Event
Volunteer, to ensure Judges can be notified.
What to Expect at an Event
Be flexible, and if there are questions about the day or Team schedule, check in with the Pit Administration or
Registration table.
Make sure to review the day’s schedule with Team members.
Competition schedules are usually very tight, so it is important
to be ready and on time. Do not miss Inspection or Judging
Interviews. If the schedule for the day does fall behind, the
Tournament organizer may juggle a Team's Interviews to
accommodate the changes. There should be one Mentor who
focuses on getting to scheduled Judging Interviews and
rounds on time. Delegate the responsibility of keeping the
Team together to other Volunteers.
Some Events hold a Coach’s
meeting where Mentors
receive up-to-date
information and have an
opportunity to
any
Robot rule
Each Tournament is a little different, but these basic phases
will occur in some form at all Tournaments. Pre-season or
local Events may have some special rules. Check with organizers for detailed information.
Read through Appendix K: Coach Brian Johnson’s Top Ten Tips for Teams Advancing to World
Championships. It is full of excellent advice that is useful no matter what level of competition your Team is
advancing to.
Read more in Appendix L: What to Expect at Events and the FIRST Tech Challenge Get Ready for
Competition webpage.
General Guidelines for Tournaments
Procedures
 Team members should always inform the
Coach/Mentor when leaving the Pit area (to eat,
watch a match, etc.). Employ the “buddy system”
Be sure to follow your
where no one wanders off without someone else.
school’s field trip policies
 If DRIVER/COACH designation buttons are provided,
when attending Events.
always put Dthem in the same place when not being
worn by the drive Team. Do not lose them.
 Label everything with the Team name and number.
Mark all batteries and chargers with the Team name
so they are not lost or mixed up at Events.
 Have a system to keep track of which batteries are fully charged. (e.g., use a rubber band to
designate a battery that has been charged and is ready to use.)
 Create checklists for the Pit crew and other sub-groups on the Team to ensure that checks and
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organizational tasks are completed throughout the day.
Communication
 Mentors and Coaches should each have a
master list of cell-phone numbers for everyone
attending as well as contacts for their
Parent/Guardians.
 Use social media and online networking tools
for reporting results to parents back home and
the Team themselves. This can also be useful
to communicate between Team members at
large Tournaments.
Well-Being
 Eat when possible. There may not be scheduled lunch breaks.
 Bring healthy snacks and refreshments for Team members to keep their energy up (if this is
permitted at the venue).
 Make note of any dietary needs or restrictions of Team members. Be aware of food allergies or
sensitivities and students who may have medical concerns.
 Keep the energy light – encourage laughter and fun.
Documentation
 Try to have one student or Mentor video tape rounds of play to post on websites, publicize the
Team, or look back and analyze how well strategy and hardware worked during Game rounds.
Remember that match videos may not be used when asking an event official for a game call
clarification or revision.
Technology
 Make sure that virus scans and other background programs are disabled during Game play. They
can cause lags and lost connections.
 Make sure laptop power saver settings are configured so the laptop never goes into hibernation or
sleep mode.
 Reboot the laptop and the Android Technology every few rounds of play.
The Pit
 Have a theme for the Team that carries through in Pit decorations, uniforms, and Robot designs.
 A 6-foot banner is a cost-effective pit decoration. Make it two-sided, as both sides may be visible.
 Encourage your Team to explore other Team Pits and Network.
What to Bring:
 A Robot.
 The Team Engineering Notebook.
 A first aid kit and a binder containing medical and emergency contact information for all Team
members.
 Rolling cart for the Robot that can easily be disassembled (easier for transport). Reinforce or
modify it as necessary. Create an emergency repair kit that stays with the cart during rounds.
 A small box with an assortment of metal parts, brackets, channels, flats, pieces of plastic, or sheet
metal for repairs.
 Spare electrical components (motors, servos, motor controllers, servo controllers, sensors) as
budget allows. Keep spare fuses in the Team toolbox and an emergency repair kit at Tournaments.
 Basic tools for repairs.
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During Game Rounds:
 Keep the pit tools and emergency repair materials organized. Searching will waste time and cause
stress.
 During elimination rounds, remember that one
time-out per Alliance can be called for repairs.
Check the Game Manual for the official length of
On the Competition Field,
the time-out.
ONLY Team members may
use the Question Box to
Supervision and Safety
speak to the Head Referee.
Adult supervision is a critical factor for a successful
Adults are not permitted to
Tournament. Whether the Team is in the Pit, moving about
question or challenge
the site, or performing Competition rounds, make sure that all
Match results or decisions.
Team members are supervised. Remind each person that the
Team is expected to demonstrate FIRST Tech Challenge
values at all times. This includes Mentors and Team parents.
Inappropriate and/or non-gracious behavior of an adult with the Team can jeopardize the Team’s chances of
winning an Award or doing well in the Alliance selection. Negative adult behavior could also lead to the
disqualification of a Team during a Match and the removal of the adult from the venue.
Remember this is the Team’s opportunity to shine. Adult interference during the Judging Interview will reflect
negatively on the Team. A Team’s inability to answer questions or make Robot adjustments without the direct
assistance of an adult will be evident to the Judges and may adversely affect the Team’s score. Remember,
the students come first!
It is often difficult for Judges and Event organizers to determine if the adults accompanying a Team are
Coaches, parents, or both. Some Tournaments have restrictions on the number of adults that accompany
students into the Interview sessions. Be sure that FIRST Tech Challenge's rules on adult intervention and
Gracious Professionalism have been communicated to all of the adults and students accompanying the Team.
The behavior of one person reflects on everyone associated with the Team.
Event Etiquette
Practicing Gracious Professionalism will ensure everyone has a fun experience, whether or not they win.
Here are some easy tips for bringing your Gracious Professionalism to the Event:
 Mentors need to stay in control of their own emotions. The Event can be stressful, but the focus
should be on the Team members having a great experience. It’s hard to do that if the Mentor is
upset.
 Speak gently and kindly to Team members when providing feedback or information at all times,
but especially at Events.
 Ensure your team stays within their designated Pit space. Some teams have bigger Pit displays or
a larger Team, but it is Gracious to not invade someone else’s space. Asking them to give up
space is not Gracious, because they might say yes because they don’t feel they can say no.
Design your display to fit into the designate space.
 Coach all the Team members, Mentors, and parents on how to cheer in a way that honors
everyone and hurts no one.
 Coach Team members and Mentors on appropriate ways to ask questions, challenge scores, or
report issues to Event Volunteers and staff. Even when upset or stressed, stay Gracious.
 When there are disappointments at a Tournament, students take their cue from the adults around
them. Remember to model FIRST Tech Challenge values, honor what the students achieve, and
help them to focus on those achievements.
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Inspections
At the event, the Team should be prepared to a Robot Inspection, and a Field Inspection. These Inspections
can be time-consuming, so it is a good idea to line up at Inspection stations as soon as possible. Teams
should complete a Team Judging Self-Inspection Checklist
prior to arriving at the Competition. This will ensure a quicker
and more efficient inspection process. Failure to pass any of
the inspections will disqualify a Team from competition.
However, it is important to know that the Inspector’s main goal
is to help Teams pass.
Robot Inspection
During the Robot Inspection, Inspectors will examine Robot
construction against a Hardware Inspection checklist. Some
examples of a typical Hardware Inspection items include: the
size of the Robot, safety standards for the hardware (e.g. No
sharp edges or corners), ensuring the Robot contains official
TETRIX or MATRIX components, and ensuring the Robot
contains only the acceptable allotment of additional materials
(e.g. additional plastic or polycarbonate). The Robot Inspector
will also check the Robot Controller to confirm that it is named
appropriately, has the correct Android Operating System installed, and that Robot Controller app is the default
application being used to connect to the Core Robot modules.
Field Inspection
During the Field Inspection, an Inspector will check to ensure that the Team’s Field setup is correct, the
Team’s Robot modes are functional and configured, and that the Team understands the Match process.
Queuing and Rounds
During the day, Teams will be scheduled for numerous Matches, with the exact number determined by the
size of the Tournament and the number of attending Teams. Teams are responsible for their own schedules
and failure to arrive for a Match can result in a loss of points.
Listen carefully for Queue calls. Teams will line up for rounds in
a designated area. Assign two individuals to listen for Queuing
calls or watch for Match Queue runners and keep the Team on
schedule. Unexpected delays may occur, so remain flexible.
Remember that the Tournament organizers are Volunteers too.
When a round begins, the driver Team will be on the Playing
Field while Mentors get their Team settled in the Team
seating/standing area. Robot operators should follow the Field
Manager’s instructions on the Playing Field. Before starting,
have them scan the Playing Field and their Robot to make sure
everything is set up properly. Once the Match starts, Team
operators may not handle the Robot.
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Game Play
Each Game Match is made up of three distinct kinds of
play. The kinds of play are:
1. Autonomous
2. Driver-Controlled or Teleop
3. End Game
Autonomous Stage
The Autonomous mode of Game play is typically a 30
second period in the beginning of a Match where the
Robot’s actions are controlled purely by the code created
by the Team. In this stage, Team drivers are not allowed
to handle the Robot at all. There are several different
strategies to consider when programming for the
autonomous strategy:
 Defensive: the programming is designed to attempt to stop the other Team’s Autonomous Robot
from achieving its goal.
 Counter-Defensive Autonomous: the Team’s Robot will try to block an opponent who is trying to
stop their Robot by ramming it.
 Low-Scoring Autonomous: under this strategy, the Autonomous Robot will attempt one of the
simpler tasks defined by the Game.
 High-Scoring Autonomous: under this strategy, the Autonomous Robot will attempt to score
multiple Game Elements in a high scoring goal.
 Harvesting Autonomous: using this strategy, the Autonomous Robot will be able to dispense and
harvest as many Game points as possible. Remember, if this strategy is chosen, it will exclude
those components from the Teleop phase.
 Combination Autonomous: this strategy combines two or more kinds. For example, the Robot will
start in a high scoring mode and then go block the opponent to interfere with their plans.
Throughout the season, Teams should experiment with different strategies and learn to predict the strengths
and weaknesses of their opponents. By the time of the Team’s first championship Tournament, the goal should
be to have a consistent High-Scoring Autonomous that works from at least one Field position, a Low-Scoring
Autonomous that works from the other Field position, plus a good Defensive Autonomous. Having several good
programs in place will help the Team when planning strategy with their Alliance partner’s Robot.
Driver-Controlled Stage
The Driver-Controlled or Teleop stage of Game play is
part of the Competition where the Robot is controlled
by the Team drivers. In this stage, Teams will have to
choose their joystick controls and program their
software accordingly. Consider the following tips when
approaching planning and programming in this Game
stage:
 It is a good idea for Teams to place a
labelled diagram of their joystick controls
into their Engineering Notebook. This
representation will explain their controls to
Judges and provide an easily accessible
reference for Team members.
The Drive Team includes 2 Drivers
and 1 Coach. Adults should
encourage all students to try out
these roles prior to Competition
and then have the Team select the
three members to fill the roles at
the Event.
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When choosing controls, the Team’s programmers should approach the problem logically. It is
important to remember that choosing controls at random or arbitrarily will make the Robot more
difficult and increase their driver(s)’ training time.
Consider the kinetics of a driver’s hands versus the requirements of the program. How many
buttons need to be pressed simultaneously? Is it possible to do several motions at the same time
easily?
It is a good idea to program buttons to select speed levels instead of programming the joysticks to
select speed by range of motion. Often, drivers will be caught up in competition and simply “peg”
joysticks all the way up or down spoiling their ability to maneuver when there are fine motor
requirements.
End Game Stage
The End Game stage usually comprises the last 30 seconds of a Match Game. This portion of the Competition
changes from season to season, but is an opportunity for Teams to score a great number of points. Typically,
this high-scoring portion of the Game occurs in the last 30 seconds of the Teleop stage.
Scoring
At the conclusion of the Match, the Referees will score the round. This is the official score and includes any
penalties that were part of the Match, as well as the Autonomous round score. If students wish to question the
score, one student can be sent to speak to the Referee. Questions about scoring, Referee decisions and
penalties must be brought to the head Referee within two Matches. Most Events will have a specific Question
Box area for a student to go to in order to discuss their question. The student should be prepared to calmly
and professionally present the Team’s concerns. The Referee will listen to the student’s argument and make a
final ruling. The Referee’s ruling on the Field is final. It is essential to Graciously accept the Referee’s
decision. For Game-specific FIRST Tech Challenge rules, policies, and practices, please refer to the Game
Manual Part II.
Question Box Etiquette
FIRST Tech Challenge Rules state that only members of the Drive Team can stand address the Referees from
the Question Box. Mentors should coach the Team on what to expect and how to behave:




When a Team member has a decided to ask a
question, she should stand in the designated
area and wait to be addressed by the Head
Referee. This may take a few minutes, so
patience is necessary.
When addressed, present the question or
concern as calmly as possible. The Referee
may need to confer with the Score Sheet,
Scoring table, or other Referees, so again, be
patient. These Volunteers want to ensure they
are being as fair and consistent as possible.
Once the Referee delivers a decision or
explanation, Graciously accept the response
or ask an additional clarifying question.
Learn more in this helpful video.
Your Team should demonstrate
Gracious Professionalism
throughout your Tournament.
This includes
you
compete against. Alliances
require Teams to work closely
together. Communication skills,
teamwork,
sportsmanship
are just as important in Alliance
selection as ranking and points
At the conclusion of the qualifying rounds, Official
Tournaments will hold an Alliance selection process and subsequent elimination rounds, while others may not.
Smaller local or league events may have their own ways of determining a winner for their Event. Please
contact a local organizer if you have questions.
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Qualifying Points vs. Ranking Points
Qualifying Points (QP)
Ranking Points (RP)
 QPs are considered the first basis of determining
Team rankings
 Awarded at the conclusion of every Qualifying Match
 Teams receive points as follows:
 Winning Teams: Two (2) QP
 Losing Teams: Zero (0) QP
 Matches where Teams tie: All four Teams
receive One (1) QP
 Disqualified Teams: Zero (0) QP
 Teams who are declared a “no show”: Zero (0)
 RPs are the second basis of ranking Teams.
 These points are used to determine ranking in the event
of a tiebreaker when Teams have an equal number of
Qualifying Points.
 RPs are Awarded under the following conditions:
 The number of RP’s assigned for each Match is that of
the losing Alliance’s pre-penalty score.
 In the event of a tie, both Alliances receive an equal
number of RP’s; the number equal to the tie score.
 If both Teams on an Alliance are disqualified, the Teams
on the winning Alliance will be awarded their own score
as their RP for the Match.
Note: At the conclusion of all Qualifying Matches, all Teams will be ranked from first through last based on
their total Qualifying Points (QPs). If multiple Teams have the same number of QPs, then the Teams will be
ranked based on their total Ranking Points (RPs). In the event that multiple Teams have the same RP total as
well, the Teams will be ranked on the basis of their highest Match score. In the event that this comparison still
results in a tie, the next highest Match score will be used until the tie is broken. In the unlikely event that this
still results in a tie, the ranking will be determined by random electronic draw.
Alliance Strategy and Scouting
In Tournament play, Alliances are very important. Teams that have earned wins throughout the Qualifying
rounds may earn enough to become an Alliance Captain Team.
Throughout the rounds, Teams are randomly assigned an ally and an opponent. However, in elimination
rounds, top-ranking Teams are able to choose their own Alliance partners. For this reason, it is important that
all Teams pay close attention to the capabilities and attitude of other Teams. If a Team has made it to the
elimination round, the selection of a complementary Alliance partner is crucial. If a Team has not made it to the
elimination round, being selected can provide them with that opportunity.
Alliances are created with the first pick going to the highest ranked Team. After an Alliance invitation has been
extended, a representative from the other Team must come up to accept or decline the invitation. The only rule
of this process is: if a Team declines an Alliance invitation, it may not be selected by any other Alliance. In this
case, the declining Team does not lose their right to select if they are an Alliance Captain.
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How to Get Noticed by Alliance Scouts
 Always demonstrate respect and
Gracious Professionalism in Game
play and in the Pit area.
 Create a one-page flyer that
advertises the Robot’s capabilities
and if possible, its performance
record. Bring copies to the
Tournament and hand them out to
other Teams and visitors before the
qualifying rounds have been
completed.
 Be friendly and sociable with other
Teams. Compatibility and a positive
attitude will linger in other Teams’
memories.
How to Select an Alliance Partner
 Find a complementary Robot to balance strengths and weaknesses in one’s own Robot.
 Do not depend on final rankings after qualifiers. Team experience and standings may shift
throughout the Tournament.
 Take notes about other Teams throughout the day. Track their strengths, weaknesses,
strategies for defense or offense, success, and scores. Consider the types of strategies other
Teams have been using.
 Scouts should also walk around the pits and observe possible capabilities of opponents they have
not yet seen play.
 For more ideas and resources, check out the FIRST Tech Challenge blog post 5 Tips for Scouting.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
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FIRST Tech Challenge Judging and Awards
Why Judging Interviews?
In addition to providing information to help Judges make determinations about Award winners, the FIRST Tech
Challenge Judging Interview provides an opportunity for Teams to practice and develop invaluable life skills. In
addition, Judging Interviews and the FIRST Tech Challenge Judged Awards allow Teams to be honored and
recognized for the complete FIRST Tech Challenge experience and not just the Robot and how it performs on
the Competition field, including:





The overall Team experience, organization, and dynamic
Robot design, prototype, build, and iteration process
The Team Engineering Notebook
The Team Business Plan, Budget, and Funding
Team and community outreach
Teams should look at Judging Interviews as practice for future job interviews and presentations. Mentors can
help them prepare by coaching them on developing an elevator speech or pitch, presentation skills, and
professional behavior and dress. The follow sections go into greater detail about Judging Interviews, preparing
the Team, and the FIRST Tech Challenge Awards.
How Judging Works
FIRST Tech Challenge Judges are Volunteers. They
receive training from FIRST Tech Challenge and
sometimes additional training from the local FIRST Tech
Challenge Affiliate Partner before the Event. At
Tournaments, Judges use a set of guidelines that
represent qualities the Program considers important and
useful for evaluating Team performance. Judges also
refer to a list of judging questions and may even add their own.
Judging is subjective, just like
many things in life, but most
notably like a job interview.
During scheduled Interview sessions, Judges will ask questions and Team members will need to articulate and
demonstrate various aspects of their FIRST Tech Challenge experience. Also important to the Judges is the
Team’s knowledge of the Robot, teamwork, demonstration of FIRST Tech Challenge Core Values, as well as
the influence of the Team’s Mentors. The focus is on the
Team members and their ability to express what they have
learned.
Provide every Team member with
the tools and practice they need
Usually, Teams meet with Judges regarding Awards for a
to be comfortable speaking
designated time period. Some Judging is simply observing
during the Judging Interview or
Teams in action. Judges may also evaluate Teams during
to Judges around the
conversations and observations in the Pit and Competition
Competition Field and Pit area.
areas. These informal conversations are an opportunity for
Even shy students can be
Judges to hear unique stories and uncover exceptional
coached to feel confident in
qualities not readily apparent during the more formal
speaking a small amount and
Judging Interview. The process is not meant to overwhelm
ALL students should be given
the students. Mentors should encourage them to feel
the chance to speak on behalf of
comfortable speaking with the Judges, as Judges
the Team.
understand the Interview process is stressful for some
students. As a training tool, watch this 12 minute TEDx
Talk by Jia Jiang: Lessons Learned from Rejection.
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Preparing and Practicing
Teams will be evaluated by Judges in a number of ways,
including:



Judging Interviews.
Observations on the Competition Field or around
the Pits.
Conversations on the Competition Field or around
the Pits.
Team members should be prepared for the more formal
Interview and the informal observation and conversation
aspect of Judging. Talk to them about the real world application of both skill sets and set aside Team meeting
time for practicing both.
The Elevator Speech
Whenever you have an opportunity to speak about your Team or FIRST, you’re likely going to need to try to
explain what it is we do, usually briefly, but that is often easier said than done. However, taking the time to
prepare for these impromptu moments will make it less overwhelming when the time comes. To do so, craft an
“elevator speech” to review and practice. We looked over the tips created by Mind Tools and here is what they
suggest that you include:
1. Explain What You Do
2. Communicate Your Unique Selling Point
3. Engage with a Question
In addition, you might also discuss the structure of the Team, including the spectrum of involvement of the
Mentors in the various workings of the Team, as well as Team outreach or goals, and successes.
Resources to help the Team prepare for Judging:



Preparing for Competition webpage
Gearing Up Mad Interview Skills presentation
Video Tutorial on Judging
A great tool is to record individual students practicing explaining the Robot to another Mentor (or a guest adult),
talking about the Team’s outreach activities, or the overall Team experience. Watch the video with the student
and coach them on ways they can improve. More often than not, they will just need to become comfortable
with the skill, so allow many opportunities for practice.
An essential tool to help gauge how prepared a Team is for Judging at an Event is the Team Judging Session
Self-Assessment (Appendix G). Read more about this tool in the Self-Assessment section of this Manual and
in the blog post Reflection: Your Key to Team Improvement.
The Judging Interview
The Judging Interview is usually about ten minutes long. Teams will have an opportunity to speak about their
Team or Robot, and then Judges will ask a few questions. Teams vary how they prepare for the Interview, from
having a fully prepared presentation that is memorized, to just talking informally about the Team and Robot.
Either style is fine, but both require a little coaching to help prepare the Team members. Some people are
comfortable with talking “off the cuff” and do an excellent job covering the material, but many people are much
more comfortable with a prepared responses or speech or notecards
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Appropriate Behavior
While Teams will want to stand out as memorable to the Judges, they should also remember that they are
practicing professional skills and should always be Gracious.
 In the Judging Interview, Teams should not expect to be able to give a PowerPoint or video
presentation, should not sing and dance, and should not have a canned speech or presentation that
lengthens their allotted Interview time. Judges need to Interview a lot of Teams in a short amount of
time.
 Teams should not expect Judges to provide feedback. It is not part of their Volunteer role and they
do not have enough time to provide quality feedback to all the Teams at the Event.
 When Judges are walking around, Teams should not approach them to ask questions, solicit
feedback, or attempt to share more about the Team. Judges need to be able to observe,
uninterrupted and in order to give equal attention to all Teams, wait for the Judges to approach the
Team.
Judged Awards
All Teams at an FIRST Tech Challenge Event are eligible to win several Judged Awards. To ensure fairness to
all Teams and provide equal opportunity for Teams at an FIRST Tech Challenge Championship Tournament,
Teams are only eligible to win an Award at the initial three Championship Tournaments that they attend for the
season. Those Teams who compete in four or more Championship Tournaments do so for the purpose of
being involved in the fun and excitement of the Championship Tournament, not for the intention of winning
multiple Awards. This rule applies at all levels of competition.
Submission Requirements
Teams do not need to apply to be eligible for Judged Awards, but they must be sure they meet the criteria
outlined in the Appendix M: FIRST Tech Challenge Judged Awards Categories. Every Award requires the
Team to display Gracious Professionalism in everything they do, most require Teams to submit an Engineering
Notebook, and then three Awards require additional materials: Control Award requires the Team to submit a
Control Award Content Sheet, and the Compass and Promote Video Awards require a video submission.
Awards Determination Process
Choosing the Award winners is, by far, the most
difficult job of the day, and Judges take it very
seriously. Every Team is a winner, and yet the
Judges have to select one to receive special
recognition. It can take some time for the Judges to
deliberate, and they try to be as fair as possible. Not
every Team can win an Award. FIRST Tech
Challenge is about an entire season, not just one day.
Showing support for other Teams is an important part
of Gracious Professionalism and Teamwork.
Another Team's Award takes nothing away from the
Team's achievements and those accomplishments
should be everyone’s focus. As a Mentor, set the tone
for the whole Team. Remind students of all their
success and achievements throughout the season.
Read detailed descriptions about each of the FIRST Tech Challenge Awards and more in the following
resources:

Game Manual Part I
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Appendix M: FIRST Tech Challenge Judged Award Categories
FIRST Tech Challenge Awards Webpage
FIRST Tech Challenge Hall of Fame Webpage
Video Awards
FIRST Tech Challenge has two optional Awards that involve creating a video that is submitted prior to the
Competition: the Promote Award and the Compass Award. A panel of Judges will review the videos and select
the winner, usually prior to the Event day due to the time and technology needed. As an optional Award, Event
hosts may choose whether or not to give out the Award and will communicate details about submitting videos
for the Award in advance of the Event. Details about these two Awards, as well as video guidelines can be
found in Game Manual Part I or Appendix M: FIRST Tech Challenge Judged Award Categories. And be sure to
watch previous season’s submissions, including winning videos on the FIRST Tech Challenge YouTube
Channel for inspiration.
Other Awards
In addition to Judged and Competition Awards given out at Events, FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge offer
additional Awards that follow a different procedure and Judging process. You can read information and details
about all Awards FIRST Tech Challenge Teams are eligible for on the FIRST Tech Challenge Awards
webpage.
Dean’s List Award
In an effort to recognize the leadership and dedication of FIRST’s most outstanding secondary school
students, the Kamen family sponsors awards for selected 10th or 11th grade students called the FIRST Dean's
List Award. The students who earn FIRST Dean’s List status as are great examples of current student leaders
who have led their teams and communities to increased awareness for FIRST and its mission while achieving
personal technical expertise and accomplishment. FIRST Tech Challenge Team members are nominated by
their Mentor(s) for this Award. For more information, read the FIRST Tech Challenge Dean’s List Submission
Guide for Mentors and review Award criteria and past winners on the FIRST Tech Challenge Hall of Fame
webpage..
FIRST Future Innovators Award
The FIRST Future Innovator Award (FFIA) recognizes creativity in effectively solving a real-world, complex
problem through the invention of a unique solution beyond the requirements of the FIRST competition season.
Sponsored by the Abbott Fund, this Award directly links to the FIRST mission to inspire young people to be
science and technology leaders and to the FIRST vision to transform culture by creating a world where science
and technology are celebrated. Teams apply for this Award; Award criteria and the application process can be
found on the FIRST Tech Challenge Awards webpage.
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Outreach Activities for Teams
Advantages to Outreach
Most FIRST Teams participate in outreach activities, or
opportunities to showcase their skills and knowledge to the
“outside” or non-FIRST world. Outreach activities can benefit
Teams by:
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Allowing Teams to practice their public speaking skills
and help prepare them for Judging Interviews.
Providing a public audience to showcase the learning
the students are going through.
Creating networking opportunities for the Team and
individual members.
Introducing FIRST Tech Challenge to potential new
Team members or Mentors.
Recruiting additional Teams to FIRST and creating
connections between FIRST Teams.
Helping achieve the mission of FIRST by raising
awareness of FIRST, FIRST Programs, and STEM.
Connecting the Team to potential Sponsors.
Types of Outreach
Outreach activities can be anything, really, that gets the Team out
and connecting with non-FIRST people, businesses, etc.
Workshops
Many Teams either host or attend an FIRST Tech Challenge workshop event. These are typically training
opportunities where interested parties are able to learn about FIRST, FIRST Tech Challenge, and either drive
or possibly work on a Robot. Look for more information in the FIRST Tech Challenge Quick Build Event Guide
(coming soon).
Demonstrations
There are lots of opportunities for Teams to show the public their Robot(s) and what they are learning as a part
of the FIRST Tech Challenge program and community. This can take place in their school, for a community
organization, in the local parade, at a fair, etc.
Trade Shows
This type of opportunity can vary by name, but typically the Team will set up a booth (basically a modification
of their Pit display) and talk about FIRST, FIRST Tech Challenge, provide handouts, and show off their Robot
to folks stopping by the event. The Team Management Resources webpage and the Appendix of the Manual
provide FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge promotional materials.
Presentations
Whether it is for a potential or confirmed Sponsor, school robotics class, the school board, a local organization,
the Elementary School, or a STEM business, this is a fabulous opportunity for the Team to practice their
Judging Interview skills and to share a lot of information about the program and the Team in a short amount of
time.
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Online
The internet has created awesome opportunities for our Teams to connect with one another online, as well as
to reach out to others in their community, both near and far. This can be done through social media (FIRST
Tech Challenge social media accounts, Facebook groups, LinkedIn, etc) or via groups designed just for this
purpose, such as FIRST Ladies. Learn more in the Gear Up with FIRST Tech Challenge in the Classroom!
virtual summer conference video More Than Robots.
Finding Outreach Opportunities
For large, public events, determine how far you are willing and able to travel, and then you can easily do a
search online or follow your local news media calendar of events. Any event that will allow the Team to talk to
interested persons about robotics, FIRST, and STEM education is a good fit. Contact the organizers and see if
they are interested in the Team being a part of the event and be sure to ask about cost and expectations for
what the Team will do and provide at the event.
For smaller, more intimate events, contact organizations or businesses with whom you would like to
collaborate. Share with them your goals for the outreach and ask if they have any events coming up that your
Team could participate in. This might require advance planning on your part.
Creating Your Own Outreach Event
If your Team would like to create their own outreach event, such as the workshop option listed above, use the
following steps:
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Identify the goals of the event (who is it
for? Is it to raise funds? Recruit team
members?)
Develop a planning committee
Identify any cost and collaborators
Identify a space to use
Reach out to your local Affiliate Partner
or other FIRST Teams in your area for
ideas and support.
Promote your Event in the media.
Get to work!
You will find lots of useful tips in the Event Guide
(even if you are not planning a Scrimmage, the
tips in there will be helpful) and look for more
information on hosting an event in the FIRST Tech
Challenge Quick Build Event Guide (coming
soon).
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Celebration and Recognition
Celebrating the End of the FIRST Tech Season
At the end of the FIRST Tech Challenge season, the Team
should be proud of its accomplishments. Team members
created a unique machine they designed, programmed,
and built to perform difficult challenges, and they learned
how to work together successfully.
It is important to recognize what has been accomplished
together. Be sure to think ahead and include a plan for
celebration in the schedule. Whether or not a Team
attends a Tournament, be sure to make some one-on-one
time for each Team member. Tell each how she/he
contributed to the Team, and remind them of the great
ideas, problems solved, the way each supported
Teammates, and the things learned during the season.
This is an important job as a Mentor, so take time and be
thoughtful about what is said to each student.
Read more in the FIRST Tech Challenge blog post: When You Lose, You Win. As a training tool, watch this 12
minute TEDx Talk by Jia Jiang: Lessons Learned from Rejection.
Recognize Team Members
Plan a celebration and invite family and friends to see what the Team has accomplished. Ask the Team
member's school to hold a special assembly, or ask a sponsoring organization to hold a Team social where the
Team can demonstrate its Robot and showcase Team mementos, journals, or photos.
As an end-of-the-season Teamwork exercise, ask the Team to write down what each member contributed and
then present each student with a certificate showing the contributions as recognized by other Team members.
Ask Team members to vote on a future profession they think each Team member is most likely to pursue. One
Team member could be “Most Likely to Invent Something to Change the World,” another student could be
“Most Likely to Create a New Computer Program,” “Most Likely to Run a High-Tech Company,” or “Most Likely
to Be President of a Research Facility.” This kind of recognition helps students understand how their newfound
skills and talents could translate to the professional world.
Ask them to review the list of FIRST Tech Challenge Core Values and choose the one that each member best
exemplifies. This is a great way for the students to understand that their contributions to the Team are greater
than the tasks that each one performed. Recognitions may include a “Gracious Professionalism” Award, a
“Spirit of Friendly Competition” Award, and any other that the Team creates.
A certificate presentation could be part of a larger ceremony with the Team. Take a picture of each student
with his certificate. This ceremony can be held as part of a celebration dinner or pizza party. Whatever it is,
make it special!
Tell the group how their accomplishments as a Team were special, innovative, or unique. Sometimes it is
difficult to say the words, but it is important that the Team understands what Coaching means to Mentors.
Recognizing the entire Team, as well as praising each student individually in front of his or her Teammates, will
create a lasting memory of working together on the FIRST Tech Challenge.
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Recognize Seniors and Outgoing Members
At graduation ceremonies across the country, seniors dressed in caps and gowns are honored for their
academic, extracurricular, and athletic successes. We know many of those graduates have accomplished
amazing things as part of FIRST. Mentors can purchase FIRST Honor Cords to bestow on the graduating
seniors. Honor cords are typically given in recognition for academic achievement. They are worn over the
graduation robe and the colors are symbolic of the honor society membership or school colors. As they walk
across the stage, their cords will stand out as a symbol of their hard work and achievement while a part of
FIRST. If your school, program, or Team would like to honor your graduates, you should first contact your local
high school to find out how to be involved. The FIRST Tech Challenge honor cord pairing can be purchased
through the BrandIt store for FIRST Teams.
Recognize Sponsors, Mentors, and Volunteers
Be sure the Team recognizes the contributions of Mentors and Volunteers at the end of the season. The Team
can provide its Mentor a framed Team or Robot photograph, or a certificate or letter that recognizes the special
talents she or he shared. To give a gift with a FIRST logo to Volunteers, Mentors, or Sponsors, visit the FIRST
on-line store for clothing, Awards, and other customized items.
Host a Local Event
In the post-season, Teams may consider hosting an unofficial local event. Other Teams in the area can be
invited to attend and participate. This can be done in addition to subsequent FIRST Tech Challenge
competitions or the Championship event. Visit the Events section of the FIRST Tech Challenge website for
more information.
Hosting an unofficial local event will help Team members learn new skills and take more responsibility for their
work, as they will be running the event.
Students may consider the local event a
showcase for their FTC accomplishments,
and they love the opportunity to see what
other Teams have done with their Robots.
Customize local events to suit the Team’s
needs and resources. The flexible format for
local events allows for the inclusion of
elimination rounds, special Robot challenges,
Teamwork activities, and demonstrations of
other special components/ subassemblies
that the Team may have developed.
Sometimes host Teams participate in the
competition, but choose not to be eligible for
an Award, enjoying it for the experience
rather than for competitive reasons. Whatever
the Team chooses to do, let other
participating Teams know what they can
expect.
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Maintaining Team Longevity and Sustainability
Why Longevity and Sustainability?
Some Teams are created so that a few students can develop some skills to supplement their school learning.
Once the few students either leave or graduate, the Team dissolves. Some Teams are created for one year
and then, due to funding, are unable to return. And then other Teams are part of a school or organization and
the plan is for the Team to be around forever. These are just a few examples of the life span of a Team, and all
are acceptable. The decision to be a short-term or long-term Team is personal to the Team. However, if your
Team plans to compete for more than one season, then there are a few things your Team can and should do
to ensure that the Team lasts as long as desired and is able to flourish with adequate funding and support.
This section of the manual outlines the key elements to maintaining and sustaining your Team. For additional
information or advice, reach out to other FIRST Teams in your area or your local Affiliate Partner.
Goal-Setting and Self-Assessment
The first year of a Team, the focus is on building a robot that can successfully compete in the Game
Challenge. A secondary goal is to learn as much as possible about the FIRST Tech Challenge program and
connect with other Teams.
Each year after the rookie season, the Team should establish broader, more challenging goals for that season
and beyond, perhaps a three-year plan that is re-visited each year and then re-written every three years. Each
year there can be short-term goals, with the Team always working toward those longer two- or three-year
goals.
Some short-term goal examples:
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Design and build a Robot that can __________.
Use PTC Creo to create 3-D designs prior to building the
Robot.
Train all Team members on using Java programming
language.
Advance the Team to the regional Championship/SuperRegional/World Championship.
Compete in an international Event.
Raise $10,000 for the Team budget.
Volunteer 500 hours in their local community.
Recruit and mentor two other FIRST Teams.
Some long-term goal examples are:
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Nominate two members for the Dean’s List Award each year.
Advance the Team to the World Championship every year.
Build up a Team savings account up to $30,000.
Create a scholarship fund for graduating seniors.
Get an annual Team Sponsor.
To maintain interest moving forward each year, keep setting new goals as a Team and for individual members.
Help the Team succeed by establishing check points for the goals and celebrate successes.
Each year, do Team self-evaluation, ideally at the end of the season when the experience is still fresh, and
then again at the start of the next season when everyone has had a little break which can provide perspective.
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Building Leadership
In order to sustain a strong Team over the years, you need leaders, and not just Mentors in a leadership role.
Early in the season, identify students who already possess leadership skills and work to help them develop into
strong Team leaders. Those leaders should always be helping to train their replacement, since Team members
will eventually graduate or leave the Team. Start with the strategies listed in the Developing Leaders section of
this manual, read the blog post Achievement Starts with Belief, and then build your leadership training to
include outside workshops or conference opportunities for Mentors and Team members. Bring in business
leaders from the community to speak about various leadership skills and how to develop them. Inspire
leadership on the Team with TED talks on leadership. More importantly, leadership is an action, so provide
opportunities for Team members to coach and help their peers on the Team, as well as Mentor other FIRST
Teams whenever possible.
Funding
In the Fundraising the Team section of this manual, there is a lot of information on how to raise money to
support the Team in achieving their goals throughout the rookie season, including buying parts, registration
fees, and travel expenses, among others. In order to sustain the Team for longer than one season, you will
need to create and achieve even bigger fundraising goals each year. While you may spend less on parts after
the first season, when you create loftier goals, it will require a larger pool of funds (ie: traveling further,
purchasing a 3-D printer, etc).
Starting in the first year, you will want to develop your fundraising plan to include building a savings/rollover
fund each season. This will mean seeking larger grant opportunities, finding a long-term or annual Sponsor,
etc. It might be smart to bring in experts on budgeting and accounting to help you develop your Team budget
or an expert on fundraising to help you brainstorm strategies for achieving your long-term financial goals.
Developing Community Support
If the Team is going to be around for many years to come, develop a plan for building community partnerships.
This can provide support for the Team in terms of funding, mentor and student recruitment, and skill
development for Team members (ie: networking for internship opportunities). In this way, more people become
invested in ensuring the Team has the resources (material, financial, and human) to compete each season.
In your Team business or strategic plan, identify a few key connections you’d like to make with community
organizations or businesses – and then just target two or three each year (keep it small to ensure success).
For example, if your Team is school-based, build a partnership with groups like 4-H, Girls Scouts, or The Boys
& Girls Club. The Team can do outreach activities with the organization and that can become a great tool for
Team recruitment.
If you haven’t already, check out these resources:
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Marketing and Business Strategies for Teams (video)
FIRST Business Plan Overview training (video)
FIRST Tech Challenge Fundraising Guide
Appendix N: Sample Business Plan
Archiving Information
Whether it is preserving great ideas that are unused from project to project and year to year or cataloging
accomplishments, whatever the information contains, the Team should identify a strategy for archiving
information, including a Team member database, text documents, CAD drawings, programming language,
pictures, and videos. While it might be easiest to use a Mentor’s computer or email account, what would
happen to the information if the computer crashes or the Mentors decide to leave the Team?
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For the long haul, Teams should create a set of accounts and ensure that more than one person has account
privileges and access. In addition, creating an online presence can both archive information and create
opportunities for outreach. Accounts to include:
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Email
Cloud-based storage (ie: Dropbox, OneDrive)
Webpage/blog (ie: WordPress)
Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc)
Video or Photos (YouTube or Flickr)
Each season, identify who is the key person (Mentor, Team member, one of each) to monitor and update the
account(s). Make sure they have enough time to handle the task, and set aside meeting time to check in with
them. Set up parameters for what is appropriate use of the account and provide training as needed. In addition
to the point person, be sure there is an additional person or two who are learning the ropes and/or assisting
with content creation, etc so that the skills and knowledge aren’t lost when the Team member or Mentor move
on.
Passing on Leadership to a new Mentor
As with all things, Mentors will come and Mentors will go. The harder a Mentor works each season will likely
speed up their exit due to overwork if there are not enough Mentors sharing the responsibilities of running the
Team. Ideally the Team will be able to survive these changes seamlessly, but here are a few tips to help with
the transition:
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Always have more than one Mentor know the inner workings of the group, especially Team
registration and communication with FIRST, account usernames and passwords, budget and
fundraising, etc.
In the Team Registration, two Mentors must be registered and pass screening, but the Lead Mentor
must pass on responsibility for the Team prior to their leaving the Team to avoid extra steps to
maintain the Team’s account and number.
Delegate tasks whenever possible to other Mentors: this helps them learn and know what needs to
be done, but also helps them stay connected to and invested in the Team.
Find ways to include parent or volunteers in the workload of the Team. This can defray costs
(perhaps a parent can make copies at home), provide a warm body to supervise meetings (allowing
a Mentor the night off), and help them stay positively invested in the Team.
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FIRST® Tech Challenge
Mentor Manual
Appendices
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Appendix A: Resources
Game Forum Q&A
http://ftcforum.usfirst.org/forum.php
Anyone may view questions and answers within the FIRST® Tech Challenge Game Q&A forum without
a password. In order to submit a new question, you must have a unique Q&A System User Name and
Password for your team.
FIRST Tech Challenge Game Manuals
Part I and II - http://www.firstinspires.org/resource-library/ftc/game-and-season-info
FIRST® Headquarters Support
Phone: 603-666-3906
Mon – Fri
8:30am – 5:00pm
Email: FTCTeams@firstinspires.org
FIRST Website: firstinspires.org
FIRST Tech Challenge Page – For everything FIRST Tech Challenge.
FIRST Tech Challenge Volunteer Resources – To access public Volunteer Manuals.
FIRST Tech Challenge Event Schedule – Find FIRST Tech Challenge events in your area.
FIRST Tech Challenge Social Media
FIRST Tech Challenge Twitter Feed - If you are on Twitter, follow the FIRST Tech Challenge twitter
feed for news updates.
FIRST Tech Challenge Facebook page - If you are on Facebook, follow the FIRST Tech Challenge
page for news updates.
FIRST Tech Challenge YouTube Channel – Contains training videos, Game animations, news clips,
and more.
FIRST Tech Challenge Blog – Weekly articles for the FIRST Tech Challenge community, including
Outstanding Volunteer Recognition!
FIRST Tech Challenge Team Email Blasts – contain the most recent FIRST Tech Challenge news for
Teams.
FIRST Tech Challenge Google+ community - If you are on Google+, follow the FIRST Tech Challenge
community for news updates.
Product Support
FIRST will handle questions about team registration, grants, events and partners. Pitsco will handle questions
about ordering, payment and delivery of competition sets and materials.
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U.S. & Canada: 800-835-0686 FREE
Outside U.S. and Canada: 620-231-0100
U.S. Fax: 800-533-8104
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Team Development Support
In addition to the staff at FIRST headquarters, a regional support is available through FIRST Tech Challenge
Affiliate Partners, FIRST Regional Directors, FIRST Senior Mentors, and FIRST VISTA Volunteers.
Regional Support
Support Available
FIRST Tech Challenge Affiliate Partners
 Assist with Team-related needs such as finding a Team
sponsor
 Experienced FIRST Volunteer
 Assist Teams with Team development, Team Mentor guidance and
other needs
Regional Directors
FIRST Senior Mentors and
VISTA Volunteers
 Assist with Team-related needs such as finding a Team
 Sponsor
 To find out the name of a local Regional Director, send an
email request to ftcteams@firstinspires.org
 Experienced FIRST Volunteers
 Assist Teams with Team development, Team Mentor guidance
and other needs
 To inquire if a Senior Mentor or VISTA Volunteer is available in the
local area, send an email to ftcteams@firstinspires.org
Feedback
We strive to create support materials that are the best they can be. If you have feedback regarding this
manual, please email ftcteams@firstinspires.org. Thank you!
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Appendix B: Season Planning Tool
Coordinating a Team over the better part of a year is a lot of work. Make sure all dates and expectations are
clear to Mentors, Volunteers, parents and students. While exact dates and deadlines will vary from year to
year, some general timelines will remain consistent between seasons.
Registration (Early May)
Order Parts (May-June)
Pre Kickoff (August – Early September)
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Attend FIRST Tech Challenge events in the area as a spectator to see the flow of the day, meet
Mentors, talk to Teams about their experiences, and witness the high energy level first-hand.
Talk to the local Affiliate Partner to get answers to questions, and to get in touch with experienced
Mentors in the area.
Try building practice Robots.
Go to the FIRST Tech Challenge website to see pictures of previous competitions.
Find another local FTC Team Mentor with whom Mentors can compare notes, possibly share a
Playing Field, or even set up late-season scrimmages.
Acquire Java programming software practice using it. Have a Team member start learning to use it.
Host or support outreach events.
Attend pre-season Workshops, if available.
Kickoff and Game Reveal (Mid-September)
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Access all materials related to the new Challenge.
Download manuals and graphics, access the rules of the new Robot Game, and view the season’s
Playing Field drawings
Contact the Affiliate Partner for information pertaining to Kickoff events in the local area.
Many Teams gather on that day for a Team party to celebrate the new yearly Game challenge.
For some Teams, this meeting is a season opener.
Download the materials together and come up with a Game plan for the new season.
Raise Team awareness of the build excitement ahead of time and show them where to find
information during the build season.
It is a good idea to start budgeting for Event advancement. Some Teams receive invitations to
Super-Regionals or World Championship late in the season and it can be challenging to raise the
funds needed in such a short period of time.
Early Season Meetings (September)
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Do lots of Teambuilding.
Establish procedures and routines.
Get familiar with kits and parts
Clean up and prepare workspace.
Inventory resources from previous years.
Some regions may have earlier
scrimmage and practice
opportunities. Consult your local
Affiliate Partner/Event
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Build Season (October)
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Teach the Team about overall design.
Decide which design to use as a Team.
Programmers get comfortable with the programming software by reviewing the Intelitek resources,
then create programming flowcharts and begin writing programs for autonomous mode.
Building Team constructs prototypes and then builds the chassis and manipulators.
Practice Season (Late October – November)
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Programmers focus on autonomous mode requirements.
Drivers practice remote control driving.
Builders focus on organizing the pit area, assist with testing and driving practice, and enhance the
Engineering Notebook.
Pit crew practices checks and repairs for efficiency.
The whole Team works towards accomplishing all of the required tasks for the Challenge.
Try to attend at least one scrimmage to practice under real conditions.
League Events & Qualifying Tournaments (October – February)

Register for Tournaments as early as possible in the season. Pay attention to Qualifier
requirements. Some Tournaments fill up quickly.
Championship Tournaments (December – March)

There will be a listing of confirmed Championship Tournament sites on the Events Portal, beginning
in late September or October. Teams can apply either online or directly with the Tournament
organizer for most Championship Tournaments.
Super-Regional Championships (March-April)
World Championships (April)
Post-Season (May – June)
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Organize post-season events.
Celebrate end of the season.
Get an early start on next season’s registration (useful for schools using current year budget funds)
Recruitment Season (June – July)
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Some areas hold outreach events, which include demos or scrimmages to attract new Teams.
Outreaches are a good opportunity to keep Team members together and engaged for a longer
season.
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Appendix C: 10 Steps to Being an Effective FIRST® Tech Challenge Facilitator
1. Be an Active Listener
 Listen before speaking.
 Listen for the contribution that the person is trying to make. Attempt to identify with what the person
is saying. Be understanding. Be empathetic. Evaluate what is being said.
 Ensure there is an accurate understanding of what was said by paraphrasing.
 Establish meaningful conversations with Team members and never talk down to anyone.
2. Look for Verbal and Non-Verbal Cues
These signals are important in communication and in knowing whether something is understood. Some signals
that clarification or a new approach is needed include:
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Raising or lowering of voice
Body positioning
Raising eyebrows
Shifting in one’s seat
Rapid speech or tone of speech
When one of these cues is observed, stop to check for comprehension. The Team may need a
short break to relax and re-focus.
3. Listen and Ask
 Resist doing most of the talking, even if the correct answer seems obvious.
 When communication is one-way and the Mentor has all of the answers, the other Team members
will not feel valued.
 Ask open-ended questions: "What do you think?" or "How do you think we should approach this?"
 Avoid questions requiring a simple yes or no answer.
 Be patient and provide “think time” in discussions.
 Do not provide an immediate solution.
 Encourage all Team members to think for a few moments before making a suggestion. Some
people require extra time to process information, and some people require extra time to put their
thoughts into words, or to build up the courage to speak in a group.
 Let students finish their thoughts completely. This can also be done one-on-one, if a student
requires more time to explain his or her idea than the allotted discussion time allows.
 Take the time to make sure everyone understands
 Encourage students to ask questions if something is not clear.
 Always ask if there is anyone who does not understand, and provide clarification when necessary.
 Encourage students to politely question their Mentors and their Teammates if they do not
understand or agree.
 Have students paraphrase the point or final decision to check for comprehension. Students (and
adults) often say they understand when further clarification is needed. Remember that concepts
may not have been covered yet in school. Misinterpretation of explanations or decisions is also
common and can cause frustration and mistakes if they are not addressed early on.
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4. Provide Positive, Objective, and Constructive Feedback
 Observe what the Team members contribute and provide positive, objective, and constructive
feedback to build confidence and help them improve.
 Help students understand that Mentors provide feedback to help the Team improve. It is about
actions or work, and is not a judgment of him/her as a person.
 Establish and practice effective communication between Team members. Outline routines for
feedback and ways to address concerns.
 Help students see the potential pitfalls in a particular approach to a problem.
 Help students understand that certain types of solutions may be dependent on more detailed
knowledge. Direct them to appropriate resources for investigation.
 If students provide information concerning Robot rules to the group, be sure they can pinpoint
where they found it so accuracy can be checked.
5. Be Sensitive
 If there is a problem, provide constructive criticism immediately following the behavior, if possible.
Be sensitive to things that could embarrass an individual, such as commenting in public.
 Be aware that not all people are receptive to feedback. Some view it as criticism and may be hurt,
or react defensively. The way the message is delivered will have an impact on the reaction.
 Be direct, treat all Team members with respect, and deliver positive and constructive comments.
For some individuals and some situations, it may be helpful to ask the Team member if he or she
would like to receive comments on his or her work. If he or she does, the session should be twoway, allowing him or her to ask questions and clarify the delivered message.
6. Be Safe
 When there is a safety issue, give immediate feedback to Team members, even at the risk of
embarrassing them.
 Take them aside later and explain that the issue had to be addressed out of concern for that
person’s well-being and safety. It should be highlighted that speaking up is often required in order to
prevent injury.
7. Let the Students Lead
 Remember that FIRST Tech Challenge offers students a chance to learn in a fun way. Students
have frequent, daily opportunities at school to listen to teachers. This is their chance to lead.
 Make an effort to balance the amount of time students spend listening to a Mentor with the amount
of time they spend doing something themselves. FIRST Tech Challenge should be hands-on and
student-driven.
 For some learners, being a leader is challenging. It may take time for some students to learn to take
the initiative and not ask for step-by-step directions.
8. Encourage Innovation and Critical Thinking
 Reply to a question with another carefully considered question that will force Team members to use
their knowledge of science and hypothesize logical outcomes: “What would happen if . . .” or “How
will that affect . . .”
 Remain flexible and open to new concepts and work to facilitate the student's articulation of what
they want to do and their understanding of the technical aspects of their actions, as well as the
potential effects on all other aspects of the Team.
 If at first their understanding appears too narrow, provide students with potential alternatives of
viewing a problem.
9. Be Inclusive
 Do not scare away quiet members. Provide them with comfortable opportunities to share. They
have a lot to offer and a lot to gain from the Team.
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
Have students work in pairs or alone to sketch out ideas with a short description. Do not make
students present verbally to the group at first unless they wish to do so. Post the pictures for all to
see, and perhaps it will open up discussion.
10. Promote Routine Self-Evaluation and Evaluation of Team Goals
 Keep the Team focused on their goals during the season and review the goals periodically, as well
as after the competition.
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Appendix D: Sample Team Roster
All students MUST have a
completed Consent & Release
form, either online or printed in
order to participate at an Event.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
108 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Appendix E: FIRST® Tech Challenge Sample Budget
The following sample budget was created for a team was a rookie team and cost reflect one-time purchases
for their robot and one event. Adding additional supplies and event registration and travel will cost more.
Teams should anticipate some of the costs as they are planning their budget and fundraising. For team
longevity, teams will want to end the season with some surplus, if possible, to help get them started in the next
season.
At the start of the season, create a budget that guesstimates expenses. Using the template below, put
anticipated expenses and the projected amount in the column named “Budgeted Amt. As money gets spent,
track the line items and the actual dollar amount in the column labelled “Actual Cost”. For teams who need to
report their budgets out for awarded grants, sponsors, or schools, you might need to use the “Category” and
“Rationale” columns to separate out how each expense is applied and the purpose for it.
To modify this budget in Microsoft Excel, download the template from our Team Management Resources page.
Budget
Amt.
Item
Actual
Cost
Category
Rationale/Explanation
275.00
580.00
Registration
Robot Supplies
318.00
Robot Supplies
Kit of Parts: Electronics
Modules & Sensors Set
Tools
365.00
Robot Supplies
200.00
Robot Supplies
Misc Parts & Supplies
200.00
Robot Supplies
Team T-Shirts
Team Buttons
Pit Display
Printing
150.00
60.00
50.00
100.00
Team Supplies
Team Supplies
Team Supplies
Team Supplies
Tournament Registration
Gas
75.00
100.00
Registration
Travel
Food
200.00
Travel
Season registration fee (required).
Rookie teams will need to start with
either a TETRIX or MATRIX kit.
Rookie Teams will need to the
Technology used in FIRST Tech
Challenge, primarily phones and
adapters for events. Veteran Teams may
need replacements.
Teams can choose to add modules,
sensors, or other supplies to their kit.
Rookie teams will likely need to invest in
purchasing some basic, essential tools.
Needs arise for parts, etc, so budget
accordingly so you have the money.
To promote the team and show spirit.
To promote the team and raise funds.
To promote the team at events.
The team will likely incur printing costs
(paper, ink), so plan for it in the budget.
Event registration fees vary by region.
Getting the team and the robot to the
event often takes a bus.
Feed the team at meetings and/or
events.
Projected total expenses for the
season. Actual Costs may be
lower/higher, but it’s best to plan
high.
Expenses
Registration
Kit of Parts: Competition
Set
Kit of Parts: Control &
Communication Set 2
Sub-Total 2673.00
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Monies
Rollover Amount
0.00
Grant
575.00
Grants
School Allocated Club
Funds
500.00
Income
Pizza Fundraiser
300.00
Fundraiser
Car Wash
300.00
Fundraiser
Button Sales
300.00
Fundraiser
Sub-Total 1975.00
Bottom Line
Credit/Deficit
-698.00
Rollover Amount
| 109
Money left over from the previous
season (applies only to veteran teams)
Team applied for and received a grant
from an organization.
Some schools provide clubs and
organizations with a set amount of
money each year.
Planned team fundraiser with ideal
amount raised.
Planned team fundraiser with ideal
amount raised.
Planned team fundraiser with ideal
amount raised.
Anticipated amount of money coming
in throughout the season. Actual
amount may be lower/higher, but it’s
best to over-plan ways to raise
money.
Current money still left/Money owed that
still needs to be raised (marked in red)
Any money that can be moved over to
the next season’s budget at the end of
the current season.
Ways to Reduce Expenses for Rookies
The above budget is planned for a rookie team purchasing the maximum amount of supplies through the
FIRST Tech Challenge Storefront and attending one Qualifying Tournament. Reductions in this budget could
include:





Borrow tools – about $200 savings
Reduce extra parts and supplies needs with frugal robot design – about $150 savings
Don’t buy Team Swag (T-shirts or Pit display) – about $200 savings
Parents donate gas, travel expenses, and food – about $200 savings
Get a local print shop to donate printing – about $100 savings
Total potential savings: about $850 if all above measures were combined. New Expense Sub-Total: $1,823.
Ways to Reduce Expenses for Veterans
The above budget is planned for a rookie team purchasing the maximum amount of supplies through the
FIRST Tech Challenge Storefront and attending one Qualifying Tournament. Reductions in this budget could
include:




Don’t buy a new Kit of Parts - about $600 savings
Use old tools – about $200 savings
Reduce extra parts and supplies needs with frugal robot design – about $150 savings
Use previous T-Shirts and Pit display – about $200 savings
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
110 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual


Parents donate gas, travel expenses, and food – about $200 savings
Get a local print shop to donate printing – about $100 savings
Total potential savings: about $1,450 if all above measures were combined. New Expense Sub-Total: $1,223.
Optional Costs
Many Teams want to build and test their Robots using off-the-shelf materials and a real Playing Field. This is,
however, totally up to the Team and what they can afford, but will increase their expenses throughout the
season. Example expenses include:



FIRST Tech Challenge Playing Field Perimeter – approximately $700 (or you can save money by
building one using the FIRST Tech Challenge Low-Cost Field Perimeter Build Guide).
FIRST Tech Challenge Playing Field Tiles – approximately $360 for a full field (or you can save
money by only buying a few tiles, like 6, to practice on).
FIRST Tech Challenge Field – a full field will cost $450, or you can save money by buying just a
half field for $300, or just a few of the field elements with varying costs by part (or you can save
money by building a Field using the FIRST Tech Challenge DIY Field Build Guide and Blueprints).
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Appendix F: FIRST® Tech Challenge Team Roles
FIRST Tech Challenge Team Roles
Responsibilities
Traits
Mentor (2+ adults)

Read about the Mentor’s Role.




18 years or older
Patient
Dedicated
Willing to learn
Future Mentor (1+)


Assist the Mentor and other Team members.
Gradually take on responsibilities as the season
progresses, to assist the Mentor.




Receptive to feedback and Coaching
Actively seeks challenge and greater responsibility
Goal-oriented
Willing to assume responsibility for his or her own
growth and development





Clear-headed
Organized
Confident
Punctual
Able to mediate discussion and conflict
Team Management (1+ students)






Focuses the Team.
Ensures that everyone’s ideas are heard and works
to find compromises.
Regularly checks Team goals and deadlines.
Gathers information from sub-groups on the Team
and tracks Team progress.
Keeps everyone on schedule with project timelines.
Manages the Team schedule at events.
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Responsibilities
Traits
Strategy (2+ students)







Discusses ways to help the Team be successful in
competition.
Understands the Game rules and challenges
thoroughly.
Gathers input from other Team members to
influence strategy.
Keeps an active eye for rule updates to ensure
Team compliance.
Searches the Internet for discussion by other Teams
regarding what works.
Studies the Team’s Robot to see other ways it can
do different tasks with little modification.






Resourceful
Creative
Innovative
Willing to take well-thought-out risks
Knows the related subject matter
Familiar with rules and regulations
Communicates problems and possible solutions
clearly and respectfully with Team members.
Build Team (2+ students)









Understands and uses safety precautions while
building.
Investigates different solutions to solve mechanical
design challenges.
Makes decisions about mechanical design.
Works to achieve consensus among Team
members.
Uses guidelines from Team brainstorming to build a
Robot.
Communicates and tests to ensure that all
mechanisms on the Robot work effectively together.
Works with the Quality/Compliance Control Team to
test and refine Robot design.
Communicates problems and possible solutions
clearly and respectfully with Team members.
Regularly monitors forums and FIRST resources for
rule updates, to ensure Team compliance.





Knows the related subject matter
Confident, but willing to ask for clarification
Documents carefully
Confident with use of all tools
Familiar with rules and regulations
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Traits
Programming Team (2+ students)








Writes well-commented programs for the
autonomous part of the competition.
Schedules time with the build Team to test the
chassis when others do not need it.
Alters the programs as necessary.
Regularly monitors forums and FIRST resources for
rule updates, to ensure Team compliance.
Communicates problems and possible solutions
clearly and respectfully with Team members.
Ensures there is a hard copy of the program at
events.
At Events, makes any changes the drive Team
needs in order to be more efficient during the
controlled portion of the match.
If the Team is experienced, offers assistance to
Team members that are new to programming.






Organized and has good tracking skills.
Creative
Innovative
Willing to take risks based on thorough research
Knows the related subject matter
Familiar with rules and regulations
Quality/Compliance Control (2+ students)






Regularly monitors forums and FIRST resources for
rule updates, to ensure Team compliance.
Conducts independent tests of the Robot’s
performance to identify potential problems and areas
for improvement.
Tests for functions that do not work reliably.
Makes recommendations for improvements.
Communicates problems and possible solutions
clearly and respectfully with other Team members.
Documents all tests and results in the Engineering
Notebook.







Detail-oriented
Thorough
Innovative
Documents carefully
Confident, but willing to ask for clarification
Knows the related subject matter
Authoritative yet diplomatic
Note: Robots and programs will need to be tested and revised frequently
and regularly.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
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Responsibilities
Traits
Hardware/Tools Management (2+ students)






Understands the function of hardware elements and
tools in the kit.
Organizes and monitors the use and location of all
hardware and tools needed for building and
maintaining the Robot.
Keeps track of all wiring necessary to program the
Robot.
Keeps track of all power strips and batteries needed
for the Robot.
Manages the battery charging process.
Understands and uses safety precautions when
using and storing materials, and when charging
batteries.



Organized
Responsible
Uses appropriate terminology




Organized
Confident with use of all tools
Works well under pressure
Communicates calmly and effectively with Team
members




Positive attitude
Able to focus in loud, distracting environment
Attentive listener
Receptive to receiving input from Driver Coach

Dedication to practice time
Pit Crew (2+ students)





Creates safety and Robot functionality checklists
throughout the build season, to be used at
scrimmages and competition events.
Conducts thorough safety and Robot functionality
checks regularly at all events.
After each match, ensures that all nuts and bolts
are tight, that metal is not bent or impairing motion,
and that all wires are still firmly attached.
Ensures that all materials and tools used for repair
are accounted for and returned to the appropriate
location after Game play.
Understands and uses safety precautions at all
times in the pit.
Driver (2+ students and 1 backup driver)

Operates the Robot in competition using a handheld remote control to “drive” or move a part of the
Robot.
Note: Backup Robot operators should be trained and prepared to take part
in the competition, in case of illness or nerves. Practice time should include
both groups, so everyone is prepared to play in front of a loud, enthusiastic
audience.
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Traits
Driver Coach (1+ students)



Encourages the student members of the Teams to
collaborate on match strategy
In Game play, watches for information from
Referees and communicates with the drive Team
Assists the drive Team in following the
predetermined strategy or changing it, if necessary


Calm
Clear verbal communicator

Understands Team strategy and Game rules
Note: Coaches cannot touch the controllers or Robot before or during a
competition match. Doing so will lead to a disqualification of the entire
Team.
Speaking Representative (2+ students)



Lead the group when talking to Judges, scouts, or
guests in the Pit during competition.
Promote FIRST Tech Challenge and their Team by
speaking at community outreach events or Team
demonstrations.
Understand each Team member’s role in order to
direct more specific questions to those individuals
when necessary.






Confident
Polite
Good listener
Professional manner
Able to speak loudly and clearly over noise and
distraction
Understands and uses appropriate terminology

Speaks clearly and concisely
Note: The spokesperson may be the most prominent speaker, but all Team
members should be prepared to speak about their Robot and experience in
general, and about their own roles on the Team in detail.
Team Spirit (whole Team with 3+ student specialists)






Helps to establish and promote Team identity and
spirit.
Helps to promote a positive attitude and Gracious
Professionalism™ throughout the season and at
Events.
Thinks of ways for the Team and its supporters to
show their spirit and personality at Events.
Assists in the design of T-shirts or pins
Writes cheers and invents unique ways to showcase
Team spirit.
Encourages the drive Team to do its best during
Game play and cheers whether the Team wins or
loses.




Enthusiastic
Creative
Positive attitude
Receptive to input from the Team regarding spirit
ideas
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
116 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Responsibilities
Traits
Documentation (whole Team with 2+ student specialists)


Records and documents the Team’s activities,
actions, failures, and successes in the Engineering
Notebook.
Takes photos or video footage of build process and
Events for use in marketing and outreach efforts.




Creative
Written communication skills
Visual presentation skills
Detail-oriented

Interested in layout and presentation
Note: All Team members should contribute to documentation in some way,
especially in the Engineering Notebook.
Marketing (1+ student)







Designs and creates the Team logo.
Assembles promotional materials to showcase
Team capabilities.
Visits Sponsors and potential Sponsors.
Regularly updates parents and Sponsors about the
Team’s progress.
Publicizes the Team in the school and community
(e.g., displays, pictures of the Team in action, press
releases, social media, or a Team web site).
Contacts the local media, surrounding schools, or
civic organizations to increase public awareness of
the Team and how students benefit from the FIRST
Tech Challenge experience.
Creates and shares promotional materials with other
Teams.






Creative
Outgoing
Organized
Resourceful
Strong communication skills
Professional manner




Responsible
Innovative
Detail-oriented
Experience handling money
Fundraising (2+ students)



Searches for unique and effective fundraising ideas.
Recruits parents and other students to assist in the
fundraising process.
Monitors money and ensures that it is submitted on
time.
Recruitment (2+ students)


Promote FIRST in school and local community
Works to bring new and varied members to the
Team





Outgoing
Personable
Enthusiastic
Professional manner
Speaks clearly and concisely
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Appendix G: Team Judging Session Self-Assessment
For Team use only – NOT to be handed in
Skill
Comments
Pre-Assessment (to be completed prior to the Judging Session)
Team has prepared for the Judging session and has a
plan for who will speak, when, etc.
Team has held practice Judging sessions.
What did the Team do well in preparing for the Judging Interview?
What is one thing the Team can focus on improving before the next
Event?
Team has identified a goal for the Judging session.
First Impression (to be completed AFTER the Judging Session)
All members exhibited Gracious Professionalism through
their language and behavior.
Team spirit was visible in dress, energy, materials, or
preparedness.
Used Judging session time efficiently and effectively.
What did the Team do well at making a First Impression?
What is one thing the Team can focus on improving in this area?
Team Dynamic (to be completed AFTER the Judging Session)
Team shares the spotlight in Judging, inspection,
Competition, and in the Pits by ensuring every member
has a role and communicates this by words and actions.
Team has a rapport that shows attention to Teambuilding
and behaves as Gracious Professionals to each other.
What did the Team do well in Team Dynamic?
What is one thing the Team can focus on improving in this area?
Speaking Skills (to be completed AFTER the Judging Session)
What did the Team do well in Speaking Skills?
Speakers spoke clearly and enunciated.
Responded to Judges questions with thoughtful, thorough
responses.
What is one thing the Team can focus on improving in this area?
“Is there anything else you want to share?” – Team
prepared with a unique tidbit about the Team or the
Robot.
Presentation Skills (to be completed AFTER the Judging Session)
What did the Team do well in Presentation Skills?
Members made eye contact and maintained good posture
when speaking to Judges, staff.
Team materials were professional, clean, easy to read.
What is one thing the Team can focus on improving in this area?
If applicable, presentation was organized and wellrehearsed.
Listening Skills (to be completed AFTER the Judging Session)
Team understood the Judges questions or asked for
clarification.
Team fully responded to the Judges questions.
Team paused to allow for Judges follow-up questions.
What did the Team do well in Listening Skills?
What is one thing the Team can focus on improving in this area?
Content (to be completed AFTER the Judging Session)
What did the Team do well in the Content of their Interview?
Team shared authentic stories, proud moments, and
unique tidbits.
Team articulated how, as individuals and as a Team, they
What is one thing the Team can focus on improving in this area?
have grown and interacted with others during the season.
Focused on what is unique about the Team.
Team was able to show the breadth of their Team and
how each member plays a key role.
Overall Post-Assessment (to be completed AFTER the Judging Session)
What are two Team Judging Interview strengths?
1.
2.
What is one area the Team can focus on improving?
1.
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
118 | FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Manual
Appendix H: Sample Resume
STUDENT NAME
Street Address, City, State Zip
Email Address
Phone Number
Education
Name of School
Street Address
City, State Zip
Dates of Attendance
GPA
Work Experience
Title, Name of Company, dates employed
 Bullet list of tasks or responsibilities, each
starts with an active verb like: managed,
developed, created, taught, designed,
programmed, responsible for, or built. For
example:
 Produced report on the impact FIRST Tech
Challenge has on graduation rates in the
local school system.
Only include sections that apply to
your experiences. Do not list items
twice, even if it applies to more than
one category. Include a mix of
experiences that show your diversity of
interests and skills. Keep your resume
content to one page (pick only the key
items) and use .5-1” margins.
References go on the second page.
Computer Skills
Single line list of skills, or separate by skill levels: proficient, knowledge of, capable. If you only have basic
knowledge, probably best not to include. For example:
Proficient in programming using Java, 3D design using PTC Creo, and Adobe Publisher.
Languages
Single line list of languages mastered if you speak more than one, or separate lists by proficiency: fluent in,
conversational, etc. If you only have basic knowledge, probably best not to include. For example:
Fluent in English and Mandarin.
Travel Experience
Single line list of countries and year traveled if it is part of the job description, contributes to the diversity of
your skillset, or demonstrates mastery in language(s) as listed above).For example:
Three months in China (2010), week-long vacations to: Italy (2013), Puerto Rico (2014), and Australia (2015).
Involvements
 Bullet list of activities such as clubs, sports, organizations, dates participated, reverse chronological
order, title (if applicable). For example:
 FIRST Tech Challenge Team #0001, RoboHornets, Mad River High School, 2015-present.
 Drama Club, Mad River High School, 2013-2015, Fundraising Chair.
 Varsity Basketball, Mad River High School, 2012-present.
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Community Involvement
 Bullet list of activities such as community service or outreach, dates participated, role held, reverse
chronological order. For example:
Presentations
 Bullet list of activities, dates participated, reverse chronological order. For example:
Hobbies
Single line list of activities you enjoy doing in your spare time, not related to school or any of the activities you
already listed. Use this as a chance to show a wider range of skills, especially if your entire resume so far is
robots, robots, robots. No need to be the best at it! For example:
Kayaking, swimming, and playing saxophone.
REFERENCES
Reference Name
Title
Company
Street Address
City, State Zip
Phone
Email address
Relationship to you
References should be listed on its
own page. You should have 3
minimum, 5 maximum. Include a
mix of folks who have worked with
you a variety of capacities and who
can speak positively about you.
Include a teacher, your robotics
coach, etc.
Jessica Walker
Computer Programmer
Red Apple Corporation
200 Bedford Street
Manchester, NH 03101
jessicawalker@redapple.com
(123) 456-7890
FIRST Tech Challenge Team Mentor
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Appendix I: Engineering Notebook Samples
Show the samples below to the Team (more online!). Talk about what makes the sample a strong Notebook
and how it could be improved. Brainstorm a plan for how to capture your Team’s experience in their Notebook.
The following examples have notations pointing out key elements of the examples that are successful.
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Appendix J: Types of FIRST® Tech Challenge Events
There are many types of FIRST Tech Challenge Events. Some Events are “Official”, meaning that they are a
part of the advancement structure for the FIRST Tech Challenge. “Endorsed” means that the Event is not a
part of the advancement structure for FIRST Tech Challenge, but the Event is hosted by or sanctioned by an
Affiliate Partner or FIRST Headquarters. Other Events are “Unofficial” and could be hosted by anyone with an
interest. Official and Endorsed Event information provided by the Affiliate Partners is promoted on the FIRST
website and via the @FTCTeams social media accounts. Unofficial Events are not promoted by FIRST or the
FIRST Tech Challenge Headquarters.
Unofficial or Endorsed Events
Type of Event
Scrimmages
Workshops
Practice Days
Description of Event
 These are unofficial or practice Tournaments.
 They are usually held early in the season to practice against real competitors in
the season’s new Game.
 They often serve as practice sessions for Referees and officials who
are learning a Game that has never been played before.
 These are events which can be conducted by area Alliance Partners or
experienced Teams
 They usually involve sessions on technical and non-technical topics:
 Technical topics could include: JAVA programming, PTC software, and
mechanical design.
 Non-technical topics could include: Fundraising, Team Organization, and
 Tournament Day Preparation.
 Some organizers hold events early in the season, which combine a
morning help session with an afternoon scrimmage.
 If a Practice Day is held in a Team’s area, it is a good opportunity to obtain
assistance from veteran Teams and Mentors, especially if the Team is
facing significant challenges.
 The goal of a Practice Day is to have all attending Teams competing, in
some fashion, in the afternoon mini-scrimmage.
Official Events





FIRST Tech Challenge Partners and Volunteers plan, coordinate, and run the Competitions.
Most events have opening and closing ceremonies, trophies and/or medals, Teams with
personalized T-shirts, hats, banners, and even some costumes. One major exception are
League Meets which have a different set of standards for what they can and must include.
Teams are recognized for excellence in various aspects of the Challenge and associated
Teamwork.
Event types vary from region to region. Some regions participate in Leagues, while others do not.
Some regions will have Super-Qualifiers, while others do not. The Advancement Structure chart
below will demonstrate the various possibilities for Advancement depending on the region.
The Advancement Structure does require Teams to win at a Qualifying, Super-Qualifying, or League
Championship in order to advance to a state or regional Championship (see chart below).
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Advancement Structure
Event Descriptions
Type of Event
Leagues Meets
League Championship
Qualifying
Tournaments
Description of Event
 If your region has chosen to participate in the League format, some of the
standard Tournament and Championship guidelines may be modified. For
information about the scheduling, structure, advancement and processes that
are unique to the League program and events in your region, please contact
your local Affiliate Partner.
 If your region has chosen to participate in the League format, some of the
standard Tournament and Championship guidelines may be modified. For
information about the scheduling, structure, advancement and processes that
are unique to the League program and events in your region, please contact
your local Affiliate Partner.
 These events usually follow judging guidelines and a similar format to
Championship Tournaments, but have some flexibility in format and Awards.
 There may be anywhere from one to twelve winning Teams from these
Tournaments advancing to a region’s Championship Tournament.
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Type of Event
Super-Qualifying
Tournament
Regional
Championship
Tournament
Super-Regional
Championship
Tournament
Description of Event
 If your region has chosen to use Super-Qualifiers in the regional Tournament
structure, some of the standard Tournament and Championship guidelines
may be modified. For information about the scheduling, structure,
advancement and processes that are unique to the Super-Qualifier program
and events in your region, please contact your local Affiliate Partner.
 For many Teams and regions, a Championship Tournament is the highest
level of FIRST Tech Challenge Tournament participation.
 Championships may include Teams from a geographic region, province,
state, country, or several countries.
 Teams in the U.S. will advance from Regional Championship Tournaments to
Super-Regional Tournaments based on the advancement criteria outlined in
the Game Manual Part I.
 These Tournaments abide by specific standards in format, judging, Awards,
and overall quality.
 The key Volunteers responsible for a Championship Tournament are usually
FIRST Tech Challenge Affiliate Partners.
 If applying for a Championship Tournament, determine whether the Team
needs to attend a qualifying or regional Tournament first by checking the
Tournament information. Be sure to confirm the criteria that determine
advancement to the Championship Tournament.
 U.S. Teams have the opportunity to compete in an additional level of
 Championship play
 Four Super-Regional Championship Events will be held, and hosted, by an
FIRST Tech Challenge Affiliate Partner
 Super-Regional Championship Tournaments abide by certain standards in
format, judging, Awards, and overall quality
 Teams advance from their Super-Regional Championship to the FIRST Tech
Challenge World Championship
Note: Check out the FIRST Tech Challenge Super-Regional webpage to learn more about the
season’s Super-Regional Championship Tournaments.
FIRST Sponsored FIRST Tech
Challenge World
Championship Tournament
 The FIRST sponsored FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship event,
held in conjunction with the FIRST Championship, FIRST® LEGO® League
World Festival, and FIRST® LEGO® League World Expo, is a global
celebration of FIRST Tech Challenge Teams from around the world.
 The selection process for the World Championship event may change from
year to year, depending upon the number of spaces available and the number
of Teams participating in FIRST Tech Challenge.
 (U.S. Only) Only Teams who have earned advancement from a SuperRegional Championship Tournament are invited to the FIRST Tech Challenge
World Championship.
Note: Check out the World Championship webpage to learn more about the upcoming Event and
find previous World Championship results.
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Appendix K: A FIRST® Tech Challenge Mentor Reflects: Competing in FIRST
Tech Challenge
By Brian Johnson, Mentor of Team 4625, Kings and Queens, May 2014
Ten tips for Teams heading to World Championship for the first time.
1. The 128 teams that make it to Worlds are for
the most part very, very good in almost every
way. Most of the alliances at that level don’t
miss autonomous bonuses, score 24+ blocks
per robot, always raise the flag, and hang at
least one robot. It seems like the other teams
all have memorable costumes, do 30 hours of
outreach a week, have at least one Inspire
banner, and have a booth that would fit right in
at the Consumer Electronics Show. Respect
them, but don’t let them intimidate you. They
put their KEP nuts on one turn at a time just
like you do.
2. If you want to be a top team on the field, you
have to bring not just your “A” game, but your
“A+” game. No matter how many hours your
team spent in driver practice, the other guys spent more. And because the teams are so good,
score differences are usually small and little mistakes and missed opportunities often make the
difference between going away a winner and just going away.
3. Even if you brought your “A+++” game, there will still be things that happen that are outside your
control and those things can and do cost you matches. A partner with mechanical problems, laggy
field controllers, a bump from another robot that makes you miss the crate with that last block that
would have leveled your pendulum, these things happen. All you can do is pull yourself together,
congratulate the winner and get ready for the next match; all while keeping your energy up and a
smile on your face for the judges.
4. Competing at Worlds is emotionally exhausting. From check-in on Wednesday until finals end on
Saturday, you are always “on” and have to be ready for anything. Judges cruise the pits and queue
lines regularly and VIPs roam the venue at will. No matter how badly your matches are going or
what problems your robot is having, you have to hide your frustration and always be energetic,
upbeat, and positive, because the next person to stop by your booth could be Dean Kaman, a panel
of judges, the president of SpaceX, or will.i.am.
5. Competing at Worlds is physically exhausting. It takes about 40 minutes to queue up, push the
robot cart from the pits to the field, queue again, play the match, and then push the robot cart back.
Most teams have a match scheduled every hour or so, so you basically spend all your time walking
back and forth between the pits and the field. And unless you brought your own chairs with you,
when you get back there’s no place to sit down. Drink plenty of liquids and keep your blood sugar
up.
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6. Get plenty of sleep. See 4 and 5 above. It’s tempting to stay up until the wee hours planning
strategy and tinkering with your robot. DON’T. The FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship is
hard work and you need your rest.
7. It is very difficult to stand out among such an amazing field. Whatever you think makes your team
unique, be it your crazy costumes, your synchronized dance moves, or that FIRST LEGO League
league you started in China, there are at least three other teams that have or do those same things
and probably do them better than you. Don’t be afraid to take it to the extreme, and to sing your
own praises, but don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get the attention you’re used to getting.
8. No matter how tired and emotionally drained you are, you have to get out of your booth and
experience everything Worlds has to offer. Otherwise you’ll miss: colleges and companies actively
recruiting, tech firms showing the latest innovations, the best of FIRST Robotics Competition and
FIRST LEGO League in competition, the FIRST LEGO League Jr. Expo, the chance to meet and
get to know an amazing group of the best and brightest young people from all over the world, and
much, much more.
9. Even if you don’t win the Inspire Award or head the winning alliance, the experience is awesome.
President Obama addressing the opening ceremonies. will.i.am and Rachael Crow performing live.
Cute little LEGO Leaguers coming over to FIRST Tech Challenge see the “big” robots. FIRST
Robotics Competition students coming over to FIRST Tech Challenge to see the “little” robots.
Senior executives from companies like Qualcomm, Microsoft, and Intel wandering through the pits
and chatting with the teams. Technical innovations you never even dreamed of. Over 14,000
robotics nerds just like you all in the one place. Deep discussions on the merits of mecanum wheels
vs. omni wheels. The chance to see the best of the best battle it out on the field. And maybe, if
everything goes just right, the chance to show that you ARE the best of the best.
10. No matter what, at the end of the day remember that the purpose of going to World Championship
(or any FIRST Competition) is to learn, do your best, and have fun.
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Appendix L: What to Expect at Events
What Happens
What Teams Can Expect at a Tournament
 Arrive and enter the venue.
 Unpack the Robot and supporting materials.
Arrival
at the venue
Notes:
 At most Tournaments, all of the Teams arrive at approximately the same time. Team check-in can
be very chaotic, with lines at the registration table.
 Make sure to arrive at the earliest allowed time. This provides wiggle room to recover if any
problems arise.
Registration
at the Registration Area




Check in.
Hand in all registration forms.
Submit the Engineering Notebook.
Receive an information packet that contains the day’s schedule, information on
food concessions, driver buttons to be worn by Team drivers, and other useful
materials. Do not lose this packet.
Note: To make the process smooth and to reduce the wait, keep all forms organized and ready for
registration upon arrival.
Setup
in the Pit
 Go to pit area and locate the Team’s pit space by finding a sign with the Team
number on it.
 Unpack the Robot and laptop.
 Immediately check to make sure the Robot is in running order, in case it was
damaged during travel.
 Decorate the pit area.
Notes:
 Wear safety glasses and close-toed shoes at all times here.
 There will typically be a power cord in the area to charge batteries, laptops, etc.
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What Happens
Robot and Field
Inspection
in the Judging
Room or the Pit
(varies)
What Teams Can Expect at a Tournament
 As soon as Robot is up and running, get in line for Robot and Field inspection,
which can take a long time. Get into inspection lines as soon as possible.
Participation in practice rounds may depend on going through this process.
 When a Robot has passed inspection, the Team will receive a sticker or another
marker for the Robot.
 If a Robot does not pass inspection, do not panic. Calmly correct the problem
and get back into line as soon as possible.
Notes:
 Use pre-Tournament inspection checklists to assess the Robot before arriving at the
Tournament. These will be made available to Teams via email before each Tournament.
 Make sure that last-minute Robot modifications do not bring the Robot out of compliance.
 Have cut sheets and materials receipts available for the inspectors. Be sure to allow plenty of
time for inspection. It is best to have the Robot inspected early to ensure that the Team is not
standing in line for inspection when their first match is scheduled to begin.
Judging
in the Judging
Room
 This may be a part of, or separate from, inspections.
 Judging can take place at any time during the early part of the Tournament.
 There is a break between each judging session so Teams can travel to their
next location and Judges can properly assess the previous judging session.
 A timekeeper typically ensures that sessions remain on schedule.
Notes:
 To keep the schedule on target throughout the event, Teams should arrive five minutes before their
scheduled judging appointment.
 All Team members should attend and be ready to speak. Mentors may attend, but are not
allowed to speak.
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Opening Ceremony
in the Competition
Areas
(location varies)
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 This is a high-energy event that sets the tone for the day.
 Judging and inspections may not be finished when this happens. They will
usually be put on hold so that everyone can attend the ceremony.
 There will usually be a brief speech from the Tournament organizers or invited
guests.
 Judges and special guests are introduced.
 The Challenge and scoring are explained.
 The National anthem is often performed.
 After the opening ceremony, Teams not immediately scheduled for the
competition rounds or a judging meeting should return to the Pit to listen for
queuing.
Note: At most Tournaments, Teams have about two hours for registration, setup, inspection, judging
and time on the practice Fields prior to the opening ceremony. Some Tournaments schedule
the opening ceremony for mid- day, before the Robot performance rounds.
What Happens
Practice Rounds
on the Practice Playing Field
(if available)
Driver Meetings
in the Competition Area
(location varies)
What Teams Can Expect at a Tournament
 This phase does not always happen.
 Sometimes only Teams that have completed inspections can play in them.
 These are a good opportunity to find out how slightly different Field
conditions or lighting conditions can affect the Robot’s performance.
 These meetings usually take place after the opening ceremony.
 Drivers on a Team will receive a briefing from Tournament directors and
often the Referees.
Note: At most events, all drivers are required to attend. If the meeting space is tight, the event
organizer may ask that only one driver per Team attend.
Qualifying Rounds
in the Competition Area
 Match Schedules are not generated and distributed until every expected
Team has checked in and has passed inspection.
 There are usually 4-5 qualifying rounds.
 Teams will be paired with a random partner Robot and face randomlypaired opponents.
 The purpose of these rounds is to identify the top few Teams, who will
become captain Teams for the elimination rounds later.
Alliance Selection
 After all qualifier rounds have been completed, the Teams are ranked in
“seed order.”
 The top few Teams (usually 4 per division) become “captain Teams.”
 The captain Teams select partner Robots (Alliances) for the elimination
rounds.
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Elimination Rounds
in the Competition Area
 Alliances now face each other.
 The first seed Alliance faces the fourth seed, and the second seed faces
the third seed in the semi-finals.
 Teams play for the best two out of three Games, with the losing Alliance
being eliminated.
 The two winning Alliances in the semi-finals then face each other in the
finals, again in a best two of three Games format.
Note: In large Tournaments, there may be two divisions and the winners of each division would
then face each other in a grand finale.
Awards and Closing
Ceremony in the Competition
Area (location varies)
 Teams should return to the main competition area for the closing ceremony.
 Immediately after the final (or grand finale, if there are two
divisions) is complete, an Awards ceremony is held.
 Teams receive Awards, medals, and recognition for demonstrated efforts.
 There will be plenty of cheering, loud music, and a sea of smiling faces to
end the Tournament and celebrate the students’ accomplishments.
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Appendix M: FIRST Tech Challenge Awards Categories
Inspire Award
This judged award is given to the Team that truly embodied the ‘challenge’ of the FIRST Tech Challenge
program. The Team that receives this award is a strong ambassador for FIRST programs and a role model
FIRST Tech Challenge Team. This Team is a top contender for many other judged awards and is a gracious
competitor. The Inspire Award winner is an inspiration to other Teams, acting with Gracious Professionalism®
both on and off the Playing Field. This Team is able to communicate their experiences, enthusiasm and
knowledge to other Teams, sponsors, their community, and the Judges. Working as a unit, this Team will have
demonstrated success in accomplishing the task of designing and building a Robot.
Required criteria for the Inspire Award:







Team must demonstrate respect and Gracious Professionalism® toward everyone they
encounter at a FIRST Tech Challenge Event.
Team is a strong contender for several other Judged awards. The Inspire Award celebrates the
strongest qualities of all the Judged Awards.
The Team is an ambassador for FIRST programs and demonstrates and documents their work
in their community.
Team dynamic is positive and inclusive, and each Team member contributes to the success of
the Team.
Engineering Notebook must be submitted, and must include an Engineering Section, a Team
Section and a Business or Strategic Plan. The entire Engineering Notebook must be high
quality, thoughtful, thorough, detailed and well organized.
Robot design is creative and innovative, and the Robot performs reliably on the field. Team
communicates clearly about their Robot design and strategy to the judges.
Team presentation is professional and engaging.
Think Award
Removing engineering obstacles through creative thinking.
This judged award is given to the Team that best reflects the journey the Team took as they experienced the
engineering design process during the build season. The Engineering Section of the notebook is the key
reference for judges to help identify the most deserving Team. The Team’s Engineering Section must focus on
the design and build stage of the Team’s Robot. Journal entries must include those describing the underlying
science and mathematics of the Robot design and game strategies, the designs, re-designs, successes, and
opportunities for improvement. A Team is not a candidate for this award if they have not completed the
Engineering Section of the Engineering Notebook.
Required criteria for the Think Award:


Team must demonstrate respect and Gracious Professionalism® toward everyone they
encounter at a FIRST Tech Challenge Event.
Engineering Notebook must have an Engineering Section that includes entries describing
underlying science, mathematics, and game strategies.
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

Engineering Notebook must demonstrate that the Team has a clear understanding of the
engineering design process, with pictures or drawings and details documenting all stages of
Robot design.
Notebook must recount the Team’s journey, experience and lessons learned throughout the
season.
Strongly suggested criteria for the Think Award:


Teams should tab/flag 6 to 8 pages of the Engineering Section to support entries on the summary
page.
Engineering Notebook should be organized and follow the formatting guidelines provided by FIRST and
include a Summary Page. Note: Teams should review the Engineering Notebook section of this manual
for a complete description and format specifications.
Connect Award
Connecting the dots between community, FIRST, and the diversity of the engineering
world.
This judged award is given to the Team that most connects with their local science, technology, engineering
and math (STEM) community. A true FIRST Team is more than a sum of its parts, and recognizes that
engaging their local STEM community plays an essential part in their success. The recipient of this award is
recognized for helping the community understand FIRST, the FIRST Tech Challenge, and the Team itself. The
Team that wins the Connect Award aggressively seeks engineers and explores the opportunities available in
the world of engineering, science and technology. This Team has a clear Business or Strategic Plan and has
identified steps to achieve their goals.
Required criteria for the Connect Award:




Team must demonstrate respect and Gracious Professionalism® toward everyone they
encounter at a FIRST Tech Challenge Event.
An Engineering Notebook must be submitted and must include a Business or Strategic plan that
identifies their future goals and the steps they will take to reach those goals. The plan could
include fundraising goals, sustainability goals, timelines, outreach, and community service
goals.
Team provides clear examples of developing in person or virtual connections with individuals in
the engineering, science, or technology community.
Team actively engages with the engineering community to help them understand FIRST, the
FIRST Tech Challenge, and the Team itself.
Rockwell Collins Innovate Award
Bringing great ideas from concept to reality.
The Rockwell Collins Innovate Award celebrates a Team that not only thinks outside the box, but also has the
ingenuity and inventiveness to make their designs come to life. This judged award is given to the Team that
has the most innovative and creative Robot design solution to any or all specific field elements or components
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in the FIRST Tech Challenge game. Elements of this award include elegant design, robustness, and ‘out of the
box’ thinking related to design. This award may address the design of the whole Robot, or of a sub-assembly
attached to the Robot. The creative component must work consistently, but a Robot does not have to work all
the time during Matches to be considered for this award. The Team’s Engineering Notebook should be marked
with journal entries to show the design of the component(s) and the Team’s Robot in order to be eligible for this
award, and entries should describe succinctly how the Team arrived at that solution.
Required criteria for the Rockwell Collins Innovate Award:





Team must demonstrate respect and Gracious Professionalism® towards everyone they
encounter at a FIRST Tech Challenge Event.
Team must submit an Engineering Notebook with an Engineering Section that documents the
design process and how the Team arrived at their design solution.
Robot or Robot sub-assembly must be elegant and unique in its design.
Creative component must be stable, robust, and work reliably.
Robot design is efficient and consistent with Team plan and strategy.
PTC Design Award
Industrial design at its best.
This judged award recognizes design elements of the Robot that are both functional and aesthetic. All
successful Robots have innovative design aspects; however, the PTC Design Award is presented to Teams
that incorporate industrial design elements into their solution. These design elements could simplify the
Robot’s appearance by giving it a clean look, be decorative in nature, or otherwise express the creativity of the
Team. The winning design should not compromise the practical operation of the Robot but complement its
purpose. This award is sponsored by Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC), developers of the CAD tools,
Creo and Mathcad. PTC gives licenses to the FIRST Tech Challenge student Teams for these software
products to help them with their designs.
Required criteria for the PTC Design Award:






Team must demonstrate respect and Gracious Professionalism® toward everyone they
encounter at a FIRST Tech Challenge Event.
Team must submit an Engineering Notebook with an Engineering Section that includes detailed
Robot design drawings.
Team demonstrates industrial design principles, striking a balance between form, function, and
aesthetics.
Robot differentiates itself from others by its aesthetic and functional design.
Basis for the design is well considered (i.e. inspiration, function, etc.).
Use of PTC’s Creo is not required to be eligible; however, Teams that use them in their design
are given extra consideration for this award.
Motivate Award
Sparking others to embrace the culture of FIRST!
This Team embraces the culture of FIRST and clearly demonstrates what it means to be a Team. This judged
award celebrates the Team that exemplifies the essence of the FIRST Tech Challenge competition through
Team building, Team spirit and exhibited enthusiasm. This is a Team who makes a collective effort to make
FIRST known throughout their school and community, and sparks others to embrace the culture of FIRST.
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Required criteria for the Motivate Award:





Team must demonstrate respect and Gracious Professionalism® toward everyone they
encounter at a FIRST Tech Challenge Event.
An Engineering Notebook must be submitted and must include a Business or Strategic plan that
identifies their future goals and the steps they will take to reach those goals. The plan could
include fundraising goals, sustainability goals, timelines, outreach, and community service
goals.
The Team is an ambassador for FIRST programs.
Team can clearly demonstrate the successful recruitment of new Teams, mentors, coaches and
volunteers who are not otherwise active within the STEM community.
Team can articulate the individual contributions of each Team member, and how these attribute
to the overall success of the Team.
Strongly suggested criteria for the Motivate Award:


All Team members participate in their presentation, and actively engage with the judges.
Team shows a creative approach to materials that market the Team and FIRST.
Control Award
Mastering Robot intelligence.
The Control Award celebrates a Team that uses sensors and software to enhance the Robot’s functionality on
the field. This award is given to the Team that demonstrates innovative thinking in the control system to solve
game challenges such as autonomous operation, enhancing mechanical systems with intelligent control, or
using sensors to achieve better results on the field. The control component should work consistently on the
field. The Team’s Engineering Notebook must contain details about the implementation of the software,
sensors, and mechanical control.
Required criteria for the Control Award:




Team must demonstrate respect and Gracious Professionalism® toward everyone they
encounter at a FIRST Tech Challenge Event.
Team must apply for the Control Award by filling out the Control Award Content Sheet, located
in Appendix D of the Game Manual Part 1 (will be released 9/10/2016).
The Engineering Notebook must include an Engineering Section that documents the control
components.
Control Components must enhance the functionality of the Robot on the Playing Field.
Strongly suggested criteria for the Control Award:


Advanced software techniques and algorithms are encouraged.
Control Components should work reliably.
Promote Award (Optional)
This judged award is optional and may not be given at all Tournaments. Please contact your Tournament
director to determine if it will be given at an Event you attend.
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The Promote Award is given to the Team that is most successful in creating a compelling video message for
the public designed to change our culture and celebrate science, technology, engineering and math. Teams
must submit a one-minute long public service announcement (PSA) video based on the PSA subject for the
season.
Teams may win the Promote Award only once at a Championship level Event and only once at a qualifying
level Event.
PSA Subject for 2016 – 2017 Season:
“This is how I plan to pay FIRST forward…”
Required criteria for the Promote Award:




Video must meet the following criteria:
o Video cannot be longer than 60 seconds.
o Video must be of a high quality, as submissions may be used at a later time to promote
FIRST.
o Team must have rights to music used in the video.
o Video must have strong production value.
o Video must be submitted by the designated deadline.
Team must present a thoughtful and impactful video which appeals to the general public.
Creativity in interpreting the annually assigned theme is required.
Follow video award submission guidelines in Game Manual Part 1.
Compass Award (Optional)
A beacon and leader in the journey of the FIRST Tech Challenge.
The Compass Award recognizes an adult Coach or Mentor who has provided outstanding guidance and
support for a Team throughout the year, and demonstrates to the Team what it means to be a Gracious
Professional. The winner of the Compass Award will be determined from candidates nominated by FIRST Tech
Challenge Team members, via a 40-60 second video submission, highlighting how their Mentor has helped
them become an inspirational Team. We want to hear what sets the Mentor apart.
Required criteria for the Compass Award:



Video must meet the following criteria:
o Video cannot be longer than 60 seconds.
o Video must be of a high quality, as submissions may be used at a later time to promote
FIRST.
o Team must have rights to music used in the video.
o Video must be submitted by the designated deadline.
Video highlights the mentor’s contribution to the Team and demonstrates what sets the mentor
apart.
Follow video award submission guidelines in Game Manual Part 1.
Judges’ Award
During the course of the competition, the judging panel may encounter a Team whose unique efforts,
performance or dynamics merit recognition, yet doesn’t fit into any of the existing award categories. To
recognize these unique Teams, FIRST offers a customizable Judges Award. The judging panel may select a
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Team to be honored, as well as the name of the Judges’ Award. The Judges Award recognizes a Team for
their outstanding efforts, but does not factor into the Advancement Criteria.
Winning Alliance Award
This award will be given to the winning alliance represented in the final Match.
Finalist Alliance Award
This award will be given to the finalist alliance represented in the final Match.
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Appendix N: Sample Business Plan
What is it?
A Strategic Plan or Business Plan is documentation of the process through which an organization defines
priorities and develops the process they will undergo to achieve their goals. It helps the organization (in this
case, your Team) determine a course of action and a measure by which to make decisions about how they will
gather and use resources. That information can then be shared within the Team to keep everyone focused, as
well as outside of the Team, such as with parents, school administrators, Sponsors, and other groups to
articulate the Team’s purpose and impact.
How to Write It
Forbes recommends a five step approach to developing your strategic plan:
Determine the current status of the team – being honest, assess the current state of the Team. Are you a
Rookie Team? Are you a five-year Veteran Team with more than half the Team brand new to FIRST Tech
Challenge? Whether Rookie or Veteran, brainstorm the following: what do you know, what do you need, and
what are your season goals?
Identify What Is Important – after you brainstorm a list of goals for the season, narrow it down to one to three
that are manageable within this one season. Identify which ones can be achieved the following or later
seasons.
Define What You Must Achieve – With your goals in mind, determine what you need to do to accomplish
those goals. Don’t forget that you also need to build a Robot, compete with it, fundraise, and keep an
Engineering Notebook, at the very least. Your goals and the steps needed will be in addition to or work with
these tasks.
Determine Who Is Accountable – this is where it will be good to identify Team Roles and the role of the
Mentors in supporting Team members at accomplishing the goals.
Review – review the plan once it is written. Refer back to it whenever making a big Team decision, and do a
thorough review at the end of each season/before the next season.
Additional Resources
FIRST Tech Challenge Fundraising Resources – A variety of resources and examples, including:

Business Plan Webinar
FIRST Tech Challenge Team #5096 Monkey Madness Business Plan – just one of many examples on the
web.
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Sample Strategic/Business Plan
The following is a plan crafted for a fictional Team. Download the Word version and you can input your Team’s
information.
Cover Page
FTC Team ####
Make your cover page
professional and attractive. Use
borders, your team logo, a picture
of your team, school name, etc.
Robo Innovators
Portland, ME
Contents
1.0 Executive Summary
1.1 Team Mission Statement
1.2 FIRST Description
1.3 Program Summary
1.4 Team Origin, Description, and History
1.5 Team Organizational Structure
1.6 Team Relationships
2.0 Team Impact and Goals
2.1 Team Use of Resources
2.2 Team Future Plans
3.0 Sustainability
3.1 Team Action/Implementation Plan
3.2 Team Financial Statement
3.3 Team Fundraising Opportunities
3.4 Team Risk and Opportunity Analysis
4.0 Outreach and Recognition
4.1 Outreach
4.2 Recognition
5.0 Resources
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1.0 Executive Summary
1.1 Team Mission Statement
To inspire ourselves and others to develop a life-long love of learning and engagement in our community by
building a strong team that is known and respected throughout Portland and beyond.
1.2 FIRST Description
The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in
exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation,
and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.
FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology.
Based in Manchester, NH, the 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit public charity designs accessible, innovative programs
that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering,
and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills.
1.3 Program Summary
FIRST Tech Challenge is designed for students in grades 7-12 to compete head to head, using a sports model.
Teams are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robots to compete in an alliance format
against other teams. The robot kit is reusable from year-to-year and is programmed using a variety of
languages. Teams, including coaches, mentors and volunteers, are required to develop strategy and build
robots based on sound engineering principles. Awards are given for the competition as well as for community
outreach, design, and other real-world accomplishments.
1.4 Team Origin, Description, and History
The Robo Innovators began in 2012 as an afterschool program for four girls very interested in learning about
robotics. Eager to share the experience, once the Team was registered with FIRST Tech Challenge, they
opened the team up to interested parties and the team quickly grew to twelve. Team Mentors included two
parents and the high school physics teacher. Currently the team has 15 members from grades 7-12, both boys
and girls.
In 2013 the Team attended the Massachusetts State Championship and the robot had a good showing on the
field. They were honored with a nomination for the Motivate Award.
In 2014 the Team again attended the Massachusetts State Championship. The team won the Think Award and
the robot was selected to be part of a Semi-Final Alliance.
1.5 Team Organizational Structure
The Team is managed by the physics teacher and a parent volunteer. In addition, there are three technical
Mentors from local businesses who coach the students on engineering principles, computer programming, and
construction. Team members take on the responsibility of managing the Team, deciding roles, and completing
project tasks, including fundraising.
1.6 Team Relationships
2014 Sponsors: Swell Middle High School, Eden Electrical Corp, and Wilson’s Metalworking.
Swell Middle High School provides funding for all after school clubs and organizations. In addition, they allow
the team to use a school computer, space in the shop to store the robot, to work on the robot, and use of the
shop tools.
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Eden Electrical Corp provides two Mentors and annual funding for the Robot materials.
Wilson’s Metalworking also provides Mentor support and funding in the amount of $600 annually.
2.0 Team Impact and Goals
2.1 Team Use of Resources
Robo Innovators have taken their robot to local events, providing information about the program, team, and
inviting guests to touch or drive the robot.
2.2 Team Future Plans
In 2015 the team plans to start a second FIRST Tech Challenge team to allow more students access to the
creative process of building a robot and the rewarding experience of being on a team. In addition, the team is
planning to run a summer robo camp for children ages 6 – 12 to encourage more students to get involved in
robotics at a young age.
3.0 Sustainability
3.1 Team Action/Implementation Plan
The team has identified the following actions for growth and sustainability:
Strategy
Actions
Transition six team members
into a leadership/mentoring
role to support the new team


Prepare the team to transition
to Java
Raise funds to support the
start of a new team and Robo
Camp initiative





Robo Camp
Identify six sub-committee
members to become
Leadership ?committee
members by the end of the
season.





Develop a leadership training program
Select and develop team members to
transition to a mentoring role for the
new team.
Develop training materials to teach the
team Java programming language
Craft amended budget
Strategize a fundraising plan
Identify and implement one large
fundraiser
Identify and implement a small, longterm fundraiser
Develop budget
Develop Marketing plan to recruit
campers
Outline schedule for the camp.
Identify six members
Develop targeted training to prepare
them for the roles
Responsibility
Planned
Completion
Team Mentors
January 2015
Technical Mentors
June 2015
Fundraising
Committee
March 2015
Outreach
Committee
Mentors
January 2015
Leadership
Committee
April 2015
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3.2 Team Financial Statement
Budget
Amt.
Item
Expenses
Registration
275.00
Parts & Supplies
700.00
Kit of Parts
1500.00
Sub-Total 2475.00
Monies
Rollover Amount
School Allocated Club
Funds
Wilson’s Metalworking
Eden Electrical Corp
Car Wash
Actual
Cost
Category
Rationale/Explanation
Registration
Robot Supplies
Robot Supplies
Season registration fee (required).
Annual parts and new technology
For the new team
Projected total expenses for the 20XX
season.
1700.00
425.00
Income
600.00
500.00
300.00
Income
Income
Fundraiser
Sub-Total 3525.00
Bottom Line
Credit/Deficit
1050.00
Money left over from the previous
season
Annual amount
Annual sponsorship amount
Annual sponsorship amount
Planned team fundraiser with ideal
amount raised.
Anticipated amount of money coming
in throughout the season. Actual
amount may be lower/higher, but it’s
best to over-plan ways to raise
money.
Current money still left/Money owed that
still needs to be raised (marked in red)
3.3 Team Fundraising Opportunities
Fundraiser Idea
Pizza & Dodgeball
Fundraiser
Shirt Sales
Projected
Income
500.00
Fundraiser
300.00
Fundraiser
Category
Notes
One large event, and if the pizzas are
donated, we could potentially double
our profit.
Small, on-going fundraiser that can
continue year after year.
3.4 Team Risk and Opportunity Analysis
We have outlined the following concerns that might impact our current goals and strategies:
Risk 1 - Advance to the East Super-Regionals: While we will work with our mentors and resources toward this
goal, we cannot guarantee our success, especially since we cannot control the other teams and their robots.
However, we hope that by learning Java programming right away, as outlined in section 3.1, we will be able to
get started on our goal.
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Risk 2 - Start and Mentor an FIRST Tech Challenge Team: We cannot guarantee that a second team is viable
for our school. We have a dozen students who have expressed interest, but until the school and the students’’
parents approve, we cannot move forward with the second team. Mentors and team members have been
building leadership capabilities and documenting the progress of our team for over a year. We hope that this
will prepare us to mentor the new team to success. Our fundraising and leadership plans are also outlined in
3.1 and 3.2 and we think this will convince the school and parents we are prepared to start and support this
team.
Risk 3 - Implement Robo Camp: We feel strongly that there is an interest and a need in our community. We
have no guarantee that the camp will meet the full desired enrollment of 20 campers, but we have a plan for
promotion in the works as outlined in 3.1, so we think we are prepared.
Our team has identified the following opportunities that we plan to take full advantage of:
Opportunity 1 - Fundraising – Eden Electrical Corp has provided funding for robot materials for our team for the
past two years. We plan to approach them with our idea to start a second team and see if they will be willing to
sponsor that team as well. The two mentors who work at Eden Electrical feel strongly that the company is
willing and able to do so, we just need to finalize our proposal and present it to the CEO. If we are able to do
so, we will continue to have a budgeting surplus, even with the new team, which ensures our team longevity.
Opportunity 2 – A new T-shirt business has opened up and we think if we approach them and ask them to
partner with us on T-Shirt sales that they will agree as a way to promote their business. The owners are young
and liked the idea, we just need to finish our formal proposal. Having a long-term fundraiser will be really useful
for budgeting purposes each year.
4.0 Outreach and Recognition
4.1 Outreach
Currently the team attends a lot of local events, such as the First Night and 4th of July celebrations, and
showcases the club and the robot. We are excited about starting Robo Camp which will be our first foray into
running our own event.
4.2 Recognition


Think Award, Massachusetts State Championship, 2014
Swell Middle High School Club of the Year, 2013 and 2014
5.0 Resources
5.1 Photos and Other Supplemental Materials
For more information about the team and our outreach, please check out the following materials:


Team brochure (insert URL)
Team Engineering Notebooks (insert URL)
5.2 Team Contact Information
Lead Mentor: Jesse Teacher, email address
Lead Mentor: Ricky Parent, email address
Team Email address
Team website: insert URL
Team Instagram page
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Appendix O: Robot Order of Operations
This is a short and easy checklist of the necessary steps to creating a Competition-ready Robot:









Step 1: Design the Robot
Step 2: Build the Robot frame
Step 3: Attach the Android phones
Step 4: Lay out the wiring and draw a wiring diagram.
Step 5: Wire the Robot. Connect the
1. Motors to the Motor Controllers
2. Power Switch to the Motor Controllers
3. Power Switch to the Battery
4. Motor Controllers together
5. Android phone to the DC Motor Controllers
6. Battery to the DC Motor Controller
Step 6: Program the Robot
Step 7: Test and Measure
Step 8: Make adjustments to the design & build
Step 9: Ad Infinitum: Repeat step 7
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Appendix P: Case Studies for Training
Instructions
To use these case studies for training Mentors, Team Members, or Team parents and Volunteers, gather the
participants together and explain the goal of the exercise as well as how the process will work. Goals might
include teambuilding, training, or Gracious Professionalism coaching.
It would be best not to do more than two or three case studies at a time as the discussions might start to sound
redundant or people might begin to mentally check-out. You can add additional discussion questions to the list,
but remember the goal is to keep them open-ended to generate lively discourse. The facilitator of the exercise
should try to keep from interjecting their opinion and/or outlining the right/wrong outcome.
A typical training scenario involves people first forming groups of two or three then being presented with a case
study. Each group has five minutes to discuss the situation, after which everyone regroups and discusses
together. Repeat this process for each case study that will best help the participants better understand the
principles of FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge.
Case Study #1 – Recruiting Team Members
The team is going to have a booth at their high school’s student activities fair. The goal is to recruit new team
members and also gain support for the team. The booth will include some information about the team, the
previous season, and a sign-up sheet for new members. The only students who want to work in the booth are
the two programmers: they are both sophomores, best friends, spend a lot of time on their cell phones playing
games, and are generally shy, but really uncomfortable around the girls on the team.
Questions for discussion:
What do you think of the team’s plan for the booth?
Do you foresee any issues?
Do you think the team will recruit a lot of new members?
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Case Study #2 – Teambuilding Conflict
Your team has been struggling with internal conflict between two members: Ricky and Omar. They both have
strong personalities and like to voice their opinions loudly in group discussions, often talking over teammates in
a battle to have their opinion heard over others. Quiet team members feel uncomfortable talking in the group
when Omar and Ricky are around, and even more outgoing students are drawing inward as a result. The
mentors decide that, instead of involving the boys’ parents or even speaking to them about their behavior, the
entire team needs to do some teambuilding to help Omar and Ricky realize they are part of a group and the
value of everyone’s voice in the group. They also hope it will temper the conflict between the two students.
Questions for discussion:
How would you handle this situation?
Do you agree with the mentor’s decision that teambuilding will solve the problem? What are the pros and cons
of their decision?
What teambuilding activities would be good for addressing this situation positively?
Case Study #3 – Parent Question
The team is competing at a tournament when their alliance is penalized for knocking over the scoring goal. A
parent of one of the team members recorded the match which clearly shows the other alliance knocking over
the goal. After reviewing the video, the parent runs on to the field demanding the adult volunteers watch the
video and either correct the score or replay the match.
Questions for discussion:
Is the parent’s behavior justified?
How should a score be challenged appropriately?
How could the mentors or team have better prepared the parent for competition?
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Case Study #4 – Defining Team Roles
In an early team meeting, two team members, Jill and Becca, want the role of Lead Programmer. The mentor
explains that everyone should explore all of the roles and that after two weeks each team member will get to
identify their top role and a vote will be taken by the entire team as to who will get each position. During the two
weeks, Becca studies the training materials and programming language in her spare time. She realizes she
has a strong passion for coding and may have identified her future career. Jill, meanwhile, spends a lot of the
two week window exploring all of the roles on the team and making friends with each of her teammates. Both
girls mark Lead Programmer as their first choice and during the team vote, Jill is selected by the team
members.
Questions for discussion:
Who is the best candidate for the job?
If you were the mentor and disagreed with the team’s decision, what would you do?
Could the assignment of roles be handled differently?
Case Study #5 – Good or Bad Idea?
During robot design brainstorming, one student member throws out a wild design idea and everyone laughs.
Someone in the group says, “That will never work!”
Questions for discussion:
What should the mentor/team do with the idea?
How could the mentor facilitate discussion in this moment?
What follow-up discussion or conversation should the mentor have and with whom?
Case Study #6 – The Question Box
Team RoboSpheres realizes the scorekeeper reversed the results of their recent match (they were the Red
Alliance). The Red Alliance, including their robot, did not perform well on the field, but the results scored the
Blue Alliance lower. The RoboSpheres’ drive team decides to stand in the Question Box and point out the
issue to the referees.
Questions for discussion:
What do you think will be the outcome of the conversation with the referees? Should the scores be switched?
Did the RoboSpheres do the right thing? Is this gracious behavior?
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Case Study #7 – Taking Pictures
The RoboBots have a large cheering section at the competition. One of the mentors is a
journalist/photographer for the local newspaper and brought their camera and media badge. The competition
field is roped off, allowing only drive teams, volunteers, and official event media up close to the field. Flashing
her media badge at the volunteers, the mentor ducks under the rope to stand next to her team while taking
pictures. After bumping into her several times while trying to referee the match, the referee staff ask her for her
team’s number before requesting she leave the room. She complies.
Questions for discussion:
Did the mentor use her professional media pass appropriately?
Should event staff have handled the situation differently? How?
Did the mentor act in a gracious manner? If yes, how so; if no, why not?
Case Study #8 – Help the Alliance Partner
Team RoboBug is paired with Team RoboTank. The drive team for RoboBug stops by RoboTank’s Pit to
strategize prior to the match. They share that the scouts for their team have identified the RoboTank robot as
weak and likely to affect the match score. They ask RoboTank to focus on using their robot to bump into and
block the other alliance’s robots during the match, and leave the RoboBug robot to do all the scoring.
Questions for discussion:
How should the RoboTank team respond?
Is this a good strategy and do you think it will yield successful results?
Is this allowed by FIRST Tech Challenge rules and expectations?
Is this gracious behavior? If yes, how so; if no, why not?
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Case Study #9 – Ungracious Mentor
Your team’s pit neighbor is the RoboHawk. After a match where the RoboHawk robot didn’t function well, the
drive team is very upset, even crying in the pit. You are in the midst of a conversation with the Judges who
have stopped by your pit, when a RoboHawk mentor arrives at the pit booth and begins yelling. She yells at the
drive team for the poor match results, and even yells at the programmer for what she maintains was a coding
problem. When her team members try to explain, she refuses to listen and complains about how they slack off
in meetings and says that if they tried harder, this wouldn’t have happened. Another mentor arrives and tries to
calm her, but the angry mentor just walks away. You see the Judge write down the RoboHawk’s name and
team number, and then scribbles a few notes underneath.
Questions for discussion:
How should the RoboHawks mentor have handled the situation differently?
Should this mentor’s behavior affect the team’s Judging scores?
How should you, a member of the team in the next pit over, respond?
Case Study #10 – Bad Winner, Sore Loser
At the competition, the top-ranked team after qualifying rounds is team RoboPresidents. Their drive team
celebrates the announcement with loud yelling and screaming, fist-pumping, and a crazy dance right on the
field. RoboGears, an opposing alliance team who was not ranked as high, loudly complain about their showing
celebration, asking a Judge who is observing matches and taking notes if that is appropriate and gracious.
Questions for discussion:
Was the RoboPresidents behavior acceptable or gracious? What, if anything, could they have done differently?
Was the RoboGears behavior acceptable or gracious? What, if anything, could they have done differently?
What is the judge required to do? What should the judge do?
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Appendix Q: Sample Press Release
FIRST Tech Challenge teams are encouraged to issue press releases to local media regarding their
participation and accomplishments in the program. Below please find some tips and resources to help you
incorporate appropriate FIRST messaging in your release.
Online Press Room
The FIRST online Press Room has many useful resources, including published FIRST press releases and
concise information about FIRST programs: how the program works, season statistics at-a-glance, game
description, award descriptions, and links to event and team listings. Feel free to use materials from the Press
Room or direct the media there for additional information about FIRST.
Content Elements
Your release title and two opening paragraphs should address the who/what/when/where/why/how of what you
are announcing (e.g. forming a team or winning an award). The rest of the release can be used to provide
background or backup information, such as:
FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge description and scope (recommended):
Founded by inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was
created to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. The FIRST Tech
Challenge is an intermediate robotics competition that provides students in grades 7-12 with a challenging,
technology-rich, exciting program that inspires them to get into science, technology, and engineering.
FIRST® Tech Challenge is a widely-accessible robotics program for grades 7 through 12 that promotes projectbased learning. Using a proven formula to engage student interest in science, technology, engineering, and
math (STEM), FIRST Tech Challenge is one of the fastest-growing programs of its kind. FIRST Tech
Challenge is highly-scalable and easily integrates into the classroom with measurable results. FIRST teams
collaborate with business, engineering, and science professionals, and working together, become a focal point
of the community in which they live.
During the 2015-2016 season, approximately 5,000 FIRST Tech Challenge teams competed around the globe
in the FIRST Res-Qsm game challenge. Advancing from four Super-Regional events and internationally, 128
teams competed for top rankings on the field and awards at the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship
Tournament, April 27-30, 2016 at Union Station in St. Louis, Missouri. FIRST Tech Challenge participants are
eligible to receive over to $16 million in scholarships from some of the finest science and engineering schools
in the country and Canada.
Game description (optional – and should be Season specific):
Example: The 2015-2016 game, FIRST® RES-QSM, is modeled after rescue situations faced by mountain
explorers all over the globe. Played by two Alliances of two robots each, robots will score points by: “resetting”
Rescue beacons; delivering Rescue Climbers to a shelter; parking on the mountain; and parking in the Rescue
beacon repair zone or floor goal. Robots may also score points by retrieving debris from the playing field and
placing them in mountain or floor goals, and also by hanging from a pull-up bar during the last 30-seconds of a
match.
Contact information:
Provide a way for readers to learn more about your team or FIRST Tech Challenge, such as web address,
social media accounts, or contact information.
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Other Tips
Be sure to acknowledge your team sponsors in your press release.
Include quotes to add a personal touch.
For award announcements, include the name and a concise description of the award (available in the Award
Descriptions document in the FIRST Tech Challenge section of the FIRST Press Room. Add details of
how/why your team won the award.
Include 2-3 pictures, but be aware that they might not be included in the published piece.
Sample Press Release for Teams
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Robotics Team has an AwesomeBot Season!
July 10, 2015
What’s better than a ball game? Adding robots. Step it up a level by getting girls to design, build, and program
the robot and you have a recipe for awesome. Actually, you’ve got AwesomeBot, an all-girls FIRST® Tech
Challenge team. Started in 2014 by Tracy Allen and Kym Smith, both in ninth grade at the time, Team
AwesomeBot was the result of a dare. Tracy’s older brother Bill was competing in an online programming
game and told Tracy she couldn’t play along, because he didn’t have the time to teach her how to code. Tracy
said she’d learn on her own and do even better. His reply? “I dare you,” Tracy said. “So I looked into ways to
learn coding and I found FIRST Tech Challenge. I invited Kym and we quickly found six other girls to join up.”
Founded by inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was
created to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. The FIRST Tech
Challenge is an intermediate robotics competition that provides students in grades 7-12 with a challenging,
technology-rich, exciting program that inspires them to get into science, technology, and engineering. FIRST
Tech Challenge participants are eligible to receive close to $16 million in scholarships from some of the finest
science and engineering schools in the country and Canada.
In the 2014-2015 FIRST Tech Challenge game CASCADE EFFECTsm, robots developed and executed both
offensive and defensive strategies. Using a combination of motors, controllers, wireless communications, metal
gears, and sensors, including infrared tracking (IR) and magnet seeking, students will program their robots to
operate in both autonomous and driver-controlled modes on a specially designed field. The object of Cascade
Effect is to score more points than an opponent by placing balls into rolling goals and then moving goals into
scoring areas. Points can also be awarded when balls are shot into a center goal.
Ten months, one robot, three competitions, and one award later, and Team AwesomeBot definitely succeeded.
At the Nashua Qualifying Tournament in December, the team’s robot was “one of the few that survived
qualifying matches, so we got pulled into one of the alliances,” said Kym, laughing. “It wasn’t a great robot, but
it was strong, and at that event, that’s all it took.” The team was able to advance to the Massachusetts
Championship in January as a result.
“We spent all of January redesigning the robot to be more effective at scooping up balls and scoring goals,”
Tracy said. “We knew we would need to have a more competitive robot if we were going to have a chance at
the Championship.” The robot performed better, but they weren’t picked for an alliance. However, in FIRST
Tech Challenge, teams advance through competition and merit, and the team received the Think Award, which
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earned them a spot at the East Super-Regional event held in Pennsylvania in February. According to the
FIRST Tech Challenge website, “The Think Award award is given to the team that best reflects the journey the
team took as they experienced the engineering design process during the build season.”
“We were so shocked! We’d worked hard on our Engineering Notebook and practiced our Judging Interview
and everything, but really, it was quite a surprise to us. And then we realized we had a lot of fundraising to do if
we were going to be able to get the whole team and the robot out there in less than a month,” said Coach
Diane Allen. Due to the generosity of local metal fabrication company Weld It, the team was able to rent a
school bus and attend the Super-Regional event where 72 teams from the eastern United States competed for
one of 25 advancement spots.
“We weren’t the best robot on the field, but we weren’t the worst,” said Kym.
“But that didn’t even matter to us,” chimed in Tracy. “We had such a good time meeting all the other teams and
we learned so much! We are already planning much more sophisticated elements for next year’s robot.”
What started out as a dare has become an obsession. “All of the girls are committed to the team, to the robot,
and are really getting into the science and engineering aspects,” said Coach Allen. “They work so hard and it’s
all on them – no one is making them do any of it.”
“Our goal for next year is to start and mentor another team,” said Tracy. “Every kid should do this! We learned
so much about technology and had so much fun!”
“We want to get to Super-Regionals again next year,” added Kym. “And we want to really grow our team and
the program in the community. FIRST gives you a chance to learn real world skills, compete with robots, and
meet lots of great people.”
To learn more about Team AwesomeBot, check out their website: www.awesomebot.org or email the coach
Diane Allen at diane@awesomebot.org. Go to www.firstinspires.org/robotics/ftc to learn more about FIRST
Tech Challenge and how to start a team in your area.
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Appendix R: Build a Booth
FIRST is driven by a mission to engage every student in STEM learning. Yet, somehow, there are still many
people who have not heard of FIRST. We need to change that and Teams are our greatest spokespersons!
There are lots of opportunities to spread the word about FIRST and promote your Team in the community.
Outreach can help you: find new Team members, find additional Mentors/Coaches, find Sponsors, and mentor
young people – maybe even help start other FIRST Tech Challenge Teams! This document will provide brief
instructions on where and how.
Find an event in your area. Anything that is going to appeal to young people or educators is good, and there
are a lot of conferences out there where you could probably set up a display, including events for families,
including fairs, as well as places with lots of people, such as malls. The bigger the turnout for the event, the
more people you can reach, so don't only look into small events.
Once you are where the people are, you need to have a display of some kind. Make it eye-catching. You have
to draw folks over to you. The number one way to do this is with a working Robot and your Team. Catch
people walking by with a simple “Want to drive the Robot?” or "Have you heard of FIRST?" or “Do you like
Robots (or Science or Engineering, etc)?”
Have a large poster (tri-folds work great for this) with a little text and lots of pictures. Make the text big so it can
be easily read from three or four feet away. Include how your Team got started and why, Team goals, the
Team working on the Robot, including design ideas or CAD drawings, and maybe outreach the Team has
engaged in. Include awards and honors the Team has won. If there’s too much text, focus on the message you
want people to get most, or consider sharing information in other ways (ie: have a brochure about the Team
and the poster can be about the Robot. Or hand out a Team business card with the link to the Team website to
see photos of the Robot design and build process while the poster focuses on the Team).
Consider having something for people to write down their contact info so you can keep in touch with them, and
definitely have a handout with Team info on it, a one-page overview or even a Team business card. Other
recommendations and a sample display are shown on the following pages.
Resources to help you promote FIRST are available in Appendix T - FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge
Promotional Materials.
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Get the FIRST and FIRST Tech
Challenge name and logo out there
big and bold! Whatever large signs
you have, keep the font big and the
number of words small – too much
text is overwhelming.
Provide FIRST and
FIRST Tech Challenge
literature for folks to
take and read later. You
can download and print
many documents from
FIRST and FIRST Tech
Challenge.
Share information about
the FIRST Scholarship
Program. This is a huge
draw for many parents,
schools, and students!
Have a computer playing FIRST and FIRST
Tech Challenge videos – you can even run
multiple videos in a loop. We recommend
“What is FIRST? Video”, the FIRST
Scholarship Video”, and the annual “FIRST
Tech Challenge Game Animation Video.” Or
make your own Team video!
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
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Booth Design Tips
If you can set up a
playing field, that’s
awesome; if not, have
the current Game OneSheeter and a few Game
Elements for folks to
check out.
Have a Robot! A Team and their
Robot is best, but just having a
working Robot that folks can drive is a
sure-fire way to draw people over to
your table and generate interest in
FIRST.
Use plastic sign holders to
stand your literature
upright on the table. This
makes it more visible to
the casual passerby,
versus requiring someone
to stop and look to see
what the stacks of info are
all about.
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Appendix S: FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge Promotional Materials
Hand-Outs


Game 1-Page Document
FIRST Tech Challenge Promotional Flyers, Posters, and handouts
Media and Press Tools


FIRST Marketing and Press Tools
FIRST Tech Challenge Outreach and Marketing Resources
Presentation Materials







FIRST Tech Challenge PowerPoint Presentation template
What’s FIRST? video
FIRST Tech Challenge Promo video
Game Animation video - changes each season
Gracious Professionalism video
FIRST Scholarship Video
Youth Protection Program video
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Appendix T: 2016-17 Rookie Team Resource List
Listed below are all pages that FIRST® Tech Challenge Teams may require both throughout their competition
season, and during their off-season. Make sure to bookmark the pages you feel would best help you and your
Team! If you still find that you require additional help, feel free to reach out to the FIRST® team at
ftcteams@firstinspires.org.
Overview Pages
®
FIRST Webpage
FIRST Tech Challenge main page
Regional Contacts Search Portal - Find your
www.firstinspires.org
www.firstinspires.org/robotics/ftc
http://www.firstinspires.com/node/2546
Regional FIRST Contact.
Game Materials - Includes all the season materials,
including the Game Manuals, link to the Forum, Forum Answered
Questions, Field instructions, and link to buy field element.
http://www.firstinspires.org/resource-library/ftc/gameand-season-info
Getting Started
Starting a Team Resources - Includes step-by-step
resources for starting an FIRST Tech Challenge team.
Fundraising Resources - Includes resources for
budgeting and fundraising, including grants and resources from the
FIRST and FIRST Tech Challenge Fundraising Toolkits.
http://www.firstinspires.org/node/5281
http://www.firstinspires.org/node/5406
Resource Library - The location of all FIRST and FIRST
Tech Challenge Resources. Organized in “articles”, resources are
grouped together by subject and can be saved to your personal
Resource Library by clicking on the heart when signed in
http://www.firstinspires.org/node/1586
Team, Robots, and Technology!
Team Management Resources - Includes all the
resources for Mentors and Teams on running the team: the Mentor
Manual, fundraising, training, Engineering Notebook, preparing for
competition, Awards, and more.
http://www.firstinspires.org/node/5226
Robot Building Resources - Includes all of the
resources for building the robot, including the PushBot Build
Guides, Robot Wiring Guide, PTC design resources, and new
technology resources.
http://www.firstinspires.org/node/5181
Technology Resources - Includes all resources for the
new Android-based technology, including programming resources,
Troubleshooting Guides, link to the Forum, etc.
http://www.firstinspires.org/node/5291
Competition
Preparing for Competition Resources - Includes
a checklist of items and resources to ensure your team is prepared
for competition.
Events Search Portal - Find local events (from
tournaments to workshops and scrimmages).
http://www.firstinspires.org/node/5261
http://www.firstinspires.org/team-event-search
FIRST Tech Challenge Dean’s List – Every
registered FIRST Tech Challenge Team is able to nominate 2
students (10th or 11th grade) to be recognized for their leadership
and dedication to FIRST. Learn more about this amazing award!
Volunteer Resources - Includes all volunteer training
manuals and instructions for accessing the Schoology training.
Super-Regional Championships - Information
regarding the four U.S. based Super-Regional Championships.
http://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/ftc/deans-list
http://www.firstinspires.org/node/5146
http://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/ftc/super-regionalchampionship-tournaments
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Outreach and Social Media
Outreach & Marketing Resources - Includes
resources and links to resources, virtual badges, marketing
materials and team recruitment resources.
Links to Social Media - All FIRST and FIRST Tech
Challenge Social Media pages.
World Championship Results & Hall of Fame Location of all previous World Championships winners.
http://www.firstinspires.org/node/5246
http://www.firstinspires.org/node/4511
http://www.firstinspires.org/node/5356
Beyond the Competition
FIRST Tech Challenge in the Classroom
Resources - Many FIRST Tech Challenge Mentors and
Coaches are also teachers in the classroom. Find additional
resources here
FIRST Scholarships - Be proactive and start looking at
what scholarships are available!
http://www.firstinspires.org/node/5231
http://www.firstinspires.org/node/1556
FIRST Alumni & Internships - FIRST participants are
able to search out internships made available for students who
have participated in high school level FIRST programs. Network
with the FIRST Alumni page and ensure you are always connected
even after graduating from FIRST Tech Challenge.
http://www.firstinspires.com/alumni-and-internships
Gracious Professionalism® - “Doing your best work while treating others with respect and kindess - It’s what makes FIRST, first.”
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