Farmington FIRST Robotics Team #178

The 2nd Law Enforcers

Handbook for Parents

Version 5.0.5

(Updated 10/2019)

Part I:  What is FIRST?

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology by inventor Dean Kamen and MIT Prof. Woodie Flowers 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.   Dean’s vision for FIRST is to  "To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders."  FIRST has grown significantly since the beginning. Now, FIRST has 1,000 teams in four programs.  More than 250,000 coaches, mentors, and volunters make FIRST happen.  FIRST is supported by a network of more than 3,500 Sponsors, including corporations, educational and professional institutions, and individuals.  For more data on FIRST, visit

The four official FIRST programs are:

FIRST Philosophies

Gracious Professionalism®

Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It's a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.

With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended.

In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.


Coopertition® produces innovation. At FIRST, Coopertition is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete.

Coopertition involves learning from teammates. It is teaching teammates. It is learning from Mentors. And it is managing and being managed. Coopertition means competing always, but assisting and enabling others when you can.

FIRST Core Values

We express the FIRST philosophies of Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition through our Core Values which are consistent across ALL FIRST programs:

More information about FIRST can be found at

Part II: Team Background

The Farmington High School FIRST Robotics team began in 1996 - 1997 as a Partnership between Farmington High School and UTC Otis Elevator.  Fred Myers, former FHS Science Dept. Chair, and Jim Rivera, a lead Engineer at Otis met and decided to try to form a FIRST Robotics team.   Our first robot, Gizmo, helped us to win Rookie All-Star Award at theory New England Regional in New Hampshire in 1997 and finished 7th at the FIRST Championships.  Thus Farmington Robotics began with a spirit of collaboration and respect that has been a hallmark of the team ever since.  In 1998-1998, the team took on the name The 2nd Law Enforcers.  Our team is a strong partnership of Farmington High School students, engineering professionals (from sponsors UTC Otis Elevator, Parker-Hannifin, and others), teacher coaches, parents, adult mentors, and alumni mentors.  We are very proud to say that our team is student driven and mentor nurtured.  This philosophy is not something that is required by FIRST but rather is unique to the Enforcers.

We are a year-round team who works hard from Sept. through August to fulfill FIRST’s mission of transforming our culture into one that celebrates science and technology.  We do our very best to build a competitive robot every year but we also understand that the robot is a means to an end.  

In 2003, students on our team started an initiative called Dream FIRST.  Dream FIRST is designed to bring the excitement and love of science and technology to the very young children not old enough to be involved in a formal FIRST program.  Dream FIRST is centered around a children’s story book Meet Gizmo: The Start of a Journey  The book was written and illustrated by students and was published in 2007.   We now feature the book and science activities that we have designed at Dream FIRST events that we run for children at local schools and community groups.  We run about 8 Dream FIRST events a year and Dream FIRST has become a core part of the Enforcers team identity.

In addition to Dream FIRST, we reach out to our community through mentorship of FLL teams and FLL Jr. teams in Farmington, supporting other FIRST teams in CT, demonstrations at venues such as the Greater Hartford Maker Faire, and participation in worthy causes such as Relay for Life.

Since 2006, the team has been recognized with FIRST’s second highest honor, the Engineering Inspiration Award, 6 times at competitions in Connecticut, Boston and Toronto. In 2007, we were selected out of over 350 teams for the Engineering Inspiration Award at the FIRST Championship.  In 2015, we won FIRST’s highest award, the Chairman’s Award for the first time at the Springfield District Competition.  The Chairman's award recognizes teams that demonstrate the greatest commitment to spreading passion about science and technology into their communities and schools. Submission involves writing an essay documenting the team's efforts at spreading the message of FIRST and a five-minute presentation to a panel of judges followed by a five-minute Q&A session for the judges.  A copy of the team’s 2015 Chairman’s essay can be found on our website.

The team is composed of several committees in order to focus our efforts on the technical and non-technical projects we choose to work on each year.  The engineering related committees (eCOR) are mechanical, electrical, programming, robot support and systems engineering.  The community outreach related committees (oCOR) are: competition support, archiving, digital media/PR, and youth initiatives.  Students are encouraged to explore their interests by joining projects that involve multiple committees.  New members should not feel pressured to decide what committee they belong to and should have the time and space to find their niche.  One of the things this team prides itself on is that we have a very diverse membership yet each member feels at home.

Part III: Team Leadership

The team is lead by 5 student officers and several adult coaches.  The 2019-20 leadership team is as follows:

Team Captain                                Brandon Demkowicz

Director of Community Outreach                Darren Kwee

Director of Engineering                        Hannah Zink

Secretary                                        Seth Frank

Treasurer                                        Nidhish Sunmugasundaram

Co-Head Coaches                                Tim Barron & Michele Hall

Engineering Coach                                Charles Forstbauer

Assistant Coaches                                Charlie Bald, and Earl Procko

Parent Volunteer Coordinator                Amy Hofmann

Part IV: Team Communication & Information

Team members are expected to take an active role in staying on top of team communication.   Constant reminders about forms and deadlines slow the works down for everyone.  Parents are asked to encourage your child to actively seek out information about what is happening ahead of time so that your family can plan accordingly.

The team utilizes four main forms of communication:

1.  At every team meeting we start with a full team gathering for a meeting kickoff and we conclude with a wrap-up.  The information discussed at the meeting is summarized by the team Secretary who sends out a Secretary’s update after each team meeting.  The updates are the best way to stay on top of what the team is doing.

2.  The team has a google classroom within the domain.  Google classroom is a collaborative space for use by teachers and students.  The team utilizes Google classroom to post reminder and assignments which in our case are not graded assignments but rather important information that team members need to locate and act on.  Google classroom is where ALL sign ups for team events (competitions and outreach opportunities) are posted.  It is also where all forms and permission slip information is posted. Parents are not able to join the Google classroom at this time but parents may have their student sign them up for automated email updates summarizing what is posted in our Google classroom.  It is crucial that all student team members pay attention to the team Google classroom and respond to things in a timely manner!

3.  The team calendar is located at the team website http://  Dates through December are already listed, and each event has details listed.  This calendar is always the most up to date place for parents to check on upcoming team meetings and events. The team website also is a source of information on team sponsorship and team history.  

4.  The Google email list ( is where all official team correspondence is sent out.   This includes sign ups for events, permission slips, and other important information.  There is a separate sign up process for parents who wish to join the email list. Parents should sign up in person at a parents meeting or contact team coaches to join the email list.  Students MUST use their fps email account ONLY for team communication per school rules.   Being on the email list also gives you access to the 178 Team Drive which contains the sign ups for events, permission slips, and other useful documents.  Parents are added to, which receives all the emails from the team list, in addition to parent-specific emails (rare).

5.  The team Facebook Group (Farmington FIRST Robotics Team FRC #178) will have announcements about important information and links to details.  This group is only for CURRENT team members, their parents and mentors.

6.  @Team 178 is on Twitter, Instagram (mostly pictures of events or match updates) and YouTube. These are public pages, along with a public Facebook page (search @FRC178).  

Part V: Schedule

We meet year-round as a team:


There are also MANY other activities, such as community outreach and off-season competitions, which are on the calendar.

Part VI: Our Sponsors

A FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) team such as the Enforcers is a multi-faceted partnership between a school and sponsoring organizations from the community.  Our team is very lucky to have long-standing and generous sponsors.  Our sponsors place a high value on both the impact our team has on our students and the sense of reward that volunteering mentors take away from the experience.  While some teams order their sponsors based solely on financial contributions, we consider the time spent with our students to be the most valuable contribution a sponsor can give us.

Our founding sponsor UTC Otis Elevator has been with the team since it started in 1997.  Over the years, engineers from Otis have mentored our students and provided strong leadership role models.  In fact, the team has a proud history of our engineer mentors moving on to upper level management positions in UTC.  They have credited their leadership experience with team as one of the factors in their professional advancement.  In addition to mentor-ship, UTC provides very generous annual monetary donations.  Each year, UTC funds our entrance fees for at least two FIRST competitions.  Without such funding, we would not be able to do what we do each year.

Parker Hannifin Fluid Control Division located in New Britain CT has been a strong team sponsor as well. They have brought the wonderful expertise and patient guidance of Senior Development Engineer, Charlie Bald.  Charlie has educated in the use of pneumatic systems.  He has moved us forward in the use Autodesk Inventor 3D modeling software as an integral part of our design process. This year is the first year that Parker is also a significant financial sponsor, which will be invaluable to our team!

Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company,  has also been a long time team sponsor.  Engineers Matt Hall and Butch LaCroix have been extremely dedicated mentors with the team since 2004 and have made contributions to our design practice and team culture that will always be part of the Enforcers.  Matt & Butch helped us to evolve to take a Systems engineering based approach to robot design.  They formalized our “mentor-nurtured, student-driven” philosophy and have helped us to pass it on to new mentors each year.

We also have many mentors who are former team alumni, such as Matt Crossman, Trevor Deming, Mark Sims and Danielle Parkinson.  Some of them are working for local companies, and provide technical advice as well as FRC experience.  Others are enrolled in local colleges and universities and come work with our students on a regular basis.  The Alumni Mentor program was established in 2006, and has been an integral part of our team since then.

The Farmington Public Schools allow the use of buildings throughout the district to support robotics for all grade levels, including FLL Jr., FLL and FRC.  They provide us with the Annex our shared workspace at 19 School Street in Unionville, CT, providing transportation to all meetings and various competitions and community outreach events.  Most of all, they have brought us coaches and mentors who enthusiastically devote extraordinary amounts of time to the team each year.

The Enforcers wish to thank all of our sponsors for the gift of their partnership each year.  "We as mentors always told them 'it's not about the Robot, it's about a group of individuals creatively bonded together for a common goal." (Founding mentor Jim Rivera, Director of Robust Product Design, UTC Otis Elevator)

Part VII:  Farmington Friends of Robotics (FOR)

Since 2016, we have had a 501(c)3 organization that has been created for the express purpose of providing support to robotics programs in Farmington. From their website (

Farmington FOR exists to ensure that all participants in Farmington’s FIRST robotics teams have the best possible resources available to them as they participate in club activities and FIRST competitions.

Through fundraising drives and solicitation of donations and grants, we support and promote the welfare, interests and activities of Farmington FIRST teams including FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST Lego League Jr., and FIRST Lego League.

FOR meets on the second Wednesday of each month from 7-8pm at the Farmington Library.  Donations are tax deductible, and go directly to supporting the team!

In addition to financial support, FOR provides logistical support for events, snacks, transportation and so much more.  They coordinate parent help so that we are not asking the same people over and over again to help.  

Part VIII: Cost to Run Our Team

The MAX cost for a typical year for students:

$125/year food & supplies (includes snacks for 55 meetings, 8 build season lunches, banquet)

                $50/year off-season competition (not this year)

$50/year District Events OR up to $800/year both CT District and District Championship competition OR up to $1800 for District Events, District Championship and World Championship (Detroit)

$7 for safety glasses and hearing protection

$5 for long sleeved shirt (mainly pit crew)

+$200 fundraising    …….

$437/year full season OR up to $1237 including trip to District Championship OR $2237 including trip to Detroit.

        The cost to run the team for a typical season:

                $5000 food/paper goods/cleaning supplies

                $7000 Build season

                $2000 for 2 t-shirts per student/mentor

                $11000 Competition Fees for 3 CT District Events AND District Championship

                $500        Off-season competition fees

                $4000 Transportation to events (in-state)

$20000 Trip to District Championship (if we qualify) AND $30000 Out of state trip to World Championship (if we qualify)

$3000        office supplies, tools and other necessary expenses       …...

$50000 to $75000/year.....

        $15,000/year comes from donations from sponsor companies, FPS

        $6000/year comes from expected contributions from students (food money)

        ...balance is donations, fundraising and trip payments.

How can fundraising help?

if each person raises $200, we can raise over $12000, plus any smaller fundraisers we do during the year.  That covers $7000 for build season, $1000 for new equipment, and decreases trip costs by $100 (or more) per person.


Part IX:  Fundraising: the Raffle         

We hold our biggest fundraiser, the raffle, in the fall.  The reasoning is that some of the proceeds from the raffle have typically been used to fill in the debts in our budget from build season and to reimburse parents a portion of the cost of the team trip.  This way, we will have the money in advance set aside and can use it to finalize our build season budget and the final trip cost IN ADVANCE.  

Based on the cost breakdown, we are asking each student to sell a minimum 2 books of tickets- that’s $200 in fundraising for the team.  Based on the cost breakdown previously mentioned, that is enough money to help the team offer your child the best program we can.  If your child sells a minimum of two books of tickets, 25% of their ticket sales for those two books, plus 25% of any additional sales will go into a personal account which they can draw from to pay for trips.  This money will be available to them as long as they are a member on the team.  

Because this raffle is done by permit through the state of Connecticut, we are bound by the rules they set forth.  We are including a copy of the information we will give to your children to spell this out.  This is where we need your help- the area that we have the most difficult time with is properly filling out tickets and lost tickets.  Tickets need to be filled out with a complete name, full address and phone number or it is not considered valid.  Five years ago, Tim had to track down and fix close to 500 incomplete tickets.  Also, please tell your child to NOT put the ticket book in their pocket, unless it is in an envelope.  We have had single tickets rip off and get lost, books of tickets go through the washing machine and other nightmare scenarios.  

Other ways you can help?  We are obligated to have 1 adult over 18 be with students wherever they sell.  This is especially important if students are under age 16, because they are technically not supposed to handle money as per State rules.  In order to help your child meet this goal, we will be asking parents to help arrange with local businesses to sell outside their premises.  If you have a location in mind that would generate strong sales let us know!


Part X: Team Trips:

We typically go to a minimum of five total competitions a year:  three one-day off season events (one preseason, one scrimmage, one postseason), and two-three District qualifying events (local to New England, two day events, typically held Sat/Sun).  Any other competitions will be dependent upon our success at the qualifying events.

The cost for off-season events vary; if local, there is no cost to attend except for food.  All team members and their families are encouraged to attend.  This year, we will have our costs covered by money already collected  (Bash at the Beach, 10/19/20)

In 2020, we hope to attend 2 local district qualifying events during the month of March.  Our tentative plan (pending confirmation through the lottery process) is:

Only team members who meet standard on their portfolios will be able to go to all days of the competition (see below). The cost to attend in-state District Events is $50, which includes a team dinner, TBD. Team members will have to bring money for food for the competition (We are able to give students $7/day to cover food costs, but they will likely need more, as these are long days).

In addition, we MAY attend the 2019 New England District Championship at WPI (Worcester, MA) Wed. 04/10/2019 - Sat 04/13/2019 if we qualify (note: before Spring Break- will miss 2 days of school) The New England District Championship event will be out out of state trip.  We will travel by coach bus to participate in the competition.  

New England Championship: We will leave on Wednesday afternoon and compete Thursday-Saturday, then we return home Saturday night (IF WE QUALIFY).  Cost of the District Championship trip will be no greater than $700 (which also includes the $50 for the District Events).  Cost includes transportation, hotel, breakfast and dinner for Wednesday-Saturday.   Cost also includes paying for enough chaperones to allow us the flexibility we need at competitions and while traveling - usually 4.

We use Perkins Travel agency to help us plan our trips.  Our team has a sterling reputation for behavior our trips and we have been welcome back wherever we have gone. Only students who have earned a meets standard on their portfolio will be able to miss school for this trip.  A letter with full trip details will be sent out to all team members when the planning is finalized.


All checks should be made payable to FHS Robotics Team.  

(If you are only going to in-state Qualifiers, payment due is $50; Deposit for NE Champs is $200)

World Championship Trip:  We will put through the paperwork for this trip as if it is happening, because we will not find out if we qualify until 14 days before we leave!  We reserve transportation now, and will get hotels, meals, etc done when we qualify in order to limit our cancellation fees. We are only going if we qualify.  

Tentative Information:  

        Dates: Depart Tuesday (PM) April 23th, 2019; Return Sunday April 28th, 2019.

        Travel by coach bus; overnight driving both directions

Competition runs Wednesday-Saturday

Return Sunday; it’s only a 12 hour bus ride!

Cost: About $1000- likely less if we are able to share a bus

Due Dates:   1/11/2019 Commitment form Due.  NO $$ for this trip due.  

4/03/2018- $500 deposit check to hold your spot (will not be cashed until we determine we qualify, after 4/14)

4/17/2019 Final commitment and FULL payment due. Contact head coaches in ADVANCE if you need flexibility!

Fundraising (like the raffle or corporate matching through FOR) helps to lower the costs for trips.  The more money we raise, the less the trip will cost everyone!   We may be able to lower the cost of the trip once our major fundraisers are done!

Part XI:  Team Member Portfolios:

Students put in as much as 200 hours into the robotics team over the course of the year.  Officers and committee heads put into even more time.  Their passion and commitment deserves to be valued.  The purpose of the robotics student portfolio is to allow students to documents their contributions to the team during preseason, build season and postseason.  It is essentially their “Robotics Resume”.  Students will receive a Google Slides template to help you and more information about what to include in it at an upcoming team meeting.

Along with making the portfolio students also receive what is essentially a performance review twice a year. Students will have to turn in 2 portfolios - one in November/December and one in February.  The first one is their preseason portfolio, similar to a progress report.  Officers and coaches will give students feedback with lots of suggestions on ways to improve during build season.  This one does not have any effect on standing with the team.  The second portfolio review is held toward the end of build season and it determines eligibility to attend competitions as part of the traveling team:

Meets/Exceeds Standard- student is a VETERAN member and eligible for the traveling team.

Below Standard- student is not eligible for traveling team and may attend District events on Sunday only.

There is an opportunity to appeal the grade on the 2nd portfolio; most grade appeals are due to incomplete or vague portfolios.  Generally speaking, a student can “meet standard” by attending meetings, working hard and getting proactively involved while at meetings, and volunteering for activities outside of meetings.  Please do not hesitate to contact the team head coaches about and any questions or concern related to the portfolio process.


Part XII:  Student Commitment

Students are not expected to attend every hour of every meeting. However, the more time you are at meetings, the more you will get out of your robotics experience!  We have people on the team who also participate in sports teams, clubs, music, theater, and outside activities (such as Boy Scouts).  We also want everyone to keep their school work a priority, so we understand the occasional missed meeting due to project deadlines, upcoming tests, etc.  What is more important is that you attend in a consistent pattern, rather than missing large blocks of time (where people wonder if you are on the team anymore).

The exceptions to this are students who have volunteered to take on leadership roles on the team.  Officers meet at least weekly outside of team meetings in order to make plans.  Members of the Committee of Representatives (aka COR) will be expected to make 1-2 hour long meetings per month in order to develop projects that the team will focus on during meetings.  We do our best to emphasize that there is a clear agenda at these meetings, so that students will not be wasting their time.  

Part XIII:  Vital Roles for Parents

Parents are a vital resource for the Farmington High School Robotics team.  Parents can help in both mentoring and volunteer roles.  Parents who have expertise in BOTH technical and non-technical fields are most welcome.  Please talk to a coach, or come to a meeting to find out how you can help.  

Parent volunteers are vital to our team and are especially needed at various times throughout the season.  We need parents who are willing to purchase/deliver snacks for weekly team meetings throughout the year. We also need parents who are willing to help prepare team meals for Saturday meetings during build season.  The team will gladly reimburse you for all expenses.  During the Fall, we usually eat snack from 5:30-5:45 PM and lunch during Build Season (Jan - Feb) is typically from 12:30 - 1 PM.

Other roles for parent volunteers include:

Parent Meetings: (at FHS unless otherwise specified)

Wednesday January 9th 7-8pm TENTATIVE-  Finalized trip information, costs, etc.

March TBD 7-8pm  TENTATIVE- Final Itineraries for Competitions, etc. - particularly if we are likely to go to District Championships

Tuesday April 16th 7:15-8:15pm at the Annex (if we are going to Detroit)

Part XIV:  Food (yes it has it’s own section!)

With more than 60 students on the roster and 40-50 coming to meetings on a regular basis, that is a lot of hungry teenagers in a space.  Keeping that in mind, we make sure there is food available at every meeting.  Typically, we have had snacks available for weekday meetings and lunch for full day Saturday meetings.  

Here’s how you can help:

We need parents to help with snacks for weekday meetings and lunches for Saturday during  Build Season- Entree,salad/bread, desserts.  Bring one part, bring all three.  We have full service kitchen to keep things warm.  Bring in your receipts, and you will be reimbursed for the cost of the groceries- we ask that you do this right away, so that we can keep the budget up-to-date.  Right now, we’re looking for people to help beginning NOW- Amy Hofmann will create a sign-up that will be emailed out.  If you have already volunteered, THANK YOU.  I am hoping to share the load so that each person can help once. Please note: We have some severe allergies this year.  Please avoid sending anything with peanuts.

XV: Workspace Rules and Safety

 Considering the large number of people that are in the warehouse on a daily basis, we are very vigilant about safety.  Students are expected to follow the rules outlined at the first meeting (listed below), pass a safety test in order to work anywhere in the warehouse, and additional safety tests in order to use the tools.  Students need to pass the safety tests at 80% or greater; students who don’t pass will have the opportunity to try until they DO pass.  


                      19/23 School Street          

Part XVI: FIRST Scholarships - Trips and College

We understand that times are tough, and coming up with money for a trip can be a challenge.  Keep in mind, we are doing our best to cap the trip costs at $1000, which is significantly lower than trips by other groups at the high school.   We do have opportunities for parents to apply for sponsorship for their students in order to defray some of the cost of the trip.  We find approximately $1000 in private donations that we split, typically between 3-4 deserving students.  “Deserving” means that there is financial need and the student is a dedicated member of the team.  Preference will go to older members of the team, especially if they have not had a chance to go on a trip.  

In addition- and this is for the parents of upperclassmen- there are MILLIONS of dollars of scholarships available through FIRST for your child.  Most of them merely have the requirement “you have participated in FIRST Robotics”.  Many of the scholarships are for engineering and science majors, but there are some for students of any major. has the information.  Two of the larger local scholarships include $15,000/year for any course of study at University of Hartford and up to full tuition at Yale University (based on need)

XVII: Coach’s Philosophy

The team has two head coaches (Mrs. Michele Hall & Mr. Tim Barron), 2 Assistant coaches (Mr. Charlie Bald, & Mr. Earl Procko), and an Engineering Coach, Mr. Charles Forstbauer.  We also have build-season coaches, engineering mentors from sponsor companies, parent mentors, and 6 alumni mentors. The team philosophy shared by our coaches is one of empowering students by giving them real responsibility and decision-making ability. This means that they face real deadlines over the course of the year and that there are real consequences if we don’t meet those deadlines.  FIRST does not adjust its deadlines and it does not make exceptions to the rules.  For this reason, many teams are adult driven. Ours is not.  We hold strongly to the “student-driven, mentor-nurtured” culture that has served us well thus far. This does not mean we don’t want to win awards just as badly as everyone else - you can bet we do.  What it does mean is that we measure ourselves a bit differently than others might.  We aim to have the most collaborative, most cohesive, most exciting six week build season possible as together we create the best robot we can and try to impact our community in a profound way.