5 Shocking things that are less expensive than FRC's $5,000 initial registration fee

Each year, every veteran competitive robotics team in FRC makes a decision to pay the program's initial registration fee.  In exchange for this $5,000 annual fee, existing non-rookie teams get a Collection of Parts, entry into either one Regional or two District competitions, and another year of official participation in the best mentor-based varsity-level high school robotics competition in the world.

Image courtesy of National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History

In this article, MentorBuilt explores 5 shocking things that are less expensive than FRC initial registration!

1. Enough rubber bands to set a world record

For the $5,000 price of the initial registration fee it is possible to purchase 200 bulk bags of #64 rubber bands.  When these 425,000 rubber bands are assembled into a long chain, the length of the chain will surpass (by nearly 5 miles!) this 1994 record set by school children from Gettysburg Elementary School in Clovis, CA.  Breaking this record will be a cost-effective STEM educational activity with students learning the engineering concepts of elasticity, tension, and fatigue!

2. 840,000 pounds of carbon offset credits

The initial registration fee could be used to purchase enough carbon offsets to counteract the CO2 emissions of an average passenger vehicle driven for approximately 680 days non-stop, or about two transatlantic flights of a Boeing 747.

3. Ten 24 Hours of Lemons cars

Redirecting your initial registration fee towards the 24 Hours of Lemons, a hysterical endurance racing tournament series for cheap cars, will enable you to purchase 10-- that's right, 10-- "race cars" for $500 each.  Of course, before your first race you'll need to make additional purchases of tires and required safety equipment such as roll cages and helmets for your ten-team racing alliance, but we're confident that these costs will still be less than what it takes to field one nationally competitive FIRST Robotics Competition team.

4. Access to clean water for hundreds of people

Donating your initial registration fee towards access to clean water for people in developing countries is an effective and inexpensive way to produce positive, lasting, and widely-felt societal effects.  Since "every $1 invested in improved water access and sanitation yields $4-12 in economic returns," the $5,000 originally intended for the FRC initial registration fee will instead turn into a $20-60k economic benefit to a marginalized community in need of access to safe drinking water.

5. Entry into about a dozen offseason events

With team registration fees ranging from zero to $850, offseason FRC events provide an opportunity for teams to get much of the experience of official FIRST competitions.  Many of these tournaments boast a compressed 1-day format, a relaxed atmosphere, and no UL safety advisors.  For the same price as the official FIRST registration fee, which grants a team entry into only one or two competitions in a 6-week period, teams could instead commit to participating in many unofficial offseason events over the course of a much longer "season."