FIRST Robotics Competition Blog

Volunteer In-Training, Shadowing, Oh My!

Dec 14, 2017 Written by Amanda Bean, FIRST Robotics Competition, Volunteer Resource Coordinator

Hello FIRST Volunteers,

As you know, FIRST Robotics Competition is an ever-growing program and as FIRST Robotics Competition grows so does our need for volunteers. FIRST wants to ensure that we give you, our volunteers, the best training and support that we can, while creating a great volunteer experience. We are constantly looking for ways to enhance the support we provide.

One of the FIRST Strategic Pillars is to increase Diversity. FIRST is striving to create a more inclusive and welcoming place that will further our goal of fully reflecting the communities we serve. The FIRST Robotics Competition Volunteer Shadowing and Training programs support equity, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) by making efforts to recruit and include additional volunteers for training.

This season, FIRST Robotics Competition is adding a new volunteer shadowing program to help volunteers try out new roles and grow into Key Volunteers. This shadowing program will enhance our already successful In-Training Program and help nurture you through the ranks of FIRST Volunteers.

In- Training Volunteers

Many of our events use “In-Training” volunteers at their events. In-Training volunteer roles, also known as “Trainees”, are volunteers that are positioned to move into a Key Volunteer role at an event. This positioning is especially useful for regions that are ready to expand, or move into the district model. This process helps to create succession plans for specific volunteer roles where individuals might be leaving their roles soon.

The In-Training Program is available for the following roles:

  • Control System Advisor
  • Field Supervisor
  • Game Announcer
  • Head Referee (practice day only)
  • Judge Advisors
  • Lead Robot Inspector
  • Lead Queuer
  • Master of Ceremonies
  • Pit Supervisor
  • Volunteer Coordinator

The In-Training program benefits volunteers as it allows the Trainee to receive official hands-on training for a Key Volunteer role while being supervised by an experienced volunteer. The Trainee acts as the Key volunteer while the experienced volunteer supervises and teaches the trainee.

For example, an In-training Robot Inspector has the opportunity to have hands-on training with the Lead Robot Inspector and simulate the responsibilities of that key role throughout the event. (Acts as Lead Robot Inspector with someone assisting when needed)

This season we will add an evaluation process to all Trainee positions. The evaluations are designed so that the experienced/supervising volunteer may provide feedback to the Trainee volunteer to highlight areas for improvement and where they are excelling.

Volunteer Shadowing Program

FIRST Robotics Competition has always allowed volunteers to shadow at events, but we have not had the right guidelines in place to successfully implement it as a wide-scale program until now. The purpose of this program is to allow a volunteer to observe a role to determine if the role is a good fit for them. It’s a stepping stone for volunteers that are interested in growing into Key and/or leadership roles. For example, a Field Reset volunteer that aspires to become a Field Supervisor. This shadow program gives the volunteer the opportunity to Observe the Field Supervisor and further understand what the Field Supervisor role does throughout an event.

Shadow Volunteer Requirements

  • Must have been a volunteer at a FIRST Robotics Competition event during the previous season.
  • Volunteers must be of age with some exceptions. Volunteers that are interested in a Key Volunteer position that wouldn’t normally meet the role’s age requirements may shadow the position 1 year under the age requirement.
    • i.e. The Field Reset volunteer who is shadowing the Field Supervisor may do so at the age of 18.
  • An event can only have one (1) shadow volunteer on the field and two (2) shadow volunteers off-field.

The Shadow Program is available for the following roles:

  • Field Supervisor
  • Field Technical Advisor Assistant (FTAA) (setup and practice day only)
  • Game Announcer
  • Lead Queuer
  • Master of Ceremonies
  • Pit Supervisor
  • Referee (practice day only)
  • Scorekeeper
  • Volunteer Coordinator

It is important to note that neither of these programs are required to grow into leadership or Key volunteer roles, nor does shadowing or training in a role guarantee that a volunteer will move into that role in the future. Every event is run differently and volunteer assignments are determined by the Volunteer Coordinator and/or Regional Director of your local event. There are only so many key roles needed for an event and some events already have dedicated volunteers for certain positions. Please speak to your local Volunteer Coordinator if you are interested in moving into a more key volunteer role.

We at FIRST Headquarters understand that there is a shortage of open Key Volunteer positions in certain areas, and we are working across programs and departments to develop more opportunities for volunteer mobility in the future. Please be patient as we try to develop these growth and succession plans. We love the passion that our volunteers have and you can always reach out to the Volunteer Resource Department by emailing

Thanks for all you do, Volunteers POWER FIRST!

Amanda Bean

FIRST Robotics Competition, Volunteer Resource Coordinator

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