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Unread 05-17-2007, 05:49 PM
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Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

I have noticed in many instances, and various threads on CD that people say that their team focuses almost only on their robot (not saying that this is a bad thing, please don't take it as an attack).

For those who are able to balance their team between Robot and "Beyond The Robot";
My questions are,

1. How does your team build interest in all the aspects of the team?
2. How do you encourage and explain to your team that FIRST isn't only about winning the game (recruitments and reminding the veterans)?
3. How do you explain to them that the entire team needs to make an effort?



Thanks, I can't wait to read all your responses!
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Unread 05-17-2007, 06:37 PM
4throck 4throck is offline
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Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

What else does a FIRST team do? There isn't that much to do in the off-season that justifies more than two or three people.

For the most part, we don't do much. However, the shop is always open, and at the moment, we are trying to make a filing cabinet drive and shoot foam balls. We hope this will spark interest in FIRST.
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Unread 05-17-2007, 08:15 PM
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Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

Quote:
Originally Posted by 4throck View Post
What else does a FIRST team do? There isn't that much to do in the off-season that justifies more than two or three people.

For the most part, we don't do much. However, the shop is always open, and at the moment, we are trying to make a filing cabinet drive and shoot foam balls. We hope this will spark interest in FIRST.
What else does a FIRST team do? Well, for starters there are LEGO and VEX teams that are begging to be started. Not only is this a great way to move away from strictly a "robot" team, but it generates interest in the younger kids for when they are able to join an FRC team. In the off-season you can prepare easy to follow manuals that can be distributed to help any interested students so that they can understand what LEGO or VEX is about.

4throck also brings up another good point. Spreading interest in FIRST. Cyber Blue always accepts any invitaions to demo our robot and tell the audience about FIRST. Of course, you don't have to do something with your robot.
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Unread 05-17-2007, 08:35 PM
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Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

Quote:
Originally Posted by AChastain View Post
What else does a FIRST team do? Well, for starters there are LEGO and VEX teams that are begging to be started. Not only is this a great way to move away from strictly a "robot" team, but it generates interest in the younger kids for when they are able to join an FRC team. In the off-season you can prepare easy to follow manuals that can be distributed to help any interested students so that they can understand what LEGO or VEX is about.

4throck also brings up another good point. Spreading interest in FIRST. Cyber Blue always accepts any invitaions to demo our robot and tell the audience about FIRST. Of course, you don't have to do something with your robot.
Sorry my man, but 1418 doesn't have the money or the resources to start a FVC or FLL team. We get middle schoolers involved in our FRC team, we have several members from the middle school next door.
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Unread 05-17-2007, 08:57 PM
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Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

Nica,
I think you are asking some very interesting questions.
I'm sure there will be some posts added in this thread regarding service hour requirements and the rules in the handbooks that line everything out for students and parents so they understand the whole picture. Our team 'just built the robot' up until a few years ago. Then we started exploring the other aspects of being a FIRST team. The more organized we become as a team, the more we can do as far as outreach, fundraising, and participating in other FIRST programs. Some teams get there quickly, others develop more slowly.

It is very important to get the parents on board and have them understand the different elements of the FIRST team outside of the robot. If they know about and can begin to understand it, they can support it and then help the team develop in getting the word out to the community. Organization and planning along with communication help team members understand that the team can go beyond the robot.
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Unread 05-17-2007, 09:08 PM
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Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

Honestly, most of our team's activities do not revolve around the robot itself. After build season, only a core group of 4 or 5 get selected for the pit crew. The rest are focussed on scouting, PR, chairmans, Serving invited guests, Cheering, Working year-round events(for example, our team is hosting a bodybuilding & health expo on saturday), demos, efforts to recruit new teams, developing software for scouting, developing website(s), fund raising and sponsorship events, lego league summer camps, parents meetings(our RPM group), animation team development/training through out the year, student recruitment, developing relations with school district, community service, recruiting lego league teams, hosting off-season events, etc.

So you see, there are a ton of things your team can do. With such a wide area of interest, many different kinds of students join our team. Some only have an interest in media, or others in cheering. What is important is that they are having fun while working in an engineering environment. At some point everyone gets to work on the robot and they think its "cool". You need to figure out what is fun to do on your team and what the people on your team like. People having fun is naturally attractive to others people. Everyone wants to have fun. They need to see that being on a FIRST team is actually fun. The best way to do this is to get them to off-season events so they stick around for the season. When it is not fun, it is time to leave. That is what our team coach, Wayne Cokeley has taught me. Our team has a smooth year because we have secured funding every year, so we know we will at least be at 2 events. We also have a great leaders who make sure all the projects are headed in the right direction. Building a team takes time and you find people one by one who are willing to take up that responsibility. Good luck.
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Unread 05-17-2007, 09:16 PM
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Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

During the competition season, your team should be focused on winning. But during the off-season, your team should be focused on not only working to become better for the next season, but also working on spreading FIRST and giving back to the community.

In the summer months, emphasize the generosity your school(s) and sponsors have to fund your team, by deciding to give back to the community. It doesn't necessarily have to be about spreading FIRST or inspiring your community about engineering (although bonus points if it does include that), but even something as simple as building birdhouses out of recycled shipping crates, and donating them to a local park can build a positive image of your team within the community.

And while the benefits of doing such activities may not be immediately tangible, activities such as this contribute to the long-term success of your team. When the community (and other civic/service organizations like the Lions or Kiwanis) sees that your team is having a positive effect on your community, then they'll be more likely to help your team out in return. (It also makes it harder and harder for schools/companies that don't quite "get" FIRST yet to continue to ignore a FIRST team.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by 4throck View Post
Sorry my man, but 1418 doesn't have the money or the resources to start a FVC or FLL team. We get middle schoolers involved in our FRC team, we have several members from the middle school next door.
You don't need a lot of resources or money to get FLL or FVC teams started! In fact you can run one of those teams with a single teacher and about $500 or $1000 annually, respectively. Our FRC team usually makes at least that much from a single car wash or pasta dinner fundraiser, which usually only takes (at most) four or five hours or work, plus planning time.
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Unread 05-17-2007, 09:21 PM
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Unhappy Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

This is one of those things our team really needs to get doing more. After the season, that is, build and competition, is over most of our members seem to disappear. Its been a bad habit thats been going on for several years now where we have problems trying to get anyone to show up for a meeting out of the regular season.

We are hoping to do a lot more in the summer (prototypes, community outreach, more involvement with Lego league, and so on) but we've been having a hard time getting anyone to show up for the meetings, and no one seems to read the team emails we send out either...


We're hoping with some new effort in recruiting more members, it will attract current members to get involved an help. It's a start at least.
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Unread 05-17-2007, 09:48 PM
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Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

The Martians have many goals after the season. Goodrich is not a big community, so during the offseason we work at everything our small little town does. we run the concession stand at little league games, we are painting the dugouts on the towns baseball field,and we always show off the robot at the homecoming parade, summer festival and holiday festival.

For those that think FLL and FVC are the only ways to reach out to younger students you are wrong. Look up the Destination Imagination program, it is a cheap and easy alternative to FLL and FVC (But don't ignore FLL and FVC, they are both still great ways to get interest in younger students).

Another way to keep interest is to have a few team building activites after the season. We have several bonfires after the season to both celebrate and come closer as a team.

Year long commitment leads to far greater success. Your team will be more of a team and not a group of students who are just building a robot. Instead of being in FIRST, you will be FIRST.
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Unread 05-17-2007, 10:01 PM
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Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

This season, we had a small group of students (seven that traveled), a smaller group of mentors (a PLTW teacher, an EE, and a marketing major), an even smaller budget (four figures), and a team-record run at Palmetto. We may not be joining MOE and WildStang in the Hall of Fame next year, but where we are as a team drives a lot of what we're planning.

1. How does your team build interest in all the aspects of the team?

Well, this season, we did it by eliminating all the aspects of the team except for mechanical, electrical, and pneumatics. However, our surprising run on the field at Palmetto really got the team revved up. (The alliance captain bib is now framed with a poster signed by Dean and going on the wall.)

The team is hoping to take Uppercut to an off-season event, but doing that (and the associated 500+ miles) is going to require a lot more organization than hopping in the car and going to Palmetto. The interest is only just starting to build, but we're going to create the interest out of necessity.

2. How do you encourage and explain to your team that FIRST isn't only about winning the game (recruitments and reminding the veterans)?


Historically, the team's simply de-emphasized winning*. Since we all know we're outnumbered and outgunned, we don't go in expecting to win anything. When we do succeed, it makes things that much sweeter. The challenge comes if/when we stop being outnumbered or outgunned, a situation I've yet to face. We'll see.

*I missed the first meeting of the year because of a class, but caught up with Coach Kirlough on Columbia High's track. Around midway through the second lap, he mentioned that the basic aim was not to embarrass ourselves. I think that's a good target for most any team; there's a lot of variables that go into winning a regional, many of them uncontrollable in my experience, but the ability to give it your best shot and do right by those you meet lies totally with yourself.

3. How do you explain to them that the entire team needs to make an effort?

Whenever we're around another team, whether they're from down the road or the other end of the country, I try to highlight the best parts of that team. Since we had one of the smallest crews this year, the math went unspoken.

More locally, however, there was a realization around the fourth week of build that we were way behind--we didn't even have a driving base. Combined with the two-thirds attendance requirement to come to Palmetto, everybody knew quite clearly that their effort could have a dramatic effect on the build. Now, the aim is to instill that in a larger group.
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Unread 05-18-2007, 04:20 AM
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Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

I doubt we'll be able to make students, teachers, princepls and parents to understand that FIRST is more than just the robot. After this season, only 8 people in my team understand this is not just robotics, but we weren't able to convince the school and the other students in our team that it's not just robotics and the 8 of us just kind of decided to let it go and hopefully in the recruitment and along the building we'll be able to make them realize what FIRST really means. I guess only in our 3rd year we'll be able to show that we've come to the point where our team is recognized not just by it being a robotics team. But with luck and with the right people, we'll be able to do so.

Truthfully, I think that only after students have been able to accomplish one thing, they'll want to accomplish others. Our team understands that our 2nd chance in getting to the championships is by getting the Charimen work, but from what I'm hearing from my teammates, they prefer to work on a kick-@$$ robot next year and I believe it's with all of the teams (or atleast most of them). The team is first built, thinking of a competition and only later seeing it in a larger prespective.

I think it would be a great thing to see a mentor being able to insert the idea of "Beyond the robot" to a rookie team. If he'll be able to do it, that team would deffinatly have higher chances in that year and/or the seconed.

Furthermore, I would like to continue about my team.
I'm very dissapointed that almost all representetives of FIRST Israel that visited our team have encouraging us to just built a robot this year and nothing much, unless we thought we could do more.
I understand that it was the right thing to do, only building the robot, because of our weak experiences, but I think that trying to go beyond the building of the robot would atleast set us for the following year. I doubt we're ready for the Chairmen work the next year.

By writing this I feel I'm quite talking behind FIRST Israel's back, but I am just saying that I'm hoping that other FIRST regions will try to really make rookie teams understand FIRST fully. I'm not saying they don't, but I am saying that if they don't(or they are not able, like in our case when we were told of FIRST quite late) the teams will lose thier chances for the following years. Students have only about 6 years to experience first and every year counts. I've started at 10th grade and I feel I'm not going to have enough years to fully experience FIRST and enjoy all aspects of it. I'll try, but I doubt I'll succeed or atleast feel I've acheived something greater in FIRST, I'm hoping I will, but I'm not sure about it.
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Unread 05-18-2007, 10:04 AM
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Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bomberofdoom View Post
Students have only about 6 years to experience first and every year counts. I've started at 10th grade and I feel I'm not going to have enough years to fully experience FIRST and enjoy all aspects of it. I'll try, but I doubt I'll succeed or atleast feel I've acheived something greater in FIRST, I'm hoping I will, but I'm not sure about it.
One thing that you can do as a team leader is contact FIRST with your concerns and suggestions for helping teams in Israel. Chief Delphi is a great source for exchanging ideas and brainstorming but for your thoughts to be heard, you should contact FIRST directly. There is a lot of thought in your post and you have an understanding of what it will take for your team and for a rookie team to do more, experience more. And you are correct, a mentor who 'gets it' and is able to create the atmosphere and attitude for going beyond the robot is very important. So is a team leader who 'gets it'.

You may not have all of the years in FIRST participating as a student, that you want - but there is FIRST life after graduation. The trick is to enjoy where you are now in the process as a team member and as a team. It is the journey that can be so rewarding and exciting.
Jane
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Unread 05-18-2007, 11:30 AM
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Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

Jane,

Overlooing what I wrote, I kind of realized something I was wrong at.

The FIRST representetives did encourage us to just built the robot but they said that if we could do more, it's great.

I think they were ok. They were supposed to hint and give assistance to the teams in trying to understand what they can do and to understand that there's lots of stuff that they can think up by thereselves.

FIRST is supposed to be a self-learning process in a team with the help of a mentor and other volunteers.

I didn't really notice my words before fully. FIRST did help us, but we just weren't capable of and I believe they are doing a good job with trying to help the teams realize what they can do and to secretly encourage them to think independently.

So as I'm "In it", I need to start encouraging my team to do stuff beyond robotics, learning how to convince and to realize how far we can go.

Sorry, I regret my previous words about FIRST Israel. FIRST is doing a great job, it's me who needs to do the hard work now. I'm the one who can encourage teams and help them even more. And yet, I need to make sure I don't go far as telling them exactly what to do, since it's the team's job to realize that.

About the years in FIRST, yes, I can't say I know, but I have a very strong feeling that I will continue FIRST beyond graduation, but I just have the feeling, from what I've learned, that these years, where I'm learning in school, I need to learn from FIRST.

Once again, my appologies and thanks for making a few things clear to me.

P.S
Overlookig the questions in the post, I see again that these are answers that the team members, from the 2nd year, need to figure out by themselves by learning.

It's ok to ask about what others do, only you get better experience by first trying and then seeing how others did.
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---------------------------------
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2008 Robot Driver
---------------------------------
2007 GM/Technion Israel FRC Regional semi-Finalist.
2007 GM/Technion Israel FRC Regional Xerox Creativity Award winner.
2007 Robot Driver.
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Unread 05-18-2007, 11:43 AM
Unsung FIRST Hero Woodie Flowers Award
Chris Fultz Chris Fultz is offline
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FRC #0234 (Cyber Blue)
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Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

Years ago, our focus was entirely the robot. Cyber Blue was very much an engineeering team with an engineering focus. And not to stereotype, but many engineers and soon-to-be engineers do not see the value in may of the other aspects of FIRST, so the "season" becomes January - April. (please note and do not blast me - this does not imply all, simply a common trait.)

Beginning about 5 years ago, we started recruiting students who were interested in the other aspects of a team and worked to develop those capabilities. We called them the POP team, for "Publicity, Outreach and Publicity". This group has worked to get us more involved with community activities, school events and demos. Many from this group become our "judge team" at competitions and help put together the materials we give to judges that come by. This team helped us bring in students who would probably never had joined a FIRST team to help build a robot.

The members of this "sub-team" have now blended into the mix of the team. Everyone participates in our design brainstorming activity as well as our community events.

We met this week to talk about our summer activities to keep the team "in place" for the next 7 months. We are going to teach machine skills, finish a second robot, plan demos at a Childrens Hospital, learn VEX, create a completely new business plan, and lead the IRI with team 45. These activities will involve everyone on the team who is available.

So, to end this - I think the key is to recruit some members (and a mentor if you can) who want to be involved in these types of activities and get them involved. Then, their activities and influence will spread to the rest of the team.
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Unread 05-22-2007, 04:36 PM
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Nica F. Nica F. is offline
Space, Planes, Robots, and Heels.
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Re: Keeping Interest - Beyond the Robot

First of all, thank you all for your replies because I have gotten a better idea of how teams in FIRST are able to organize themselves in a way that everyone understands that there is more that can be done than just making your robot look pretty.

Through your posts, I have also realized that it takes time and patience to be able to build this type of skill up. That it starts with a foundation, and gets stronger as the years go by.

And now, a couple replies I would like to add;

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Fultz View Post

I think the key is to recruit some members (and a mentor if you can) who want to be involved in these types of activities and get them involved. Then, their activities and influence will spread to the rest of the team.
We team 4, are a fully student run team. We have lost our head mentor a couple years ago, and had a wrestling coach as a mentor last year. This year, we found ourselves in a mentorless position once again, but luckily were able to have a history teacher volunteer. For two years and counting we will have to again reteach what FIRST is about (which isn't a bad thing, but is hard to readjust every year). Our mentors contribute as much as they can, but with no prior experience there is not much that we can be assisted with. we have formed a team veteran-rookie "high gear-low gear" system; where the veteran members teach and help new recruits everything we know (since we have had previous education with the machines, and are able to run all the machines in the shop)

Many of us were on team 22 years ago, a Championship Chairman's award team and we have been used to and accustomed to doing all of the community outreach, mentoring, events, etc. It's something that's attached and inspired our minds and have attempted to bring to our school on a newer FRC team.

Thats where this thread has come in.
I simply wanted to get a better understanding how you've set your boundaries and platform for your team and its members for years to come.
Its such a great feat to be able to balance the robot and everything else, and to actually "get" what FIRST is about.

I've fully enjoyed and looked over every response, and it would be great to have more teams reply as well.
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