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Unread 05-22-2012, 03:58 PM
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Question getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

Okay CD, can I have your advice?

Thursday we're getting 40 minutes with all of the 8th graders in our school. We're definitely going to divide the 70 of them into groups and have them rotate, and we're going to set up an obstacle course they can try driving this year's robot on. But we need other things for them to do, as well.

Ideas so far are making an electrical board to run some lights, and having them try out doing "human player" type stuff when we set up the hoops.

The problem is finding a way to keep them engaged within our limitations.... we only have 1 cRIO so we can't run other robots, and we can't really solder or use power tools during school w/out mentor supervision. But the last thing we want is for them to get bored...

We have a closet with 5 robot skeletons and components. We also have a box of logomotion minibots we saved from the trash....

Our team is going to be really reliant on newcomers next year, so the more people we get interested, the better. I'm hoping teams with experience with this could help out. Thanks!

tl;dr version: We have 40 minutes and limited materials to get eighth grader girls hooked on FIRST. Ideas?
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Unread 05-22-2012, 04:04 PM
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Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

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Originally Posted by gracie. View Post
Okay CD, can I have your advice?

Thursday we're getting 40 minutes with all of the 8th graders in our school. We're definitely going to divide the 70 of them into groups and have them rotate, and we're going to set up an obstacle course they can try driving this year's robot on. But we need other things for them to do, as well.

Ideas so far are making an electrical board to run some lights, and having them try out doing "human player" type stuff when we set up the hoops.

The problem is finding a way to keep them engaged within our limitations.... we only have 1 cRIO so we can't run other robots, and we can't really solder or use power tools during school w/out mentor supervision. But the last thing we want is for them to get bored...

We have a closet with 5 robot skeletons and components. We also have a box of logomotion minibots we saved from the trash....

Our team is going to be really reliant on newcomers next year, so the more people we get interested, the better. I'm hoping teams with experience with this could help out. Thanks!

tl;dr version: We have 40 minutes and limited materials to get eighth grader girls hooked on FIRST. Ideas?
Get them familiar with your team and your mentors. Get them building things. The best way to get recruits is to leave a GOOD impression with them over the summer.
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Unread 05-22-2012, 04:12 PM
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Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

There's an activity that we do with girls scouts when we do outreach called the "Spaghetti Marshmallow Challenge". It's a competition/team building activity that involves building a structure with spaghetti, tape and string to support a marshmallow the highest off of a table that you can. It sounds a bit childish at first but this is done with kindergartners to professionals in fortune 500 companies. It take about 20-25 mins with set up and is actually really fun and challenging. This might be a fun thing to do since it encourages the kids to think like an engineer and build a structure. I know its not directly related to your team, but it's a cheap, fun activity that might give them a chance to be hands-on and creative.

Here's a website that outlines it if you're interested. Usually we have teams of 2 but you can do more: http://marshmallowchallenge.com/Instructions.html

Good Luck! We're recruiting hard this season as well, but we aren't through a school so it's extra difficult.

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Unread 05-22-2012, 04:16 PM
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Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

Usually at our events where we are talking to middle school students, we start with ice breakers.

One activity you can do to teach the IDEA of programming is get a pair of safety glasses and spray paint them black(or find some way to remove vision from anyone wearing them), and set up an obstacle course for them. Keep it safe.

Get 2 volunteers, a programmer & a robot. Put the glasses on the robot volunteer. Have the programmer yell out commands to the robot(i.e. go forward, stop, turn 90 degrees to the left), and have the robot volunteer do ONLY what the programmer says.

You can use this activity to explain the relationship between writing code and operating the robot, like how the robot will only do the commands given by the programmer.

This can also be used to understand the ideas of sensors on a robot. We usually say something along the lines of, "The robot is being navigated through the course without all of it's senses. Vision is impaired, and taste & smell do not help. They are relying on touch and hearing only. They rely on what is in their environment to guide them, much like how we put sensors on the robot so it can understand the elements of it's environment." Then you could show some sensors and their uses, maybe.


Hope this helps!
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Unread 05-22-2012, 04:31 PM
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Thumbs up Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

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Originally Posted by hammerhead_399 View Post
One activity you can do to teach the IDEA of programming is get a pair of safety glasses and spray paint them black(or find some way to remove vision from anyone wearing them), and set up an obstacle course for them. Keep it safe.

Get 2 volunteers, a programmer & a robot. Put the glasses on the robot volunteer. Have the programmer yell out commands to the robot(i.e. go forward, stop, turn 90 degrees to the left), and have the robot volunteer do ONLY what the programmer says.
I like this one
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Unread 05-22-2012, 04:32 PM
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Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

I think robot demos are great. I saw 1538 demoing their 2009 robot when I was in 7th grade and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It's the reason I remembered the team when I got to high school.
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Unread 05-22-2012, 04:32 PM
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Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

I'm not sure if this directly answers your question, but each year our team plans a field trip where we bring about 30 eighth graders (from "academic enrichment", a creative learning/hands on class) with us to the Connecticut Regional. They come for a few hours on Friday and get to see how exciting the competition is in person by watching matches, touring the pits, talking to teams, and collecting buttons. This is a great way to get students excited about FIRST.

At your meetings, I think the rotation idea will serve you well. Make sure you set up stations that show off the many subteams that are important to your team's success - this way, students can get an idea of everything that goes into the team and see many opportunities for them to find their place. A buddy/group system can also help to make people feel comfortable.
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Unread 05-22-2012, 07:46 PM
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Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

Find something to take apart. A medium sized machine. Perhaps something you don't need to put together again. It should be "clean" so there's no need for extensive cleanup. This would be a good time to introduce safety glasses and gloves.

In general, think of the things your team does during the year and try to represent them all in your pitch. Be sure to introduce GP and the mantra that goes "It's not about the robot."

Oh, yes, and be very, very sure to ask them what they would like to do on the team. Ideas are precious and delicate in their infancy. Make sure they all get a decent chance to thrive.
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Unread 05-22-2012, 08:11 PM
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Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

Definitely say something about the out of state travel for the champs
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Unread 05-22-2012, 08:46 PM
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Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

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Originally Posted by gracie. View Post
We also have a box of logomotion minibots we saved from the trash....

tl;dr version: We have 40 minutes and limited materials to get eighth grader girls hooked on FIRST. Ideas?
Are they all different minibot designs? You could split them up into appropriately sized groups, set the minibots out, let the groups choose their minibot, and, taking a leaf out of the IRI booklet, do human minibot races. (Though this does hinge on having 2 minibot poles.)
(I have never said minibot so many times in one paragraph.)

Go through the skeletons you've got, and see which one you could make most interesting if you brought it back to life. Assuming they're from the past 5 years, then I guess it'd go something like this:
2012: A nerf basketball shooting robot? Really, must I go on?
2009: Everyone hated the actual game, but you gotta admit the robot, if it shot, and shot fast, would make a pretty darned cool demobot.
2010: Depending on space, a soccer playing robot usually gets a few looks mainly because kids can relate to it. If you can, you could have the kids play goalie, and run the soccer bot around taking some (safely distant) shots.
2008: I'm not familiar with what your team did in 2008, but if you still have the hybrid and IFI controls for it, pretty much becomes a big rc car.
2007 & 2011: Good challenge for FRC kids, but particularly difficult for demos. I never came up with a pitch that made "Our $1500 Logomotion robot lifts inner tubes up 8-9 feet. It's intense." sound interesting.

Hope those two points help a little. Good luck!
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Unread 05-22-2012, 11:39 PM
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Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

You mention that you only have one CriO. Do you have any vex cortex or older radio systems? Those can be used on your skeleton robots.
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Unread 05-23-2012, 12:05 AM
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Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

An easy way to fill some time, and get students inspired, is showing videos. The anticipated teasers from years past, previous matches with your own commentary, etc.

We had a quick 1 minute trailer a mentor put together using past footage, it was shown for our fall kickoff: http://youtu.be/y9nXJ9vGcnM
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Unread 05-23-2012, 03:02 AM
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Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

If you have four groups, then you have ten minutes (a little less) to "entertain" each group, which seems to be reasonable.

1) actually explain the team, allow for Q&A... you need to have information somewhere anyways
2) Drive/see the robot
3) I second the human-minibot races. Maybe a mini-obstacle course? Obviously you need to make sure they won't damage the minibots though.
4) Show old robots and old game animations/videos? Build season in 6 minutes (game animation + coming up with robot ideas)? Something else that is short in time but still somewhat entertaining?

Don't kid yourself on how much time you have. 40 minutes with 70 kids? You're going to lose at least five of those minutes with organization and switching tasks. You also don't have tooo much time to give each kid a hands-on experience in a one-at-time activity (just a thing to remember).
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Unread 05-23-2012, 04:02 AM
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Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

Whatever you do, make sure they see the robot up close. It might be cool to take a trip to NASA to learn aeronautics, but don't you really just want to see space ships?
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Unread 05-23-2012, 11:41 AM
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Re: getting 8th graders interested in FIRST

-I hope driving and watching others drive will give the kids an opportunity to see the robot up close. -
-We don't have any minibot poles... so I guess that's a no.
-Most of the robots we have lying around are either riveted together, or being preserved. So no easily taking things apart for us...
-I don't think we have any old control systems. Our team was founded in 2008, but we had a big, messy move in 2011, and a lot of old KOP stuff is missing. I'll ask around though... If we have one it would be great to get more robots working.

This is what the lineup looks like so far:
1. Explaining FIRST and 2399
2. Trying out driving the robot and being a human player
3. The programming game (as explained above)
4. build season in 10 minutes (using the logomotion game video and a big white board)

... as you can see, your ideas kind of saved the day. Thank you so much! I'm going to run these by our supervise-y-teacher-type-person and see what she thinks.
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Last edited by gracie. : 05-23-2012 at 11:44 AM.
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