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Unread 03-31-2003, 07:57 PM
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Jimmy Jimmy is offline
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Question How to keep a program running at a school which doesn't get it?

My name is James, and I am a senior at a high school in suburban Detroit, at which I have had an excellent experience and for those reasons do not want to mention its name, though some of you will probably figure it out.
Since our team's inception 3 years ago, I have had a great experience, and learned many invaluable lessons that have driven me to pursue an engineering career, and I plan on continuing in FIRST as a college student mentor at which Purdue or U of Michigan, whichever I choose. In these three years, I have learned that there are more important things than winning. I have learned the meaning of a team, in which everyone does their part, and then everyone can take satisfaction in the results. I have learned machining skills, the design process, business and promotion techniques, and so much more. All in all I think I could be considered a poster child for what robotics can do, as it has transformed me into a much happier, more driven, and all in all more successful student.
This weekend, my team will be attending the West Michigan Regional in Grand Rapids. I am sad to say that this looks like it could be the last competition my school sees. There are questions as to the academic and economic value of the program. With a new administration in place, we fell behind in raising funds for this year, as new restrictions were placed on such activities for fear of crossing connections needed for donations to other programs. Members of the administration have questioned if the money spent is worth it, because the amount of school missed for the competitions is large, and there are fears that it is taking away from the core academic curriculum. There are also questions as to the value of the Championship, since it is so hard to come away with an award
(though we were division finalists, 2001, our rookie year), and I need advice on how to convince nonbelievers that winning is truly not the essence of FIRST.
I dont mean to bore all of those that read this post, but I think you might begin to understand the situation now. My question is what can we do? how can we convince the school that we really do get more out of this competition than gets put in(though it defies the laws of physics that govern our world)? I would appreciate advice from any of you who have been through a similar situation because I would hate to see this opportunity taken away from younger and future students. I know that all the time that I have put into this activity has truly been worth it for me, FIRST has already won me over, but unfortunately not everyone can see it through my eyes. I thank my school and my sponsors for having blessed me with this opportunity, and I need all the advice i can get and endorsements I can get to encourage its continuation, as well as encourage interest in younger students.
Thanks if you did read all of this
James
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Unread 03-31-2003, 09:09 PM
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evulish evulish is offline
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Preach to your school board or something. Get your team to go to as many meetings as possible and put on demonstrations or presentations. Also, get out in the community...PR events, fundraisers, or community service. I know my school notices these events.

This kind of stuff works in my rural school (graduating class of 76 kids! woo!) I'm not totally sure if it works in bigger schools...but it's worth a shot.
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Unread 04-01-2003, 01:17 AM
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If I were in your situation, I would begin by getting my parents and community members, along with any corporate sponsors, to go to a school board meeting and present why THEY think this is worth saving. The corporate people, especially, would be beneficial! School people tend to listen to these people (sometimes) and I think it would say a lot about your program/team and what you are trying to accomplish! I would also have students put in writing a compilation of what FIRST means to them. What they learn from it, how it applies to the classroom, why they are involved, how it will help them in the future. I would also talk to FIRST and see if they can help you at all. The more "outside" help you can get, the better!

I hate it that you are going through this! Hang in there and fight hard for this!! If there is anything that I or my team can do to help, let me know! Even if it's writing something up for you as to what it does for our kids. We have a lot of neat stories from graduates that have gone on. My school is 271 kids, 9-12 and we have 30 kids each year on our team. We have no school funding at all and are still able to keep it going. I think I can help if you need me!

I wish you the very best!!
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Unread 04-01-2003, 01:53 AM
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Its definately time to strut yourself to your school. Like was mentioned before get parents, sponsors, mentors, reps from the community, and of course students to show the importance of FIRST. Find all the resources you can including showing them your robot, making a electronic presentation or video about the FIRST experience, etc. Being a school, they should know that it isn't all about awards but what the students gain of the process. Just today I told my friend here about FIRST and he was absolutely amazed at the leadership, management, building, and thinking skills we did as high schoolers and awed over pictures of our robot. This is what they need to hear, and those "poster child" stories like yours.

I also think it might be helpful for you to make compromises with them. If they think too much school time is being missed you could perhaps cut down on the number of regionals or alternate who goes to what competition so less days are missed. If they're worried about cost, you could try to bargain with them to let you have the program if guys fundraise more yourself.

It'll be tough but I'm sure you know that the fight will definitely worth it. As Libby mentioned, I'm sure that people would be happy to write letters to your administration on your behalf if it would have any help. Even as a political science major who wants to go to Law school I have my story of how joining FIRST has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done in high school. Hope this helps and good luck!!!
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Unread 04-01-2003, 08:34 AM
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Go to a school board meeting with your robot, your sponsors, and other supporters. Also, contact your regional coordinators for FIRST. They know who to contact, what FIRST is all about, and they're from outside the school, so maybe the school would listen to them as a semi-impartial third party.

Best of luck! You've got a lot of resources and people behind you, I hope your school listens and understands.
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Unread 04-01-2003, 09:30 AM
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Hey,

I'm not too far from you guys. If you need any support, I will be glad to come. This program has changed me as a whole. With out this program, I wonder if i will even be going to college.

If you need my Phone Number, just hit me up w/ a pm and i'll try to come out there and help support you! Don't allow your school to close the FIRST program! Please! If you need help, pm me or just send me a e-mail:

Redwingvksm@msn.com

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Unread 04-01-2003, 09:34 AM
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Your regional is this weekend: Get your schools' Administration out to see the event on Saturday.

Once they see it for themselves (cause I get the impression that they havn't seen a FIRST competition) then they would really understand what the benefits of FIRST are.

Everything else aside, they have to see FIRST in action.
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Unread 04-01-2003, 07:58 PM
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Amanda Morrison Amanda Morrison is offline
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I have absolutely no advice to give except - stick with it.

A lot of faculty just don't get it. Even team sponsors might be kind of out there and don't realize the importance of the team or how vitally important it is to completely submerge yourself in the ideals of FIRST... some are just in it for the robot competition and the namedropping.

Don't let this happen to you - fight for FIRST at your school, and stand behind the program through thick and thin.
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Unread 04-01-2003, 09:31 PM
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Thank You, and a request

I thank all of those who have given their advice on how to get my school interested in continuing the program, and allowing adequate fundraising. It has helped straighten out some ideas in my head. And as for the suggestion of getting the administration to an event, we have done so, and i think that was a successful first step. (As for the Harrison, who posted it, your team rocks and if you can give me advice about how to evoke that much spirit out of my team, let me know because you definitely deserve my spirit of the competition award, and i still find your stickers around.) The head of school at my school is a guy who likes to see things in writing, hes kind of a bottom line guy. So my idea is to present the school board of directors, and him with binders full of information and testimonials. If anyone is willing to contribute their FIRST success stories to this collection, I would appreciate it, and after I have put it together, I would be willing to make it availible to anyone who needs its services for starting or continuing a team in the future. Please email your FIRST success stories and case studies to me at the address listed below. Your advice and contributions will be of great value to our case, and I, on behalf of my current team and its alumni, as well as the hopeful future teams thank you greatly for this.

James

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jimmydowd@att.net
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Unread 04-03-2003, 09:08 AM
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Welcome to the world of High School Robotics. This yeard our football team won 1 game, Homecoming. Needless to say, our record isn't too impressive. However, they get their funding every year (they don't even have to continue asking for it). Our FIRST team (Baxter Bomb Squad), however, has a very successful record, especially when compared to our football team. In 2001, however, Baxter was retooling their local plant and couldn't devote either the manpower or money to make it happen. Although we did manage to compete in another competition (BEST), we realized we needed to become more financially independant. Last year we founded a non-profit group called STG (The Science and Technology Group). It lobbies companies year-round for money. I would suggest looking into something like this.
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