10-06-2003, 10:43 AM
I am submitting this post to help other teams keep the interest of high school students through the off-season. I remember last year (2002, also my first year on 176), we lost a lot of students in the fall because we didn't really do anything "robotic" to keep them interested. What a couple younger engineers, including myself, did was create a "mini-competition" that parallels the FIRST design/build and competition season. There weren't many of us, but our idea spread like wildfire throughout the adult mentors on the team and we got help from a lot of parents & teachers. We created a game, with its own set of rules, built a field and bought robotics kits similar to the EDU kits teams get. The software language is BASIC, so the students can get familiar with that before January rolls around. We then split all the students into groups and give them workshops every other week on mechanics, electronics, software, machining, and controls (with the assistance of Hamilton Sundstrand engineers) and a fictional budget in case they feel the need to use outside materials. We have yet to lose any students, in fact, we're getting more to join the team each week. Our intent is that when kick-off comes, the students have an understanding of what needs to be done so they aren't as timid as they have been in the past. I know this may be a little late in the off-season, but if teams are struggling with ideas, I hope this can help. If you want information on anything we do, drop me an e-mail at email@example.com.