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Unread 03-24-2003, 10:26 PM
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I need tips on Starting a New Team.

I'm looking to start a new team closer to my home area. Anybody have experience with this?

I need a School, Sponsors and Engineers/Mentors. I'd like to hear some experiences on how you've gone about getting these resources. I already have some interested engineers, but I'll need more.

My first step is to get the school or schools. What approach is required to do this? A letter to the Principal? Barge into his office?

I'm going to take this one step at a time. I will also chronicle the process for future teams to use as a guide. That is if it all works out of course.
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Unread 03-24-2003, 11:39 PM
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First, don't do it all by yourself. Starting a team is hard, so I'm assuming starting one without help is worse. My best advice is to approach a high school and see if you can talk to a shop class or small group of students to get them motivated.

After finding a high school, see if you can find an engineering firm to help you out. College students help out too. Approach local businesses and ask for their support. Somtimes people are more willing to help out than you think. It helps to talk to veteran teams and sit in on a couple of their meetings, too.

But most of all, keep an open mind. Nobody says you have to have a traditional team. You can be from different states, private schools, or career centers - either way, you're educating and inspiring someone who wouldn't have had that chance before FIRST came along.
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Unread 03-24-2003, 11:49 PM
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You can't have a team without members. Engineers, school backing, corporate funding, none of it make a difference without the motivated members to make it happen.

In any case, 10 students will make a bigger impression on whoever you talk to than just one.
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Unread 03-25-2003, 01:58 AM
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(went through this experience myself - sorta)

See if the school already has an existing tech-oriented club, a robotics, engineering, electronics, computer, whatever club that can be "converted" into a robotics team. (We already had a robotics club that did BotBall when i asked to start a FIRST team.)

once you've got a target group of students, go to their meetings, talk to the leaders, and see if they'll let you make a little FIRST sales pitch. doesnt' need to be dramataic. Show them the game animation for this year, and explain to them the spirit of FIRST. Trust me, they'll listen

our robotics team actually more or less ignored the FIRST thing and went on it's previous course of preparing for BotBall until I met up with Patrick and the rest of MVRT at the Cal Games, and invited them over to give a little talk. I'm assuming you probably won't need to do this cause you're already a FIRST veteran and know what you're talking about. but after they came and talked, everyone was just REALLY PSYCHED, and started to go to WRRF meetings, etc.


so basically (in my experience,) it was a.) grab the students, b.) get a mentor/regional forum, c.) register

We really didn't bother with the administrative details because there was already a foundation for a team there, and all we had to do was get interested and register.

if you don't already have a team, ignore everything above
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Unread 03-25-2003, 10:08 AM
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I know that before our team ever started Mr. Florence (Our head honcho) had andy baker (team 45) over to the school and they had the robot running in the entry way to the school at lunch, we all saw it as we were going out and were all "Woah, i can build that?!?!?" thus how it all began here...

So maybe if you can talk to another team in the area and have them come and do a demonstration at schools. We have been doing convos at elementry, middle, and some high school demonstrations for 3 years now and it helps bring new faces in from the community.
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Unread 03-25-2003, 10:15 AM
Katie Reynolds Katie Reynolds is offline
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Rook: Hey, I'm trying to start a new team up as well. Here's how I've been handling things.

First, I contacted a teacher at the high school and asked him about the possibility of starting a FIRST team there, and if he would be willing to mentor. I did this via e-mail. I also included a little background about the FIRST program just so he could have a general idea of what he was getting himself into. He e-mailed me back saying that he would like to get together to further discuss the possibility of starting a team at his high school. I talked to him and his wife (a teacher at my high school) a bit, and convinced them to come to Midwest this week. I will be meeting with him about the new team on Friday during lunch at Midwest. I figured it would be a really good FIRST impression (haha), for him to see a competition FIRSThand.

It took him close to two weeks to e-mail me back. During that time, I made a list of companies around the area that have supported FIRST in the past, or have expressed interest in helping out a FIRST team. I got phone numbers of the people I would need to call at these companies, if we were to start a new team. I even drafted a letter that I am going to send to area businesses about helping out. But of course, you can't have a FIRST team without students, right?

I made up a few posters, with the aide of a friend who attends the high school. I told him about the possibility of there being a team there next year and, as far as I've heard, he's been spreading the word quite well! We'll see where all of this is going to lead to when I meet with the teacher on Friday.

Anyway, that's what I've been doing ... to answer your questions as best as I can:

1) To get sponsors:

Make a list of potential businesses that would be interested in helping out. Don't limit these businesses to just providing engineering support or money. Think of places that could help out with transportation, food, printing shirts, etc. After you've thought of potential sponsors, call the businesses and set up a meeting with someone. Prepare a presentation about FIRST and why that company should help the team out. How will it benefit the company? How will that company's support help the students on the team? What can the company do to help? A week or so after the meeting, send a follow-up letter thanking them for their time and, if all goes well, their support.

2) To get engineers:

Go to a local engineering firm or maybe one of your new sponsor's businesses and try to recruit engineers to help. Ask if you can hang a flyer somewhere that might get engineers and other professionals interested. Tell them what FIRST is all about.

3) To get a school involved:

Find a teacher that is willing to help. E-mail or write a letter to the school/teachers to see if the interest is there. More often than not, the teacher you contact will know another teacher or two that would be willing to help out. Set up a meeting with the teacher(s) to discuss FIRST and what they will be getting into. Be sure to include a "normal" FIRST team's budget, how much time people put in, etc. If there is more than one high school in the school district, go to every high school looking for teachers and students. Oh, make sure you let the school administration know what you're doing! Keep in mind that the school district is a potential sponsor - both for money and facilities. Remember, you need a place to work!

4) To get students involved:

Make flyers, posters, announcements on the school's daily announcements (assuming they have them). Schedule an open house before the end of the school year. This will give you a good idea of how many students will be interested. Hold an open house at the beginning of next school year too (there may be some incoming freshmen that want to be involved!) If you hold an open house, make it a community open house. That way, students as well as business people, potential teachers and engineers, and parents can attend to see what is going on.

5) To keep your sanity:

Don't do it alone!! The initial stuff is easy enough to do by yourself (writing letters, setting up meetings, etc.) but there is only so much that one person can do! Even if you only have one other person to help you, it's better than none!

Sorry, this is so lengthy ... I hope this helped!

Good luck, and let me know how things go for you!

- Katie
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Unread 03-25-2003, 11:19 AM
Anne Shade Anne Shade is offline
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We here at Georgia Tech have helped start about 15 teams in the Atlanta area, being direct mentors to 3 of them. The biggest piece of advice I would give you is to find a teacher that will be enthusiastic and supportive of the program. Without that having a team is very difficult. Contacting the teachers in charge of technology and science clubs at the schools in your area is usually a good way to start. You can contact FIRST and get promotional videos to show to interested teachers and later on students. If possible, get them to attend a competition. That usually gets anyone excited about the program but if not meet with them, show videos, do a demo with another local team. If you have any questions, you are more than welcome to contact me. Good luck!!!
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