Advice Needed for State Capitol Demo

Our team has been invited to the Mississippi State Capitol next Wednesday the 25th to demonstrate our robot to our state leaders. We will be there all day, setup in the capitol rotunda giving demonstrations and allowing our representatives and possibly even the Governor the opportunity to drive a previous year’s robot. Supposedly there will be professional photographers and the usual news media coverage. We will, of course, do our best to spread the mission of FIRST and hopefully enlighten some of our state leaders about how wonderful FIRST is. We recognize this is a golden opportunity and desire to make the most impact we can. My question is, in a nutshell, what do we tell them?

It is no secret that Mississippi lags behind most of the nation when it comes to education. We obviously desire that to change. We know that, as cool as driving a robot around in the rotunda of the capitol may be, all our leaders are busy people and we will only have a precious few minutes with them individually. What should we tell them? If you had 2 minutes to talk one on one with your Senator or Representative or Governor about FIRST what would you say?

We know other states have various state level programs in place to support FIRST. What are those programs and how do they work? Should we even address that sort of thing with this opportunity? As in, “(Insert Governor or Senator or Representative name here) , the State of X supports FIRST teams through a program that does… How can we work together to initiate a program like that here in Mississippi?”

What have other teams done in situations like this that grabbed the attention or their state leaders? What talking points did you use? What one liners grabbed their attention such that they didn’t just think “Yeah, that’s cool” but forgot all about it the next day. We all know the statistics that Dean and FIRST spout about like FIRST students are more likely to do this or that. But that’s boring. I want to grab their attention enough that they think “hey, this FIRST thing is worth checking into” and then they take the initiative to research what FIRST is all about. How do we do that?

Please, serious responses only. We recognize this may be our one shot and want to make the most of it. We welcome any advice from teams that may have already been down this road as to what to say and not say, do and not do, etc. so as to make the best FIRST impression we can.

Honestly? There’s no secret to captivating an audience with stories from FIRST. Speak from the heart and people will listen. Talk about how the program has changed you as a person, not you as student #XXX of school district Y. Sure, you can slip in how there’s over $15 million in scholarships, and how a higher percentage of kids in FIRST continue to a 4 year or better education, and I encourage you to talk about those facts too. But a story that inspired you to do what you are now would stick better. For some that might be the year they first worked on the robot and got to see it move. Others might equate their story to writing a grant essay and earning their team, say, $5000. Others still might just be going to competition and being the most spirited person on the team, earning a Team Spirit award.

The story that captivates most of my audiences?
"As a Freshmen, I started out doing the Team Media. Y’know, walk around with a camera and take pictures, then write about the day for a blog. Doesn’t sound too glamorous, does it? Well, for our team, it was kind of a big deal because no one had ever officially done that. So season progresses and I got to see aspects of all parts of the team. Then competition rolls around, and I find out that there’s this little thing called a “media pass” and it gets me on the field with the drive team. So I felt a bit more special. But the most special moment? Walking on the floor of the Atlanta Super Dome. Me, as a freshmen, walking along the floor of the Atlanta Super Dome, to the sound of thousands of screaming High Schoolers. That was why I’m so involved in FIRST now.That’s why I wanted to be Team Captain. That’s why I’m becoming an Engineer.

I am not sure I envy your having to do this. Explain FIRST in a few minutes? Not sure it is possible. The really hard part is getting them to see the true benefits of FIRST. Sure you can bring a robot, but most people won’t really understand what goes into making one. Your team number seams really low, so hopefully you have some “FIRST / FRC changed my life type kids.” Have some former students, the type of kids who were the first in their family to go to college and are now engineers, Some Girls who were told that they weren’t good at math, or just any kid who has gone through FIRST…Get those kids and have them put together a short talk about what FIRST has done for them. If you don’t have time for that then get a video together and pass out a DVD with all of that on there…

As for your question, My team is in Washington, Our state super intendent has a budget line for FRC teams. They give grants of a few thousand dollars based on applications showing how the money will be used.

Not sure if this helps you. I hope it does.


Have your students there, excited and actively engaged. That’ll get their attention.

Have some well spoken mentors there to give the details and really close the deal if you need to explain things further, let the students get the short responses.

If you have the time, change some things on the robot that will make it more demo friendly, slightly longer autonomous modes, dancing robot routines, bring your tshirt cannon, anything to impress a crowd.

Overall, the key point to having a good demo is to have some very quick, concise answers to some simple questions. You got about 5 seconds of their attention, just set up the conversation so they are asking more questions.

Here’s a sample of how the coversations with any VIPs will go…

-What is the competition? “We build robots! Its a new challenge every year, right now we are designing a robot to throw a frisbee.”

-What are the rules? “Pick up a frisbee, throw it in a goal, goals have different point values”

-So its like battle bots? “Its against the rules to damage other robots”

-What does it do? “Score as many points as we can, we get a bonus if we can climb up a pyramid at the end of the round.”

-Where do you compete? Well we have a regional coming up ____, but we hope to qualify for the world championship in St. Louis, we’ll get to play 400 teams from around the world.

-Hey Mr. Governor, want to see something cool? run autonomous program “Yeah we wrote that, the robot is driving itself.”

***Adapt all of these responses for the game that the robot you have on hand is playing.

More responses

– We would love to have you come out to our regional <give details><have a flyer you can hand out>

– Contact your local Senior Mentor ( and ask for some “What Is FIRST” tri-folds to hand out

– Don’t let anyone walk by without saying hi and making eye contact. Take every opportunity to tell them about FIRST

– Enjoy yourself, your enthusiasm will help sell the program.

A follow up post: As part of NASA Stennis Day, Team 456 spent the day at the Mississippi State Capitol yesterday. We promoted FIRST and STEM education in Mississippi to our State Leaders. Everything went wonderfully! Our team was recognized on the Senate floor and we were able to engage many, many Legislators, the Governor, and the First Lady of MS. We took our 2011 LogoMotion robot and encouraged any and all to drive it around the Capitol Rotunda. We put together a short video of some of the highlights of some of the various driving done by some of our State Leaders including the Governor and First Lady and a couple of astronauts who were also in attendance.

We will be posting more photos on our team website ( and our Facebook page( soon.

We had an AWESOME time and want to specifically thank Chris Copelan and all the NASA Stennis Space Center staff for inviting us to share in this wonderful opportunity. Our team was inspired and we hope we were inspiring to our State Leaders.