It’s great that you put so much thought into this! As a returning captain of a regional Rookie All Star, I have a few things to say.
- Also note that people are usually eager to help rookies. As a rookie team, we did not raise as much money as of December 2015 as we did last year. Part of this, of course, was because we could not get rookie grants, but we also did not receive funding from our school’s foundation, which had chipped in a lot last year (instead they allocated money to a new school science program that started this year.).
- I suggest sponsor incentives, such as having sponsor logos on the backs of your team shirts or hanging around our pit. You can see my team’s incentives here, or look up other teams’.
- Sponsor packets are a great idea! Ours last year (and this year) had a letter that explained FRC, introduced our team, and said our past accomplishments and current plans.
spot-on with school support
On robot stuff:
- It is always great to have an outreach/demo robot, but that is not always feasible before one’s first season. After that, there’s plenty of time to make a name for yourself in the community. Many teams use previous game robots, but a lot of them, especially in the Knoxville area, have T-shirt launchers (in fact, that was our pre-season project). You want something you can show off, but you also want it to interact with an audience. People respond to that better. Even if you can’t launch T-shirts, I’ve heard of teams launching pool noodles with their robots. At the very least, try to do a service project or some outreach within your school or community. It helps get your name out there, which is important for new teams. Plus, it’s fun.
- Having a practice robot, or a “copy of the robot,” after build season very useful and also common where we are. It is helpful to have that extra practice, especially if your competition is within the last half of the season (week 3 or 4 and later). You can watch webcasts of competitions to see what strategies others use, but with a robot you can work on, you can actually practice how you would respond to different strategies. It’s preparing yourself to be competitive, and, again, it is common practice here and (definitely) among the best teams, but is not necessary.
- You DEFINITELY need 2 teachers, or at the very least dedicated parents/mentors. In our school, clubs have to have at least one teacher advisor. As we found out last year, the responsibility of advising a team was far too much for one teacher!
- I like your points on professionalism and “physical image.” T-shirts are ubiquitous among teams, but you can step it up a notch if funding allows and get polos. (or, opt for dress shirts and ties if you’re feeling really snazzy)
Now, I want to share something you left out. It is something lots of teams leave out if they do not know about it. Before you get down to business, you NEED… (drumroll)… BUSINESS! You mention the importance of having a “concrete plan,” but whose responsibility is that? The purpose business teams, divisions, committees, whatever you call them, is to manage relations with sponsors, community members, etc., be in charge of fundraising and all things money, deal with marketing, shirts, buttons, scheduling, etc. Basically every aspect of the team that does not need nuts and bolts, wiring, a battery, and a code. This should be more than one person, and you may want to recruit people for the sole purpose of business. Also, the competition has an entrepreneurship award that any team can apply for. Part of that includes making a team business plan. One of our team parents (mine, btw) had worked on similar stuff for PTA and helped us write ours. While we did not get the award, the competition judges complemented it, saying it was among the better half of the dozen or so that applied.
One final thing to mention is networking with other teams in your area, especially if you live somewhere with a large concentration of FRC teams (usually in cities that host competitions, based on my experience in Knoxville). Veteran teams can give you the best advice and maybe lend you the occasional tool or part. You can also exchange advice and suggestions with other rookies.
Best of luck this season! If you have any other questions, you can PM me or email the team at Bearden.Robotics@gmail.com. We’d love to help.