We have a meeting about recruiting tonight so I was wondering what’s the best way to get people to join your team
Allen and I were recently on FUN to share a little bit about how we recruit: FIRST Team Recruitment - FUNdamentals Ep 2 - YouTube
Awareness however you can. Students or their parents. Using whatever resources available. School announcements, club fairs, flyers, class visit, recommendation from teachers, etc. Doing lower level visits each year, 8th grade assembly, other after school activities 1-2 a semester, summer camps etc. Starting lower feeder programs like FTC/VEX. Reaching out to more through social media, even parents/grandparents through FB, etc. Asking current students for recommendations and sending out Owl letters.
This is half the equation, retention once in the door involves making it worthwhile and fun and addressing inequities that might otherwise cause students to leave before build. Some planned team building/engineering activities may help. Finding roles for everyone each meeting, having a role czar to keep everyone involved, etc
edit: a couple more would be community events, also can help recruit mentors. And we don’t have a cutoff date for joining, so students sometimes bring other students in later like that. That doesn’t work for everyone, harder to manage paperwork for one.
We’re working with a pretty simple but effective workflow this year:
- Put up flyers advertising an interest meeting at school (either at lunch or after class)
- At interest meeting, discuss team and give invitation to open house at our shop
- At open house, show off robot, give a more in-depth overview of the team and season. This is the one that parents should be going to!
We’re holding our interest meetings next week, with the open house the following week. Our goal is to have our student pool for the most part locked in by October 7th.
I would also recommend setting target goals for recruitment! We are a very new team, but pull from 3 high schools. Our goal is to have 35 students go through fall training and into the season, with the expectation that we lose about 10 during the season and end up with 25 in May.
Planning for some loss is good thought. The program isn’t the right thing or students end up busier than they think and choose other programs.
I learned a tough lesson the first time I ran a team. Started the season with 43, ended the season with 9. This was a brand new team and we had no idea A) what we were getting ourselves into and B) how to communicate that to others. Every year since has been an exercise in reducing that hemorrhage.
Ayyy 451 shoutout in the interview! I’ll have to finish listening to this after work.
@GamerWill to your question: We’re still figuring that out as well, here’s what we’ve done so far: After our initial open house this summer we got about 10 students to attend, 7 of so have stuck with it. Lately we’ve been on a blitz of setting up a table at “first week of school clubs/fairs” events when invited, but otherwise it’s been mostly emailing flyers to the schools and hoping they follow up on distributing them to parents. So far we’ve had a decent number of people seem interested (maybe a half dozen per school) but not a lot of follow up after that. I’ll be following this thread as well.
Lots of other good stuff here, something else I learned:
Parents care about scholarship, students care about making friends
“Parents care about scholarship” - boy howdy, at our school put that in bold and all caps.
Recruitment week starts this Friday (Narweek!) and I already had to tell one parent this is a STUDENT ONLY event. Parent looked shocked, student looked SO relieved…
I used to use a 50% times two rule. At any general interest meeting half the people will want to go forward. And half of those will stick with it. We rarely have had more than one or two drop out during the season and generally there is some other reason than not having fun. Life can be complicated.
However…we’ve developed a really strong working relationship with our middle school. I’d say 90% of the current team came up through our farm system or were invited on as a friend of someone who did. We now do zero HS recruiting but of course are happy to accept walk ons.
Our problem, and it is a good one to have, is that we think we have a maximum functional size of 30 right now. Space, money, mentor to student ratio, your mileage may vary. We are starting the school year at 26 or 27. There will be walk ons. We are going to graduate exactly one senior this year. And next summer we will run our summer Robot School that historically brings us a half dozen good recruits each time…also the people they end up inviting. This will require a rethink of assumptions.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of identifying talent early. If you wait until kids hit high school you lose many of them. Especially, and this is a widely noted issue, the girls. Looks like we’ll be close to 50:50 this year. Year One we had exactly one intrepid tough young lady on the team.
We atypically invite 8th graders to join if they have skills or potential skills we need. This is our sort of “recruiting faucet” that we turn on and off as the numbers and numbers of seniors varies. Our team leadership is now entirely people who came up early and will get five years of FRC instead of four. Oh, minus that weird Covid year.
PM if you want ideas. I’ve been doing this sort of thing for 20 plus years, much predating my enslavement, er, I mean involvement in FRC.
Starting from scratch with all new students, this is a complication we have this year. We have 1 girl so far who is doing great but getting more has proven difficult as we don’t have that “friend of a friend recruiting” that historically brought in a large percent of our students.
You’d think you could leverage that fact to have the parents encourage students to join but don’t. We discovered that if students think they are in any way being forced to join they take it out on the mentors.
We do present scholarship opportunities to the students but as was pointed out they care more about social.
As a community team, we focused more on targeted recruitment, so we did school announcements in one of our feeder schools recruiting specifically for a certain interest (imagery/media/business).
On the other hand, IMO, culture is a really important factor in recruitment and retention. Once people join, ensuring they feel included and safe ensures decent retention while encouraging them to invite their friends.
If you have an awful culture, people won’t want to join, definitely won’t invite their friends, and will leave.
Anyway, friends recruit friends they think are cool, and if you set a culture that makes things fun and safe while still reaching other competitive/noncompetitive goals, people will stay and invite their friends.
Honestly, this is a lot easier said than done, and it requires a team effort (and especially mentor!) in order to change culture.
FLL and FTC. No really, half or more of our incoming freshmen these days are former FLL kiddos.
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