Giving First A bad name

Does anyone else have trouble recruiting new team members due to shows like battle bots? Whenever we do a school robot demonstration at club fairs and parent things, we always get kids that want to build destructive bots and when they see what we really do, they leave or never show up

Anyone else have this annoying dilemma?

FIRST can’t be everything to everyone.
I myself wouldn’t go back into that bashing the Robotic Competition That Shalt Not Be Named as that has been done to death around here. It gets people thinking technology so they can’t be all bad. There are quite a few FIRST folks who participate in the Robotic Competition That Shalt Not Be Named and have a pretty good time doing it.
Anyone who shows up wanting to do the Robotic Competition That Shalt Not Be Named explain to them what we do. If they are still interested in doing the other thing instead of letting them starve off their techno fix steer them towards their high school competition. They may not be in FIRST but they are at least interested i technology and that’s at least part of the battle.

I know this may sound weird, but just work along with it. (When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!)

If you get a bunch of kids really interested in robotics, then don’t scare them off by saying “we can NEVER do that, because that’s BattleBots!”. To them, once you tell them they can only build ‘nice robots’ they may loose interest and think its boring without ever giving it a try.

To retain these members, don’t tell them it’s not BattleBots right away. Let them come in to your meetings, and actually start working on the robot. Once they actually start working with their hands on an actual robot, they will take the transition from a ‘BattleBot mentality’ to a ‘FIRST mentality’ much easier, meaning you’ll be able to retain more members. :wink:

And anytime they ask “can we put a saw blade on the bot” (because, yes, we all have had that question asked by a member) just smile, nod, rolls your eyes and say maybe.

In a week or 2 when you are deep in build and they understand the game and the principals of FIRST a little more then they will have forgotten about their silly little question.


We have a zippy little robot that we take to our recruiting demos that drives around and always has a load of tootsie rolls as give aways. A small robot filled with tootsie rolls kind of sends its own message. With that little guy, we also have the FIRST robot, usually the one from the past season. We also have a display close by that showcases the team efforts: the build, the outreach, the fundraising, the team. The display is a great way to talk to prospective members about what the team is all about. When we are asked questions about the type of competitions we are involved in, we provide the information and the fun and they decide if they want to be a part of it. The important thing is that we continue to put the message out there and are happy doing so.

I’m actually happy that Battlebots is around. Battlebots gets the kind of attention that we would kill for here at FIRST and their PR people need to be commended for it. Their program gets our kids interested. From there, we tweak the kids’ ideologies a bit, and little by little, they turn into FIRSTers. So as much as I’m not a supporter of the way that Battlebots runs their program and the aims of their game, I’m thrilled that they’re getting the culture interested in science. If they’re getting the objectives accomplished, all the more power to them.

It usually goes like this for me:
Me: “The robots are contstructed a lot like Battlebots, that you see on TV”
Stranger: “Oh!”
Me: “but these don’t fight, they work together”
Stranger: “ooohhhh”

One should make sure it is clear that there really truly is competition here, both in constructing the robot for competition and then playing the game. It just isn’t destructive competition. For many youngsters, that should be enough

Suggestion: Try “While it’s not battlebots, it is quite similar to Junkyard Wars or Monster Garage in concept. The biggest differences are time and what you get to start with.” Then go on from there.

I don’t think Battlebots is the bane to all GP, like so many around here seem to. It is simply a different competition, and appeals to the general teenage psyche more. As was said before… they get more publicity than we do, and I think that makes a lot of people bitter.

Frankly, If FIRST ever came up with a violent game… they would peak the interest of a lot more teenagers.

That being said… It Is disappointing to be selling the Idea of building a robot in six weeks to a bright eyed freshman, only to have him ask what type of weapon we use, and turn away when you say that you don’t use weapons. No matter how fast you are at changing the subject back to the exciting things that you DO get to do in FIRST, they are lost.

To counter this, we are currently making exciting promos and commercials to play at the High school in the morning that should catch a lot of people’s eyes.

Your kids too!?

Just remind them that FIRST is about much more than destruction. The value of everything you get out of FIRST makes up for tearing apart someone’s robot. And, I always like to add in, it’s not like we’re “playing nice,” there’s definitely defense and ramming and pushing. It’s not all innocent offense. ~__^

o well maybe it just the kids around here at our club fairs, but the second we start off, with “no the robots can harm each other,” they hightail it out of there and are never seen again, but whatever, we do have a dedicated team of people that actually care, and help us stick to our game plan and team moto and guide lines

we have had kids show up to meetings and just stop because the robots dont do dammage to each other.

In 2005, we did a FIRST demo with several other teams in the Southern California area at JPL, and these guys came up as we were talking about it. He asked if it was a Battlebot, and when I said no, he started flaming it and ended it saying it was a waste of metal. Then other people came and said how much more useful and beneficial FIRST is to today’s teenagers than Battlebots is. They pretty much just walked away.

At school demos, we also get a few people come up to us and ask us if the robots we build are Battlebots or how much damage they can do. Tends to get sort of boring after a while saying the same answer…:rolleyes:

There is nothing wrong with battle bots, it just isn’t FIRST, it is still a really cool engineering competition. If you are worried about losing kids because they just want to build battle bots let them drive a full size FIRST bot, that has a tendency to hook them, then explain to them that the things they learn in FIRST they can use later to make a battle bot or what ever they want to make.

I have also noticed that shooting poof balls at things tends to have a simmilar enough effect to destroying things to keep kids interested.

we have the same problem, kids at first are like why do we not put a saw on it or something, and go destroy other robots. Then we have to go through the GP (gracious professionalism) talk.

We tell them our competitions are pretty rough, but our sport is more like football, not gladiators. We invest $6,000 to $15,000 in the robot competition and we would hate to see it all destroyed in one match.

We get this on our team just like any other; our response is always “sorry, but you know this is a school team, and the district won’t allow something like that.” Actually I know our officers a few years ago actually looked at doing a Battlebot in addition to FIRST but the idea faded out somewhere.

Show them some of the other cool things you can do. Build something that shoots stuff for the off-season; shooting things seems to be just as cool as smashing them, at least that’s what our t-shirt cannon (and the ones other teams have built) have proven.

You will inevitably have to mention you can’t do that though, and if they leave purely because of that then they probably weren’t actually interested in building a robot in the first place, they just wanted to be the driver for smashing things.

I actually got involved with FIRST because I was a huge fan of the British TV show Robot Wars. Back when I was in early middle school, it was on at midnght on Saturday nights on my local PBS station. (I wasn’t allowed to stay up that late, so I had to tape it and watch it the next day.) My brother and I loved the show and always wanted to build our own robot and be on it. PBS took the show off the air after a litle more than a year (I was so mad I wrote them an angry letter demanding it be put back on.) When I was a freshman, my science teacher told our class about the robotics team that he was starting up at our school. I probably would’ve never given it a thought if it hadn’t been for Robot Wars, but I did and now my brother and I are devoted members of our team.:slight_smile:

My robotics experience began with summing along those lines :smiley:

I understand it seems like every kid you try to recruit wants to make destructive robots,

but in all reality, you just have to show them what FIRST is made of, and get them to understand that you can have fun without being a “battlebot”.

They may not believe you if you just explain it, but have them try it out. Tell them to give it a shot.

You never know who might end up interested in it in the end.

Believe me, I’ve explained to many many freshman at my school that we dont build robots with saws and hammers popping out. but in the end, your result may be not too dissapointing.