How to get other students interested in robotics?

Our team has recently had a decline in dedicated members recently in the last few couples of years and the leaving of seniors last year only helped this. We only have about 15 total members at the moment and only 2 new members.

For teams who get plenty of New, dedicated members how do you do it? I would love to know. Thanks for your help.

*Our team has been meeting entirely virtual from the start of this season, I understand this might be a slight deterrent but the new members have kept with us for right now.

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Where does your team recruit members from? (That could be a school, religious youth group, or just in your community)

My team recruits members from our school and we do a couple of things in a normal year (things changed because of COVID-19). Our school has a Club Fair, where students come and discover the different clubs at the start of the year. We set up a booth with videos and have 2 of our robots there to show off, decked out with LEDs of course. We take sign ups there, and follow up with people who put there name down.

We also host a team social that is free to attend for all. There is food, games, a facility tour, and we give people the opportunity to turn in their forms and payment right there. We advertise this event at school too, so many people know about it.

By far the most effective way of gaining new members, at least in my opinion, is word of mouth. Encourage people on your team to advocate to their friends to join the team. People are much more likely to join if they have a friend there.

Hopefully this helps!

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Mentoring FLL teams at the middle school has been a good source of FRC members for us.

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Going off of this. lower level robotics (FLL and FLLjr) and other stem programs are the best ways to get a sustainable program going. Sparking robotics interest with younger demographics increases your recruitment later on.

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I figure this is a topic that 3256 actually has some experience with, so here’s what I’ve got.
A bit of background: 2019 was likely one of our weakest seasons as a team and in more than just one way. It prominently features our lowest elo ranking since our conception in 2010, and with only one freshmen applicant (although admittedly a couple of new sophomores). The following year we had so many applicants that we had to apply an admissions system to limit team membership to more manageable levels. How exactly this surge in interest happened and why it has continued this year remains a mystery, but there are some particularly notable factors that likely played a part.

We had a few particularly outspoken members of our FLL feeder team. The team itself only nets us anywhere from 3-5 new members a year, only slightly less than half our average acceptance capacity, but a few of those students had the opportunity to intern on 3256 during their final year of middle school and apparently talked about their experience quite a bit with their fellow middle school students. This may have drummed up some interest, but it certainly doesn’t cover anyone who applied to the team as a new student, applying to our high school straight out of any unaffiliated middle schools, of which there were quite a few as well (noting that robotics applications must be turned in before the school year begins).

Considering I wasn’t actually around for any of this, myself being included as one of those new students I just detailed, the best guess I can manage has to do with better advertisement of our tech programs by the school administration. If you can work with your school, and possibly even gain access to a school mailing list of some sort, that may help too. Overall, I’d say to just keep robotics fun. The more fun it is, the more people see your program who may want to join. Food, late Fridays and lazy Saturdays, and a loose daily schedule are all great, and might certainly catch the eyes of any already interested students. Good luck, and I sincerely hope 1764 can manage to stick around!

I tried to get people interested in programming and failed every year

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2020 is a tough year for this sort of question. Not only is there no competition in the usual sense to look forward to, many schools are in virtual mode. So don’t be morose about tepid recruiting at this point in time. I suspect that when in person school comes back to stay there will be substantial interest in resuming fun activities. Staying at home for the better part of a year will do that to you.

Our situation locally mirrors the rest of the world. We had a feeder program at the middle school level that of course is off the table this year. It was cheap, low tech, and lots of fun. The more promising students were always specifically invited to join the FRC team, sometimes when still in 8th grade. That will help us “coast” for one difficult recruiting year.

As to the mix of people interested in software, build, CAD, business/PR well that’s always a challenge. We have superb software mentors and so have in recent years been able to “find” more students in that area than you’d expect. Our interaction with the nuts and bolts side of the tech ed world has been a bit less smooth, so we are soon to lose via graduation the majority of our build smarts. This mirrors a general trend I’ve seen in two decades of robotics, there is much less general “tool knowledge” now than in the past.

Per the original post I’d say hang in there. Keep up a dialog with people who can help you out. Business class teachers, shop teachers, school activities director etc. Sometimes the people who can help the most are not the ones you’d expect.

Persevere!

T. Wolter

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Start, working on getting them dedicated at younger levels, not just high school. Market to ALL aspects of the team, not just the robot build. I believe it is mostly a lack of awareness of what a team has to offer individuals. Our team actively markets to those who would be better on the marketing/advertising side, business side. Have a list of potential benefits to THEM, not necessarily the team. Obviously we are all about competition and want to do well, which we usually do, but there is so much more at stake than a robot. That’s why our motto/tagline is “We build more than robots!”.

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How much time and resources does it take to run an FLL team? Are registration costs high? Our district has several Mindstorms kits so it could be a possibility for us.

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We recruit members from two high schools with 2000 (+/- 200) people. We do have an open house type first meeting but there is no food or games (that might be our problem :slight_smile: ) I think part of the problem is that kids who want to be on the team think they “aren’t smart enough” which is entirely not true. Is there a way to clear this stigma?

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There is definitely a stigma there that people think they aren’t smart enough for robotics, we have been dealing with that for a long time on our team. We continuously tell our members, and non-members, that they do not need prior experience to join the team, and back that up by having training programs for (almost) all of our subteams. I think we’ve done a good job of clearing the stigma this way.

If you’d like to look at our curriculum resources visit this link: http://frc624.org/outreach-2/.

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FIRST says an FLL team will run about $800/yr (not including events travel, food, shirts, and so on). Teams who already have a Mindstorm will save that cost. Our FLL teams are meeting (100% virtually at present) two after-schools each week. We have one (awesome) adult mentor as lead coach doing all the logistics and stuff for all the teams, and 2-3 FRC team members helping mentor each team. You will also need some space to work from, ideally one that you can leave setup. My first year coaching FLL, we had to setup and teardown the field each day, that was a giant loss of time. Probably 12’x12’ is a minimum effective space (this can be shared among multiple teams meeting on different days).

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I’ll reiterate the idea that running FLL programs for younger students is a great way to set up sustainable recruitment. You can get them hooked on the FIRST mission on a much simpler program and before the social worries about being “smart enough” kick in. Build students’ confidence that they can do it before they are told otherwise.

6328 has developed a robust FLL-to-FRC transition program that has worked really well for us. It’s in a bit of disarray this year because the Massachusetts FLL season isn’t yet firmly set, but we’re hoping we’ll be able to go back to this next year. You can get an overview of our transition program in this pdf.

In addition, 6328 as a community, not-school-based team goes to as many community events as we can (in non-pandemic times) to build a presence for recruitment and sponsorships. We draw students from half-a-dozen local high schools so just being known in the communities is a big part of recruitment.

6328 did make a deliberate decision to not do much active recruiting for the 2021 season given the practical difficulties, but will have start back up for 2022. Nearly half our students are sophomores this year, which is going to make for a dramatic change in a couple years if we don’t plan for it!

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Does the FLL season run in or out of sync with the FRC season? If we had a lego league team and the students were the mentors for that would we have to balance helping the kids with our build season?

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In Massachusetts (in non-pandemic times), the FLL season is Aug-Dec and then FRC picks up in January so it works out perfectly for the 6328 students, especially those that came up through our FLL program, to be mentors and mentors-in-training.

This year it looks like the Massachusetts FLL competitions won’t happen until March/April (though that’s still not firm) so we’re figuring out how to balance that with our FRC team goals. We do still have a few of our FRC students supporting FLL teams even though we don’t know when the FLL competitions will be held or what they will look like.

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It’s doable to have a mentoring relationship with FLL. At one point I know we had well over a dozen FLL teams that we started and helped maintain for many years.

The issue is that you still need to build up the FLL support at the school(s) that have the students like teachers and parents. FLL teams are pretty small so you’d need to have a few if you’re looking at it as a progression program like we did which is why we started so many of them at a few different feeder schools. I will say the majority of our kids have gone through the FLL program so in terms of engagement its been successful but in terms of kids being prepared from a technical perspective to jump straight into FRC that’s not going to happen. We’re looking at doing like dual credits or something with the middle school and high school to maybe get an 8th grade every-bot only team put together. COVID has stalled out all of that talk though.

We ended up killing/de-emphasizing FLL mentoring because we got a lot of feedback that high school students are just more kids that need to be watched by the adults on the FLL teams even when they were helpful/useful. So, we’re now working more on leveraging our facility to host more qualifying events, practice events, open hours/shop etc… for FLL, FTC and FRC with the hope we might be able to recruit some of the FLL/FTC kids to come to our school and eventually join our team.

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The FLL season runs mostly from August to December, for the most part, as already stated. We have a separate mentor who focuses on FLL and a couple of students who help out by mentoring during the FRC offseason. This works out pretty well since it allows us to support them during the bulk of the FLL season, but still full focus on FRC once build season comes around. It also allows involved student mentors to earn volunteering hours for their first semester requirements, which might be another good way to get teams interested in robotics, I guess, if your school does anything similar.

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The short answer for us is that whatever a student wants to major in post-high school, we have a position (learning opportunities) for you on the team.
We have positions covering STEAM plus more.

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I think I will have to try a lot of these things and bring them up to my team. Thanks, everyone for your help.

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One more thing I was reminded of by a recent thread – several of the kids (boys and girls) are our team are in BSA Scouts. And that seems common, so that’s another place to think about for recruiting.

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