Rook: Hey, I’m trying to start a new team up as well. Here’s how I’ve been handling things.
First, I contacted a teacher at the high school and asked him about the possibility of starting a FIRST team there, and if he would be willing to mentor. I did this via e-mail. I also included a little background about the FIRST program just so he could have a general idea of what he was getting himself into. He e-mailed me back saying that he would like to get together to further discuss the possibility of starting a team at his high school. I talked to him and his wife (a teacher at my high school) a bit, and convinced them to come to Midwest this week. I will be meeting with him about the new team on Friday during lunch at Midwest. I figured it would be a really good FIRST impression (haha), for him to see a competition FIRSThand.
It took him close to two weeks to e-mail me back. During that time, I made a list of companies around the area that have supported FIRST in the past, or have expressed interest in helping out a FIRST team. I got phone numbers of the people I would need to call at these companies, if we were to start a new team. I even drafted a letter that I am going to send to area businesses about helping out. But of course, you can’t have a FIRST team without students, right?
I made up a few posters, with the aide of a friend who attends the high school. I told him about the possibility of there being a team there next year and, as far as I’ve heard, he’s been spreading the word quite well! We’ll see where all of this is going to lead to when I meet with the teacher on Friday.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing … to answer your questions as best as I can:
**1) To get sponsors: **
Make a list of potential businesses that would be interested in helping out. Don’t limit these businesses to just providing engineering support or money. Think of places that could help out with transportation, food, printing shirts, etc. After you’ve thought of potential sponsors, call the businesses and set up a meeting with someone. Prepare a presentation about FIRST and why that company should help the team out. How will it benefit the company? How will that company’s support help the students on the team? What can the company do to help? A week or so after the meeting, send a follow-up letter thanking them for their time and, if all goes well, their support.
**2) To get engineers: **
Go to a local engineering firm or maybe one of your new sponsor’s businesses and try to recruit engineers to help. Ask if you can hang a flyer somewhere that might get engineers and other professionals interested. Tell them what FIRST is all about.
3) To get a school involved:
Find a teacher that is willing to help. E-mail or write a letter to the school/teachers to see if the interest is there. More often than not, the teacher you contact will know another teacher or two that would be willing to help out. Set up a meeting with the teacher(s) to discuss FIRST and what they will be getting into. Be sure to include a “normal” FIRST team’s budget, how much time people put in, etc. If there is more than one high school in the school district, go to every high school looking for teachers and students. Oh, make sure you let the school administration know what you’re doing! Keep in mind that the school district is a potential sponsor - both for money and facilities. Remember, you need a place to work!
**4) To get students involved: **
Make flyers, posters, announcements on the school’s daily announcements (assuming they have them). Schedule an open house before the end of the school year. This will give you a good idea of how many students will be interested. Hold an open house at the beginning of next school year too (there may be some incoming freshmen that want to be involved!) If you hold an open house, make it a community open house. That way, students as well as business people, potential teachers and engineers, and parents can attend to see what is going on.
**5) To keep your sanity: **
Don’t do it alone!! The initial stuff is easy enough to do by yourself (writing letters, setting up meetings, etc.) but there is only so much that one person can do! Even if you only have one other person to help you, it’s better than none!
Sorry, this is so lengthy … I hope this helped!
Good luck, and let me know how things go for you!