Innovative Methods

Hey Teams,

I was a 1st year Head Coach but have 9 years of experience in FIRST. This was the first time in the past 5 years my team presented for chairman’s and one of the lower areas for us in the judging was “using innovative methods to spread the FIRST message”.

What are some things other teams do to spread the word of FIRST innovatively?

We currently do a lot of demonstrating in both the schools and community in addition to our outreach like Habitat for Humanity.

Let me know what you guys think could improve our program. We would greatly appreciate any and all help!


One of the things that the judges liked from our submissions was that a few of our students made a children’s engineering activity pamphlet to hand out to preschoolers. They had a maze, word search and few other activities that were engineering themed. We passed them out at all our events and at demonstrations.

I have seen other teams make coloring books, read to kids at libraries, distribute magazines/pamphlets to waiting rooms and a bunch of other ideas.

If you read through former chairman’s award essays you can get a bunch of good ideas.

After receiving our feedback sheet after the NYC Regional this year, one of the things that the judges liked was our programming tutorials. Members of our team during the offseason filmed tutorials in Youtube installments and created presentations to provide help to beginning programmers in both LabVIEW and Java.

Although we didn’t come home with the gold, I believe this is the best submission we have had to date.

You should definitely build a robot that helps build houses for habitat for humanity. That would be really innovative. On the serious side, what counts as innovative depends on where you are and what you’ve done in the past. Summer camps, mentoring other teams in FLL, BEST, Vex, FTC and FRC, starting new teams, integrating other clubs, building off season robots that fire t-shirts or play guitar - there’s a bunch of options. Its about picking what will work for your region and then displaying it prominently .

Well, start by hyping this in your awards presentation.!social-media

Our Youtube Channel contains resources videos for students of all ages. We are currently working towards having them in 3 languages (English, Korean, and Spanish). Check the channel often for updates.

I would start by taking a look at some of the Hall of Fame Teams

I’m probably paraphrasing too much, but just from memory some innovative things that stood out to me:
1114 - Big Simbot/Little Simbot, App, Kitbot on Steroids
359 - Founded Hawaii Robotics (first statewide govt level commitment if I remember right), Traveled to Japan/Guam/Philippines
341 - Team in a Box, Girls in Gear, Singapore/UK demos
236 - WDC Trip to talk to Congress, Alumni Involvement
842 - Produced Video shown in Movie Theaters, Readers Digest, Sponsor Underwater Robotics Competition
365 - MOE University, MORE Literacy Program, FLL/FVC Tracking
111 - City Tye-Dye day, Govt involvement, Strong Partnership/Alumni Involvement

You can also look at many of the RCA winners for what they have done, there are plenty of up and coming teams that have strong programs as well!

The biggest thing is to try and come up with something that is Unique about your team, and that can set you apart from other teams. Some program or way to spread the message that no one else is doing (which is getting harder and harder every year!), and FOCUS on that. Everyone does FLL/FTC/Vex/demos/community service, but what do YOU do that is different?

The issue with coming up with your own innovative ideas is that they really must be your own. Although seeing as my team was brainstorming through a similar thing recently, I’ll ad 2cents…

We spend a lot of time researching other teams (such as the ones listed above). We concentrated on the Hall of Fame winners as well as the people in our area. Often, looking at other peoples methods sparks ideas, leading the famous “Well what if we did this?” Also look into how other nonFIRST organizations impact your community. For example, most of the band crews and dance groups in our region march in Mardi Gras parades. We made a connections with the right people and now are regular marchers ourselves. Take inspiration from everywhere around you. What makes you say wow, thats cool? Or even, well well…thats, er, different.

At every event, we strive to meet as many people and build partnerships that might lead us to the next event. There must always be a fine balance between being willing to take on something new and exciting and knowing what your team can handle.

For our previous RCA submissions see -
I know for this year the judges called out our visit to the Boy Scouts expo, allowing students to earn a varsity letter in robotics, our continued support of local teams, founding and mentoring FLL and Jr. FLL teams, creative programs, quantity of community events and the newspaper column.

At the 2012 Championship Chairman’s Award Winners round table conference some of the teams suggested finding a problem in your local community that the team could help with and work on setting up a program to solve the problem.

Some examples of RCA winners and their “innovative methods” include:

  • Demoing at an art gallery and showing that robots can be used to make art, if you build a small robot it’s easy to dip the wheels in paint and let the kids drive it over paper. You can go around the middle school summer art programs and see if they’ll let you demo as well.

  • Demoing at the Girls Scouts Centennial event, The Great Girl Gathering, at the Mall of America in MN. A group of girls from FRC 3630 showed off their 2011 robot and talked about being women on a FIRST robotics team. They impacted over 1,000 girls.

If you’d like to PM me I’d be willing to look over the 2012 Chairman’s paper, executive summary, anything you have from the presentation, and the Judges rubric they gave back to you in order to help your team brainstorm some outreach events or help you submit. I’ve worked with three RCA winning teams the past two years and interviewed quite a few more.

You can also check out for more tips/resources on Chairman’s.


Have your team’s trailer stolen. Here is a sample of the coverage we received

In all seriousness, the coverage is from the content of the story plus a well written press release. You really need both to get the coverage. The secret with news coverage is this; reporting staff have been reduced or eliminated, so you have to deliver the story to the media with a well written news release and pictures that can be used by the media.

I’ve quoted the press release below as well…

Facebook - 252 shares
KNX 1070 Radio
Press-Enterprise (Riverside)
Valley News (Fallbrook):
The Californian (San Diego):
LA Times:
The Denver Post:
Foregone Dinner:
Judith Tavarez blog: Print - Hoops-Shooting Robot Stolen From Riverside Church Parking Lot - Judithtavarez6’s blog
The Real First Life:
Inland SoCal:
Camping blog:
Teach Hub:
Sacramento Bee:
Simply Busy blog:
Pelican Parts blog:
The Legend of St Jimmy blog:
Computing Unplugged:

Good Afternoon,

We are hoping you will run a story to help us recover our stolen robots and trailer. Please see the press release below and contact our programming mentor Rick Sisk with any questions. I know the kids will be very happy if we can bring their robots home.

Rick Sisk, Mentor
(951) 790-9216

Riverside, CA - Over $12,000 in tools, robotics equipment and electronics were stolen last night from a community robotics team comprised of students from across the Inland Empire. They had everything stored in their team trailer that was stolen from a church parking lot. The team was using space in the church to hold summer robotics camps for kids 9 to 14. The team, RoboKong, is one of the few FRC teams within the Inland Empire not directly associated with a school and they had purchased the trailer as an innovative way to store and transport their robots and equipment. They regularly met at mentor’s homes and the local Kiwani’s club house to work on their robots. They also used the trailer to assist other teams with robot transportation for tournaments.

In additional to the cost of the trailer, the kids had amassed the robotics equipment, robots, tools, electronics, and team banners that were stored in the trailer for over 5 years.

Rick Sisk, the Programming Mentor for this FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team, is devastated. “Everything the team has accumulated over the last five years was in the trailer. Their tools, their robots; it would mean a lot to these kids if we were able to have the trailer and the robots they worked so hard build returned to us.”

RoboKong Team 2493 is a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team located in Riverside, CA. They allow any students in the area with an interest for technology, programming, and engineering to join the team. “The varsity Sport for the Mind,” FRC combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams of 25 students or more are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. It’s as close to “real-world engineering” as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team.

The team’s Business Mentor Liberty Naud is hoping for anyone with information to come forward. “With the limited resources we have access to I don’t know how the kids will recover the cost of the stolen equipment and tools in time to compete. Tools are so expensive and as a community team it is much harder for us to do fundraising. We hope the someone will step up and notify the police if they have any information at all about the trailer, tools, and robots.”

If you do have any information please contact Richard Sisk at or call (951) 790-9216.

I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry about this. It’s pretty sad that negative media is the only thing that sells; it’s hilatiously awesome that you spun it for PR.

Well thankfully there’s a sliver lining in getting a trailer stolen! (@rsisk I hope you get it back soon!)

With what he said in mind, what if the team designated someone as their “Team Reporter”, maybe even doing announcements at school requesting someone interested in being a Journalist to come and write reports and press releases for the team? This could lead to quite a number of fantastic opportunities for the team to get involved in the local community.

We have been trying to add a new innovation each year. Some more successful. We did advertising for all FRC events through GSTV a few years back. Engaged community leaders about the benefits of FIRST.

I would recommend treating it just like you would an engineering design problem. Brain storm a lot of “new” ideas. Spend a week or two and have every person on the team bring in a unique idea. Giver a prize to whomever comes up with the most unique ideas, and stipulate what an idea is. Once you have a host of ides, whittle it down to a few ideas to flesh out. Figure out things like: Effort, Impact, Fit to FIRST Values, Fit to Team values, student interest… Once you have done this exercise, you should have some good ideas to work with. Just like with the robot, look for the good “bang for the buck” items. Sure convincing 2,000 businesses to sponsor 2,000 teams would be a great thing but would be a ton of effort. Doing a promotional pitch at a Rotary or Chamber of Commerce meeting would be significantly lower effort, but may have a significant impact in the local community.

All it takes is one person to organize an event.

I second Ike’s idea:
Have each of your students come up with an idea for a community service project that means something personal to them.
Over the years the Killer Bees have started different projects simply because it was important to at least one of the members:

They demo the robot at the daycare where I teach, because I love seeing my three year old kids excited about the robots, and I love to see my high school kids excited about teaching the smaller ones.

We started a Relay for Life team (Not just a robot demo - We raised money and participated for the full 24 hours), because two of our mentors have immediate family members fighting cancer this year.

Last year we volunteered for a Children’s Leukemia Foundation fundraiser because one of our members has a best friend who has fought Leukemia off and on her whole life. The fundraiser was at a local movie theater, where one of our students works.

When you find personal reasons to spread the message of FIRST at an event, you become fully involved in a cause outside of your robot and team. This is a program that relies on the community to sponsor and support it, so it’s important to find ways to give back that show how grateful you are. Emphasize this, and the rewards will greatly outweigh any effort made.