Most Important Skill(s) Coming Into A Team?

If a week long summer camp was created to target middle schoolers to prepare them to join a high school FIRST team, what major skills (two or three) do you think are the most important?

Examples: how to solder, how to use tools/shop safety, how gears work, etc.

  1. Desire
  2. Attendance
  3. Ideas

In no particular order

Being able to effectively communicate, not being afraid to ask questions, and a willingness to learn.

But if your looking for skills that will give them a head start…

Be able to write a simple program in the language your team uses, know how to draw a basic part in the CAD software you use, and how to use hand tools.

Tough question with it open-ended like that.

Some like to try everything, some only like the build, some want nothing to do with the build.

Off the top of my head if I were to do a week-long camp, I think I would focus on a different aspect every day. Don’t focus on just the robot (FRC is so much more than that) and don’t bother trying to really teach anything. Once they find something they like, they pick it up faster than us old farts.

Some ideas on that note.
Strategy - review a past game kickoff and come up with ideas for a build and play strategy, then look at videos to see how other teams played it out and what strategies they used.

Building - build a kitbot together and let them drive
This includes mechanical, electrical and programming

Media - Make a video, have them create an extra webpage on your site, do logo design

Team building and gracious professionalism - Do some community service

There are many more ideas, but you only have a week. Try to go broad and clear rather than deep and confusing.

All very important, but I was more looking for skills that could be taught. Things like shop/tool training, how gears work, how to solder, etc.

The three you listed are very important though.

Personally I view the most important skills for FRC is effective communication and teamwork. They’re great skills beyond just the scope of FIRST.

But if you’re really looking for just plain hard skills, for people coming into FRC teach them:

  1. Building with safety in mind (this can be through building something like a kitbot and walking them through the steps)
  2. Basic design (this can be through doing a classic catapult competition)
  3. Game analysis (have them finish the program by analyzing an old game and come up with a basic robot strategy and idea as a team to simulate kickoff)

Skills like CAD, programming, and design based on gearing/physics/etc should be learned when they’re actually on the team during the offseason, rather than during a week long summer camp.

Like others have said, make the material broad, don’t try to dig deep into the technicalities since this will most likely be the first foray into robotics for most kids. Make it inspiring and encouraging.

Those can all be taught easily during the school year leading up to build season. For a summer camp, wouldn’t it be better to get the kids interested in the program first?

It looks like you’re trying to teach technical skills for a short time in the summer, then relying on them to remember it again after school starts.

The ability to communicate ideas effectively

Day 1 - Intro into FIRST-explaining what FIRST is and how it pertains to the real-world, your team, etc.

Day 2- Programming - Use whatever language your team uses (Java, C++, etc) and have them write a basic program in the language.

Day 3- CAD Design/Brainstorming - How to effectively “think” and design of a robot. Show them a prior game and have them come up with how they would build a robot.

Day 4- Strategy and teamwork - Split them into groups and show a prior game and ask what they think should be focused on and what isn’t as important…etc

Day 5- Safety - At some point stress to them how to safely work in the pits, lab, whatever you use for a work area on the robot.

Very important, any suggestions on how to teach ideas like this?

We run just such a camp… the idea isn’t so much to teach them skills (although everyone walks away with some intro level programming, soldering, and shop tool use) as it is to expose them to all parts of the team. It’s not a training camp, it’s a recruitment camp. Provide enough different things so the students get excited about something or other and want to come back to join that part of the team and learn more.

I would say basic build skills and design skills would be the most effective.
The most effective way to go about it, in my opinion would be giving them a task and they have to build a prototype for it, in this process they can learn both tools and design concept.

I am strongly in favor of a concrete approach on the technical side, even if your goal is to teach skills like communication.

In the case of communication, I find that students quickly tire of receiving the wrong item or referring to something as “the thingy”, and this motivates them to learn the vocabulary.

More generally, within the context of “this mechanism must get built” or “this robot must get driving code”, you can teach students how to get a message out. A student may not viscerally understand why missing dimensions are bad until they receive a drawing with a missing dimension and experience the internal frustration.

The activity itself probably isn’t important, but it provides the context.

I would teach them to fail fast and be able to listen to others’ ideas. Being stubborn about an idea can be the downfall of the robot’s mechanism.
It is also very helpful for them to have basic knowledge of the most used tools, like a hand drill and band saws.

Have them build a simple mechanism to solve a simple problem then have them build a second, third and maybe a fourth version to solve the same problem. They should see that the last iteration is an improvement over the first one.

It would also be good to give some basic, practical physics lessons on topics such as levers, torque, gear ratios etc.