We have done a small demo to the Junior High Students by having a “Robot War” between last year and this year’s robot. We were supposed to be ready to teach the 8th grade students in a tech class of what the robots were built to do but apparently, they decided to not let our operator controller connect so we could only drive or operate at a single time. Turns out we ran out of time so the students switching classes stopped in the hall amazed.
This was during a period of the school day which put students at being late for class.
When you actually do an outreach, who should you target mostly? When is the “best” time of the week to do something like this? We’ve never actually done an outreach with the robot driving around and stuff. My lead mentor is looking into doing something down at the elementary school, similar to an assembly but that would be a day of school taken out. In my honest opinion, i do not think it will be as advantageous as targeting Junior High Schoolers as they can join in 1-2 years compared to 5+ years.
During science week in Australia (around August) we demonstrate our robot at a bunch of expos, conventions and shows, but also go into high schools throughout the state (If we have members available to do so).
One of the high school demos I do (And in my opinion the most effective), I organize to have a large enough space for the day (eg gym, large common area) and we take 2 or 3 of our robots down to demonstrate.
Usually we have the younger year levels come through as a homegroup in sessions throughout the day, we would start off giving an overview of our club, how it works, who we are, our achievements, our members.
Then we demonstrate the capabilities of the robots and take questions. Then we let the students who want to, come up and drive the robots. Then we let them inspect the questions and talk to us in small groups about the robots or our club.
We also open up the space when we don’t have sessions (lunch, etc) for anyone around to drive or talk to us.
This is probably our second or third most effective recruiting event. The sessions last around 45 minutes, which is 1 lesson block at this school.
To follow on, whats important is to try and make it as interactive as possible, we also hold soldering sessions to make our flashing badges and at one point a session to make little arduino robots. make them leave with something that they wont forget and keep as a momento.
Our team participates in our schools “Kids day”. This is where the high school is open and all the clubs in it go down to the gym lobby and set up something, like an activity or a demo, and all the schools in the district are welcome to come and have fun. Our team goes and we do hands on crafts like doodle bots which are very quick. We also let the kids drive our robot. We usually set up a task for them to complete. The day is around Christmas, so for our 2016 robot, they had to bring the wreaths to Santa’s Sled. And last year, for Power Up, they had to put the gifts in Santa’s sled (wrapped up powercubes and Santa’s sled was our robot cart).
To add on what Kaitlyn said, for Kids Day in 2017, we used our intake and placed wreaths in there and we had the kids drive the robot around to Santa’s Sleigh (back to the cart). We also do events such as Terrificon, which is a comic book convention in Connecticut. And we also did Makerfaire in Queens, NY. The best time to do outreach will depend on who your target audience is. On 5943, we try to target kids in elementary schools for one reason. This reason is (and yes, I’m quoting one of my girls who is on awards), “If we target the elementary school kids and introduce them to engineering and STEM, there’s a better tomorrow since they’re the future of this generation.”
If you need any outreach help, send me a pm and I will be glad to assist you
If you have the younger kids drive, how can you ensure the safety of them and others around as the driver controller is full of working commands, including some pistons? We do not have a programmer to “disable” functions but would commenting the codes out work?
Yes, if someone asked me to remove/disable a feature, I will usually just comment it out.
Either that or I would program a flag in a config file (in advance of the demonstration) that you could use to just enable and disable features.
On safety, we usually have at least 3 people:
Someone supervising the driver station who will hover over the disable/e-stop and help/guide with the controls (depending on the age and maturity).
Someone who stands with the robot (to prevent it running away or damaging things if we are in a crowded space), they also help move field elements around and help the driver in that way (not our young members).
Someone to manage people queueing and crowd control.
If we have more than one robot concurrently driving we will always have one person with each driver, or in a large safe (ie barricaded by walls, stage block, tables) one superviser per 2 drivers.
We do quite a bit of outreach, including in school, and at different local events.
Most in-school demos happen in the fall or late spring (after competition season) and most community events are in the summer/fall.
It’s definitely OK to explain and demo the robot with commands and functions slowed/disabled. I think we have run our drivetrains at 50% power for some events if we know there will be younger kids that will be driving.
As far as demo-ing for junior high vs elementary school, I would recommend both. One, as you mentioned, junior high students will be able to join FRC in a few short years, so make sure you keep robots fresh in their minds
For elementary students, physically how close is the high school to the elementary school? We have our students mentor and coach our elementary FLL teams in the fall (usually they are finished by build season!). It takes up 1-2 nights a week in the fall, but it builds teaching and communication skills for your FRC students, and creates a pipeline for elementary students to grow into FIRST.
(I hope some/most of this is on topic for your original question!)
The elementary school is just down the road, 2 minutes away. The idea of FLL sounds really cool but it probably wont happen as we will be down to 1 mentor if we even have a team for FRC next season. Our budget is only around 18k-20k. Is there a map kind of thing to locate other teams in the lower leagues?
Does the elementary school have an FLL team? If not, could you help them start one?
Demoing at the Jr. High isn’t really outreach, it’s recruitment. You’re trying to get people to see your team and want to join it. There’s nothing wrong with that (it’s something many teams do!), but labeling it as strictly outreach isn’t necessarily accurate.
Demoing at the elementary school, with the intent of getting the kids there into another program like an FLL team, is closer to pure outreach. It can also establish a feeder program for your team. Your coach may be looking at the long game here - he’s not focused on the team’s performance next year, but rather on changing the culture across the district so 5 years down the line the team has students with experience coming in and excelling. Just imagine how much stronger your team will be if you have a dozen FLL teams in elementary schools and a few FTC teams in Jr. High all feeding students with design, fabrication, driving, and competition experience into your team. Imagine how much further into the community all of those teams and all that individual involvement is going to extend, and the opportunities for additional outreach and sponsorship it might open up.
To the focus of the OP… We do multiple types of outreach to younger students. There are demo’s, where we (and they!) drive the robot. We do workshops to get kids doing something hands-on. We work with Girl Scout troops to help the kids earn STEM-related badges at events hosted by Target Women in Science and Technology (TWIST) and Boston Scientific. We do presentations on our design process, or the competition, or FIRST in general.
The key is to look at the constraints of each event. What sort of space do you have? What sort of timeframe do you have? What age group are you interacting with? Take all that and figure out what the best way is to engage and inspire.
As a team probably not. It is due to not enough team members dedicated enough to help with an FTC/FLL team. This is where the feeder teams are helpful.
I personally might be able to talk to the superintendent about a team but i doubt a team would be started considering funds, workspace, mentor availability.
Our FRC team uses all 3 technology rooms in the high school. 1 of them, we can close off to “the public” until build is over. It is the room of designing, has computers. The school used to have CAD. The other 2, we have to clear out every night. These rooms contain machines for metal work and wood work. In the metal work room, there is a small closet in the corner, used to store all robotics stuff. Which is one of the reasons why we need to tear robots apart- not enough space, and not enough resources.
Our timeframe is from 3pm (or 4pm when faculty meetings) to about 6pm. I usually get to stay later, sometimes to 8pm. The main reason for ending at 6 is because our mentors couldnt keep up with all the noise and crowdedness. I stay after for other kinds of work; cutting different parts of the robot, other suggestions and more detailed explanations of plans.
The age group is from the usual 9th graders to seniors- 14 through 18.
I think you misunderstood this part of my post - I’m not asking about your team. If you’re looking to do an outreach event, think of those aspects for that event. Some events my team does on a regular basis, as an example:
FOX 9 Girls, Science, and Technology day at the Science Museum of MN. It’s an all-day event. We get some space to set up our robot, and have people wander through constantly. You’ll have kids K-8, typically. There are a lot of interesting things to do there, so we have to make our demo fluid, exciting, and hands on. Typically, we pick a ball shooting robot, as we can have kids driving it, other kids running around catching the balls and collecting them - something fun for everyone. And we have students that stand out at the front to talk about the program and how those kids can get involved in robotics at their age, along with brochures about FIRST that highlight FLL Jr, FLL, and FTC.
TWIST Girl Scout Day. This is a more structured event run by Target. The break the girl scouts into several groups, and cycle them through different stations, with our team being one of them. We essentially have a large meeting room to ourselves, set up with a projector and tables oriented for a presentation. We have a presentation we go over on our robot design process and do a small workshop to help them “design” their own robot, all with the intention of helping them toward their designing robots badge. Rinse and repeat for each group that comes through.
GRIP (Girls in Robotics Improving Performance). This is an event we host at our shop for girls from other teams. It’s strongly hands-on, happening all over our shop, with tracks for programming, mechanical, and electrical, designed to give them new skills and enhanced confidence they can take back to their teams so they can get more involved in a typically male-dominated activity.
SWEet Eats - A luncheon we run at the Minneapolis Regionals that gets the University SWE chapter involved to help show females from all teams attending what their future could look like. Those college students, along with adult mentors and volunteers that attend, get to provide career advise and help form closer ties for mutual support as the students grow. We have to work with the facilities to “rent” part of the concourse level, get tables, chairs, and a sound system in place, and order in food for 250-300 people.
The point is, all of these events are different. They all target different people, and have different ways of providing inspiration to those groups (and you’ll note - NONE of them are about recruiting students to our team - we keep outreach and recruitment separated!). How you structure your event is going to be highly dependent on the event itself and the constraints you have to work with - there is no “one size fits all” solution to outreach events!