Outreach Importance - How do you do it?

Hello CD World again. I kinda like really posting, I have so many questions and notes I want to learn about FIRST teams around the world! So I’m sorry if you see my name pop up a bunch.

I was wondering about how teams prioritize outreach and what they do. What is the main staple outreach your team loves to do, what are some future events you are planning, what did you do that you look to accomplish again?
This year, I would like my team to be more in service to the community we are funded and based out of, by helping a literacy group and soup kitchen that is near our space. I also would like to bring a robot to a hospital to give back to the children there (still in the works with pros and cons). I’m throwing in more ideas to see what can stick with the team and how to work to make ourselves and our presence better.

For teams who are heavily outreach-based, can you answer the following questions:

  • How did your team start doing outreach events? Did you have a history of not attending any?
  • What is your team’s “staple” event that is more important or frequent than other events. It can be an outreach event where you recruit from, a camp for children, sponsor event, etc.
  • Who organizes the events in your team? Sponsors, mentors, students?
  • What would you recommend to teams who are looking to start attending these events more?

Thank you for reading. I would most like to see how teams do this so others can look onto here for information and inspiration.

:two_hearts:

We find that outreach, just for the sake of outreach, isn’t really what we’re about. Sure, we could go out there and find all sorts of places to demo the robot and get different people to see it… but how do you measure that sort of impact?

Instead, we focus on outreach that directly impacts our mission statement: “To inspire girls of all ages to incorporate STEM into their lives and to revolutionize the perception of women in STEM.” So when we evaluate an outreach opportunity, we ask how it fits in with our mission. Ideas like the one you provided don’t really fit in with the mission.

Instead, we do stuff like the upcoming Target Women in Science and Technology (TWIST) Girl Scout Day, or the Boston Scientific Girl Scout Badge Day, or the Fox9 Girls, Science, and Technology day at the Science Museum. Those all apply to the first part - inspiring girls of all ages.

We do stuff with other teams, too. 3M has a “Robots invade the Plaza” day, We participate at the MN State Fair, along with 30ish other teams. We present at local training days for teams. These sorts of events address the last part - revolutionize the perception of women in STEM - by putting us up there right next to coed and male dominated teams.

Finally, we run unique events ourselves. Our fall GRIP program has been fairly popular as a training event for girls on other teams, with a focus on self-advocacy. We run SWEet Eats at the Minnesota Regionals, giving girls on other teams a chance to network with each other, SWE members, female mentors, and volunteers. These sorts of events fall under the middle part - incorporating STEM into their lives.

By focusing our outreach this way, we create a powerful story we can tell others. It also helps us avoid saying “yes” to every opportunity and burning everyone out. While some of the events are externally organized, larger events, our portion of them is entirely student-led. The same with the events we control ourselves. Mentors are there to guide, teach, and help… but the students do the bulk of the work in organizing and preparing for the event.

We don’t have any sort of “staple” event we run multiple times each year. Every event is unique, and is treated as such.

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While all of my experience with outreach is on a team that has prioritized outreach since its founding 20 years ago, I hope I can offer some insight into how we got to the point where we are today.

Our outreach started with demos which are fairly easy to plan and run. As long as you have a robot and a few eager students, you can go to a variety of locations and inspire people of all ages. I would recommend having your team’s programmers create an outreach mode for the robot that’s slower and has an override controller so kids can drive it. Team 461 usually does a variety of this type of outreach from demos at the Indianapolis Science March to a science fair for deaf children. While it’s a staple event, it can be adapted to meet a lot of unique audiences.

Because demos can only teach students so much, our team grew to prioritize STEM education. Every summer, we run four weeks of summer camp and throughout the year we host merit badge workshops for girl scouts, scouts, and cub scouts. At most of these events, we use old LEGO NXTs; however, if your team doesn’t have access to LEGO robotics stuff, you can also run events using Scratch to teach programming. Also, some concepts can be taught using craft supplies. We’ve taught computer networking using notecards, robotic manipulators with cardboard, and cybersecurity using play-doh. If anyone’s interested, we have an outreach website that details how to run events and has all our curriculums published on it.

Another staple part of our program is providing robotics teams for younger members of our community. We sponsor and mentor our own pipeline from FLL Jr to FTC that feeds into our FRC team. Of all of our outreach, this requires the most funding and effort but it’s really valuable and parents are often willing to mentor FLL teams.

Further, this year our team’s outreach expanded to include Unified Robotics teams in our school system. The program provides a FIRST-style robotics competition for students with special needs. While most teams are located in Washington, our team (in Indiana) did it for the first time this year and are currently planning to host a competition for other nearby teams to attend. If your team is near or in Indiana and is interested, let us know by emailing unified@boilerinvasion.org.

As for planning events, our outreach is run almost entirely by our students with FLL and a few demos being arranged by mentors. In order to get our students involved, we train everyone and require all our team members to accumulate 20 hours of service before they can travel to events.

To start more outreach, I’d recommend starting with demos then moving to more intricate programs. I hope I was helpful; if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me or my team!

Hello,
How do you keep your members engaged over the summer? After competitions, most of our students are wiped out and participation lags. We had a couple outreach events in the planning, but put them on hold due to lack of interest and participation.

And not just over summer, too. We have found just getting students involved voluntarily to do these events can be a challenge.

We elect our new officers right after competition season which allows the new leadership to take off and lead the team through summer projects and outreach. Additionally, we have an entire subteam dedicated to planning outreach (which turns into chairman’s during build season) and since their main priority is to plan outreach, they ensure everything is planned. With the outreach team and the new leadership working together to motivate students, there’s a lot of pressure to fulfill the outreach requirement early, leading to high rates of student participation.

Without the outreach requirement, it can be hard to get students involved, which was why we implemented it in the first place. After using a system where students need to do at least some outreach, students usually do more voluntarily. For example, our average student did around 30 hours of outreach last year even though they were only required to do 10.

As for planning summer events, I’d recommend putting whatever student leadership you have in charge of it so they can recruit their friends to participate as well. Also, having meetings solely for the purpose of planning outreach will help it get done and be prioritized.

Up until about four years ago, my team (4004) was not involved in our community whatsoever. We decided that that’s not how we wanted to conduct our team, so we started off by showing up at random little community get-together’s where we would show off our robot and hand out brochures with information about our team. As we started attending more and more of these little demo’s, we started finding out about bigger events in our area, like Party in the Park and Food Truck Rallies. We started attending those types of events for a couple of years, where we would demonstrate our robot, have team members to talk about our team, and sell drinks. We just started working our way up by attending more and more events, and soon enough, people started reaching out to US, we didn’t even have to ask to come.

We now help out huge programs like MI Kids on the Move. With this program, our students modify driveable toy cars to better suit the needs of children with limiting disabilities, most of which have cerebral palsy. This event takes priority over many other events because it’s truly amazing to see the look on these kids faces when they can drive that car for the first time. It’s a great program because we’re helping give kids with disabilities a chance to be just like every other child, and not miss out on anything.

Everybody organizes events on our team. Sponsors do some, mentors do a ton, and students even help out. Because we’ve had many opportunities to get our team name out there, we have many generous sponsors and they invite us to super cool events. Mentors are a huge part in organizing team events, too, especially our team admin/team mom, Jamie Page. Some of the events we attend on a normal basis were originally brought to our attention by students. Since we are a community team, we have students from other cities that are aware of events that nobody else knows about, so that’s awesome.

To teams that are looking into attending community/outreach events: Start looking around on Facebook and community directories and things like that so you can start attending smaller events and slowly work your way up!

Hello,
How do you keep your members engaged over the summer? After competitions, most of our students are wiped out and participation lags. We had a couple outreach events in the planning, but put them on hold due to lack of interest and participation.

And not just over summer, too. We have found just getting students involved voluntarily to do these events can be a challenge.

Hello! I can provide some insight as to how my team accomplishes these things. We have troubles too, which I think can be said for all teams that look to accomplish this. We rely on the importance and marketing of these events, as well as the dedication of members to accomplish these off season outreach events.

We market them to their benefits if we do something. An example is we went to a potential sponsor’s space and told our students they would be future sponsors of our team if we accomplished this. We had an unideal season back in the 2018 season, so this was a big point for people to attend. We also try to provide lunch the student’s favor. Otherwise, it is up to the student’s to decide if they want to benefit the team through these events. Another unrelated clause from these events is it helps us pick Captains for the next years through dedication to the team, on and off the field. While not spoken of, it is a big thing we look for when picking captains.

I hope this helps!

That’s an amazing remark to this thread, thank you for sharing. A huge disadvantage to my plans is the amount of burnout we receive, so we are looking to make the best impact we can while we avoid a burnout. That’s a great way to do everything, and I like how its student run at times too! As a former all-female community team, this is amazing to see more female orientated and dedicated teams and events.

I never thought about relating to our mission. Our mission is a bit broad, we want to promote STEM in a affordable way to our community in hindsight. But for a mission like yours, it fits perfectly.

Otherwise, what seems amazing what you do, don’t stop!

Unpopular opinion #24135:

heavy outreach isn’t for every team. If your goal is to be a community focused team who actually cares about out reach do it right. Time and time again I see teams “farming” bad out reach events to inflate their award submissions and that’s not right, and this discussion can segway into how broken the chairman’s award is, but that’s a talk for another thread. If your doing out reach for the sake of chairman’s alone you shouldn’t do it at all. You do outreach if you’re goal is to make an impact on the community.

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I heavily agree with your statement. Doing something for the sake of chairman’s is a bad way to do it because no motivation to help spread FIRST isn’t there. It’s just a boring event for the students. I want to help the community that has given back to us through members, sponsors, mentors, and just endless love and support.

I’m trying to also change that moral of the team, that we only do these events for Chairman’s inflation. But as you said, that’s a thread for a different day. I appreciate your comment and opinion :slight_smile:

While this may not be best for your team, I generally advise teams the opposite: to demo at events that may not at first glance align to specific parts of your mission statement.

When teams participate in local events in their towns, they get exposure to potential mentors, sponsors, members, and public officials. On my previous teams some of my favorite mentors to work with were recruited at events like Harvest Festivals, Apple Festivals, and Strawberry festivals! Last season my prior team was able to meet. Communities like supporting the teams who are visible in their events and are integrated extremely well.

I’m still learning about what 177 does, but they will be at a local car show, strawberry fest, etc just for exposure to stay relevant in the community.

It takes a ton of committed teachers, students, mentors, and parents to facilitate summer outreach events, so definitely do not burn yourselves out. Having multiple functioning robots available to take to demo’s helps as well. That way you don’t have to lug along your biggest/heaviest robots.

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This right here is probably the issue for my team… as a private catholic school, we draw from all over the metro area. There is no single city/town we can/should be integrating with, really.

I can certainly see using outreach events as recruitment tools for sponsors/mentors. If that’s a desire/need for the team, I imagine they would want to think carefully about the type of events that would best serve that purpose, and focus their outreach in that direction.

It’s all about focusing your outreach to get the result you want, not just doing it because it’s there :slight_smile:

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Every team is different, so their goals are different. (Also hi Akash! I hope you’re doing well. I’m glad to see you joined 177! I loved visiting their space when I was with 3182 :slight_smile: ) Teams such as 177 are school teams that deprive from that school system. Private Catholic school is sort of the same thing, but their mission aligns with their values. In comparison, a team such as 3182 uses outreach as tools to get our name out and to help our community. We take in students from about four-to-five towns and eight school systems. It depends on how your team executes itself and what you are trying to accomplish. No shame in turning down events if you feel it would not benefit your mission or goals.

Our team does lots of outreach during the year, and every year when discussing which events to go to, our coach always reminds us: “We [hopefully] win awards because we do stuff, we don’t do stuff to win awards.” I think this is very important to remember and is something that I have taken to heart. All of your outreach should have the goal of being a place to spread your team and spread FIRST. With that in mind:

  1. Our team started doing outreach when we had the means to. I mean this to say that we really started doing a lot of outreach when we were able to transport our robot, have people to operate it at every event, and have the proper means to promote our team and FIRST. We used to do maybe one every year, but now we do about 10 every year.

  2. Our staple event is the FTC Michigan State Championship. We use it to get the students to keep on with FIRST robotics and to expose our sponsors to what FIRST robotics does for them.

  3. Our coach will usually bring up the opportunities, but the students will organize who is going and which robot to bring/what it will do.

  4. For teams that are trying to start to do outreach, I would recommend that you have strong logistics. Make sure that you know which robot is going (if you have multiple robots), who is going with the robot, and the you have good giveaways so people remember your team and remember FIRST. Also, if you can, build an outreach robot, like a t-shirt cannon or (hopefully) something more creative. For example, we have a hugbot, which is just a pneumatic skeleton stuffed inside of a 6-foot tall teddy bear (I wish I had a picture).

Hope this helps!

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What a great motto. I might start using that!

What was your team’s only outreach event, and how did you get the means to start attending multiple outreach events? And I must see this snuggly teddy bear bot. It sounds ADORABLE :heart::heart::heart:

Other than that, thank you for responding! I love seeing the impact your team has and how you do it. We are looking to make a speaker robot and for it to chuck the balls from Stronghold and the fuel from Steamworks. The idea and design are in the works at the moment. (Still looking for a Greek name for it, lol). :slight_smile:

:two_hearts:

I believe that our only event was our high school’s homecoming parade. We got the means by having more members be commited. Thats how we can get people to events and how we can transport people. Also here is our hugbot.

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Not to be dramatic but I would DIE for Hugbot. 100%.