Parent Involvement - FRC

Although the conference schedule is not yet posted :confused: I will be doing a presentation on “RoboParents: Parent Involvement in FIRST”.

I have a draft, but would love to add more stories. Please feel free to post here or email me. I am working with HQ to try to get more statistics.

I am also looking for examples of effective parent booster clubs in FIRST and people who would be willing to be a contact for questions about this, as well as handbooks with sections targeting parents.

Presentation is slotted at 5pm on Thursday.

Parental involvement is critical to the success of any team. Helping in fundraising, food and mentoring are all areas that need involvement. Of course, another avenue is assuring school support. By 2001, the Lyme-Old Lyme School Region had elected 3 TechnoTicks parents to the school board. This was early in the Tick’s history (rookie year 1999), but proved critical in the growth years that ultimately led to the Hall of Fame.

In 2004 the Dublin Robotics Boosters was formed and from what I saw in '04 and '05 and what I can gather today, they are a strong booster organization.

You can contact mathking here on ChiefDelphi to see if you can get a direct contact with the boosters. He could probably add some perspective on their help given he is the Lead Coach/Teacher for 1014.

This feels like an obligatory question, but will the presentation be online for us poor souls who won’t make it to the arch this year?

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We don’t have a ‘parent-booster club’ per say, but parents do a lot on our team. We have at least 5 engineering mentors who were/are parents of students on the team.

Aside from that, parents do a lot in the non-engineering aspect of the team. A few examples are:

  • Several parents over the past several years have been major parts in organizing fundraisers
  • When we have our pancake breakfast fundraiser, 4-5 parents volunteer to help organize and host the event
  • In 2010, when one of our students joined the team, his dad took A LOT of pictures of the team. Now, he is our ‘unofficial photographer’ (affectionately dubbed our ‘SparX Stalker’). He still takes pictures at many of our major events.
  • Parents provide transportation to groups of student for events such as our annual community service day
  • Several parents who are business owners have becomes sponsors of the team.

PM me if you want to talk more about it. These are just a few things that come off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more specific stories I could come up with.

My mom firmly believes that a successful team will have a team mom, who can help the kids balance school and robotics, teach them about relationships, keep the general morale up, and ensure that no matter what, the kids have a good time. To this end, she became an official district sponsor despite only being a paraprofessional (traditionally, the sponsors are teachers), and therefore goes on the trips with the kids and sets up meals and activities that maximize the amount of money we keep out of our per diem while still eating great and having fun. She also does the bumpers for the robot, and organizes the team PR supplies (teaching whatever students want to learn about graphics design). A lot of us students (my brother and I included) go to her before going to the mentors to either learn how to phrase things or to express concerns without fear of rebuke. She then helps us learn to phrase our problems tactfully, or approaches the mentors herself. All in all, she has basically taken everything she normally does for me and my brother, and extends it to every kid on the team.
Along with my mom, several of the mentors have kids on the team, and several had kids on the team and have stayed as mentors.
A weird extension of parents on the team: most students bring their parents to the competition. But one of our young teacher sponsors, fresh out of college, keeps bringing her parents to the competitions. Yes, an adult is so excited by FIRST that she brought her parents along.
That’s all I’ve got right now.

One of team 111’s most prominent mentors, Al Skierkiewicz, started out as a parent volunteer. He’s now the Chief Robot Inspector for multiple competitions, including one of the leaders of the inspectors at the championships.

We’re pretty darn happy he stuck around after his son graduated, to say the least.

This sounds like a great topic. 766 will be at the Championships but I won’t be there in person this year. I’ll try and convince another parent to attend, and I would also be interested if you’re able to let us participate online.

Parents have well defined roles on 766. Mostly they are fairly standard: we take the lead on most of the fund raising, we supply the meals & snacks for the build sessions, and we provide transportation when a robot needs to travel to a competition or outreach event.

Also, since our build sessions are held on our high school campus and it’s not possible for our faculty adviser to attend every build session, the school district requires at least one parent to supervise the team at any given time, and parent supervisors must pass a background check first.

Sometimes a parent also acts as one of the technical mentors too, but that does not happen too often on our team.

It will be posted on the Resources page for NEMO (non-engineering mentor organization) under the “Parent” section. Some of what will be in the presentation is already there.

Don’t know where FIRST will be posting conference presentations. I’ll let the organizers answer that one.

Thanks to everyone who has offered stories and suggestions so far. Keep them coming.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, yes we started out as parents back in 1996. I mentored the video team and Dottie provided support for the animation team while they worked at school. I was pulled into the pit at the very first Midwest Regional and have been involved with the electrical team ever since. Dottie and I kept hanging out, going to the adult meetings and such. It helped that Dottie was part of school admin and actually worked for the department head of District 214 BTLS (Business/Technology/Life Studies) for part of the time we have been involved. Although we were part of the team, there was no distinction for us as we were neither teachers nor Motorola Engineers. Our children were on the team for a total of six years and we just stayed after that. Dottie works with fundraising and other duties and we both chaperone. At events, I do robot inspections and Dottie helps as an ambassador and helps with awards. As the team progressed and grew, more parents became involved until now there are quite a few parents who help out with different functions on the team. I would have to say we have a very good parents group and they support the team in various ways from assisting with meals to transportation and demos. In most cases, it just took someone to ask for help or if help was needed to get them involved. I have to say we are very lucky to have a large team and great parents who support us and their children.

Winnovation FIRST Team 1625 has a great bunch of parents too - and as kids have graduated, we have several alumni parents (including our lead mentors!) who have remained active along with some alumni grandparents and aunts and uncles.

Along with the standard roles, we ask each family to provide two meals during build season. Basically, our parents provide food every evening around 6pm, and then lunch and dinner on Saturday and Sundays. This keeps the kids from driving around looking for food, ultimately saves money, and hopefully keeps everyone eating healthier. We have a few families (very, very few) who are not able to or choose not to participate - their loss actually.

This year, we asked each family to provide an adult (over 21) to help with shop supervision for a 4-hour shift; this was to ensure a second adult was on site whenever the shop was open. This was well received as well. Some families who have not spent much time at the shop were encouraged to do so, and other families who spend a lot of time there got a break if they needed it. No special skills required–you might end up helping with strategy, assembly, marketing or just spending some one-on-one time with a teen who needs that interaction.

I used to take our parental involvement for granted. At a team social at one of last year’s regionals a parent from a local team remarked how they had to make a couple of trips to get all the kids to the regional. We had at least one parent for 25 of our 30 kids at the out-of-town regional, along with grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

This year I blogged about our “bot shop” being the busiest spot in town on a Saturday night.

I started on team 176 in the fall of 2002 accidentally. My wife said she had a headache & needed me to take my son to the meeting. Well, about 1/2 hr into the meeting I was hooked! During that year they needed someone to make mini ramps for demonstrations at schools & Libraries. They also needed someone to take over setting up the field for Scrimmage, since the previous volunteer was no longer there. Since I like to build things I took over & have been doing it ever since. 4 years ago a FIRST Mentor suggested I help out at the CT Regional. As before I jumped on the chance. I had 2 sons go through FIRST, the older one graduated HS in 2003 & the younger one in 2007. I was hooked, so I stayed, helping out the team & staying i contact with a bunch of the students who are now alumni. Some have gone on to mentoring other teams, some still in college, some now work in great jobs. I always was there to shuttle the robots & students around when needed. More parents should get involved & enjoy the rewards.

Thanks again for these great examples.
I will be incorporating stories, and links to team handbooks. Please feel free to let me know about others.
Abstracts and conference information posted here:

Thursday April 26, 5-5:45p
RoboParents: Parent Involvement in FIRST
There are lots of parents who play a role on FIRST teams. This conversation will cover: estimates of how many parents are involved; recognizing barriers to parent involvement; hints for how to engage parents; and an overview of the possible roles - including as mentors. We’ll also briefly cover the topics of parent handbooks and booster clubs and share resources for finding more information.
Although this session will focus on FRC teams, some of the discussion is applicable to all FIRST programs.
This session may be of interest to team leaders, administrators, and teachers and of course, parents!

The importance of parent involvement in a successful sustainable team cannot be over emphasized. Not every team will have the good fortune to be at a school that has the resources or luck to have faculty or industry support. Our own team has no teacher involvement. I do not blame the teachers at all, there is just too much for them to do these days. We also have only very limited support from local industry. If it were not for the parents, this team would probably dry up and blow away. However there is another side to parent involvement if taken from the side of the parent.

I know there can be a lot of competing demands for a parents time. Many have demanding jobs, other children to worry about, and any collection of logistical, financial, and personal issues to contend with. Add the very demanding time commitment that FIRST can be and being a parent volunteer can seem fairly overwhelming. An yet, I think parents should and often do see this not so much as a burden, but as a incredible once in a lifetime opportunity. Here is their high school age child showing an interest in something really constructive, educational, and character building. Not only that, but they need and want their parents to be involved. No mater how challenging being a parent volunteer can be they should jump at the chance. Such an opportunity will probably never come again.

My own children did not attend a high school that had a FIRST team at the time they went there, and I do not know it it would have really been something they were interested in anyway. But they did Destination Imagination and IB. They loved both programs and I think both both of them helped ignite a new level interest in academics, society, and each other. I acted as a mentor for a short time with destination Imagination, and our family did a lot to support the IB program. The opportunity to be involved in with a FIRST team, or any similar high school program is as much of a rare gift as a burden. If my own children were involved with a FIRST team where I was volunteering it would just be that much more special.

To any parents out there. Do not let this opportunity pass you by.

I will be looking forward to your Info. as a 2nd year parent mentor on team 585 we have been talking about a parent boosters, we do have good involment from most parents on the team but as we ready ourselfs for the trip to ST Louis, I think only 3 of us will be on the trip , IM me for some info on what we do and how we do it .