School Regcognition

Let me preface this with I’m sure there are other threads on this topic, but search didn’t find anything within the past few years so I decided to start a new thread.

My team is going through some changes, and we are practically starting fresh with all new students. (We only have 2 or 3 students who regularly came to meetings returning from last year) Because of this, we are working on strong recruiting efforts. In these efforts, we found that very few people in the school (that is students, teachers, and administrators) knew that the team exists, let alone what it does and what it stands for (because FIRST is more than robots).

Many administrators don’t know that there is a robotics room in the school, much less where it is (it’s in the basement so few people go there). For recruiting purposes, on one day last year I drove to all of my classes on a robot testbed chassis with a chair on top (we call it the wheelchair), and many people were so surprised that high school students can build something mechanical that drives around and can support a person (it can support multiple people actually, but that’s besides the point). We go to pep rallies and throw Frisbees into the crowd with the 2013 robot, but people don’t realize that they can build something like that themselves. We drive our robots around the cafeteria during our club fair week, even driving the robot into the lunch line to buy lunch. This usually gets a few kids to sigh up, but most forget about the team and never come to any meetings (despite multiple personal reminders) or they come to one meeting and then promptly forget about the team. I remember one person who signed up at the fair three years in a row and was very excited to join the team, but forgot about us as soon as they finished signing up. When the fair came around again the next year, it was as if they never saw us the year before. We go to our middle schools and show off the robot and let the kids drive it; they are very interested but forget about it by the time they come to the high school. We have done displays a few times for our school board and they love it, but they forget about us as soon as we leave. It even went as far as our elementary school principal inviting FRC teams from other nearby school districts to their science day without inviting us because he didn’t know we existed.

Even with all of this outreach to our school and our feeder schools, kids and adults alike are still surprised to hear that the school has a robotics team. We have been around since 1999, and there has been a FRC team at our high school since before then (we merged with another nearby team in '99). We have never been a big team (7-10 kids nominal, 25-30 kids max in a 1200 student high school), but you would think after more than 15 years people would remember us.

So our school badly needs to be inspired, and we aren’t doing a good enough job right now. How recognized is your team within you school and district? What do you do to promote your team within your school, district, and community?

Our team has silent support and recognition on our campus. People say, “Oh, that robotics team is neat. Wait is it like battlebots?”

I’ve invited (as a teacher) my admin to visit our meetings. I think I’ve had one visit, and it produced a, “Wow, great job guys!”, and nothing else.

We’ve done pep rallies and Club Rush events, and it pulls in a few kids who stick around.

In the end, FRC is a complex, complicated, and difficult looking activity… and looks are NOT deceiving. FRC is for a select few dedicated students who can balance their coursework, robotics, and family/social life well. Large public events are decent at gaining some attention, but student members talking to others on campus, face-to-face, is the best way to increase exposure.

[just think, do you really know that much about what the football team does everyday based on a pep rally? or even going to a game? Not really]

If you want school support, it is a constant sales job. Emphasize the stem backbone of the robot club. Track what happens to the graduates of the robot club. The ones that go to college. Scholarships earned. The success of the ones that do not go to college. You are always in competition for scarce resources.

I would call that a RoboChair.

https://localwiki.org/davis/RoboChair

I would strongly discourage the use of the word “Club”, Clubs get less money and resources than Teams do. We stopped calling ourselves a club many years ago and have been taken more seriously since(even before we started getting awards and winning).

I think I missed that part of the contract… :rolleyes:

I definitely see what you mean about not having enough recognition. The team I am currently on is a combination of 3 different schools, all being in the same area. From each school we have about 9-10 kids (28 students on the team total).

When I tell people at my school I am on a robotics team and going to competition in another city, they do the whole “We have a robotics team” bit. Our school recognition (at my school at least) is so terrible that when I was searching for an extracurricular activity through my school guidance counselor I had a list of the school activities printed online and I asked him about the robotics team, and where do they meet. He looked at me and said “We have a robotics team?”

So something that may be looking into would be reaching out to other schools, trying to recruit more members. If we were only one school we’d be in the same boat as you guys.

Realize band cult & varsity sport puts the same demands on time.

One of the goals of the FIRST experience is to teach that although STEM can be demanding, the rewards are real & in reach of most that put forth the effort. We try to teach the skills needed to be successful.

My bad. Yes emphasis team & the competitive aspect.

We actually used to be a combined team of three nearby schools, but two of the three schools have left the joint team (one completely quit and one moved to FTC). I think the fact that we were from more than one school from '99 until last year may be part of the reason why we aren’t as well known in our current school. We only had 2 kids from the other school in the past 4 years, but we couldn’t “market” ourselves as our school’s team. Now that we are only one school, we are debating changing the team name/symbol/colors to better reflect our school mascot and colors (Simple Machines have nothing to do with Panthers), which will hopefully make it a little more obvious that the team is a part of the school.

I started this thread not as much for recruitment advice (although we could use some of that too) but more for what teams do in their school community to create awareness of their team. I have heard that some teams go to every science class and give a short demo or that some teams are considered varsity sports in their school. I would like to know what other kind of things teams do and whether or not they worked, especially teams that are in the same boat as us and have overcome it to be recognized by their school and community.

We are currently planning an exhibition event (yet to be named) in the fall for nearby teams to come to our high school and show off their robots. If we get enough teams and field pieces we will be playing matches of Recycle Rush (I know it’s not the most entertaining game but its the only fully functional robot we have). The goal is to get kids to realize FIRST isn’t just a few nerds in the basements of far away schools, but it is fun and very much in their community. We are lucky enough to be in a densely populated area as far as FRC teams go, so we are hoping to have a number of teams attend. Any advice on this event (or if you want to attend) or advice on outreach to the school in general is greatly appreciated.

The team I just graduated from has been around since 1998, and I think we are well known (in addition to our outreach) since our school principals have been supporters of the robotics team. Our 3500 student high school has had at least 2 principals since we formed and our coach has been extremely effective at convincing the principal that our program is worthwhile and meaningful for the students. (Also note that we worked toward getting school support every year and had never won an event until 2014) If you can get even a single person with a lot of power in your school to support your efforts then they will be able to help your team get more recognition and “advertising” in the school and community.

Also, every year our school system (1 high school, 3 middle, 11? elementary) holds a 5k run/walk for the school foundation with thousands of people in attendance, and every year for a long time the FRC team and FTC/FLL have demoed there. Many of our students will say that their first inspiration to join robotics was seeing the FRC team when they were in elementary school.

Make your team memorable and noticeable to the school/community, and that coupled with the outreach that you already seem to do will get more students into your program.

Something that we are doing/have already done is going to Freshman orientation at each of the 3 schools. This is usually a great way to get incoming freshman to join the team.

We do demonstrations at Science Museums.

Another thing we do is similar to what you said about going to the science classes, but my high school has an engineering program that you can enroll in. We usually take a day and show off the robot for all the classes. And this is how probably 8/10 people joined my team from the school.

We also attempt to promote ourselves through the school’s morning announcements, but we haven’t done that in the past years.

Its time to start taking names. Seriously, whenever you have an outreach event, (middle school, start of year activity fair, etc.) make sure you have a laptop or paper sheets to take names and contact information. A laptop can be better because unreadable handwriting is not an issue.

In addition to name and contact information, collect interest:

  • Will consider donating $ to team (may want to know more)
  • Will consider donating goods/services to team
  • Will consider joining team
  • Will consider having their child join the team
  • Will consider volunteering at a FIRST event.
  • Will consider mentoring the team.
  • Will consider funding an FRC Regional (have them contact me :slight_smile: )

Then retain the information and follow up at appropriate times.

Also, put up posters around the school (may need permission) and hold an informational, no commitment required, meeting so people can understand more of what it is about.

I would say that a good start would be to get a meeting with multiple of your school administrators. Principle, Asst. Principle, Office managers, counselors, etc. and tell them what you told us. They can help in ways such as adding your team to the announcements, putting the team in printed material, and other “official” recognition. Preferably talk to as many of them as you can and get them to agree to help with your recognition problem (that may be a much easier thing to get them to agree to than giving you money)

Look around at the other teams and clubs at your school that DO have recognition. Are there signs about them in the hallways or on buildings? Are they often mentioned during weekly announcements? Are they mentioned in email blasts to parents or students? How do they get their recognition at Pep Rallies? (my school used to announce each team that came onto the floor, make sure you are part of that announcement!)

The first step of getting that stuff done is to get buy-in from the school administration and then KEEP ON THEM until the school publications are including your team regularly. make sure you don’t just that task over the wall to them, work closely with them to build that recognition.

Another key way to get decision makers on board is to invite them to attend a regional (and offer to drive them if it is any distance away!) Once they see a regional (or district event) they’ll much better appreciate the program.

We did this at one of the 3 schools this evening with our 2014 bot as a demo robot, we managed 7 people to sign up for next year.

I think that it’s safe to say that a lot of the people will never be seen in the 2016 season, but it’s a start.

One of the things I have done in the past to raise awareness of our team was to create several different videos using match and shop video shot in the previous seasons. these videos would be played on our school’s morning announcements as well as posted to YouTube and social media. While there primary purpose was recruitment, by playing one every day for a week, most school administrators and almost every student was at least made aware of the existence of the team.

On 1065 our teams existence is spread throughout the school by our schools news, and team pictures posted to our school district’s homepage after winning an award or competition. An easy way to improve team awareness is to make sure to advertise with clarity. Are you trying to be a team or a club or both? 1065 makes it clear we are a club that designs and builds 2 robots 1-2 days a week between January and March with the intention of competing at 2-4 competitions. Another effective advertising tool is having well designed team shirt that members are ok with wearing around the school. These, combined with posters detailing what your team does, can provide year round reminder of your teams existence along with information on how to join.

Our team comes from one all-girls’ school, and you won’t believe how difficult it is to recruit people. The good part, however, is that the people we recruit are extremely loyal to the team.

Our Robotics team is at almost every single school event, especially the ones involving parents. Really though, I’ve found that the easiest way to recruit people is to get people to invite their own friends to the team, or to demo our robot.

Too true, haha.

“That’s a cool robot. Have you heard of --”

“Battlebots?”

“How did you --”

“You wouldn’t believe how many people asked us. And no, we don’t plan to add chainsaws.”

Add mills and lathes instead, they are much more dangerous!

First of all, the recruitment strategies you guys do seem pretty on point. I think I’ll agree that making a robot like this seems hard to make to a new student and that it might deter some from joining. Something we do on our team (we have 109 people) is we go to a club fair (where the whole school goes during lunch to sign up for clubs) we sometimes take the robot there, but we always use a Google form and take down names and emails. We then add them to our email list and send out emails when we have meetings and mandatory meetings for parents and students. In these introductory meetings, we do a few things. We first start off with how much commitment is involved, the responsibilities involved, etc. We then show competition/match footage as well as some FIRST footage. We also list our accomplishments, show the awards, and drop the fact that there are 20 million dollars worth of scholarships available to FIRST students. Usually, we have a balance of student leaders and mentors show all this, so that way parents can see our leaders and what type of people our team helps us become as well as students can see that there are mentors who will guide them through the robot building process. Being a huge team, we have 7 build leads (4 captains, 3 coordinators), and we also tell them that the leaders will help the mentors teach everyone during MidKnight U (which is a several week workshop that we do to train new people) as well as build the two robots during the season (so there’s plenty to do). That’s part of what 1923 does to recruit people. We also tell them about how many leadership positions we have (something like 15-20) and how that might look good on college apps in the future. We are switching to a different recruitment strategy this coming season, but I didn’t want suggest that as the point of that is to bring our numbers down to 70 (we aren’t kicking anyone off, it the amount that show up after paying dues anyway). Just a little background, we have a very competitive school district where parents try and make their kids do everything, so many joining without realizing that it will be as much commitment as a sports team (I sure didn’t realize it when freshman year when I tried to do swim team and this :rolleyes:). But anyways, I wish you good luck on recruiting!