start-of-school recruiting help

Hi everyone,

It’s that’s time of year again. School is starting and that means new freshmen arriving. Our school has a freshman orientation day with a club fair where all the clubs can try to recruit. Unfortunately, none of the clubs/teams get much space and we have to compete with the inflatables that are set up in the gym.

We are looking for a better way to let these freshmen know about robotics.

We have a lot of cool things we can advertise, like:

  1. robots. They are cool.
  2. we have food at our meetings
  3. we travel to a lot of cool places and miss a lot of school
  4. the robotics teams have won more trophies than all the athletic teams combined in the last couple of years
  5. we try to emphasize the business and outreach opportunities
  6. looks great on college applications

but even when we have robots available for the kids to drive they are still often doubtful and say things such as “I’m not smart enough” or “I’m afraid I’ll break the robot.”

We’re a small FRC team (10-15 returning members) that also does FTC in the fall. Our incoming class is probably about 100 freshmen (400 total kids at our school).

Does anyone have anything they can share with us about how you recruit new members? We mentor a lot of FLL teams at our feeder schools so expect to grow quickly in a couple of years, but we need a way to get kids who have never done robotics involved as well.

Just reading through this, your biggest interaction, the club fair, is a place where you want to work with, not compete against. If you have a 2014, 2016 or 2013 robot, they’re all excellent games to “interact” with a crowd. Launch fuel, boulders, frisbees, and large balls. It’s one thing to go in a bounce-house, as fun as they are, it’s another to play catch with a robot.

Secondly, you can stress things other than the robot, like strategy, design, AV, and so on.

And finally, the easiest way to counter the “I’m not smart enough” view is to say that’s why you join! To learn! The brightest minds of their generation weren’t born the brightest, they learned how to do better by doing.

I wish you guys the best of luck, have fun, do well, and remember… there’s more to this than the robot.

The best way that we have found to recruit is to play a cool video with a cool robot on the morning announcements or play it at your recruitment day on an iPad or computer. That always helps. Below is a link to our recruitment video. Feel free to use it to recruit some new members. This video has helped grow student interest in our team by about 60%. Another way is to have a flyer that has all of the information on it as well. Below I will give you a link to our flyer as well. We sent this out to our students via email as well giving them out as in hard copy form during open house night. The flyer is double sided, but the first side is for students.

Recruitment Video:

Good Luck,

DM Robotics
FIRST Team #6314

We hold a summer camp for incoming freshmen that seems to work quite well. We have 13 freshmen attending this year, out of a class of about 80, which is typical. So a smaller school, yet we have 25-30 students every year.

When talking with the incoming freshmen, you need to emphasize your training program. No experience needed, learn how to build/wire/program a robot. Signing up for our summer camp doesn’t commit you for the entire season, it’s just 2 weeks, and a smaller commitment is much easier to make. Get them in the door, and then its your job to keep them :slight_smile:

One of the big things my team focused on was " More than just robots". we listed a good majority of our sub groups and highlighted the non technical.
I felt strongly that by having robots there and some technical people there would be enough to already engage the people interested in STEM But we want to reach out to as many people as possible by highlighting other areas and empathizing our team diversity.

If you want specific detals on what we did I can get you encotact with our student PR lead.

My team comes from two very small schools, and at least one doesn’t have any kind of school fair (I don’t know about the other). The way I see it, a lot of our recruitment is done through simple word of mouth. We do have several FLL teams and two FTC teams that we support, and we do hold a Lego League summer camp, but from my experience, most recruitment has been done through students actively trying to get others to join and not through any kind of event.

However, this is a topic that my team is looking very closely into now because, currently, we have a very small amount of members and a large percentage of those members are in the Class of 2018. If you have any suggestions that would apply, please let me know!

All good advice above.

I’d add, if you have the data, once you get students in for a meeting, share with them what your grads are doing. Where did they go to school? What did they major in? What sort of internships or jobs have they landed?

I’ve had many students who are interested in engineering but told me they didn’t “have the time” for robotics. While showing that robotics is fun and cool works to attract some students, for others you need to make a case for their after school time.

You might want to de-emphasize 2 and 3 in the future. Students attracted by those are likely to fade away once they find out they have to actually do something.

  1. Those considering careers in STEM fields can make contacts with people who can help them find a job after college.

Make it clear that robotics TEAM is much more than robots. You need artists, writers, video & photo people, etc.

Also make it clear that no experience (or smarts) needed, just a desire to learn cool stuff. When they show up, put a power drill in their hand and have them drill a hole in aluminum.

Here are some things I want to try this year, as we also have a small team:

  1. Ask the math, history, business, science and english teachers to sell the team for 5 minutes during class. YOU need to give them what to talk about, but emphasize how the team uses the subject they teach (and those other things like trophies, college apps, scholarship $$, travel, food, fun, etc…)

  2. Get a cheerleader to join the team. Put a drill in his or her hands and have them drill a hole. Just ask, it really works. Next thing others will want to join.

  3. When people show up, assign someone good to stick to them and have them do stuff: drill holes, pop rivets, cut things… Nothing is worse than a new shy kid showing up and just ignored.

Let us know what works and what doesn’t!

+1 to these, and also let me suggest:

  1. Learning to work as a team. Teamwork/coordination/communication is a essential element of just about any technical or professional career (STEM-related or not). Experience with a competitive team will help prepare you for your career, and (properly written) will look good on a resume’.
  1. Ask for students who may not have a strong interest in technology but want to go into project management. Maybe check with the students in in any business classes. The Captain of one of the local teams did not pick up any tools, write any code or drive the robot. He went to all the sub-teams to make sure they were on track and were working with the other sub-teams.

The strong FRC teams often have better project management systems in effect than most of the places I have worked.

Thanks, everyone, for all the ideas! We’re incorporating several of them into our after school robotics open house tomorrow. We had quite a few people drive robots last week at the freshmen orientation day and several said they would come to our info meeting this week. We also got permission to send a schoolwide email blast (basically to everyone) about it including a lot of the non-robot benefits, and made some announcements on the intercom. Wish us luck!

Best of luck.
Oddly we have had three “walk ons”, incoming freshmen who have heard of the team and sought us out in the off season. Given that we are a young team and only lost two seniors that puts us on paper at our recruiting goals already.
But we aim to to from a team size of 20 up to closer to 30, so we’ll do a bit of recruiting anyway. After this season we will be losing both of our main programmers.
T. Wolter

Our team has had the exact same issue for years. Many people will explicitly say to us they don’t know anything about robotics, and I usually quickly tell them that I knew nothing when I joined robotics, that we will teach them, and that there are other important roles in the team besides robot building. If I’m able to get all of this across to them, they feel much more comfortable signing up for the team.

I also tell them about our new member orientation meeting that we have each year, where they will get a very non-committal crash course into what the team does (as well as free food). 70% - 80% of the students that go to this orientation will usually stay with the team.

One of the important things to advertise is life long skills. We often tell incoming team members that the skills you learn here will help you in the real world, and not just in STEM. The skills learned in FIRST are similar to the skills needed to communicate and work efficiently in just about any workspace.

Dont forget to mention that it is some of the most fun you will have in high school! b

This thread was really helpful in generating ideas for a team that has been lacking in success in recruitment over the past few years. Thank you all for your help!

I recognize this is probably too late, but I thought I’d pitch in for people who may look at this thread in the future. When my team is at our club fair, we basically just drive our robot in circles and do whatever the robot was supposed to do that year (shoot balls, stack crates, etc.). People tend to find that interesting, so when they come over we have a few kids stationed who can give them a run down of what FRC is, and convince them to give the team a shot. In my opinion, it’s less important that you explain everything that FIRST is about, and more important that you get the message across that it’s fun, regardless of your interest in robotics. I think when kids first join a team, it’s often just because they think it will be fun, but they end up staying because of how incredible FIRST is as a whole.

It is also important that the group you have there is diverse so that everyone feels welcome to join.