Student Initiative

Our team is currently having a debate about how to convince students to show initiative. We would like to have students jump in and clean the lab without being asked, find and complete tasks, and involve new members in team discussions.

My question to all of you: How do the students on your team show initiative? How to you get students to jump in and help with tasks that need to be done?

Great thread Ben, I look forward to the replies so that the suggestions can be implemented on 1504!

We had very similar problems… our solution was to try and make Leaders out of every one of them. We did a leadership workshop, selected team leaders, and got students to lead subteams, demos, fundraisers, etc. Im pretty happy to say that nearly every one of our students lead some activity.

It wasnt an easy year, we had to make requirements to make most of this work, but now a lot of our students jump in and help out when needed, many of them have much more thought to put into conversations, and the ideas coming from them are much more realistic and well thought through. We also had to be willing to fail. We had two student lead fundraisers that raised less than $10 each. But they learned from them.

This is a really quick summary, you can see some of my other posts or look through the leadership material I gave out at the CMP conference:

Hope this helps!

haha…i wish we knew how to get students to have initiative, let alone join our team. everyone gets excited for 1 day about robotics, they join the team, realize that there’s not too much “robot” stuff to do till January, and they leave. heck, at the beginning of this school year we had about 25-30 students come out, but within about 2-3 months half of them left. :frowning:

To encourage students to take initiative, you have to make an environment where it is safe for them to experiment without being subject to criticism. If the team culture is that no one does anything until a leader tells them to do it, there will be little initiative. Even worse, if someone does step out and then is blasted for doing something the wrong way, any initiative dies quickly.

You can’t teach initiative to team members until leaders exhibit acceptance of ideas.

Sometimes to get someone to take initiative you have to give them something to run with. The kids that are there to learn will get motivated and run with it. Like stated above me, kids have to feel they can say something without being made fun of, especially in a place like robotics.

Also, another tip, which is kind of a general common sense thing…make it fun!! Kids will try their best to get involved if something theyre trying to get involved with is fun.

Especially for freshmen members like myself, we know that when we are seen doing the little things voluntarily, we can be trusted and rewarded with bigger responsibilities. Just let all team members know that your watching the jobs and attitudes they have towards them, and that you will determine who gets the next desirable job by their work on small things. :]

a lot of our problem is also having things for students to do. we are a fairly poor team, and we can pretty much only afford the robot and competition. if we get more money next year we’ll have a lot more stuff we can do…

We also come across that problem often. We have decided to teach newer students how to drive the robots. We also plan demonstrations for the elementary school which can cost little to no money. You can always look for new sponsers if you don’t have much to do and also don’t have much funds. Organizing and cleaning work spaces are critical, so that when build season comes, you are prepared. Start planning possible drive systems for next year. Also teach newer students about older robots. At today’s meeting, we discussed the possibilities of getting one of our older robots to drive up ontop of the newest robot. It can’t because it is to low to the ground to be able to clear the ramp. That’s when problem solving comes in. Four or five students were able to discuss how make it possible for the robot to climb the ramp. (Some ideas were bigger wheels, take off the arm, ect.) Hope that helps. I will reply again if I can think of any more.

That was basically my suggestion to my team. I wish we could give more opportunities for new members to shine. The team members who have done this in the past tend to make great leaps in performing tasks on their own.

Thanks, we’ve been trying to promote initiative for a couple of years. I’m hoping that CD has a few suggestions.

Student leaders, teachers, and mentors walk a fine line between guiding and doing when trying to help team members develop initiative.

To develop better skills in the area of guiding means being willing to step back, to keep your opinions in check, to hand the tool to someone instead of keeping it yourself. Instilling confidence and encouraging initiative requires patience and freedom on your part. Patience and freedom to succeed or to fail. Lessons will be learned through the experience. It is hard for someone who knows the answer to be still and let the quiet person speak. Teachers and mentors know this. Student leaders learn this. New members who have received wise guidance and are allowed to experience the results of their own actions and how it impacts the team as a whole, develop into student leaders, teachers, and mentors who guide and encourage.

What do you mean? Leaders need to accept ideas of others?
If it’s really about leaders needing to accept ideas of others, I understand that, but if it’s something else, I didn’t understand.

I think what is meant is that there is sometimes an issue with leaders getting egos and not taking other people’s ideas into consideration. When leaders consider everyone’s ideas everyone feels better about putting an idea out there.

Initiative is something that is embedded within a person’s character. Some people don’t have any, and it’s a fact of life that they have to deal with.

Some people show their initiative fully and express it as soon as they walk into the club. Other members need to have their initiave coaxed out into the open.

To do this they really need to have a unique or certain skill that they can bring to the team. New members can nurture their talent through working one on one with more experianced team members.

I plan to put my subdivision leaders (and ivolved members) in charge of working with a different new member each day. Formal training classes are not what new members come down to the club after school for (they are boring). The one on one apprenticeship must be stressed.

Now it’s difficult for this system to work if there are 20 new members that come down at the beginning of the school year. Because of this, there needs to be some sort of rotation and/or scheduling. Once the new members get a hang of it, they can break away and start doing things on their own- or they can be assigned new members to work one on one with them.

Hope it helps,
Sam N.

I would have to agree with Gary. Also this year there was more pressure for students to step up than in previous years on our team. In my opinion you can’t teach initiative, It is all about the types of students you get, and if they are willing to go the extra mile. I am one of the students that is willing to go the extra 100 miles just because I enjoy it. Mr. Martus always tells us “You get out of this program, what you put into this program”. I have put alot in and have recieved alot from it. Try telling them that.:slight_smile:

I agree with pretty much everything that has been said. I just wanted to emphasize that making it fun for a large group of people is half of the battle. I would say focus on developing a community that is accepting of ideas, supportive in general, and where all of the kids become friends and supporters of FIRST (remember that this can start with focusing on teaching/connecting with one or two kids and then branching out). Then when it is fun and a lot of people are involving themselves by doing what is presented to them, then to me that is the time to coax some members to take on projects. A little push is always good, just make sure they know that you are looking over their shoulder (You don’t have to do anything; just let them learn from the mistakes you think they are making, and teach concepts when appropriate).

In the TRC, I know success and failure really never happen, it is always something in between. Let kids know that if you learn from what you attempted you have really succeeded. It is very rare that everything goes according to plan, but when this happens, I think it is time to start thinking of how you can improve your contraption or concept.

Have fun with the students, be yourself, and encourage others to be themselves by presenting an environment which excepts ideas and good willed attempts, but discourages putting others ideas down.

In the end maybe the best way to go is just to experiment and imagine a community where you would like to be.

Just my $0.02

I know what it took to get my intraverted self to take initiative in high school. Granted, I’m not like everyone else, but it did take a lot of leading the horse to water before I could stand on my own. So here’s my story:

The inspiration came in 8th grade on a field trip to a museum where I was fascinated by the way a magnet moving around a coiled wire could create a live current. I then came up with (over the next 3 years) 17 designs for perpetual motion machines that utilised that concept. The final two designs would in theory work since they were in a weightless environment, with no light or sound – so in theory they would work but we’d never know if they actually did or not because we could never see or hear it. For the entirety of those three years I argued and argued via email of why my design would work with some professor from Research Triangle Park, NC. The professor did bring up an interesting idea, wondering if the magnetic bearings could cause friction via the magnetic field, however my electromagnetics course in college didn’t have anything I could use to prove/disprove the idea.

Parallel to all of this, I started playing football in 10th grade. I knew it would take work to become any good at it, so I worked out starting the middle of 9th grade, did foot drills and knew every play so well that I could tell anyone on the offensive line what they were supposed to do on a particular play. 175lbs, I had to be fast and quick minded, and strong. I knew what I had to do, but without a great coach along the way (sometimes yelling) for encouragement and leadership, I would never have seen what kind of passion it takes to play such a game on the offensive line to its fullest. (7-4 my senior year with me starting at left guard, knocked out second round of the playoffs)

Ironically, it was my offensive line coach, who admits to knowing next to nothing about the math of physics, that kept directly encouraging me to argue my points to a professor, and to keep redesigning my machine to account for flaws that were pointed out.

From my perspective it takes inspiration, direct coaching, constructive/calm critisism, encouragment, and a leader who lets the student know that there is much expected of him/her. Just as important as the student finding initiative is the leader that should be willing to do all of the above with some heart when a student comes forward.

On a side note, if you wonder why students don’t clean up after themselves in the shop/lab, alot of times it can be pointed back to the leadership – they won’t clean it up themselves if they never see you cleaning it up yourself. If you’re lazy, they will be too.

Exactly. If leaders don’t accept input from anyone, why should anyone make the effort to come up with their own ideas?

Just a clarification: The large majority of the students on our team do take initiative. However, we would like to improve this quality in any way we can.

Thanks everyone, we’ll look into using some of your suggestions to push for even greater student involvement on our team. :]

I was pleasantly surprised to see this thread started by you because of the efforts that 234 consistently puts forth in team development and initiative. Your team is a wonderful role model in many areas of teamwork and team building. It was exciting to see that your team is discussing aspects that are often taken for granted or overlooked and that you were willing to post a thread asking for opinions and ways to improve. By doing this, you have created an opportunity for everyone to think, read, participate, and improve. It’s great. Keep posting great topics.