Sustaining a FIRST Team

Hello CD,

As a (newly graduated) alumni of a young team, one of my biggest concerns for this team is its future: How will it be in 4 years? Does it even have a future?
Of course, having been one of the founding members that shaped it, my worst nightmare would be the team ceasing to exist. Though I’ll be hundreds of miles away for the few years I’m in college, I still hope to help steer the team in the right direction with occasional long-distance mentoring.

So the main question is: **How do you sustain your team? **

We’ve faced many different kinds of hardships over our short history, spanning from financial crisis to lack of participation and not enough annual growth. We’ve gotten sponsors, we’ve done innumerable fundraisers, we’ve made our team well-known and respected in the school and community… What else needs to be done?

At our largest, we had 30 members in the beginning of the school year, which quickly dwindled to about 15-20 within the first few months. Eight of those members were seniors that graduated last month, myself included. We have tried just about anything we possibly can to increase enrollment; curriculum fairs, speaking at freshman orientation, demonstrations at festivals and other schools in the district, school announcements, newspaper articles. Yet still we see no signs of growth.
We have tried to engage our new members from the start, yet a lot of them just don’t stick around for some reason. We started VEX teams to get them immediately involved in the design and build aspects. We’ve tried partnering new members with veteran members to teach them what they need to know. We’ve made our team a very friendly and family-like environment to ease away some of the uncertainty. So why aren’t we growing?

Another major issue is participation in communication. Our primary mode of contact outside of meetings is email; from the very start, new students and their parents are required to supply an email address to be contacted by. Yet when our coach sends out time-sensitive emails that request prompt responses, very few of us actually do as requested. People either don’t check their email, or they make some kind of excuses, or they’re simply too lazy to reply. This is by far the biggest source of frustration for our coach, and I’m seeing him change from the easygoing, mild mannered man he once was to over-stressed, short-tempered and grouchy because of it.
He won’t let us help him out with much. He takes all of these burdens onto himself until he’s overworked and stressed beyond belief, yet when our other mentors or us students offer to help with something, he’ll frequently shrug it off and say that he’ll deal with it on his own. It’s because he feels like he can’t rely on anyone to get it done. And based on the email participation (or lack thereof), I can’t entirely blame him. He’s admitted to me that he doesn’t even know if there will be a team after next year, with how things are going.

Despite our problems, I see a very bright future for the Toasters if we can just get the ball rolling; there are some highly gifted students joining each year. We’re the school board’s favorite extracurricular activity, and it would upset them to see such a program fall apart. Our sustainability was the only reason that we did not win a Chairman’s Award at the State Championship this year.
I would do just about anything to prevent this team from disbanding, because it’s done so much to build me into the person I am today. And it saddens me to see how stressed our coach is, and how some things just don’t seem to get done due to a lack of motivation.

I greatly appreciate any insight or recommendations that can be given. :slight_smile:

I understand your frustrations, although I will be a Junior in the fall- We’ve had similar issues with inconsistencies with attendance and communication. I think it’s important that for a team to be successful, everyone needs to be involved- I fell into a similar trap of signing up but only showing up once-twice before build season was about done. And the main reason I actually started coming was because there was a need for an assistant programmer, and I helped even without much knowledge of Labview, but anyways…

For one, I’m not sure how the ‘politics’ work in your team, but ours is divided up into leaders for each group type: build, programming, marketing etc… And each of these leaders has 1+ assistants who that work directly with the group leaders to accomplish tasks related to their ‘field’. We’re implementing this for next year, and I think that this will help keep those new students, or members- who aren’t directly connected to any group when they first walk into the lab, but have skills that a robotics team could really use.

Also, as for your communications issues- We’re using something called Remind101, from what I understand, the coach uses a program that sends a mass text to all members of robotics group, I think this is much more effective than relying on email- since most teenagers these days are glued to their phones at all times- there aren’t really any excuses for not responding to the notifications.

Hope this helps,

I’m going to write out a response, but before I do, I just want to ask 1 or 2 questions:

Are you based in a single school, and if so, how many students?

Our team is run by a student government. Each member of the government is responsible for a few different aspects of the team, such as the CEO is the overseer of Chairman’s Award submissions and anything concerning the team’s future (like proposing new amendments for the government’s policies), or how the president is in charge of public relations and team image. We have a total of 7 governmental positions, covering every function of the team. Under each of those departmental leaders, other students can freely switch between tasks and departments, usually depending on where they’re most needed at the moment. Each week, the student government holds a private meeting to discuss where each department is at in its tasks, then a whole team meeting is conducted to update everyone on what still needs to get done. Generally speaking, the members of the government work alongside/directly with other members, as you mentioned with your team’s system. That being said, I still found as president that there were always some tasks that people refused to do, like making posters or contacting sponsors, even if I was also doing that task by myself.
We implemented the government to remove some of the managerial burdens from our coach; if students were overseeing students, he wouldn’t have to constantly jump from department to department just urging people to get involved when he’s already bogged down with his own tasks. Even with this system, we still need him to encourage students and stress the urgency of getting certain tasks done in time.

That’s actually a really cool program – I didn’t even know that existed! I’ll definitely tell our coach about it. Thanks! :slight_smile:

We’re a collaborative team between two high schools. All of our meetings are conducted at the newer school, because that’s where our coach is employed and where we have access to a machine shop. The older school has about 1,400 students; the newer one has approximately 950-1,000.
There’s been a huge decline in robotics enrollment of students from the older school, because it’s simply too difficult to get a steady presence over there when all of our stuff is based in the other one. We try to attend the other school’s curriculum fairs and other events, but our coach is the only one with a trailer that can transport the robot, and we depend on his schedule for when we can do this kind of stuff.

Team RUSH focuses on sustaining teams and because of that, we’ve created a 250 page document called the Toolkit For Success which focuses on how to sustain an FRC team. Here’s the link.

Ok, now just to give you a little background on where I’m coming from, we are based in a single private school of about 1,300 students.

Low retention rates for teams are not uncommon. In our rookie year, my team went from 65 students at the first meeting to ~15 by our regional. This year we brought the number up to about 25-30 people after having an additional 70 people sign up. There are 2 big things we utilize that get so many people to sign up.

  1. Co-curricular fairs - Make sure you get your robot on display, try to get as many people as possible to put their email on a piece of paper, and give them a date for an introductory meeting. Even if 1 of every 5 people stay on the team, you can still rack up numbers really quickly. Just have the students be friendly and talk about how awesome robotics is.

  2. Word of Mouth - I can not understate how important this is. In 2012, my main circle of friends had a couple of other hard-core robotics guys in it. And because we wouldn’t shut up about how awesome robotics is, we ended up with ~5 of our friends joining the team. It just works. And the great thing is that people are very likely to stay on the team if they were recruited by their friends.

My suggested solution for communication is also 2-fold:

  1. Team Groupme - Groupme is basically a group text messaging system. Use it to remind people about a meeting, or to tell them to check an important email.

  2. Word of Mouth - Again, this is a solution. Just ask people to forward message on to teammates when they see them.

If people still don’t do what they need to do, then I guess they are just gonna miss out. Then they will learn to do better in the future.

Now I’m going to tell you something that you probably aren’t going to like to hear. And its only my opinion, you don’t have to agree or listen to it. But, your team might want to consider laying off on the outreach type stuff for a little bit. The way I see it, teams should fundamentally run off of this list of priorities in order(yes, another list):

  1. Make sure that your team will sustain itself.
  2. Be able to consistently field some-what competitive robots.
  3. Outreach.
  4. #4 and on are different for every team.
    Your struggling with #1, so you really need to focus your energy on that. If your team doesn’t survive, then it can’t do more outreach.

I’m sorry that your going through this. I have gone through a similar feeling. It’s tough, but you just need to have hope and remember that even if your original team is gone, there will always be another team out there that will welcome you in as a mentor and make you feel at home.

wow sounds so similar to us. What we did to fix our communication problems is we run by text messages. So lets say a permission slip was sent by email to everyone on the team. Headcaptains would find out from our mentor and the head captain will text their respective group to get it filled out. Now for the problem about not having popularity amoung students. What we try so very hard to do is to bring “SWAG” to robotics. We treat our robotics team as if it was a Highschool football team. What you could do is have a special guest speaker who is famous in your city come talk about school and robotics and how important it is. So for example if I was in Westminster, California I’d try to contact the winners of ABDC season 5 poreotics and show our robot to them and ask them to speak about how important it is to stay in school and follow your dreams but ask them to say something about how cool our robotics program is. But once again I speak for my own opinions only

I understand exactly how the OP feels. Essentially, “I’ve put a couple years of my life into this. Please don’t make it seem like it was a waste of my time”. Keeping a team alive is actually very dependent on the people actually running the team. Probably unlike you, I had the unfortunate luck to have taken over my team after three to four years of really low success (low morale, high turnover in students, extremely low quality work). I also had the unfortunate luck to have been able to work with my team for the year after I left, where I saw the team fall apart again. After talking with my mentors, and some people who specialize in forming teams, it seems pretty clear why teams fall apart. The one biggest challenge to having a successful team is finding a really good leader. As in an actual leader, not the popular kid on the block, not the smartest guy on the team, but the guy who can really push everyone to do their best, the guy who can put aside any personal relationships with the team and really get the team in line, the guy who has the drive to do 200% of what he/she expects from the team. But it can’t just be a leader who can really drive people, it’s got to be someone who can reach out to people and convince them that doing robotics isn’t only fun and cool, but worth it, and then actually make robotics worth it for those people.

Why do teams fall apart? One way is failure in the leadership. Several years of bad leadership, and pretty soon, the team will loose its recruiting pool’s interest. Another way is attrition. If the leadership can’t make Robotics worth the time of its members, they’ll find something else to do. And if the leadership keeps doing that year after year, people figure it out. Yet another way is internal politics. And lack of training. The list goes on and on.

So what is it that you need? My answer is this: a strong group of student leaders who can work as a team, backed by a group of very motivated and involved mentors, working with a motivated group of students. On top of that, there has to be a training pipeline for the students, a clear chance for students to rise through the ranks, and visible opportunities for the students to specialize in the team, no matter what it is they are doing. There has to be a sense of community between the team members, with the student leaders being the big brothers, the other students being the younger siblings, and the mentors being the elders.

This isn’t a simple problem to fix. The environment you are in does not allow for the formation of a very good team. The maximum retention of any student is 4 years, 5 if they take a gap year and stick around. The pressure of high school and the social environment don’t help any. It takes a year or two to train a student to be fully proficient, at which point they promptly get eaten up with AP/IB exams, college applications, and senioritis. It’s hard to find students who understand how to lead, how to teach, how to organize, and how to drive people.

People have found solutions. Not saying that they’re good, not saying that those solutions are sustainable, but there are solutions. Look at some of the teams in The New Cool. Some of the successful teams are highly sustainable, but they aren’t your team. However, they are good sources of inspiration.

The main team in that book has the program integrated with the curriculum. This makes FRC the equivalent of the senior design project at many engineering universities. It is the culmination of four years of study. But this doesn’t work for most schools. But there’s a lesson here, which is the training pipeline. If you can start early, you have a real chance of getting people excited and involved for a very long time. So and start FTC teams in your feeder schools or in the community. Start FLL teams at the elementary schools. Reach out to the community, and get involved with the maker community for help, resources, and inspiration, and inspire the maker community as well.

While this may or may not be practical, it is a good point. My team runs a large amount of FLL and FTC teams in our area, and it has really improved our recruitment-- students from those programs join and lead on our team. In 2012, our two (senior) captains both either came from one of our FLL summer camps or from an FLL team that we started and assisted. I was on an FLL team in middle school which lead to me being in FRC in high school. Setting up that pipeline-- wherever it is-- is critical to sustainability. Unfortunately you don’t always see the results immediately-- kids move or go to different schools or pick a different path or whatever-- but ultimately that pipeline sets up for you a core of not only involved students, but also their parents! If you can tap into the elementary parent base to help run those programs, you have some of the most active and invested parents you can get a hold of!

Finding that pipeline is sometimes rather difficult though-- it may be FLL or FTC or VEX teams, or it might be some regional program, or it might be a class, or even a middle school teacher that recommends students to your team. More than the actual method, it’s the touch and the scope that I think separates “recruitment drives” from a pipeline.

It’s difficult to make a good leader in four years, but it gets a lot easier when you’ve had a kid in your program for 3-6 years before they’ve even joined the FRC team. Then for them it’s just like a high school sport might be for some other kid-- it’s a logical extension of the elementary or middle school program. Is a talk we did about 2 years back with Jon and Meredith Novak talking about team sustainability. As I recall there were some helpful nuggets in there.

The quote above is one of the best that I have read about making a long lasting team. Gunn High School had a engineering course first and then incorporated FIRST into the course. FIRST allows us to test how well our program is working. Well as defined in how much the students have learned and not how well the robot performs. The first mentor was a Eagle Scout and since then most of the main mentors have been Scoutmasters or assistant Scoutmasters. As mentors we take a hands off position with the robot. Team 192 if it was to change programs would be Troop 192 and scouts would feel at home. Because we are run like a scout troop the students lead, plan, train, like a scout troop but as a engineering business. The students know that the team will succeed or fail on their efforts and are inspired to perform higher then most would expect of high school students. This has made us the most popular program at the school and it is a rare year that we have any students drop out. Most of our students join the team for their last 2 years and only a few join in 10th grade. We had to start limiting the time the students could be on the team to increase the number of students that could join each year and learn in our program. Good luck in finding what works for you.

We are a regional team and draw kids from 6 to 8 different high schools plus some homeschoolers, so sustainability is always an issue.

In our experience it has been the adult mentors who have sustained the team over time. During the build season the kids take the lead, but in the off-season it’s the adults who keep it going. We have a group of 4-6 adult mentors (some are parents, some not) who provide the “glue” to keep it all together. This group plans the open house, gets ready for the build season, does most of the fundraising, etc. So when the kids get there in January they are really just involved with the bot. In my experience the kids have too many other interests to be able to the necessary effort to sustain the team. Committed adults are more able to do so.

I hope this model can work in a school setting. If the school administration is able to give some real responsibility to “outside” adults it could work.
It sounds like your coach could use some adult help.

I feel like many people have tried to solve all problems aside from this one. Can you honestly blame your mentor? If students are failing to respond, then others need to step up. In this case, it’s the mentor who is forced to step up.

This problem needs a solution, and unfortunately, there really isn’t a clean one. You need to establish a precedent and have consequences for inadequate behavior. Team communication is number 1, and if students aren’t replying to emails/communication notices on time, you have a problem that resonates at the foundation of your team.

In a perfect world, this is how every team would be set up. However, fate is often cruel and perfection is far what your average FRC can afford. As such, there needs to be much more cooperation between your mentors and student leaders. What does this do? This means that the leadership is a cohesive unit. Mentor experience and passion is not fragmented from students’ drive and desire. Furthermore, this helps to fortify your leadership against the volatility of time. As strong students graduate and no-so-experienced students are left to take the helm, strong mentor peers can help them find their way.

It seems that many people have touched on many things you can do in order to help build a nice recruiting base, but here’s on suggestion to keep your students; take them to a competition.

The first time I went to a regional, I knew that I’d be doing FRC for as long as I am able. Seven-ish years later, and I don’t see my career ending anytime soon. As such, show students the joys of competition early on, and they’ll have something to look forward to. Personally, my team competes in GRITS (local off-season event). This takes place about two months into the school year. The new members get a chance to tag along, enjoy some competition, and even take the robot for a spin in a match or two. Making them wait until November or even Week 1 events can be cruel and, often times, too much to ask.

  • Sunny G.

This. Team 20 goes to River Rage, a long running off-season event in New England every year at the end of October. It’s fun, we usually end up in eliminations at least (small pool of teams), and it demonstrates to students what a FIRST event can be like. And when they have fun we just tell them: Regionals are even better!

When I was a Freshman, I didn’t get super-involved in the robot building like I should have. But after going to our regionals (and not doing super well), I was determined to become a much larger part of the robot the next year. That’s the kind of drive that students need to get involved.
I tried to get my friends involved, some of my friends brought their younger siblings to regionals, and they got inspired to join FIRST as well.

Luckily for us, next year the Tech Valley Regional is going to be close enough that I can invite my friends and show them what the geeky robotics kids have been working on all year in all it’s glory. :smiley:

Anyway, good luck to the OP, your team looks strong (Chairman’s award in your third year? Wow.) and good luck at IRI!

It seems that communication via email is something that many teams struggle with. I’m running into a similar issue with my students regarding email, and I’ve talked to a few other teams who have the same problem.

It’s interesting to me that this generation of plugged-in, tech-savvy students rarely uses email.

Even more mind boggling is that probably 1/3 of my students aren’t even on Twitter or Facebook. This leaves text messaging. …which obviously is not a great way to send a large amount of information.

**What I have been doing with my team, with growing success:

  1. Emailing the team with important updates 1-3 times per week, to help them get used to checking it.
  2. On super important emails, I make sure to BCC all parents and politely ask them to remind their children to check their email.
  3. Include “ACTION REQUESTED” in the subject line of emails that require responses (this suggestion was given by a parent who deals with emails in the business world on a regular basis).
  4. Use the app Remind101, which sends out a massive group text message. It’s super easy to use!
  5. Include Google Forms in emails when I need to know who is going to attend what event, or who is interested in leading up an event.
  6. And lastly, I have been starting every meeting with, “Raise your hand if you received the email that I sent out on (fill in the date)
    . If you have not read your email, log into a computer now and respond to anything you missed.”

Gradually, all of this has helped my students remember to check their emails and respond in a timely fashion. It’s still a work in progress. There are still some kids who come up to me at meetings and say, “I just don’t check my email.”
I usually respond with, “Well, that’s the main form of communication for our team, and when you get to college you will need to check your email multiple times a day, so let’s help you get in the habit now.”

Also, like your mentor, I was super frustrated with this mentality at first. And then I just started looking at it as a game. So far my score in this game is increasing every week. I’m confident that come the start of school, my students will be well-trained in the art of communication via email.

Our team was started a few years before my time (2007). When inherited responsibility, I was left with a declining program, one that was sure to die you in a few years. At the time, we were partnered with another local high school, one that given it’s condition and student population, would not be able to sustain a FIRST team by itself.

Our biggest problem is retention. I’ll be happy when we don’t go from 40 kids to 10 kids (including veterans!). For me, that is 30 kids who loose the excellent experience that is FIRST. Our solution to this problem, is to keep kids actively engaged. The three main reasons that kids drop out of our team is that: they cannot make meetings, they are inactive, and feel like they cannot learn what is required. We have solved this problem by providing challenges that build up to FRC. First we have FLL, where high-schoolers can earn NHS hours for mentoring middle-schoolers. Next we have VEX, where new members run the build season. Then FRC comes along, and the students are ready to go. This solves the learning curve and the inactivity problem. The scheduling problem is handled on a case by case basis.

For communication, a world where students do not check email is terrible. Facebook groups provide a easy platform to give out messages. Most kids have the app on their phones, and get notified immediately. Event planning and group messaging is also convenient.

As far as growth is concerned, the only workable solution we are pursuing is combining teams. We are combining our team, which has a stagnant growth but excellent resources, with another team with good growth that has lost its school. Combining both teams allows us to cover a larger territory, and provides more opportunity for growth into our community.

Parents are also a key to the problem. Living in an area where many jobs are provided by companies like Intel, Microchip (runs FIRST and VEX in Arizona), Google, Amazon, etc, they can understand the value of FIRST. Parents are often the source of inspiration, mentors, company relationships, free pizza, and … funding (tax credit donations). We allow (urge) parents to join our Facebook group, and also include them in our weekly emails. They are encouraged to pop in during build season, watch, help, and provide moral support.

Ultimately, the problem can defined as a lack of inspiration. If a kid is inspired, they will check his/her email, and will show up to meetings. But until our programs inspire them, the burden is on the team to adapt to the uninspired masses. Otherwise, how else can a student adapt to a foreign environment, a new mindset?

Good luck to you, and we wish you the best for the 2014 (water) game!

Our team can relate to the problems OP is having. After this past season all but 2 of our students graduated. Our team is based out of a half-day high school career center and while we accept students from any area schools (6+ sizable schools at that), we have found it very difficult to grow the team beyond about 10 members in recent years (and only about half of those have been particularly active members).

Nathan makes many good points in his post… I boiled it down to a few that began to align with some of my thoughts when I first read the OP.


While an amazing group of student leaders will bring a team to its biggest successes, teams need a very strong mentor backbone to not only mentor the students, but to support and sustain the team in years where the student leadership may not be able to be as strong… and to support eachother from year to year. In my now 17 years and 3 teams in FIRST, I have come to realize that each team may only have one incredibly capable, incredibly strong, self motivated and independent student leader come along maybe once every 10 years IF they are lucky. There are some phenomenal students in FIRST, but those that are capable and motivated enough to really drive a team toward elite style success… those that would be able to immediately go on and build a new team, are much much more rare than I once expected.

Thus, every team needs a strong mentor backbone. And I would argue that 1-5 mentors is not enough. In 90% of teams, a lone mentor will be burnt out in 2-3 years. 5 continuous mentors will be burnt out in 5 years. You need a good solid lead mentor, a lead mentor sidekick, 3-5 incredibly dedicated mentors (/parents), and another 5 or so that can fill in when things get really busy. That means every team with ~30 students need 10 mentors to really have a strong team.

Can you work with less? Of course. And there are models that do. Some of the more curriculum based ones are probably ok, but even if you look at the model referenced earlier (1717) they were more capable and better off when they brought in more mentors.

This type of backbone is exactly the reason so many of the college teams struggle. I watch Clarkson every couple of years go in waves, because they are forced to rely on mentors that turn over at least every 4 years. They have built some amazing robots, and some not so amazing robots, have run some amazing programs, and had some off years. Teams like WPI are much more sustainable because they have non-college leads like Colleen and Ken and Francis that can help keep consistency and form a backbone year after year.

Plus these mentors help students learn how to be leaders, they help push the students outside their comfort zone. If you have a 1/20 mentor/student ratio, that mentor is not going to be able to spend enough time to really grow and develop each kid individually. The closer you get to a 1/1 ratio, the stronger your students can grow (assuming you have mentors with the correct mindset).

You want a more sustainable team? Find and recruit more dedicated and passionate mentors… and have them help you grow your student base.

First of all, thanks to everyone who dedicated some time to reply; you’ve all given some very helpful suggestions, and I’ve shared a few with our coach. He’s willing to work with me and try to implement some of them, or to change a bit of how we run things. :slight_smile:

Okay, since there’re too many posts to quote individually, I’ll just break down my responses into subjects:

Mentors/adult leadership: When we founded this team in 2011, we actually had two coaches and several regularly-attending mentors. Everything was easily taken care of with that system; no individual really got overwhelmed with tasks. But our second coach had to quit in 2012 because his wife gave birth to their child, and he wanted to be around for his new daughter. We still have many mentors who show up on a fairly regular basis, a few of which are parents or grandparents of students. However, our problems lie in the way the school district has set things up.
Because of all of those school shootings and other horrible incidents that have happened out of state over the past few years, our district is really pumping up its security measures. According to district policy, our coach is the only valid/official adult that students are authorized to be left alone with, because he’s a school employee. In order to authorize other adults with this same responsibility, they would have to undergo fingerprinting, background checks, signing contracts, and attend specialized training. This whole process would take months to complete, and it costs that mentor several hundred dollars to do. No one wants to dedicate that kind of time and money. Technically, we’re not even supposed to let our other mentors into the building after hours.
We’ve tried asking around the district for other school employees that might be willing to fill in the second coaching position, but none of them really have time to dedicate to our team. So as of now, we rely on our coach for everything. Without him around, we cannot hold meetings. Without him, we cannot operate machinery. Without him, we cannot be at competitions. Without him, we cannot transport our robot anywhere. Without him, we cannot approach sponsors or attend community events or fundraisers.
I understand the school’s reasoning, but it’s getting ridiculously hard to operate under these restrictions. It’s no wonder he’s getting burned out; he’s the one that has to be there for everything, the one that has to do everything for us on top of his teaching job (and these past two years, he’s had to teach 5 separate subjects in 6 class hours due to budget cuts).

Early robotics programs: We’re currently in the process of starting an FLL league with the local recreational center, and I’ve heard that there’s a possibility we may even be teaming up with another local FRC team (503) to run some kind of out-of-district FLL team. This would encompass students from both districts and beyond, and would allow them to tap into both FRC groups for mentoring and management.

Keeping students interested: We’ve been competing in a local league known as OCCRA since 2006, which takes place from September through November. The competitions start in mid-October, and our new students almost always stick around just long enough to attend them… and then quit just before FRC season. We’ve tried almost everything to show them that FRC is waaaay cooler than OCCRA, but they rarely stick around anyway. For new students that join after the FIRST season, we highly encourage them to go with the team to off-season events such as MARC or IRI. Those students tend to be the most dedicated, we’ve found. We also have a varsity letter program in place to draw in more interest, and that has given us a lot of hard-working members as well.

Recruitment: We recently attended the science festivals of two elementary schools in our district, which drew a lot interest from parents and students alike. We’re also considering the possibility of setting up a permanent kiosk in one of the middle schools, which would play our “commercial” ( and Chairman’s videos like we’ve done at each of our competitions this season (kids love it! We literally had a dozen children just sitting in front of the little TV, watching the same few videos over and over until they could recite them from memory at Gull Lake. At Livonia, it was the judges doing the same thing! LOL). I’ll also be working with the team’s new president at IRI to discuss other possible recruitment efforts: One I suggested was a “member swap” idea – basically, for one day, we would trade our members for the members of another extracurricular club to give them an idea of what robotics is all about (and vice versa). It’d be a fun way of sampling all the school’s activities equally, and to get the different clubs to become more closely affiliated with one another. I know the art department would just LOVE to get their hands on our robot… :stuck_out_tongue:

Communication: We’re looking into the possibility of using one of those text services. Otherwise, we’ve tried most of the other email strategies.

FIRST in the classroom: Our coach actually already uses FIRST in his classroom to teach concepts and garner some interest. Every year, right after kickoff, he uses the new year’s challenge to start his Quality Function Deployment unit in his engineering classes. The goal is for students to think of theoretical solutions to the game, then to analyze them against the priorities of the QFD to determine which would be the most effective design. After exams, he allows his students to play with our robot from the previous season.