The "I" in FIRST

FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

Trough out this year I have seen a lack of “I” in out team, Remember theres no I in team, but there is “I” in FIRST. (This is not me ranting on my team, this is me asking for advice, Don’t get me wrong I love my team) But this year we have some interesting stats for students next year, 1 senior, about 3 juniors, and 4 sophomores who really get the message of FIRST, who perform well and who know what there doing. We have 4 of the best mentors you could ever ask for. We probably made the best robots that this team has ever made this year (2011). But we had about 25 kids there every day and only about 10 kids who were really doing what they were supposed to be doing and who got Inspired.

Long story short, As a student leader how am i supposed to get kids inspired?

probably the easiest is to arrange presentations with the other schools in your school district. on Team Driven, seniors do these presentations during the time that they are off before the end of the school year. we present from elementary to middle school because the other high schools also have teams. presenting to your feeder schools can also help increase the size of your team by Inspiring others to join FIRST. because of the size of your team, i would go ahead and do it during the school year. typically the best way to inspire them is to drive the robot present with a powerpoint or verbally and then award those who answer questions with P.R. items or let them drive the robot for a min. (with close supervision of course). i can say this works, i was Inspired to join FIRST by these presentations and many on my team were as well. the bigger your team gets, the larger the events you can hold.

Pne way i was inspired was by attending a FIRST robotics event, it can be as small as FLL to as big as FRC, for a fact i know i got hooked in when i went to robotics event which occured before the six weeks began. This led me to strive and push myself in the 6 weeks so that competiton woudl be amazing. It past all expectations, it was bigger, louder, more fun than i coudl have ever thought, and it gave me a much better perspective of it all, it really inspired me and maybe it can help you inspire others too, just inform them brriefly about what it is and show them an example if you can, thats how we try and run our team.

To the students who are just walking around aimlessly in the shop, talk to them find out what they like and what they are into. If you give a programmer a hammer, he’s not going to be very inspired to do much except hammer that nail, and be done. Give a programmer a computer, with an easy starter program (basic tank/ arcade drive) and he will be inspired to do more. However, you won’t know that student is a programmer if you don’t find out what they like and see what kind of person they are.

If you find someone who does not have a very “technical” mind, then get them into the business side of things, getting sponsors, talking to schools, etc.

Then of course, you may find the student who “isn’t good at anything”, EVERYONE IS GOOD AT SOMETHING! You just have to find what they are good at. One way to do this is by holding practice sessions at the beginning or end of the year for various jobs in first. Have leading members of different sub-groups (programming, electrical, mechanical, public relations, etc…) lead these practice sessions and even if 20 kids go, there should be at least 2 or 3 who will take interest into what is going on.

To sum it all up,

  1. Everyone is good at something.
  2. Find out what they are good at.
  3. Expose students to a variety of fields, so that they can find what they are good at.
  4. When they find something they are good at, they begin to want to take the next step. This is what inspiration is.

We have no problem with getting kids to join the team we had 40 registered this year but only about 10 were truly inspired to work and help the team. We do put on demos and other community events. But how do we get the other kids inspired?

To inspire, you must innovate.

Hold some off season workshops, get kids excited about new ideas, build a crazy new drivetrain! These sorts of things are what gets people excited about the FIRST program.

I was one of the most involved kids on our team this year, and am for sure the most inspired. Get the younger kids involved, and incharge of a sub team (if you can).

This is the same for our team. Our team consists of 35 members. About 20 are from our engineering class, made up of Seniors. Many of our seniors confess that they should have joined robotics in their freshmen year after attending their first FRC regional. I suggest to start as early as the FLL team. Our school not only hosts an FRC team but FLL as well. Many of the FLL kids transition quite easily into FRC.

I would also love the hear other ideas. Our main problem is sparking interest in the freshmen and sophomores to continue with FRC.

we have a somewhat similar situation. there are 15-20 people who participate heavily in the team. then there are another 5 or so who do not participate heavily, but are still reliable and still take away some knowledge. but there are 15-20 people who i don’t think take a whole lot away from the program. how do large teams manage to keep everyone busy and interested?

Start now. I see a few tricks that might help.

  1. As noted before, find out what these non-motivated students are good at, or better yet, what they like to do. Spare no effort to get them into that area, or trying it out. I don’t care what that area is, once they find it, they’ll work on it because they want to. Remember, FIRST is not just about the robot–there’s animation, 3D design, essays to write, objects to throw, finances to balance and find, other robots to scout…

  2. This works best if it’s in a team handbook, but you can set a minimum number of hours to travel (the more hours you have, the farther you can travel). But, with one catch in this case: They have to be productive hours. I’ll let you figure out how to track productive hours versus non-productive ones; I will however suggest that homework count as productive (though if you’re smart, you’ll find some ratio so that an hour of homework doesn’t equal an hour of, say, making parts). This isn’t study hall, but study hall can be done close to the shop as needed. The point here is that if you want to go to cool places with us, we’re not going to give that trip to you, you have to earn it. (You could also do some travel-funding apportioning–the more you work, the less you have to pay to travel, or something similar.)

  3. To go along with 2), another useful clause could be that non-productive members cannot expect to return the following year, without demonstrating that they can be productive, or may be subject to requests to go somewhere else and not be doing anything over there.

One note: 2) and 3) are sort of “emergency” measures if 1) does not work. I don’t anticipate those ever needing to be used if you can get the people who are not getting into the project in via giving them something to do that they like to do. It might be a good idea to have them in a team handbook, though.

As jmanela said, make sure that the other 15 kids aren’t being forced/asked to do tasks that they aren’t interested in. I know that I wouldn’t be too keen to write our drive code when I know that my skills don’t lie there. At the beginning of the school year, or whenever your team’s year begins, start giving the kids the chance to try out different areas of the team, and let them choose where they want to work during build season.

Continually show them what it’s like to be inspired. Make sure that they see that you’re excited when you learn something new, or when someone else learns something new. They need to know that being involved is FUN, and the best way to learn that into them is by example. Slacking is contagious, but so is happiness.

One more thing that may not help with inspiration, but will help overall in the shop, is setting expectations early and clearly. Students should know exactly what is expected of them when they join the team; they are expected to contribute their fair share. Let them know that if they do decide that robotics just isn’t for them, they should drop the team rather than feeling an obligation to stay and causing grief for both of you.

Don’t assume that because a student is not as involved as you are that they are not inspired. Let me give you an example:

Several years ago on bacon we had a student start with us who was a senior. He only came once or twice a week and sometimes we didn’t see him for a few weeks.

He observed everyone but didn’t get his hands on much since he wasn’t around. I finally pulled his mom aside to make sure he felt comfortable with the team and what could we do to help.

Seems like he was on the swim team and was on pace for Olympic trials…he was also getting his Eagle scout and just didn’t couldn’t make the same kind of time commitment that the “working” kids could. She also said he LOVED the team and being a part of something he didn’t have to be in charge of. He was glad that we had a policy of giving as much time as you could but had no requirements on how much you had to do to be a part of the team. He traveled with the team and took part in the Regionals and Champs as a scout and some pit crew

He went to college on a swim scholarship but was injured in his first year. He still comes and visits whenever he is in town and still loves FIRST and his experience on the team and was inspired by what we did. He is getting a degree in Computer engineering and might have an internship with one of our sponsors this summer.

Inspiration comes in lots of forms. Don’t lose heart, just keep doing what you do.

This is oh so very true. Inspiration comes in many forms. It’s how you inspire a person that will encourage them to inspire some one else. Inspiration is a chain reaction and is something that just keeps on giving. If you inspire someone, they will remember it for a long time. Don’t lose sight of your end goals, and don’t lose sight of what you love to do. As I read as I was exiting the Judges room at the Philadelphia Regional this year, there was a huge sign on the door that read, “Inspire someone today.” It’s such a great quote and almost a challenge. It’s a challenge to make a difference and inspire someone, anyone, to go out and do something they are passionate about.

We won’t know when we are inspiring someone. The effect we have may not be noticed for years. We do it because we know it will have an effect. We watch what we do as that effect could be good or bad. If we inspire one student or another mentor, to do something better, we have succeeded. Inspiration is not something you can measure or plan or judge. Inspiration is sometimes not even traceable to a particular event or person.
I see things in this way. Every person you see on the street is forever changed by seeing you on the street. Whether that is a good change or bad change or a neutral change is entirely up to you. You can smile or say hello, or you can grumble and shove your way through the crowd. Or you can do nothing and lower your head. Throughout our lives, we will change. There is times when we inspire all around us and other times when we simply are inspired by others. This is one place where both can happen on the same day at the same time to the same person. I like it!

I know Matthew’s concerns very well - I just joined on as a marketing and organizational mentor for his team this past season. I think what Matthew is chalking up to be a lack of inspiration is actually a lack of productivity. I do think many of the students he is talking about are actually being inspired, just not necessarily to the extent he has been inspired. Matthew happens to be one of the most incredibly inspired students I have had the fortune to work with. He lives and breathes robotics because he has been inspired by so many phenomenal people in FIRST and other engineering related organizations. Because of this inspiration, and his own motivation, he is a very productive, excited member of the team. He has an extremely bright future ahead of him.

As Matthew mentioned, our team has had, at any period of time, 40 to 50 students registered this year (a huge jump from the past). Approximately 2/3 of those students were new to the team. One issue is that students sign up to be on the team because they receive weighted course credit… they’re not necessarily joining the team because they’re interested to learn, build robots, and work on other exciting projects. Some of those students have developed true passions and interests, but not all… yet.

I and our other mentors have worked this year to really shape and develop a team that will become strong and sustainable, but with only 4 mentors and one teacher advisor supporting such a large group it can be difficult to ensure that each student is being as productive (and inspired?) as possible. However, as Matthew has been known to quote JVN, if something “doesn’t work, you iterate it.” You develop new methods of communication. You provide exposure to new opportunities and experiences. You restructure and regroup as necessary. You iterate until you’ve come up with something better, and perhaps then iterate some more.

I think the best advice I have to tell student leaders, like Matthew, (and mentors as well perhaps) who want to help inspire their teammates to become truly productive members of the team:

  • Lead: by example, show your enthusiasm and excitement, be a productive member of the team, be a role model
  • Teach: offer opportunities to share your knowledge and experiences, be available to help direct and train (but don’t do the work for them)
  • Listen: take the time to get to know your teammates, ask them questions and listen to their concerns, show that you value them

I think the team is on the right path and with time you will see results. As many have already noted on this thread, people often become inspired and you don’t even notice or realize it. With all the changes the team has experienced this year and many recent developments for the team, including the new core skills training program, the participation the team has in organizing the new TX off-season event, and the exposure the team has received recently in AmericanWay, I think you’ll see things moving in a positive direction. Continue to lead, teach, and listen, Matthew, and over your next two years with the team I think you’ll do a fantastic job inspiring your teammates, just as you have been doing all this time. :slight_smile: