Volunteers -- Solutions/Ideas

Now that there is some discussion/feedback on the Michigan tournament structure - thanks for bringing it to the people AND asking for input Dave! - what are we gonna do about it?

A lot of legitimate, and potentially serious, issues have been raised and will likely continue in Dave’s thread. Hopefully the people “defending” the new structure take it for what it is: constructive discussion. But now that we are going to be required to do this, we could also get some discussion going on solutions and ideas for improvements. I for one am thankful that competing in FRC has prepared us teams for collaboratively working together to make things better.

So please post your ideas and proposals for solutions. Identify the problem, but focus on the solution. Unlike the Michigan tournament schedule, this thread is open to all teams worldwide :).

Problem: The increased number of tournaments is going to require a lot more volunteers in order to have quality events running smoothly, which is required for these events to be FIRST-like.**

Idea for Solution: We need to do a better job of “bundling” volunteers for events. One way to do this is to have teams, rather than individuals, volunteer. If teams in Michigan can find out what the tournament schedule is, and have some assurance that they will be able to get into the tournaments that they want, they can also plan to set aside a weekend to volunteer at one of the district events when they are not competing. If the organizers of these events see a couple of teams coming forward for each District Event, it will greatly simplify their lives - they can focus on placing knowledgeable/“trained” people in the right spots instead of just scraping up warm untrained bodies.

What it will take to succeed: Get the events time/place nailed down. Publish the schedule. Identify the volunteer coordinators. Make it easy for a group to volunteer (sign up and logistics). Do this well in advance so people can prepare and get trained. Be ready for some team to drop out if they have to compete that weekend because of scheduling snafu’s.

What teams can do: Please consider doing this - it is a great teambuilding exercise and might be almost as good as a regional in terms of the team coming together as one unit. It is not expensive if you can stay at home.


Problem: 7 events - 3 current events = 4 new events i.e. 4 events with at least some new apect (event crew, event location, …)

I think that at least a couple of the planned District events hold off season events so they should be familiar with the formatting, but at least a couple may be brand new.

Experienced teams with travel budget agree to travel to distant district to help run the event.
Local teams build up a helper map of the area (resturuants, hardware stores, hotels and lodging).
Young teams will need to be understanding that experienced teams are there to help and compete, not trying to find locations with less competition. There always seems to be an awkward balance where some are inspired and some are upset. I would ask the upset teams to realize this strategy would be for the benefit of the event.

We posted at the same time…http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showpost.php?p=760221&postcount=175 :slight_smile:

RE: Inspections. I really liked the system Boston used this year (and there are probably other great examples) with info sent to teams ahead of time, easy to read grids where the different areas were broken down, and the use of dots to tell when they were completed. In a second, it was easy to go by the inspection station and tell “where things were” for the teams as a whole.

Ken, this is why we all adore you…

Problem: Many volunteers for competitions are from teams. Teams will not know until very shortly before the Michigan championship if they will make it and thus volunteers will be scarce for the biggest Michigan event (ex. my parents ran pit admin at GLR this past year, with 1243’s mentor as their guy in charge of parts/tech issues. 1243 may not know until the week before if they make states or not so they cannot volunteer)

Solution: I’m still pondering, I hope that people will help with this one!

Who says you have to have a team there to volunteer? That’s the measure of a true volunteer - one who goes to other events.

I guess I wasn’t totally clear with my issue.

The problem I’m citing is that, if “my team” is there (or may be there) “I” won’t volunteer until “I” know that “my” team won’t need “me”.

And also a measure of who has a lot of vacation days. :slight_smile:

Problem: Many people have limited vacation days from their jobs, especially if they don’t have many years with that company yet. Sometimes it can come down to taking a much needed [family] vacation or using the day for a FIRST event.

Solution: Have FIRST in Michigan approach corporations in the area and talk them them about this, and try to see if a solution can be worked out, such as one which allows employees to volunteer at one FIRST event (or actually, any 2-3 day community service event) without having it count towards their vacation days.

Ken’s idea of having a team volunteer for an event is nothing new. His team has volunteered at Detroit, I believe, every year since it started. His team is always eager to help, courteous, and experienced. Also who says that the teams that volunteer for the State championship or any other regional have to be from that area. I know for fact that many teams go to rookie regionals just to help get them started and are not competing.

These are all great ideas Ken and if I hadn’t said so before, you should be proud of your team as they are great FIRST ambassadors.

Good Point Beth. Which is why I have serious questions about where all of the volunteers for districts are supposed to come from, especially if there are two districts on the same weekend. If teams are supplying volunteers for districts & the state event, are there enough flexible resources to go around volunteering for events and running teams w/out burning people out?

Personally speaking from a small team perspective (of which is reported by Jim Z as representative of a majority of MI teams), after having volunteered at both the Kettering Rookie and Great Lakes Regionals- in addition to attending our events at Midwest and West Michigan for 2008, it takes a LOT of extra volunteer time and personal resources, that could otherwise be spent with ones own team or taking a break with family during the season. How many people do they think will be willing to take or make that extra FIRST time year after year?

If Kettering holds a district for '09 I KNOW I would be hard-pressed to actually volunteer, or provide volunteers during the event (though we will unquestionably support it in some capacity) as well participate with the team. Being the local event, it would not make sense for us to just volunteer as hosts and not participate, though at the same time we are in the best position to be local volunteers… Being effectively the same as a regional event now, I fear we might be over-estimating the volunteer resources we might otherwise have locally available from teams for a Rookie, or Off-Season event. Flint, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Ypsi area events will probably be OK, as there is a substantial experience base, but new areas…

Should we qualify for state, you’re right -volunteering for an event we also are paying big $$ to attend takes on an entirely different tune.

Someone referenced filling the gap with travelling or out-of-state volunteers. This is great, but who’s paying for THEIR expenses? How sustainable is this past 2009 if everyone else moves towards this format? There’s a fine line between volunteering turning to expectation.

I am also one of the people scratching their head wondering why we are going to be paying $5000 for essentially two $400 Off-Season Events (or what we knew as Off-Season events)

Can anyone list some of the incentives for volunteering at these events as teams?
If you can look at the incentives, you can see how sustainable a robust and hearty demand for volunteers is stretched out over the competition season.

If there needs to be some incentives established for this new venture, what would they be?

Possible solution for sources of volunteers:

  1. I have written a grant proposal to use a team of Americorps-NCCC volunteers for the past 4 years at the Chesapeake Regional. Here is the wonderful team from this past year: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/media/photos/31092

It appears that Michigan has a fairly active Americorps program. I would suggest that the Michigan planning structure look into this program to see if a team could be used going from event to event. Housing would need to be found for the team, unless they are within about 50 miles of their base.

  1. Connect with the Michigan Volunteer Centers. http://www.michigan.gov/mcsc/0,1607,7-137-6115---,00.html

In a (not-so-distant) past life I competed in a road rally competition for alternative fueled vehicles. Because this was a “rolling tournament” all teams were required to send at least one team member per day to volunteer with the organization to keep things running smoothly. We actually sent 2 or 3 since our team was kinda big (10-ish members)

Requred volunteering hasn’t really been neccessary in the past with* FIRST* (which I was shocked to see the number of volunteers who showed up to events without being required to sign up when I first joined in 2001) but with an ever growing schedule & more events added every year, this could be a solution.

If teams are tight pressed for members, exceptions can be made, but there are certainly plenty of teams who bring a huge amount of people who are just filling stands, who would actually have some fun volunteering.

If Michigan approached every team & told them (re: requested very nicely :smiley: ) that they had to supply 1 member for every 10 who show up to compete, I’m sure teams would happily agree, and if not, too bad.
It’s in the rules. lol

If a team brought 100 people, I’m sure they could spare about 5-10 for the weekend to help out on top of the already teamless, or regular volunteer crowd that show up.

Volunteer Co-Ordinating would be much much crazier, but we should expect that if we change up tournament structures this drastically in the future.

From someone who has volunteered at countless events since 2001 in FLL, since 2006 in FTC & since 2004 in FRC, I can say that being part of the volunteer crew is both fun, rewarding, & gives you a different perspective than just going with a team, & can let you “learn the system” a little better which can help any team in the long run during a weekend filled with a lot of commotion (and especially for the rookies) who have a lot of questions.

It’s also easier to understand WHY FIRST does things when you’re on that other side of the fence between competing & running/volunteering at an event.

Let’s face it. Without the volunteers that dedicate their time (in the weekend of an event alone - not even counting all the behind the scenes work all year long) an event would never be as fun, or sucessful as they have been all these years.


Probably not one of the most effective solution, but most of these distrcit regionals will be held on college campus if im not wrong… West Michigan ( Grand Valley State), Kettering (Kettering), Detroit ( I think Wanye State?), but my point wolud be looking into college kids in the college in engineering classes maybe volunter or look for FIRST allumi in those colleges willing to help also… This point might have been sort of meaningless as in already thoguht of, but its always good to be put out there if forgotten…

Not a solution but an editorial :wink:
Challenge. Many of the volunteer positions (I’d have to look at my spreadsheet to see the exact % but estimate more than 50%) are not just warm bodies, but positions that require some training, or at the very least, a pretty good orientation. Matching up who wants to do what, with who should be doing what, takes some time. Volunteer coordination (diplomat and task master rolled into one) is rewarding, but hard work.

Volunteering can be a lot of fun if you feel like you are part of the team and can do a good job. The key will be finding the proper preparation, and figuring out what is “good enough.”

That was something I meant to include in my “required volunteer” suggestion, but forgot. Thanks for covering that Jenny!
That is an excellent point!

“Warm bodies” are good for things like handing out safety glasses, & crowd control at the least, but certainly not for things like scorekeeping, refereeing, & field reset (unless you are a really quick learner - lol)

The more you know about the competition, the more jobs you can be placed in. Learn all you can about the way things work at a competition setting, & the possibilities for volunteering are endless!!
More choices in volunteering = Happy volunteers!
When you are happy in your volunteer position that leads to a great experience for everyone (including teams)!
Trust me. :wink:

Requireing teams to have 1 volunteer for every 10 is a great soluton. figure most teams have 10 to 20 kids, and with 35 to 40 teams attending an event; there could be 80+ extra volunteers. I’m not sure how many are needed to run an event, but there should at least be enough to fill the “warm body” positions. Besides who better to run field reset than the people who have studied the game for 6 weeks? As long as the postition doesn’t have anything to do with the outcome of a match, I’m fine with teams being required to send a volunteer or two.