I am just looking to the community to see what you guys are doing for recruitment. I am worried about having returning members. With no regional, I am worried that the many new members that we recruited for the 2020 season are not coming back. We aren’t sure if we are going to be able to have shop for build season. I would really interested in hearing of some virtual or small group projects to help with new member engagement.
We’ve had a lot our members disengage as well. While you can’t ignore recruiting new students (everyone graduates eventually) make sure you’re putting effort into retaining and sustaining your current team.
One thing 5700 is doing is CADing a second robot for infinite recharge, with the intent to eventually build it when that becomes possible. We figure there will be either offseasons playing infinite recharge or possibly (if things are really really bad) another replay of infinite recharge, so we’ll have an opportunity to compete with the robot eventually.
For now, the CAD project is a fun, relevant, and incredibly educational way to mimic some of the excitement of build season, although it of course can’t compare to the real thing.
In terms of recruitment, our school had a virtual club rush which we participated in. If your school doesn’t have a virtual club rush see if you can send a fancy email to all the students in the school talking about robotics. In addition, talk about robotics in your classes - there are many upperclassmen who newly have the time for robotics with COVID having cancelled so much stuff.
Context: our school is 100% virtual through the end of the semester (maybe longer, TBD), extracurriculars are not allowed to meet in person & students are not allowed on campus, but mentors are allowed on campus outside of school hours.
For getting new members in the virtual door, our team had a shocking amount of success this year with the team social media + word of mouth. I was expecting zero new members this year, but so far we have 6-8 who have come to nearly every meeting, and another 4-5 who come about half the time. When asked why they decided to join, either 1) they were looking for something to do because their regular extracurriculars were cancelled, and they saw our Instagram post/their parent saw our Facebook post, or 2) one of their friends joined the team last year and said it was fun.
For keeping them engaged once they’re here, we split the team into 5 smaller teams of 6-7 kids and each team is designing a robot for an old FTC game (Block Party). They’re doing strategy/brainstorming, CAD, and programming virtually, and once they’re ready, mentors will be ordering & machining parts for them. We’ll give parts & tools to one person on each team to assemble, then they’ll hand it off to another teammate to wire it up, and then to another teammate to test code. At the end of the semester either we’ll do a socially-distanced tournament, or we’ll have each robot complete a skills test at home.
So far this project has been a lot of work on the mentor side (and we haven’t even started machining yet…), but it seems very engaging for the students. We’ve been going for about a month, with two 2-hr meetings per week, and have had 25-30 students at each meeting (out of 35 total that signed up)
We’ve had a surprisingly high amount of new membership this year, which I wasn’t expecting. The students are managing recruiting and doing a great job. The school had a virtual club fair which got us a few signups, we put together a recruiting video which we’re convincing some teacher to play during their classes, and we also just have a good number of “word-of-mouth” signups where students and parents know ahead of time that we have a great robotics program.
We let our school handle recruitment for the most part, and at least to my knowledge, we haven’t had any issues with it until fairly recently. I think we had a huge spike in interest going into the 2019-2020 school year though, which forced us to take some action to limit the total number of people on the team. We probably had around 80-100 applicants this year total, and about 30-35 actually made it through the lottery into Semester One, since distance learning made that number considerably more manageable. Around 10 of these 30 will likely make the Semester Two Roster since we limit our final team size to 40 or so people for build season. The plus side of this is that it means that the majority of our members are pretty dedicated, consistently attend meetings, and put in effort to improve the team as a whole. Part of the interest probably stems from the team being a school program rather than just a club, and living in the Silicon Valley probably doesn’t hurt either. One thing I know we used to do was a Tech Program Exhibition, similar to a club fair, but a bit more formal. I’m not sure how much this helped with admissions though since it was mostly there to help out newer students who already knew they were interested in STEM and just needed help picking out a specific program to participate in.
We sort of got a lucky bounce. Last year we had to fill a lot of gaps, since a large cohort of seniors had graduated. We did a summer program, identified promising 8th graders…and promoted five to the team. Four stuck around. And were really good.
So we don’t have as many gaps to fill, especially as we have been keeping team size “manageable” due to space constraints.
So far this year we have had enough people seek us out that we have probably replaced the more manageable number of graduations. But we think we can expand a bit more. We are planning a static display of the robot as well as an article in the school activities newsletter. The students are also doing a video presentation for the local community ed program. All these should, in theory, funnel more interested parties our way. We’ll probably attempt a Zoom meeting for some, just to answer questions. So when - fingers crossed - we start meeting in a while we’ll have a whole new crew to train in the ways of the Robot.
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