It's the time of the year when some of us have returned to the everyday school life. Others are enjoying the summer months, counting the days until the early wake-up begins. Along with new notebooks and new teachers, FIRST programs have begun. Only a few days remain until the FLL season begins and the new competition mats are creating a buzz. The FTC kickoff is next month. The speculation about bumpers returning for the FRC game in 2016 is rampant.
With the new school year and new FIRST challenges, many of us are working to recruit new members to our FIRST teams. Here are some things to think about for recruiting:
Emphasize the team’s training programs. Students may think they need experience to be successful on a FIRST team. The FIRST community is good at sharing our collective experience and wisdom. The game is new each year and we will teach you everything you need to know.
Talk to all types of people. Some of the best robot builders are also in the arts and athletics programs. Put together a short 5 minute presentation about the team and benefits of participation. Give the presentation at the beginning of every freshman science or math class. If possible, have current team members deliver the presentation in person.
Show off the robot. Most schools have some type of club recruitment fair at the beginning of the school year. Work with the school to bring the robot to the recruitment fair. Find a space to show off the robot, inviting all potential members to drive or operate. Have a team application ready or gather information from potential new members, including email address, grade level and phone numbers.
Have a clear process on how to join the team. Does your team use an application process? Recruit team members by borrowing a page from athletic teams. Announce the time frame to join the team, a tryout or interview, and announce the roster of students. Create a team policy for those who wish to join the team later. This will help avoid students joining who just want to hang out or get out of class during competitions.
Money talks. Freshman and sophomores are usually dependent on parents for transportation. Engage the parents with the benefits of the program, including scholarships and career preparation. They may need motivation to pick up their student in the middle of a snowstorm in the dark of the night.
“Is this like Battlebots?” Be ready to answer questions like this. Yes, we have exciting competitions with robust robot interactions. The FTC and FRC competitions have head-to-head playoffs like many sports tournaments.
Information is important. At recruitment events, collect email addresses of interested students. Once the student has provided an email address, hand them a reminder. A business card or postcard size paper works well. Follow up and encourage them to apply. Nag if necessary.
Pictures are powerful. In recruitment posters and flyers, emphasize your message. Make sure images are clear, positive and inclusive. Consider subtle biases pictures may represent.
Good luck and we will see you at the competitions!
FRC Team 33 is currently recruiting for their 21st season. They scuff the floor wax and damage the ceiling tiles at recruitment events, but the school doesn't mind - too much.
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