One of the most important elements in recruiting for your robotics team is seeking passionate students in various areas of interest, bringing them on board and providing opportunities for growth. Often students just entering high school do not have a deep understanding of various areas of work, however, they do know what they like to do, what they're good at and how they like to spend their time. Keying into these facts and illustrating opportunities in recruitment is very important.
At recruitment events it is important a team do the following things:
1. Bring a robot and safely set up a demonstration with safety cones and human safety captains at key points to ensure crowd safety. Then show that robot off!
2. Set up posters and displays with lots of pictures -- so students can see what robotics is about!
3. Lay out some high quality, information packed literature: business cards, brochures, and recruitment contact information. If possible print up a small item with your website and recruitment window dates printed on them: notepads, mini toys, pencils, etc.
4. Feature a "girl's" display. Design an area that will call them over and give them permission to linger. Post a girl in that area to answer questions and talk with interested girls. Include any trophies or photos from All Girls Events. List ancillary events like Girls Driving Practice, All Girl Competitions, and Girls Who Code events.
5. Run a looping slide show featuring the diversity in your team through photos, films and programs. This gives students the opportunity to see students from all races, genders, and identifications. They will see others like them learning and having fun!
When it comes to showing what a robotics team can do for girls in particular, this is very important. Girls must see options because not all girls feel the same. Some teams might focus on what they think might be girl type activities and channel girls towards those areas. Perhaps areas in the soft skills: communications, presentations, art, writing, maybe even finance, and these areas might be good starting points for some girls -- just as they are for some boys. However, other girls might feel frustrated that they are really being misunderstood or being held back. Don't allow this to happen. Some students come to teams wanting a technical-only experience, and it is okay. They want to get into the mechanical assembly room and the machine shop. They want to learn the technical elements of an electrical board or programming code. This is a good thing! I once had a custom built work bench for a girl in a wheelchair. She wanted to be on the mechanical team, and she was good at it! It is important that we understand students must be allowed to begin the work in the areas that they are passionate about. A mentality of saying when a student is young or of a certain class standing in school or a certain gender that they will be placed in a seemingly appropriate area of the team is wrong. I once heard a coach say " Kids that join my team do not touch the robot the first year. They start in support areas and stay there for their first year." I was a young coach when I first heard this but it stuck with me because as a teacher I believed it was wrong. Now I know it is wrong. Let the individual evolution begin!
In all of my years of administering and coaching FIRST robotics teams, I have felt strongly about providing opportunities for each student in their area of interest. That is the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket on a robotics team. Flowers thrive in a garden perfect for them, and there they will be happiest. Same as team members! Students, boys and girls, must be able to pursue interests that they feel passionate about. When you allow that to happen amazing things will take place. The scary part for leaders is we don't feel control over it-- but that is okay, too.
It is very important that a recruitment program respectfully -- with no assumptions where female recruits are concerned, provides opportunities for students and rather than offering a robotics program to students that dictates student involvement according to student’s age or gender, but one that explores possibilities for each student in their interest and directs passion, develops work ethic and teaches discipline for when on occasion other work for the team must be done -- everyone understands passions must be set aside and everyone must step up to the work at hand -- like a team!
This blog was written by Isolina C. from FRC team 2832. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
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