Recruiting Your Students
A goal of our program is to get students involved in science and technology. There are going to be some students at your school who will naturally be attracted to FIRST. There will be others who we would like to see, but may require some additional recruiting efforts on your part. The goal of the FIRST programs are to increase the number of students going into science and technology. To actually increase that number, we need to get students who otherwise wouldn’t take interest. This is an intense and exciting team sport that should be open to anyone who wishes to participate. We want these students to be inspired to find a passion. To serve these students best, we need them on your team.
We highly recommend removing any barriers to being on your team. Some basic level of commitment is going to be required by the team members. It should be a relatively low level! This is a big project that could potentially consume a great deal of time. It is very common for students to have many activities they are involved in. For your FRC team, this is generally a good thing. You are going to end up with a core group of kids for whom your FRC team is their world. You will have other students who are also in Drama, Band, Basketball, ASB presidents, work after school, etc. Your core group of kids are going to be inspired to be there every time. The other students can make it whenever they are able. Let them work around their own schedule. We discourage making rules about being at every build session. It isn’t realistic, and will reduce the participation on your team.
The advantage to this approach is that students who are involved in other activities can introduce your team to other programs in your school and fine useful ways to leverage that to your advantage. For example, someone in the schools video production club may be able to bring resources from that club to document your efforts. Having kids who work after school is a perfect way to get your team known in the business community.
This is also a program that should cater to both girls and boys. Experience tells us that girls are very well suited to this task, and that they should be encouraged to work with the team. They turn out to be excellent engineering candidates, and also excellent leaders of many teams.
If at all possible, work with your FRC Committee to arrange a robot visit from another school. Hold an after school meeting for the robotics ‘club’. We have video available for you to show, and also some recruiting posters you are welcome to have printed. Tell everyone on your team to bring an interested friend.
Experience tells us that kids are very interested in FIRST, and that is very obvious when you see the growth that happens in the second year teams at most schools.
Mentors are typically adults who are willing to help your team. We like to get engineers from various industries to come in and work with your team. Mechanical engineers and software engineers can add a lot to your team. Anyone with above average mechanical skills and a knowledge of a wide variety of subjects can be a huge help to you. Machinists, hobbyists, and carpenters can be just as valuable. Mentors are by no means limited to just engineers and technical people either. FIRST competitions have a large number of logistic, fundraising, and administrative needs that often times can be aided by parents or other volunteers.
Some corporations encourage their employees to get involved with FIRST or other non-profits. Boeing mentors (employees and retired employees), for example, come with grant money for participating. Intel employees are matched with a cash hourly donation from Intel. Other companies have similar programs.
Recruiting mentors often times starts with the students. Some of them will have parents qualified to help out, or will know someone who is. This is something you should routinely ask your students to talk with their parents about.
As with any interaction between your students and adults, you should follow your schools procedures on background checks.