Brief overview of the key components to building a sustainable team.
Year over year – without funding you cannot build a robot, travel, compete, etc.
Mentors must have the proper skills to both teach and lead the team’s adult members and students – you need a wide variety of skills to build a sustainable team. Not all of them are engineering skills. The amount of time any individual mentor can contribute is going to be highly variable.
Mentors shouldn’t be building the robot or directing the day to day activities of the team. While mentoring is rewarding in and of itself FIRST is about the student’s experience. The mentors job is to provide the tools, and the guidance in how to use them, directing the experience of the student to best effect, whether that tool is a band saw or a press release.
Every year you lose at least ¼ of your team. You must bring new students each year to the team – without new students the program will wither. You must maintain a team that has above a critical mass of students, recognizing that the amount each student can and will contribute is highly variable
Since mentoring is a volunteer job (and at times a very time consuming volunteer job) mentors can burn out. Many parent mentors join for the 4 years their kids are in high school and then move on. Teachers are typically reimbursed a very small dollar amount, compared to the effort put in. The fewer mentors or teachers you have either recruited or in the wings the more likely it is that the real world might affect the program in the end. People’s lives change - your team should be able to survive the change of a mentor or teacher without undue negative influence on the program.
FIRST is a highly time consuming activity for a young person. Parents need to understand the VALUE of the program and how it will positively affect their child’s future. They should also know the team expectations and how that affects their student’s participation. The more enthusiastic and involved the parents are, the easier it is for the mentors to concentrate on robot building and the more enthusiastic and available the kids are.
Parents and students need to feel that when a student is at FIRST they are with their second family and that they will be looked out for with as much care and attention as if they were their own kids.
To make the best use of the funding available and control both cash flow and priorities based not only on engineering but on budget (just like in the real world)
Work with the school to have adequate supervision, vetting of adult mentors/chaperones, transportation and facilities access
If everyone understands how the program works, and there is both regular and organized communications between all the constituencies much of the “noise” that teams experience will go away. Clear concise and understandable communication are key to organizational success.
If the program isn’t fun (at least part of the time) for students, mentors, parents, and teachers you really need to question whether it’s worth doing. Sure it will be challenging, sure it will be hard or even impossible sometimes, there will be disappointments. But in general it should be a blast.
FIRST Robotics Team 1511 Building sustainability presentation
Building Sustainability How to build a sustainable FIRST team Team 1511 Penfield Rolling Thunder Presented by Lee Drake, Larry Lewis, Crystal Vongnaphone
Key components• Funding • Parent Involvement• Active Mentors • Safe environment• Active Students • Budgetary Control• Sustainable Student • School Support Recruiting • Organizational Integrity• Sustainable • Safety glasses Mentor/Teacher • Fun! recruiting
Funding• Goal: Create a • Key 1511 initiatives – Strong relation with constant stream major sponsor of cash to – Student driven operate the fundraising team, travel, and – Student driven sponsor drive fund activities. – Parental involvement – Secondary fundraising
Active Mentors• Goal: Have mentors with • Key 1511 Initiatives to the ability to both teach create and keep active and lead the teams other mentors adult mentors and – Subteam system students, from all walks – Hierarchical organization of life. A well rounded, – Lead mentor backed up by well organized large team “leadership assistant” of mentors makes it – Push decisions down to easier for everyone students – manage decision, don’t make them – Active leadership team – Regular leadership coordination meetings – Mailing list
Active students• Goal: Students leading • Key 1511 Initiatives – Student Achievements/ the team, students handbook – Weekly team meetings – building the robot, year round students directing the – Make the team a family during build season day to day operations. – Support students with academic challenges Mentors providing – Accommodate those with tools, support and special needs – Make activities fun guidance to these – Active student leadership students – Parental involvement
Sustainable Student Recruiting • Key 1511 initiatives• Goal: each year – Achievements system allows many to participate, and replace at least as rewards active participation many students as – FLL is breeding ground for FRC, an active FLL initiative creates future FRC students you lost the year – Demos at the middle school before to graduation, and freshman level are critical – Get to events with parents and maintain a critical have parents talk to parents about the advantages of FIRST mass of no less than for their kids – Science Olympiad, scouts, 20-30 students, odyssey of the mind etc. – Every demo an opportunity to relatively evenly recruit divided by class.
Sustainable Mentor/Teacher Recruiting •• Goal: Avoid mentor Key 1511 Initiatives – For teachers, a strong relationship burnout, have a with the school. If possible get your teacher mentor a stipend for system to replace coaching the team, like a sports coach mentors or teachers – Strong demo program – get kids involved in talking to potential lost to attrition due to mentors to get them interested in helping. family or other – Assess the parents of each new freshman recruit year for potential circumstance. mentors, ask them to step up – Re-assess sophomores parents, Mentor roles well sometimes it takes a year to convince them how much fun it is defined and a handoff – Strong mentor program with many mentors means no one mentor bears protocol created. the brunt of the work
Parent Involvement •• Goal: Engage parents in Team 1511 Initiatives – Parents required to attend the program, utilizing parent orientation for student to their organizational participate – Parents mentor other parents skills for NEMO – Meal requirement activities, recruiting – Event requirement mentors from the – Parent mailing list – Recruiting parents as NEMOs parent cohort, actively – Recognizing parents may hand involving them in their off organization duties when child graduates – document child’s participation, roles, and design a hand-off and including them in system decision making. – Involve parents in the achievements and trip cost realities
Safe Environment• Goal: Parents and • Team 1511 Initiatives students need to feel that – Tiered mentor system (1, 2, when a student is at FIRST 3) they are with their – Strong parental second family and that involvement they will be looked out – Constant communication (Mailing list) for with as much care and – Parents get team mailings attention as if they were their own kids. – Cooperation with the school to accommodate handicaps or IEPs (cannot ask about them though)
Budgetary Control• Goal: To make the best use • 1511 Initiatives of the funding available and – Finances controlled by control both cash flow and school/sponsor priorities based not only on – Certain finances go to school, engineering but on budget others provided by sponsor (just like in the real world) – Adult controls all sponsor spends, and approves all school spends – A student leader is responsible for requesting school reimbursements, working with a teacher – Tough decisions are made in concert with parents, mentors, sponsors and school
School Support• Goal: Work with the school to • 1511 initiatives have adequate supervision, – Worked with the school to vetting of adult coordinate tiered mentor program mentors/chaperones, – Lobbied the board for funding for stipends, and additional teachers transportation and facilities – Recruiting of school liaisons access – Take the bulk of organizational duties for everything but trips off the teachers – Demo at school board – Involve your administrators in the team. Invite them just like the football, basketball to go to events. – SHOW teachers and admins the value
Organizational Integrity• Goal: Create a clear, • 1511 Initiatives concise role description – Clearly defined org chart for each “hat” worn by with defined roles/duties mentors, students, – Isolated and up to date parents and teachers, as email lists well as each activity – Forum/wikis performed by the team. – Checklists and tutorials Train new recruits to – Weekly full team meetings these roles, and – Year round participation communicate effectively – Delegate, delegate, between them. delegate – Continual improvement
Fun• Goal: For INSPIRATION • 1511 initiatives and RECOGNITION of – Active off season event Science and Technology. participation Be sure your activities are – Summer leadership camp fun, engaging, and build – Meals with the team team spirit. The goal is to during build season show students how much – Fun-only events fun science, technology – Subteam organizations and engineering is. – Small rewards – Constant “attitude assessment” – Community service requirements