A robotics team can sound very intimidating to a high school student, especially one who has no prior experience. However, the more people on a team, the more ideas and manpower the team has, and the better the robot will inevitably be. Here are a few ways to help your team grow and retain anywhere from over ten to over one hundred members.
Have a recruitment meeting within the first few weeks of the year, preferably in a large area like the school cafeteria or gymnasium. Advertise this event on the PA system, in the halls using posters, and by word of mouth. Even after your first recruitment, make sure that people know that they can still join the robotics team later in the year. Holding another recruitment in December might attract people who might have been too preoccupied with school to come to the first meeting.
Ask your school administration and faculty advisor if you can display old robots in heavily tracked areas of the building (make sure that you have at least one team member monitoring the robot at all times!). Try to demonstrate the robots at the recruitment itself, and show videos of the competition challenges.
Ask if the robotics team can appear at school Open Houses, freshmen orientations, Parents’ Association meetings, homecomings, or any other high-profile events at the school. Not only will you wow potential recruits, but you’re also getting the word out to potential sponsors.
Students not interested in power tools? Show them how to use AutoCAD software. A robotics team does far more than build a robot, they also design, program, drive, advertise, and write. Starting a public relations department that handles sponsor relations, fundraising, and outreach is a great way to get people involved in the team who might not ordinarily be interested.
Have meetings throughout the year. Teach new members how to use tools in the beginning of the year, and introduce them to robot systems like electronics and pneumatics. After the build season and competition, keep members coming back by asking veteran members and mentors to hold lectures. This is also a great time to keep your lab clean and start stocking up on materials for next season.
Regionals are one of the most exciting events of the year, and by inviting students, teachers, school officials, friends, and anyone else who will come, people will learn what a great experience FIRST robotics can be and will be ready to join your team!
Ask for the email addresses of people interested in joining the team and make an email group for team leaders to inform people about upcoming meetings and team updates. Once team members start email conversations, you know they’re hooked!