“FIRST is For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Nowhere in the name says the word “robot.” And while the program itself may consist of a robotics competition, FIRST is much greater than that – it is the raising of a generation of leaders who will ultimately influence the science and technology community.”
-- Jim Beck, FIRST Western Regional Director
And he is right.
FIRST is more than just building robot. FIRST is about building leaders within the community. Therefore, it is so important for teams to be actively involved in their communities – to spread the message of FIRST and FIRST programs, develop innovative programs that engages youth in math, science, and technology, and to engage local schools, universities, organizations, businesses, and corporations in FIRST.
But how do we do this?
Evaluate your goals
First, begin by revisiting your goals as a team. It is so easy to identify ourselves as a “robotics team” or an “outreach team” – but it is so hard to be both. Look at what your goals are. You can change and modify them to meet your needs. The most important thing, however, is to make them cohesive and to ensure that each team member agrees on them – to guarantee that each member is on the same page and that your team is working together.
Identify your strengths
What resources does your team have within your team and within the community? How can you use these resources to accomplish your goals? Once you have listed and identified your strengths, find ways of sharing them with other FIRST teams and with your community.
Identify your weaknesses
What resources does your team not have? Where do you think we can access these resources? Who can you partner with to support you in your endeavors? Once you have listed these “weaknesses” and identified where you can access them, communicate your needs with those entities to gain access to those resources.
Refine your ambitions
Determine your target population
What population are you targeting with your programs and your efforts? How will it benefit them? Will they be excited? Do they need your assistance? Once you have answered these essential questions, take the first courageous step towards initiating contact with them.
Writing the proposal After your brainstorming, you should write a “proposal.” Summarize what you are trying to do and why you should be supported in your endeavors. The proposal should be straight to the point, includes detailed descriptions of your goals, your program, and your target population. It should also describe how you are going to acquire the materials to make your program feasible and how you are going to measure the impact of your efforts.
Build networks Contact the FIRST teams, community organizations, businesses, or individuals that you feel will aid you in your program. Make sure you communicate your vision clearly and enthusiastically – get them hooked!
Finding the facilities After you have identified where your program will take place, contact those facilities and deliver your proposal – it could be through email, telephone call, or formal presentation. Use whatever way you see fit to communicate your vision to them. Keep in mind that these facilities can be within your own school or in your own neighborhood!
Recruit volunteers After you accomplished the initial planning stages, find your volunteers. These volunteers can be students within your own team, students within other FIRST teams, or members within your community.
Facilitate your program This is the best part – the “doing.”
Getting feedback After organizing and facilitating your program, get feedback from your team, your volunteers, the organizations you partnered with, and the students you impacted. Identify areas where you were strong and where you can improve. Then, sit down with your team, and determine ways you can improve.
Continue growing and improving Don’t just stop there! Continue to facilitate your program. Find ways of expanding it. Recruit more volunteers. Impact more students and continue to spread the message of FIRST.
Raise awareness within your community Make sure people know what you are doing. Get students within your team to partner with local newspapers, news stations, radio stations, and publications to foster awareness of your program within your community. You never know who might hear about your program and extend gracious support.
If you need ideas or what direct help in creating specific programs or projects within your team, don’t hesitate to contact us!
"Through FIRST, I have been able to build friendships that I am sure will last my entire life."
KATRINA WONG, Midnight Mechanic
Katrina Wong (right) entered the magical world of the Midnight Mechanics as a freshmen in high school. She began her FIRST career as a member of the Community Partnerships department, organizing and facilitating community events. At the Los Angeles Regional, her first regional, she was excited to meet students, like Monica Fernandez (left), who were just as crazy about FIRST as she was. Today, although Monica is off at Purdue University, she still maintains contact with her fellow Midnight Mechanic.
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