The goal of every FIRST team should be to inspire generations of students to become leaders in math, science, and technology. In order to do this, the team itself must consist of students whose leadership both sustains and preserves the team and its goals year after year.
Sustainability is one of the characteristics of a successful FIRST team. It is the ability of a team to:
(1) Transfer its knowledge of constructing a robot in six short, rigorous weeks
(2) Engage students in meaningful service to the community
(3) To continually spread the message of FIRST and FIRST programs
(4) Build on existing partnerships
(5) Develop new partnerships with local schools, universities, organizations, corporations, businesses, and community leaders
(6) Recruit and retain students
(7) Continue to inspire an appreciation of math, science, and technology among the youth
But how can a team achieve this?
The Midnight Mechanics strongly advises you to document all of the activities within your team. Write everything down! We encourage you to document each facet if your team – which includes, but is not limited to, organization, leadership, robot construction, financial development, community outreach, public relations, contact information, robot construction, travel/lodging, etc.
Once something is written, it is easily transferable from one individual to another. This way, as veteran members graduate, rookie members can hold onto the wealth of their knowledge and experiences and continue to run a successful team.
Your team must develop a strong and cohesive business plan. The business plan must have a detailed report of how the team raises funds, what the funds are used for, specific expenditures, and outline a schedule for raising funds over a period of time.
It is an unfortunate reality that many FIRST teams are forced to withdraw from the program because they cannot financially support themselves, because they have no money. By creating a successful business plan, you can ensure that your team continues year after year.
More often than not, many FIRST teams falter because they lose their head adult mentor. When this happens, many teams are forced to start over or withdraw because they do not have the adult support needed to function. Therefore, developing a student-run team is critically important in achieving a team’s sustainability. The Midnight Mechanics encourages teams to do this by getting students involved in all facets of running a FIRST team – financial development, recruitment/retention of team members, community partnerships, and public relations. Students should also be familiar with TIMS and be comfortable with communicating with FIRST officials and their regional director.
Once a team achieves this, it becomes easier for students to establish meaningful, feasible goals and to achieve them. It is also easier for students to pass on their knowledge and experiences with FIRST. Most important, however, it allows a team to continue to be strong despite whatever circumstances they may face.
Establishing Support Networks
You cannot work alone. A team will never be successful if they keep to themselves, if they are independent of the greater FIRST community. In order to achieve sustainability, a team must be in active communication and collaboration with other FIRST teams in their area.
This “support network” or, as the Midnight Mechanics call it, “family” allows teams to access guaranteed assistance, obtain resources that they may or may not have, and share the wealth of their knowledge and experiences with other teams. It also allows teams to overcome obstacles with support from the FIRST community, makes it possible for teams to create an even greater impact in their community, and fosters social opportunities among student participants.
"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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