FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) isn’t just about robots, outreach is also a big part of the program! When performing outreach, teams spread the awareness of FIRST and STEM to people not just in their community, but globally as well. The point of outreach is to help get others interested and excited about STEM. There are 2 different kinds of outreach: community outreach and engineering outreach. During tournaments, teams can receive awards related to outreach. Demoing your robot at your local fair, giving a presentation about FIRST to a local engineering company, and helping a rookie team with practice judging are all examples of the various types of outreach.
- Always be on the lookout for outreach opportunities - teams will get more outreach done if they are the ones to reach out first
- Don’t be afraid to invite other teams to your outreach events - inviting other teams can make an event a lot more fun and will strengthen the relationship between teams
- Talk to adults about mentoring local teams or volunteering at FIRST tournaments during any type of outreach
- Pack appropriately for outreach events - It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared
- Keep track of the number of people your team talks to and the number of events - judges like to see numbers of how many people were impacted in outreach efforts. Small * click trackers are a great way to keep count of people
- Give out small tokens like buttons or stickers - this will help people remember your team if they see you at other events
- Take breaks during long events - have a few team members split off and take a break every so often so nobody burns out
- Bring more than one shirt to long or multi-day events - having an extra shirt to change into is nice, especially for back to back days of outreach events
- Invite other teams to outreach events - it's more fun for everyone to do outreach events together
- Have fun at events!
Spreading awareness of FIRST and STEM in the local community is considered Community Outreach. Community outreach is made up of two different types: reaching out to the general public about FIRST or volunteering to help other teams within the FIRST community. Some examples of community outreach events are demoing the robot at the local library, giving a presentation about your team to the community, or helping another FIRST team at one of their events. Volunteering at local FIRST tournaments is another form of community outreach. Here, teams can volunteer to do a variety of tasks. Check with your FIRST Partner to find out what roles are available. In some cases, alumni have the opportunity to act as a judge at FLL tournaments if they have been out of the program for more than 3 years. The task available varies between tournaments and states. FIRST partners are always looking for volunteers to help at tournaments. Contact FIRST or your local FIRST affiliate if you’re interested in volunteering, Mentoring other teams by giving advice and feedback is yet another form of community outreach. Most mentorship happens when an experienced team mentors a rookie FTC team, or helps a team in other FIRST programs like FIRST LEGO® League or FIRST Robotics Challenge.
- Have a social media account - follow FTC teams around the world and post regularly. It can make your team’s presence known not just in the community but globally as well
- Use social media to promote outreach events - by doing this, teams could get more people involved in the event
- Pay attention to what teams are posting on their social media accounts for possible outreach opportunities
- Volunteer at local FIRST tournaments - this is a great way to see what it’s like behind the scenes of a tournament and a great way to interact with people in the FIRST community
- Be on the lookout for people who are showing interest in the demo and engage with them - introduce yourself to them and start a conversation
- Being friendly makes your team more approachable to others - being friendly will get more people interested in what you have to say
- A good place to look for mentoring teams are rookie teams in your district
- A good way of mentoring is offering to do practice judging with the teams
- Don’t overwhelm the team you’re mentoring with complicated information
- Let people drive the robot - it is a great interactive experience for them, but make sure your robot is child safe if you do this
Reaching out to the engineering community is considered engineering outreach. In this situation, both the team and the engineering community benefit through the exchange of ideas.
One of the ways teams do engineering outreach is by demoing their robots to local engineering companies. At robot demonstrations, companies are made aware of FIRST programs while opening the door to possible sponsorship and mentorship for the team.
Exchanging ideas with engineering experts is another form of engineering outreach. This happens when a team reaches out for advice to improve their robot. Learning from professionals benefits teams by teaching them new techniques and ideas while also exposing them to the real-world engineering community. It also creates the beginning of a network that can lead to a career in a STEM field.
- Be on the lookout for engineering companies as possible contacts for demos and sponsorship - write down names of companies you drive by to contact them later
- Whenever asking for a sponsorship, try and demo at the company - demoing at engineering companies is engineering outreach
- Online demos are a great way to contact companies - online demos are a great way to contact companies from far away places, and demo to a large number of engineers
- Come up with a list of questions to ask experts before an outreach event
- Keep notes on advice experts give your team - even if they don’t apply currently they could for future seasons
- Be sure to tell companies you demo for about FIRST and FTC
- Create presentations a couple of weeks before the event to prevent last-minute work
- Presentations should explain the basics of the program and include information about your team