Hopefully, part of your decision to start a FIRST team was based on some adult mentors committing to lead the project. Mentors get involved with FIRST teams in all different ways (some even recruited during the six-week robot build). The earlier you can identify a core group of mentors, the better.
BACKGROUND / QUALIFICATIONS
Like the qualifications for the student members, commitment to the program is the number one criterion. If you can snag mentors, who have been previously associated with another FIRST team, you will have a much easier sell. If not, look for mentors who have some experience in any of the following areas: robotics, mechanical engineering, machining, electrical engineering, electronics/circuitry, computer programming, construction, leadership, education, teaching, computer aided design / manufacturing, etc.
TIP It is likely that the mentors will not have experience building robots. Not to worry! There are many resources throughout the FIRST community to assist you.
TIP Teacher mentors are invaluable to this program. Many engineers may know a bit about how to build robots, but not much about teaching high school students. Teachers can complement technical professionals and vice-versa.
TIP Ensure you have mentors you can trust around teenage children. While it is a taboo topic that most of us would rather not discuss, the team leaders need to do the best they can to ensure that they can feel comfortable with the mentors interacting with students in many different venues at different times of the day.
WHERE TO LOOK FOR MENTORS
It is ideal for your mentors to come from your local area. You will meet many times. Having mentors who do not have to travel far greatly helps their retention.
Look in your school, local area companies (engineering centers, machine shops, construction, electrical contractors, lumberyards, etc.).
TIP Tell everyone you can about your need, including parents of team members. Parents are one of the best sources of mentors; they obviously have a personal reason for the program to be successful. Even if the parent cannot be a mentor, many times they have networks that you can connect into where mentors can be found.
THE MENTOR – SUPPLIES CONNECTION
Another way to identify places to look for mentors is to determine what facilities, equipment, supplies, tools you will need and start your search there. The best of all worlds is if you have mentors who have access to the equipment you need to make your robot. Look at hardware stores, rental spaces, department stores, etc.