WHY YOU NEED THEM
FIRST is a unique and proven program, but it is also an expensive to get started. To simply participate will cost your team $8,000-$10,000. Sponsorship is essential.
TIP As a rookie team, look into the NASA grants which are awarded annually. Keep in mind that if you should be awarded one of these grants, you will need to attend one of the NASA-sponsored regional competitions.
WHAT THEY CAN DO FOR YOU
Sponsors can donate the money your team needs to compete effectively. Sponsors can also do much more. They can supply tools, equipment, facilities, food, services (printing, copying, machining, etc.), and can be true partners for your team. Identify a list of current and potential sponsors and assign some adults to contact them to explain the program and see how they can assist you.
TIP This is a perfect task to have parents assist you.
TIP Use any and all FIRST-created materials to engage sponsors. Videotapes, DVDs, printed brochures are available. Look in the FIRST team resources section of the FIRST website.
WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR THEM
While some sponsors may help you out of the goodness of their hearts, they are also looking for how support of your team can help them. Think about how sponsors can benefit and communicate this in presentations to sponsors.
Some areas include: demonstrated commitment to technology education and the technology workforce of the future, exposure through the team via their name on banners, team shirts, and the robot, and recognition that they are improving education in their local community.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT
If your team is lucky enough, in addition to having committed students, you will also draw into your team a number of committed parents. Parents committed to helping your team are like gold and will make the job of the team leaders much easier.
OPEN HOUSE FOR PARENTS / FAMILIES
Take time to get the word out about the program and your resource needs to parents. The best way to do this is to hold an open house sometime in the fall. Describe the program, obtain videos of previous year’s competition (available through FIRST), and, if you can, have members of veteran FIRST teams come in as guest speakers. They may even be able to bring their robot.
TIP When you interact with parents through an open house, be sure to obtain parent contact information (e-mail and phone). Then you will be able to create a parent e-mail distribution list, which you can use to communicate team information and ask for help when you need it.
TIP Be sure to inform parents that, last season, FIRST students were eligible for more than $8 million in scholarships to colleges and universities.
TEAM ROLES FOR PARENTS
First, ask the question if the parents have any technical skills. Who knows, you might find the best robot build mentor via your parents? Also, consider parents who can do the following for your team: keep attendance, keep track of finances, handle clerical tasks, build parts of the playing field, take photos or video during the season, lead fundraising efforts, supply meals for the team on certain dates, etc.
TIP Similar to searching for mentors, work to find parent volunteers you are comfortable with around teenage children. While the parents may not spend one-on-one time with student team members as mentors would, you want to minimize any problems in this area.