Basketball is easy. Get a ball, a gym and you’re good to go.
Robotics is a bit more difficult. You’ll need the wherewithal to buy materials for your would-be world-beaters and a space to build and test. You’ll also need to have a teacher and industry partner onboard.
But the take-away is a little more substantive than a killer jump shot.
How to Get Started
To start a program in your area, you must be supported by industry/community leaders, educational representatives and local NTMA chapter members. The key to establishing a successful program is the initial assessment of interest by local representatives or NRL program champions—program leaders, school representatives and business sponsors.
Hold your first meeting with the three critical leadership champions—the robotic program leader (the individual who will run and administer the NRL program); a school representative (one who will help involve schools in your area); and an industry sponsor (a member of a local business or association who can help communicate the vision for supporting a local robotics program in the community). NRL’s recommendation, at this meeting, is to provide background on why there’s a need to establish a robotics program, to identify the advantages and purpose of establishing an NRL program in your local community and to highlight the necessary steps to starting your program. It is recommended that one of our national representatives be a guest speaker to help provide the background and answer questions from the audience.
After your first meeting or after a complete understanding of the key goals and objectives have been established for starting a NRL program, it is strongly recommended that a strategic planning session be held to establish the method, procedure schedule, and future activities needed to get started. There are three reasons for this:
- Determine true community interest: In getting started you need to be aware that it will take a great deal of organizational skills in keeping the various parts needed to set up a local program. In starting the program you should invite key leaders who share your vision and responsibilities in getting started. This first strategy meeting is key to your program success.
- Assess the local excitement: Sitting in on a planning session tends to get people very excited about what can be done and gets the group off to a great start.
- Understand the effort required to establish the NRL program: Makes sure everyone is on the same page and working toward the same agreed upon goals.
Who Should Attend
There should be no more than 25 and no fewer than 10
- NTMA members
- Industry leaders
- Multiple college instructors
- Multiple high school teachers
- One local robot builder if possible
- Facilitator (national rep) if possible
- Potential sponsors
- Champions (individual labeled above)
- Read NRL “How to” Manual
- Have a discussion with NRL representatives
- Review the updates on the NRL website
- Read the current newsletter to keep in touch with the latest changes
- Assign each attendee to submit what they see their responsibilities, mission and goal for establishing the local program approximately a week prior to the initial meeting. The program leader or administrator assistant should collect and fashion three potential mission statements.
- Discuss and agree on why you are launching the program
- Define mission and vision: start with the three written by the administrator
- Discuss assets: While NRL has a national competition and many support services, it will be up to your local team to design a program that you can market to your target audience. The key here is start using what you have or can easily get and then build from there. Asking these questions can help your group understand what it has to work with:
- How many individuals are committed to the success of this program?
- What does each of them bring to the program? (Sample: Al is an instructor at Dunwoody College of Technology, his involvement has resulted in a place to host teacher training sessions as well as his becoming a teacher trainer and his students becoming bot builders. Also, he’s now our head safety coordinator.)
- Do you have any relationship with state workforce development agencies or other key agencies?
- Is your local industry willing to donate start-up funds? Are you able to fundraise?
- Are companies willing to use in-kind services to support your program? (Sample: We needed a robot to use for school presentations; Automated EDM used their water jet to cut the parts we needed out of donated steel provided by Discount Steel.)
- Do you have any local pro-bot builders? (These individuals are usually more than happy to help with running events and working with students.You can find out if there are any builders by contacting NRL at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Do you have media contacts?
- SWOT Analysis
- Benefits for:
- Building your strategy for implementation
- Establish a schedule with deadlines
- Create Committees and layout objectives for each. (Some committees to consider):
- School Presentation Committee
- Budget Committee
- Competition Committee
- Rules and Safety Committee
- Marketing Committee
- Executive Committee
- Fundraising Committee
- PR Committee
- Website Committee
- Teacher Training Committee
Once the NRL Program is ready to implement, it’s important to establish a date for a local competition. It is at this point that your efforts will begin to take shape and you will discover areas that have not yet been highlighted. Remember, it will be fun, but stay nimble as you proceed in the most rewarding time of your life by helping, teaching, and creating an environment for learning the technical skills needed in the 21st Century.