TAKING FIRST TO THE STREETS
A DIFFERENT AUDIENCE
"Taking FIRST to the Streets" is an outreach program that we created in 2011, with the goal of bringing robotics and STEM to community events where they are not usually found. The IRS participates in science fairs, art walks, farmers’ markets, and festivals such as Newcastle Days, Issaquah Highlands Day, and the Issaquah Fourth of July festival and parade. Our largest annual outreach event is Issaquah Salmon Days, the largest community street festival in Washington State, which caters to over 180,000 attendees. At many of these events, we join other FIRST teams to build new relationships and increase our impact. Through "Taking FIRST to the Streets," we've reached thousands of new people.
A LASTING IMPACT
At outreach events, the IRS gets involved with the crowd, and ensure they know how to get involved with us. We talk to people about FIRST, answer questions, hand our flyers, and let kids play with our robots. Sources tell us that after our events, FIRST Washington has seen a 4-5 fold increase in emails. We promote FIRST programs to everyone, no matter their age.
THE ART PROJECT
The IRS’s outreach is conducted using a philosophy that we call the ART Project, which stands for Audit, Respond, and Teach. We start out by "auditing," or investigating, a problem. Then we respond to the situation, fulfilling the job or solving an issue. Finally, we teach others how we arrived at our solution in order to ensure sustainability and future problem solving. Founded in the summer of 2017, the ART Project’s purpose is to not only engage and inspire the community, but to teach it. This means taking on technical odd jobs and assisting other FIRST teams. Our ultimate goal is to give our community the integral STEM skills that we have acquired through FIRST.
WHAT WE'VE DONE
Our primary outreach focus is inspiring the next generation with STEM. In this spirit, we volunteered at a Girl Scouts camp, hosted an open house for local FLL and FTC teams, and led summer programs at the Issaquah Library. The IRS has also mentored multiple FIRST teams in our district, including the Issaquah Middle School FLL team. We assist teams from Central Washington to Silicon Valley, not limiting ourselves by geography. From running a coding competition to creating a digital attendance system with blockchain technology for high school clubs, our members set out to volunteer their time and experience. Recently, the IRS started a Special Olympics robotics team at Issaquah High School with Unified Robotics. Overall, IRS members contribute over 600 volunteer hours annually.
The IRS creates unique experiences for all students. Every fall, veteran members train rookies in engineering and business courses, and these skills continue to impact team graduates. Many alumni are inspired to choose STEM fields as a career choice because of the IRS. A 2017 alumni survey reveals 42% of team graduates specialize in engineering and 51% in computer science. Our alumni attend prestigious universities such as Harvey Mudd, Purdue, MIT, and Stanford.
HAVE A REQUEST?
We'd be happy to hear about it! Whether it's an idea for a project or a request for us to attend an event, we're excited to see how we can help. Please visit the Contact page to submit your message.
AT SCIENCE FAIRS
Demonstrating our commitment to igniting a passion for STEM within the younger generation, the IRS goes to science fairs throughout and beyond the Issaquah School District. There, kids play with robots and parents learn about how to get involved with FIRST.
WITH FIRST WASHINGTON
The IRS was a founding member of the Issaquah Robotics Alliance, organizing collaborative outreach with other local FRC teams. From invitations to fall classes to lending our drive train, we try to help in any way possible. We also host the annual PNW Social, a party for local FRC teams at the end of build season. There, members of various teams socialize over various FIRST-themed games and activities.
WITH OUR SCHOOL
The IRS makes ourselves known at school assemblies and club fairs, broadcasting our achievements. Through marketing and positive word-of-mouth, we've rapidly increased in size to one of the largest FRC teams in the region. Because of our efforts to promote FIRST robotics, our school district increased funding for robotics clubs at every Issaquah school. New FIRST teams have sprung up at local elementary and middle schools because of this accomplishment, and we gained more resources from our high school.
We don't just keep in-touch with potential members, but also former ones. Our alumni go on to amazing places, and we invite them back every year to our holiday party. Some alumni have returned over the years as mentors or connected us to new sponsors.
The IRS maintains robust partnerships with sponsors through demonstrations, monthly emails, thank-you certificates, and representation on our robot and team t-shirts. Sponsors are also invited to tour our workshop, where they are able to see the direct impact of their support on our team. To express our gratitude, we're more than willing to attend our sponsors’ events.
WITH THE GOVERNMENT
Back in 2007, funding was tight for the IRS and team dissolution was imminent. Yet we didn't give up hope. In 2008, the IRS spearheaded an initiative to lobby Washington State legislators to provide grant funding to FIRST, travelling to Olympia to testify at a legislative hearing. This campaign inspired $150,000 in annual grant funding for rookie Washington FIRST teams, leading to the creation of hundreds of rookie teams across the state. Today, the IRS continues to have a relationship with state government by contacting Olympia and with local government by presenting to the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce.