The lifeblood of RoboJackets that enables us to fulfill our mission to promote, educate, and advance in the field of robotics is, of course, our members. Every year, we dedicate hundreds of man hours to acquiring and training new members, and this year is no different. The main way we usually interact with prospective members is through in-person tabling events, including FASET. When a prospective member fills out an interest form at our table during FASET, they are added to a mailing list that exists expressly to send them information regarding our General Interest meetings, the main event of our recruiting season. Each year, our student leaders create and deliver a presentation that introduces interested students to RoboJackets leadership as well as the projects they lead. Normally, we reserve one of the Howey Physics Building lecture halls for two nights (because a single Howey lecture hall cannot accommodate the usual 600 students that RSVP for the meetings) and provide pizza, a staple of student organization recruiting.
After that, members from each project team participate in a tabling session with demos of current projects just outside the Howey lecture hall. These smaller demos and tabling sessions give more specific information to prospective members and help them get involved in ongoing projects, usually by signing up for the teams’ mailing lists. Once they’ve found a team, they simply start showing up to meetings and contributing, no application or prior experience required. Every team is expected to set aside projects explicitly for new members and provide opportunities for mentorship from older members. These can range from building 3lb combat robots in small teams in BattleBots, to developing a controller for robotic arms as a part of RoboNav.
This year, our approach had to be different to ensure the safety and health of our current and prospective members. What hasn’t changed is the content and the goal: introduce prospective members to our projects and kickstart their involvement with RoboJackets as best as possible. What has changed is the forum this happens in. This year, instead of meeting in our usual Howey lecture hall, we delivered our General Interest presentation via two YouTube Premieres on September 1st and 2nd. At the time of writing, those premieres had a combined total of about 650 viewers. You can watch the presentation here, or view it on the video player embedded on our recruiting webpage. After these premieres, instead of the typical team-specific tabling and demos, we instead held Q&A sessions via BlueJeans, GT’s video conferencing application. In addition to changing up our method of GI delivery, our approach to connecting with prospective members to get them to RSVP for our general interest meetings also changed. We relied significantly more heavily on virtual methods of interacting with new students and other prospective members, including stories in the Georgia Tech Weekly Digest, virtual organization fairs hosted by GT and the CoC, and other GT internal mailing lists.
We asked our President, Alex Field, about his thoughts on the new GI approach. Despite the significant challenges, we managed to deliver our message through the virtual General Interest Meeting:
I think GI went about as well as we could expect a virtual GI to go. RSVPs were down from previous years, largely due to there being no FASET; however, we were able to get roughly 400 people to RSVP. The video we made for the presentation looked great and delivered all the information that was important. The YouTube Premiere system worked well and the chat was super supportive of RJ which helped emphasize our team culture.
One part of the virtual General Interest experience he thought could be improved was the BlueJeans Q&A sessions: “[they] weren’t nearly as active as in-person [tabling sessions] and a lot of people just filled out the form link to join. However, a few of the calls like RoboCup Software went for a really long time with good discussions.”
Overall, despite challenges imposed by the virtual format, General Interest seems to have been a success. We are excited to welcome another generation of RoboJackets members contributing to the promotion, education, and advancement in the field of robotics and learning practical skills along the way.