Overview

Event volunteers are the heart and soul of REC Foundation VIQC, VRC, and VEX U events. We rely on Referees to keep things fair, Emcees to keep things exciting, and Queuers to keep things on schedule! Volunteering at robotics events can be rewarding and fun. There are a variety of volunteer roles available. Many volunteer positions do not require technical skills or experience, only a desire to support engaging learning opportunities for students. Whatever your potential volunteers are interested in, help them identify the role that best suits them. Support and training materials for your volunteers can be found at REC Foundation > Volunteers.

One of the hallmarks of a well-run event is that volunteers are comfortable and not overworked. Good planning ensures that all positions are well staffed, volunteers have opportunities to take breaks and receive a meal, and volunteers get a token of appreciation such as a shirt. Volunteers that have a positive experience at your event are likely to return as volunteers in future years.

As the EP, you are ultimately responsible for recruiting all of the volunteers at your event, but there are a number of tools and strategies available to make this task easier. It’s highly recommended to designate a Volunteer Coordinator for your event to assist with volunteer recruitment, training, and event-day support.

Recruitment

There are many sources where you can recruit volunteers. You need to get the word out early about your event and share the key message of robotics and STEM programs to find people who feel this truly resonates with them.

Start with those who have a vested interest in the success of your event.

Parents (Families)

Teachers

School Administrators

Mentors

Local Teams

In addition to your “home-grown” volunteer base, you can create a community of volunteers that will support events throughout the season and for years to come. Volunteers can be from any team or organization, and their engagement and support at the event is critical as they often come to your event with prior experience.

  • Parents, Teachers, School Administrators, Mentors, Local Robotics Teams, and Siblings – Remember, volunteering can be a family affair! Younger siblings are often good at Field Reset.
  • Partner with Local Schools – Contact nearby schools and agree to do a “volunteer swap” so they provide volunteers for your event, and you provide volunteers for their event.
  • Local Businesses and Sponsors – Robotics events are perfect for company team-building experiences, so contact a company's HR department if you don’t know already someone there.
  • Schools, Colleges, and Universities – Classes, honor societies, sororities, and fraternities may have community service requirements for membership, scholarships, or graduation. Also look to clubs/groups, College of Engineering, and ROTC programs for assistance. Give your local Army recruiter a table in exchange for providing volunteers. Pre-service tech and student teachers are also ideal candidates for volunteering.
  • Community Groups, Organization Chapters, and Church Groups – Many are looking for guest speakers, or may allow you to set up a table to hand out volunteer recruitment materials. Check with your local maker community, TechSoup, Local UAW, NSBE, IEEE, SWE, Chamber of Commerce, library, etc.
  • Online Resources  LinkedIn has a site dedicated to volunteer opportunities, and there are free and subscription services like VolunteerMatch and Idealist.org where you can post volunteer opportunities for the public. Don’t forget social media like Facebook and Twitter, if you have existing accounts or participate in groups with followers.
  • Employee Programs and Corporate Responsibility – Many local and national chains have community service and philanthropy goals, and employee volunteering is part of their culture. Some will even provide a grant donation to your event if you get a particular number of volunteers from their location.

Helpful Hints for Volunteer Recruitment

EPs can request that each team provide 1 or 2 volunteers. A few positions like Judges and Referees require that there is a level of impartiality, so outside non-affiliated volunteers are critical to the integrity of the event. If finding non-affiliated volunteers isn't possible, endeavor to provide Judges and Referees who represent multiple organizations from the event.

Volunteer Management System

The REC Foundation now offers EPs access to the Volunteer Management System at RobotEvents.com that we use for the VEX Robotics World Championship. Consult the Volunteer Management System Training Guide or contact your EEM/RSM if you would like additional information about using the REC Foundation Volunteer Management System.

There are other ways you can manage volunteers for your event online. Many smaller events do not require such tools; however, as your events grow, you may need some additional help to manage and schedule your volunteers. Most online applications have free basic functionality with paid upgrade options, such as Google Forms, Google Sheets, SignUp.com, or SignUpGenius.com. Your EEM/RSM can assist you with finding the best management tool for your event.

Key Volunteers

The table below includes Key Volunteer roles, which are event staff who will take on leadership roles to ensure that all REC Foundation rules and guidelines are followed, and that teams, spectators, and volunteers have a rewarding experience. These roles should be filled early, and these volunteers will need training prior to the event.

Key Volunteers

Role Description

Event Partner

The EP acts as the liaison between the REC Foundation and the planning team that runs an event. The key tasks are date and site selection, budget development, volunteer recruiting and management, volunteer training, team communication, event execution, uploading results, and follow-up. An Event Partner cannot serve as either the Head Referee or Judge Advisor of an event they are hosting.

Head Referee

The Head Referee completes the Referee Certification Course and reviews the Referee Training Videos for the current season. They ensure the field is properly set up and observe all matches, identify rule violations and caution teams to avoid violations, enforce the game manual as written, answer score or rule questions from Drive Team members, ensure matches are running on schedule, and train Scorekeeper Referees as needed.

Note: The Head Referee has the ultimate and final authority on all gameplay and ruling decisions during the competition. An Event Partner may not overrule a Head Referee’s decision. 

Judge Advisor

The Judge Advisor completes the Judge Certification Course. They guide a team of volunteer Judges and are responsible for the judging process at the event. The Judge Advisor must know and understand the role of the Judges. Decisions on all judged team awards are made by the Judges in consultation with the Judge Advisor.

Tournament Manager Operator

The TM Operator is responsible for using Tournament Manager Software to set up the tournament schedule, initiate matches, record scores, and display match results and awards information at appropriate times. This person, ideally, will also be able to assist with AV equipment, tablets, printers, etc.

Volunteer Coordinator The Volunteer Coordinator is responsible for organizing and assigning volunteers to appropriate roles, making sure that all areas are adequately staffed, and keeping volunteers happy (and fed).
Emcee The Emcee is responsible for adding enthusiasm and energy, as well as a high level of engagement and understanding, for all event participants. The Emcee provides the play-by-play of the match, engaging the audience with effective color commentary regarding the action on the field, introduces the participating teams, and provides informative program knowledge between matches, helping develop interest in the event and maintaining an upbeat atmosphere.

An Event Partner can not serve as either the Head Referee or Judge Advisor of the event they are hosting.

Other Volunteers

Other event volunteers are needed, but they require less training and prior knowledge of REC Foundation events.

Volunteer Role Description
Judge

Evaluate student teams through interviews, Engineering Notebooks, and on the field performance.

Inspector

Conduct inspections to verify the robots comply with the rules and specifications outlined in the Game Manual.

Scorekeeper Referee

Record scores using the TM Mobile app or paper score sheets. Verify recorded scores with the Head Referee as needed and with the student drive team after each match. Discuss possible rule violations with Head Referee after the match. Ensure fields are reset properly and robots are ready for the next match.

Field Reset

Accurately reset the competition field after each match. Note: students with high energy and younger children do well in this role.

Queuing Assist with staging teams for upcoming matches.

Volunteer Check-in

Welcome volunteers and guests. Verify schedule, hand out materials, direct volunteers to appropriate the location.

Team Check-in

Welcome teams as they arrive. Verify teams, hand out materials, collect Engineering Notebooks, and direct attendees to the appropriate location.

Pit Admin

Needed if pit areas are located away from the game fields. Serves in a customer service role to answer schedule and venue questions.

Practice Field Supervisor

Oversee practice fields and ensure that all teams have equal access to practice time and use the fields in an orderly fashion.

Event Set Up and Tear Down Crew

Assist with setting up the event and breaking it down after. Note: Many hands make light work.

Staffing

The EP and the Volunteer Coordinator should start recruiting as early as possible to fulfill these volunteer roles. Post clear information about the volunteer roles needed for your event in the Volunteer Content Block on RobotEvents.com to spark interest. This information will be viewable on the Volunteer tab on the public event page. You can also include a request for volunteers in the automated email that will be sent to teams when they register.

These tables serve as a guide for staffing events of varying sizes.

VRC Tournaments

VEX Robotics Competition
  Local Levels (1 Day Events Signature Levels and/or State Tournaments (1-2* Day Events)
16-24 Teams 24-60 Teams 60 + Teams 10-24 Teams 24-48 Teams 36-96 Teams* 64-144 Teams*
Qualification Matches 2 Fields 3 Fields 3 Fields 2 Fields 3 Fields 3 Fields 3 Fields
Emcee 1 1 1 1 1 1 to 2 per division 1 to 2 per division
Head Referee 1 1 1 1 1 1 per division 1 per division
TM Operator 1 1 1 1 1 1 per division 1 per division
Scorekeeper Referee 4 6 8 4 8 8 12
Queuer 2 3 3 2 3 3 to 6 3 to 6
Field Resetter 4 to 6 6 to 8 6 to 8 4 to 6 6 to 8 6 to 12 6 to 12
Robot Skills Challenge 2 Fields 3-4 Fields 3-4 Fields 3 Fields 3-4 Fields 3-4 Fields 4-6 Fields
TM Operator (Optional) 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Scorekeeper Referee 1 per skills field 1 per skills field
Other - - - - - - -
Judge (2 per 8 teams) 4 4 to 6 8 to 12 4 6 to 8 5 to 12 8 to 18
Judge Advisor 1 1 1 1 1 1 per division 1 per division
Team Check In 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Volunteer Coordinator 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Inspector 3 4 to 6 4 to 6 3 4 to 6 4 to 6 6 to 12
Practice Field Official 1 2 to 4 2 to 8 1 2 to 4 2 to 8 2 to 8
Pit Admin (optional) 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
*If a 2 Day event, Check In, Inspection, and Skills will usually begin on Day 1
*over 60 teams will typically have multiple divisions (recommended numbers are based on single division tournaments)

VIQC Tournaments

VEX IQ Competition
  Local Levels (1 Day Events) Signature Levels and/or State Tournaments (1-2* Day Events)
16-24 Teams 24-60 Teams 60+ Teams 10-24 Teams 24-48 Teams 36-96 Teams* 64-144 Teams*
Qualification Matches 2 Fields 3 Fields 3 Fields 2 Fields 3 Fields 3 Fields 3 Fields
Emcee 1 1 1 1 1 1 to 2 per division 1 to 2 per division
Head Referee 1 1 1 1 1 1 per division 1 per division
TM Operator 1 1 1 1 1 1 per division 1 per division
Scorekeeper Referee 2 4 4 2 8 8 12
Queuer 2 3 3 2 3 3 to 6 3 to 6
Field Resetter 4 to 6 6 to 8 6 to 8 4 to 6 6 to 8 6 to 12 6 to 12
Robot Skills Challenge 2 Fields 3-4 Fields 3-4 Fields 3 Fields 3-4 Fields 3-4 Fields 4-6 Fields
TM Operator (Optional) 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Scorekeeper Referee 1 per skills field 1 per skills field
Other - - - - - - -
Judge (2 per 8 teams) 4 4 to 6 8 to 12 4 6 to 8 5 to 12 8 to 18
Judge Advisor 1 1 1 1 1 1 per division 1 per division
Team Check In 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Volunteer Coordinator 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Inspector 3 4 to 6 4 to 6 3 4 to 6 4 to 6 6 to 12
Practice Field Official 1 2 to 4 2 to 8 1 2 to 4 2 to 8 2 to 8
Pit Admin (Optional) 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
*If a 2 Day event, Check In, Inspection, and Skills will usually begin on Day 1
*over 60 teams will typically have multiple divisions (recommended numbers are based on single division tournaments)

Training and Preparation

Providing the proper training for your volunteers is vital to hosting a well-run event. The REC Foundation offers numerous free, online training resources at REC Foundation > Volunteers.

The EP or Volunteer Coordinator can provide this link to each volunteer, requesting that each volunteer review the document and all posted training materials for their position(s) at least a week prior to your scheduled event.

In addition to assigning a review of the online training resources, an Onsite Orientation and/or Training Call should also be scheduled.

  • Onsite Orientation is an in-person training session the evening before your event (often referred to as the “Night Before” event) so that volunteers can meet the volunteer team and get on-site training. Many “Night Before” events run practice matches if there is a host team or home team available to help set up. This will help build volunteers’ confidence, making the morning of your event run more smoothly. Whether you host training the night before, or provide training onsite the morning of your event, plan to provide volunteers with the training documentation and materials required to successfully perform their roles and enjoy their event experience. This may include printing out hard copies of Volunteer Role Guides, field diagrams for reset, score sheets, etc.
  • Training Calls held a week prior to your event can set expectations and give volunteers the opportunity to ask questions. Training calls specifically for the Referee/Scorekeepers and Judge Teams are strongly encouraged. Use a video conferencing application to bring your volunteers together and provide necessary training.
  • Sensitivity Training reminds volunteers that tournaments are student events where they will work with children. They should do what they can to make the kids feel comfortable, like taking a knee to get down on their level, talking firmly but positively, and never touching or grabbing a student. Volunteers should also be sensitive to students from different cultures who may be competing.

Care and Appreciation

Volunteers are essential to the success of your event. Here are some simple ways that you can show your appreciation. A happy volunteer who has a great experience will usually return!

  • Food & Drink – Have water and snacks available for all volunteers throughout the day, and provide lunch for those who volunteer for a full event day. Hydration, food, and appropriate breaks are important to the volunteer experience. If it is possible, stop the entire competition for lunch so that ALL volunteers can take a break and eat; plan for lunch shifts if the entire competition cannot stop at the same time. If you have space, set up a Volunteer Break Room or roped-off area for volunteer use.
  • Comfort – Be sure to advise your volunteers to wear comfortable shoes and bring a water bottle (if you're not providing them). If possible, have a few packs of lozenges in the volunteer break area to help soothe vocal cords.
  • Recognition & Certificates – If funding is available, use t-shirts and/or name tags to identify your volunteers as a valuable event resource. Share your appreciation with your volunteers, who provide invaluable support to your efforts. Recognize volunteers by providing them with a Community Service Certificate that is customized with your event name. Many companies and schools require documentation either to allow employees to volunteer or some may even provide an incentive for validating volunteering time, so be sure to record individual volunteer hours. You can order trophy packs, as well as individual trophies and plates, from VEX at VEXRobotics.com.
  • Tokens of Appreciation – Even on a small budget, consider giving volunteers (or key volunteers) a small gift certificate, like $5 to Starbucks or a local food venue.
  • Hand-written notes – The power of a hand-written “Thank You” goes a long way today!
  • Social Media – If you are active on social media, consider writing a brief recommendation for a key volunteer on LinkedIn or giving a shout out on Twitter with a photo if they go above and beyond the call of duty. Tag them on Twitter along with @REC_Foundation. You can also send volunteer and event photos to the REC Foundation at media@roboticseducation.org.
  • Follow Up & Keep in Touch – Email your volunteers after the event to gauge satisfaction and collect opinions on event success, or use SurveyMonkey to send some short questions. Also keep in touch with volunteers for future events. If you have the budget, host a volunteer appreciation dinner or party. A happy volunteer who has a great experience will usually return!