Behind the Project | RoboNation
Julianna Smith is one of Seenit’s most vibrant Project Managers so we had to get her involved with Behind The Project (our interview series championing storytellers using Seenit). She really thinks from the perspective of the contributor, thus has made loads of community orientated content for RoboNation; a non-profit hosting robotics competition for students to instil passions for engineering, software, and the like.
Read how Seenit enabled Julianna to extend her engagement with this year ‘RoboSub’ competitors, plans for RoboNation’s alumni, & top tips for using the Seenit Platform.
Emily Chappell: Give a quick introduction of yourself!
Julianna Smith: Hi, I am Julianna & I work for RoboNation. We host multiple robotics competitions for students at different age ranges.
EC: What is you job role for RoboNation?
JS: I am the Communications & Outreach Coordinator. I work in our marketing & communications department. We’re a small non-profit organisation of about 10 people - so I make up our marketing department, basically!
EC: How many projects have you run?
JS: Four projects now, three events & one on going. We had the International SeaPerch Challenge at the beginning of the summer, one for our RoboBoat competition, another RoboSub competition, and now we have just started a new one for our workshops & activities (more on this later).
EC: So what’s the project we’re going to talk about?
JS: We’ve just done RoboSub. It was one of the most interesting. Obviously, I get to see the organising communities perspective of how the competition is run, us trying to get all the logistics down, and get all the events going on each day. But, using Seenit, we got to see what the students were going through what they were experiencing as they tested their vehicles, how they engaged with other teams - we could see that from their perspective.
EC: What came first - the community or the idea?
JS: The idea came first. So a bit of background, a lot of these competitions have been a ‘one-stop-shop’, an event over the summer and then no engagement with our community again throughout the year. When we heard about Seenit from Tim Parsons, he said how we have so many students & Seenit is a great way to get their perspective and get material from them. They can carry on a story of their experience and within that make an engaged community.
EC: What made you curious to use Seenit & what were you hoping to achieve?
JS: We started with our younger group - that’s about middle school & high school age. They really took it on & were super excited to be in front of the camera; they dance, they get crazy, it’s totally fun to watch. With our older crowd, that’s at the college university level, we were kinda hesitant to see if they would take it on.
It’s interesting because when I was in college, all these fun things came about like taking selfies and vlogging, but with this group of students being so dedicated to their work & studies,
we were worried they wouldn’t take on to this opportunity to combine the fun part of filming themselves and use it to showcase their work. It was amazing to see that they actually had fun with it.
They interacted with other teams & us through the platform. A lot of the times you wouldn’t do the same thing on camera that you would then do in front of other people - it was a really cool thing to see that raw behaviour from them & get to know them that way.
EC: That’s what Seenit is about: empowering storytellers! Who participated in filming?
JS: Primarily the 500 students in the competition who were part of 47 teams representing different schools and Universities from across the world. We had 10 different countries which was really cool. We also had our staff who drove content asking the questions & engaging with the teams. A cool thing that started this year was having our sponsors interact a little bit by posting to Seenit, showing their side of things, and watching what was going on.
EC: Making a community beyond the students is really impressive.
As you dealt with people not comfortable with being on camera, how did you get them excited to film? How did you contact them?
JS: It took a little bit of egging on. We took a few routes, as this was the first year we used Seenit at this competition; we kinda wanted to test our audience & see what would work the best.
Firstly, I called out to 5 teams that I thought would really benefit & totally take Seenit on. I asked them to upload some content so when we did our full call out to all the 47 teams, which happened a week later, we had some content already in the app.
This meant when the other teams joined to film they could be like ‘Oh, these people are already using this’ & ‘I’ll feel a lot more comfortable and I am not the first one filming’
Call outs. We first did an email call out, it was combined with some other information about the competition that was coming up. This meant students could see that Seenit was a big part of what we were already doing.
We then did a call out in person at the orientation at the start of the week. This included an intro video of all the teams & some of our staff traveling in. This to showed them the way we wanted to use Seenit & how all of these pieces of film build the story of what’s happening at RoboSub & that everyone is apart of that.
Who can create the funniest RoboSub puns?
WATER you waiting for? Go and shoot some videos!
Seenit Capture App
Project Code: robosub2018@_seenit #robosub pic.twitter.com/okfbsf9IIH — RoboNation AUVSI Foundation (@AUVSIFoundation) August 1, 2018
That was our biggest call out. Then just on a day to day basis, since the competition is 7 days long, I pushed raw content our on social media. Often the teams have social media so I would tag them and get them excited & so the rest of the community who are not here can be able to see what’s happening too.
EC: RoboSub was so good on social media. When I saw on all the puns on Twitter I was like, ‘Yes! Love this!’
How did you ensure you got the content you needed?
JS: It was a lot of messaging through the platform actually. For this project I had a lot more time to manage that which was tremendously helpful, especially as I would sign my name on it & they would know it was coming from me. So when I did see them in person it would connect it & be they’d be like ‘Oh someone’s actually watching what I am putting in there”, “someone else is watching this”.
Also, when we were on site walking around, we would also take video of & with people. This interacting in person making them more comfortable, but was also an opportunity to show them that they were being seen. Even though it’s like one clip out of 200, we wanted each to feel important.
EC: How did Seenit improve or enable video production?
JS: Yes, it improved it!
With previous videos, we had our video crew come in and take some interviews. Having someone speaking on camera and having an ‘official interview’, they’re not gonna act the same way as you would sitting back in your tent with the rest of your team - like relaxing and getting to know each other.
Through mobiles you really get that raw content and better representation of individuals - not an image they want to portray.
I actually got some amazing feedback from one of our teams, and I think seenit had a huge role in this. She told me this was on of her first RoboNation competition and she just wanted to thank us because she felt she was part of a community in those few days - she felt like joined a community. That was the biggest thing that we wanted from Seenit, so having that immediately after an events was just incredible.
EC: Were there any challenges along the way?
JS: Getting started was hard. Like i said, when we specifically called out those 5 teams pretty much only one or two of responded. Also, getting them into the routine of ‘Oh, I can put these on Seenit too’ was difficult too.
Coming up with new Shot Lists for each day, we didn’t come up with a full one everyday we switch around one or two. Was a little tricky as it’s like an ebb & flow.
You have to decide what works for that day with that group of people, but that’s where the dance & sleep challenges came up. Those are the things you can’t plan ahead of time, they come about with what previous content flowing through.
So, those are the tricky parts but also the fun parts. That’s what makes Seenit enjoyable.
EC: It’s great you were so responsive to the community & excel successful types of content. Freddy was complimenting you on how you think from the contributors perspective instead of “what content do i want’’
So what was the most rewarding part?
JS: Community. But for me, this RoboSub was a stepping stone as it’s the first year we were able to use Seenit. We’re trying to incorporate it throughout the year. I can’t even imagine how big it’s gonna be next year - it’s just going to continue to grow.
The thing is, our 10-person staff sits here & we plan this one event for 500 students to be part of, so when you can actually have feedback that they enjoyed their time, found it worth it to compete, and showed their skills - that’s the biggest reward.
Being able to see that all your hard work has changed their lives & it’s been a week that they will never forget. So that part is really really rewarding. I am so glad that’s what we do - make engineering look fun. It’s a ton of work & they are incredibly smart & brilliant, but they can have fun with it. It’s exciting!
EC: How did you distribute the final video?
JS: No grand strategy around it. A lot of of the video content is going to be stuff that we can use throughout the year to continue driving engagement, like “Hey, RoboSub registration is up” share that with with a fun video from this year so people can remember & look back.
I run our social media so will use that to post media content, weather that photo or video, so people can kinda relive moments.
I am actually going to run a quick campaign next week for the end of the summer. I have a ton of content to choose from, memorable moments that were exciting, moving, or inspiring - and they’re all on Seenit! I basically have this bank of things I can just use to continue bringing up those moments so i can be like ‘Hey, remember this! This was great” & drive that throughout the entire year.
EC: That’s so true.
Everyone is like ‘new, new, new’ but actually so charming to look back.
So, main distribution was socials & your website - awesome!
JS: Yeah, we’ve had a big revaluation of our communications, that’s why there’s a big focus on social media & driving Seenit some more, especially on our website.
EC: Did you make just short pieces of content or did you have a flagship campaign video?
JS: We didn’t have one video to close out the competition. I am pushing out a feedback survey for the events we’ve had this summer, some of that being through Seenit. This for our sponsors & supporters so that we can show all the thing that have happened so they’ll continue to help us next year & make next year even better.
So, those are more of the bigger flagship videos, there was never a single on that closed RoboSub out.
EC: You have an amazing playlist on Youtube of videos unique edited for each team. Who did them?
JS: Our RoboSub teams are required to submit an intro video each year, that is reviewed by our judges. We haven’t incorporated the use of Seenit with these videos, but hope to in the future! This year’s focus was getting those raw clips from teams at the event, so my intern and I mostly worked on compiling those shots into videos to use to really drive the engagement at the event!
Honestly, the editor on Seenit was amazing. I don’t have any real experience in video editing, I did start using premiere pro like a year ago so I had a little bit of knowledge, but when I started using the editor on Seenit I was like ‘This makes it so much easier and it’s so much fun!
EC: Where there key results you wanted for the videos? Or was Seenit more of a discovery thing?
JS: Our key result was them using it! I didn’t know what to expect with this particular group. The goal was for them to use Seenit & be more engaged each day - we definitely got that. We wanted to empower them & provide a platform to speak on. This RoboSub was a first stepping stone for them to get comfortable with filming so they would use Seenit throughout the year when we do campaigns & projects, and then again in following year.
We also wanted to bring in our alumni, something we haven’t been able to do. When these previous competitors go to graduate 3 or 4 years down the road and move on into industry, they kind just leave us behind.
We want to bring alumni back & keep them engaged with the community - one thing we can potentially do with Seenit considering it resonated really resonated with this year’s participants. Like, seeing them 5 years from now - would be really awesome to see.
EC: That’s such a good idea as it shows how you create industry professionals in engineering.
What is your next video?
JS: I’ve been trying to think of our next one to do throughout the year. We want more series-based content. We just opened up one for our workshops - so that’s one on the horizon. That’s going to be more of a long term one as we have about 12 workshops a year”
Our next big event is our competition in December in Hawaii. We have RoboBoat, RoboSub, & this will be RobotX . It’s the next level up, more prestigious, huge vehicles out in the ocean in Hawaii. We have a lot of ideas & a lot insight from this summer’s competition to put into th RobotX Project. I am really excited to see how we can use it there.
EC: Awesome, can’t wait to see it! We’ll that’s pretty much it, Julianna. Thank you so much for your time.
JS: Thank you!
Julianna’s Top Seenit Tips
Take advantage of the different tools that the studio has & the messaging that you can do. Message your users & interact with them, that way they know the content they are putting forth is being seen & being used. This is really important to me as it encourages them & shows that they’re being watched - not in a creepy way!
2. Be Reactive
This is based off of the event projects. Don’t have too much of a strategy as a lot of the best content comes in the spur of the moment & from contact across the event. Be open to sporadic moments. Be open to ideas that come each day. Be reactive” take a look/listen at what is happening and adjust things accordingly - not everything can be predicted or planned!
3. Be a part of it
I know whenever our staff started putting forth more videos & showing that we also have a face, that was really important for our users and building a community. Make sure your staff or yourself are also engaging, uploading content & show that you are also a part of it. take videos of yourself and take videos with the rest of you customers or users.
Thank you, Julianna!
We’re so excited to power more of RoboNations’ content for future years to show the fun that can be had with robotics. Is there a cause in your company that needs more light shed on it? Would that best be documented by those living it? Give us an email if you think so - we’re happy to help!