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Unread 03-14-2011, 12:28 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

This is nothing new. I remember it all the way back to 2003 with Team 60. If it doesn't look like it was hacked together from scrap and place near the bottom of the ranks, people assume the students didn't build it. I remember when I was in middle school, and built a Pinewood Derby car with a built-in battery and LED headlights and taillights. I overheard the parent judges, and was denied an award because "this one must have been built by his father." I think it's rather insulting to the bright students out there to assume students are not capable of higher level work. Do not be so quick to judge how a team works unless you've been in their shop for hours on end.

I really like this quote
Quote:
Excellence means we need to do everything we can as a team to find the best possible solution to this problem by following the best process possible...
and to that I'd like to add "...using any and all resources and people available."

You don't cut it with a hacksaw if you have a waterjet. You don't epoxy it if you have a welder. You don't beat it over the edge of a table if you have a press brake. You don't let your experienced mentors sit on the sidelines while the students fool around without direction.

You never want to look back and say "we could have done better." If your engineers are not helping your students, I bet one of them says this at the end of the year.

Suppose an engineer has an idea that as shown by an engineering process, provides a competitive advantage over a student's idea. Should the engineer keep his mouth shut and let the student continue down a failed path? No.

Will student learning be achieved? Perhaps, but what will the student have learned? How to fail...

The engineer should provide the guidance to show the student why a certain idea is better than another, with the engineering basis or calculation to support the claim. This is inspiration. This is teamwork. Has student learning been achieved? Yes, to a greater extent than if the student had failed. They are now ready to do things the right way, as opposed to only having learned what they've done wrong.

Any adult can open a door. Some can give direction. A few can give leadership. These are the true mentors. This is where true success comes from.
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Last edited by sanddrag : 03-14-2011 at 12:33 AM.
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Unread 03-14-2011, 02:19 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

I'm completely disgusted to find out that this happens. I never in my wildest dreams would dare to say a robot is mentor built. We've had a year where the mentors have done more than probably should have, and quite frankly, it didn't help us much. Next year, we had more student involvement and incidentally, we did better from a competitive standpoint.

I also find it sad that numerous teams, especially the powerhouses, have their build season/methods completely transparent and are still accused of, well almost anything you can think to accuse them of. Personally, JVN's build journal, RUSH's rookie toolkit, and all of the NEMO papers out there were invaluable to another mentor and myself when we took lead over a team. The FIRST community is a much better place because they share what works, and doesn't work for them. To then turn around and have teams call them out on it? I'm floored.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karthik View Post
So how do we stop it? We cannot tolerate it. If you see/hear someone acting this way, call them out on it. Don't just laugh awkwardly and ignore it, squash it. If we passively ignore this type of behavior, it becomes acceptable. Too often people just say "oh, you should take it as a compliment, it means you're good." I'm sorry, but we can do better than that. We need to take a stand at teams who are doing this, directly.
Karthik brought up the point that I wanted to make. We've brought it to light now, how do we stop it? Even more so, how do we do it positively? Negatively calling a person out causes resentment, which will only fuel them. IMO, one of the best places to start is talking to them. Ask them how they reached their judgment. Make them back up their argument. But at the same time, don't be rude about it either. Be prepared to give your own evidence to counter theirs. It never hurts to remind them that FIRST gives students a chance to work with professionals from "The Real World". Not using them as the valuable resources they are can do more harm then good.

Potential dialogue:
"Team #### sucks! Totally mentor built!"
"Really? What makes you say that?"
"*Insert reason here*"
"Do you know this first hand? You're probably taking away credit from the students. Have you talked to the team about their design? No? Let's go talk to them."

In closing, I'm reminded of one of my mother's favorite phrases: "If it's not nice, don't say it."
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Unread 03-14-2011, 02:41 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

This topic has reminded me about Woodie Flowers back at the kickoff. He talked about rational passion at the end of his speech.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodie Flowers
Rational passion is passion that is based on things that you really understand, not what some pundit tells you what to think. In the last few years, rational passion has been swamped by irrational passion. Please, help us bring back some rational passion.
Source
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Unread 03-14-2011, 03:30 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

LOVED the blog entry JVN!

and just in time too(I'm going to include it in our logistics meeting before we roll out for our regional this week), I've been preaching to my students that the really good teams help raise the bar to help inspire teams like us to work and learn how to jump higher. It really made me fumid when one my old students from an old team before I moved messaged me that he was upset that a powerhouse team was showing to their regional, I felt like I failed as a mentor that he didn't remember what makes the team more than a "Robotics Team" but a "FIRST Robotics Team".

The reason I'm still in FIRST as a volunteer and mentor is because it's simply put, the culture.
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Unread 03-14-2011, 03:53 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

Kind of saddened to know people would dislike a team so much to find no admiration of their ability to create a good robot and because of their higher availability of resources. My team knows its going to be tough at West Michigan with teams like 27, 67, 1718, and 1918 there but I would rather lose in the quarter-finals or semifinals if we get in eliminations to a powerhouse than win the competition never facing one. We had a great match as the 8th alliance in Galileo last year against the Thunder Chickens with a photo-finish pushing match.
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Unread 03-14-2011, 04:47 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

Every team at the regional I'm going to mention will remember this happening.

Gary Voshol concocted a April fools day prank to play on us Michigan teams - on April 1st of last year, during an event, he announced an emergency rule update. He told us FIRST had released a rule update stating that they believed it was against the spirit of the game for a robot to lock into the tower, so no one could stay there more than 5 seconds.

Of course, this was a jab at 469, who everyone in the district (and the country) knew had an incredible robot.

The number of people who cheered sickened and angered me - I actually yelled a word in anger that I wasn't too proud of at the time. A good chunk of the students at that venue were more than happy to have the dreams of a team crushed rather than play against them.

I suspect it would have met the same response anywhere in the country.

This starts with the mentors. It's up to us to stamp it out. It's up to us to make it right. It's up to us to guide our team members and remind them that if it were OUR game breaking robot, we'd be devastated. I wonder how many teams talked about that occurrence. I know we did.
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Unread 03-14-2011, 05:16 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

How do we stop this? Mentors can guide students to have a good attitude. For example, at KC this past week, I was chatting with a couple of students from a top team and I mentioned that there were quite a few really top robots competing. The students singled out one particular team and said that this other top team copied their designs. The conversation was in danger of going seriously negative - I tired to steer the conversation in a positive direction. I said that we love it when someone copies our designs - that's the highest form of flattery - they like your design enough to use it on their robot. I told the story of 2177 from last year. 2177 saw our hanger design on video and they made a version of it for their robot. When we saw their hanger at 10,000 lakes we were totally thrilled about it. We ended up partnering with 2177 in the eliminations.

My question then is - can mentors guide other mentors to have a good attitude?
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Unread 03-14-2011, 06:47 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

It really saddens me to see this happen. I've worked with 1114 many times in the past as allies and as foes and they are a great team with a top notch structure.

It is apparent to me now that I am in the vast minority that I love to see engineering excellence be rewarded. There's nothing I like more than to see great robots win. Last year it took me about 3 hours to break out of my funk when 469 lost on Einstein (no offense to the winning alliance, I just grew attached to 469 with their creative design). I was the biggest WildStang fan this past weekend while watching the Wisconsin webcast, and if you do some searching you'll find out that I was (and still am) one of the biggest team 71 fans around.

It's natural to feel a little jealosy at times, but how you use that is what separates the successful from the pack. You can whine and blame and cry "woe is me", or you can channel that into a passion for improving and beating them on the field. People need to realize that they DO have the power to beat these teams by improving YOUR team rather than by tearing down those above. It just takes a lot less effort to attempt to destroy what's above you than to try and climb the hill.
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Unread 03-14-2011, 07:13 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

One line from JVN's blog struck me: "If you think that about our team, you don't know our team."

That has been my experience in the past. Sure, I envied the top powerhouse teams - I think most people do. Yet it was envy tinged with awe. How could they do all the things they accomplished?

When you get to know teams, you realize how they came to the position they have. It's not from luck, from the good fortune of having everything handed to them on a silver platter. Teams work hard to get their sponsors, their equipment, their resources. I got to know Karthik about 5 years ago, when there was controversy about the "twins/triplets" robots. When he explained their motives and what the cooperation between the teams had accomplished, it made sense. It wasn't something "unfair" as many people had claimed; it was just another way of inspiring students.

I also know how isolated incidents can lead to bad impressions of a team. Something a team did many years ago struck me as being terribly wrong. I held bad feelings for that team for a long time; if they won an award I remembered back to that incident. It was only a year or two ago that I got to know the team mentors better, and realized that the team didn't have a bad attitude. Maybe it's time to talk to them again this year, and resolve things that started for me in 2006. Maybe people that have current issues with teams shouldn't let them fester until they break open in anger and insults.

Regarding the April Fool's joke last year, we had no idea the crowd would react that way. We thought it would cause the team to sweat for a couple of minutes, and then we'd all share a good laugh, as had happened with other pranks in prior years. Had we known the reaction would be so negative against the team we would never have done it. I immediately went to the team and apologized, and if I never apologized publicly please accept this post as that apology.
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Unread 03-14-2011, 08:06 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

It wasn't that long ago - 2008? when I was one of these haters. I certainly wasn't public or overly vocal about it, but I was a maker of snide comments to those who I thought had a similar worldview. Essentially it boiled down to "why are all these grownups playing at a high-school game? Get out of the way and let the kids have a chance!"
Somewhere along the way, my perspective got changed. I think it was by 1024. I knew several of the adults on that team; I knew a couple of the students. I knew they were "in it for the right reasons" and I knew their robot that year was a thing of beauty - and they had the Midas touch with everything but Einstein. They weren't some mysterious team in a mysterious land with a NASA or GM in their backyard - they were on the northeast side of the town I lived.
Around that time, I learned to stop hating and start appreciating. Learn how they do it, and in time, do it better.
The machines in 2008 were absolutely astonishing and inspirational. They opened my eyes to what was possible. 1024, 45, 931, 148, 1114, 217 - thank you all for showing me how elegant a TEAM-built robot could be.
2007 was a dark period for me personally in the FIRST world. I felt "outside the loop" - I felt like FRC was a political game and we weren't invited to the party. My opinion on FIRST soured that year - partially because our robot frankly inhaled audibly and wasn't too inspirational; but mostly because of the Us vs. Them mentality we harbored.
We are very fortunate to live in Indiana, the home of Andy and Mark and Chris and Chris and Chris and Flo and Wayne and Jeff and Scott and Tim and Melodie and Brant and Joe and Josh and scores of other people who do things well and do things right. Despite my private misgivings, these people still welcomed us and are now counted among my friends.

Perhaps we're not looking through the right lens. We've always equated FIRST to sports - to me, the greats aren't athletes. They're rock stars. And nobody hates Joe Perry or Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix because they play the guitar well. These folks are idolized and revered - and everybody knows they got to where they are through hard work and a bit of talent.
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Last edited by Taylor : 03-14-2011 at 09:41 AM.
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Unread 03-14-2011, 08:25 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

Plenty has been said in this thread already so I'll keep it brief.

1114 et al, find comfort in knowing many MANY teams and people support your team and the robots you create. Anyone who sees an 1114 machine compete and finds nothing inspirational about it is lying to themselves.

There are 2 ways to level the competition, one is to bring the floor up, and one is to bring the ceiling down. Plain and simple, any one striving to bring the ceiling down has completely missed the message of FIRST, inspiration, problem solving and engineering.

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Unread 03-14-2011, 08:29 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

I struggle with community members who think FIRST is 'elitist' becase there is a sharp divide between teams that have lots and lots of resources and teams that do not. We face an additional challenge of being extremely rural -- as in, 20 miles from the nearest stoplight -- and our town is so small that we are limited to two fundraisers a year (so as to not take opportunities from other extracurricular activities).

What I usually say when people start hating on the powerhouse teams is something like this:

"We can be like them. There are things they do better than we do, and how terrible would it be to try to 'level the playing field' by restricting them. They build awesome robots -- we can do that, too. They have more mentors -- we can recruit more. They have more money -- we are limited in that regard, but so what? We seeded higher than the Thunder Chickens at FLR last year, and shared a blue banner with them when *we* chose *them* for our alliance.

We have up years and down years. Usually we're middle of the pack. But every year our capabilities get better, our aspirations higher, and our drive stronger. This happens BECAUSE of teams like 217, 1114, 254 -- they are INSPIRATIONAL powerhouses who show the rest of us what true excellence really is, and they give us something to shoot for."

It usually is NOT the reaction most people are expecting -- they expect me to confide in them how upsetting the inherent unfairness is. I hope some of them listen to what I have to say!

I do my best to instill this attitude in my team members as well. Jealousy is a wasted emotion, and can easily be replaced with inspiration from the EXACT SAME EVENTS. Same situation, different response = win for everyone.

----------------

Oh, and on student-vs-mentor built robots: We have always had a mix of the two, with mentors guiding and working with students to create the best product we can with the resources available. Our engineering decisions are ultimately made by the students, but are heavily informed by the engineers, and we do our best to make sure that students understand what the tradeoffs are in any decisions they make.

Our mentors work on some things with students; our students work on some things themselves. I think this is likely true on every team, whether they think so or not.

...but one of the things I see as an important aspect of FIRST, a part of the culture we hope to change, is getting more adults involved in the school. FIRST is, in my experience, the ONLY program that pulls in adults who are not simply helping out some activity that their child is involved with. Mentor involvement is essential to bringing more adults into our schools, so that they can inspire science and technology in kids.

So I would HOPE that robots are a collaboration between mentors and students, with the focus on the entire team doing the best they can AS A TEAM to create an excellent, competitive robot.

/ramble
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Unread 03-14-2011, 08:34 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

Dear 1114:

Please come to the Florida Regional next year. We will embrace you, feed you, entertain you and learn from you. Then we will be honored to go out and be crushed by you. (we are used to it, we play against 233, 179, 1251 every year)

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Unread 03-14-2011, 08:48 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

I've competed alongside 1114 for quite a number of years both as a student and a mentor. I am very familiar with the negative vibes toward them. I will not lie nor will I take the moral high-road- I don't like competing with them.

Before you jump all over me, let me explain why:

Every year I watch a group of students, teachers, parents, mentors and sponsors pour their hearts and souls into a machine. They regularily stay up until 5am in the morning trying to squeeze in a few more hours of design work. I have watched them struggle to keep their marks from slipping as they try to make their team the best it can be. I have watched parents, teachers and mentors including myself push themselves to and past their mental, physical and emotional limits trying to give 150% - but they do it.
Every - single - year.

And yet every year I see these people show up to a competition with their masterpiece. They are proud of it. They are inspired by what they have accomplished. To make it onto the field is a high- it is the culmination of the thousands of hours of dedication compromises and commitment. They feel on top of the world. This is FIRST.

However, with one match against one of these powerhouse teams these people's hopes and dreams that they might have a shot at winning a regional, award or the acolade of their peers can be dashed to bits after being hopelessly clobbered by a team like 1114.

How are these people supposed to feel after having another team kick dirt all over their dream machine? They ask themselves- "We gave it our all- 150% - and yet it wasn't enough? How do we become a team like that? How did they do it?" At first they feel inspired to find out how this other team was able to produce a result so much better than theirs. Next year they try again.... and they get clobbered. The following year they try- and again they can't reach the "powerhouse" level of competition.

You have to understand that every year teams put so much time and effort - sheer sweat and determination into their machines but it seems hopeless to ever compete on a level playing field with the likes of these powerhouse teams. What was formerly awe and inspiration now turns to frustration and resentment. They feel inadequate and inferior. They have just been shown that their best effort is not good enough.

This is why these feelings exist and why there is much negativity felt for these kinds of "powerhouse" teams.

As for how we change this? Well I really don't know. Lets see what kind of problem solvers these teams really are.
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Last edited by fox46 : 03-14-2011 at 08:50 AM.
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Unread 03-14-2011, 08:55 AM
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Re: Another Culture Change

Quote:
Originally Posted by wendymom View Post
Dear 1114:

Please come to the Florida Regional next year. We will embrace you, feed you, entertain you and learn from you. Then we will be honored to go out and be crushed by you. (we are used to it, we play against 233, 179, 1251 every year)

Love,
Exploding Bacon
Amen to that! A Florida Regional with 233, 103, 341(possibly =]), 179, 1902, AND 1114 would be epic.
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