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Unread 01-11-2008, 12:01 AM
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FIRST after Highschool

Being a high school senior, It's beginning to hit me that this will be my last year as a team member (that's not a mentor). I searched the threads and couldn't quite find something I was looking for so I'm here to ask the alumni and post highschool FIRSTers,

In your freshman year of college, should you mentor a FIRST team or take a year break to get settled?

The choices I've figured out are:

-Take a break from robotics by mentoring but continue by volunteering/attending events.

-Mentor a team

-Not mentor at all to settle in first year of college and get involved again the following year

I'm honestly just trying to figure out the pros and cons of a decision to mentor a FIRST team right away.

For those who took a break:


Why did you take the break?
What benefits do you think you gained from it?

and for those who continued with FIRST by mentoring a team right away:

What do you think were problems you encountered?
Do you feel like you had time to adjust and be a mentor at the same time?

Of course, anything additional you'd like to add to your answer is fine.

Thanks all in advance!,
Nica
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Unread 01-11-2008, 12:28 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

Hopefully I don't get too much flak for saying this...

I know it's hard to believe, but there actually IS life after FIRST. Part of going to college is about moving on and learning new things.

FIRST is great fun in high school, and there is some very impressive engineering that happens... but it is a High School robotics competition. Depending on where you go to school there are certainly other bigger, more involved projects to get caught up in. These are the things that FIRST has prepared you to go off and do. It would be a shame to miss them because you were still hanging around FIRST refusing to let go.

I graduated in 2002. I stayed in contact with my team, but I did no mentoring the entire time I was in college. I am very glad I did. I got absorbed in the DARPA Grand Challenge. I branched out and learned many different things.

Last year I volunteered at a regional event and started to get involved again. Hopefully next year I'll start to get more involved and mentor a team.

But when I mentor, I will actually be participating as an experienced mentor, bringing NEW ideas from other projects to the table. There is not going to be a question of if I'm a mentor or just an older student.

I highly recommend taking a break from FIRST. It really is for your own good. Go out and find something new to get excited about. Find a problem to solve in the world that's more free-form than FIRST. It will make you a better Mentor down the road.
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Unread 01-11-2008, 12:37 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

This is a very important consideration. You can search CD for FIRST alumni who have said something on this topic. Many students have graduated and royally messed up their college grades. Once you enter college, you are in a whole different world. I think everyone should remember the big picture in that FIRST really is designed so that you can grow up and excel in different fields. Dean Kamen really wants people to become entrepreneurs and inventors and people of high value. To do this, it is OK to not do FIRST for a few years. There are other ways to support this cause. I know there are students who graduated from our team (25) who have grown up to become important people in their respective fields and society.

With all that said, in college, students should always consider their grades a priority. No one is going to hire you if you have a -5.9 GPA and a ton of FIRST experience. We also need to remember that there are other things in this world such as family, friends, the whole college experience etc etc.

On the other hand, if you do decide to participate in FIRST during college, make sure that your first priority is your grades. I was able to do FIRST comfortably last year (my first year) because my classes got canceled due to logistical things at college. It was unfortunate but I had no choice. It let me participate actively. This year is different though so I will not be as active.

You should also consider the money commitment it takes to be in FIRST. It costs a lot to be a part of college already, and on top of that doing FIRST will inevitably cost a lot. For some teams, alumni get paid to be a part of the team due to their expertise. The reason I still participate is because of the value I get out of being a part of team 25. It is an environment where I can grow and help others grow. What I am trying to say is make sure you have a clear cut reason as to why you want to continue to do FIRST. Simply contributing to society is great but you need a plan or at least thoughts for your future or else you will end up where the waves take you and that may not be very pretty.

As a final thought, I'd say you should make your decision after/during your first semester. A lot of it depends on the college you are going to and what your goals in life are. It is not usually one choice that messes people up but rather a series of choices. A series of choices can also make their life. So consider all factors when you make a series of choices. Remember that FIRST will be around when you graduate college so if that is where your focus needs to be, then so be it. Good luck.
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Unread 01-11-2008, 12:38 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

I'm a senior this year as well. I know I'm going to be in the area next year, so I'll definitely want to help out my team. That's mainly because I really like everybody on it (well, almost). I probably won't come in quite as often, but it's probably not harmful to stick with your team for another year. You just have to set priorities.
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Unread 01-11-2008, 12:51 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

First, there was this thread, highlighting the pros and cons of mentoring a team right out of high school.

Personally, I'm doing my best at the moment to stay in touch with my team, while only being a little bit involved. I'll be at some of their events to act as support and photographer, but nothing too strenuous or time consuming (though I wish I could do more). Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day!

Because freshman year is such a dramatic transition from high school, mentoring a team may require too much time and could interfere with your studies. Grades, as much as we don't like to say it, take precedence over FIRST. Just like FIRST is a learning experience, so is college. Check around the forums- there have been many people in your shoes. But ultimately, it's your decision.

If you do choose to take a mentoring break, there could be a robotics related club at your school or at least like-minded people.

Of your choices, I'd say pull back a bit from mentoring and concentrate more on volunteering and attending events, just to stay involved in FIRST. Once you're more acclimated to your surroundings at college, and can properly time manage (a very important thing) then you could find it easier to come back to mentor, or give it your all, for your team.
There are other factors as well, such as proximity of school to your team. My team is 100 miles and a 2 hour drive for me, so instantly the role of mentor wasn't a possibility. However, I can still attend weekend events and such.

I went through that same tough transition last year, coming to realize that it was my last year as a student member of a team. However, there are so many options. If you're adamant about staying in FIRST, definitely volunteer. They're always looking for good, knowledgeable volunteers.
After my first semester, it became quite clear I couldn't devote all my time to my team, so I have decided to get involved in other ways..volunteering, do photography when I can for my team, doing Dean's homework..

On the flip side, a break could help you get everything in order at school, without having to worry about robot deadlines, or missed school thanks to regionals (my professors may not like me going to 3 regionals and Atlanta).

(Sorry that jumps around a bit, my mind's a bit foggy at the moment )

But I'm sure whatever you choose will be beneficial for you!
Good luck on your decision and I hope you find happiness in it!
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Unread 01-11-2008, 01:20 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

I'm a freshman in college this year. The first time I went back to my old team was this winter break, aka, when I had no classes and grades to mess up. When second semester starts next week, back to college I go and no more FIRST for me until spring break, where again I can't mess up my grades and classes when going to the VCU Regional. The only contact I'll have in between then is simply following the team's progress via our online forums. Hard to force myself to disregard grades over replying to a topic that'll still be there the day after.

It's just a matter of putting class before everything else.(Something I didn't do senior year of high school too well, learned my lesson there )
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Unread 01-11-2008, 01:21 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristinaR View Post
First, there was this thread, highlighting the pros and cons of mentoring a team right out of high school.

Wow, after searching things like
"mentoring after high school"
"FIRST after high school"
"mentoring in college"
and such, I didn't find that thread, but I'm incredibly glad that you did. I've spent my past bit of time reading through that thread and it is really helpful.
Thanks.
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Unread 01-11-2008, 01:26 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

I would recommend not mentoring, at least not for the first year. If you really want to, either find a new team or limit your contributions considerably. Remember that this is a new team now, with new leadership, and nothing undermines new leadership like an omnipresent old leadership. Switching from student to mentor isn't an easy transition, and the last thing that a team needs is a bunch of college kids doing everything. You are there to advise now, above all else keep that in mind.
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Unread 01-11-2008, 01:41 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nica F. View Post
Wow, after searching things like
"mentoring after high school"
"FIRST after high school"
"mentoring in college"
and such, I didn't find that thread, but I'm incredibly glad that you did. I've spent my past bit of time reading through that thread and it is really helpful.
Thanks.
You're welcome. It was a sticky at the top of the forum.
I'm glad it's helped!
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Unread 01-11-2008, 02:31 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

I'm a college freshman. I go to a college that hosts its own team comprised of local high schools so I have the fortune of being able to mentor them.

Classes don't start up again until the 22nd so I don't really have an idea how much of a toll it will take on my studies. The hardest thing to do is to transform yourself from a student to a mentor. It's hard not to "do it your way". A mentors job is to help the students learn and that always comes first.
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Unread 01-11-2008, 03:05 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

There are some other factors that should be taken into account.

Remember that every team is different. You should probably consider the properties of a team you might potentially mentor with just as much weight as your own personality.

You will probably mentor a team close to your college. If the area near your college is "in a rough side of town" your students are probably more likely to be a little rough around the edges. Teaching these students that their ideas are worthwhile, that they have value as an individual, and that somebody cares about them and their well-being is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. It does constitute, however, an additional load on the mentor's plate as the robot must still be completed. You are also more likely to have behavioral issues. This can be time-consuming and stressful. Probably the most terrifying experience in my life so far has been receiving a phone call urging me to run the rest of the way to practice as a fight was about to break out in the machine shop.

You must also obtain the respect of your students. This is something you must earn and have them give you, not something you can demand and take from them. Without the respect of your students you will probably have serious issues getting much done. You must also earn their trust of your professional skills so that when you attempt to discourage a bad idea they will actually listen. Once again this is something they give, not something you can take. How hard this is varies from individual student to individual student.

I can't emphasize enough to you how rewarding it is to finally earn the trust and respect of the students who probably need FIRST the most so that you can really begin helping them. Mentoring teams like that is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my short life. It is also far more time consuming because there are greater challenges.

This isn't to say that teaching privileged children who already believe in themselves (often to the point of ego and arrogance), and take the college education they will receive (and probably will be paid for completely by their parents) for granted is easy either. While teaching at a robotics-based summer camp my boss once received a phone call where a parent complained (and I quote) "that Katy did not understand the unique challenge and privilege she had teaching somebody as gifted as her son." Despite these annoyances these students are, in my experience, less likely to attempt to injure one another with power tools. This makes getting an extremely basic robot to competition much easier.

Another thing to consider is the number of other mentors. During your freshman year you probably need the power to be able to quit or decrease the number of hours you work if your grades start falling. If you are the only mentor (or the only mentor the students respect) the team will directly suffer if you attempt to decrease your hours. Don't put yourself in a position to have to make that choice. It is not fair to you or to the team.

Consider the mentality of the engineers. Some engineers (especially the first time they work with FIRST) believe they are only there for technical advise and will refuse to help make the kids behave. They expect, essentially, miniature professional adults who happen to know less about the topic at hand than they do. Many students do not fit that description. Forget the "shoulds" and "should nots" of both the expectations and the behaviors, this is simply just how the world works sometimes.

Also consider if there is a teacher on the team. No matter how technically inept the teacher may be (or even flat out inept in general) having a professional from your school on your team makes paperwork so much easier.

Do not underestimate the power of parents that care about the team. As a student I had almost no respect for them. When you are a mentor, however, you will probably see how parents can make a tremendous difference in the dynamics of your team.

Consider your age. I have never had an issue gaining the respect of my students but I have had issues gaining the respect of parents, engineers, fellow mentors, school administrators, and other individuals under circumstances where the age difference between me and my students was less than 6 months.


Remember that there are other roles you might fulfill as college student that will help FIRST. Regionals need field resets, team queuers, pit announcers, inspectors, emcees, judges, people to set up the field, people to tear down the field, guides for people from the press, and tons of other jobs just to actually make those three days of magic happen. That doesn't take into account the setup and planning that must be done to get the regional to happen at all. There is plenty of other work to go around if you don't want to mentor. Personally I find emceeing very meaningful too.
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Unread 01-11-2008, 08:26 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

FIRST is for inspiration of HS kids to pursue engineering.

When you graduate take that inspiration and actually pursue engineering

Once you have pursued come back and be an example to others. You will always be welcome.



My $.02

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Unread 01-11-2008, 08:35 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

Quote:
Originally Posted by 4throck View Post
I would recommend not mentoring, at least not for the first year. If you really want to, either find a new team or limit your contributions considerably. Remember that this is a new team now, with new leadership, and nothing undermines new leadership like an omnipresent old leadership. Switching from student to mentor isn't an easy transition, and the last thing that a team needs is a bunch of college kids doing everything. You are there to advise now, above all else keep that in mind.

There is another issue I have seen with former team members who come back to mentor their former teams right away. When they were a team member, they were a friend with all of the students (hopefully at least). When you are a mentor, yes you should be a friend to the students as well, but you also must be able to be a disciplinarian when needed. This isn't easy to do with, say, your buddy that last year you hung around with at the mall. I'm not saying it isn't possible but it isn't easy.

Helping out with a former team who may be short on manpower and needs another pair of hands is one thing. Being a full fledged mentor is another.
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Unread 01-11-2008, 09:43 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

If you choose to mentor a team (or teams) while in College, make absolutely sure that you have excellent time-management skills and, more importantly, that the team could function without you. Things happen, you have hard courses, etc. If you have the option to take a break or reduce your activity without seriously affecting the team, you will be in a much better position (especially when midterms/finals come around).

I'm a sophomore in college and I mentor two teams right now, but I have to plan very carefully. School comes first, and at times where I don't have enough time to dedicate to both, I find other members to temporarily cover for me.
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Unread 01-11-2008, 09:48 AM
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Re: FIRST after Highschool

I graduated last year, and i had decided that this team and program is too important to give up on it. I want the kids to experience the same things i did. I would suggest that people who graduate, if you had a fun time during your high school stay, to come back and help, atleast for one year.
Im splitting my time between college/work/and FIRST, but i enjoy doing it. And im sure others do too.
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