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  #31   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 01-30-2008, 06:26 PM
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Re: Mentors VS Students

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Originally Posted by cmonkey99 View Post
Now I thought the purpose of the mentors was to suggest things sometimes and help us out when we needed it. Not to change our design and make half-baked parts.
men·tor –noun - a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.
via Dictionary.com

The Keywords there are wise, trusted, counselor and teacher. In FIRST, the word mentor has its own meaning. Due to the process of building a robot being very intensive, it is important for teams to have mentors who can step in and work with the students. The students simply do not know how to build a robot on their own. Listen to Dave Lavery's speech from Kickoff 2008 about this. Other members have mentioned things that you should do instead so I am not going to repeat them. I am going to tell you how things work on our team and then you can pick and choose to whatever works for you.

On our team, there are no power struggles or split decisions. We always come to a resolution and do what we feel is right at that time. The reason behind this is simple - we are united. I don't want to brag but we have a pretty good record in FIRST games and one of the biggest reasons is the communication is right between the team. As far as the robot is concerned, we leave it up to the tradesmen and other technical mentors to decide what is right. Everyones input is taken into serious consideration and after hours of discussion and intense thought, we try to build the simplest and most powerful thing we can think of. The "robot builders" have final say in what the final design is. The rest of us can only put out ideas. When it comes to strategy, our drive team coach has final say. When it comes to programming, I have final say being the programming mentor. And when it comes to anything administrative, Mr. C has final say. Beware though, everyone has actually earned this respect by working hard and doing the right things. All of us never step on each others feet either. We respect each others decision and forgive mistakes. Mistakes are a part of life and FIRST. We also learn to deal with each others personalities because with such a large team, there will be disputes and the such.

When I was a student, I learned very quickly that the easier I could "accept" their mentorship, the easier it was for them to listen to me and my ideas. I earned their respect and trust through dedication and hard work. Many students on the team now are doing exactly the same thing. The more thankful and dedicated we were to working with them and submitting to them, the better the robot turned out. This is because now we are working together. We trusted them enough to build a good robot. I know this will not be the case with every team, but when it comes to the robot, try to think of everything in logical, practical and engineering terms. And most importantly, keep it simple. If you have certain guidelines to follow, all of you will agree on something.

My message is that you should try to find something that works as a team. No team is perfect and no team has perfect mentors or students. If you want to have a good year, you have to learn to work together. Mr. Cokeley always says if you build the team first, the robot will come. Remember, you are on the same side as your mentors, not on the other side. If you have to have a vs. game between them, then well, good luck. Personally, I have more respects for mentors on my team than any other team or anyone in FIRST. The reasoning for this is simple - I work with them on a daily basis and I know they are authentic, real people who are dedicated to doing the right thing and providing the best experience for everybody. I do not know mentors outside the team personally at that level so I cannot vouch for them like that. I am glad to be a part of such a team. I hope that your students and mentors can strive to achieve similar goals and have a good and fun year. Good luck.
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Unread 01-30-2008, 06:31 PM
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Re: Mentors VS Students

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Originally Posted by Cynette View Post
Exactly my thought also after reading about the failure leading to engagement by the students!

Failure that teaches and inspires isn't failure at all! But if we could just successfully plan that failure we would really be content!
And just to be really clear - A mentor can really be effective if she can finesse a work session where the students invent, fail, recover and learn in a time and cost constrained fashion. The mentor doesn't have to prevent the failure. Just make sure it gets done soon enough to allow the team to convert the 'failure' into a 'success'.
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Unread 01-30-2008, 08:35 PM
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Re: Mentors VS Students

Going back to the first post in this thread, I am wondering one thing. Why, oh why, is it assumed that there can only be one design for a component?

Pardon me, but the BeachBots currently have three grippers in various stages of construction. Each uses a different actuation system and has different strengths and weaknesses. But we won't know which works best until we actually put them on our practice bot and drive them around. Fortunately, we planned for this and merely need to remove a single bolt and secure wires and or pnuematic tubes to make the change over. By the way our "real" robot will also be built to make a quick change-over possible. It does wonders for maintainability. Having a spare arm that you can put on in 5 minutes or less intimidates the hardware into not breaking.

In the end, it is probable that none of the three grippers we are building now will be the final design. We will learn from each and make adjustments so that the final result works even better.

In terms of resouces, the BeachBots are a medium resource team. We have about 12 students and several mentors. But we get a lot done because we don't spend time arguing about what we should do or how it should be designed. Instead we put the effort into exploring new concepts, builing prototypes so we can demonstrate how well (or not) they work and refining our designs until they not only work but are elegant in their operation.

So stop whining and let them build their design and you build yours, just do it in such a way that they can easily be changed out and may the better design win!
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Unread 01-31-2008, 05:45 AM
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Re: Mentors VS Students

When mentors and students battle it's the team that loses.
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Unread 01-31-2008, 06:24 AM
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Re: Mentors VS Students

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Originally Posted by cmonkey99 View Post
We're having some problems on our team as Mentor vs. Student powers lately.

It seems that about 5 of us will start working on the robot with our previously decided design and one of our mentors will come back from the shop with the part already built but in a completely different design and most of the time very quickly and poorly done.

Then about half the time we're able to convince them to change the part back and the other half of the time they "convince" us with their supreme knowledge( )that their idea or part is better.

Now I thought the purpose of the mentors was to suggest things sometimes and help us out when we needed it. Not to change our design and make half-baked parts.

Its gotten to the point where I almost feel like dropping out of the club and focusing on MESA and other things.

Not to mention the fact that there are only about half the students doing much work, the other half just sit around and shoot the breeze.

I was wondering if any of you have faced similar situations or have any suggestions.

Keep in mind we're a fairly small team with about 4-7 students and 2-3 mentors at each build meeting

Thanks for any help

To me, this does not sound like an issue of robot design or who's building what.

What it sounds like to me is that the team (both mentors and students) have not defined their roles within the team, and this is a far more critical issue than robot design. It's even more critical now that you are in the middle of the build season.

When 1824 was formed, the 2 teacher/mentors decided that the team would follow the student designed / student built model. This gave us a proper division of labor within the team. When I came on board, last year, I had the same philosophy.

Whether the robot is student designed and built or mentor designed and built ... or anything in between ... the roles of each individual has to be defined.
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Unread 01-31-2008, 09:44 AM
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Re: Mentors VS Students

you dont go to the doctor and then prescribe your own treatment anyway

there is a reason they are the mentors and students are the students. Get the experience and training so you can come back in the future as a mentor.
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Unread 01-31-2008, 11:36 AM
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Re: Mentors VS Students

Unfortunately my experience with mentors has been largely negative. Obviously, it is colored by my experiences. I'd been meaning to start my own thread on this while CD was still nice and active around the build thing, but this one is as good as any.

Background: I was recently "fired" from my team after a particular mentor decided that I have an impossible personality. She said to the faculty representative from my school that she would leave if I wasn't asked to, so he "chose" her simply because the maelstrom that would have been kicked up around her departure is an order of magnitude larger than the one I managed to make.

My initial problem with this was that there had been no warning and no one had asked me to change my attitude or the way I dealt with my peers. Furthermore I felt that part of the goal of FIRST is to teach people how to work in a team environment, so if someone is difficult and not good at teamwork, I would hope that a team and mentors would work with that individual to improve their skills rather than just kicking them off. In addition I feel that mentors should be role models in their actions as well as their words, and "I'll quit if you don't fire him" doesn't seem to be a very mature action, nor one you would want future business leaders to emulate.

My point here? It's possible for mentors to ACTUALLY be wrong. I know it's easy to feel like they're wrong all the time because of our teenagerly self-righteous tunnel vision, and equally easy to refute that viewpoint because they're older so obviously they have more experience and therefore better intuition. I feel the true answer lies somewhere in the middle: Everyone can be wrong sometimes and nobody's perfect.
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Unread 01-31-2008, 03:56 PM
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Re: Mentors VS Students

"My initial problem with this was that there had been no warning and no one had asked me to change my attitude or the way I dealt with my peers"

Wow, that is tough medicine! I wish it had not happened but perhaps it is a real-world lesson for you. I have been part of many teams where the leader's philosophy of team-building included letting people go till he/she ended up with the combinations of attitudes and skill-sets they required. In the real world, you don't always get asked to change your attitude. Sometimes you just get asked to leave. So next time you join a new team, be polite, productive and deferential till you get an idea of what the team leaders expect. There is something to be learned (sometimes hard to find) from everyone you meet.
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Unread 01-31-2008, 05:07 PM
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Thumbs up Re: Mentors VS Students

Well we dont have that problem. Our mentors let us do all the work and if they see that we cant do it they suggest but dont exactly give us the solution. Im glad they dont because that way we learn it instead of them giving us shortcuts.
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Unread 01-31-2008, 07:51 PM
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Re: Mentors VS Students

Quote:
Originally Posted by EricH View Post
If they just plain don't want to work, give them the option to leave the team.
But in any case, you should not tolerate anyone just sitting around doing nothing productive. I'm working, don't consume my oxygen.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beth Sweet View Post
What I love about Dave is that he's not afraid to speak the truth, even if people don't want to hear it.
And he's so very articulate and polite when he says it. His signature quote isn't just fluff (wordy harry, indeed!).
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Unread 02-06-2008, 02:42 PM
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Re: Mentors VS Students

One place to start with teams whose mentor/student working relationship seems out of balance would be to have all the mentors (and students) re-read the mentor guide on the FIRST website.

The "its all about me" is inappropriate behavior for students or mentors. (A sudden and unannounced change of design/implementation behavior is a statement of "its all about me" - "I *know* better than you", etc. in my humble opinion. I've seen this attitude from both students and mentors. This type of power struggle often is just the tip of larger submerged group communication & trust issues.)

FIRST Mentoring Guide

"Allowing and encouraging independent thought"

"Mentors grow and learn new perspectives from the young minds brainstorming and working under their tutelage."

"Team members learn technical and organizational skills well enough to be assigned some mentoring roles."

"Provide students with opportunities to make choices, both good and bad."

"Let the kids know that they will have a large part in building the team’s robot once they have learned and practiced the necessary skills…...and follow through with your promises."
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Unread 02-06-2008, 03:32 PM
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Re: Mentors VS Students

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Englert View Post
Unfortunately my experience with mentors has been largely negative. Obviously, it is colored by my experiences. I'd been meaning to start my own thread on this while CD was still nice and active around the build thing, but this one is as good as any.

Background: I was recently "fired" from my team after a particular mentor decided that I have an impossible personality. She said to the faculty representative from my school that she would leave if I wasn't asked to, so he "chose" her simply because the maelstrom that would have been kicked up around her departure is an order of magnitude larger than the one I managed to make.

My initial problem with this was that there had been no warning and no one had asked me to change my attitude or the way I dealt with my peers. Furthermore I felt that part of the goal of FIRST is to teach people how to work in a team environment, so if someone is difficult and not good at teamwork, I would hope that a team and mentors would work with that individual to improve their skills rather than just kicking them off. In addition I feel that mentors should be role models in their actions as well as their words, and "I'll quit if you don't fire him" doesn't seem to be a very mature action, nor one you would want future business leaders to emulate.

My point here? It's possible for mentors to ACTUALLY be wrong. I know it's easy to feel like they're wrong all the time because of our teenagerly self-righteous tunnel vision, and equally easy to refute that viewpoint because they're older so obviously they have more experience and therefore better intuition. I feel the true answer lies somewhere in the middle: Everyone can be wrong sometimes and nobody's perfect.
You sound like you're exactly the way I was in high school. I too got this medicine, but not from a FIRST team. Looking back, there WERE several clues, hints, and sometimes obvious, blatant suggestions that I simply ignored. Things like this never "just happen". The mentor probably didn't just have a "I'll quit if you don't fire him" attitude -- it was probably a "I'm getting stressed, and burnt out by dealing with this person" attitude, at which point the leadership HAD to chose. If you're anything like I was, you didn't change your attitude at all to accomodate such a situation.

I hate that you're missing such a great opportunity, however perhaps you can ask to make amends with that mentor. Hopefully your maelstrom-style bridge burning wasn't so bad that you can't go back and apologize. If not, hopefully there's next year.
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Unread 02-06-2008, 04:39 PM
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Lightbulb Re: Mentors VS Students

Well... for that reasion we tend to keep our mentors out of the shop and keep them working on fianances.
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Unread 02-06-2008, 05:28 PM
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Re: Mentors VS Students

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Originally Posted by Urban Hawk View Post
Well... for that reasion we tend to keep our mentors out of the shop and keep them working on fianances.
So what you are saying is: you don't have mentors, you have accountants.

That is unfortunate. Both you and your "mentors" are missing out on some great opportunities. I would really urge you to go back and listen to the discussion from the kick-off. Hopefully, some of the comments there will strike a chord.

-dave




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Unread 02-12-2008, 09:17 AM
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Re: Mentors VS Students

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Originally Posted by dcbrown View Post
One place to start with teams whose mentor/student working relationship seems out of balance would be to have all the mentors (and students) re-read the mentor guide on the FIRST website.

The "its all about me" is inappropriate behavior for students or mentors. (A sudden and unannounced change of design/implementation behavior is a statement of "its all about me" - "I *know* better than you", etc. in my humble opinion. I've seen this attitude from both students and mentors. This type of power struggle often is just the tip of larger submerged group communication & trust issues.)
...
Something else to think of: Sometimes mentors may see a design flaw and try to correct or plan for it if something fails. They may talk and try to steer or get the students to see the problem, but if they don't... said flaw might not manifest until later.

But yes, it's disturbing to be handed a new part when the design hasn't shifted.
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