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Unread 05-03-2013, 12:09 PM
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The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

In the Stereotyping of Successful Teams thread, we stumbled onto the age old topic of the 6 week build season and how it effects competitiveness and mentor burnout. Instead of hijacking that thread, I felt it appropriate to start a new thread.

These were the relevant posts leading up to this thread:

http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/sh...2&postcount=81

http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/sh...3&postcount=83

http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/sh...8&postcount=84

http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/sh...3&postcount=87

http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/sh...1&postcount=92

http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/sh...0&postcount=93



Quote:
Originally Posted by JesseK View Post
(This isn't a have-not soapbox ... I have a wonderment...)

On our team, time has always been against us. The 6 week build season is hard, and it's tough to get time out of the work days during build season to get to the school without project managers going ape s---. "Only putting in 40 hours a week? Ha. There goes your technical career." It has led to a lot of mentor burn-out, particularly when the 6 week build season is stretched out to 16 weeks in the pursuit of making software and 30lbs of robot better. The few weeks after the end of build few of us even want to think about a robot, let alone have to tweak it. Even one of the prominent FiM guys REALLY wants to do away with the 6-week cycle altogether, exposing more teams with low mentor resources to more burn-out. I'd be curious to see how the more elite teams deal with this via their team structure, mentor recruiting, etc.

One last point: teams don't even need to perform very well on the field to be talked about negatively. Simply powder-coating the robot because a sponsor has requested it every year is enough for many individuals to treat a team with this type of disrespect.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Freeman View Post
What would cause more mentor burn-out, trying to get a robot completed in 6 weeks, or trying to get on completed in 7, 8, or 9 weeks?

Teams are working non-stop right past the 6-week build window anyways, tweaking, practicing, iterating, etc...

We just stopped "working" on robotics this week, for basically the first time all year, this week!

Are we burned out? Sure. But, most of the issues were trying to build parts that couldn't be tested on a robot that was sitting next to us in a bag. This leads to a lot of problems that could have been easily solved in our build space. Instead we had to work all week creating parts, only to work all weekend at the competition getting them to work correctly.

Access to the robot has no bearing on whether we are away from home/work working on the robot.

Removing the barrier from the robot, and allowing more access to it, is supposed to allow low-mentor resource teams additional time with the robot, so they can keep up with the other teams that don't stop working when the 6-week build is over.

-Adam
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hibner View Post
I agree with Adam on this one. I would be less burnt out if the 6 week limitation was removed. As he said, it sucked having to make a bunch of extra stuff to try and make a practice robot work, not to mention wiring another entire robot and making configurations in your software since you don't have identical speed controller/sensors/etc. on both robots. Even after all that effort the practice bot never works quite right so there's even more time spent fixing those issues.

Additionally, most of the my burnout stems from having to leave work early and work until late at night because we have an artificial 6 week deadline. If I could work my normal schedule and get home at a reasonable time for another week, I would prefer that over the craziness that happens in the latter stages of the build season.
Quote:
Originally Posted by EricH View Post
Sorry, Adam, but I must disagree. I believe it's known as Parkinson's Law: Work expands to fill the allotted time.

What I mean is this: Expand the season to 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 weeks, and I'm willing to bet that you will STILL spend multiple hours a day, multiple days a week, every week, trying to iterate a newer and better item, reworking the robot between Week 1 and your first competition when you realize that your design isn't working out, doing a lot of things to make the robot perform better, or even just driver practice.

The ONLY thing that will be different is... wait for it...

... You'll have your competition robot to do it on. That means you don't need to build a practice robot. Assuming that you did that after bag day anyway (or before building the competition robot), you really aren't saving that much wear and tear on yourself, because you're still running into the "Just one more tweak" from 3 or 4 different directions, which leads to more late nights, more nights, later nights...


Basically, what I'm saying is that by allowing teams to work longer, they will do just that, resulting in even more burnout. It's just human nature. I would almost go so far as to say that it won't help the teams you're trying to help, it'll hurt them. Almost.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Freeman View Post
I don't want to drag this out, and maybe it's a topic of discussion for a different thread...

But, I can't believe that a "lower" level team having 24/7 access to their robot to practice with, iterate, etc... could be anything but a good thing.

I understand that will lead to more time committment and work for them, if they choose to continue to fill the time. But, is that worse than not having access to their robot and showing up to competition after competition not being able to execute the designed game tasks?

Maybe they needed another week to get a shooter working, or get a climber or drivetrain adjusted. It's pretty hard to do major adjustments and tweaking at a competition.

With more access to the robot, do they have to meet every day....or can they meet every other day? Can they adjust their schedules to get more time with the machine, but also a better mix of time at work and home as well?

As I said before, the top teams are already doing more anyways with a practice bot. 2056 and 1114 are practicing 4-5hrs every day. 254 is re-designing an already awesome climber to be even better. 67 is trying to get partially functioning climber working to it's full potential. This is already happening.

Basically, when there is work to be done...we put in whatever time is required to get it done. Example - Last year we rolled out of the gate at Waterford and the robot was essentially "perfect". After that we did not mess with it or tweak it at all (outside of some minor autonomous improvements), all season. This year was different. We were not ready and continued to work all season to get to the point we wanted to get too. We (67) are going to do what it takes to attempt to meet our goals. If we don't need to do more work, we won't. If we need too we will.

We've talked about raising the floor. Giving the "floor" more access to their machine does exactly that. Jim Zondag has data that shows more competitions and more access to the robot leads to better performance.

Will it just create a mean shift of performance for all teams? Yeah, most likely, but it may also tighten up the difference between the best and worst teams. We are probably approaching the limits on how much better the best teams can get.

This thread just seems weird to me, that a discussion about how 341 worked harder to be better, leads to an arguement that handicapping the best teams and restricting access (not having more access) to the robot for lower level teams is for the betterment of FIRST's mission.

IDK, maybe my perspective is just one sided.

-Adam
Quote:
Originally Posted by pathew100 View Post
I have had the same thoughts about this for a while. If you take out the need for teams to build a practice robot it saves a ton of resources and tightens up the competiton.

"Six Weeks" is a fallacy now anyways. It's really six weeks to build 75% of your robot (by weight).

And software isn't included so if you want to keep up with the "elite" or just have auto code that works you need to build a practice robot so you have a platform to test your code on.

And bumpers and controls aren't included, so you don't need to worry about them until after bag day...

So when does "Build Season" stop exactly?
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

My opinion falls on the side of eliminating the 6 week time constraint as being beneficial to the concept of mentor burnout. Eric's point about work expanding to fill a deadline is dead on, however a team may have an option now of not meeting EVERY single day for 6 weeks. My expectation would not be that the team stops after 6 weeks anyway, but that they spread the stress from a concentrated 6 weeks, to a less concentrated 8-9.

The way I see it, teams who build a full practice robot and work through the entire competition season, are going to no matter what, unless the rules explicitly disallow this action. These teams will have a second robot, they will have extra software development time, extra time to refine mechanisms and shake out bugs (disclaimer: we are one of these teams).

If you lift the restriction of teams having access to their robots, it will be pretty much the status quo for our team. However, for teams that do not have a practice robot they will now have the ability to tweak and tune right up to a competition. Its hard for me to see how removing the 'lock up' portion of the season as doing anything but raising the floor and allowing teams who would otherwise not have the means, access to fine tuning later in the season.


As for mentor burnout- there is no reason a team cannot artificially create a 6 week build season, either by putting a hard cap at 6 weeks, or by spreading 6 weeks worth of meetings over 8 or 9 weeks. I know for my team, having a few more weeks would definitely lighten the load earlier in the season, allow us more refinement on the design side- which means less wasted money on not fully vetted prototypes.

I do think this topic is a very good one and am very curious to hear many different sides of the argument though...

-Brando
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Unread 05-03-2013, 12:25 PM
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

Thanks for putting together this excellent recap thread.

As a lower resource team that has just started to build a practice robot.
I feel that a 6-week build limitation is hurting us more than helping.

Building a practice robot is a lot of work and we would much rather put in the work on the actual robot.

Eliminating the 6-week restriction:
1. saves money
2. saves time
3. reduces stress

It would be interesting to see a survey of Chief Delphi on this topic.
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

I've been basically away from FIRST the past two seasons (I moved to Austria) but I feel strongly about this topic.

We need to get rid of the 6 week deadline. I think this was there when there was a time we all had to ship our robots to the competition. Now, it only serves the purpose of a media point "The kids built this in 6 weeks" (which we all know really isn't true when you include improvements over the season).

To add what was more elegantly put by Adam...another thing that would be missed without bag time would be "fix-it windows". I know we would spend several hours the night before just planning these times so we can get everything we needed done in the time window. This was time we could have spent working on the robot (and caused more "burnout").

I don't agree with Eric's argument because the teams that want to continue to improve the entire season are already doing this...it's just in an inefficient way (two robots...although we would probably still build two robots because our practice bots get beat to heck...)...
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

If someone from FIRST reads this I propose that a survey question be added about the six week build season to all teams. If there is an overwhelming majority on one side or the other from the end of the year survey then I propose that FIRST implements this change into the FRC program. I personally agree that it would lessen mentor/student burnout for the build season. One other major thing that has popped into my mind is a question for the teams that build a practice robot. How has building a practice robot correlates with student grades. Do they trend up or down after the build season. This would be the only major problem of eliminating the 6 week build season.
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Unread 05-03-2013, 12:32 PM
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

No no no a thousand times no.

Anybody who says 6 days a week for a 6 week build season translates to 4 days a week for a 9 week build season is lying. Not simply because of Parkinson's Law, but because of 'elite' teams' constant need for that extra edge, and 'lesser' teams' need to try to keep up.

Here's my reality: For six weeks - 36 nights - my wife has to feed, bathe, and put our two sons to bed by herself. For 36 nights, I don't get to read bedtime stories and tuck in my two boys. I am not willing to make that 54 nights.
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

Quote:
Originally Posted by Taylor View Post
No no no a thousand times no.

Anybody who says 6 days a week for a 6 week build season translates to 4 days a week for a 9 week build season is lying. Not simply because of Parkinson's Law, but because of 'elite' teams' constant need for that extra edge, and 'lesser' teams' need to try to keep up.

Here's my reality: For six weeks - 36 nights - my wife has to feed, bathe, and put our two sons to bed by herself. For 36 nights, I don't get to read bedtime stories and tuck in my two boys. I am not willing to make that 54 nights.
Then don't... Who is telling you that you have to? Self impose your own deadlines. That's the beauty of it...it's in your control.
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

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Then don't... Who is telling you that you have to? Self impose your own deadlines. That's the beauty of it...it's in your control.
I guess we're doing Ri3D next year then.

Seriously. Tell your students and mentors and administrators and sponsors that, purely by your own choice, your team is only going to actively work 36 days out of the possible 54, and let me know what 469's response is. If they have any interest in returning to Einstein, I think I know the answer.
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

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I guess we're doing Ri3D next year then.
I'm sorry...but I don't get your point (or joke)...

BTW... "3. What works for you may not work for me, and vice versa."
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

I'm going to go against the grain here and say that the six week season should stay, at least for a while. Once the district system is the norm in FIRST, I could see an argument to go to a continuous build period. There are several reasons for this (burnout, I completely agree with Taylor on this), but one big one I haven't seen talked about much looms above them all.

Remember minibots? How much variety there was at the beginning of the season, for better or for worse? How a few teams spent thousands of dollars and incredible amount of times iterating to perfect the direct drive minibot? How after a few weeks of regionals, clones started popping up left and right, because teams and the rules made this possible, and everyone asked for them to never, ever be done again, partially because so many teams hit the ceiling of performance with identical designs?

I don't want to see the 120 pound robots become like this. I don't want a system where it's practical for teams to copy what others engineer. The 6 week period makes this impractical to do. With unlimited robot access, I could see teams doing complete rebuilds for championships, bringing even more burnout into play, taxing sponsors and giving a double advantage to teams with good manufacturing support, making FRC robots monotone, and resulting in some spectacular failures that wouldn't have happened by teams who try a more ambitious rebuild than they can handle
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

Are folks advocating an extended build season (e.g. 9 weeks) or the elimination of a stop-build deadline altogether?

If the latter, what would you recommend to minimize the advantage a team competing late in the season has over someone who, perhaps necessarily, competes in week 1? Would you attempt to minimize the advantage at all?

We meet 3 times a week during build; twice during the work week and on Saturdays. Later in the season, we meet more frequently as required. I'm pretty well ready to die after 6 weeks now; I can see how making the time allowed longer could help, but I also see where it wouldn't make much difference and the pain would only be prolonged.
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

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If the latter, what would you recommend to minimize the advantage a team competing late in the season has over someone who, perhaps necessarily, competes in week 1? Would you attempt to minimize the advantage at all?
I don't see the point. Teams competing in different weeks aren't competing against each other, unless there's some weird time warp that allows that in the Pacific Northwest .

The qualification system is still based on how you do in the event you attend. OPR (which improves every week) is not a qualifier for the world championship.
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

I'm against extending the build season, I can guarantee it would lead to more late build sessions for my teams. I am already stretched thin for 6 weeks and my college hates the fact I miss so many days of class (I still keep my grades up). If it were changed to an 8 or 9 week build season I simply would not be able to be a mentor in my current capacity.

More build time = more days missed of class/work
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Unread 05-03-2013, 12:53 PM
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

I have to disagree with extending build season or getting rid of the 6 weeks stop time. I feel that it is impressive to build these machines within the 6 weeks. But the big issue is what about the teams that can only do a week 1 event such as GSR. There build season is only 8 weeks and another team that can only go to week 4 has a more time to work on their robot. It is not a level playing field based on the simple fact when your competition is.

Also with the six weeks deadline this allows our team to develop documents that is used during competition as well as providing a great experience for the students to learn not just how to build a robot but also how to document our build season and robot. The technical documents they create will be better tools for them in both their professional and college careers.

I understand mentors get burnt out but what is the reason for this burn out? Cause i know when it is close to the end of week 6 i feel amazing on what has taken place of not just building a robot but changing students lives forever.
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Unread 05-03-2013, 12:54 PM
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Re: The 6 Week Build Season and 'Mentor Burnout'

Quote:
Originally Posted by Madison View Post
Are folks advocating an extended build season (e.g. 9 weeks) or the elimination of a stop-build deadline altogether?

If the latter, what would you recommend to minimize the advantage a team competing late in the season has over someone who, perhaps necessarily, competes in week 1? Would you attempt to minimize the advantage at all?

We meet 3 times a week during build; twice during the work week and on Saturdays. Later in the season, we meet more frequently as required. I'm pretty well ready to die after 6 weeks now; I can see how making the time allowed longer could help, but I also see where it wouldn't make much difference and the pain would only be prolonged.
My opinion...get rid of it altogether...

What advantage does a team competing in week 5 have over a team competing in week 1? All the teams competing in week 1 compete with other teams competing in week 1...and then 2, 3, etc...

Are you saying that a team in week 5 will wait until the week 1 districts/regionals and then copy the best designs?

Wow...I feel like EricH today...I think this is the most I've ever posted in one day...
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