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Unread 03-21-2004, 09:16 PM
Team0 Team0 is offline
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Corporate Sponsorship

Large, medium and even small corporations across the country and around the world are the lifeblood of FIRST. They continuously pump dollar after dollar into the organization, regionals, nationls, and individual teams. FIRST would never have made it out of its infant stages, let alone grown to the size and quality seen today, without these corporations. With these FACTS set aside, I have a few concerns.
Corporations that are extremely competitve with one another in the consumer market are all a part of FIRST. Every year companies that are in direct competiton with one another for customers build robots that go out and compete with their market compeitors robots. It is this basic fact that (i believe) is the root of the concerns I have.
Many large corporations have told their employees to make sure "their team" has a "competitve robot." I have heard this statement from many teams, and feel that it is a more than fair request. After all, without the corporate money, most teams could not survive. However, after attending two regioals this year, as well as countless regionals in the past and two national events, I have discovered that many corporate managers interpert this in many ways. Too many, in my opinion, take it to mean that their robot has to win-at all costs. One of the costs on most of these teams seems to be the experience of the students. After talking with some students I discovered that they actually had little to do with the design and building of their robot. From discussion with students on these teams it seemed that the role they played was one of workers on an assembly line. They would be handed parts, nuts, and bolts, and told where parts were to be placed, with little knowledge beforehand of what was happeneing.
It hs always been my belief that FIRST was here to encourage corpoations, companies, and students to work hand in hand. However, I do not feel that this is what they meant. I believe that FIRST is trying to actually INSPIRE young adults, through learning the design process, and being led through it by engineers, manufacturerers, mentors, and teachers. I believe that they are attemting to get those same mentors to teach design and engineering concepts and princples-to give those students the "upper hand" at the next level. I do not feel that teaching students to run machines, and allowing them to make only the most simple (and negligible) parts is what FIRST is about. It is about working hand in hand. It is about teaching students about real world science, mathematics, and technology. But that is not all-FIRST is about teaching mentors what kids are like all over again. It's about closing the generation gap, creating bonds, life time friends, and skills that will last everyone involved a lifetime.
SO I implore all mentors, students, managers, teachers, principles, and all other FIRST members please consider everyone on your team before building a competitive robot. FIRST is just not "worth it" if student experiences are sacraficed. It is also not "worth it" if mentor experiences are sacraficed. Find something that works-Happiness is winning without experience. Ecstacy and pride are found only in understanding and learning.
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Unread 03-21-2004, 09:31 PM
futtrich futtrich is offline
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Re: Corporate Sponsorship

Portions of Speech by Dean Kamen
1998 FIRST Competition Kickoff Workshop, January 10, 1998
The Center for New Hampshire, Manchester, NH
[imperfectly transcribed from a videotape]
copyright 1998 PNHS and GMPT

I donít know how many ways to try and continue to say it. . . What this organization is about is not education per se. I heard a lot of people, even last night, and I think they mean well, and I understand what youíre saying, there needs to be a balance, but I heard people saying "well sure that other team did great, but thats because the engineers did all the work. The kids didnít build the robot." I have to tell you, FIRST is not an educational institution. Its okay if the kids build the whole robot, its okay if they donít touch it. FIRST ought to be to education what the NFL or the World Series is to little league.
Just do the mental experiment in which there is no professional football, there is no little league. Do you think that little kids at the age of six, seven, and eight are going to get up and spend hours exercising, striving to get better and better at what would become a cardiovascular exercise running up and down a field? Imagine how many kids would spend those kinds of hours practicing basketball if there was no Michael Jordan.
The harsh reality is this country doesnít have an NCAA of smarts or Olympic Committee of brains. We donít have people as well known as Michael Jordan doing little things like inventing CAT scanners, curing diseases, putting a man on the moon. You and your companies are those people.
...
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Unread 03-21-2004, 10:01 PM
sanddrag sanddrag is offline
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Re: Corporate Sponsorship

The first post of this thread was much better stated than other posts I've seen on this topic but after so many discussions of this, all I can say is "Aww, here it goes"
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Unread 03-21-2004, 10:17 PM
KenWittlief KenWittlief is offline
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Re: Corporate Sponsorship

( I will tell you a secret if you keep it to yourself. Shhhhh- the whole robot contest thing is just a distraction - its only an excuse to get highschool students and engineers in the same room together - spending time together - taking bus trips together- in the end it hardly matters if the bot runs at all, the students end up being inspired anyway

because they get a glimpse

of what its like to be an engineer or scientist

and they like what they see!

dont tell anyone)
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Unread 03-21-2004, 10:24 PM
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Re: Corporate Sponsorship

Quote:
Originally Posted by KenWittlief
( I will tell you a secret if you keep it to yourself. Shhhhh- the whole robot contest thing is just a distraction - its only an excuse to get highschool students and engineers in the same room together - spending time together - taking bus trips together- in the end it hardly matters if the bot runs at all, the students end up being inspired anyway

because they get a glimpse

of what its like to be an engineer or scientist

and they like what they see!

dont tell anyone)
*Raieses hand politely*

I STRONGLY DISAGREE! You are looking at the situation as an adult...as most adults I have spoken with as a matter of fact. however, students are NOT inspired simply by being in the room with engineers and watching them work. As a matter of fact, simply watching has turned more students (that i am aware of) away from a degree in engineering that they initially intended to pursue.
Students want to interact, to truly learn and be a part. I know if I am not ineracting I am unhappy. Especially if a lack of interaction occurs at competitons
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Unread 03-21-2004, 10:34 PM
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Re: Corporate Sponsorship

I am so thankful that Xerox has not put that kind of pressure on us. They completely understand what the FIRST competition is about and that awards are nice but they should not be the only reason to justify being in the competition. Because when awards become the main focus you need to look no further to the corruption at Colorado to see what happens. That cannot be allowed to happen here!
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Unread 03-21-2004, 10:36 PM
KenWittlief KenWittlief is offline
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Re: Corporate Sponsorship

ok but now you have these engineers with 4 or 5 years of college education, and most with several years of experience

and highschool students from freshmen to seniors

and only 6 weeks together - its impossible for us to teach the students everything they would need to know to build a highly competitive machine all by themselves

on our team we start with the mentors doing almost everything, showing the students how its done, and usually by the end of 6 weeks we are walking around with our hands in our pockets and silly grins on our faces, cause the students have taken the whole project over

so I guess our team is in the middle - the mentors dont do all the work, and the students dont either - and when a crisis arises in the pits we are all there working together

thats our teams vision of FIRST - we dont build the best machines every year

but we do have two regional trophies sitting on a shelf, and a finalist trophy from this year (so far) - so we aint doing so bad either.
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Unread 03-21-2004, 10:42 PM
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Re: Corporate Sponsorship

what you're saying now i agree with. i am fully aware that there simply isnt enough time to teach them everything. it sounds like youre team has got it "right" as far as im concerned. However, i think Team0 has a problem with teams that have not found this balance and either have mentors doing everything or students doing everything. i think anything except being "in the middle" is not FIRST, and teams not in the middle should strive to get there
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Unread 03-21-2004, 10:46 PM
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Re: Corporate Sponsorship

Quote:
Originally Posted by KenWittlief
( I will tell you a secret if you keep it to yourself.
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Unread 03-21-2004, 10:56 PM
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Re: Corporate Sponsorship

Team 0,
I agree with your post wholeheartedly. You speak the truth and should not have to stand behind a false name in fear of how people will lash out at you. Anyone who is proud of their "own" work and who worked hard on "their" bot will agree with you and should speak out. However, it is those who did not, who were handed a bot (which I admit may not be their fault) that press the issue and will take shots at you.

Every competetion you go to you can pick out the teams of students who truly learned from their mentors and get involved in the work. And of course there are the teams where the field crew waits outside the pit for the group of engineers to fix the bot pulling extra spare assemblies out of boxes. While looking at a teams bot full of socket head cap screws and asking to borrow an allen wrench the "pit lead" should not refer you to an engineer because they do now know what an allen wrench is.

The line exists, I have been on both sides of it in the last five years. Having a door shut in your face and told "let the professionals do it" is not okay. Teams with overly competative mentors should not stand for this, there is more than winning on the line. The whole idea is learning, and I am willing to bet that a team will learn more fixing their robot after every match because something broke and it only moved for 30 seconds than they will throwing in a new battery every match until their sponsors name is annouced as the winner during the awards.

Things can change, I takes a lot of hard work but nothing is impossible. However you must want to make the change. It is nice and easy to turn screws at week three but if you want to learn and get involved you must take the incentive. Myself and other team members did. We took a sponsor dominated team and made it a way of learning. We packed as many underclassmen as we could get on computers into a lab modeling in pro-e while upperclassmen gave them instruction on 3D modeling, material selection, manufacturablity, safety factors and producing prints that parts could actually be made from.

We used our engineers as a resource, they directed us and we went to them when the upperclassmen got stumped. If they saw a significant flaw or questioned something they expressed their concern and we took their experience and knowledge into consideration. But bottom line the decisions came down to the students. And because of this they will learn more than any school can teach them.

We no longer finished in the fourth week of the build, parts didnt always fit 100% nor work the way that they were supposed to. However what mattered was that kids were learning. The upperclassmen passes down their knowledge to the underclassmen while the upperclassmen gained management and leadership skills. And all were advised and gained knowledge from our mentors. Everyone learned, where it was how to map a drive or change the color of a part or about the relative strenght of hollow shafts for a given weight.

The key to this learning was self incentive. You have to say I want to learn, I dont want to be handed a robot. If your mentors see that you are serious about this things will change. Like with may problems you must admit that there is a problem. Push yourself and your team to learn as much as possible. In the end winning is just a little icing on top of the feeling that you were involved and contributed to the overall cause.
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This is solely the opinion of me and only me, my posts represent my personal views only, and do not represent the views of either my team, nor its sponsors.

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Unread 03-22-2004, 09:40 AM
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Re: Corporate Sponsorship

Quote:
and only 6 weeks together - its impossible for us to teach the students everything they would need to know to build a highly competitive machine all by themselves
I would have to Disagree. Team 538 has uhh, 1 engineer on their team, and he is just there to approve what can be done. Every year we have a competitive bot, and every year we do pretty well. This year in the Atlanta regional we were first seed.
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Unread 03-22-2004, 04:13 PM
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Re: Corporate Sponsorship

Quote:
Originally Posted by TF8
Things can change, I takes a lot of hard work but nothing is impossible. However you must want to make the change. It is nice and easy to turn screws at week three but if you want to learn and get involved you must take the incentive. Myself and other team members did. We took a sponsor dominated team and made it a way of learning. We packed as many underclassmen as we could get on computers into a lab modeling in pro-e while upperclassmen gave them instruction on 3D modeling, material selection, manufacturablity, safety factors and producing prints that parts could actually be made from.
<snip>
Not knowing much about east coast teams, I don't know what team you're referring to. Are you describing 190, or the team you were on in high school?
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Unread 03-22-2004, 04:38 PM
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Re: Corporate Sponsorship

I think that it is uneccesary, and not right, for adults to be the cause of a team's success. My team, 1389, had only 2 adults helping us out, neither of whom were engineers. They did help us very much when needed, but we pretty much took care of things on our own. There is not part of the robot that at least 1 or 2 people don't COMPLETELY understand, and we figured everything out based on resources on the FIRST website, previous knowledge, trial and error, etc. We were able to learn so much because it is what we had to do in order to build the robot. If adults want to help the team, then teach members off season, so you can test their knowledge during the season. Otherwise, how are they really making any progress?

My team is not spectacular- but placing 29th out of 58 teams as a rookie team with probably the lowest budget of all the teams there, we were quite happy with our robot and could feel pride in our achievements because we knew that without our work the robot would not exist. This is what FIRST is about.
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Unread 03-22-2004, 05:38 PM
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Re: [moderated] Corporate Sponsorship

but FIRST is not intended to be a crash course in engineering, or even an offseason mini engineering training program

not all mentors can spend time with the team all year - if your team works on design and codeing and control skills all year - thats great

but not to sound like a pompous snodwod - but a small handfull of engineers could start working with the students at the kickoff meeting, teaching them as they go during the 6 weeks, and have an excellent, technologically advanced, and very competitive machine - and then go home after the comps are over

remember the core idea here is only to give the HS students a taste of what it would be like to be an engineer - to see the light at the end of the education tunnel

if your team has a high retention rate, and the same students come back every year, and they are able to do 99% of the design and build work - thats outstanding - I commend you for that accomplishment

and by the same token, if your team has 100% new students every year, and the engineers and mentors have to spoon feed you for the first week or two, but you end up with a great machine in the end, thats super too.
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Unread 03-22-2004, 07:23 PM
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Re: [moderated] Corporate Sponsorship

Quote:
Originally Posted by KenWittlief
if your team has a high retention rate, and the same students come back every year, and they are able to do 99% of the design and build work - thats outstanding - I commend you for that accomplishment

and by the same token, if your team has 100% new students every year, and the engineers and mentors have to spoon feed you for the first week or two, but you end up with a great machine in the end, thats super too.
That's probably the best I've heard it said. I'll agree with that wholeheartedly.

I think the problem that some people have is that on a few teams, the engineers don't even care about the kids -- they just want to play the game for themselves. They'll treat the high schoolers with a very condescending attitude, and the outcome is that the kids become discouraged instead of encouraged to pursue a field in engineering.

I don't claim to have a magic solution to this problem, but I do think it is a problem.
Quote:
Originally Posted by KenWittlief
so I guess our team is in the middle - the mentors dont do all the work, and the students dont either - and when a crisis arises in the pits we are all there working together

thats our teams vision of FIRST - we dont build the best machines every year

but we do have two regional trophies sitting on a shelf, and a finalist trophy from this year (so far) - so we aint doing so bad either.
I think you hit the nail on the head again -- FIRST isn't about building the best machines ... it's about building machines period.

Just as long as the students feel like they matter and are involved ... FIRST will serve for their benefit.
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