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  #76   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 08-26-2005, 10:54 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ghansel
In two sentences, Cory managed to say more of (perhaps ironically) absolute truth than all of the other posts in this thread combined.

I'll bite. Hard.

<ACID>
Being on a team with no adult technical mentors, to answer the question "Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?" would require me to justify the actions of myself and my team to others. This is something I am loathe to do in a largely closed-minded (among other things) community with such a degree of homogeneity of thought as ChiefDelphi (so shoot me... and prove me right). But what I can say is that actions speak louder than words. The only students that left Team 19 after our extremely unsuccessful 2005 season were graduating seniors. I don't know if it would be the same with another team; I don't know anybody on another team personally. But I am proud of them for it. Our motivations are our own. The "inexplicable" fact remains that we voluntarily participate in FIRST without adult technical mentors.
</ACID>


To each person, their own goal in participating in FIRST. To each individual, due credit for their accomplishments. It's altogether wrong to say that the actions of any person or group of people are wrong when they harm nobody. This goes in life as well as in FIRST.

George Hansel.
This thread has more do to with answering the question as to why teams decide not to utilize engineers or "adult mentors". I think you have misunderstood what many people have been saying. There is nothing wrong with student-run teams, and there is no reason to try and justify why you do things the way you do them. Frankly, I am a bit confused at what your post is really about. I expect something more fundamental when you "bite hard". Are you announcing that you readily refuse this kind of help, or that you can make it without it? I am also bewildered as to how you can be involved with a team as a "engineer" but not have anyone labeled as an "adult technical mentor"?

This community is anything but homogeneous. There are all kinds of teams with all kinds of people, and you will not find a single team that runs like another. The one common thing that we share is FIRST. We try to remember what this organization exists for: Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. We universally agree, and we should, that Inspiration is the only thing that matters in this organization. As long as your students remain involved and inspired, then mission accomplished.

Props to you for being involved in a student-run team. I can tell you from my own experience that it is a lot of work and is 100% worth the effort, and I think you would agree. However, don't misunderstand what people are saying in this thread. No one is attacking student-run teams, they are just trying to understand why people do it the way they do it. No one was calling anything "wrong", and no one has that right.

My team is student-run because I personally believe that more student involvement is a better outlet for the inspiration of my students. I have my way, others have theirs. The only thing wrong is when people tell others how to run their own teams.

I hope this helps clear things up!

-Alexander S. McGee
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Last edited by Alexander McGee : 08-26-2005 at 10:59 PM.
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Unread 08-27-2005, 09:51 AM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

My post was not clear enough (hey, for 11:30 at night...).

You say "We universally agree, and we should, that Inspiration is the only thing that matters in this organization." I agree completely and to contest this statement would be ridiculous because it's the second letter of FIRST.

I think, however, that it needs to be clarified. I think something like "We universally agree, and we should, that Inspiration is the only thing that matters to this organization and to every team leader." is more descriptive of the situation. Not necessarily that exactly, but it helps me illustrate my point. FIRST exists to inspire teenagers to pursue careers in science and technology... we all know this. But in that statement is a blindness to the sheer multitude of reasons that students join a FIRST program or found a FIRST program (forgive me, I have no personal experience with a school founding a FIRST team). In many lucky schools, the robotics team is an accredited course which gives the students time to do robotics stuff during school hours. In such a case, they might be motivated to join by a guidance counselor or a parent. Or they might join to look good to a prospective college. In other teams, the student might join just out of curiosity. In other cases, a student might join because he or she already knows they want a career in engineering, and robotics is the only outlet (such that it is) for their talent. Or a singer might join because the people on the robotics team are fun to be around, and she can do some PR work, despite having no interest in the robot itself (friend of mine). Whatever the dominant reason may be in a team (and this will be different in every team) the leader must adjust the way the team is run and the degree to which technical mentors are involved to best motivate, please, and inspire everyone on the team. That is the fundamental reason there is no correct amount of technical mentor involvement. Shame I only made it clear the second time through.

As to my team role of "engineer". You are not the first person to have been confused by that, but you are one of the people (perhaps the only one) who were tactful enough to ask without immediately demanding that I change it - on the grounds that "engineer" unambiguously means "adult technical mentor" or "professional engineer". Thank you. I am a highschool student on Team 19. By no means do I claim to be an engineer of any kind in real life. There are those my age who do; I am not one of them. But when school ends each day in January, February, and March, and I walk into the team meeting, or regional, I am walking into the fantasy of FIRST and into my "team role" of an engineer.

Thanks, I hope this clears something up. I hope to meet you (as well as many other people on these boards), because I'm a much kinder person in real life.

George Hansel
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Unread 08-27-2005, 08:31 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

I used to care about this kind of thing, but I don't anymore...

Run your team the way you want - I'm not going to care. It doesn't really effect us a great deal. I just hope your team is inspired, learning, and having fun like ours. If not, THEN you are doing something wrong.
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Unread 09-12-2005, 02:44 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

As a brand, spanking-new entry to this group,I want to thank ChiefDelphi for providing such a valuable resource to FIRST "lifers." As I ready through all the responses to Andy's question, I became more aware of the fact that team-related issues are not the sole property of our team. Since I joined up in 1998, our team has gone from mentor-heavy and student-poor, to mentor-light and student rich, to the current situation - about 20 students and no mentors. The sorry details aren't important here, but I want to emphasize that RESPECT is a key component that is too often lacking among team members. If mentors don't respect the students' desire to learn and take an active role in the construction, they're missing the point of FIRST. If students refuse to accept the knowledge and experience of the mentors, that's not independence - it's arrogance.

Here's the place where I put out my call for help. With our mentor forces depleted, our parents' group is trying to step in and do what we can to help. However, we don't want to overstep our bounds and become intrusive. I already read "101 Ways Parents Can Help a FIRST Team," and there were many good ideas (but forget about me making luggage pom-poms - #48). Can I hear from some teams that have active parent organizations so we can find out if we're on the right track. Thanks to all of your for a truly thought-provoking thread.








Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Baker
We need to talk. Please sit down.

Let's discuss something that defines FIRST. Sometimes, this is the big white elephant in the corner that everyone wants to ignore... but it needs to be talked about. There are many opinions on this subject.

Why do FIRST teams start with the intention of this being a "student design competition"? Many teams operate this way. We see teams who are proud about having a "100% designed and built robot". These teams get awards for their student involvement.

I can respect this. They worked hard. They learned much. However, more likely than not, they performed not so well at a regional. These teams saw other teams come in with 4-5 engineering mentors and compete better. These other teams, with more adult involvement, may have engineers working in the pits, along side the students. They may have skilled trades machinists making parts for their team during the build season. They may have professional machine designers creating gearboxes or writing code.

Are both teams learning? yes.

Dare I ask... Which "team" is better? What defines "better"?

FIRST was founded on "Inspiration". It still is the cornerstone. Dean, Woodie, and the FIRST Board of Directors are involved because of this idea. It is a thrill to inspire someone to be great. It is a thrill to be inspired by others.

I contend that the best "team" is an equal balance of student involvement, teacher involvement, and engineer involvement. In my mind, can a engineer design something on a robot and be proud of that design? You bet. Some teams frown on this. Some teams, mentors, and students preach that this is wrong. What do you think? Why is that?

So... there is it is. This will be a debate. Opinions will be given, and people will disagree. That is ok. Let is out. It will be healthy.

Andy B.
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Unread 09-12-2005, 04:28 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DB213parent
...I want to emphasize that RESPECT is a key component that is too often lacking among team members. If mentors don't respect the students' desire to learn and take an active role in the construction, they're missing the point of FIRST. If students refuse to accept the knowledge and experience of the mentors, that's not independence - it's arrogance.

Thanks to all of your for a truly thought-provoking thread.
Thanks to YOU for a truly thought-provoking post. One of the best views of the issue I've seen. It definitely summarizes things in a good way.

Welcome to Chief Delphi!
(Certainly an excellent first post, here's to many more...)
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Unread 09-12-2005, 04:56 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Arrrggggh I really don't like the name of this thread. Its a little provocative in some ways (no offense Andy i think our chat was great!). OK so Ive decided to amend my view a little. I still believe everything i posted before but Ive come to realize that it doesn't matter. My opinions and everyone else's only really apply to our perspective teams. While these posts are good in showing how other teams are run no team plan is better than any other. I don't think anyone should be shot down for their opinion ghansel and i hope nobaody did. The only reason a teams organization is wrong is if it no longer provides a fun and educational environment for the students or if it hampers a team from exemplifying FIRST goals. I think ultimately a team that is completely student run or mentor run (or a mix) is no better than any other (unless of course the reasons provided occur). I think a good part of the posts here supporting student run teams need to be specific. Honestly their is nothing wrong with mentors on teams but most of the posts here aren't talking about that. What there talking about are teams where mentors strong arm the students. This is something i think almost everyone(and some who agree probably do it without realizing it) here agrees should be avoided unless its absolutely dire. I personally hate it when a mentor OR student strong arms other students by suppressing their ideas. I think a good thing to keep in mind is that their truly is no such thing as right or wrong to this because a specific team will work better to certain leadership methods. The only real tragedy is when a team becomes so static that it can't adapt.
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Unread 09-12-2005, 05:04 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

I think that this topic is one that will never have a definate answer. I will however, post my own opinion, as I am a 3rd year veteran on 624.

Some adults may forget that we, as teenagers, feel a need to prove something to the world. To prove we are adults and adequate in the world. THIS is why teams knowingly participate in FIRST without adults to guide them. The students are in part blind to the fact that they do not know everything, as they might hope, and also in part, they are just as stubborn and controlling as some mentors.

Some students fail to realize that thirty-some-odd years ago, when the adults that are now assisting them in their endeavours, were students themselves. But unlike now, thirty years ago, there was no FIRST. There was no organized outlet for their creativity. They had no big and fancy toys to play with during their high school years, such as we have today. So, just as parents want to do their child's science projects for them, the mentors want to build the robot for the students. When they build the science project, of course that project will get first prize in the science fair. But is this fair? Hardly. It is not fair to the students. It is not fair to the other teams. It is most certainly not fair to the mentors themselves.

The best team is comprised of both students and mentors. And by mentors, I mean adults that help guide the students through the building process. There should never, ever be "mentors" building the robots, while the students of the team play cards. In that instance, they cease to be mentors and are simply engineers.

The mentors should be the people who ensure that things are getting done, but are not doing said things. The students who design and build the robot should, by all means go to their mentors with their problems, as the mentors are the ones with college degrees in engineering and physics. I have many an instance when even the adults learned something from the students.

Our school sponsor this year and last year, as opposed to previous years' sponsors, is not a physics teacher, or a calculus teacher. She teaches Spanish. When we first got her involved, she had absolutely no idea what she was doing, except supporting some students who were in dire need of assistance. Now, she has learned so much from the students and the other mentors. She is, in truth, a FIRST fanatic at times. But this is what happens when the spirit of FIRST inspires people. I have seen it inspire not only students and mentors, but parents as well.

There must always be a balance, and, as posted above, a sense of respect between the adults and the students. Both sides need to understand that most of the time, students have minds and ideas with an abundance of creativity, just like most of the time, mentors have minds and ideas with an good deal of knowledge and experience. These two entities can not, despite many beliefs, survive without one another. The best way to survive is to thrive, and to do so by working with one another, rather than against one another, that is truely success, whether or not the competition is won.

As a team, we have realized that only under extremely lucky conditions will we ever win a championship, being primarily student built robot. I think no one is devestated by this fact because there is so much more to FIRST than winning. We realize that many times, the teams whose robots win or are almost perfect are not built by students, by any length of the imagination. Our team, to the best of my knowledge, would rather do OUR best, with mentors working alongside students, than be THE best with great sacrifices in who builds the robot. We are not a machine. We are a team. We make mistakes and we learn from them. That is a fact of life. Any team that can not make a small mistake without great consequence is more machine than human. And all teams are primarily human, with one very important machine. But I digress...

Simply, the mentors are a necessary factor in a FIRST team, but they will almost always tread the fine line between mentoring, and doing. Keep in mind that students are the core of every team, a necessary evil. Without the students, there would be no FIRST, just a bunch of old men sitting around playing with their hi-tech toys, losing their creativity. The mentors are not a necessity, but a great and valued component to any team.
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  #83   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 09-12-2005, 05:40 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DB213parent
Here's the place where I put out my call for help. With our mentor forces depleted, our parents' group is trying to step in and do what we can to help. However, we don't want to overstep our bounds and become intrusive. I already read "101 Ways Parents Can Help a FIRST Team," and there were many good ideas (but forget about me making luggage pom-poms - #48). Can I hear from some teams that have active parent organizations so we can find out if we're on the right track. Thanks to all of your for a truly thought-provoking thread.
LOL, Elaine, you've come to the right place! (and the luggage pom-poms also make great sneaker accessories!) So I won't bore the rest of you, I will PM you with details of NEMO. We can help!
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Unread 09-12-2005, 05:46 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

So obviously you are for mentor run teams but i think some of your statements are a little askew.

Quote:
Originally Posted by funstuff
The mentors should be the people who ensure that things are getting done, but are not doing said things.
Okay its sounds to me like your talking about a team where mentors tell students how to build a robot which is contradicted by saying the students design the robot. What type of things should mentors insure in your opinion?

Quote:
Originally Posted by funstuff
The students who design and build the robot should, by all means go to their mentors with their problems, as the mentors are the ones with college degrees in engineering and physics.
Uhh im not sure i agree with this fully. Speaking strictly from actual experience being a engineer gives a mentor no advantage over a student when it come to building robotics. As mentioned in other threads robotics is rarely covered in college. In fact i know a mentor who has designed xray systems for submarine inspection yet has no clue when it came to our robots specific abilities. He was knowledgable about electrics but in plenty of cases it just didn't carry over.

Quote:
Originally Posted by funstuff
There must always be a balance, and, as posted above, a sense of respect between the adults and the students. Both sides need to understand that most of the time, students have minds and ideas with an abundance of creativity, just like most of the time, mentors have minds and ideas with an good deal of knowledge and experience. These two entities can not, despite many beliefs, survive without one another. The best way to survive is to thrive, and to do so by working with one another, rather than against one another, that is truely success, whether or not the competition is won.
I think that the knowledge of the students is underplayed in this part. Frankly
your last sentence is completely contradictory to the next section.

Quote:
Originally Posted by funstuff
As a team, we have realized that only under extremely lucky conditions will we ever win a championship, being primarily student built robot. I think no one is devestated by this fact because there is so much more to FIRST than winning. We realize that many times, the teams whose robots win or are almost perfect are not built by students, by any length of the imagination.
THIS is what i have a problem with. I think this is hardly true for reasons mentioned before and because a student with experience can design amazing pieces. Two great examples are Tytus and Arefin (the first to come to mind. hope you guys don't mind) who both did great work while in college. Even Engineers with knowledge in a specific area can have trouble because they can design a otherwise amazing system but find that unless they have experience in robotics that their system just isn't practical (inappropriately weighted systems and a lack of understanding of parts limits is a primary problem) Again mentor run teams are not bad but its the generalizations that get to me. I know I'm a hypocrite in making this post and if any of you figure out why don't bother posting.
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Unread 09-12-2005, 06:32 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

I think the most important thing is to find a balance- at Championships, I went out scouting for a little while, and at some teams' pit areas you were directed straight to the mentors when you had technical questions, because there would not be a single student who could answer; I don't think that is right.

Last year was our rookie year (tho two out of our three co-captains had been on a FIRST team before), and we had a 'mentor hands-off' policy. Our team was interesting because we were 9 people, and most didn't have any pertaining experience at all, myself included. We were really lucky in that our mentors were understanding, because they taught us everything, without taking over, and now I fully appreciate how difficult that must have been for them; this last saturday, I was with our LEGO team, and it took all my willpower not to just grab the legos and run away cackling madly; i mean, i LOVE legos ! and i bet our mentors felt that way all build season, but for the most part they wouldn't actually pick up something and start working at it unless we asked them- once we asked, they were free to help. And as a result, we learned a LOT. we knew from that start that if we built it on our own, our robot may not be one of the 'winning' ones, the ones that everyone wants in their alliance. but we made a conscious decision that having a 'winning' robot didnt matter as much to us, we just wanted to have fun and learn. as it was, we had tons of fun and learned a lot, and our robot did fine. it is part of a mentor's responsibility to know when to back off (and to do so if asked), but eqaully it is the student's responsibility to willing stick their nose to the grindstone when that time comes; a mentor cannot be blamed for doing it themselves if the students are slacking off.

finding the balance is the most important thing for a team to be successful- i don't mean top 8 seed successful, i mean 'everyone is inspired, happy, and has learned so much that they have forgotten what their house looks like' successful...

just my 2 cents (aaaaaaaa where did the cents sign go? ....can't...find....)

Last edited by sure_smile : 09-12-2005 at 06:35 PM.
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Unread 09-12-2005, 11:44 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mechanicalbrain
Uhh im not sure i agree with this fully. Speaking strictly from actual experience being a engineer gives a mentor no advantage over a student when it come to building robotics. As mentioned in other threads robotics is rarely covered in college. In fact i know a mentor who has designed xray systems for submarine inspection yet has no clue when it came to our robots specific abilities. He was knowledgable about electrics but in plenty of cases it just didn't carry over.
This generalization is wrong and essentially insulting to engineers.

1. Being an engineer is advantageous for building successful robots. There are thousands of companies around the world who design and build robots (automated industrial systems, consumer robotics, and robotic toys, just to name a few markets). Who does the majority of the designing and developing of these robots? Engineers. Companies in these markets who want to hire someone to help them build their next 6-axis, servo-driven, wafer-insertion robot or their next robotic lawn mower mostly hire people with engineering degrees to do engineering. Usually, these companies wait until a student gets out of college to offer them a full-time position.

2. Colleges do teach their students to design, debug, test, and produce robots. Where was this mentioned that these were rarely covered, and by whom? Sure, there are many engineers who have not specifically studied machine design and they might not know FIRST game play, but they still are engineers. If these people are willing to help, students should show enough respect to at least hear them out. They might not be able to discuss the intricacies of a swerve drive, but at least they can teach V=IR, F=MA, and the basics of C programming.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mechanicalbrain
THIS is what i have a problem with. I think this is hardly true for reasons mentioned before and because a student with experience can design amazing pieces. Two great examples are Tytus and Arefin (the first to come to mind. hope you guys don't mind) who both did great work while in college. Even Engineers with knowledge in a specific area can have trouble because they can design a otherwise amazing system but find that unless they have experience in robotics that their system just isn't practical (inappropriately weighted systems and a lack of understanding of parts limits is a primary problem) Again mentor run teams are not bad but its the generalizations that get to me. I know I'm a hypocrite in making this post and if any of you figure out why don't bother posting.
(One a side note, it's good to see that Tytus and Arefin have been leading double lives as college students. Also... ask either of them how they have learned to do some good designing. My guess is that they will say that knowledgeable engineers helped to show them how it is done.)

I am going to go out on a limb to make an assumption and offer a suggestion.

My assumption that there are engineers who are deemed "unhelpful" because they are thrown a FIRST-related technical challege during week 2 or 3 of the build season. They come up with a solution without really knowing the details of the game and after not shown a FIRST match. When these un-informed engineers give a sub-par design that might not be advantageous, students shake their heads and think "oh, he's just a engineer who doesn't know anything about robotics".

Here is my suggestion: instead of simply going to an engineer during week 2, actually bring them into your team now. Let them become part of your team. Take them to an off-season event. Invite them to your fund raising events, your bowling nights, and your fall planning sessions. Believe it or not, these engineers will probably come up with better input come build season. They might even show you something and possibly even inspire someone on your team.

Call me crazy, but this just might help your team.

Andy B.

Last edited by Andy Baker : 09-12-2005 at 11:50 PM.
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Unread 09-13-2005, 06:23 AM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Oz,
I have to agree with Andy on this one. My son just graduated from Bradley with an ME degree. I can tell you that not only did he have classes in robotics, but there was an entire section of the floor dedicated to robotic design and function. Manufacturing, particularly automobile building, makes extensive use of robotic devices from material handling to painting.

To DB213 Parent, listening and observing are two very real ways to judge how much to get involved. Your students will show and tell when they need help, are frustrated, tired or out of ideas. If you run into a situation where you need assistance please come here to CD to get your questions answered. I will help on anything electrical, and the other mentors who write here will help with mechanical, software, even team dynamics. You can't get a better source for info than right here. Be assured that when you are at competition, you can turn to us for help as well. Just ask.
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Unread 09-13-2005, 06:35 AM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mechanicalbrain
Uhh im not sure i agree with this fully. Speaking strictly from actual experience being a engineer gives a mentor no advantage over a student when it come to building robotics. As mentioned in other threads robotics is rarely covered in college. In fact i know a mentor who has designed xray systems for submarine inspection yet has no clue when it came to our robots specific abilities. He was knowledgable about electrics but in plenty of cases it just didn't carry over.
I think that you need some more exposure. Engineers do nothing but this, some may just work in a different, less technical area. Engineers solve problems, that is all. We are the world's problem solvers and there are many different problems to be solved, just as there are many different kinds of engineers.

As an engineer, I work with and build robots daily. I know many many others who do too. Think about any company that sells products in the USA. These products, whatever they might be, need to be tested / packaged / organized / repaired / reconditioned / redesigned. Who do you think does all this? Certainly engineers, but they can't do every little thing 24-7. We build robots to do it for us. Take a look at this:



That is what I am talking about. This robot runs 24-7-365 in the Test Lab of R&D where I work, Stryker Instruments. We make Medical products and are required by the FDA to test and ensure that they can sustain long life. This is a life-cycle tester which automates and monitors an Autoclave (hospital sterilization) with a variety of parts in it. I can only show this to you because I made it as a freshman. I wish i could show you some of the amazing things that other people whom I work with have created.

I am not sure what you are talking about when you say that robotics is not taught in College. Which aspect of robotics are you referring to? I have had classes in machining, design, drive train, electrical, pneumatic control, and programming, (gotta love Statics, Solids, Thermo, & Heat Trans!) and I am not even a Junior yet! Maybe it is different at your school, but and engineering degree touches so many facets of robotics, that one can't begin to learn them all.

I also disagree with you about engineering mentors and their ability to help a team significantly. Look at, oh, every team that has ever been in the top 4 at Nationals. Do you think that a majority of these robots had minimal engineer involvement? Of course they had help. It is the engineers in this program who make it what it is. Without them and their ideas, it would have taken teams much longer to come up with things such as swivel drive, a 4-speed transmission, autonomous programming (before 03, if you would believe it), and everything else that has left you in awe. The students are, of course, vital to the program as well, but engineers and their ideas have made this program grow exponentially fast.

I'm not attacking you personally, I just felt that your post had some things that need to be addressed for everyone. Feel free to IM me or email me and we can chat. Also, please re-read Andy's last post. I couldn't agree with him more.

-Alex
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Last edited by Alexander McGee : 09-13-2005 at 06:42 AM.
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Unread 09-13-2005, 08:35 AM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Thanks for the warm welcome - what a terrific venue for opinions from everyone involved with FIRST.


Quote:
Originally Posted by JVN
Thanks to YOU for a truly thought-provoking post. One of the best views of the issue I've seen. It definitely summarizes things in a good way.

Welcome to Chief Delphi!
(Certainly an excellent first post, here's to many more...)
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Unread 09-13-2005, 08:38 AM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Thanks so much for your warm welcome and kind words. My email requesting entry into NEMO should already be in your box. Elaine Giacomo
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