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  #46   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 04-03-2008, 01:20 AM
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Re: GP? I think not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Depreciation View Post
And as far as anonymous accounts not being allowed goes. I could tell you who I was, but it really wouldnt make a difference.
Oh, but it makes a HUGE difference when there's a face to a complaint. If I created an account to bring up an issue, it would be given a lot less weight than if I had brought it up myself.

Now here's my opinion on this:

I came from a 110% student run team. Want to know where that got me? Kicked off because of a stupid argument. It was stupid on BOTH sides. Here's why: We're high schoolers. We haven't had enough experience to get things right, and our cycle time is too quick to allow true systemic learning. WE MAKE MISTAKES. We haven't been here long enough to get it right the first time. So here's why the programs that are "unfairly" run by mentors are FAR superior: Longevity and consistency. When a team is "mentor run," it will be similar each year. This means a reliable, accurate, and more professional learning environment is present.

Also, if you let a student teach themselves, and teach other students, you end up with products like me: An inspired, ready to learn kid with some basic tools, all built on bad habits and unprofessional methods. If you want to learn how the real world operates, you learn from THE REAL WORLD. You get REAL engineers, REAL programmers, and REAL mentors to come in, and show you how it's done. Once you've got that idea, you're ready to move on and get into the world.

So what do we get when we have all students running a team and competing? A bunch of young hoodlums who know barely anything about how the world works trying to interact and change the world. If you want to make change, you have to know what you're trying to change.

I'm not going to harass you about your points; it's been done enough. However, I am going to say this: Start trading PM's with prominent mentors of those "all mentor" teams, and get a feel for how they work. I might as well throw a few names of programs I respect out there: PM these folks, I'm sure they'd be glad to answer questions. Try Cory, from 254, as a starter. I used to share the same opinion that you had. But then I actually SPOKE to the people on the team, and realized what they had going on, and I was floored. It's an awesome program.

Good luck with the issue at hand, and keep enjoying FIRST! You can only be a student in it for so long....
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Unread 04-03-2008, 01:22 AM
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Re: GP? I think not.

I can understand where Mr. Anonymous is coming from. I felt that way my first year watching our team, and at our first competition when I saw well over 100 people from one of the mega-teams come down to receive an award for something or other I was flabbergasted! I remember seeing around 40 adult males (all of whom I assumed were engineers of course), and I was really jealous! Our team consisted of maybe 10 students, an engineer, a machinist at a few parent volunteers. We were majorly "outclassed" and our robot didn't appear to belong on the same field with them. Then when we heard what kind of funding they had and saw their tricked out trailers we realized how far behind we really were.

However... just like the posters on here have said, we visited those teams and looked at their drivetrains and wiring and control systems and we learned of some great new ways to improve. We also found that almost every team we talked to was more than willing to help us and explain how to do what they did. That sure sounds like Gracious Professionalism to me! And, if those top-tier teams are gracious, then what are you complaining about?

It's not like they won't open up the hood and they hide what's inside so that they can be assured of beating you again next year. It's more like they bring you in, answer all your questions, help you program, and leave you ready to build a robot twice as good the next year!

Well, the following year, we really improved - by listening and learning. Our team grew by maybe 5 students and more participation from some adults (though still only a couple engineers), and we not only went to the championship, but we went 9 and 0 in the qualifiers getting to be first in our division - eventually finishing as Newton finalists. The next couple years, we won Curie and numerous off-season events and various judges awards and sort of made it to "the next tier" of teams. We're still small - under 20 students (including all the part-timers) and our robot is still 90% student built, but we've matured and learned a TON in the past few years to become more competitive. We've also been thrilled to help out other teams who are just starting out and making the same mistakes (read KOP wheels?) that we originally made. Also, I've seen that strategy and driving ability also really help separate teams with similar bots. That's something that any team can learn. Heck, just watch all the Internet rebroadcasts of this year's events and you can learn a ton.

Bottom line is that it doesn't take a boatload of engineers to build a truly competitive robot, but instead, requires that you do your homework, read this forum like crazy, ask lots of questions, and build smart. Oh, and luck doesn't hurt either!
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Unread 04-03-2008, 07:44 AM
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Re: GP? I think not.

The original post has been attacked enough so I'll leave that be, however consider another real world scenario of anythign...

Companies, the millions that exist out there, all start from the same place. Sure some of them might buy smaller companies to make themselves bigger and more talented, but how is this that different from FIRST ?

Team 125 for example used to consist of over 100 team members, and we actually managed to win a national championship (yes they were still called nationals back then) in 2001. Since then the team has gone from huge, enthusiastic team, to a handful of kids, back up to a solid amount of people. There were some ok robots inbetween 2001 and 2007, and there were some bad ones.

Teams that are able to go out EVERY SINGLE YEAR and win intrigue me so much. I always wonder how they are able to pick a design that stands above the rest every year.

Winning a competition isn't everything, but some people find that it is a lot. It is a physical representation of your success, as opposed to the success everyone gets just for participating and learning. Don't you, when you do win sometime, want to say you beat the best, and you were the best team out there on that particular day?

Winning is awesome, but the cliche is there for a reason...learning, and these experiences, are what make FIRST different, and what make FIRST for everybody.
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Unread 04-03-2008, 08:08 AM
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Re: GP? I think not.

Duplicate/anonymous accounts will not be tolerated, and as an attempt to curb this, anybody caught doing so will get a warning and will be publicly acknowledged as the anonymous user.

We have a forum specifically for anonymous posts .. if you don't want the implications of your post to affect your team, you can post it in FIRST-A-Holics Anonymous and a moderator will post it for you.

But anyway .. everybody, I'd like you to meet DanTod97 of team 97 in Abington, MA.. or Depreciation, as he'd like to be known today, I guess.
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Unread 04-03-2008, 08:20 AM
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Re: GP? I think not.

Although many have disputed the concerns Depreciation raised when he started this thread, I believe the views he expresses are not uncommon. Heck, I felt similar frustration in my early FRC experiences. It's not unlike the love/hate relationship NASCAR fans have felt toward Jeff Gordan.

I'm human & want recognition for the tremendous effort my team invests each year. I get cranky when stronger, well known teams with seemingly endless resources (machining, design, mentors, $, whatever) win awards repeatedly, are universally known & respected and are not from my area of the country (thus winning limited trophies away from "the locals" who can't afford to travel & try again for a win at other regionals).

It may seem a bit pollyanna, but I've become a better person, stronger competitor/mentor & lost that bitter feeling when I finally realized...That's life, which is inherently unfair...now what am I going to do about it?

Suggestions given here such as getting to know members of the powerhouse teams, reading the white papers they share, learning what makes them so successful really work! Sure, they have resources you don't, but they also have problems that smaller, newer or less structured teams don't face.

Now I look for ways to emulate aspects of these teams. Meeting members has let me see behind the curtain & the great Wizard was really some tremendously hard working folks. I still want recognition for my team, but now I understand better how to help our students achieve it. By the way, I still get a huge sense of satisfaction when we can outplay their robots!
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Unread 04-03-2008, 09:39 AM
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Re: GP? I think not.

I have strong feelings on this topic and can speak from experience. For the past 5 years, my husband (an engineer) and I (a lawyer; I don't touch the robot!!) have been mentoring a small inner-city team. For 2 of those years (2006 and 2007) my husband was the only engineering mentor. We also have a very limited budget, and our team is comparatively small (about 20-30 kids). Yet in those two years, we were a regional finalist and regional winner. We also received the team spirit award and traveled to Atlanta for the first time, where we finished 15th in our division and were selected as a quarterfinalst.

How did we accomplish this with far less mentors and money than the "powerhouse" teams? As one earlier poster suggested, we strategized. We realized our limitations and worked within them, building a robot that did a subset of the game functions well, instead of doing them all poorly. Last year, for example, we hung a grand total of 1TUBE (and did that in autonomous in a practice round in Atlanta -- you should have seen the kids go nuts over that one). We were a defensive ramp bot (and a darn good one, not to brag). So there is a way to succeed.

As for mentors building the bot, I do know from talking to our students that they look around and often see mentors doing the work. It makes them appreciate all the more the opportunities for building and desiging that they have on our team. That being said, all their work is done under the guidance and supervision of our engineers (yes, we have a couple more this year, thank goodness). To me, that is the perfect blend of mentors and students, and it works well for our team. I know my husband was far more relaxed in the pits this year because he felt he had a drive team who really knew what they were doing and could handle most problems on their own.

Finally, in terms of GP, the "powerhouse" teams we have met along the way have been, for the most part, nothing but graciously professional to us, helping us to reach the achievements we have. Cyber Knights shipping our tools to Atlanta for us, Gaelhawks loaning us two mentors, Eagles giving us advice and a scouting program, Uberbots giving us valuable tips . . . I could go on. I don't resent or envy them for being strong teams; I hope we can continue to learn from them and someday join their ranks.
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  #52   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 04-03-2008, 11:51 AM
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Re: GP? I think not.

In this thread, and many other (Im more of a reader than a poster) I have noticed people are always talking about what FIRST is about and putting in thier own opinions. The truth is visit the first website. The mission statement is right there along with a quote from Dean Kamen. Ill post them below (i hate links).

"Our mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication and leadership."
---FIRST website

"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
----Dean Kamen


And now to address what this thread is about. I come from a team where the team is just not the students. Its everyone. Mentors, students, parents, college student mentors, board of eduaction members, sponsors and the list goes on an on and on. Everyone involved is important to the teams success. Winning or losing on the field has nothing to do with this success. The fact that a group of people from all different walks of life came together to accept the challenge makes a team successful by itself. Saying a team is mostly mentor run, and im sure my team has been accussed of this, just is not fair. Maybe it looks that way, but maybe the students have asked the mentors to do something for them. Maybe the students think they have more important things to do than work on the robot. Just ask the students on the team what they think and youll get your answer.

And as far as team being good year after year after year. This is going to happen no matter what you do. So watch these team, study them, and strive to be like them. This is what 1629 did and it works.
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Unread 04-03-2008, 12:08 PM
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Re: GP? I think not.

im getting the feeling of a "if you cant beat em, join em" attitude here, I disagree completely.

That attitude is just denying that change is an acceptable answer. As ive stated before, even though people seem to be ignoring it, I only created this thread to remind people this is a high school competetion and to request everyone just be aware of that and to be extra careful to make sure there team is run as a highschool team. No attack on any teams at all, I have nothing but love for FIRST and all of its teams, but that doesnt mean I think they are all perfect, unless they beleive they are, and I hope no team does. Just the fact that so many other threads like this exist enforces my feeling that this is an existing problem people choose to ignore and just join them instead.

Im going to stop repeating myself and hopefully be done with this topic, I think ive made my opinions clear and can only hope they will do some good.
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Unread 04-03-2008, 12:22 PM
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Re: GP? I think not.

Something I meant to post earlier, but somehow forgot.
The counter-argument is that the points raised by the initial responses (first page or so) we're "cliché" and they've been stated before. The reason you've heard them before is because they have merit. While there is often a certain degree of idealism in these arguments, they have a valid point and are backed by solid logic, and often evidence.
Even though 116 is the NASA HQ team, 116 has never been entirely mentor driven (nor has 116 been entirely student driven). In 2003 116 finished dead last (63rd of 63) at the NASA/VCU Regional, behind a team that never uncrated their robot. 116 doesn't pretend that this was the most fun they've ever had, but they don't regret the experience either. In 2004 116 returned to the NASA/VCU regional and defeated eventual 2004 FIRST Champion Team 435 in the quarter-finals. Let me re-iterate that point. 116 went from placing last place to beating the FIRST Champions in the span of one year.
Even the best can be beat.
Every single "elite" or "superpower" FIRST team I have had the pleasure and privilege of inter-acting with has been extraordinarily gracious and professional. Following a successful and proven design process is not in any means unfair, but rather good engineering. Some have even made their design process and philosophy open to the public (1114 has even posted theirs on their website). Almost any will be willing to talk to you about theirs if you ask them.
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Unread 04-03-2008, 12:27 PM
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Re: GP? I think not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanTod97 View Post
That attitude is just denying that change is an acceptable answer. As ive stated before, even though people seem to be ignoring it, I only created this thread to remind people this is a high school competetion and to request everyone just be aware of that and to be extra careful to make sure there team is run as a highschool team.
This is where I point you to the comments of Dave Lavery, over here. There is no requirement for it to be a high school team. FRC is targeted at the high-school level, granted, but there is no requirement for it to be a high-school team. What of the Girl Scout teams, like the Space Cookies out in California? What of the 4-H teams, like Team THRUST and Exploding Bacon? What of the teams that happen to spend more of their time working with elementary and middle schoolers than actually building their own robot? What about teams like 1114, who've run corporate team-building activities for folks far older than the students of the team and done a great job of bringing that group together? If you're keeping it focused on high school students, zoom out a little bit and enjoy some of the scenery you're cropping out of the frame.

FIRST has aimed its goal at changing the culture. At no point has it said how teams are supposed to go about it.
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Unread 04-03-2008, 12:34 PM
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Re: GP? I think not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanTod97 View Post
im getting the feeling of a "if you cant beat em, join em" attitude here, I disagree completely.

That attitude is just denying that change is an acceptable answer. As ive stated before, even though people seem to be ignoring it, I only created this thread to remind people this is a high school competetion and to request everyone just be aware of that and to be extra careful to make sure there team is run as a highschool team. No attack on any teams at all, I have nothing but love for FIRST and all of its teams, but that doesnt mean I think they are all perfect, unless they beleive they are, and I hope no team does. Just the fact that so many other threads like this exist enforces my feeling that this is an existing problem people choose to ignore and just join them instead.

Im going to stop repeating myself and hopefully be done with this topic, I think ive made my opinions clear and can only hope they will do some good.
You're forgetting one small detail. FIRST has never said that teams should be run as a high school team.

In fact, they celebrate teams that are run as a business through the Entrepreneurship award. They celebrate engineers through the Engineering Inspiration award, and they celebrate mentors and engineers through the Woodie Flowers Award.

To me it is insulting to hear someone say so convincingly and so self righteously that the way other teams (my own included) are doing things is wrong, against the principles of FIRST, hurting the kids, and just plain unfair.

When FIRST becomes about being a high school science fair, maybe you'll be right. But the reason FIRST is great is because of the way it is. If you didn't have all these amazing engineers that FIRST students (heck, and mentors) look up to like Andy Baker, Paul Copioli, Raul Olivera, Dave Lavery, Al Skiekerkiewicz, Ken Patton, Dan Green, and countless others, where would this program be?

Some could contend having an all student team is just as "wrong" as having a mentor dominated team, but who cares?

The real point here is you have a team. Everything else is gravy. Whatever you choose to do with it from that point on is awesome, as long as the kids are getting inspired; and there's no way you can tell me the kids on the powerhouse teams who everyone thinks are engineer built (and often are surprisingly different than they may appear from the outside looking in after you get to know them) aren't being inspired.

How is that not a good thing?
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Unread 04-03-2008, 12:40 PM
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Re: GP? I think not.

Every team has the right to run their build process in whatever way that they see fit.

That's part of the beauty of FIRST. As long as the people in charge are thinking about what is best for the kids, there are any number of ways to approach build.

Do students get interested in science and technology by working closely with a large number of engineering professionals? Absolutely.

Do kids get interested in science and technology by working on the machine with more freedom and less supervision? Absolutely.

Two different philosophies, and both of them work. The first shows students the power of engineering - what professionals can do. The result is amazing machines year after year. The second lets students get more of a feeling of accomplishment - which is just as important. The result is pride that will never go away. Both are important.

Engineer-dominated teams tend to win blue banners and get the "oohs" and "ahhs" from the crowd. Student-led teams have different sorts of achievement criteria - kids who have never made a moving machine before have conquered a challenge no less impressive than a team of veteran engineers who can help win a regional.

Now, Chief Delphi is populated by far more of the former type of team. We go on here and praise the technical achievements of corporate teams. While some of what gets built in FIRST is truly amazing, I do think that we all tend to forget about the remaining 90% of FIRST whose major accomplishment is just having a robot at competition.

Anyhow - in closing:

There is no one "right" way to run a FIRST team. Both engineer- and student-led approaches are valid and have their merits.
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Unread 04-03-2008, 12:41 PM
DanTod97 DanTod97 is offline
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Re: GP? I think not.

I understand FIRST encompasses many things, but I am speaking more specifically of the competition itself, which is why I say even though I see this problem with it, I still love FIRST as a whole. I have not heard one reason why teams cant do all these wonderful things for the students, while still being fair competitively.
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Unread 04-03-2008, 12:42 PM
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Re: GP? I think not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frenchie View Post
Truth is, a mentor dominated team is usually a student abandoned team. Many times, the mentors are willing to teach but few students are willing to step up into leadership.
This statement, I think, sums up well the truth of most teams where you rarely see a student working on the robot. And this is the reality on our team, which in the past 2 years has become one of those teams with almost no students in the pits, so I'll use us as an example of perhaps why you see this happening.

I was a student on our team from 2004-2007, and this year was my first year mentoring on it. In my first years (04 & 05) the team had very strong student leadership and a pretty good amount of mentors involved (5 engineers with varying availability for each). The team built extremely competitive robots (we were top 8 seeds both years) and students on the team worked hard to gain more mentors and more sponsorship to help out for the future, so we'd be able to attend more competitions and try even more complex designs.
Then in 2006, the leadership graduated and a new set of students (myself included) stepped up to fill their shoes. But these students didn't have the dedication or the attitudes of the previous ones, and by the end of the year I was the only remaining member of that group of officers, as we found ourselves scrambling throughout the year to replace them as they one by one left the team. Since our team was primarily student led, the sudden shift in leadership quality meant alot of poorly trained new students and alot of time sitting around doing little. And this showed in our robot quality, as we performed much worse in qualifiers than before (going 3-5 if I remember correctly).
Now last year and this year our team has shifted to be more mentor run and the robot less student built. This is due to a combination of things. We now have more mentors (as a result of our efforts to recruit mentors years ago and students returning to mentor we have 15+ mentors), so automatically the mentors start to have more of an impact. Our school cut some of its tech classes (networking, drafting, and programming specifically), so there is less interest in the student body in technology. But mainly it is because the problems of 06 are still affecting us, not only because we are wary of making the team too student dependent should a similar situation occur again, but also because the new students we got that year learned from that leadership's good AND bad habits, and they still exhibit those habits today.

So our current team still has eager excited students, who put their heart and soul into the robot and making sure it gets done, but the majority of students don't put in as much effort as in the past. This has forced us to make mentors more involved to ensure the robot gets built and stays running. Yet this hasn't correlated with success; our 2 best performing robots were the ones built with our best student leadership. And this is because all mentors really do is ensure that you have a functioning robot; strategy, drivers, design, and scouting (key components to winning) can be enhanced by mentors but really require good students to come up with and implement them (I've noticed that engineer mentors actually tend to be really bad at driving advice ).

So next time you see a group of mentors huddled around a robot and no student in sight, don't be so quick to judge that the mentors are being over-bearing, and be glad that you have students on your team who are eager to do it themselves. It may be that they simply had to get involved to make sure that a robot was built, that all the eager students were in one area (maybe electrical) and no one wanted to do another portion (maybe programming). If you were a mentor, and you had the choice between building part of the robot yourself or no robot being built, which would you choose? Which inspires more, students watching as a robot is built, or students who show up with no bot at all?
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Unread 04-03-2008, 12:46 PM
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Re: GP? I think not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lil' Lavery View Post
Every single "elite" or "superpower" FIRST team I have had the pleasure and privilege of inter-acting with has been extraordinarily gracious and professional. Following a successful and proven design process is not in any means unfair, but rather good engineering. Some have even made their design process and philosophy open to the public (1114 has even posted theirs on their website). Almost any will be willing to talk to you about theirs if you ask them.
I couldn't agree more. Well said.

For me, F.I.R.S.T. has been about helping all of us to rise to a higher level and achieve our potential. I saw this from the leaders and mentors on our team when I joined several years ago. Our mentors would willing help other teams rebuild on the spot and improve their machine. One year, we had a student help another team write their control code and got them running. I continue to see it from the "elite" and "superpowers" at every event we attend; we have been the beneficiary of some excellent help, including this year. This is what is different about F.I.R.S.T., this is gracious professionalism, do your best and help others do their best.
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