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Unread 05-09-2009, 06:20 PM
jpmittins
 
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College student mentors

My robotics team, the Cheltenham side, is run by a less-than-knowledgeable teacher who is not aware of all of the rules. My friend is graduating this year, and is looking forward to coming back in the 2010 season. However, the teacher believes that a student must stay away from their team for at least two years before they can begin to mentor or assist their old team. I am almost positive (as is my friend) that this rule was made by the teacher who used to run the second part of the team, the Springfield side, in order to keep a certain person from not joining the team again, since he did not represent the true spirit of FIRST. However, my teacher, the one who is still on the team, is under the impression that is a actual, official rule of FIRST. Can I please have some of the older members of FIRST share their knowledge and wisdom with me so my friend can continue to help out the team next year?

Sorry if this is convoluted, I haven't been on forums in ages, and only just joined Chief Delphi. Hello everyone!
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Unread 05-09-2009, 06:22 PM
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Re: College student mentors

Not a rule. Not necessarily recommended, but far from an official rule.
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Unread 05-09-2009, 06:25 PM
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Re: College student mentors

First off, Welcome to Chief Delphi.

I can understand the point in the rule. It's to provide a barrier time for people to be able to transition from being in the role of a student, to being within the role of a mentor. There is a fair diffrence between the two. Also, there are other ways that your friend can still be involved in FIRST. One way is to volenteer in a competition. That, and the 'rule' isn't an official rule of FIRST. It may be a team rule though.
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Unread 05-09-2009, 06:32 PM
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Re: College student mentors

haha hi Jon! Welcome to Cheif Delphi!
I'm actually the friend he's talking about.
I already am planning on volunteering at competitions in fact I've already signed up to volunteer at Duel on the Delaware.
The problem with this "rule" is the mentor who created it is no longer involved with the team, but left the impression it was an official rule to get others to go along with it. The sponser for our team would like me to come back, but she is convinced I am unable to. My college is actually right across the street from the high school and considering most of the work I do for the team is organizational it would be helpful for our team if I was able to come back.
Thanks everyone for the information!
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Unread 05-09-2009, 06:45 PM
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Re: College student mentors

I am a college student. This is my 4th year mentoring robotics teams. That includes FLL, FTC, and FRC. There is no "one size fits all" judgment on this conversation, and this is not a topic that should be approached as such. First and foremost, it is up to the team to decide the policy, and it should be a case by case basis. Some college students are mentor material, some are not. Some can budget their time well during build season and make good grades while doing so, some can not. Some can be the head mentor of the team, and lead a successful season, some may just need to show up when they are available.

This thread talks much deeper into the subject, and I advise further conversation be directed here.

Truly, this boils down to is the college student able to be a leader and a role model? Can he or she inspire while teaching FIRST values and gracious professionalism? Here is a whitepaper called "A Mentor Is..." It is up to the team to decide if the mentor to be meets the criteria.
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Unread 05-09-2009, 09:15 PM
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Re: College student mentors

Opinions on this site may be misleading regarding official information; go to the source. If someone thinks that this is a FIRST rule then they should able to find it written down somewhere, just like a game rule. A good place to start would be to contact the FIRST Senior Mentor from your area to help find the official requirements. From PA it is Jessica Jankowitsch jjankowitsch@usfirst.org or jessjank. on these fora.

<opinion>The only official documentation I've been able to find is http://www.usfirst.org/community/vol....aspx?id=11576 which suggests to me that FIRST considers the issue of who qualifies as a mentor to be a team issue. </opinion>

If there is a team rule then it too should be documented somewhere. <insert plug for team handbooks>
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Unread 05-09-2009, 10:27 PM
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Re: College student mentors

First off: IF this is a rule, I've broken it twice on two separate teams. This is definitely NOT a rule.

Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeymel1003 View Post
considering most of the work I do for the team is organizational it would be helpful for our team if I was able to come back.
This segment is the part that worries me. Networking and organization are not always the most fun part of engineering. However, they are very important for all future engineers to have experience doing. It would seem to me that it would be MOST valuable if you were to teach them how to do what you do. I am NOT saying you shouldn't come back. I'm just saying that though it may help make things easier on the team if you do this for them, it doesn't necessarily mean it is best for them.

My take on mentoring, a mentor's job is very different then a student's job. They help do things. Sure, some like to get in there and get their hand's dirty. I've seen some that do some things for the students. But they always do it in a teaching manner. There are many debates on CD over what a mentor should do. However, I think we all believe in doing it with a focus on teaching. Personally, I like to explain everything that I do. I often keep a student handy to work with me. That way they can do most of the work. I usually lead them through the work without doing it. This works really well for dimension planning. However for organization is quite different. Perhaps you could choose a young student to be an apprentice(sort of) and teach them how to network throughout the team, how it is organized and how to keep it working smoothly are very important for students to learn.

If you want to discuss this more, please feel free to PM me. It is very important to think about what kind of mentor you want to be, and how to be that kind of mentor. As a student my focus was on the success of the team. As a mentor my focus is on the learning of the students. When you think about these things you may think about things as I do, or you might become a completely different kind of mentor. Either way, good luck with everything.
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Unread 05-09-2009, 11:22 PM
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Re: College student mentors

Can someone do it? Yes, there is no rule prohibiting one from turning right around and mentoring straight out of high school.

Is it wise? I'm not sure. Working with a team other than my high school team probably would've done me well, in hindsight. I recommended the same to my team's graduating seniors.
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Unread 05-09-2009, 11:35 PM
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Re: College student mentors

I'm going to agree with the rest.

The rule is a team rule, and as such may be rescinded by the team in such fashion as the team chooses. FIRST does not interfere with team organization; in fact, the only requirement FIRST has for team makeup is that they have between one and three pre-college students (driver, human player, and operator).

I would advise your teacher to read the full manual, and the related documentation, found on the FIRST website. Much of this doesn't really change year-to-year, other than references to the game of the year.

Whether or not mentoring your old team during your first year out of high school is a good idea has been discussed before; I've seen it work and I've chosen not to try it myself. As you are local, stopping in to say hello and ask if help is needed from time to time should be OK, but your school should naturally take priority. Your best bet is to train some of the current students in your "field of expertise" before you leave.
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Unread 05-10-2009, 01:28 AM
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Re: College student mentors

Quote:
Originally Posted by EricH View Post
Your best bet is to train some of the current students in your "field of expertise" before you leave.
There are two problems with the way our team is set up that doesn't allow this:

1. The team is very small, and half of us are graduating this year.

2. The head mentors of the team have set it up so that students do not select what they do to help the team until very late in the year (it can be kickoff before a student will know what they are doing).

Considering we are comprised of 3 schools, even though there are few people, it's fairly hard to stay organized sometimes.
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Unread 05-10-2009, 01:54 AM
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Re: College student mentors

Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeymel1003 View Post
There are two problems with the way our team is set up that doesn't allow this:

1. The team is very small, and half of us are graduating this year.

2. The head mentors of the team have set it up so that students do not select what they do to help the team until very late in the year (it can be kickoff before a student will know what they are doing).

Considering we are comprised of 3 schools, even though there are few people, it's fairly hard to stay organized sometimes.
Hate to say it, but my honest opinion would be to let your team ride it out for at least one season. Team's don't grow all that much unless you let them try themselves. Students grow into taking on responsibilities to the best of their ability, in time. Quite a few of the graduates from our team last year thought that the 09 team would be quite a disaster because 17 seniors graduated. The result of this season was quite the contrary, we built one of our most reliable robots yet and had the most organized team we've had yet.

Basically, don't underestimate what the kids can grow into when given the chance. A lot of them might surprise you. If you can, give all of them simple rundowns of your responsibilities, that way you won't have to worry about who gets what job.*

*By the way, that whole thing about the kids not being able to pick what they want....now that's a whole 'nother story. I could see the situation of a small team having the students multitasking, but having them do assigned sub-teams; seems kinda dumb to be honest.
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Unread 05-10-2009, 01:59 AM
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Re: College student mentors

A lot of teams have rules like this and I can see why.

I think it would be awkward to return to the team you spent 4 years on in high school immediately, as a mentor. How are the students who you joked around with and were friends with going to respect you as an adult without any transition time between you being a student and a mentor? How will the adults? It would be very difficult to truly be a mentor, and not just an extension of your former role in the team.

That was part of my thought process after my first year of college (which I spent volunteering for FIRST instead of participating). I felt like I would be caught in between a student-mentor zone in which I would not be able to completely identify with/be accepted by either, until a few years had gone by and all the people I knew on the team as a student were gone.

I was only in my second year of college when I joined Team 254, but all the students respected me the same as any other adult, because I had no prior interactions with them which would cause them to view me as one of them, rather than a mentor.

Whatever you do, do not let FIRST consume you during college. I can tell you from experience that it's not healthy. It isn't much fun to be in college for 7 years because of all the time you invest into FIRST in place of school. FIRST and other activities will be around later-make sure you make completing your education your priority.
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Unread 05-10-2009, 09:30 AM
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Re: College student mentors

Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeymel1003 View Post
Considering we are comprised of 3 schools, even though there are few people, it's fairly hard to stay organized sometimes.
It sounds like you might want to spend some time working with the teacher and the schools in charge to see what you can do recruit for the future then. Usually the teams who develop decent tactics for recruitment don't need to always worry about transfer of knowledge when an impactful senior class leaves the team. I've seen some great threads on recruitment, might try looking some up. My team is made up of two schools; in the fall we received 150 "interested names" after assemblies and ended up with a team roster of more than 40 students.

As for your current situation, everyone above really did a good job of listing many of the reasons as to why your teacher may have considered this rule. I have the same rule implemented on my team for a few reasons;

(1) district policy states that a volunteer coach must have 60 college credits,
(2) it's hard for a senior to immediately switch over to mentor mode because their classmates don't always buy in, and
(3) to give the graduating senior a chance to build a solid "post high school" start. I'd love to have many of my seniors back next year but it's more important for them to begin the next stage of their life strongly.
(4) Lastly, to give the underclassmen a chance to lead the team the same way the seniors had theirs.

Hopefully that gives you some of the teacher's perspective on this. Let me know if you have any questions.
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Unread 05-10-2009, 09:57 AM
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Re: College student mentors

Mark's post is an excellent one. Developing and implementing the use of a team handbook is very important to the on-going organizational consistency and development of a team. Also, knowing who to contact directly for correct and official answers to your FRC questions helps the team develop successfully.

I would encourage you to look at this from the teacher's perspective, through the lens of wisdom. Asking the current teacher/sponsor for a private meeting to discuss the graduating student returning as a mentor in 2010, would help clear up any misunderstandings regarding the topic of pending/recent graduates and mentoring, and perhaps other areas of teamwork that may be a little muddled.

It is rare that teachers are the bad guys, and although they can be tough for sure, they usually have the team's and the student's best interests at heart. Good communication and knowledge of the rules are effective skills that every team/team member should work on, and keep working on, in every aspect of team development.



Quote:
Originally Posted by kramarczyk View Post
Opinions on this site may be misleading regarding official information; go to the source. If someone thinks that this is a FIRST rule then they should able to find it written down somewhere, just like a game rule. A good place to start would be to contact the FIRST Senior Mentor from your area to help find the official requirements. From PA it is Jessica Jankowitsch jjankowitsch@usfirst.org or jessjank. on these fora.

<opinion>The only official documentation I've been able to find is http://www.usfirst.org/community/vol....aspx?id=11576 which suggests to me that FIRST considers the issue of who qualifies as a mentor to be a team issue. </opinion>

If there is a team rule then it too should be documented somewhere. <insert plug for team handbooks>
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Last edited by JaneYoung : 05-10-2009 at 10:19 AM. Reason: just read the part about the teacher is no longer with the team...
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Unread 05-10-2009, 09:59 AM
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Re: College student mentors

Purdue FIRST Programs has a rule in place that you cannot mentor the same team you were on in high school for one year after graduating. There is no possible way that the students on the team will see you as a mentor after having been a student on the team the year before. Taking a year off from the team gives you and the team some transition time, and when you come back, you'll be seen differently than you were before.

My suggestion as an incoming college freshman is to just volunteer at regional events and maybe just come in a few times during the build season for design reviews and things of that nature. I mentored a team for three years during college and it has been a great experience, but I'm glad I took that first year off from FIRST to help transition myself.
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