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  #46   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 09-23-2011, 06:31 PM
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Re: Does Affirmative Action fit under the values of FIRST

I'm the administrator of the team in question and I can shed a little more light as well. In regards to asking other teachers qualified to help, Grim isn't mentioning a few things. One of our current mentors is both a parent of a member and a tech teacher in the district. If necessary we could potentially ask him if he's willing to supervise as an official tech teacher without compensation. We're hesitant to do this for a few reasons, the main being that our current faculty adviser feels its morally wrong for him to get paid but for a fellow teacher not to when they're doing the same work he is. Another reason is the fact that he's not able to come every night so some nights we'd have to limit the number of team members coming. Another thing is that all of the other tech teachers in the district are already involved with other technology clubs, and don't have time to.

We do have other opportunities to allow for a larger team, such as groups that come on different days as some of you have suggested, but none are ideal. We've been given permission to fund this in any way we wish including sponsors but we'd have to find a way to record hours and funds given to the various tech teachers working. In more depth we could have systems heads and team leads attend every night but have two groups that switch on and off, but this would hinder the very familial aspect of the team that we cherish as well as make members feel like because they're only there half the time they didn't mean as much to the team.

Code Red's main focus is to help anyone and everyone learn. Whether it be learning how to build how to design or even how to manage the business end of things, everyone on the team is learning. We feel it is completely unfair to prevent freshmen and sophomores from joining because of their age because often they are the most willing to learn. That being said we have a very uneven spread of grades with around half of the team last year was composed of class of '13 and even more want to join this year. Our view of seniors joining is generally very different from most teams and clubs in general. We believe that seniors should not be given priority because we see it as they've had three years before this to try to join but haven't where as freshmen or sophomores have a chance to continue and grow on the team for years to come.

As Grim said, we do pride ourselves in having a role for everyone and every interest within the team. We use the team as an opportunity to teach people willing to be taught, it does not matter what they look like or what socioeconomic background they're from. However, not basing off of skill makes cuts very difficult. We can't give tests based on skill because we encourage a wide range of skills to join and for the most part, people don't know exactly what they want to do on the team. We try to judge mainly on interest and dedication but those are both attributes that are very difficult to judge, for instance we had one member on the team last year who was extremely dedicated and interested in joining, but once build season came she lacked the follow through. This has drifted off affirmative action but it's all relative to the fact that we have not come up with a good system to determine cuts. Does anyone have any suggestions?
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Unread 09-24-2011, 02:03 AM
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Re: Does Affirmative Action fit under the values of FIRST

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Originally Posted by JamesCH95 View Post
This. Compatible personalities can make a less qualified or less skilled team more effective.
Actually, while I was being interviewed for my current position I was not asked technical questions. The majority of the interview was personality type questions to see about the fit for the company. Tech skills can be taught, having a crap personality is harder to fix and more annoying to deal with.
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Unread 09-24-2011, 04:08 AM
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Re: Does Affirmative Action fit under the values of FIRST

The only "good" way to answer this question is on a per student basis. A student that is already skilled at the trade, but lacks people skills has a great need for the team. A student that is very outgoing and interested, but doesn't know a thing about technology has a great need for the team. A student who is here simply because their friends are, could benefit from the team in an unforeseen way but has no "great need" for the team. Take them student by student and check each one and think, what will this student get from the team? If you have a definite idea, add them automatically. After that, then it becomes tougher.

A little story that might make you think. A teacher of mine once told me of a time when he was in the military. He was in boot camp and there was one guy that always fell behind the others. He was a great guy that everyone was friends with, but never-the-less he was always dragging them down. After a while, it was decided that they weren't doing him any favors by dragging him along. Yes, he was making it to the finish line but he wasn't really getting anything from it because the military just wasn't for him. Sometimes, enthusiasm just isn't enough. Sometimes, ability does matter more then a willingness to learn even in a place like FIRST. I mean, student A has a natural talent and learns much about engineering practices from the team. Student B struggles with robotics but is dedicated and learns life skills in the process. Even though student B was more dedicated and such, there might have been a greater impact on student A. It is completely impossible to judge. I'm not suggesting there is a fool-proof way to. I'm just saying that you need to take the students into consideration one at a time and not set up a bureaucratic system.

I know my story may strike a nerve with some here, I mean no offense to the many who have overcome great obstacles. I just know the hardest working man I have ever met that struggles with the most basic problems from our shared classes(400 level undergraduate engineering courses). I work with him for most of the homework and am dedicated to helping him earn his degree, but I do wonder how he will actually do in the work place once he gets it. I whole-heartedly support him, but I'm sometimes unsure if I'm really doing him any favors in the process.

In short, |FIRST|=f(ability, dedication). Don't neglect either of your inputs if you want a reliability judgement.
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Unread 09-24-2011, 09:24 AM
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Re: Does Affirmative Action fit under the values of FIRST

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Originally Posted by Andrew Schreiber View Post
Actually, while I was being interviewed for my current position I was not asked technical questions. The majority of the interview was personality type questions to see about the fit for the company. Tech skills can be taught, having a crap personality is harder to fix and more annoying to deal with.
Me too! Funny how that works.
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Unread 09-25-2011, 01:42 AM
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Re: Does Affirmative Action fit under the values of FIRST

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Originally Posted by phoebe.patwell View Post
I'm the administrator of the team in question and I can shed a little more light as well. ...
Thank you for the additional insight. My only suggestion would be that the additional teacher need not be a tech studies teacher. Having a business education teacher as one of our team leaders was a very valuable asset. Her presence brought many new members to the team. (In an aside, dealing with the affirmative action aspects of this thread, having an adult female as one of the team leaders was a definite asset in getting more girls to join the team. Many became more interested in engineering, tools and technology as a result. There are ways to take positive action to address inequalities that do not involve disadvantaging another group.)

As a tech studies teacher (and now a teacher of future tech studies teachers) myself, I appreciate the value of the skills we bring to this competition, and was fortunate to work with some other outstanding tech teachers on our team over the years. But while we were busy down in the shop, there was another team busy preparing our promotional material, community involvement, web presence, chairman's presentation, fundraising campaigns, and overall team image. By the time you add in FIRST paperwork, field trip forms, travel and hotel arrangements, passports, travel medical insurance (okay... probably not a big deal for you, but it was for us) there was a lot of "clean hands" work to be done. Sometimes "build team" members saw this work as less important, or less demanding than building the robot, but they never seemed to have a problem handing out team buttons, posing with our mascot, coming down to accept a website award, or having a few skilled communicators ready to coordinate judging interviews and promote our team come alliance selection time! Some of our invitations into the elimination rounds, and several of our team's FRC awards were directly attributable to the work of this team. Our recognition as "Vancouver's Youth Group of the Year" was 100% due to their hard work and initiative.

It may also be possible to find a teacher with an interested math/physics/computer background to assist with programming, or perhaps CAD modelling of robot designs. If your team has, indeed, identified that you would like to reach a broader cross-section of the school population, perhaps there is a teacher who would be a good role model for or has good connections with the students you would like to recruit...?

So my advice, given your situation, would be to remember that it isn't all about the robot and there are many meaningful ways for adults and students alike to be involved with the team. Not all of them involve using power tools.

Jason

Last edited by dtengineering : 09-25-2011 at 01:56 AM.
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Unread 09-25-2011, 07:31 AM
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Re: Does Affirmative Action fit under the values of FIRST

My daughter's team had an elementary teacher and a HS psychology teacher as mentors. We also had two engineering mentors from our sponsor company.

You might try to focus your efforts at changing the school policy that the mentors must be from tech ed.
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Unread 09-25-2011, 08:15 AM
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Re: Does Affirmative Action fit under the values of FIRST

Our two teachers are a physics/ASL teacher (me) and a math teacher.
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Unread 09-27-2011, 11:30 PM
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Re: Does Affirmative Action fit under the values of FIRST

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Originally Posted by dtengineering View Post
My only suggestion would be that the additional teacher need not be a tech studies teacher.
Unfortunately this solution does not help us because we need the extra tech teacher so that we can have another room open where people can be machining. While we do have other professions involved in mentoring, this person must be a tech teacher. As far as bringing in more girls interested, we don't have much of an issue with recruiting girls. Last year there was a dramatic increase in involvement with girls and this seems to be a lasting trend.
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