View Full Version : Students Graduating to Mentors

05-14-2008, 08:36 AM
I would like to know how your team manages the change from student to mentor roles. If you have graduating seniors on your team and they are still going to be available to help the team while in college, are they welcomed as mentors? Are they told they are no longer a student team member and don't qualify as a mentor? How does your team handle this?

05-14-2008, 10:08 AM
Once students graduate they are eligible and welcome to participate as team mentors.

However, we strongly recommend that the student focus on the next step in their academic career and focus on their transition to college and on becoming fully engaged successful college students.

Having said all of that, our actual results are most members take the advice with a few spending a minimal amount of time with the team during the build and/or competition season.

05-14-2008, 10:19 AM
I went straight from being a student to a mentor when I graduated from 971. It's easy for me not to get too involved and act as a student because I'm across the country during build season. Most of my help comes in the form of reviewing and criticizing CAD models, providing suggestions for types of systems to use, and administrative advice

05-14-2008, 10:35 AM
125 is all college mentors, and we have even had a few of our Hs students graduate and come to northeastern, and are currently on the team. It was hard for me personally to take that step back and realize i was not focus of the program, but after 3 years everyone has seemed to find their role. College students have a chance to do some advanced design, as well as encouraging the Hs students to take the journey with us and learn along the way.

05-14-2008, 11:38 AM
I'm the only one to have done this (so far) from HOT. Because of the environment in which the team operates, the only mentors we can have are either GM employees or employees from the school district (liability issues with the shop). If a person fits one of those two categories, they can mentor. We have one student this year trying to do it, like I did.

Keep in mind that going back to your old team right away has its own challenges. There is sometimes an issue of respect, as the other members of the team see you as just another student, not a mentor. For me, I wanted to jump in and just do everything, and had to learn how to step back and guide the students in doing things, rather than doing them myself. Learning how to be a mentor is part of things.

Also, PLEASE remember that when it comes to a choice between college work and FIRST, to put the focus on college. It's way too important in today's society. You'll have other chances at FIRST, and I am having way more fun as a "full-fledged" adult than I did as a college mentor, since I had to juggle the two.

Jeff Waegelin
05-14-2008, 12:29 PM
Over the past 5 years, I've seen this from all sides, as a high school student who became a mentor, a college student who watched students move into mentoring roles, and an engineer on a team with a well-established program of students moving from HS to college to engineering. The first year is always the hardest, as it is somewhat of a transition year, both in FIRST and in life outside of FIRST. Some students handle it better than others - they can very easily become a problem/distraction, or a key leader of your team, depending on how they handle that transition. The three biggest problems are:

1) Managing your time - For someone new to college, suddenly having all kinds of options open to you can be an issue. You don't *have* to go to class, or do your homework anymore. It's very easy for someone who feels dedicated to FIRST and to the team to blow off their other responsibilities, especially during the "crunch time" of build season. I've been there, and done that. My second semester of freshman year didn't go as well as I would have liked, but I accepted it as a learning experience, and my winter term grades were actually better than my fall grades the next three years. I learned that I didn't have the time to goof off during FIRST season, and I focused and got things done.

2) Finding your role - Mentoring a FIRST team is not about extending your high school experience. Finding a suitable role becomes one of the great challenges of moving from high school student to mentor. I ended up having to change teams to make this work, because I never quite fit in on my old team - my place in the organization was filled by new people. This is made much easier if the team already has an established structure of college students and young mentors, but it's possible to work out a new niche in any organization if you work at it.

3) Maintaining proper mentor-student relationships - This is likely the hardest one for high schoolers returning to their own teams as mentors. When a mentor is so close in age to his or her students, it can sometimes be hard to maintain the necessary separation needed for the team to operate smoothly. The challenge is for them to understand they're not one of the students anymore, and that is a hard step to take.

So, in conclusion, every team I've been a part of has had a history of students continuing on as mentors. There are pitfalls, as I've described, but it can be very helpful to have an individual (or group) capable of providing leadership and connecting and relating to the current students.

Ryan Dognaux
05-14-2008, 01:39 PM
There are some students who choose to attend Purdue University after being on one of the three Purdue FIRST teams. Purdue FIRST Programs has found that is it all around better if a former student is not allowed to mentor their high school team during their first year of college. This helps clear up a lot of the student and mentor respect issues that may arise. Often times, freshman will either help out with the Boilermaker Regional, FLL, Vex, or just choose to mentor one of the other Purdue FRC teams for their first year of college.

05-14-2008, 02:03 PM
my team greatly incourage that our former members to come back and help i wud know im one of them. i was a student on the team for 2 yrs and now i been a mentor for 3 yrs going on 4. i love be a mentor cuz u can teach the new students of wat u have learn and tell them stories of the past.

05-14-2008, 02:18 PM
After the past several years,
I have come to the conclusion that former students who become mentors are very powerful for a veteran team. The amount that they can potentially contribute and alleviate the "older" mentors support work load for teams are tremendous.
Its also evident when you see new teams started by former students of other FRC teams. Best example I can think of: 188-1114.

05-14-2008, 02:49 PM
We have had 2 students switch over to mentors on our team and several others helping out with other collegiate teams. I will try to get the two from our team to post some of their experiences as they have become great assets. I would have to agree with the earlier poster that it would probably be best to more or less step back your freshman year of college. If for no other reason than to get a solid year with good grades under your belt.

Richard Wallace
05-14-2008, 03:15 PM
931 has its build, CAD, and practice facilities at Gateway Institute of Technology (http://locations.slps.org/location.asp?RecordID=5E5E5E&LocName=Gateway%20IT%20High%20School), which is a high technology magnet high school in the St. Louis Public Schools system. Our team's alumni are welcomed and encouraged to remain active team members after graduation, and many over the years have done so.

Our team encourages all members who have knowledge and skills to pass them on to others as we work. English teachers might cringe, but we place a higher value on the word mentor when it is used as a verb.

05-14-2008, 03:15 PM
The graduating students who have returned as mentors for 418 have done very well. Each has returned for defined and specific purposes. These have included training the new students in the use of some of the machines and, travel to LSR and the Championship event as a seasoned team member in the group to act as a guide and model of experience. We have also had a college mentor take a small group and the robot to a demo in San Antonio, coordinating with another Austin team as well. It was a great learning experience for the college mentor to have the team dependent on him for getting them where they needed to be when they needed to be there. It was also great when trying to figure out what happened to missing batteries, etc. Life on the demo road can be fun and challenging.

As stated, the new graduates are still so close in age to the students who think of them as peers rather than mentors, that the transition can be a little tough, depending on the maturity level of the students involved. We've found that specific tasks involving the sharing of knowledge and experience has worked very well. That also doesn't place a huge burden on the college mentors as far as time demands because they have typically been available during off season and college breaks/holidays.

We are also very proud of our graduates who make the time to volunteer at LSR and at the Championship event and who have been doing this for several years now. It's very cool.

Tom Bottiglieri
05-14-2008, 03:31 PM
Mentoring a FIRST team provides a great opportunity for college students to gain valuable leadership experience, as well as pick up a few more tech skills outside the classroom. While the high school students can use this experience as a sandbox to harness their technical skills, you can use it in the same way to develop your soft skills.

For teams looking for a returning mentor policy, it really needs to be on a case by case basis. One year away from the team is probably a good thing, but not needed in all cases. Maturity is a big deal, as it will dictate to which extent the mentor can fully grasp the ideals of the program and how to implement them correctly.

Alex Cormier
05-14-2008, 03:39 PM
I have been on 3 different FRC teams and 2 different FLL teams. The teams I participated on for FRC were 1126, 229 and, 1930. For FLL I was on the Webster Lego team and the Wellsville Lego team.

In the last three years of High School, I was on the originating team of 1126. In 2005 i graduated as multi champion and very proud. The following year i attended college in Canton, New York. (Basically middle of nowhere wayyyy up north) Clarkson University was only 10 minutes down the same road, so I was able to be a College Mentor on the 229 crew. It was a lot of fun to move up to the College Student role and be on a new team. The course I was studying was only a 1 year certificate. After that was done, I moved onto another college closer to home and tried to start up a FVC team at college. Due to no success I could only help with a local Lego team that my professor requested me to participate on. It was a great honor to see the kids every meeting, and how proud they were at the competition. This following year I moved back up to the FRC level and was a College Mentor on Team 1930. A hometown team that goes under the radar. I had the opportunity to go back onto the 1126 team and i was honored. I choose not to participate on their team anymore. It was not from them telling me to go away, I am always welcomed at any meeting. They even donated numerous materials to 1930 through me. :) I only choose to move on to a different team for one reason. Knowledge. I see that 1126 doesn't need my knowledge and probably will not ever again. I wanted to give back to other teams with my knowledge and see what comes out of it. I was very proud what 1930 had produced this year. At the start of brain storming, the kids wanted to go for a ball herder ONLY. Due to their experiences of low level robots and failures. They were skeptical to the newly developed mentors ideas and did not want to hear it at all. Once the designs came into real life, the sights and faces of the kids were amazing. I felt as if we changed the way the team looks at FIRST robotics now and that just makes my day. With all three teams I was on, I have seen students come back to mentor once they graduate. It is a honor and should always been seen as your first 'home'.

With all this reading, I suggest a few things. Look into your High School's program, look into other teams. Does your HS need your help still? Does other teams need your help more? Where will you fit in the most.

Hope any of this helps.

05-14-2008, 04:23 PM
This topic comes up year after year or something about college mentoring. I would suggest taking a look at this thread (http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?t=47004) as it will show you the insight of many college mentors whether they joined different teams or continue mentoring their high school team. My experience as a mentor while a college student was for the 2006 and 2007 season with 1747. In 2006 I will say our mentors at times had issues in certain situations keeping the appropriate mentor behavior at times. While the next year with more defined positions this was much easier to maintain the mentor student relationship. Well as for your question about being accepted as mentors had more of an issue with the teacher at the time accepting out college mentors as mentors however this problem with fixed in 2007

I would have to saying going back to your high school team really depends on you and your team. My only suggestion is that you try to figure out your role before you start to mentor I know that made the job of all of the college mentors easier

One plus about being a college mentor is when all the parents are asleep you still have some energy to finish the robot at 4am. :P

A college mentor can be a great asset to the team and can be an amazingly rewarding experience.

05-14-2008, 04:57 PM
Rule #1. No relationships between high school and college students. They must stay between one group or the other.

Rule #2. We're serious about rule number one.

Rule #3. Teach the students to do the work. First do it and have them watch. Then equally split the work 50/50. Then sit back and watch the students do the work.

Rule #4. Treat the students with respect, no matter how "dumb" their questions seem. If they are asking questions, it's probably because they want to learn more. Everyone can learn and be productive, it's just that some students learn through different methods or speeds. Be accommodative towards the student, and be patient.

Rule #5. You are a mentor. Act like one whenever the students are around.

Rule #6. The wise learn from their own mistakes. The wiser learn from the mistakes of others. If you need to, step in before the students make a really egregious mistake; like double-checking that the students wired the Victors in the correct direction before they power up the robot for the first time.

Rule #7. Never do anything that a student is capable of doing*. If you have a few students in the shop who know how to use the milling machine, let them mill some parts. (Besides, it often turns out the mentors get plenty of chances to mill/turn parts at 3am after the students went home due to driving/license retrictions, especially in the last week before the ship date. ;))

Also, there are some times where due to part complexity and time/material constraints, a mentor is probably better suited to do the job than a student. If the part is so complex that it takes the student four times to get it right, it's probably to have the mentor make the part and bring the student over to explain the process of how they would tackle the problem.

* Unless there is less than three or four days left in the build season and the robot is still far from being completed... There's some leeway here for "all hands on deck" to just get the robot done. It's not very inspiring for the students to ship an unfinished robot.

Now making the transition from high school student to college mentor wasn't that hard for me. I had started to take a leadership position during my last year of high school on 228, and I've been volunteering at FIRST events since 2006. I had already begun to make the mental transition from "being one of the inspired" to being one of the "inspirers" well before I graduated.

05-14-2008, 06:10 PM
I didn't go back to my high school team after graduation. I could have, but other teams needed help. I chose to mentor a team we'd mentored my first year on the team. I had to help them from a long distance, though--my college is in SD and the team is in CA.

Gary B.
05-15-2008, 10:39 PM
We would love to have some of our graduates come help mentor. Unfortunately for us, almost all of our graduates have left to attend schools out of the area.:(

05-15-2008, 11:37 PM
Team 1787 has a new situation to contend with for next year. When the team was formed, it was primarily made of sophomores. Now, we're graduating seniors, and because few others have joined the team, most of the team will be gone. We're already working with the younger members to try and pass on as much knowledge as we can, but it's difficult because there are only about four of them. I wish we were not so short on people, because we could've actually taught them everything we know during the past build seasons if there weren't so much to do.

There are a few upsides, though. First, I'm going to college nearby (Case Western Reserve University), so I'll be around for occasional consulting. Second, our captain discovered that his winter break next year is basically all of January, so he'll be home and free to mentor during 2/3 of the build season. Third, all of us will be at the kickoff with the team, since it's in early January and we'll all be home.

The thing that I feel best about is that the four members who are not graduating are more enthusiastic than most of the people graduating. They don't have the experience, but they want to learn, and want to work (which means they'll gain the experience). This year, they did something we've never been able to do (because no one sticks around after school for robotics after the season ends, unfortunately). Already, they have started building an experimental drivetrain (well, it's 4WD, but we've never used it before) in order to work out bugs and have something ready for next year.

05-17-2008, 01:02 AM
I was the first graduate to come back as a mentor. This past year I mentored two teams and volunteered at a number of regionals. I have had a lot of fun and learned even more. I don't know if it would have been as positive if I didn't kinda back off from my high school. I'm still involved with my high school team but I know that sometimes my help is needed elsewhere. It is hard being a student and a mentor without sacrificing one for the other. Many other students have realized this and now only offer support via email or by volunteering at events. In the end, it doesn't matter. Regardless of your level of involvement after high school, you will always be a part of that team and they will always be a part of you.

05-17-2008, 04:57 PM
1251 has many college mentors compared to a normal team. Some are local and some are remote. I think the team benefits from us helping out and all of our college mentors try to be as professional as possible around the kids. I myself encourge the out going students to focus on school for at least their first year and the majority of the mentors do from personal experience. We have rules and guidlines for things mentors can and can't do, very similar to what Art posted earlier in this thread. We appriciate our students comming back and mentoring or just popping in for a visit.


Al Skierkiewicz
05-18-2008, 09:42 AM
Over the years we have had students come back and mentor in a variety of roles. Most often they were hired by Motorola, our sponsor. Any non-high school student is under the same regulations set forth by school administration and district policy. That policy is changing this year to make it even harder for adults to participate in any activity such as marching band parents, robot mentors, etc. All adults have to submit to a background check and finger prints as a minimum.

05-19-2008, 10:18 PM
To dovetail on what Jane said, we have also reached a point that we have been around long enough now that our alumni have gone to school, graduated, become professional engineers and are now back as mentors. It is interesting to see the growth as they come full circle.

Brandon Holley
05-20-2008, 01:56 PM
Team 125 is a special cut of FIRST team.

The team doesn't have "adult" mentors. The team is run entirely by college students. The college students that make up our team are GENERALLY from other FIRST teams (alumni of 11, 25, 222, 228, 195, 177, 839 and a bunch more). We have 1 or 2 hanging around that were on 125 in high school too.

We don't just welcome college students that have been on teams in high school, we need them. It is definitely a cool dynamic to have, considering most of us have no idea what the H-E-Double hockey sticks we're doing, but it s definitely a fun time.