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Unread 07-16-2018, 01:10 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

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Originally Posted by philso View Post
Quite a few times, I have seen mentors from one team working with a different team on the Practice Day at a Regional to build their robot or write some or all of their code. Since the goal of this program is to inspire the students, allowing enough flexibility for things like this to happen is crucial.
This year at CNY, there was a heavy snowstorm, and some teams couldn't bring their students out. During practice day, there were teams who had no students, only a few mentors due to school policies. Now what do you expect the mentors to do, wait and not adjust auto code based on the real field measurements, resulting in broken autos for their comp, or successfully adjust autos and be set for competition day, but be labeled a mentor-coded robot?

Flexibility is key.
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Unread 07-16-2018, 01:14 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

Students didn't build the RoboRio, the Talon SRXs or the Xbox controllers used to drive the robot. We give these tools to the students to empower them so they can accomplish their goals, learn new things and have new experiences. Sure giving the students a Talon SRX may not teach them what they could from designing a custom H-Bridge motor controller but that's not the goal of the program and more than likely would end up causing a whole lot of frustration. Frustration and limitations are not a good way to inspire students.

As mentors we too are tools to empower students. If that means that a mentor needs to write your robot's code then so be it.
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Unread 07-16-2018, 01:34 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

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Originally Posted by rpappa View Post
  1. A mentor writes, commits, and pushes the code for a subsystem.
  2. A mentor writes an interface in the team's code, which students write implementations for.

  3. A mentor writes a library which is publically published and documented on GitHub. Students on another team use this library.

  4. A mentor writes a library which is publically published and documented on GitHub. Students on the mentor's team use this library.

  5. A mentor writes a library which is publically published and documented on GitHub. Students on another team request features for this library over Chief Delphi, which the mentor accepts.

  6. A mentor writes a library which is publically published and documented on GitHub. Students on the mentor's team request features for this library over Chief Delphi, which the mentor accepts.
  7. A mentor writes a library which is publically published and documented on GitHub. Students on another team request features for this library over Chief Delphi, which the mentor rejects. Students on the mentor's team request features for this library over Chief Delphi, which the mentor accepts.
  8. A mentor writes a library which is privately given out to a few teams.
  9. A mentor writes a library which is privately given out to a few teams. These teams request features and the mentor honors those requests.
  10. A mentor plays the role of scrum master for a team.
  11. A mentor designs a subsystem or command which a student implements.
  12. A mentor tells a student, line by line, what code to write. The mentor's hands never touch the keyboard.

  13. A mentor provides a student with code examples from a personal project, which the student independently adapts
Well $@#$@#$@#$@# me I guess
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Unread 07-16-2018, 01:35 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

Sorry you aren't getting a lot of useful replies.
The statement that each teams needs to do what is right for them is a good start, what does that mean? How do you figure out what's right?

I think there is a point where certain levels of mentor involvement can hurt the team and the development of students. If a team has student programmers fully capable and willing to code the robot but a mentor does the work anyway then I think that is more harmful than helpful. If a team had students willing to do the work but they did not have the knowledge and a capable mentor did not assist them, then I think that level of mentor involvement is also harmful. It comes down to a balance of who has the knowledge/time to complete the tasks and can they teach while doing so.

For a long time my team did not have an active dedicated programming mentor and it was up to the more experienced students to teach everything to the newer students. At the same time we had one mentor capable of designing the robot but we did not have the means to teach students CAD and allow them to be more hands on in the design. We have since evolved to have more mentors and students involved with both programming and design of the robot. The more variety and depth a team can offer it's students the better.
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Unread 07-16-2018, 01:37 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

The line between student and mentor programmed should be drawn where the student starts to get less out of FIRST.

Different kids need different amounts out of robotics. Some need to be shown how cool coding can be, which would be more mentor programmed. Other students might need to be taught a language. Some need to be taught different algorithms (PID, filters, sensor sampling). Each year is different, and each student is different.

This past year, I never touched the robot code. I helped with configuring the Jetson, but honestly the student programmer did 90% of it. Other years I wrote nearly everything. At the end of the day I want the students to take something away from robotics, while still enjoying it.
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Unread 07-16-2018, 01:45 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaci View Post
Well $@#$@#$@#$@# me I guess
Yes. Please stop inspiring roboteers to achieve higher levels of programming with your libraries, better build systems, etc.



Software engineering today is driven by reuse of common libraries and code. If you look at why programming languages become "popular" very little of it is the syntax of the language but it's around the Library that is used.

Like "Hey, lets use Ruby, we can build a webserver in three lines!" Why yes, after including in 5,000 lines of libraries, all it takes is three lines of code.

Hampering teams by not being able to leverage libraries, mentors or code gurus like Jaci is just $@#$@#$@#$@#
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Unread 07-16-2018, 01:57 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

Quote:
Originally Posted by wesbass23 View Post
The statement that each teams needs to do what is right for them is a good start, what does that mean? How do you figure out what's right?
Talk to your team, see what everyone is comfortable with. Figure out what the teams' overall goals are and try to set up a situation that most closely aligns with it, or at least builds up to it over a few years. Then do trial and error. Run things one way, and afterwards review it. If it went well, keep it up. Iterate on the details that can be improved upon and keep moving forwards. If it didn't go well, re-evaluate and try something in the other direction.

Figuring out what's best for your team isn't something anyone else can tell you, but it's not that hard to figure out. Try things over and over again until you find your sweet spot. The offseason is great for this!
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Unread 07-16-2018, 02:16 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

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Originally Posted by rpappa View Post
I'm not intending to shame mentors. I'm just wondering if there's a point where mentor involvement becomes more harmful than helpful.
As Marshall talked about: do not look for some threshold of effort where 'good' switches to 'bad.' This does not exist.

This is not a question of degree, but a question of approach. There are numerous situations where it is appropriate for a mentor to write some or all of the final code for a robot. On the other hand there is no situation in which an adult should take work away from a student that the student is willing and able to complete.

Example:
Team A has no current students interested in programming, so a mentor writes all robot code so the team's other students can have a fulfilling season. Team B has five capable students who have programmed before and attend most meetings, but an adult muscles the students out and writes the code with no input from the students because 'the students will make mistakes.'

In both examples an adult programmed the robot completely. No reasonable person would find fault with Team A, while Team B operated contrary to the core principles of FIRST. Team B has an dysfunctional adult team member, not a mentor. Mentors writing code (or designing parts, or building, or fundraising, or doing outreach, or... pick anything a team could do) is just great as long as each and every student is involved in the area(s) of their interest and to the degree of their growing abilities enables.
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Unread 07-16-2018, 02:24 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew_L View Post
Figuring out what's best for your team isn't something anyone else can tell you, but it's not that hard to figure out. Try things over and over again until you find your sweet spot. The offseason is great for this!
But be aware that the sweet spot may not stay in the same place from year to year. Students come in green, develop, then graduate. Each class and each student within each class has distinct abilities and interests and drive.

Some students start out with little promise then suddenly start to click, where others start strong then drop out, and others are a nice steady increase year over year*. During build and competition season, sometimes a week is too long between adjustments.

* On a team with only 20 students, we had several instances of each this year.
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Unread 07-16-2018, 02:48 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

Every team is using an FPGA that was written by engineers, therefore every team is using a mentor coded robot.

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Unread 07-16-2018, 02:54 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaci View Post
Well $@#$@#$@#$@# me I guess
How dare you ruin FIRST by helping hundreds of teams across the world‽



Unrelated, suppose a team has 40 kids who only want to play with metal and build a robot, with no ability or desire to program. Do they have a better experience struggling to program a robot that won't function at their event(s), or having a mentor program the robot for them?

Unrelated(?), suppose a team has 40 kids who only want to play with computers and program a robot, with no ability or desire to build a robot. Do they have a better experience struggling to build a robot that won't function at their event(s), or having a mentor build the robot for them?


(Hint: in both cases the answer probably depends on those 40 kids)
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Unread 07-16-2018, 03:43 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

Some years ago, back when we still used the IFI system and serial ports, a particular mentor (NASA mentor, to be exact at the time) coded a serial interface to work with various things.
My understanding is that even other software mentors got tripped up by trying to understand that one on occasion... but if you just used it and implemented it properly, it worked, even if you were a student.

All of the examples given are just fine, with the caveat that the kids need to be inspired, EXCEPT #7. And #7 would be fine if it was stated up front that outside feature requests would not be accepted (because the code is for this particular team, and published to comply with the rules).
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Unread 07-16-2018, 03:59 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

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Originally Posted by marshall View Post
The mission of FIRSTŪ is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, 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.

https://www.firstinspires.org/about/vision-and-mission

Mentor shaming is lame.
Quote:
Originally Posted by marshall View Post
Yes it is. It's intended to draw an arbitrary line about mentor involvement and then point at people deemed to be on the other side of it and think of them as somehow lesser.

Katie hit the proverbial nail.
Agreed!

But the reality is that there is and always will be a mentor involvement line and a perception that someone will take issue with...like I've learned, stop wasting your energy. The real question for each team is who is drawing the line. Woodie has perhaps the best description when he calls classes "training" and what you do with it outside of school the "education". If a mentor draws the line out of need it's "training"...if students draw the line out of inspiration and confidence it becomes "education". I think most teams do a very effect job of drawing and re-drawing that meandering mentor involvement line through all activities and seasons. Rookie and re-developing teams need far more training and mentor involvement. I also believe the strongest and most sustainable teams have lines mostly drawn by the students, with the ability and confidence to seek and deploy technology and designs generated by their mentors, other team mentors, other team students, robotics suppliers and industry.

I've observed mentor and minion teams perform well sporadically, but are rarely sustainable, so the perceived problem for many is mostly self correcting.

We know where our line is, and the students can articulate where it is and why it is there. Results speak for themselves.
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Unread 07-16-2018, 04:19 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

Quote:
Originally Posted by wesbass23 View Post
The statement that each teams needs to do what is right for them is a good start, what does that mean? How do you figure out what's right?

I think it starts with understanding what it will take to FIRST-style "Inspire" the students currently on the team that year. What tools will they most need for success?

Yes, sometimes that toolset is a fully-written piece of software. Yes, sometimes that toolset is a vaccuum for students to fill. Moreoften, that toolset is something in between.

Executing on and delivering the toolset is the job of a software engineer. Determining the toolset required is the job of a leader.

I propose this is more of a topic of general leadership technique, and not of software mentorship.

Unfortunately, my knowledge of successful leadership is far smaller than successful software writing.
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Unread 07-16-2018, 04:31 PM
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Re: Mentor coded robots

Quote:
Originally Posted by Katie_UPS View Post
My responses in bold.



What works for one team is not what works for every team.

Heck, on my team - what works for one student does not work for a different student. Sometimes I can let a kid go wild with minimal supervision, sometimes I have to prompt for every keystroke, sometimes the problem is way over the students and I have to step in.
I don't have much of an opinion on this, but IMO, this is kind of a cop-out. The fact is, tons of teams don't work and don't self-manage very well, especially if a mentor is overbearing. Shy kids have trouble standing up for themselves.
Different things work for different teams, but that doesn't mean that every team works.
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