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Unread 03-20-2012, 09:53 AM
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Sippin' on the haterade

Now that several days have gone by and I have digested the events of this weekend, I want to address a recurring issue at many regionals. At GTR, it sounds like many teams don't like 1114 because they win every year, the same seems to hold true for teams like 148 and 217 at their "home" regionals. While not comparing 1771 to any of those those teams, we have done well at Peachtree for the last 4 years or so, and we are starting to see some of the same behavior from other teams there. I sit in the stands with the team during matches, so I don't hear any of what goes on in the queuing line or on the field, but the students do. They heard many comments such as " where did you buy that robot?", "how much did you have to pay someone to build that for you?", "how many mentors did it take to build that robot" and "It must be nice to have unlimited funds to build with." In addition, we played nine matches during quals, and every match we solicited the opposing alliance teams to balance with us on the coopertition bridge. Only three times did we get a team to attempt a balance, two of which were successful.

Having said that, let me tell you a little about team 1771. We have ~18 students on our roster, about six of which show up with any regularity, and four that were there every day, week in week out. The teacher sponsor is a sponsor in name only, to give school legitimacy to the team. For mentors, there is me (a mechanical engineer), and one college student mentor, studying mechanical engineering. So we had six people that showed up every day, four students and two mentors, with a few students that showed up with some regularity. I should mention at this point that we invited kids from a nearby school (Lanier High School) that plans to have a team next year to participate with us this year, and had several join our kids this year, one of whom was our human player.

This year we lost one of our larger sponsors, so our entire budget, not including entry fee, was ~$4,000. That budget includes all costs associated with the running the team: T-shirts, sponsor recognition, robot parts, etc. I don't know how much money other teams have, but I would not classify our team as rich, or having unlimited funds.

Finally, design and build. On kickoff day, we had a big turnout of students. One rule we have on kickoff day is that no-one can talk about robots. We spend the whole day talking about the game. How do we want to play the game? What are some good strategies for playing the game? What are obstacles to overcome? etc. Then we develop a strategy and a game plan. This is an interactive process, with input from all students and mentors. After the first day, we try to figure out how to execute that strategy, is it even possible? etc. We then prototype different aspects of the planned design. Often what we find out in this stage causes us to re-evaluate our game plan or strategy. Again, this is an iterative process, with input from all students and mentors. Once we finalize the design, the CAD work starts. We don't have many kids that can use CAD programs (CAD is not taught at our school), but one of the Lanier kids was well versed in Inventor, so he did the CAD for the frame, with some guidance. The rest of the CAD work was done by myself and the college mentor, with constant input from the kids.

While we didn't have a lot of money, we did have some great sponsors in the laser cutting field, one of whom cut out the wood frame for us, and the other cut out our aluminum parts.

Once we had the parts, plus a lot machining on our lathe and mill, we built the bot. Everyone that was there pitched in to build the robot. Yes, the mentors helped, but with only four students there, all the help we could get was required in order to get it built.

Edit: I forgot to mention programming. I used FORTRAN in college, so I know nothing about C++. 100% of the robot programming was done by a 17 year old senior. He had no outside help other than suggestions on algorithms and interpolation.

So, when someone makes a comment such as mentioned above, it is not fair to the students or the mentors, all of whom put in many hours every week for six to eight weeks to get to where we are. Comments like this just show the ignorance and prejudice of the person making the comment (prejudice means to pre-judge without facts, not racist)
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Last edited by martin417 : 03-20-2012 at 10:09 AM.
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Unread 03-20-2012, 10:14 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

Reading your story is certainly interesting. Since I'm not familiar with your team, I'll respond regarding teams I am more familiar with, which may or may not have dynamics similar to your own.

Personally, what can make me begin to dislike a team isn't budget, or even mentor experience, but how much the kids actually work on the robot.

I know you don't "buy" your robot, and I wasn't trying to imply that. What often bugs me is where mentors do much of the design work, and sponsors do much of the machining work. It really seems that if it shouldn't be impossible to built the robot you want to build with students. Why not teach more kids CAD? Why have your students machine all the parts in-house? To me, the design and machining experiences are one of the things that makes the FIRST experience truly valuable.

To me (and there certainly are a lot of differing opinions on Chief Delphi on this), the students are the ones that should be learning, and the best way to foster this learning is hands on. Ask yourself if they learn much from others making the design and others giving them parts. Is this a "lesser of two evils" that allows students more learning somewhere else? In my opinion, no. There is very rarely anything that needs to be done in the build process that a student cannot do.

This is my opinion, and I know it may be unpopular. You may even see it as part of the "haterade," and if so, I'm sorry. I only want to present my thoughts and provoke discussion, not anger.
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Unread 03-20-2012, 10:14 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

Even if a hypothetical team somewhere "buys that robot", "pays someone to build that for them", "uses how many mentors to build that robot" and "has unlimited funds to build with", and I say this with absolute seriousness,

WHO CARES?!??!!

Is the team celebrating Science and Technology?
Is the team creating Inspiration?
Is the team Recognizable?

If any or all of these answers is even a little bit "yes", then Mission Accomplished.

It's a learning process for teams and individuals to understand this. It took me about 4 years for it to sink through. I don't believe any team is 100% student built or 100% mentor built (for those that claim to be completely SB, who do you think created the KOP? It wasn't 15 year old kids!)

If I were in your shoes, I'd take those interactions - while quite unfortunate - as a compliment. Perhaps you could create a flyer outlining the different abilities of your robot, and highlight the team member who spearheaded each component. Invite the naysayers to your shop. Point out to them that students are in the pit working on the robot, not adults. Haters gonna hate; kill 'em with kindness.

Congrats on the ICA.
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Last edited by Taylor : 03-20-2012 at 10:17 AM.
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Unread 03-20-2012, 10:29 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

Quote:
Originally Posted by DampRobot View Post
Reading your story is certainly interesting. Since I'm not familiar with your team, I'll respond regarding teams I am more familiar with, which may or may not have dynamics similar to your own.

Personally, what can make me begin to dislike a team isn't budget, or even mentor experience, but how much the kids actually work on the robot.

I know you don't "buy" your robot, and I wasn't trying to imply that. What often bugs me is where mentors do much of the design work, and sponsors do much of the machining work. It really seems that if it shouldn't be impossible to built the robot you want to build with students. Why not teach more kids CAD? Why have your students machine all the parts in-house? To me, the design and machining experiences are one of the things that makes the FIRST experience truly valuable.

To me (and there certainly are a lot of differing opinions on Chief Delphi on this), the students are the ones that should be learning, and the best way to foster this learning is hands on. Ask yourself if they learn much from others making the design and others giving them parts. Is this a "lesser of two evils" that allows students more learning somewhere else? In my opinion, no. There is very rarely anything that needs to be done in the build process that a student cannot do.

This is my opinion, and I know it may be unpopular. You may even see it as part of the "haterade," and if so, I'm sorry. I only want to present my thoughts and provoke discussion, not anger.
While I agree that "students should be learning" (that is what a student does), I think you are misinformed as to the purpose of FIRST. We are not trying to teach kids to be an engineer or to design a robot, or even to machine parts. The purpose of FIRST is to INSPIRE kids, to make them take a look at engineering and technology as a career choice. If they learn something about CAD, or designing, or machining, that's just a bonus.

Using our model, how successful has our team been at that goal? Let's look at a few examples. The founder of the team graduated from MIT and is a grad student there now. Not the best example because he was destined to be an engineer from the day he was born. In 2009, 100% of the seniors on the team went on to college in engineering. I know of three that had never thought of engineering as a career before being involved with the team. By the way, all three of those happened to be girls. I consider that special because there are so few women that choose engineering as a career. In 2010, only one of the seniors did not choose engineering. She wanted to be a veterinarian. she has since thought about it and may change her major to biomedical engineering. Last year, we again had 100% of the seniors go into engineering. This year's crop are all planning to go into engineering. Every year, a high percentage of the team is female.

So is our model successful in inspiring kids to go into engineering and technology fields? I doubt you will find anyone who can honestly say that it is not.
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Unread 03-20-2012, 10:30 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

All I can say is that I'm deeply sorry to hear this. The worst thing to read in this post is that the high-school students are the ones getting attacked. If someone wants to say a robot is "mentor built" go after the mentors [Insert I'm a man, I'm 40 rant].

I feel a lot of the time people forget in the heat of battle that these are high school students who are trying to get inspired about engineering. Claiming that a group of students hard work isn't there own might be enough in some cases to lead them away from engineering.

In 2009, as the coach, my human player committed a penalty at championship. While I was getting chewed out by our alliance partners coach after the match, I stopped him and simply thanked him for coming after me and not freshman who made the mistake. It allowed me to calm the student down, have a laugh with him, then go to the practice field and work with him 1 on 1 to make sure the penalty wouldn't happen again.

I'm not going to lie, as a mentor, I advise my students not to get the robot painted. It usually ends up that we don't have enough time, but the advice is out of protection for the students. Once you have a professional looking machine, the "mentor built " card comes out.
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Unread 03-20-2012, 10:34 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

These comments are unfortunate, but jealousy does set in. When a group of students sees a robot that is absolutely an engineering spectacle and then look at their robot made of plywood and c-channel, they tend to get a little jealous. Little do they know, it doesn't matter what your robot looks like or even how your robot plays the game, if your robot functions the way it is supposed to function, it is an engineering success. But when you see a 'perfectly engineered' robot, you just want to believe that the team 'cheated' in a way. It is completely the wrong attitude, you should go to those people that make those comments and compliment their robot, ask them about their design process, give them tips and hints on how they could master your techniques.

As far as people not wanting to do the cooperition bridge with you, this could just be strategy. I know at Waterford, HOT was wanting to do the coopertition bridge every match...and they did it 11 our of 12 matches. The one they didn't get it on was a failed balance, not being rejected the opportunity. I don't know if it is just like this in Michigan, but the elite veteran teams are teams that we look up to. Being from Crevolution, a spin-off from the Thunderchickens, it will take quite some time before we can compete on their level year after year...but we will get there. We have adapted many of their practices and it shows, this year we took home our first ever banner. It took 4 years of biting at TC's ankles to finally get our own banner.

To the teams making those comments, I have 2 things to say:
1) Coopertition in every single match, you can't seed high without it.
2) Stop ridiculing teams and start learning from them instead.
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Unread 03-20-2012, 10:36 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

I think that in general people should worry more about what they are doing, and less about what others are doing. That goes for a lot more than FIRST.
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Unread 03-20-2012, 10:36 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

Martin,
This behavior really gets me steamed. How can any team know what another team does in the confines of their own shop/school/sponsor? Where does it say that students are the only ones that are part of the inspired masses? Where does it say that we should dislike a team because of our perception on how that team decides to best run it's program, inspire it's students or participate in FIRST? So let me state the facts one more time for effect...

We believe that our students get the most out of this program when we stand together and work side by side. We are not a 'rich' team nor do we have sponsors with deep pockets. We are simply an old team (1996) and have collected a lot over the past 17 years the same as any team that has been around for multiple years. We have learned over the years, mostly from others, how to best utilize our resources, design our robots, and compete with other teams. Above all, that formula changes all the time as our student population and mentor group changes. Our students this year are one of the best groups we have had and they seem to get better with each passing year. I consider them colleagues and will do whatever they ask. I am proud of them and every mentor that works on the team. I am also very proud of every team I see that builds a robot whether fully student built or not, mentored or not, rich or not. I have never seen a team that has not built on what they have accomplished each year and become more successful in our mission which is to inspire. My only regret is not being able to do more to keep teams from closing their program.

If you believe in your program and that what your team does/runs is best for your students regardless of your formula, then keep doing it!
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Unread 03-20-2012, 10:39 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

Very well put. And congratulations on doing so well with what you had to work with. Rather than being the object of scorn these other students should see you as a source if inspiration and information on how to achieve without a lot of resources. From what I have seen so far this year, I believe that most teams in our region have difficulty raising much more than about $4000 in most years, so learning how to make that money go as far as possible is really important.

But I have been struggling with a different aspect of the same problem. Our team has had mixed luck over the years both with funding, numbers of mentors and students, and support from the school. Right now we are really struggling as many teams are due to a loss of financial support. The students go to the regionals and sometimes fail to see how many teams are in the same boat. What they do see are the power house teams with scores of mentors, a fancy robot and pit, perhaps even their own trailer to hall all of their stuff around. They go to the pits of these teams and pick up brochures and business plans and they say this is what our team needs to do.

It is really great that there are teams like that out there, and I am glad that so many of them are so willing to share information and advice. However, it it is not always useful for our students to get too focused on what those power house teams are doing. Most teams will never have even one large sponsor. The math just does not work out. If we are to ever reach Dean's goal of a team in every high school it cant. There simply are not enough large companies or enough grant money out there for all of them to compete at that level.

So where does that leave us. Many teams will probably not know from year to year where the money will come from to pay for even one regional. But that is no reason obsess over getting some huge sponsor. Sure, try for the grants and do whatever you can to raise money, but never begrudge teams that have more funds. What we need to do is to always strive to do the best we can with whatever we have available. After all, it is the learning and experience that is most important. Hopefully one day our team will be as successful as yours in leveraging what we have. If that day comes, I hope we have found a way to leave the sort of sentiment your team has seen a long way behind us.
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Unread 03-20-2012, 10:39 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

It is unfortunate when events like this occur to teams, especially at your home regional where everyone should know you and how your team operates. However it does sound as if you have the right attitude knowing that the folks that spoke ill of your team are just drinking the haterade and trying to come up with reasons as to why they could not reach your level of play. Which are all false and baseless as you have explained.

Once again 1771 had a great robot this year, here is to a future where events like this do not take place and other teams aspire to be great rather than attacking the ones who are.
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Unread 03-20-2012, 10:41 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

I feel the need to jump in on this. There were definitely some teams floating around with some attitude.

For those of you out in CD land, 1311 and 1771 were on the same alliance and I'm glad to say, alliance captain. For years it has been our goal to catch up with 1771. I'm comfortable saying we finally got there.

Instead of sitting around whining, this team worked their butts off. Very often starting before the sun rises, and ending late at night.

About money. We stretch money till it screams. If you walk around a typical event, there is a ga-gillion dollars worth of parts being thrown around in boxes like the daily trash. You don't need a ton of money to be successful. You need a ton of resourcefulness. We count and inventory every part all the way down to the lock washer. It is a crime how many teams treat their parts and tools.

Resourceful - guess what one of the factors was in keeping this team #1 seeded ? TWO RUBBER BANDS.

If you look at our sponsor board, half or more is material or services "in-kind" which is as good as cash. Money is an on-going struggle. People think we are rich and we are definitely not. Straining every day.

The students own this program, hardware, software, and Chairman's in a HUGE way. My personal goal is to spend time this summer and learn how the students designed this robot in Inventor. We don't have single mentor on the team that knows how.

This link take you to our Chairman's video, but if you take the first 15 seconds, and substitute 'Chairman's' for 'Robot'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-4FA5RBWVg

A large point in this video is to work hard, think hard, and have fun doing it.
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Unread 03-20-2012, 10:45 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

Quote:
Originally Posted by Squeakypig View Post
When a group of students sees a robot that is absolutely an engineering spectacle and then look at their robot made of plywood and c-channel, they tend to get a little jealous.
The # 1 seed had a c-channel kitbot base.
If I'm not mistaken, the #2 seed had a plywood frame, but Martin can correct me if I'm wrong.
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Unread 03-20-2012, 10:49 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

Quote:
Originally Posted by DampRobot View Post
Why not teach more kids CAD? Why have your students machine all the parts in-house?
You bring up an interesting question. Are these the most valuable skills that students can generate through the FIRST program? Answer as you will, but I'd answer with a resounding "no."

I would much rather have my students designing parts, than building parts based on someone else's drawings. I'd rather have my parts manufactured at an outside facility, precision machined from a student's drawing, so that the students can see EXACTLY what they designed come to life. I'd rather have my students learn to prototype, design, think, and iterate. I'd rather have my students learn how to think like a software engineer, than how to punch Java code into a computer. It doesn't matter who builds the robot. It doesn't matter who drafts the robot. It matters that the students learn what it means to engineer a robot.

And one could argue that even that doesn't matter. The bottom line is, FIRST is about inspiration. It is about being inspired to go into STEM fields, not about showing off what you can do with your current skill set. It is about working with mentors, and being shown what's possible...what you didn't think could be done...what CAN be done. Good FIRST teams teach their students that they can do, what they didn't think they could, through mentors. Good FIRST teams even show members of other teams the amazing things that can be done with good engineering.

Without teams as strong as 1771, we wouldn't have a constant, dependable source of inspiring robots and teams. We wouldn't have anyone to look up to. Sure, there would still be an imbalance in the teams...some students would of course come into the program more prepared than others, and sometimes a bunch of particularly skilled students pair up and make something amazing. The team would probably fall back to mediocrety in a few years, since the students would have no incentive to stick around in a "student only" program, and we'd loose our source of inspiration. And, most of the haters would still find a reason to hate. If they find a reason to hate teams better than them now, they'd find a reason to hate later.

And the majority of us? We'd look like this. Trust me. I've been there. You don't want to.

Finally, a reminder. It is NEVER in anyone's best interest to hate on teams, because they may run themselves differently than yours, or value different things. Doing so only drags the program down.
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Unread 03-20-2012, 10:55 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

I always find it ironic that the teams vomit acid on the Elites time and time again but the Elites are the ones in their pits fixing their robots at the competition so they can get out there and play. They are often the teams that supply a good portion of the volunteers so the event happens as well. There's alot more to those team than just a robot and blue banners. All it takes sometimes is just more than a moment to look at not just what they are but who they are.
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Unread 03-20-2012, 11:00 AM
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Re: Sippin' on the haterade

Martin,

I'll start out by saying Haters gone' hate! Apparently this is becoming the price you pay for being a top team in a region.

Now with that little bit out of the way, I will say that I was actually standing around while some of these comments were said and was frankly shocked, considering the teams that were saying them. With us (2415) being in the same situation the past few years, I have been hearing more and more mindless banter directed at our team in addition to 1771 and until this year it hasn't bothered me. However, this year, multiple times have I heard that I have personally designed our entire robot. As much as I would like to take credit for it, this is a blatantly wrong comment and it irks me that other students and mentors alike don't believe that students are capable of designing our machine. It has been a strange year for me, I have never had a problem with people complaining about us having money and resources because that doesn't personally insult my students but once teams start insinuating that students aren't capable of what they clearly are, I take offense.

It seems many of these "haters" would be much better served to take the time to talk to my students who designed the majority of the robot and the same for all these teams that are traditionally in the crossfire for being "mentor built and designed". I can't remember a single person from any of these teams that were so eager to call us out actually taking the time to talk to myself or any of the students who were responsible for the majority of the build and design. It might just inspire some of these adults as to what they should expect from their students with a little bit of guidance and mentoring.

Finally, of course their are teams with insane budgets and that are fully mentor built and designed but WHO CARES. FIRST has never taken a stance on this subject because these teams still manage to inspire kids to go into the engineering field which is the entire point of the program.
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