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  #16   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 06-10-2010, 11:25 AM
Andrew Schreiber Andrew Schreiber is offline
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

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Originally Posted by MGoelz View Post
Another interesting thing about FIRST is that if you're around it long enough, you don't really need a degree. If you put someone that has been in FIRST ten years next to the brightest engineer from a sponsoring company and ask for ideas for a robot, I can almost guarantee that the person with the most FIRST experience will have the better and more feasible idea. FIRST is its own little wonderful world of robots and engineering and networking, where oftentimes experience outweighs technical expertise.
Be careful with this line of thinking. Any one can come up with an idea but often times it is the real engineers who get it to work. (Not taking anything away from non-engineers but belittling the work an engineer went through to get their title irks me)
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Unread 06-10-2010, 12:06 PM
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

The situation on my team is a slightly different from the norm since the majority of our mentors are college students who had done FIRST as high schoolers and are currently enrolled in engineering at the University of Michigan.

This considered, our mentor base is (and has been for the last two years) divided into the following: mentors and senior mentors. The mentors, who are generally first- or second-years on the team and may still be getting accustomed to the busy schedules of college, focus on technical aspects. The senior mentors, on the other hand, focus on both technical and non-technical aspects.

For us, the mentor structure has helped to show the students that they can get the best of more than one world. I have noticed that students who had been focused on the technical aspect of FIRST before are now doing things such as organizing service events, running demos, taking care of media, and giving tours to VIPs at events in addition to their designing and building.
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Unread 06-10-2010, 12:50 PM
JaneYoung JaneYoung is offline
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

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Originally Posted by Andrew Schreiber View Post
(Not taking anything away from non-engineers but belittling the work an engineer went through to get their title irks me)
I'd switch out the word, title, for degree or degrees. There has just been a post in this thread about college mentors who lead teams. They don't have their degrees and are not engineers but they are leading teams. That doesn't belittle anyone.

--
One attitude that I've encountered over many years of talking with NEMS and technical mentors is the food side of things. "If the NEMS didn't feed us, we'd starve", kind of thing. That is a 'volunteer' to me; that is not a NEM. Where it can become a NEM process is if the person mentors others in how to feed a team. Otherwise, it is a volunteer finding a way to feed a team.

There are so many aspects to the non-technical sides of the team that must be handled well to have sustainability and consistency. The work that is done by the NEMS is, indeed, valuable. It has been mentioned in this thread that there are technical mentors and engineers who have excellent skill sets in the non-engineering aspects of running the team and they apply those skill sets. This is good as long as a technical mentor is not taking away from the robot side of things to devote time to the organizational and business side of things or working with the awards sub-team. Too many times you see this and you see the mentors stretching themselves too thin. If it is out of necessity because there are not other mentors available then that is one thing. If it is because the technical mentors/engineers want to do the NEM work, that is another thing. If it is because the technical mentors/engineers want to control every aspect of the whole team - that is quite another. Recognizing the value of the work done by the NEMs and seeking NEMS to help the team is just as important as seeking out engineers and technical mentors to work with the team. Then, the real fun begins with everyone learning to work together. We can see the success of achieving this in many of our Hall Of Fame teams.

Jane
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Unread 06-10-2010, 01:33 PM
Andrew Schreiber Andrew Schreiber is offline
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

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I'd switch out the word, title, for degree or degrees. There has just been a post in this thread about college mentors who lead teams. They don't have their degrees and are not engineers but they are leading teams. That doesn't belittle anyone.
Nope, it is a title. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_Engineer A degree does not make you an engineer. My friend for example, is not an engineer, he is a person who holds a BS in Electrical Engineering.

In some places it is actually illegal to call yourself an Engineer without having met certain requirements. As one of those College Students helping to run a team (come by 397 and see how many people over the age of 24 are involved in our team) I have no problem admitting I am not an Engineer yet. I still hold that as a goal of mine. (Except CS majors cannot become PEs in the state of Michigan)
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Unread 06-10-2010, 01:57 PM
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

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Originally Posted by MGoelz View Post
Another interesting thing about FIRST is that if you're around it long enough, you don't really need to have an engineering degree to understand how to design and build a robot. If you put someone that has been in FIRST ten years next to the brightest engineer from a sponsoring company and ask for ideas for a robot, I can almost guarantee that the person with the most FIRST experience will have the better and more feasible idea.

LOL!

I have lots of FIRST experience. Almost 10 years. I've worked with teams, hung out with some really cool VIPs, given countless presentations, helped run events, done thousands of hi fives, met lots and lots of incredible volunteers, and best of all, have interacted with thousands of students.

I know almost nothing about building a robot.

I leave that to the technical mentors.

What drew me into FIRST and kept me engaged was problem-solving, teamwork and partnerships.

But years ago Kathie and I (and another mentor named Cheryl) started talking about all the work we were doing on a team and it had nothing to do with building a robot. In one conversation we made up the word "non-engineering" mentor to describe what we were doing (it was a joke - never meant it to stick) and NEMO was launched. It's fun to see how this label has stuck in the FIRST world and to meet all the great mentors who play these important roles on the teams.
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Unread 06-10-2010, 01:58 PM
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

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Originally Posted by Andrew Schreiber View Post
Be careful with this line of thinking. Any one can come up with an idea but often times it is the real engineers who get it to work. (Not taking anything away from non-engineers but belittling the work an engineer went through to get their title irks me)

Note that I did not give any credit to non-engineers for making something work. I simply was talking about them still being able to contribute to the process despite their lack of expertise. I would never belittle anyone or their work.
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Unread 06-10-2010, 02:40 PM
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

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A degree does not make you an engineer. My friend for example, is not an engineer, he is a person who holds a BS in Electrical Engineering. In some places it is actually illegal to call yourself an Engineer without having met certain requirements.
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Unread 06-10-2010, 02:53 PM
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

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One attitude that I've encountered over many years of talking with NEMS and technical mentors is the food side of things. "If the NEMS didn't feed us, we'd starve", kind of thing. That is a 'volunteer' to me; that is not a NEM. Where it can become a NEM process is if the person mentors others in how to feed a team. Otherwise, it is a volunteer finding a way to feed a team.

I agree completely. I appreciate every thing that volunteers do, however it is important to draw this distinction. A Non-engineering mentor should work with the students interested in those fields teaching them about the business, logistics, and marketing (I am sure I am missing plenty that NEMs do) aspects of the team. By the same definition, an engineer who is not working to mentor the students is not a mentor he/she is a volunteer. It doesn't matter if you write a thousand lines of code for a robot, if you didn't teach and/or inspire the HS students as you did it then you are not a mentor.
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Unread 06-10-2010, 04:08 PM
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

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One attitude that I've encountered over many years of talking with NEMS and technical mentors is the food side of things. "If the NEMS didn't feed us, we'd starve", kind of thing. That is a 'volunteer' to me; that is not a NEM. Where it can become a NEM process is if the person mentors others in how to feed a team. Otherwise, it is a volunteer finding a way to feed a team.
I must meditate on this paragraph, and I must remember to use what it says in future discussions. It presents succinctly a way to resolve a vague uneasiness about team organization that's been nagging at me for a couple of years.
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Unread 06-10-2010, 04:37 PM
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

Thank you, Alan and James. It is a simple thought which reflects a simple truth.

One of the first threads that caught my attention when I was discovering Chief Delphi is this thread started by JVN. It discusses the value of mentoring and explores what that means.

It is a thread that I search for and study in times of frustration and struggle as a NEM in a world of people who don't often understand what NEMs are and the opportunities they are filled with. This includes the FIRST world.

Jane
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Unread 06-10-2010, 07:55 PM
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

I'll give a little view of the other side of the equation:

The kids who don't understand how hard it is to run a team sometimes mock and don't respect the NEMs, they don't see the purpose of NEMs in a robotics team. It might be a matter of maturity too and respecting those who voluntarily give up their time for you.

Those of us who do know what it takes to run a team know that whenever anyone offers help, no matter what department that is, take it.

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Unread 06-10-2010, 09:10 PM
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

I know on our team at least, we have no shortage of mentors willing to help lead a prototype build or offer their opinion on some technical aspect of the robot. However, we have a massive shortage on people who are willing to lead some of the "less glamorous" aspects of the team. I would trade a technical mentor for a NEM any day of the week (for our team at least)

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Unread 06-10-2010, 09:49 PM
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

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One attitude that I've encountered over many years of talking with NEMS and technical mentors is the food side of things. "If the NEMS didn't feed us, we'd starve", kind of thing. That is a 'volunteer' to me; that is not a NEM. Where it can become a NEM process is if the person mentors others in how to feed a team. Otherwise, it is a volunteer finding a way to feed a team. Where it can become a NEM process is if the person mentors others in how to feed a team.
Good point. I said something very similar to this* about our (sadly) only current NEM. That phrasing actually undervalues what she does. She, along with a few other quasi-NEMS, actually runs much of our logistics and organization. (We do have some "pure" volunteers that actually just bring in food, transport kids, etc, not that they're less valuable.) This may not sound much like mentoring, and no, she isn't currently teaching anyone specifically on how to feed or even organize us--though that's more of a recruitment problem on our part. The teaching comes in with educating students on the importance of these acts. (Well, maybe the food is self-explanatory, especially for us.) Or as Akash put it, she's working to eliminate this:
Quote:
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...The kids who don't understand how hard it is to run a team sometimes mock and don't respect the NEMs, they don't see the purpose of NEMs in a robotics team...
Personally, I consider this mentoring--very good mentoring at that. And it's true, that may well be the most important part of what she does (though food is still way up there ). Thanks for pointing that out, I'll try to explain it that way from now on.

*I don't know if you were referring to me, but you're right, it wasn't what I meant.

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I know on our team at least, we have no shortage of mentors willing to help lead a prototype build or offer their opinion on some technical aspect of the robot. However, we have a massive shortage on people who are willing to lead some of the "less glamorous" aspects of the team.
We seem to have a bit of the same problem. For us at least, I don't know if it's because they're less glamorous (I'd hope we're getting good at dispelling that) or simply because we're way better at recruiting technical mentors, but it is a big issue we're trying to correct. For the successful NEM teams out there, how do you get around this? Or is it more about happening into the right people? Or am I bringing this thread to OT?
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Unread 06-11-2010, 08:23 AM
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

From Merrian-Webster:

Main Entry: men·tor
Pronunciation: \ˈmen-ˌtȯr, -tər\
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, from Greek Mentōr
Date: 1616
1 capitalized : a friend of Odysseus entrusted with the education of Odysseus' son Telemachus
2 a : a trusted counselor or guide b : tutor, coach

To me, a mentor is someone who interacts with the students on the team. Whether that interaction is showing them how to build a robot, how to submit an award, how to organize a dinner, how to act graciously towards others, or tutoring Odysseus's son, you are still mentoring.

Part of the NEM/EM dichotomy is expressed in the description of the WFA:

"The Woodie Flowers Award celebrates effective communication in the art and science of engineering and design. Dr. William Murphy founded this prestigious award in 1996 to recognize mentors who lead, inspire and empower using excellent communication skills."

I think they are trying to expand the award to NEMs, but still can't quite get away from the engineering mindset.
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Unread 06-11-2010, 08:31 AM
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Re: Engineering Mentors Attitude/Role Towards Their NEM Counterparts

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I think they are trying to expand the award to NEMs, but still can't quite get away from the engineering mindset.
I’ve given a lot of thought to the role of the NEM on a FIRST team (especially a FRC team). I stepped into the role out of sheer necessity almost 10 years ago. I certainly wasn’t planning on it. At that time I could find few resources about the organizational and business side of running a team. There seemed to be some teams doing a pretty good job of it, but FRC had almost no information to share.

The Chief Delphi forums were a lifesaver.

Each year the Competition manual gets a little better at outlining some suggested “NEM” tasks, and most years FRC has also had a Handbook. http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles...FRC%20team.pdf

We started NEMO as a support group, but also as a clearinghouse for some simple “how-to” papers, based on lessons learned from the people who were already doing the job. I’ve met many folks who could be great resources for FIRST - including an entrepreneur who has written a how-to practical guide for starting a business (we were judging partners at a Regional).

I spent 5 years passing suggestions and resources up to HQ, including helping with many drafts of the Handbook and the Mentor Resources Library, and I still feel the same way: if the mission really is to change the culture and not just build robots - a bit more attention needs to be paid to the organizational and business side of running a team.

Currently there are only two awards given out to recognize volunteers at the Regionals - the Volunteer of the Year (usually given out based on work on an event level) and the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award.

And most NEMs are not eligible for the WFFA.

It might be time for a culture change within the organization.
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FIRST Senior Mentor: Nov. 2004 to June 2009: "Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again"
This is How I Work: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/media/papers/2862
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