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  #31   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 04-07-2013, 11:44 PM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

I have noticed a significant number of similar threads, and to be honest similar posts in this thread about how many of these comments are ungracious, unprofessional, and sometimes seem predatory and rude. And your probably right. Responding to the original poster from team 701, I am from team 159 and I was also at Colorado this weekend (which I think may be part of the reason why you are posting this). I must also say that we are coming off of a very tough regional, so I apologize in advance if this sounds overly harsh. I think what you must realize (for most of your teams if I'm honest) is that your are in the upper echelon of FIRST teams. Many robots at any given regional have trouble scoring any points at all. In our case, our robot only moved in 3 matches the entire weekend (yes that includes practice, all of which we attended). And yes we are a student built robot, and are almost fanatically proud about being so. While it sounds great in practice, and in principle I agree that going around accusing teams that their robot was built by their mentors is unprofessional and can be rude. But I just had the experience of having to look at 30 depressed and distraught faces about a regional where our robot barely moved. Do you want me to look at them and tell them that our robot lost because the other teams were just way better than us and all of their hard work and pain wasn't good enough? Sometimes to keep a group of kids to not just quit out of anger you have to console them. Sometimes that means telling them that those other teams were a bunch of mentor bots just to keep the peace. Is it the nicest thing to do? No. Is it the most gracious thing to do? No. But at that point it is one of the only ways to keep inspiring that group of kids. And as Libbey Kamen said, you cannot judge other teams for the way they inspire the kids. So in that case as the better team, the one who is having the more successful regional, be the better team and realize that it is very hard for a group of high school students to look at failure in the face, especially in a competition where the differences in performance can be so vast. Understand what you would feel like if some other team has a more beautiful, more successful robot even after you worked so hard and understand sometimes you just need to blow off some steam. And as for the smashing other robots, I can say that I am guilty of that as well. We smashed the robot of one of the best teams at our regional (in one of only 3 matches we functioned). I am proud to say that I cheered, because it was at that point it was the only real thing our robot had done. Was it perhaps a little callous? Yes. But they were still able to repair it before the next match, and they are now going to nationals, so honestly they can't complain too much. But that moment was what really defined our entire season of work, and if that cost another team some hard work and stress then so be it. Again, this may sound a little angry, and it is probably a little too soon after such a hard loss to see this clearly, but I still think that both sides of this issue need to be observed.
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Unread 04-08-2013, 12:08 AM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

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Originally Posted by flargen507 View Post
But I just had the experience of having to look at 30 depressed and distraught faces about a regional where our robot barely moved. Do you want me to look at them and tell them that our robot lost because the other teams were just way better than us and all of their hard work and pain wasn't good enough? Sometimes to keep a group of kids to not just quit out of anger you have to console them. Sometimes that means telling them that those other teams were a bunch of mentor bots just to keep the peace. Is it the nicest thing to do? No. Is it the most gracious thing to do? No. But at that point it is one of the only ways to keep inspiring that group of kids.
I have to disagree with this one hundred percent.

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Originally Posted by Jeffy View Post
Curious what teams do to discourage these counter-productive notions throughout a team.
I take it a little at a time as it comes. Clip from this weekend: I was at SVR and happened to be outside 254's pit when they came back from a match which had destroyed the belt inside one of their climber arms. They rolled the robot into the pit and four students immediately began to swap in a replacement. It was so cool to watch them in action, while a couple of mentors basically looked on.

Today I was talking to a parent. She began, "And if you noticed, when the Cheesy Poof's arm broke, it was all the mentors working on it." What do you say? "Actually, I was there when that happened - and it was all the students working on the 'bot."

This kind of reaction is a fundamental human tendency. There isn't a magic solution that cures it. I simply try to maintain and display a confidence that we could in fact be like them if we had the same level of passion and energy.
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Last edited by StevenB : 04-08-2013 at 12:09 AM. Reason: Fixed quote tag
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Unread 04-08-2013, 01:07 AM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

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Originally Posted by flargen507 View Post
Many robots at any given regional have trouble scoring any points at all.
Which is exactly why these teams need to be working alongside experienced mentors so that they don't end up with a barely functional robot. It takes a very exceptional group of students to build a competitive FRC robot without any guidance.
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Unread 04-08-2013, 06:37 AM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

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Originally Posted by flargen507 View Post
In our case, our robot only moved in 3 matches the entire weekend (yes that includes practice, all of which we attended). And yes we are a student built robot, and are almost fanatically proud about being so.
Such pride seems misplaced. "We built an ineffective machine, all by ourselves! Yay for us!" It sounds like you're describing a bad situation (robot isn't very good) with a simple solution (having mentors help).

Quote:
Sometimes to keep a group of kids to not just quit out of anger you have to console them. Sometimes that means telling them that those other teams were a bunch of mentor bots just to keep the peace. Is it the nicest thing to do? No. Is it the most gracious thing to do? No. But at that point it is one of the only ways to keep inspiring that group of kids.
If you can't find a way to "inspire" your kids other than denigrating others' good work, I am sad for your team. Why isn't it inspiring to see what the students on those other teams were able to do by partnering with their mentors? Why don't you encourage your kids to go talk with those other teams to get an idea of what really makes them great, instead of feeding them the fiction that they're only great because the robots were built by professionals?

Quote:
And as for the smashing other robots, I can say that I am guilty of that as well. We smashed the robot of one of the best teams at our regional (in one of only 3 matches we functioned). I am proud to say that I cheered, because it was at that point it was the only real thing our robot had done.
You don't have to be ashamed about "smashing" another robot, but it is definitely not something to be proud of.

[edit]Unless the smashing was intentional, in which case you should be ashamed, and you should apologize. If it were up to me, I'd issue each member of your team his or her own personal yellow card for such an action.[/edit]

Quote:
Was it perhaps a little callous? Yes. But they were still able to repair it before the next match, and they are now going to nationals, so honestly they can't complain too much. But that moment was what really defined our entire season of work, and if that cost another team some hard work and stress then so be it.
It looks like your team has some growing up to do. I hope it happens before you lose the opportunity to inspire your older students to feel good about bettering themselves instead of bringing others down.

Last edited by Alan Anderson : 04-08-2013 at 11:30 AM.
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Unread 04-08-2013, 08:56 AM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

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Originally Posted by flargen507 View Post
In our case, our robot only moved in 3 matches the entire weekend (yes that includes practice, all of which we attended). And yes we are a student built robot, and are almost fanatically proud about being so. While it sounds great in practice, and in principle I agree that going around accusing teams that their robot was built by their mentors is unprofessional and can be rude. But I just had the experience of having to look at 30 depressed and distraught faces about a regional where our robot barely moved. Do you want me to look at them and tell them that our robot lost because the other teams were just way better than us and all of their hard work and pain wasn't good enough? Sometimes to keep a group of kids to not just quit out of anger you have to console them. Sometimes that means telling them that those other teams were a bunch of mentor bots just to keep the peace. Is it the nicest thing to do? No. Is it the most gracious thing to do? No. But at that point it is one of the only ways to keep inspiring that group of kids...We smashed the robot of one of the best teams at our regional (in one of only 3 matches we functioned). I am proud to say that I cheered, because it was at that point it was the only real thing our robot had done.
Just a question: did you ask for help? (If not, why not? If so, what happened?)
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Unread 04-08-2013, 09:48 AM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

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Originally Posted by flargen507 View Post
I have noticed a significant number of similar threads, and to be honest similar posts in this thread about how many of these comments are ungracious, unprofessional, and sometimes seem predatory and rude. And your probably right. Responding to the original poster from team 701, I am from team 159 and I was also at Colorado this weekend (which I think may be part of the reason why you are posting this). I must also say that we are coming off of a very tough regional, so I apologize in advance if this sounds overly harsh. I think what you must realize (for most of your teams if I'm honest) is that your are in the upper echelon of FIRST teams. Many robots at any given regional have trouble scoring any points at all. In our case, our robot only moved in 3 matches the entire weekend (yes that includes practice, all of which we attended). And yes we are a student built robot, and are almost fanatically proud about being so. While it sounds great in practice, and in principle I agree that going around accusing teams that their robot was built by their mentors is unprofessional and can be rude. But I just had the experience of having to look at 30 depressed and distraught faces about a regional where our robot barely moved. Do you want me to look at them and tell them that our robot lost because the other teams were just way better than us and all of their hard work and pain wasn't good enough? Sometimes to keep a group of kids to not just quit out of anger you have to console them. Sometimes that means telling them that those other teams were a bunch of mentor bots just to keep the peace. Is it the nicest thing to do? No. Is it the most gracious thing to do? No. But at that point it is one of the only ways to keep inspiring that group of kids. And as Libbey Kamen said, you cannot judge other teams for the way they inspire the kids. So in that case as the better team, the one who is having the more successful regional, be the better team and realize that it is very hard for a group of high school students to look at failure in the face, especially in a competition where the differences in performance can be so vast. Understand what you would feel like if some other team has a more beautiful, more successful robot even after you worked so hard and understand sometimes you just need to blow off some steam. And as for the smashing other robots, I can say that I am guilty of that as well. We smashed the robot of one of the best teams at our regional (in one of only 3 matches we functioned). I am proud to say that I cheered, because it was at that point it was the only real thing our robot had done. Was it perhaps a little callous? Yes. But they were still able to repair it before the next match, and they are now going to nationals, so honestly they can't complain too much. But that moment was what really defined our entire season of work, and if that cost another team some hard work and stress then so be it. Again, this may sound a little angry, and it is probably a little too soon after such a hard loss to see this clearly, but I still think that both sides of this issue need to be observed.
Holy crap. This is NOT the sort of attitude I expect from a 4 time Regional Chairman's Award winning team (with an EI to boot). Also, 159 has been at championship each year from 1998 to 2011.

I can't say for sure if you were part of 159 for all this time, or joined more recently (say, in 2012), but wow.

You need a really big attitude check, and to take a serious look at the lessons you are (intentionally, or unintentionally) teaching the students in your care.
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Unread 04-08-2013, 10:14 AM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

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Originally Posted by flargen507 View Post
But I just had the experience of having to look at 30 depressed and distraught faces about a regional where our robot barely moved.
I've had experiences like this first hand, both as a mentor and a student and it is what drives me to work to the point of exhaustion (as a mentor) with the hope that I can prevent it from ever happening again.

I do not want to debate the mentor vs student built topic here, but I can assure you that many mentors that assist in the construction of their teams robot do it so that the students on the team can feel as successful as possible. There is nothing worse than watching a student pour their heart and soul into a project just to watch it fail in a high profile environment and knowing that some little thing could have been done to make that successful.
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Unread 04-08-2013, 10:24 AM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

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Originally Posted by Alan Anderson View Post
If you can't find a way to "inspire" your kids other than denigrating others' good work, I am sad for your team. Why isn't it inspiring to see what the students on those other teams were able to do by partnering with their mentors? Why don't you encourage your kids to go talk with those other teams to get an idea of what really makes them great, instead of feeding them the fiction that they're only great because the robots were built by professionals?
...
You don't have to be ashamed about "smashing" another robot, but it is definitely not something to be proud of.

Alan, I would argue that you SHOULD be ashamed of "smashing" another robot. Senseless destruction of material is not something we should tolerate. You can play effective defense without damaging the other robots. (Arguably, you can play MORE effective defense without damaging them). As someone who has had our robot banged around a fair bit this year I can say that teams that make dirty hits with the intent of doing damage just irk me.


Regarding the other part I quoted. I'm going to channel my inner IKE for a bit and recommend that the poster read a book called Tribal Leadership. There's an interesting bit in it about about the language used by groups in various stages. Sounds like the person you quoted is in the "I'm great (and you're not)" stage. I suggest they observe other teams and how they operate. Emulate them and see if we can realize that we can all be great.
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Unread 04-08-2013, 11:35 AM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

You know, I had written a long reply to this with all sorts of pointed comments about the flawed logic here. But, when I tried to preview it, I lost it. This was probably for the best.

I'll say that it sure seems like flargen507 sees FIRST as a zero sum game. That one team's success is due to another team's failure. And, that justifies teaching high school kids that there's no reason to improve because those better "mentor bots" are somehow illegitimate.

I've been there. I've been with the team when their robot didn't move AT ALL for a regional. I've been there with the team that poured their heart and soul into their robot and didn't get to play on Saturday afternoon. But, as they have reminded me, I told them that they did hard work, they learned, and they made progress to being a better team. That's what really counts.

And, for the remainder of my comments, I refer you to JVN:

http://blog.iamjvn.com/2011/02/open-...to-haters.html
http://blog.iamjvn.com/2011/03/anoth...re-change.html
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Last edited by jee7s : 04-08-2013 at 12:25 PM.
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Unread 04-08-2013, 11:40 AM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

I have been involved with teams that can trace their greatest successes by learning from glaring failures that resulted in ineffective robots. Let's try working on self-evaluation and suggesting a positive, constant pursuit of the impossible goal of perfection and not fighting over the same pound of flesh that has been picked at by the hivemind for years.
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Unread 04-08-2013, 12:06 PM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

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Originally Posted by PayneTrain View Post
I have been involved with teams that can trace their greatest successes by learning from glaring failures that resulted in ineffective robots. Let's try working on self-evaluation and suggesting a positive, constant pursuit of the impossible goal of perfection and not fighting over the same pound of flesh that has been picked at by the hivemind for years.
Same here. 3929's robots so far have been comparative failures to what the team has been trying to achieve. The same can be said for 2495's past robots. 3929's students, since the team's inception, have always been taught to look up to those better than them and to achieve greatness from within, not bring others down. They had what I could call a 90% student designed robot that did not perform well at their first event this season. However, these kids aren't taught to give up and point fingers to other teams for having better machines, they're taught to correct issues and improve for the next event. At their second event they did comparatively well and were even semifinalists. 2495's students in the past have had some sort of attitude about "better" teams, but all it takes is someone to show them that it is better to fix things in your own team than to pick out what you think are flaws in another.

I think that if you are sheltering students with the notion that teams around them have unfair advantages, you are underestimating the resolve of a truly competitive student. Don't babysit students and tell them there's nothing wrong with how things went down, mentors and students all need criticism to learn. In a few years, 3929's students and mentors will have learned from mistakes and will look to other teams to grab positive ideals from others to make themselves better. In the end, I don't mind too much who has what amount of involvement in the production of a machine, it is just a machine, I do care that the mentors are teaching their students about the desire to be better by correcting flaws within the team.
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Unread 04-08-2013, 12:21 PM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

I should probably reply to this outpouring of apparent anger at my previous post. I want you all to understand something. I don't like hurting other teams. I do not try to say that all the other teams who are better than us are evil mentor bots who cheat their way through the competition. And I do not condone the unerring right to destroy others' hard work. That being said, I still think that what I said was accurate and not unFIRST-like. Coming off a tough loss, I try to console people by saying that we did do a good job, and they worked hard, and we should strive to beat that team next year. That can lead to some villianization. It's not intentional, but that's what can come up. I would also like to say that I in no way represent the rest of 159, who may disagree with my opinions. I simply think that teams who are in the situation the original poster described should try to be understanding of the hardships other teams undergo. The situation is usually a lot more complicated than it appears. I do regret the amount of anger that came out in that last post, as I said it was probably a bad time to pick up this thread. But I still think that some of those principles are sound and that I do the best I can to motivate and inspire the kids on my team. For those of you who are angry about the way I handled the situation, please let me know how you think I should handle it, and I will take it under serious consideration. I am by no means the greatest individual, but I do try to improve myself. That being said, I encourage all of you to try and understand the situation I am coming from, and at least give my point some thought, even if you don't agree with it.
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Unread 04-08-2013, 12:32 PM
jee7s jee7s is offline
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

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Originally Posted by flargen507 View Post
I do regret the amount of anger that came out in that last post, as I said it was probably a bad time to pick up this thread.
There's that great count-to-ten rule that works here. And, by the way, I think we all feel frustration or disappointment at situations you describe. It's a matter of how you handle those emotions that defines your attitude.

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Originally Posted by flargen507 View Post
For those of you who are angry about the way I handled the situation, please let me know how you think I should handle it, and I will take it under serious consideration.
I wouldn't assign "angry" as the emotion associated with my response. Based on what I saw from other posters, I think it's more a matter of concern. Concern for you that this attitude is what you have taken on. Concern for your team and the message they are receiving. And, concern for FIRST and the communication of the culture that we are trying to engender.

Breaking the mold of the beat your opponent into the ground attitude that pervades many sporting environments is a daunting task. This is a good data point for situations to watch out for and intervene in, if such intervention is possible.
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Unread 04-08-2013, 12:36 PM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

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Originally Posted by flargen507 View Post
While it sounds great in practice, and in principle I agree that going around accusing teams that their robot was built by their mentors is unprofessional and can be rude. But I just had the experience of having to look at 30 depressed and distraught faces about a regional where our robot barely moved. Do you want me to look at them and tell them that our robot lost because the other teams were just way better than us and all of their hard work and pain wasn't good enough? Sometimes to keep a group of kids to not just quit out of anger you have to console them. Sometimes that means telling them that those other teams were a bunch of mentor bots just to keep the peace. Is it the nicest thing to do? No. Is it the most gracious thing to do? No. But at that point it is one of the only ways to keep inspiring that group of kids.
I've said this John Abele quote many times, but I'll repeat it here since it's especially poignant. "There are two ways to compete in this world, you can rise above your opponents, or you can drag them down". I don't see how there's anything to be gained by criticizing your opponents to your students, and lying to them about how their robots were built. Take a look at this video where I talk about ethical competition and how it applies to young people.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...kEVgQ#t=27 5s (Starts at 4:34, becomes super relevant at 7:08)

What is there to be gained by discrediting your opponent? There are two types of people in this world. Those who are inspired be excellence, and those who are put off by it. Those who see excellence and are inspired by it are the ones who will eventually achieve it. Those who see excellence and feel the need to discredit it in effort to shield themselves from their own shortcomings are the ones who will have an almost impossible time trying to improve themselves.

You are right, no one is in any position to judge how you choose to inspire your team. I just hope that you can see that there may be some flaws in the path you're choosing.
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Unread 04-08-2013, 12:38 PM
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Re: UNgracious UNprofessionalism

Quote:
Originally Posted by flargen50
Do you want me to look at them and tell them that our robot lost because the other teams were just way better than us and all of their hard work and pain wasn't good enough? Sometimes to keep a group of kids to not just quit out of anger you have to console them. Sometimes that means telling them that those other teams were a bunch of mentor bots just to keep the peace.
Quote:
Originally Posted by flargen507 View Post
For those of you who are angry about the way I handled the situation, please let me know how you think I should handle it, and I will take it under serious consideration.
Don't lie to your students. Your robot lost because the other teams WERE better than you and your team's work wasn't good enough. Full stop.

That sucks, but that's how it goes sometimes. You are doing the kids on your team a tremendous disservice by lying to them and you're minimizing the hard work of others at the same time. This is a lousy attitude.

We're a good team and we had a bad season. I had to deal with some pretty upset kids after things ended for us at our second event, but I did the best I could to explain that we still accomplished a lot of good and the only reason we didn't go further and do better was because we got some things wrong. It was our fault.

These kids are a few years away from living and working in a real world where nobody is going to lie to them to protect their feelings and, sometimes, no matter how hard they work at something, someone is going to do it better. When we lose; when we have a bad time at things on the field, we can choose to blame that on others or we can use that experience to teach our students to understand what went wrong and to use that knowledge in the future to make things for us and for others better than they are today.
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