17 y/o Mentor?

I was invited to be a mentor on my team recently, but on the first page of TIMS it says you must be 18 or older to continue registering. I am 17, turning 18 next year after the build season. I’ve graduated high school and am starting college in two weeks, and we all know first year college students mentor. Has anyone been in this situation before? Is there any way I can register on TIMS at 17? Or do I have to wait until next year?

I apologize if this has been addressed before, I did a quick search and didn’t see anything. Thank you for your help!

How much after build season do you turn 18 (like, after competitions)?

Myself, I turned 18 a few days before Stop Build Day my first year of college, and signed up on TIMS at that point (having mentored the whole season until then).

This year, a team near me had a first-year student who was 17 the entire time - I think he just signed up on STIMS even though he was in college. (not saying this is the best way)

I turn 18 in March, right in the middle of districts :rolleyes: I hadn’t thought of just mentoring unregistered, it’s something I’ll think about.

Good for you for wanting to stay involved with FIRST and help your team. A warning, though, there are plenty of college students who have found mentoring a team in a serious (multiple times a week) way wasn’t good for their mental health or grades. You’ll be plenty busy adjusting to college where the workload will likely be significantly higher than high school and the time professors spend caring about you is less. The work on your FIRST team will likely be FAR more interesting than some of the intro classes you’ll be taking. That can equal trouble. Every person and team is different, just make sure you have your priorities straight. This thread discusses this in detail.

I would love to have you inspect at an event or two. Volunteering is a great way to stay involved, but on a more limited timescale, and as a plus, you meet a lot of the other event staff which is incredibly helpful as a mentor to have really good POCs.

Celia, I believe you mentioned somewhere you’re coming to UMich? There’s a ton you can do to stay in FIRST without mentoring a team. We’ve started a student org here (FAMNM/FIRST Alumni and Mentors Network at Michigan) to support local teams and we’ll be holding workshops and events including a kickoff this January, and we’d be thrilled to have you help out.

If you are specifically interested in mentoring, there’s about a dozen teams within the vicinity of Ann Arbor (obviously a much nicer commute), plus a program that provides a workspace and college mentors to Detroit-area teams. I know you may feel a special tug to keep working with your team, but I think you’ll find it beneficial to your personal development to branch out into a new team. I know I did.

Either way, make sure to come to a FAMNM meeting (I can PM you the details if you’re interested) and we can talk.

My knee-jerk reaction: don’t do it.

I can’t judge whether you have the discipline to keep your team affiliation from interfering with your responsibilities in college, so I won’t list that as a reason. Even without it, I still have several points to make.

First, as a beginning college student you probably don’t yet have the experience to be a true mentor.

Second, as someone the same age as some of the team’s students, you risk not being able to have an appropriate perspective when required.

Third, if you slide directly from being a student member to a non-student member without a significant intervening event or a season away from the team, you’re setting yourself up to be less of a mentor and more of a hanger-on.

If you do want to keep ties to your team and the FRC community after you graduate high school, consider just being a volunteer and not an official mentor. Don’t take on any leadership roles with the team. Don’t expect to be given any real authority. Instead of being sad about losing the experience of being an FRC team member, embrace the opportunity for new experiences and significant personal growth.

Or just do what you want to do; that’s good too.

I was a 17 year old “mentor”. I think I just didn’t fill out anything on TIMS, and I did a paper consent form for events and stuff. It was awhile ago though.

If you’re gonna do it, I would try and take a bit more of a backseat role your first year, as you learn how the team works and how to actually be a mentor. You learn more on your second team than you’d ever expect, it’s too easy to just become a big student. It’s also too easy to fall behind in college or deprive yourself of college experiences (clubs, friends, etc).

This might be an issue depending on your role and how scrupulously your team follows the bill of materials rules. I haven’t read the rules for a specific year with this situation in mind, but IIRC the general rule is that student team member and mentor labor are “free”, but labor from other sources must be charged on the BoM, even if volunteered/donated.

I’m going to make the possibly contentious statement that this is one of those situations where strict adherence to the rule would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. This clearly isn’t what that rule was meant to do.

I am mentored by individuals younger than 18 all the time.

This is an absurd interpretation of the rule, and anyone attempting to enforce this would be laughed out of the inspection station. Neither the letter nor the spirit of the rule suggests that you’re supposed to charge for labor in this circumstance.

Or if anyone asks, be a “sponsor” who wishes to remain anonymous.


I intentionally cited aggressive rules interpretation within Celia’s team, not by inspectors. After all, unless the team presents a work log of everyone who touched the robot, how could an inspector challenge the BoM based on labor provided by a non-student, non-mentor, especially if provided within the team’s build space? This is a clinical example of an unenforceable rule. We **do **actually have this sort of converation on our team from time to time. There have been cases where we decided to internally enforce an unenforceable rule, and cases where we have decided that we were OK within the spirit, if not the letter, of the rules. I wasn’t trying to say it was wrong, just that a pernickety, prudish, or offended mentor or member of the team could challenge it.

On the other hand, we do use the most severe interpretation of this same rule to induce our student members and mentors to sign up before start build day in STIMS or TIMS, as appropriate.

Not enough if you read the rules carefully enough (emphasis mine):

I won’t say mentored, because that implies an ongoing, directional relationship, but I have absolutely learned many specific things from or through my children, the students I mentor, and other children, including a six-year old whom I saw for less than two minutes twenty years ago; in one word he gave me the best sermon of my life (PM if you want details). It was a few years before that that I learned what I eventually came to internally call “The Socratic Truth”: the best way to gain deep knowledge about anything is to do it, then teach it to someone else.

Not if the normally charged rate is $0.00…and I’m not so sure the OP has ever charged to be a mentor, so the normal rate can’t be challenged. Also, FIRST wants to be as inclusive as possible, so I’m not so sure why you’re making this such an issue.

Note that in the rules, there is no definition for “members of the team”. FIRST only requires two mentors to register via TIMS - the primary and secondary contacts. FIRST only requires signed release forms (either paper or digital) from mentors that attend a FIRST event (regional, district, champs, kickoff). It is entirely possible to be a mentor for a team without doing any of this!. In fact, my team has had a mentor for a couple of years now that never bothered to register in TIMS, as it’s not required, and has never filled out a release form as he’s never attended an event (work conflict she can’t get out of). He still followed all required rules and procedures to join the team, though!

The way the rule can and should be unforced is through spot checking at the competition. If an inspector sees something that was beautifully designed and CNC’d, they can ask the students where they had it made - the answer should clearly define what appears on the BOM.

My advice to OP:

Take a year off to mentor a different team or volunteer with your state’s FRC program as a whole. The larger programs always need volunteers. FLL and FTC are also options to volunteer for. Come back and visit your team infrequently to see how they are doing without you (Hopefully good) and then come back in a year with a completely different perspective. Do you have to listen to me? No.

My advice to the rest of you. Read the manual:

Mostly as an off-season RTM exercise. Case in point:

The more times you go through the rules, the more things you learn about them. FWIW, our team has always asked all mentors to enroll in TIMS. I don’t think you get as much e-mail as the primary and secondary contacts, but there’s a lot of good info that comes that way to other mentors as well.

If you recall, there was an extensive debate last build season about what was free labor. I believe the term “Cheese Cake” was mentioned extensively. My interpretation of the upshot was if you are remotely connected to First, your labor can be counted as free. As others have mentioned the mentor definition is pretty loose.

The current rules on for the BOM so convoluted, it should take a major fail to hold the inspection. YLRIMV (your lead robot inspector may vary)