Alumni Mentoring a rookie team... advice?

I am a college sophomore who was on an experienced FRC team for 3 years (10+ years old team). I’ve been helping with my old team for the last 6 months, but have recently decided to help with a brand new team closer to my university.

I’m looking for advice on how to transition and how to best help my new team succeed in their rookie year, however that might look for them.

Thanks in advance,

Chloe

I was in your exact situation last year.

The biggest thing you can do is take stock of the resources you have, and make sure that the team designs and builds within their means. Being realistic about what you can accomplish is the first (and most important) step to success.

Past this, there’s currently a rookie advice thread in the technical discussion forum with lots of very good recommendations that you should read through.

If at all possible, before build season, reach out to a local team and try to get access to a practice drive base so that the students can become familiar with FRC hardware before the season starts. Make sure that the electronics team knows how the control system works, especially. One of the biggest causes of rookie struggles is spending precious build season time learning things which could have been mastered beforehand - you’re going to need every bit of that time to work on the robot.

I would advise that you sit down with the head coach/teacher/mentor on the team and discuss what the goals of the team are for that year. Expand further to include other mentors & parents and eventually communicate that goal to the students. Each year on team 3467 we set a new goal which to our surprise we have met! When our rookie team was founded in the fall of 2010 our team’s head coach was very experienced in FIRST and communicated that our team’s goals were to build a simple robot that was an effective member of an alliance and to win the Rookie All Star award. From that moment on those were the items we focused on even with a small team of about 10 kids. We were successful in both goals but through the process our decision making reflected building a simple robot and winning RAS.

Make it fun! Get these kids excited about being involved with FIRST so your team comes back stronger and larger for future seasons!

Celebrate the little things! While some accomplishments might not seem amazing, for rookie teams they are huge! Winning a match, scoring some points, being selected for eliminations, making a prototype, solving a problem, overcoming a challenge, working together as a team, etc are huge accomplishments! Make the kids proud of what they have achieved.

Give them a tour of other robots. See if a nearby FRC team wouldn’t mind bringing over a robot for them to check out. At competitions, take them around the pit to as many robots as you can and show them something new with each robot! Make some friends in the process.

Thanks. I figured there had to be a few around here somewhere, just couldn’t find it.

I think this is the hardest part. We don’t have any time left really. We had our first meeting yesterday, but it was more of an info session for students and parents. There were two experienced teams there (my old team included, which was how I became involved.) and we were basically explaining FRC to them. We haven’t really set anything up yet, except for which Kickoff we are going to, and a workshop the following day.

Yeah, it’s a bit late right now, but if you try you might be able to put something together. Again, contact as many local teams as you can - if you can arrange to have one of them to walk your students through the control system and basics of a drive beforehand, it will be invaluable.

That really is great advice. Thank you very much for that. I think that setting goals for the team is going to be very different than my old team would have been. The coach for the team has never been involved in FIRST, nor have any of the students I believe, so I’m excited to see where they go.

I have been looking into this, but I’m not sure if I can get the team together before Kickoff to show them. I’m trying not to overwhelm them too much before the season even starts. I knew about FIRST before I joined my team, so I knew how intense it would be. Most of these kids don’t know that yet, so I don’t want to scare any of them away.

I actually still can’t find it. Could you put the title/ link to the thread here? Thanks.

Thank you. I’m not sutre why that didn’t show up in the forum list for me.

Nikki,

I am in the exact same situation. I was on my high school’s robotics team for our rookie year my junior year. I am now a senior in college and have been asked to be a mentor for a local high school (my brother is one of the advisors). I am sure I have the same concerns as you do, but at least I know I’m not alone. Hopefully we will be able to help each other.

If I were going to help a rookie team that had no prior mentor expirence I would first try and convince them to build the Kit bot in steroids. I would want the team to make that the priority first. The only rules I would focus on at first are any specific drive train rules (frame size, bumper rules, etc.). My next step would be to walk the team through the mounting of the electronics board. Make sure to program the robot as well. Hopefully these steps can be done by the end of week one. With that out of the way the students and mentors can have a closer idea of what an FRC robot looks like. I would then reevaluate the game and find the simplest solution for the game. The videos from the 3 days builds will be useful here. Decided on a simple strategy and design that can be done by the end of week three, yes THAT Simple. With that done your students should have plenty of time for the ever important driver practice. I would look for a team that has a field set up with carpet for this or try and get carpet(assuming no modified field surfaces :wink: ). Remember the two best rookie robot performances over the last two years came from two teams that could not shoot. They fit a strategy and built very simple machine es. Good Luck this year.

There are some resources in the NEMO website that might help also. Www.first.nemo.org
If you can’t meet before kickoff, can you email? Or otherwise communicate? You can be explaining the time commitment by sending out a meeting schedule. If that scares some people away, then they may not have been helpful to the team anyway… I see it as being realistic in communicating expectations. Same for financial commitments.
I think one of your biggest priorities will be time management (project management). If you stay focused on meeting your deadlines, you will have to use the KISS principle this rookie year. Find out what those deadlines need to be and communicate them very visibly to the team.

Thank you for this advice. For me personally, this will be the biggest change I think. The team I was on in high school had enough experience and resources, both for the students and mentors, that we never used the kit bot for much in the final design. This is really good advice, and I do appreciate it.

This is a really good idea. While I am not the mentor in charge of the team, I think I am one of the only ones involved with prior FRC experience, so this will be something I will have to speak with the head coach with. And I definitely agree that those who are scared may not be helpful anyway. I have had some experience with that on my other team.

So you’ve been on a rookie team before. Not having any real amount of experience with rookie FRC teams is what worries me. But yes, working with other teams is one of the things I love most about FIRST. The whole idea of gracious professionalism and coopertition is something you don’t see in most competitions, but it is one of the main ideas thorughout FIRST, and I think that is just amazing.