Alumni Mentors - What's your story?

Hey all,

It feels like most alumni mentors in my area went back to mentoring their original teams, but I’m curious of what the CD’s alumni mentor experiences are like.

  • If you went back to your alumni team, why?

  • Have you ever had issues/awkwardness from your alumni team if you went to mentor another in the area?

  • What drew you back into mentoring in the first place? If you moved for school/work/other, how did you find a new team to work with?

I personally mentored a rookie team throughout college because they really needed the help, but several years down the line with life and work pulling me further away from the school, it would be really helpful to hear from some of you as to how you’ve managed balancing mentoring and regular life.

  • I mentor my alumni team
  • I mentor a different team because I moved to a different area
  • I mentor a different team for other reasons

0 voters

I’ve always prioritized mentoring teams in this way:

  • Priority 1: Not too far away and/or convenient mentoring method established that I don’t need to be present 100% of the time to be helpful
  • Priority 2: Family members involved already
  • Priority 3: Good cultural fit
  • Priority 4: They need help

As such, graduating high school and going from Indianapolis to West Lafayette IN, I mentored 1747 vs. 234. Team involvement similarly changed when I moved to York, PA (225), and when I had some extra free time in Pittsburgh I was able to help some local teams in addition to 225 (3504, 7274). Moving to the Peoria, IL area, I started working with 2481, who my wife already mentored.

  • Even if I had gone to college in Indianapolis back in 2008, I probably would not have gone back to 234 given the number of other local teams available and 234 didn’t have many alumni mentors at the time, so it wasn’t really a thing people did. At the time, the template to follow was ‘go to Purdue, mentor a Purdue team’.

  • No issues/awkwardness, but I’ve also not been local and choosing another team over them

  • Why I’m drawn to mentoring has changed over the years – I get to feel like I’m being a positive influence in students’ lives + it’s a fun hobby. Straight out of high school my reasoning mostly leaned toward ‘it’s a fun hobby’.

I found teams as follows:

  • 234: I was in 8th grade, friend in 9th grade recruited me
  • 1747: I was following the ‘go to Purdue, mentor a Purdue team’ model, and I had a cousin going to 1747’s school
  • 225: I got a job in York, PA, and my project lead was the lead mentor at the time who recruited me
  • 3504: Had some extra time and they were on Carnegie Mellon’s campus, so I reached out to them over email
  • 7274: Met the lead mentor at kickoff, they needed some guidance and I had some time available
  • 2481: My wife had been with the team since 2016, but I still did some shopping locally first to make sure it was the right cultural fit

Mentoring and balancing real life isn’t too bad as long as you prioritize having a supportive job, and if you’re the main contact you may be put in situations where you need to prioritize FRC over most things in your life if you don’t build up a supportive mentor base to back you up.

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Starting in College, I went back to help my team on the weekends because I had friends on the team and that’s what College freshman do. The first year, I wouldn’t really call it mentoring. More just, showing up on important days (kickoff, competition) and some Saturdays. Each year, it stepped up a bit in involvement.

After the season during my senior year, the coach (who was my coach most of my time on the team) retired, and I agreed to be an interim head mentor to help transition to someone else.

And 7 seasons later that someone else never came to take over, and I’m now co-lead with my awesome co-lead @bscharles

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Well, I think I have one of the simplest reasons for not mentoring the team I was on as a student.

:slightly_frowning_face:

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I was a seasonal helper for my high school team (45) during the summers when I was back in town. It was nice to be able to help out with some offseason projects and keep up with the team for a few months but I wasn’t really a mentor. I think it’s hard to transition into a mentor role when most of the people there still see you as a student (same goes true the other way).

I worked with a different team in college (in the same state) and there was never any issues/awkwardness when we’d play with/against my alumni team. My high school team hardly ever had alumni mentors so I don’t think there was any expectation that graduates would return.

When I started college, I wasn’t planning on mentoring but I had the FIRST bug. I was able to join a local team due to a campus FIRST organization and I’m glad I did. I’ll admit, my first few years I wasn’t the best mentor (hard to get out of the student competitor mindset) but now I’m able to be a more supportive person for our programs 4th-12th graders.

9th grade → Joined team at my high school
College freshman → Joined a team via a Purdue student org that a friend was helping with

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I started mentoring my alumni team during my junior year of college, when I was home on a leave of absence. I ended up staying for three seasons - one during my leave of absence, one distance-mentoring season while I finished up school, and one immediately after my fall graduation from college. Overall it was an amazing experience - I had tons of fun, loved my students, and it was such a great opportunity to learn from the best how to be a good mentor.

At the end of that third season I left the team because I was moving away to start a new job. I left on very good terms (I still get together with some of the mentors when I’m home visiting family), but had been starting to feel a bit of growing pains towards the end. For me, coming back to my alumni team was a little bit like coming back to live with your parents after having been away at college - I loved everyone there, but was starting to crave more space to do things my own way, and certain immutable parts of “the ways things were” began to wear on me.

When I moved to the Bay Area I starting mentoring the team I’m with now, and it has been a great environment for me to grow as a mentor over the past four years. Here, I’ve become the lead mechanical design mentor, so I have lots of leeway to run things “my way”, and feel like an equal member of the mentor team rather than a junior member. I’ve been forced to step outside my comfort zone, which has led me to learn a ton about FRC robot mechanisms, develop CAD curriculum from scratch, design summer workshops, develop opinions on how we should invest large chunks of money back into the team, rethink the way we divide up jobs at competition, and more.

Overall I would say both experiences have been essential to my development as a mentor. If I ever move back to my hometown, I would consider my alumni team along with the other teams in the area, and would mostly be deciding based on culture fit and what kind of role they would want/need me to fill.

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I’m an alumni of Team 27, after I graduated college I started helping 67 because I worked at the GM Proving Grounds. I felt I could learn a lot from the experienced folks on 67 and how they operate as a team, reaching out to 27 crossed my mind, but there was always the concern that I would not be viewed as an engineering mentor but instead as a young alumni.

I left my job at GM for a different career opportunity and was forced to find a new team, 27 is less than a 10 minute drive from my house, but their meeting schedule doesn’t match up with work schedule very well (9/80 work schedule and I typically don’t get in too early) and the distance from work would make it tough to get to meetings before they’re all but over. I elected to help 3538 because they were in the middle of my commute, their schedule was setup around adults that can’t get to meetings until later, and the team culture matched with what I was looking for.

Things I was looking for:

  • Schedule lines up so I can regularly attend meetings / participate
  • Build space is less than 30 minutes from work and home and doesn’t add significant time to my commute
  • Team needs help in my area of interest
  • Clear and effective team leadership already exists
  • Uses Solidworks so I don’t have to learn Inventor / Fusion / Onshape
  • Adults that are fun to be around
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My freshman year of college was pretty easy for me because I had to retake a number of AP classes that my school didn’t accept. So in addition to starting research in a lab on campus I started looking for a team to mentor. I moved halfway across the world for college so mentoring my high school team wasn’t really an option. At the time there were only two teams within a reasonable distance, one that had been around for years and one that just finished their rookie year. I figured the younger team could use the help more, and they had just won RAS at champs so I knew the team culture would be good. I sent them a message out of the blue on Facebook and five years later I’m still working with them.

I started mentoring my Freshman year of college (2016) to a local team that needed help. Like others on this thread, I was connected through Purdue FIRST Programs. Didn’t know much about them, but I really wanted to help a team that was struggling play at a higher level (turns out that is a MUCH bigger project than I then realized). Took over as one of the main technical mentors that year.

My sophomore year was fun, as I took over one of the lead mentors, and had the other lead mentor taken by a teacher who was brand new to FIRST. One of the former lead mentors still helped out with the transition for the first year, but it was still a pretty big jump.

I ended up staying in the area after graduation and still am the lead mentor of the team, and the team has improved a lot since when I started, so I suppose I accomplished that goal.

Not at all. I really enjoy catching up with former mentors at competitions. Many of our mentors were on different teams in high school, and I think most of them feel that way. It was and is helpful to get insights on how other teams function to help improve our own.

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I mentor 95 as an alumnus. When I started coaching I quickly had to take over the role of head technical coach, then head coach, as basically every coach from my time as a student had left. It was essentially a whole new team when I joined back up so there was no awkward ‘you used to be a student, so you’re not a real coach’ going on.

…until an older coach re-joined. That caused some friction. They have since moved on.

Now 95’s coaching staff is alumni or have joined in recent years. It can be tough not having the institutional knowledge of 24 years, but new talent brings its own advantages.

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The team I graduated from doesn’t do alumni mentors. It’s a conscious choice by the program directors, and I respect the logic.

I moved and joined up with a local team in college, originally so that I could trade FIRST Mentoring time for Baja SAE parts off their CNC. Ended up bicycling an hour to them some weekends. I had fun, I think I was an okay mentor, but it’s really tricky when you’re that close in age to the students running the team.

I moved and started working, and found the nearest geographic team. I’ve been working with them ever since. I enjoy the company of the adults and really appreciate the level of support we get from the school and primary sponsors - we’ve secured good lab space and tooling, and springboarded that into providing programs at kickoff and pre-competition to support other local teams. We’re not always competitive, there are a variety of factors that influence that, but I’m here to see my students grow and generate opportunities for them as students and as alumni - if I was here To Win, I would have switched to another organization.

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I knew pretty early on that I wanted to stay involved in FRC during college. My first year, I helped out with my alumni team (2079) for the first week or so while I was home on break, then transitioned into my current team (246) when I went back. Basically every other mentor was on their way out at the time, so I had to put up a little bit of a fight to get involved with 246. For lack of anyone else to do the role, I had to take up the other lead mentor spot, which I am still holding today. Growing pains don’t begin to describe our current situation, but I like to think I made a large difference in keeping us afloat so far. I still see my old team at events sometimes, and we’re on pretty good terms at this point.

I shall join the several others in this thread who came into mentoring via the Purdue FIRST Programs path. I also happened to come from one of the teams they support. That program has a policy not to send students back to their high school teams their freshman year, so I ended up mentoring one of the other local teams. I also happen to work at that school now and have never left.

I absolutely support this policy and we implement a similar one on our team. (A full four years out of HS before you can come back and mentor OR at least two years spent mentoring another team).

I think there is so much to learn by going and working with a team different than the one you were on in high school. No two teams operate identically, and there’s such a good experience to gain and to share when working with a different team.

(I say this while being privileged to live in an area with multiple FRC teams, I understand this wouldn’t work everywhere).

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So I dont know if I technically mentor my Alumni team.

The year was 2003, Freedom was on the March, Hey Ya! was in the air, and my high school BEST robotics team( a smaller more wood robot competition) couldn’t get the sponsorship to start our own FIRST Team ( we would have been amazing but sponsorship was different back then).
So the team’s lead mentor knew another mentor that had started a FIRST team at a school 30 miles away, he asked and they allowed me and another Senior to join with them for the 2004 Build Season.

and that’s how I am technically an alumnus of a Pre camo 1296.
( thank you Charbonneau for letting me hang around that year)

2 years later its 2005 everyone is talking about Fergie’s hump and I’m at UTD ( literally a block up the road from my HS) and I’m still in contact with the Team and assistant mentoring them in BEST, and we got lucky and found a parent with connections and we were able to get the sponsorship to start a FIRST team of our own for the 2006 season. 1745 was born.

I kept mentoring through college, and when I graduated I got a job at Southwest Airlines, I kept going, by 2015 the lead mentor handed over the team to me. Each year I try to improve the program and build the embedded permanent program I wish I had when I was there. weve added more mentors many alumni of FIRST and of 1745 proper, these mentors and others I’ve met through FIRST mentoring are my best friends. We all share a vision of what things can look like in 1-5-10 years for our slice of the community and school and keep working at achieving that vision. also the intra team competition is really really fun.

So my first robot year was 2001 with Pearce Robotics, my first FIRST year was 2003 with 1296 Team RABID ( later Full Metal Jackets), and I was a mentor on Pearce Robotics when we started 1745 The P-51 Mustangs.

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Little backstory on me, I graduated in 2018 from team 1741 in Greenwood, Indiana, and then after helped start team 7457 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

I did not go back to mentor my alumni team, however I did show up to meetings occasionally to check in and help them during some offseasons. The biggest reason I didn’t return to mentor was because they don’t allow you to mentor until you are 4 years out. However I also wanted to find somewhere closer to me and to see if I could make a lasting impact somewhere else.

In fact it’s actually quite the opposite, whenever our two teams are at events together we always want to team up and get it done. While I was 1741 we held the record for most finalist without a win at 8 finalist. I managed to help get 3 while I was on the team. Then the year after I graduate and start 7457, we seed Rank 1 at the center grove event (1741’s hosted event) and end up picking 1741 as our second pick. We then went on to break 1741’s curse so after that relations with my old team were quite well.

The biggest thing that drew me back to mentoring was the FRC culture. The way it helped me grow and learn more about the world really inspired me and I wanted to return that favor by helping out more kiddos. My goal has always been to help others but I’ve always had fun while doing it, however I had to check myself along the way to make sure I wasn’t overworking myself with school, work, robotics, and life. To say it wasn’t hard would be a lie, It most certainly was. The one thing that helped me with balancing everything is understanding why I’m doing what I’m doing. Seeing that, helped to motivate me and work harder.

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I was a student on FRC 1102 for all of high school. 2008-2012. Also FTC 3864 which has since retired.

When I graduated I moved away and I mentored a new team while I was in college. That team was 4901 Garnet Squadron they have since reformed as FTC team 11444 Garnet Squadron because it just made better sense longevity wise and they have continued to operate long since I left school.

I moved back home to Aiken/Augusta and initially started out as a regular programming/design mentor, but have since found a stable job here and took on the challenge of being lead mentor in 2018. (10 years after my first year on the team as a student).

It’s been fun and I’ve been able to do a lot of cool stuff and things here have changed a bit due to the influences I’ve had since I left (coaches from 4451, 180, 2815/1293, and 1772/4613 have influenced me a lot)
We had zero advanced manufacturing here of any kind until 2019.

I’m hoping to keep 1102 around for many years to come and do many great things I hope.

I graduated from my team in 2018. I came right back and started mentoring in 2019 during college. I knew I wanted to stay involved in FRC, specifically with mentoring. There were a couple reasons I stayed with my alumni team, the largest being that it was still the closest to where I live. Another reason is that I saw things I could bring to the team that would give more learning opportunities for future students. If I’m still able to provide something to them, then why leave?

When I came back in 2019, I started mentoring the same sub-team I had been on as a student. Since I had been on the drive team while a student, I knew that our scouting and strategy system was lacking. So I talked to some other teams and read about other solutions for scouting. One of our students showed interest in the topic, and we created a scouting & strategy sub-team that would focus on collecting and compiling valuable information to the drive team and alliance representative. I have mentored that sub-team since.

While I really enjoyed working on a new scouting system during my first year back as a mentor, my grades really suffered from the amount of time I dedicated to the team instead of homework. I dialed my commitment to the team back a bit, and have found what seems to be a really good balance of school work, mentoring, and my job. I will continue to mentor this team until I need to move somewhere else, or feel like I have done all that I can to improve the student’s experience and team’s performance. At that point, I will look for a new team that I can help.

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I wasn’t planning on mentoring in college, but SCU had precious little in the way of engineering extracurriculars. My options were either try to start a program from scratch, which would require huge effort to even just get access to the machine shop, or “help a local high school with their robotics program” according to an email from the engineering department. I opted for the second, and to my surprise found 1072. I spent just a few hours a week mentoring in 2017, then upped my hours the following years once I felt like I 1) was making a difference and 2) had nothing better to do.

Now that I’m graduated and moved an hour away, I’m going to look for a new team. I considered my alumni team (115) for some time, but with the move taking me even farther away it’s just not in the cards.

I wouldn’t recommend most people mentor in college. I’ve met mentors who don’t have the right goals or mindset to make a positive impact on a program. I think I did a fairly good job, but had I gone to another school I would have been better off with college level ECs instead.

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I graduated from 177 in 2004, and came back as a mentor in the fall of 2011. T the time, it would take me ~30 minutes to get to meetings from home, and ~45 minutes from work. One of the main reasons I didn’t choose another team was that I still knew several of the mentors on 177. Some of them had been mentors when I was a student, and some were alumni my age who had also come back to the team.

Alumni are our biggest source of mentors, with around half our current mentors being team alumni. With a few exceptions, we prefer to wait until they are at least finished with college. This lets underclassmen they were students with graduate, and also gives the alumni the opportunity to decide if they really want to be in the mentor role or if they’re just looking to extend their student experience.

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I half joined my HS team (FRC451 - Cat Attack) in 2003 in Ohio, but costs intimidated me away from participating. But going into my senior year (2005), my friends recruited me because they desperately needed a programmer so I stuck through it and boy was I sad that I let cost deter me 2 years prior. I had a blast, learned a lot, and being the main programmer immediately felt valued on the team, haha.

I went to Purdue, where Purdue FIRST Programs (Purdue University FIRST Programs back in my day) made it easy to stay involved with FIRST. While nowadays I advise my alumni against mentoring a team, I mentored 1646 my freshman and sophomore year. Junior year I was at a co-op during the spring, and senior year…well I just had senioritis. Also, the games I missed were 08, 09, and 10 - so I don’t really feel like I missed anything that exciting other than the change to the crio.

I took my full-time job in Houston in Jan 10, and in 2011 I joined FRC2936 - Gatorzillas. Learned some more about a lot of stuff and in the summer of 2014 I was ready for something different, and basically had a lot of things very easily fall in place to start FRC5414 - Pearadox. I had no intention of starting a team, but between easily finding funding ($20k+ before grants) and 15+ kids, and a reasonably supportive school district, and knowing that I’m sometimes…opinionated…on how I want things to run, it only made sense to start the team where I could lead it.

If I were back in Ohio, I would join 451 in a heart beat. I’m sure things are vastly different there now.

EDIT: But I think it’s important/valuable to get experiences from other teams before going back to the team you’re an alumni of. While I’m looking forward to the day that Pearadox has some alumni mentors I’m probably going to encourage them to mentor another team for a year or two first just so they can gain some other perspective in how things can be done besides just how we do it. It helps make them a better mentor and us a better team.

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