Analysis of Student vs Mentor built Robots in FRC

My team 7152 is a second-year team working hard to bring FIRST robotics into at-risk communities in order to give them a chance to go to college which they may not have had prior. We are also strong believers in completely student-built robots and used this ideology with our team as well as our three sister teams and six at-risk teams. Our mentors consist of college students and practice hands-off mentoring and challenge-based learning where we are forced to figure things out for ourselves. We are interested in learning more about the activity of mentors on other teams. If you click the link below it will take you to a survey where you can anonymously describe how students and mentors are involved in key parts of the build and competition. Thank you so much we are really looking forward to learning about how other teams structure mentorship.


You spelt MentorBuilt wrong


I really like the sliding scale percentage for responses, and the shortness of your survey.


Thank you!

You’re welcome!

but from the other end, what I don’t like so much is that you kind of imply that fully student designed/built robots might somehow be better than student/mentor designed and built robots. Most folks here see a lot of value in developing a peer relationship between students and mentors on a robotics team.

FIRST also sees that value.


Have you recorded any data to see if your ideology is effective? What are your reasons for believing in it?

We definitely see the value in mentor peer relationships which we have with our college mentors and we know it is almost needed to build a performing robot for an FRC competition. We are more focused on getting mentor hands off the robots and allowing students to be the ones that get dirty when it comes to building. Mentors are definitely a valuable asset in the design and strategy aspect as they often have prior experience with the FRC competition that allows them to see things most students wouldn’t.

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I also see the benefit of having mentors stay “hands off” but do not think it is the best policy for most teams competing in the FRC. I wouldn’t highly rank an auto mechanic training program where the instructors were “hands off” all the time.

That said, I filled out the survey as honestly as I can for our team. Best of luck with the research.


We are really focused on increasing student engagement with the robot itself which we believe builds engineering skills better than if the robot were built by mentors. As for actual robot performance we don’t have any data on that and it would be interesting to look at the survey results and compare it to robot performance, but my general assumption is that student built robots will initially perform worse during the starting years due to the learning curve involved with FRC. Then as they overcome this learning curve I believe they could be on the same level as a mentor built robot.

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The thing is that you probably won’t find many mentor built robots, you’ll mostly find robots that are built by mentors and students. And note that appearances can be deceiving…robots that you might assume to be “mentor built” might be fully student designed and built. Some students have learned a lot more about how to design and build robots, than I have, or will.


We believe strongly in challenge-based learning and that if you provide students with the tools they need to learn and give them gentle guidance along the way they will be able to solve a problem that you give them.

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Oh I completely agree I don’t see a lot of teams having a fully mentor built robot as it should be, and to your point I think students can become just as capable as mentors. I just think it is best done with a season or two of hands off mentor ship as well as dedication from the student.

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Good reading for everybody here:

Also, can we not troll this student’s survey as people have done in the past?


That quote is very direct and to the point and FIRST is a sport not an educational program and I get that, and I think working with mentors is fine. However, taking a step away from just looking at FIRST as a competition I think students can learn something out of it by getting hands on experience and in my opinion the more the better. I am definitely not calling for mentors not to be involved as they are needed to build the best robot to compete but I just think FIRST can be an educational opportunity and am interested in finding any others who feel the same.

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FIRST is a competition (some might call it a sport) and an educational program. Some would rather teach by trial and error, some would rather teach by working alongside students and teaching as they go. Neither way is more correct. But to say that FIRST is all about the competition and not about the education is flawed IMO.


I answered this survey honestly but it seams to me you are only looking to confirm your own bias in your follow up posts.


I think a big kicker for smaller teams is that you just don’t have enough students to get the job done. We have 6 mentors and roughly 12 students each year. We could build an everybot each year, but it’s not quite as much fun to always build someone else’s design each year. (some year’s it has to be done though)

We don’t have a steady stream of upper-class-men to teach the new people. Only 2-3 at a time and this year we have 1 senior. Everyone wears multiple hats and we push to make make sure every student is busy, but we still need more hands a good amount of the time, so the mentors are just as busy building.


We have a similar situation to @Fields. However, we (perhaps both to our benefit and detriment) have both students and mentors who feel that our robots should be student-built. We often have “generations” of students who start off knowing nothing, get really good at what they do, and then graduate without fully training the next generation, so we tend to alternate between being quite competitive and barely driving from year to year.

I’m working on fixing this in a variety of ways, but it’s certainly not an easy process.


Can you name any “mentor built” robots? That’s a pretty broad generalization and you really need hard data before you go down that road. I’d also be interested in examples where mentors are completely hands off and the team has been competitively successful.


This subject always gets a bunch of people mad at each other.

I wish people would stop bringing this one up.