Eating lead in 2000

Posted by michael bastoni.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Coach on team #23, PNTA, from Plymouth North High School and Boston Edison Co.

Posted on 5/31/99 9:00 AM MST

I just wanted to keep this thread going so I brought it back to the top…

We’ve got to start asking better questions. Not questions about how the venue will be
in Disney next year…or what the game will be…or how many prizes we can give away
in an effort to inflate the feel good factor, artificially…These questions distract us from the
important central tennents of FIRST.

We need to ask questions like

  1. WHAT IS THE BEST FORMAT FOR INSPIRING THESE KIDS ?
  2. HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH MONEY
  3. WHAT DO THE STUDENTS WANT and
  4. WHAT DO THEY NEED TO GET OUT OF THIS PROGRAM THAT WILL
    HELP ENSURE THEIR SUCCESS IN COLLEGE AND BEYOND?
    (remember it’s about them not us, what we want is not the point)

Essentially we have to find a real common ground when we answer the question

WHAT IS THE FIRST PROGRAM ESSENTIALLY ABOUT ?

After reading this page since it’s inception…it is clear to me that WE do not
share a common response to this question…and this leads us wide of the mark
when decision time comes around…

Let me point out here and now that if all we’re doing is inspiring kids…then heck we
are shooting small game with heavey artillery…WE CAN BE DOING SO MUCH MORE
while simultaneously inspiring kids we can also be developing leadership skills, communication skills
and about 36 other specific skill sets that will significantly enhance their chances of success in
college and beyond…

AND WE CAN BE INSPIRING THEM TOO…thats the easy part…getting students to internalize the experience
and take full advantage of the ten’s of thousands of dollars we expend…now that’s a challenge
worth all our expertise and focus.

So…

We need to play the game alot…it’s the preparation to playing time ratio and costs that I wish
to address at this moment.

A minimum of 10 weeks prep time (building the machine, the animation, the CA, the FFL, the
fundraising, the ‘Community Events’ (I so hate that term)…all for what…FOR 1 or 2 brief
moments of thrilling excitement and INSPIRATION.?

Think about this good people…tens of thousands of dollars, weeks of planning preparation,
and fabrication…for 1 or 2 events…for 18 minutes of machine running time?

It borders on insane… why do you think it’s so hard to recruit teams ? Please ponder the
ramifications here…please think about this simple fact for a day, a week, and then present the
remedy you would offer?

Here’s mine.

PLAY WITH THE DARN MACHINE MORE.

(Did you know that high school varsity and JV sports programs have an average of 3:1 practice
days to game days?)
Our musical band program is a year long class whose average is 10:1 practice days to performance days!)
This year my students spent over 100 days preparing, fundraising and promoting FIRST…for only 3 chances to play
their robot in a competition…LESS THAN ONE HOUR out of 400 hrs dedicated to FIRST…

This simply HAS to be addressed…it’s time.

Simple…that’s it…PLAY WITH THE MACHINE IN MORE EVENTS…and they could be in a cornfield in Idaho
as easily as they could be in Disney…It’s the game, not where it is held that’s important…
we just get distracted from the important stuff when we bring Disney into the mix…
It’s about all of us, the kids and THE GAME. Not where the nationals
will be held or who will go…but where will the next game be held…and are we ready?

The perfect robot game is an illusion and we are ‘Tilting at Windmills’ if we persue the holy grail
of the PERFECT GAME…It ain’t there…what is there is a game these kids like to play,
to be a part of…let’s accept a game, modify tweak it, make it incrementally better…and PLAY IT.

Make PLAYING THE GAME MORE, our central premise and good things will
happen, I’m sure.

Posted by Susanne Krussell.

Coach on team #163, The Quantum Mechanics, from International Academy and Quantum Consultants/Eaton/ITT.

Posted on 5/31/99 11:18 AM MST

In Reply to: Eating lead in 2000 posted by michael bastoni on 5/31/99 9:00 AM MST:

Great message, Michael. Will you come and coach with us??
I agree wholeheartedly that more play time would be just the ticket. I have done this for 2 years with 2 different teams, and have not had ANY practice time both years. i realize that a lot of teams have the same predicament. Post-nationals games could help…one example of that was Zeeland in western Michigan. They held a post-nationals competition for the 2nd year, however, this year they decided to charge $250 to play!! I know they wanted to raise funds, but it prevented some of the ‘less monied’ teams from participating (like us!). If fees are going to be charged for the small local games, we need to know in advance.

I also agree that more time before competitions would make a difference. I don’t see this happening though, for 2 reasons. 1) most of us continue to get the job done by the deadline. 2) There would be a lot of conflicts (calendar-wise) for engineers, kids and coaches. holidays, school breaks, etc. So I’d bet big money that the pre-competition time-line will not change.

Format: I’ll repeat myself…please do not exclude teams from Nationals. All that time and money you spoke of really is a factor, and for those who do poorly during regionals to be ‘cut’ would be enough to discourage the teams, both the kids and the companies from not re-funding the following year. Yikes!

What do kids want? How many kids have actually been asked this question? I have asked, and the answer is mostly the same answer from a large number of kids: they want more involvement in the design and construction of the machine. They CAN do it. At the risk of sounding unpleasant or ungrateful, (and I swear that I’m not) it sometimes appears that the competitions are ‘Engineer vs. Engineer’, or ‘Company vs. Company’, and not so much ‘high school team vs. high school team’. So for the kids who get more hands-on construction and participation, those few moments on the field you spoke of are not the ONLY reward they get. Their reward in great part is being fortunate enough to be on a team during the preparation time. I guess I’m speaking the obvious here, eh? But if field time was the only reward, FIRST would not be the success that it is.

Posted by Adam Hathaway.

Student on team #177, Bobcat Robotics, from South Windsor High School and International Fuel Cells.

Posted on 5/31/99 2:29 PM MST

In Reply to: Re: Eating lead in 2000 posted by Susanne Krussell on 5/31/99 11:18 AM MST:

as a kid, the part i enjoy most is building and designing the robot. I wont lie and say i dont want to win :), but the part i have the most fun with is building the robot. FIRST to me is about the design challenge they give us each year, not who ends up winning the nationals. The nationals are a reward for doing all the hard work, a chance to show off.

Posted by Bethany Dunning.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Coach on team #163, Quantum Mechanics, from International Academy and Quantum Consultants/EATON/ITT Industries.

Posted on 5/31/99 6:05 PM MST

In Reply to: Re: Eating lead in 2000 posted by Adam Hathaway on 5/31/99 2:29 PM MST:

Do you think that if one took away that ‘reward’ of Nationals for every team, that there would be as much interest? Building the 'bot itself, i think, only becomes the best part after you have done it. The big recruiting tool can be Nationals - who doesn’t want to be a part of something like that?
: as a kid, the part i enjoy most is building and designing the robot. I wont lie and say i dont want to win :), but the part i have the most fun with is building the robot. FIRST to me is about the design challenge they give us each year, not who ends up winning the nationals. The nationals are a reward for doing all the hard work, a chance to show off.

Posted by Daniel.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Student on team #192, Gunn Robotics Team, from Henry M Gunn Senior High School and NASA Ames.

Posted on 5/31/99 7:45 PM MST

In Reply to: Eating lead in 2000 posted by michael bastoni on 5/31/99 9:00 AM MST:

Playing is fun! I’ll give you that.

But…

Where do we actually gain the leadership, communication, and all of the 36 other skill sets you alluded to? Is it in Florida? I don’t think so. I learned communication during the weeks of corporate presentations our team made, I learned communication during the design reviews when I was trying to sell my idea to the team, I learned communication when I sat for four hours in a room with my advisor, explaining why I think we the students could fix the design on our own. I did not learn communication skills while I watched my team raise the floppies at 1:40 into our final qualification match. Granted, it was one of the most intensely gripping moments of my life! I just didn’t learn all that much…

There is so much I’ve gained from this competition. I’ll tell you, this competition has changed me a great deal. I came into FIRST sophomore year as the timid little guy who took his seat in the back row at the first meeting and raised his hand for the popular choice during the vote for leader. Since then, I have been transformed into the full-blown unanimously elected co-captain of my 60 member, student run robotics team. I feel what happened to me was exactly what Dean Kamen had going through his devious little head when he designed FIRST.

I don’t credit it to play time. Play time serves as the hook to catch the worm – it makes this competition look good from the outside. But being an insider I know the secret: play time is just a show. I’m not saying I don’t think play time should increase. I love play time and I think it’s the perfect resolution to the weeks of sweat, tears, and coffee that go into this competition.

So…

Bring it on! Play time’s fine by me!

I just think maybe we’re getting our priorities mixed up if we feel play time is the central part of this competition. The inspiration is the build and everything else that goes on behind the scenes; the play is more of a motivation.

Here’s what to do…

If inspiration is what we’re looking for, we need the adults to back off! True, some kids are visual learners. Most, however, learn by DOING. I learned what I learned, not because I watched an engineer design my robot, but because I watched an engineer tell me how to make MY design a little bit better. Engineers and teachers are vital to this competition, but we must learn how to USE them without ABUSING them. I don’t mean this as an insult to the way any of you may choose to run your teams, just as a suggestion. I am putting this forward straight because I feel we are all capable of dealing with other people’s opinions without getting all excited. So bear with me. I simply feel I could not have been transformed the way I have, without having been put at an equal level with the engineers on GRT. We worked side by side, as colleagues. Sometimes they were right, and sometimes I was right. I’d like to think that lately those occasions have started to balance out. The students aren’t the only ones learning here. Lets learn from each other…

So…

Start by trying to learn from what I have to say, because I know this from experience. It happened to me.

If we want our students to become engineers, we have to start by TREATING them like engineers.

-Daniel

Posted by Joe Johnson.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Engineer on team #47, Chief Delphi, from Pontiac Central High School and Delphi Automotive Systems.

Posted on 5/31/99 8:48 PM MST

In Reply to: inspiration or motivation? posted by Daniel on 5/31/99 7:45 PM MST:

Daniel from GRT and soon to be from Berkeley, and Frank from Wildstang and now with MIT are not your typical U.S.A. High School student.

Both are outstanding leaders and I am sure will end up being outstanding engineers some day.

But…

They are not typical by any stretch of the imagination.

Could most teams find leaders of their quality from among their ranks? I don’t think so.

So the question is what is FIRST?

Mr. B. thinks he has the vision, I think I have the vision, Daniel has yet another view.

Are we all blind men trying to discover the essence of an elephant (it’s a rope, it’s tree, it’s a snake, etc.)?

I think that perhaps it is time to say that we are talking about at least two different animals here.

Mr. B. is convinced that this program belongs in the schools. Given that, then all the arguments about sustainability etc. carry the day.

JoeJ is convinced that this program belongs in partnership with businesses. Given that, then many of my arguments make sense.

I am ready to propose that there are 2 different elephants.

Yes, it would be great if there we a high school sport that was somewhat FIRST like, but had the same game for a number of years with a well defined kit and a reasonable price tag and a season of (relatively low budget) events, etc.

Yes it would be great if we got on TV and changed the entire culture of America, that involved high school kids in the design of the robots, but did not pretend high school kids could be turned into engineers in a 6 week program.

So…

When do we split into two leagues? The high school sport league and the inspiration league.

I, seriously, think that there is value to both. (so much so in fact that I have been working with a former coach form our team to get the funding to make a similar idea, the Pontiac Robotics League, a reality – those who have attended one of our team’s ‘FIRST in a Day’ competitions will know sort of what I am thinking of)

Does this add to the confusion or does it address some issues?

Joe J.

Posted by Daniel.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Student on team #192, Gunn Robotics Team, from Henry M Gunn Senior High School and NASA Ames.

Posted on 5/31/99 9:44 PM MST

In Reply to: Daniel and Frank… posted by Joe Johnson on 5/31/99 8:48 PM MST:

Please tell me I’m wrong about this, but…

From what you said, it sounds like you think it’s not possible for this competition to be focused on inspiration and still ‘belong in the schools’.

I’d hate to believe we can’t have the best of both worlds here. Why don’t we keep trying…?

Here, let me start:

Partnership is one thing, but domination is vastly different. I have seen many instances where engineers dominate this project. I’m not saying this is an ineffective way to inspire the students, I just think better ways exist. The word ‘partner’ implies equality, and that’s exactly what we need. We’re all “engineers” here. The only difference between me and you is that one of us has a few more wrinkles (sorry :wink: ). Talk to some engineers on GRT and I promise, you’ll not find ONE who hasn’t been as inspired by the students on our team as we have been by them. This is a two way process, but only if we truly attempt to realize that “partnership” we set out to create. The greatest feeling is when I see an engineer discussing a design with one of our students, and I overhear the engineer saying something to the effect of: “good point, I never looked at it that way”. It’s times like those when we can really see the effects of the FIRST mission. We must allow that line between engineers and students to blur and even fade away.

If the line is gone, we’ve won. Because that’s really the intent here, isn’t it? We want to turn us kids, into engineers.

If the line is gone, we’ve won. You do NOT have to have a PhD to be an engineer. You say it can’t be done in six weeks. Fine, perhaps you’re right, but please then explain to me what I see happening ALL AROUND ME.

We need to get rid of the line. That, to me, seems like the best of both worlds.

I don’t think the problem is in the vehicle, it’s how we’re riding it. FIRST has set us up perfectly to change lives, we just need to know how to walk the path.

-Daniel

Posted by Susanne Krussell.

Coach on team #163, The Quantum Mechanics, from International Academy and Quantum Consultants/Eaton/ITT.

Posted on 6/1/99 11:40 AM MST

In Reply to: if we’re pretending, that’s news to me. posted by Daniel on 5/31/99 9:44 PM MST:

To Daniel…let me say first that you are articulate and thoughtful, two of the characteristics that make you such a good writer. I see in my own students a lot of what you show by your writing: intelligence, creativity and the ability to do a LOT more than many adults believe they can. I continue to be amazed by kids’ accomplishments. You are correct when you give FIRST (and all the people who work within FIRST) a lot of credit. I personally like to see more student involvement, but that is a personal choice, and it needs to be left to the teams to decide within their partnerships. Dean has made it clear that however the tasks are completed, they are all appropriate.

I don’t think Daniel or Frank are atypical or unusual students at all, but they do represent the best among the student population that I’m accustomed to working with. There are a lot more kids like Daniel than some here seem to realize. I’d like to see all our kids get the chance to prove that.

Posted by Ken Patton.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Engineer on team #65, The Huskie Brigade, from Pontiac Northern High School and GM Powertrain.

Posted on 6/1/99 4:15 PM MST

In Reply to: if we’re pretending, that’s news to me. posted by Daniel on 5/31/99 9:44 PM MST:

Hey Daniel-

I think what Joe is saying (and I agree with him on this) is that the target audience is the large majority of uninspired-about-science-and-technology students out there - the ones who have no clue what you are up to during the winter. Those are the people whose minds have to change in order for us the change the culture.

As to what it takes to be an engineer… you do need a degree, so technically (and what the hey, we’re being technical), six weeks won’t do it. Certainly you can get a feel for what engineering is all about, but you don’t have the skills that are learned in an undergraduate engineering curriculum…yet. :))

As to the need for a PhD, you do not HAVE to have a Phd, but the experience and depth of knowledge developed help in many areas. Nearly all of the engineers in the department I work in have masters degrees, and ~10% have PhD’s. Talk to your engineer teammates, get their perspective on this.

Ken

Posted by Daniel.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Student on team #192, Gunn Robotics Team, from Henry M Gunn Senior High School and NASA Ames.

Posted on 6/1/99 4:43 PM MST

In Reply to: ummm…Daniel posted by Ken Patton on 6/1/99 4:15 PM MST:

I see what Joe was saying, and I agree. This is why I’m attempting to find a balance point – a point where both ends of the spectrum can be addressed. We need to find a means by which we can not only inspire the spectators, but those who play as well. FIRST has set up a great way to fulfil the first goal: WDW is perfect. Inspiring the participants, however, is something that must be dealt with by the individual teams. To use Joe’s analogy, I feel we can find a way to fit BOTH elephants into this.

As for the degree, I disagree. I feel everyone who participates in this competition is an engineer. Webster defines an engineer as one who applies science and mathematics in the design and construction of machines, vehicles, structures, roads, and systems. Aside from the ‘road’ part, I feel there is no better description for the students involved in this project! We may not be professionals, but we ARE engineers. Perhaps this is not enough to convince you. I can understand that. Do me a favor though and make your students feel like they’re engineers, for it sets them up to be self-assured, and that is the first step to their becoming great.

Lastly, I know very few engineers who actually have PhDs. I was merely exaggerating to help prove a point. Thanks for the input though =P

-Daniel

Posted by Joe Johnson.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Engineer on team #47, Chief Delphi, from Pontiac Central High School and Delphi Automotive Systems.

Posted on 6/1/99 8:05 PM MST

In Reply to: the best of both worlds… posted by Daniel on 6/1/99 4:43 PM MST:

Daniel (and Frank, and many other very talented students),

What began as a complement to you all, ended up insulting you. I apologize for that.

I really do respect your talent and admire your engineering skills.

But…

Believe me, you don’t know what you say when you claim that you are an engineer already. You may be doing some of the tasks of an engineer (and quite well by the robots I see), but there is much to learn.

Yeah, I know that learning never stops, but when it comes to engineering, you have hardly begun.

I used to think that my undergrad education gave me nothing other than a stamp on my forehead similar to the stamp on USDA Grade A beef. I have since come to believe that my undergrad education gave me the tools and the understanding I need to be the great engineer I am.

I had the talent and the inclination. I did not have the tools nor the understanding.

Finite element, Diff EQ, Fluid Dynamics, Feedback Control Theory, Linear Systems, Thermo, Heat Transfer, Vibrations, …

The list of tools is astounding.

Even more important that the tools is the core understanding an undergrad education gave me. Lacking such understanding, whole worlds of important problems are unapproachable and unsolvable. Is not this the role of an engineer as well, to provide insight into the areas of a problem that may proof fruitful while steering clear of blind alleys?

Is a surgeon simply someone who can cut up living meat, remove some bits and sew the mess back up again? Would someone who is able to perform a few simple operations succussfully be a surgeon because they meet one of Webster’s definitions of what a surgeon does? I think that there is more to it than that.

So… I am going to go out on a limb here and say that no I don’t think it is possible to make a high school student into an engineer in 6 weeks, no matter how inspiring the program is.

I will grant you that 6 years in not enough for some, but 6 weeks is not enough for any.

Joe J.

Posted by Daniel.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Student on team #192, Gunn Robotics Team, from Henry M Gunn Senior High School and NASA Ames.

Posted on 6/1/99 8:39 PM MST

In Reply to: Meant to complement, ended up insulting… posted by Joe Johnson on 6/1/99 8:05 PM MST:

I think my point got lost in technicalities. I am not trying to say that high school students are professional level engineers. Not by a longshot. There is much to learn – way more than can be learned in a mere 6 weeks. I have nothing but utmost respect for you who have gone through all the years of engineering education that lie between me and my ultimate goal, and I in no way feel that FIRST is a substitute to that education.

BUT…

This is about inspiration, not education. True, we learn a ton, but the main focus is to inspire us and provide us with a vehicle through which we will be carried to the foot of our awaiting education. THIS is where I’m coming from when I say we need to treat the students like engineers. That blind faith will give us the needed confidence to pursue the profession and become great – the necessary confidence to fulfill that faith. One amazing thing about FIRST, is that it allows a student’s potential to surface. If unrestrained and confident, you will see that these students are capable of coming up with amazing designs!

But…

Before they can attain that necessary level of security, they must feel respected. Treat them like engineers. I can tell you from a students standpoint. I excelled when someone had faith in me. I became outspoken when someone told me how much merit my words had. If I were treated as an inferior, I would have found our amazing engineers (and they truly are amazing) to be extremely intimidating as well. I’d never have opened my mouth. I grew into the role they put me in; lucky for me, they put me into a very big role. I’d love to see this become epidemic. I’d love to see teams of students organizing students, with engineers as advisors. For in my opinion, all the students need is a little encouraging, some training, and a helping hand when in need. This is how I envision the ideal FIRST team. As a student, I can tell you that this is how I would learn best.

Not as a spectator.

I hope I made myself a little bit clearer this time…

Trust me, I idolize you guys. :wink:

-Daniel

Posted by Fran .

Other on team #166, Team Merrimack, from Merrimack High School and Unitrode/R.S. Machines.

Posted on 6/1/99 7:30 AM MST

In Reply to: Daniel and Frank… posted by Joe Johnson on 5/31/99 8:48 PM MST:

I think Daniel is not unusual for a student. Many of our students are drawn in by the curiosity or a friend or the trip but the ones who stick it out to the end are really hooked . They love the challenge and the different problem every year and will probably never finish with a few days practice time no matter how much time you give them…we can always think of one more thing to change. Any longer would chase the companies away because it must affect their engineers work and the students school work suffers too. The hardest part is really finding the right combination of students and engineers to work as partners. The students love to show off their work and compete so now teams do demonstrations, mini-meets…we even had a lunch time challenge with another local high school…5 mamtches in each school’s cafgeteria…now that exposed us to lots of students that came to us the following year. On July 4th we put on a demonstration for the town so the community can see what we do (other than ask for money)…our robot is even on a float for the parade. I like the idea of demonstrating to the school board since in our town they tape and televise those meetings on our community channel.

Anyway back to the subject, the students are creative and therefore all these local competitions keep popping up so they get more playing time…every year there are more. I think Dean knew students would take it into their own hands…thats why they just loan out playing fields. The satisfaction really is in the challenge and creating the solution. As with any good activity there is a sense of loss when it is completed and you have ‘nothing to do’, as the teams mature they realize that this really is a year round project and the students take on more and more of the work with just a few nudges in the right direction. Well I’m rambling againtime to stop.

: Daniel from GRT and soon to be from Berkeley, and Frank from Wildstang and now with MIT are not your typical U.S.A. High School student.

: Both are outstanding leaders and I am sure will end up being outstanding engineers some day.

: But…

: They are not typical by any stretch of the imagination.

: Could most teams find leaders of their quality from among their ranks? I don’t think so.

: So the question is what is FIRST?

: Mr. B. thinks he has the vision, I think I have the vision, Daniel has yet another view.

: Are we all blind men trying to discover the essence of an elephant (it’s a rope, it’s tree, it’s a snake, etc.)?

: I think that perhaps it is time to say that we are talking about at least two different animals here.

: Mr. B. is convinced that this program belongs in the schools. Given that, then all the arguments about sustainability etc. carry the day.

: JoeJ is convinced that this program belongs in partnership with businesses. Given that, then many of my arguments make sense.

: I am ready to propose that there are 2 different elephants.

: Yes, it would be great if there we a high school sport that was somewhat FIRST like, but had the same game for a number of years with a well defined kit and a reasonable price tag and a season of (relatively low budget) events, etc.

: Yes it would be great if we got on TV and changed the entire culture of America, that involved high school kids in the design of the robots, but did not pretend high school kids could be turned into engineers in a 6 week program.

: So…

: When do we split into two leagues? The high school sport league and the inspiration league.

: I, seriously, think that there is value to both. (so much so in fact that I have been working with a former coach form our team to get the funding to make a similar idea, the Pontiac Robotics League, a reality – those who have attended one of our team’s ‘FIRST in a Day’ competitions will know sort of what I am thinking of)

: Does this add to the confusion or does it address some issues?

: Joe J.

Posted by Frank.

Coach on team #97, Psychedelics, from CRLS and MIT.

Posted on 6/1/99 7:50 PM MST

In Reply to: Daniel and Frank… posted by Joe Johnson on 5/31/99 8:48 PM MST:

I’d really like to think that there are a lot more people in FIRST that are just as excited and motivated about it
as we are. It all comes from the program though. Four and a half years ago, I had no aspirations to go to
MIT or even to study engineering. WildStang and the FIRST program really turned that around and I became
really involved – as everyone knows by now :slight_smile:

I think the key to that was student participation. the Motorolans let us work out the strategy and design,
make our own prototypes, and were there every step of the way for us that first year. We all got so much
out of it and it really guided many of us into engineering. I agree with Daniel that it’s about the student’s
involvement. It’s one thing to be inspired by the great engineers, but it’s another to see that you can
actually DO engineering.

One girl on our team had a great quote in our Chairman’s submission. It was along the lines of her
being intimidated by engineering and after being on FIRST and actually desigining and building in the
shop, she realized that Engineering isn’t just for smart, geeky people. That’s not doing justice to the quote,
but I don’t have the submission at home with me.

Dean talks about inspiration all the time, and it’s important. But participation and involvement should
always be the number one goal. What’s a great robot if the students never touched it. They could say that
their engineers were great, but I know they’d feel cheated and wouldn’t get the outstanding experience
that they could have.

FIRST is an amazing program that has changed SO many lives. Student participation is the key to this.
The students must know they can do it to suceed.

See many of you at Rumble this summer!! I’m coming out with the WildStangers!

Frank Bentley
Team 97 - MIT/CRLS '99
Team 111 - WildStang '96-'98

Posted by Kate Leach.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Student on team #166, Team Merrimack, from Merrimack High School and Unitrode / RS Machines.

Posted on 6/3/99 8:15 PM MST

In Reply to: inspiration or motivation? posted by Daniel on 5/31/99 7:45 PM MST:

I totally agree with Daniel… I’ve been MIA for a while… Y’know, gotta get what little work done before I graduate… I think that the students, engineers, teachers, and parents should work on the same line as Daniel says… Everyone is equal… The table is round, we all rock… As a student in this program for the past 4 years, I have seen change in myself… And that’s not easy to do for me…

I started out at the beginning of high school just thinking that I’d be taking a back seat and observing everything… Even during my freshman year I had changed my way of thinking… I was in the machine shop every night with all the seniors… I was the only freshman there, and the only female… I found out quickly that the communication of the team wasn’t very good at all… I ended up calling the main senior guy on the team every night to see if they were working that night… Apparently I’ve always liked power tools… Many times mom came to pick me up from the shop late at night… I’d always say I needed a little bit more time to finish the part that I was working on… She was astonished when I’d just turned on the band saw and cut a piece like it was nothing… Unfortunately she didn’t let me stay for any of the all-nighters… That year we had just as many engineers as dedicated students in the machine shop working on the robot… That was awesome… I got to learn how to machine some of the simpler parts of the robot… I got help from the engineers when I needed it… But only when I asked or if I screwed up… Same went for the design stuff… Engineers and students both proposed their ideas as equals and everyone would point out pros and cons about everything… I know that there was about a week in the shop where one of the seniors and I designed and prototyped something for the robot… It ended up failing miserably in competition and got ditched for nationals… In theory it worked… But it just didn’t even happen… But it’s all good… I was frustrated at first, but now I laugh about it cuz now that I have 4 years under my belt I see a much better way of doing it…

And now that I have told you a story about my freshman year, that was just freshman year… And I won’t put you through talking about the next 3 years cuz I just did more and more each year… I’ve gained more and more engineering knowledge and confidence and leadership roles… And it’s my own fault… I didn’t let anyone shoot me down when I was trying to get to the top… I ended up becoming team captain because I wouldn’t let personal grudges get in my way… And on the inspirational side of things, our master engineer actually showed me how I could apply my math skills from class to the robot… And what was even cooler was the fact that there were a few times that I proved him wrong with those same skills… He is the only engineer that stayed with the team all my years with the team… Everyone else has come and gone… He is the person that gave me the most inspiration throughout these 4 years… He’s going into the navy now and won’t be helping the team out anymore, but he’s given us his address so we can stay in touch… Maybe the only reason I’m so attached to the inspiration thing is because we haven’t had much engineer/corporate support the whole time… Well, I’m done for now… If I think of anything more I’ll be adding stuff…

-Kate-

Posted by mike aubry.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Engineer on team #47, Chiefs, from Pontiac Central.

Posted on 6/1/99 3:22 PM MST

In Reply to: Eating lead in 2000 posted by michael bastoni on 5/31/99 9:00 AM MST:

Mr. B.
You are such an articulate person and oh so inspirational to all, BUT - your comment regarding the
following raises a concern!
: A minimum of 10 weeks prep time (building the machine, the animation, the CA, the FFL, the
: fundraising, the ‘Community Events’ (I so hate that term)…all for what…FOR 1 or 2 brief
: moments of thrilling excitement and INSPIRATION.?
The objective of inspiring each other, (engineers inspiring students, teachers inspiring students, students
inspiring engineers, etc.) cannot be measured by the amount of time that we interact on a robotics playing field.
I have found that the most inspiring events have occured at a wide variety of times, and that by far most if not all of
them were no way near a FIRST playing field or in the close proximity of a robot. Many times just talking with them
about all kinds of everyday things have lead me to be inspired, and hopefully the students feel the same.
The issue isn’t how much we play the game - I don’t think the challenges of the game or the robot is the cause of the
inspiration. The game and the robot are the glue that brings students, teachers, and engineers together such that
the interaction may hopefully result in an inspirational occurance - for everyone. I know that I get inspired every year
by the students and teachers on our team. I can only hope that by some small miracle I can inspire someone to go on
and continue their education in a field of technology, or continue to participate in FIRST. Unfortunately, the time factor
is real and must be dealt with. Continuing to play the game (same or otherwise) by extending the season doesn’t mean
that we will increase our chances of inspiring any additional students, teachers, or engineers. But, I do fear that we will
burn them out! I don’t think that burned out people are as able to inspire others, so we must be careful about ‘How much’
time. You make a whole lot of sense, and believe me its been felt here on team 47 as well. The problem is that this thing
that we all love so much can be whatever you (individually) want it to be, but you know as well as I do that collectively (even
just on a team by team basis) it is almost impossible to agree on what it should be & how it should be run. Keep up the great
work, and the inspirational comments.

Posted by Ken Patton.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Engineer on team #65, The Huskie Brigade, from Pontiac Northern High School and GM Powertrain.

Posted on 6/1/99 4:01 PM MST

In Reply to: Re: Inspiration is not measured by time posted by mike aubry on 6/1/99 3:22 PM MST:

Mike-

I think you’re right. Most of the inspirational moments that I remember are the ones that happened during the design phase, when the contribution of student team members had an impact on overall robot design or performance. To me, thats when the student might think to themselves ‘I could do this!’ Later on, once the robot was built, was more ‘showoff’ than ‘inspiration.’

Ken

Posted by michael bastoni.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Coach on team #23, PNTA, from Plymouth North High School and Boston Edison Co.

Posted on 6/1/99 8:24 PM MST

In Reply to: bingo posted by Ken Patton on 6/1/99 4:01 PM MST:

I would love to do nothing more than share a cold drink on my porch with
the people who contribute to this page…agree or disagree it does not
matter…what matters is that we are ‘outing’ what is essential to this
program…because we are this program…the kids, the technical folks,
the teachers and the parents…and what we believe is essential, is what
is essential. And there are some striking comonalities surfacing in this
dialogue as well as some strongly held opinions…good show…strong opinions
demonstrate passion and passion is the antidote to apathy.

For instance…Dan holds strongly to student involvement…to the belief
that high school students can do the ‘engineering’…and properly supported
they can…I have seen too many examples of what young men and women have
achieved to think otherwise…

But let me please go on record as being highly respective of anyone with
a technical degree, and exponentially respective of those who hold
advanced degrees…and so it goes.

And the FIRST games as they exist presently
are at just about the right level for high school students to participate
fully…but to participate fully they need instruction and lots and lots of
time to gain experience and insight… Teachers cannot take 30 students and bring them
all up to speed on the intricacies of electro-mechanical design,Materials Science,
Machine tool processes, Microcontroller programming, Desktop Publishing
AutoCad visualization and 3DMax animation techniques…enough to be competitive…in six weeks…
but we can over a period of 5 years…Because given the time, resources and ‘reason’
to do it…the students develop these skills themselves. Trust me on this,
They really do. But remember the important part of the phrase…‘Given the time and resources
and reason…’ The reason they take the time to do it is because they want
the achievement, the recognition of the achievement and the knowledge
gained through their effort…And while I am very
biased towards my kids…I will concede that they are more the normative
example as opposed to the extreme. And I freely admit to being more the ‘keeper’
of our lab facility, rather than the director.

NOTE: The Pappalardo Mechanical Engineering Lab at a small university in
Cambridge Massachusetts (MIT) exists soley for the reason that engineering
students should get their hands dirty building machines…even if they will
never put their hands to the work again,cause it provides deeper understanding
if the kids do it THEMSELVES (and many other engineering schools
hold to the same belief)…hey…if it’s good enough for MIT…it works for me.

What I am asking for is the time…the time to work out the design
on the playing field with the kids and the support group, not under the pressure
cooker of the 6 week limitation…The time to really ‘Work Out’ the design, to see
it to it’s logical conclusion…to continue the design process for a period of
2 or 3 seasons before we change it again…to have the time to develop the
solution and bring it to maturity and beyond…before we have to throw it
aside and start the process all over again…I am trying desperately to
relieve burn out…not increase it.

I do not look at playing with the machines as a trivial exercise, but rather
as a test bed for incremental improvements and ‘Proof of Concept’ trials.
This is how we learn…Learning is something I think I have some insight into.
I also look at playing with the machines as a time where students, teachers
and engineers and parents can come together to share the gift of themselves.
Just as Mike Aubry so clearly pointed out.( Great perspective Mike, right on)

JJ you KNOW that you have deeply impacted at least a few of the students on
our team…and it did not happen during the building of your robot or ours…
It happened at a time when we came together to play with the robots…which
in reality was not playing with them per se…but a legitimate extension of
the design process…

Eureka! That’s it…I have come incrementally closer to formulating my
position…I did not intend the phrase, play with the robots, in the sense that it appeared.
I meant that if we continue to play with the robots we are in fact simply
extending the design phase…a design phase that is far more sustainable
over the years and far more beneficial to the students in the long run…

And hey…I’m not going to war over this either, because I value all your
opinions far too much…and I clearly appreciate that the POV of
an engineering volunteer will be understandably different from that of an educator
and for very good reasons…and so the discussion continues as it should.
I for one am coming closer to an understanding of what we are doing
for these children, and for all the imperfections, and personal biasis, it is
‘A good thing’.

One last thing…

I am particularly attracted to the other elephant…the one JJ talks about
where the professional engineers with major (read NASCAR) corporate backing
compete with robots that look like something out of ALIEN…you know, where
Sirgony Weaver gets into the hydraulic actuated persoanl maximizer and gets
the job done…(This is admittedly straight from JJ in a sane moment)
I find this possibility VERY attractive…now that’s inspiration. Leave
the little 130 pounders to the kids…I sooo think that is what Dean’s vision
will evolve to…and then the kids and teachers and parents will have their significant
involvement…and we can watch Chrysler knock end effectors with Coke and Toyota
at the Meadowlands, or in the Superdome and then go home and tune up
our robots to be like THEM…Stone Cold Steve Austin ain’t
even ready for this…

mr.b

Posted by Fran .

Other on team #166, Team Merrimack, from Merrimack High School and Unitrode/R.S. Machines.

Posted on 6/2/99 8:31 AM MST

In Reply to: We are on the same bus… posted by michael bastoni on 6/1/99 8:24 PM MST:

: The idea of continueing and expanding on the current robot for longer period of time can still be done after the fact. There are no rules after nationals and if it teachs your students more about how to improve on a design then go for it. Imagine what the robots showing up at Rumble might be able to do. You could work all year long on changes and have micro-meets like we did in the school cafeteria during lunch hour…all you need is one other robot from a nearby school. We met the following week at the other schools caf to return the favor…it was simple without too much planning and it work,everyone from 2 schools knew what we were doing and we had fun playing with our robot more.

FIRST really wants the schools to create a curriculum so all these aspects are taught year round not just in 6 weeks and that is why they have added the new award for curriculum development. This will allow for learning how to use and develop the things neccessary for the 6 week crunch without taking time away from the companies…it should ease burnout.We are certainly hoping to bring the FIRST course to our school but it might take a while yet. We need to grab the interest before High school so they look for it when they arrive. We are putting on a demonstration at our middle school in conjunction with the Lego League for our 8th graders, including animation…hopefully the interest will go home and as more kids want it, the parents will seek more from the school boards,

I guess I’m rambling and off the subject by now but KEEP IT SIMPLE and use your robots.

: I would love to do nothing more than share a cold drink on my porch with
: the people who contribute to this page…agree or disagree it does not
: matter…what matters is that we are ‘outing’ what is essential to this
: program…because we are this program…the kids, the technical folks,
: the teachers and the parents…and what we believe is essential, is what
: is essential. And there are some striking comonalities surfacing in this
: dialogue as well as some strongly held opinions…good show…strong opinions
: demonstrate passion and passion is the antidote to apathy.

: For instance…Dan holds strongly to student involvement…to the belief
: that high school students can do the ‘engineering’…and properly supported
: they can…I have seen too many examples of what young men and women have
: achieved to think otherwise…

: But let me please go on record as being highly respective of anyone with
: a technical degree, and exponentially respective of those who hold
: advanced degrees…and so it goes.

: And the FIRST games as they exist presently
: are at just about the right level for high school students to participate
: fully…but to participate fully they need instruction and lots and lots of
: time to gain experience and insight… Teachers cannot take 30 students and bring them
: all up to speed on the intricacies of electro-mechanical design,Materials Science,
: Machine tool processes, Microcontroller programming, Desktop Publishing
: AutoCad visualization and 3DMax animation techniques…enough to be competitive…in six weeks…
: but we can over a period of 5 years…Because given the time, resources and ‘reason’
: to do it…the students develop these skills themselves. Trust me on this,
: They really do. But remember the important part of the phrase…‘Given the time and resources
: and reason…’ The reason they take the time to do it is because they want
: the achievement, the recognition of the achievement and the knowledge
: gained through their effort…And while I am very
: biased towards my kids…I will concede that they are more the normative
: example as opposed to the extreme. And I freely admit to being more the ‘keeper’
: of our lab facility, rather than the director.

: NOTE: The Pappalardo Mechanical Engineering Lab at a small university in
: Cambridge Massachusetts (MIT) exists soley for the reason that engineering
: students should get their hands dirty building machines…even if they will
: never put their hands to the work again,cause it provides deeper understanding
: if the kids do it THEMSELVES (and many other engineering schools
: hold to the same belief)…hey…if it’s good enough for MIT…it works for me.

:
: What I am asking for is the time…the time to work out the design
: on the playing field with the kids and the support group, not under the pressure
: cooker of the 6 week limitation…The time to really ‘Work Out’ the design, to see
: it to it’s logical conclusion…to continue the design process for a period of
: 2 or 3 seasons before we change it again…to have the time to develop the
: solution and bring it to maturity and beyond…before we have to throw it
: aside and start the process all over again…I am trying desperately to
: relieve burn out…not increase it.

: I do not look at playing with the machines as a trivial exercise, but rather
: as a test bed for incremental improvements and ‘Proof of Concept’ trials.
: This is how we learn…Learning is something I think I have some insight into.
: I also look at playing with the machines as a time where students, teachers
: and engineers and parents can come together to share the gift of themselves.
: Just as Mike Aubry so clearly pointed out.( Great perspective Mike, right on)

: JJ you KNOW that you have deeply impacted at least a few of the students on
: our team…and it did not happen during the building of your robot or ours…
: It happened at a time when we came together to play with the robots…which
: in reality was not playing with them per se…but a legitimate extension of
: the design process…

: Eureka! That’s it…I have come incrementally closer to formulating my
: position…I did not intend the phrase, play with the robots, in the sense that it appeared.
: I meant that if we continue to play with the robots we are in fact simply
: extending the design phase…a design phase that is far more sustainable
: over the years and far more beneficial to the students in the long run…

: And hey…I’m not going to war over this either, because I value all your
: opinions far too much…and I clearly appreciate that the POV of
: an engineering volunteer will be understandably different from that of an educator
: and for very good reasons…and so the discussion continues as it should.
: I for one am coming closer to an understanding of what we are doing
: for these children, and for all the imperfections, and personal biasis, it is
: ‘A good thing’.

: One last thing…

: I am particularly attracted to the other elephant…the one JJ talks about
: where the professional engineers with major (read NASCAR) corporate backing
: compete with robots that look like something out of ALIEN…you know, where
: Sirgony Weaver gets into the hydraulic actuated persoanl maximizer and gets
: the job done…(This is admittedly straight from JJ in a sane moment)
: I find this possibility VERY attractive…now that’s inspiration. Leave
: the little 130 pounders to the kids…I sooo think that is what Dean’s vision
: will evolve to…and then the kids and teachers and parents will have their significant
: involvement…and we can watch Chrysler knock end effectors with Coke and Toyota
: at the Meadowlands, or in the Superdome and then go home and tune up
: our robots to be like THEM…Stone Cold Steve Austin ain’t
: even ready for this…

: mr.b

Posted by Mike McIntyre.   [PICTURE: SAME | NEW | HELP]

Coach on team #47, Chief Delphi, from Pontiac Central HS and Delphi Automotive.

Posted on 6/13/99 3:44 PM MST

In Reply to: Re: Inspiration is not measured by time posted by mike aubry on 6/1/99 3:22 PM MST:

Inspiration may not be measured by time, but burnout sure is. The costs of this program go way beyond $. I don’t see why the playing field plans and the software couldn’t be handed out in the Fall so that teams could begin experimenting with the software and start field construction right away. The kit of parts could be shipped in late Fall so that coaches and engineers could begin teaching about the possibilities of each component in an unhurried manner. The actual game rules (and possibly an additional piece or two of the game field or kit of parts) wouldn’t be given until the kickoff; the excitement would still be there and, since nobody could start building yet, the crazy burnout time is still limited to 6 weeks; with better pretraining of students, they would be better able to make meaningful contributions to the build job.