engineer bots

This has been discussed in other threads, please search :slight_smile:

To me this thread reveals why I always disliked those “popularity thread” that appear every year (“WHo has the best robot” , ect.). Not every team has the resources that other teams do so when they see Uber team X roll out thier super fabricated machine and run circles around every body else and get fawned over every second on Cheifdelphi while these other teams who worked just as hard on their robot struggle year in and year out to just survive often without fanfare or trophies and kindly phrases from FIRST veterans do not make them feel any better.
It would be nice if FIRST had everybody perform on a level playing field but that just isn’t going to happen (FIRST just doesn’t have the manpower to make sure all teams work within the realms of what is legal). It’s like major league baseball. The Yankees have more money than everybody else that allows them to build a virtual all-star team while whole division have a smaller payroll than the team. But did the Yankees do wrong for doing what they do? It’s not agianst the rules so it’s not wrong.
What I offer to the teams that do not have the resources: keep on keeping on. The rewards await your efforts if you persevere. All we ask is you don’t give up.

We used to brag that our robot was 100% student built, but over the years what I’ve found to be the case is that isn’t really what FIRST is looking for in this. The end goal I believe is to get high school students working side by side with industry professionals.

couple things Dean has said in the past at the kickoff meetings:

“In a couple weeks you might start to feel you are involved in a robot building contest. Then you are in serious trouble!”

“The game is not fair. The competition is not fair. Its not meant to be fair.”

The competition / game part of this program has never been intended to be a contest to see which highschool or sponsor team can build the best robot. Thats not what we are here for.

so true, however there must be a balance!

I have been reading through this thread and i finial decided to post.
My team MOE 365 has a very strong mentor support, We are very very very lucky to have mentors and parents support from many different industry’s and fields, By having those mentors our students are able to see a glimpse into what kind of careers they might want to go into. Yes we are very lucky to have a great group of support.
Is our robot built by our mentors? NO even though we have a strong engineer base, our bot is designed, built and programed by students. Our mentors work with us to help us learn what we are doing. Our bot has always been student designed engineer refined, that means we design it and then guide us to what can and cant work, With out our great mentors I know that I would have never learned how to work on a drive train or pneumatics system. Working with them has been the best experience of my life.
It was said before that this is not a science fair, that means that kids can work with mentors to help them and that is what happens, they help them.
I do not see any problem with those teams that get help from or build/machine parts of the bot for them, as long as the students learn something. That is what FIRST is all about teaching Kids, about life and some science stuff to.
It is sad that some teams do not have any mentors beyond a parents or a teacher, but just remember that those people are still teaching you a lesion just like everyone else’s mentors are.
I am sorry about the wording of this post, This topic was really hard for me to express my feelings in words, So I am going to end it here.

I read a lot about people seeing teams that look like they were build by engineers. Go and talk to them, and you might be surprised by what you find out. Maybe not, but at least then you have better data on who built what then how the robot looks.

Be civil in all things and you will get far.


It does make it all the better when the Red Sox win, though.

Yeah but technically the Soxs spend just a little less than the Stankees.
But I do enjoy it when they win. :wink:

I’ve only skimmed this thread because there are alot of lengthy posts, and i just want to put my 2 cents in… maybe 3 cents.

I think whoever said it was about the inspiration is 100% correct. FIRST is meant to give a group of kids to work alongside with engineers, not nesecerrily to win. You want to come up with the best solution to the problem, and as in the real world, if you’re coming up with a solution, you are pit up against people with more resources than you.

Our team for instance, both years, has had a very good mix of engineering and student support. This year, we lost all of our funding, so we had to work on a considerably smaller budget than we had last year, but we still, I think (we’ll find out in 10 days), came up with a very good bot. Our engineers were there to teach us, and at the same time, we taught them. I think that working WITH the engineers is a huge part of the experience. I don’t think students doing it all, or engineers doing it all is the answer, you have to be somewhere in the middle. I’ve learned an amazing ammount of things from my 2 mentors on the team (electrical/programming mentor and programming mentor), and I really have been inspired. And I think thats more what you need to get. A trophy is nice, going to nationals is nice, but in the end, it boils down to what you got out of it, did you get something from it… I know I did, and that to me, is worth getting myself beaten by a team who may have lost sight of that goal, who is just in it for the sake of winning. Because at the end of the day, I know that what we did was a huge accomplishment for a group of kids and engineers in 6 weeks, and I think that everyone should get that satisfaction, instead of focusing on the winning.

All the points made about inspiration and assistance from mentors being important are certainly true.

However, having been a student and college mentor with three different teams with varying degrees of mentor involvement vs. student involvement when it comes to designing and building the robot, I’ve noticed that students learn the most when they are ones doing the designing and building. On team 53, the students are the ones coming up with designs, building the robot, doing the programming, and performing the administrative tasks. Of course there are parents and mentors for guidance and suggestions, but really the students are the ones getting it done, and it’s really impressive. They have learned some of the basic fundamentals of engineering design, have some machining and technical experience, and most importantly have a realistic sense of the engineering process (i.e. oh my god, it doesn’t work, what do I do now?!). These are all extremely helpful skills for college and working.

So if you are a powerhouse team and being inspired and learning about engineering, that’s pretty cool. And if you’re a small team where your students are doing most of the work but not necessarily winning competitions, you get your due when you head off to college or the workforce with skills that your peers may not have developed and experiences that your peers may not have had.

Either way, FIRST works. You just have to keep the big picture in mind.

These threads always surface at this time of year, as dedicated students see the types of robots and teams they are up against. This discussion has been great in this thread, and I would like to add some brief additions.

  1. Many people assume that “great looking 'bots” which perform great are all done by adults. While this does happen in FIRST at times, it is much rarer than you think. Many people have accused our team of doing this over the years, as this thread did. While it is true that we have very involved adults, we also have students design, build, debug, and fix the 'bot right along side of these professionals.

  2. There are many college students who are acting as mentors who have had this same opinion of “it’s not fair when adults design/build/etc.!!!” It takes them about a year or two of experiencing the uniqueness of FIRST before they realize the benefit of the adult mentors in this program.

Andy B.

Memories…I do remember when 85 would brag about being 100% student built. We would have problems, the engineers would feel like “what should we do?” and the kids didn’t feel like they could compete. Then one day we asked the mentors "Do you build every part of your product? The answer was “No we can’t if we want to be competitive”. Talk about real world right in your face. Just like the real world is a balancing act so is FIRST robotics.

My best advise is to use your situation to make your team better. Team 85 is about 80% student built. For us that is a good balance. Maybe next year it will be 90% or 40%. Inspiration comes from the kids working with the mentors and from having a competitive robot.

Good luck to all of you.

Steve Yasick

You’d better be very sure you know these machines were engineer designed and built. Because you could be hurting alot of peoples feelings. So machines that look this good could have been designed by the students and then final designed and engineered by the adults.

You have to watch the term engineer robots.
There are many things that go into a finished product.

  1. design of the robots features
  2. engineering running numbers for stress, strain, and weight.
  3. making the prints for fabrication.
  4. making the parts
  5. assembly of the robot

If you are a team that does not make prints for fabrication or run calculations and just starts assembly and fabrication your missing the largest part of being an engineer.

Students can do a great job of designing features, making parts, and assembling parts together. But they really need to see the process of making correct ANSI or ISO standard prints. They also need to see the calculations that are run to predict material choice and size. The whole point of taking math classes that extent up to Calculus 5 is to predict and size parts before you make a giant mess. This is a Design Engineer’s JOB. You can get a little bit out of making an “as built robot” but not as much as running through all the steps.

These steps are why team 173 Rage can build 2 robots in 6 weeks and include spare parts in the shipping crate. The engineers on rage smooth out the students designs. The students first make an as built machine from old parts to try different ideas". Then the engineers smooth out the design, engineering, and then produce documentation for fabrication. Parts of the machine are fabricated by the students i.e. cnc parts (sprockets, gripper arms,) others are sub’d out to sponsors. In the end students assemble the machine together with the engineers at the high school.

The posts in this thread have meant a lot to me as a student team leader. I’ve noticed that this year, team 343 has had a LOT more student involvement than in the past. Despite having fewer students on the actual team itself, the level of their involvement was outstanding. So many factors of this years robot were designed, built and improved by Metal-In-Motion students.

A few years ago… I began to ponder across the meaning of FIRST. Did our team really have it? After winning the very first National Engineering Inspiration award I began to look deeper. I asked myself so many questions like “Are our engineers doing too much work on the robot?” (Nobody quickly answered my question with a NO.) “Are the students getting the true value of the educational aspect of FIRST” I analyzed my thoughts and feelings on many different parts of our team. “What did this all mean to me?” “Since I don’t want to be an engineer, does that leave me at fault for not letting this experience change my mind?” ABSOLUTELY NOT… The memories of the team will forever be with me… The real life lessons I’ve gotten will continue to be a part of who I am, and who I’ll become. “What is the significance in this post?” It’s to understand that the importance of FIRST lies within the hands of the leaders of every team. As we go through life we understand that everyone is different. Therefore, every team has a different approach to designing a machine to perform the tasks we’re given. Some teams emphasize the hands on approach of student participation. Other’s stand by and watch as the engineers do the work. I’ve found over the past year that I’ve answered my own questions. “Absolutely not. The engineers don’t do too much work on our robot.” I’ve found that the most important thing is to have a good mixture of both student design and engineering inspiration. (honestly) I truly believe that our engineers have provided us the basis of what this FIRST is all about. That students and engineers can work TOGETHER as a team. I truly believe that students need to be taught how to do something before they participate in a long trial and error runoff. From AutodeskInventor creations to tapping parts… students can value the participation of engineers as long as it’s in the right way. But yes… Life is unfair. FIRST is Life. After using the transitive property of algebra applied to simple basics. We understand that sometimes… FIRST can be unfair. But as long as YOU value the educational aspects… I suppose that’s the important thing… It all starts with one! :slight_smile:

I think this a great analogy. I would prefer to have students working along side me as we learn and master the art of robot electrical together. I learn from students and they learn from me. By our second regional or by nationals, they are able to perform every task needed except some weird problem that may pop up. Some years there is more student involvement and sometimes it goes the other way. Our students free us up so that we can help other teams at the events we attend. Our motto has been “If you come to play, we will assist in any way we can to make that happen.” I am sure this is true of any of the teams in question, we are bound to help when we can.

And to add my twist to Ken’s “build a man a fire”…Build a student a robot and it will keep him/her busy for a few days in the spring. Teach a student how to build(design, wire, program) a robot and they will stay away from home, use some really strange language and wear funny clothes the whole year long.

Personally, if someone came up to me and said our teams robot was too well made to be made by us, i think it would be a complement. I know for a fact our robot was student made, i watched them make it! The only thing that really wasn’t student done was welding some of the major frame components together, and that wasn’t because they didn’t want to try, but because our adviser didn’t feel comfortable with any students or even himself welding the critical parts.

Also, dint think a team with a college student or students means they do all the work. My team mainly used me as a soundboard and another source of suggestions for designs. Design and engineering was a very collaborative processes between the mentors and the students. Any work i did to the robot was being an extra set of hands or doing stuff like helping drill holes or do other small stuff. Biggest single part i did on the whole bot was a 2 axis camera mount that no one had a clue on how to build. So please don’t stereotype us college students as primary builders :smiley:
Ive been dieing to do something in FIRST for about 7 years now, and this is the first chance ive gotten. So for as much thanks from my team for helping them, i thank them twice as much for giving me the chance!

Personally, I don’t really care how much student involvement is on another team; it’s not my problem to tell other teams how to run.

However on a BCR note:

I am on a team that has about 10 students and 20 mentors. The balance may be pretty heavy, but all of the mentors are supplying inspiration, so it doesn’t really matter. All mentors have different styles, so on different projects there are different styles. On design, there is not much student involvement in the actual pysical design, but all students have input on the conceptual design. If a student comes up with an idea, it will be heard; in fact our 6WD kitbot frame was mostly student designed. Actual building is probably 95% or so. Being on the team for my third year, I am noticing progression/inspiration in myself and others during this process. Programming is a bit mentor-heavy, unfortunately, but without them we’d probably have no code. Don’t get me wrong, they are definately teaching the students, but some people learn faster than others. The concept for our autonomous (have tetra leaning on back of robot, have arm swing over the top, nudge that back under the center driver goal and then whack the hanging tetra) was from a student.

Overall, I like our balance. But heck, I wouldn’t mind being on a 100% student built team. I also wouldn’t mind being on a team with high engineer participation. As long as it gets across the message of FIRST, I could care less.


I agree you guys had an amazing robot, but rookie all-star is not all about what you do on the field and this year it was won in the pits. I agree we did not perform that great on the field. We shipped out our robot with minimal driving time which was our rookie mistake. But to say we didn’t build it is ubsurd. Team 1676’s robot was completly student designed and built. The engineers just guided us along. I think you should rethink posting something like this before you get all the facts.

I myself would have to take a neutral side in this discussion. I have participated in both atmospheres. My first year on team 703 there was a core of about 5 students and 2 mentors that built,wired,programmed,and drove the robot. It was a very tight nit group of individuals that worked together very well. In fact we placed 5th out of 75 teams at the canadian regional last year. Then there was this year when we took in team 902 that had been disbanded by its home school. They had a group of 8 engineers that came with them when they joined our team. At first I felt the same way that most of you feel. I didnt want any engineers telling me how to build our robot, but now i wouldnt have it any other way. Not that the Engineers were the sole designers of our robot, Bill had us helping him design components whenever possible. I along with the rest of our team has developed a great relationship with some of these guys that we were weary about to begin with. Some of them are just like us, Kids in grownups bodies just wanting to have fun (no offense Matt we wouldnt have it any other way). The point i am tring to make is that there are points to both sides of the story and what a team decides is up to them. They both have there strengths along with there weaknesses. But i do know one thing. We started FIRST to achieve a common goal and not only will we leave with more knowledge and wisdom, we will leave as friends and thats what really counts if you ask me. And one final thing i would like to thank all the mentors for teaching me so much. Thanks alot guys. :cool: