Finding a Mentor

I’m trying to start a new team at my school in Maryland, but so far I’ve had little luck in finding skilled mentors willing to commit their time. What channels can I look for mentors, and how can I entice them to join?

Teachers (especially STEM teachers), and parents are all fertile ground.

When you say “skilled mentors”, it kind of makes me believe that you are trying to convince industry professionals to take the helm of a new team. That’s going to be terribly hard to do, especially if you’re trying to convince people who have never been involved with FIRST.

As DonRotolo said, teachers are your best option. Science/math/engineering teachers have a natural attraction to this type of program, but sometimes the occasional LA/History teacher will agree to help handle logistics and maybe even learn a thing or two.

  • Sunny G.

Contact your Senior Mentor and let them know that you are looking to start a team so if they have a someone looking to be a mentor in your area they will know you are looking to start a team. They can also help you with finding grants and provide other assistance in getting the team started and making it through your rookie year.

You can find the Senior Mentor for your state here. http://www.usfirst.org/community/volunteers/first-senior-mentor-program

I also highly suggest you ask those potential mentors, teachers, potential team members and their parents students to attending the closest FRC event(s) to you. I’m guessing it would be the Chesapeake Regional at the University of MD Apr 3-5. If any thing will get them hooked, whether students or adults, attending an event will. You can also connect with the teams near you there and find a mentor team to help you through your rookie year.

While there is often a huge focus on finding professional engineers they are not the only adults that can help mentor a team. Mechanics, Farmers, Construction workers, Computer related professionals are just some of the people that can make significant contributions to your team.

As a teacher, I can tell you that most of them might be intimidated by the unknown, in both responsibilities and time commitment. That might be the case for engineers, etc. as well.

The top key is having a personal connection. If you’re just looking for supervision, what we call “bot sitting”, just ask teachers for one day per week, with specific hours. They will do that. One or two of them might just start to enjoy it. I am not an engineer, and 8 years ago they just asked if I could supervise them. Still going.

Regarding industry mentors, it also helps to scour who moms, dads, uncles, aunts of team members. Get creative. I even believe some support could come from a Google Hangout with other FRC teams, university teams. They might also be worried about a big time commitment, so just ask for one afternoon a week.

Finally, promote yourselves. We got an amazing engineer mentor based small articles we put in our school newsletter. He was concerned we were doing small-scale stuff like VEX, and he was very surprised to see the FRC robots.

Keep with it. And use the FIRST community, it’s built around sharing. I can tell you that Team 4509 is ready to help!

I agree with finding people how have ties to the team members already. Our rookie year we had:

Coach - Science teacher
Mentor - Her mechanically inclined husband
Mentor - Coach’s friend who worked as an engineer for Honeywell
Mentor - Coach’s friend who worked as an engineer for Northrup Grumman
Mentor - My mom who focused on the business side
Mentor - Father of a student/Family of the coach who understood programming

We also had help that year from team 1108, our ties to that team besides being in the same general area is I had an aunt who mentored the team and a cousin on the team.

Since then we have had businesses who work with the Regional Directors and how Senior Mentor and VISTA to identify employees who want to volunteer and match them up with local teams in need. Most areas have a list of people with specific skills that they can call upon to help a rookie team or even a veteran team that is struggling. It never hurts to send them a quick email and see if they have any contacts.

Our son’s school had the exact problem. Our son mentors the team now since he’s a freshman across the bay. They still have very little school support. My wife did meet with the principle so they did have a new teacher mentor that can help with programming. But yes the time commitment from there is definitely not there. Last year (their rookie year) they built the whole robot out of a garage themselves. I was so proud of them. It had lots of wood but was so neat!

I made lots of suggestions, but I think to them it was a little late planning wise. You can always look up regional engineering associations and ask if they have any people for you to contact. But I do think parents and alumni of the school are your best bet. The drawback for us the local university SF State has a very small engineering department.

Their are many teams in Maryland.My team 2849 Ursa Major is located in Columbia,MD not sure how what part of Maryland your from.Our first year was just several teachers from our high school who watched over us.We began with 2 high school on one team and a few years later they had enough members to begin their own team.

I think it basically has to be word of mouth for that initial contact. Then try to show them as much about FIRST as you can. Once you do get involved it’s easy to stay.

Don’t overlook old guys like me. I first became a mentor when I was 65 or so, and am now 73. At that age I began to have some time available for working on FIRST, and a flexible schedule. If my brain is no longer working my teammates have been too polite to mention it.

I think it is important to clarify (with your school or whoever) what authority and responsibility a mentor would have. Competent experienced people are not going to want to have to deal with a lot of mickey mouse rules, from the school for instance. I have heard of cases where experienced mentors had to defer to school faculty on every decision; that would be no fun.