FRC Alumni active as of Fall 2017

As I often do during the summer, I followed a highlight post to an old thread, in this case FIRST Alumni from fall 2009.

I’m curious as to the situation today, almost 8 years later. I know there are lots of alums who are active on CD and have gone on to mentor their old team, another team, volunteer or work at FIRST HQ, or find employment at AndyMark, Vex, and such. A bit from them is welcome, but mostly I’d like to hear updates from those story we haven’t heard recently – alums (whether of your team or another) who are active in FIRST mentoring, volunteering, judging, and so forth who are not regular CD posters.

Slidell is about an hour from the closest solid engineering college (Tulane), and hour and a half from the closest affordable one (LSU), but these are larger than many of our graduates are comfortable with. The Universities of New Orleans, Southeast Louisiana, and Louisiana at Lafayette have done a better job of drawing our English and business majors than our science and engineering majors. The largest share of our graduates head up to Woodie’s Alma Mater, LA Tech, which is about five hours away in Ruston. Our only alumnus mentor I am aware of is our founder, Gixxy, who is also my son, who mentored the West Monroe team (3468) his freshman year, and who has continued to support 3946 through the years, including taking an unpaid week off of work this summer to teach a programming camp. I am not aware of any other of our alumni who are mentoring or volunteering elsewhere, though our first four-year student Jonathan Ruppel (JRuppel) is still actively following and even scouting the league. I am not aware of any interest in mentoring 3946 from alumni of other teams.

3991 over the years has had both it’s own alumni and alumni of other teams come back and mentor. In 2014 we had two members who had graduated in 2013, and were currently attending lsu, come back and mentor. However for various reasons they stopped after an year. We also had another student graduate in 2015, go to lsu, and come back and actively mentor. We have also had 2 or 3 kids who graduated other nearby teams, and are attending lsu come and mentor (just this summer at beach bot a recent graduate of a louisiana team signed on to mentor us for this season (he will be attending lsu starting this year)).

While I have seen teams where their own alumni go back and mentor, and sometimes confuse their role between student and mentor, I personally have not seen that on my team from both our alumni, and alumni of other teams. However I think this is less of a “maturity” thing, and instead the fact that many of these alumni mentors simply didn’t have enough time away from college to be able to fulfill any “student roles”

I’m in somewhat of a unique situation where I get to observe the development of dozens of FRC alumni. I started Bison Robotics during my Freshman year of college at North Dakota State University (NDSU) and I’ve seen hundreds of FRC alumni in their college years. We had 120 members last year, and I would guess around 60% of them were FRC alumni.

Bison Robotics had somewhere around 35 unique FRC volunteers last year and around 25 FRC alumni on our Ri3D team (The GreenHorns). Many of those members went back to their high school teams to mentor during the weekends. *I think I’m the only active member on Chief Delphi out of all the members of Bison Robotics. Many of our members are having great success in college and the real world. I don’t have exact numbers, but a large majority of the FRC alumni from Bison Robotics have had internships/CO-OPs with engineering firms.

I also started the Minnesota FIRST Alumni Association (MFAA) in the past year and I’ve had the opportunity to meet many FRC Alumni through that organization. The goal of the MFAA is to promote continued involvement in FIRST after graduation and in the real world. This organization is just getting off the ground so I can’t really speak to the impact that it’s had yet.

As for myself, I’ve been heavily involved with the team that I was with in high school, 4607. I’ve been a technical mentor for 4607 while also contributing to the strategic plans for the team. The transition from student to mentor was interesting for me as I was definitely ready to mentor in terms of maturity, but I still had friends on the team which complicated things. I’ve driven 3 hours both ways on weekends to mentor every build season for the past 3 years which has been a very positive experience for me.

This coming FRC season I’m looking to continue working with 4607 (less heavily on the technical side of things because we’ve had a huge influx of terrific, technical mentors), while also starting two new FRC teams in Minnesota and North Dakota. My involvement with the new teams will depend on how things go during the startup phase, and how much each team needs help in order to be successful. I’m guessing I’ll have my work cut out for me.

I’ve also started a robotics company which I’m hoping will take off to the point that it will support me when I graduate from college at the end of this year. It’'ll be an interesting year for sure!

*Edit: HutchMN was quick to remind me that he is also active on CD.