I’m a new FRC mentor to a small team. For some background, I have been involved in FIRST (FTC / FLL) for several years as a volunteer coach, judge, and referee. My teams have been fortunate enough to make it to the FIRST Championship a couple of times due to the hard work of the kids as well as their organization and willingness to learn. I love FIRST, and I love that the kids on my teams do great things besides building robots, too.
I have carefully observed the last couple of FRC games before finally taking the plunge this year to help out a team that has been largely unsuccessful on the field but that has some great kids and a nice coach who also teaches a tech class at the school that is partially also for learning about FRC (basically, a robotics class, although it is called something else) . They don’t have any other mentors, and the coach seemed in a little bit over his head even though the team is a few years old.
Budget is not an issue with this team, but organization is. After having spent a build season with them, I am struggling with how to help them when the other adult seems to drop the ball on just about every responsibility that he has. We are exact opposites. I am busy putting together schedules (or helping kids learn how to do so), showing them how to use tools, talking about the strategy involved in the game, and otherwise trying to stimulate their brains. He basically doesn’t do anything at all, and is frequently playing games on his phone with the kids are doing something that may or may not be related to the robot or preparing for the competition. I’ve tried so many times to draw him in to the discussion, but I just get a “yes, that’s what I thought of, too”.
Anyway, a few examples of what I am dealing with:
He put off ordering the parts for 3 weeks after kickoff. Half of the stuff we needed was out of stock by that time.
The kids have never learned CAD, programing, game strategy. There are several seniors who have been on the team for years, and they don’t know how to use as much as a wrench.
At his request, I put together a schedule for the season, with target deadline dates for different parts of the robot, etc. I worked closely with some of the students on this, and by the end they were doing it themselves. This is what I do with my FTC team, and they really buy into it and hold themselves accountable. The result? He says “Oh, that timeline unrealistic, anyway.”
The last three years, the team has shown up at the competition with a partially built robot and relied on other teams to help them get going. I can see why.
About half the kids are motivated and think that FIRST is cool. They deserve better than this, and I intend to help them. Others are just there for an easy grade, don’t allow themselves to be engaged, and are brought along to competition even though they just socialize or play on their phone the entire time. I intend to help them as well, as best as I can. They need something to be excited about. The team has never won anything - not that it’s about winning - but they’ve also never fielded a competitive robot. There has been a big learning void.
Probably the biggest issue I have is that the workspace is always a mess. There are tripping hazards, sharp objects, etc. I spend half the time cleaning up, and I have finally got some of the kids to help with this. However, he is a hoarder and gets annoyed when we put things away because then he “can’t find anything.” I think the place is not safe, and then people tell me it is 100 times better than last year. There are also so many lost / misplaced parts that I am sure we have re-purchased things we already have in stock.
Again, the teacher is a nice guy, and does other things well, but managing an FRC team does not seem to be his area of expertise.
We identified some parts that we need to finish the robot two weeks ago, and they have still not been ordered. They are kind of critical. Our competition is a little over a week away, so we are probably toast. I am sad because the kids are so elated about getting a working robot by themselves, without having another team build it at competition for them. But there are still some parts missing.
Anyway, this is partly me venting, but also a cry for help. I hate worrying about this and it is stressing me out. I feel like a failure for not being able to get this person to see the light. It was an interesting experiment, but I’m not cut out for it. But I don’t want to let down the kids. I can’t let down the kids.
Has anyone else experienced a similar situation, and what did you do?