Help with Team (I Need advice)


I’m in quite a perdicament with my Team. I’ll try to use this thread as a micro-blog where i ask for CD’s community for advice…

First i will explain that in our school you are supposed to graduate the robotics class after the 12th grade, but due to a special situation that arised, the sophmores were able to write their “thesis” and graduate the robotics class in the 11th grade.

last year was our rookie year, and the team was equally “owned” by the sophmores (i was sophemore last year) and the seniors, since nobody had ever experienced FIRST before.

after graduatingfrom robotics, many sophmores (now seniors) chose not to continue with the robotics class (in the form of FIRST). but some , five of us, chose to conitnue because we got the bug :slight_smile:

for some reason, our teacher decided that this year FIRST will be designated as a “sophmore project” and the seniors will act as mentors for the team.

However flatterd by the term mentor (I am, after all, not even 18 years old and the kids I am supposed to “mentor” are 16-17…) this was not what i joined on for.
I wanted to do work. the down and dirty programming, the hours struggling with the spare link that locks the drive chain, the aluminum welding at our supporting plant. the endless nights of debating arm designs and tetra grabbers. THAT was what I signed up for.

anyway, today I started working on a model ball shooter, and when our teacher came in (an hour late without an apology or something - not that she ows us something but it would be nice if she would explain why she was an hour late when i have already been there for 6 hours…) she freaked out and started saying some stuff about us (seniors) doing all the work and not letting the sophmores in on anything.

this is, on a large part true, but it is mostly because we feel that the sophmores are just lacking any passion for the project and are just not active.
they lack initiative and just generaly don’t do anything unless we tell them to…

The situation bothers me (the sphmores not initiating anything) but i couldn’t do anything…

it seems that along the way a rift was forming between the sophmores and the seniors. they compalin about our behaviour but i can say, in an almost completly objective way,that it is like a person complaining that he is dying of thirst, but being too lazy to pick up the glass of fresh water that is right there.

all they have to do is try and integrate, but they just complain!
I actively forced seniors to work with sophmores and observed from the side, for the most part they show no willingness to participate in the thought process and just do what the senior says (and he is not just telling them what to do! he tried asking for their opinion but al they did was “uhm… i’m not sure… what do you think?”)

after my teacher freaking out we basicly had a talk with her and said that it is not ok that they do not accept us as part of the team and that is the way we want it to be, the teacher kindof acted like a politician and said nothing really, except what we already knew.

we are left out of the design proccess and the decision making, she buys parts for a design we did not talk about without talking to us (parts worth 100’s of $$$) and just generally ignores our presence as students and only wants to talk to us as the “Teacher Aids”, her extension as order keepers and people that can be left in charge of one of her projects…

What can I do?
we are now in situation we are going to say it’s either were on the team or were not, no in between/“mini-mentor”/order-keeper/nanny job…

and i don’t want to lose FIRST… (right now it’s a lose-lose situation: wither be on the team the way she wants or not be on the team at all…)


:confused: :confused: :confused:

That is a predicament, but not an impossible one. Try explaining to the teacher that the seniors’ roles are to be team leaders. They are members of the team in all respects, and for the reason that they understand the build proccess and are veterans of FIRST. A senior’s role is to lead BY partipating so that they can pass down the knowledge to younger members. My team is going through a similiar proccess right now, in that our senior members (myself included) will be departing with much of their knowledge next year. We are trying our best to incorporate the younger members into the design process, but we’re definitely not sitting aside and letting them take over. Heck, we seniors have FIRST dibs (play on words there).
It seems that this teacher is very unwilling, but if you and the other seniors sit down with her and explain the circumstances, you might come across some common ground. If all else fails, look into getting a different faculty sponsor if possible. Have a meeting with the sophomores as well. It would be a shame to have a predicament like that ruin your last highschool year of FIRST.

you are, ofcourse, right.
and a meeting with the sophmores is a good idea. without our teacher perhaps.

I will try and have a meeting with the other seniors and form a common view so that we can talk to the teacher as seniors, and explain our view.

A different sponsor is not really possible (the only thing she teaches is robotics.)


I think Stephen brought up a lot of good ideas.

I think what is happening is that the teacher likes exerting her power over the students and so “her decision stands.” She wants to sophomores to work on the project but I feel she’s going overboard.

Maybe you can talk to her and turn things around. What I mean is, still make her think that you guys are “mentors” but become more like “team leaders” (as Stephen suggested). That means you are “mentoring” the students but are apart of the team as well. Or you could say that you are concerned with the monetary decisions and feel that the “mentors” should look over the decisions before they are carried out. I keep on putting “mentor” in quotes because that’s what she will think but in reality, you guys are team leaders.

Also, you need to think how you are going to approach your teacher. Maybe an upfront confrontation wasn’t the best way (maybe it was, that’s for you to determine). You might want to try a written request first, signed by the seniors, so she has time to read over what you are saying and think about it (there are no interruptions when it is written on paper) and you can discuss it afterwards. Or maybe she isn’t a written person but is more likely to respond to someone of authority – I would suggest getting a parent involved.

The second thing you must do, like Stephen suggested, is have a meeting with ONLY the sophomores. Let them know how you feel. Tell them they seem lazy to you but let them fight back. In the end, if they don’t seem to accept what you say (“WE ARE NOT LAZY!”) then just say “so prove it.” Let the sophomores say how they feel as a team, too – they don’t like you guys “taking things over” so maybe they have a better idea? Maybe there are a few things that can be changed. If they are completely unwilling to cooperate, say that “as mentor” you want their team organization on paper: who does what, how they communicate, etc. If they want to grow up, tell them to do it and see what they come out of it. Even if they opt for this option, see what happens… they might be able to pull together after all and make your job more enjoyable or they will realize that they need your help after all.

Finally, you might want to appeal to someone of higher authority. Your teacher being late is no excuse and at least someone else can let the teacher know that this is not acceptable. Maybe you will get a better teacher because of this.

I hope you are able to fix some things with your team. Keep us updated, I’m sure many others are having the problems you have and can learn from your situation.
You are always welcome to come here and ask for help =).

Might I suggest someone putting this in the Team Organization Forum

Ok, now that was a lot of information at first. First off, the aspect I am feeling when reading this is there no means or foundation of a TEAM. You are not working clearly together and it is making everything worse. Yes, I feel you, the Seniors should work on the robot but also **HELP ** with regard to what is been said by your mentor. You don’t have to be

“teaching assistants”
but you should teach and push forward with your members and tell them what they need to be doing and how everyone on the team is important.

Second, there seems to be a respect issue on all fronts ( mentor, senior members and sophomore members). Respect is a 50/50 choice, you either earn or don't. You need to **WORK TOGETHER** and make everything fun and enjoyable. Yes, no one is going to agree what you are saying but you maybe would not agree with something that one of your member is doing. You need to work clearly **TOGETHER ** to get the job done. 

 And lastly, don't treat your mentor or mentors like a piece of crap. There are taking time out of they schedule to provide you the opportunity to experience an amazing adventure with FIRST. I am only saying this because I felt you dislike what your mentor is doing and how everything is running. Yes, certain situations are not in your control and cannot be because you are a student, and the mentor is trying to rectify what to do and how it should be handle with everything that is happening. Trust me, when I was a student a year ago, our captains and I wanted everything to be a certain way and done. However, you can't do it that way.  I learned that our mentors put in a lot of time into the program and taught/show us a lot. We disagree here and there but we **ALL**  work together to get the job done and it turn out to be a fantastic season.  In closing, work together on everything that is being down. Have fun and relax, it only the second week of building. Make your last year with the team, a good one.

generally its not a good idea to try to work out problems on your team on a public forum. I recommend:

  1. Try to find another team in your area that can mentor your team - loan you an experienced mentor (adult) - an engineer would be great. Someone who understands what FIRST is all about and who has experience with team organization.

  2. Team organization seems to be a big part of the issues you are having. FIRST is intended for HS student participation, from freshman through senior years (ages 14/15 to 17/18 here in the US). Mentors are usually college students, teachers or industry professionals (engineers). So in a way you are lobbing the head off your team if you exclude the seniors from actually participating in the design, build and on-field play.

  3. Mentoring: in the several years Ive mentored teams Ive found with new students in the 1st weeks I have to show them how to do things by doing it myself (ie, this is how you crimp /strip / solder a wire…) then they catch on and take over. By the end of the 6 week build period the mentors are mostly walking around with our hands in our pockets, and the students are doing 100% of the work.

  4. Get a well established team to link up with your team and talk with your teacher and other adult leaders, and have an exchange of ideas. I dont know how many teams there are in your country this year, but Im willing to bet its not as easy for your team to tap into the FIRST culture, like it is here in the US, where a call for team mentoring can result in two or three well established teams right in your own city offering to help. You are isolated from the hundreds of teams here, so its a little more difficult for us to meet with your adult leaders tonight over dinner and discuss our FIRST philosophies - but it could be done through emails and other means.

I suggest you talk to other mentors on CD regarding this matter, we help every student or students with anything.

My team is somewhat suffering from the opposite of what your team is going through. Graduates, who have graduated last year and the year before, keep coming back. It’s not that our team appreciates their being here, but they won’t let us think and do things for ourselves. If anything they have come back more controlling than they already were. My school doesn’t offer robotics as a class, but it is the second largest club. We’re an entirely student run team, and though it may have its problems, it also has a ton of positive things. So, maybe you should just be as active and supportive as possible. I’ve noticed that the freshmen on our team seem willing to try anything, but most of them have no clue on what to do. So, we try to teach them by having them actively contribute to whatever they want to. When life gives you lemons, make a lemon tree. Lemonade is just good for one time, but a lemon tree keeps on going if you nurture it. Wow, I think that was one of the most insightful things I’ve ever said! :yikes:

My team is somewhat suffering from the opposite of what your team is going through. Graduates, who have graduated last year and the year before, keep coming back. It’s not that our team appreciates their being here, but they won’t let us think and do things for ourselves. If anything they have come back more controlling than they already were.

Yes, this is good for awhile but if they are constantly coming back and you, your team can’t get anything done or annoyed by what is going on, tell your mentors or school board. The college students that have not sign up to help or register with the school board, can actually get arrested for being on school property.

Aaaah - interpersonal dynamics - the root of most problems on most teams.
A team should be a team. A free exchange of ideas and talents to all who want to participate. Do not let a percieved barrier create a rift in your team. Most problems like this can be solved by talking them through. It could be just some misperceptions on everyones part. Talk to your teacher first - find out where she is and work through the issues. Communication is the key. My advice to all who post team issues here is to talk first and then reach out. Most of all do not let barriers stand in your way - find a way to work around them in a positive manner.

Thank you all for your advice, I will try and talk to my teacher, since a few days have passed and it seems that weboth have calmed down a bit.

You are right about working as a Team… I will make that one of my goals :slight_smile:


Ideally teambuilding is done during the pre-season so that when the Build season arrives you have already worked out some of these issues and are working together as a cohesive unit. But in the real world that doesn’t always happen. It might be worthwhile to take one of your build days (please don’t yell at me for suggesting this!!!) and make it a “mandatory” teambuilding day.
Take the first hour and in a facilitated discussion, air your differences. That means one person has to lead this so that everyone gets a chance to speak.
Take the second hour and discuss team organization. What will the structure be? How will decisions be made and who has final authority (this may be your teacher advisor simply because you are a school-sponsored club)? Assign someone the task of writing a team handbook after build season is done (if they can’t fit it in now). Having clear rules makes it much easier on an organization.
Take the third hour and do teambuilding exercises (read the Team Organization forum on CD for ideas). Stress working together positively. Do all the team members know each other? By name? Do you know each other’s interests? Start with ice breakers if you need to learn those things and go on to problem-solving exercises.
Vow together as a team to move forward and improve the organization for the benefit of future years.
And if you only have one mentor, find her some help! One person cannot possibly do all of this and that could be part of why she expects the seniors to pitch in as mentors.