How involved are your team’s mentors in the design and programming process?


I learn so much from students, that I can’t help but think they might be learning something from me.


I really miss the spotlight feature of the old forum software.


The deal here is that mentors are almost necessary for FRC. I was in a team with no mentors at all for my first two years, it was tough, but I learned a ton, it was just the hard way. Now, I am a mentor in my former team and students learn as much as I did in the past, but it’s a little bit easier now.


Yes, I know a young man who was on a team in my region, he decided to leave the team because he didn’t like how the lead mentor ran everything and left little room for students to act as leaders of the team, as well as restricting the student’s ability to enact their own designs, as the mentor essentially has both first and final say on the design of the robot, as that is how he believes they will end with the best robot. I have also heard testament from a father of a student on this same team, who confirmed this, saying the mentor basically just picked his favorite students to work with him making the robot, while the main designers of the robot are the lead mentor and two to three other adult mentors, according to this father. I guess I should also say that this team does extremely well every year, usually winning every regional event they attend.

Further: I do stand by what I said about getting a better experience without as much mentor interference. Walking the pits last week at the regional, there were many times when I saw two, even three mentors working on the robot while the students were either standing to the side, holding/grabbing tools for the mentors, or absent entirely. I understand this is somewhat on the extreme for mentor involvement, but the fact that these situations were SO commonplace that they have practically been normalized is a serious issue, I understand working “hand in hand”, and that is a completely valid sentiment, but when “hand in hand” becomes hand to hand, where the students simply aren’t doing any real work, the students aren’t being given the opportunity to learning


I don’t think anyone is saying that’s right for those mentors to be that way. You are just proving my point on how everyone is different. You have met some very controlling mentors who are obviously not sharing their knowledge in a way that fits your personality.

I guarantee for every 1 of those mentors there is 1 that you would learn A TON from, even if they were helping you with the task.


Just going to give the standard warning that you have only received (and are in turn relating) one side of the story in both of these scenarios. And as tidbits like these get spread further from the original sources, the original intent of the actions/decisions can become lost (which is my diplomatic way of saying that the father of a student who quit a team is hardly a reliable source…).

Also, it seems the students in these scenarios still place stake in the “ownership” of designs- mine vs. yours, students vs mentors, etc. Snarkily referred to as “Not-invented-hereism”. This is a dangerous attitude to have in engineering, yet it is common (I even catch myself being susceptible to it occasionally).

I’ll be blunt. Sometimes, people have terrible ideas. It really takes experience to distinguish them, even if on paper they will be “better”.

Example- my last two years of FRC I was dead set on building a fancy articulating drive base. It would have been pretty slick, and I truly believed it would help the team do better. Our lead technical mentor disagreed with it and so I felt held back by that. I was not satisfied with our “ambition” in how much we attempted to do every year (there was more to this, not solely related to a drive base but it still stands). As a mentor myself now, he was so right. That thing would have been so useless, heavy, and gotten us nothing but “cool points” and maybe a tad bit of know-how. It would have occupied too much time in build season, where real improvements are gained through manipulator design, which was less interesting to me. I will let you draw any potential parallels on your own.

(Also, thanks Sean)



Welp. Time to post this again.


Sorry if I was unclear, the father was not the parent of the same student who left. Other than that I really don’t think that you and I are quite on the same page, I agree with the sentiment of “ownership”, and I am definitely am guilty of thinking that way, but I don’t believe that has much involvement in the problems I am really bringing up with over-involved mentors, which is that the “hand-in-hand” approach can so easily lead to mentors doing work or design that does not involve students at all, excluding them from the learning experience.


Yeah you’re exactly right, my point is that the whole approch of “hand-in-hand” mentorship can really easily lead to mentors doing work or even design that doesn’t involve students, or only a select few students, excluding them from the learning experience. I think it is better for mentors to have more restricted access to the robot, as it promotes their supervision and suggestion, instead of opening the way for overinvolvement.


In my experience, where I’ve seen some very controlling mentors, the ratio is more like 5 or 10 to 1 of beneficial mentors.


So you’ve presented one example of an overly controlling mentor (and I can immediately think of 2 that I know of (one set recently quit)), but you can’t make a leap from an anecdote to all mentors.

As for your survey of the pits, I would first say that is opposite of what I see when I go through the pits. I see mentors holding robots so that students reach a spot (glorified workbenches) because they happen to be the strongest person in the pit. And I will see teams trying to hit a time deadline with mentors tweaking a part. (Or I guess you’re all for ruining inspiration by keeping those teams off the field.) But regardless you have NOT seen those teams in the workshop where most of the work occurs. Have you seen whether the mentors are leaving most of the work to the students? I think you underestimate what time pressure does to the work balance. I’m all for maintaining student inspiration in the clinch.

I’m ready put up our students who went to top level colleges and were told to skip the introductory engineering and programming classes because of what they learned in on our FRC team as evidence that they got at least as good of an experience. Are your alumni coming back and telling you that this is their experience?


Pretty much all of the “mentor involvement during the design process” was done by me. Here is the sum total of the work that I’ve done that ended up on the robot.

  1. I made the first whiteboard sketch with a little rectangle on the side of the bigger rectangle. The kids liked it, so they designed a robot to join the #sidewayselevatorgang.
  2. We had a gigantic gearbox actuating our intake originally. I CAD-ed up a concept for a smaller one (floating a gear and sprocket on a live axle from a different stage of the gearing.) The designer liked it, and redesigned it to fit the space on the robot. I think my gear-bolted-to-sprocket subassembly is the only part of that assembly that made it onto the final design.
  3. A part had some holes that were .250 and needed to be .201 instead. The designer was off running a CNC, so I changed them myself. Should I have stopped him from building parts to have him type in the number instead?
  4. The only one that I actually might have stepped over the line on. I designed the camera mounts and pulley guards. It was week 6, everybody was stressed and busy. So, I designed them and had my company print them. I freely admit it. #mentorbuilt

On the topic of this conversation, here’s something we tell our student leadership:
There are things we do because we’re a FIRST team. There are things we do because we are a San Dieguito Academy team. There are things we do because we’re Team Paradox. You have to balance and understand those motivations to be successful leading this group of students and mentors.

Teams that have the students do 100% of the work on all fronts are well within their rights to do so, as are teams with a 50-50 split, or anyone else. We have about a 90-10 split. That has nothing to do with being a FIRST team, it has to do with being Team Paradox.


I know this is robotics, but my background is philosophy (not engineering, which is why I’m a bad robot designer). You’re committing the slippery slope fallacy here.


If a student wants to work, let them
If a student wants advice, talk to them
If a student wants help, listen to them

The program is mentor based in the sense that mentors should be there to provide just enough inspiration to the students.


Honestly I’m a fan of people just continuing to post the same ideas in this thread as opposed to making new ones. May the cycle continue!


I believe the thread has reached the “You do, I watch” stage.


I have yet to touch a robot this year, am I doing it right?


Only if you are wearing spotlessly white gloves


Because I’m an engineer, I like bringing jargon into an argument and for as many years as I’ve been around for MentorBuilt arguments, I’ve never seen these terms thrown around on Chief Delphi. The teacher-mentors can probably bring more nuance and depth than I can from my few undergraduate teacher-prep classes, but here I go wading in anyways. Let’s talk Zones of Proximal Development and Scaffolding.


If you’re able to devote sufficient resources in pre-season to provide “much assistance” while training students, you may be better equipped to withdraw some of that assistance during the build season… but some teams may need to provide “much assistance” during the build season.


Thank you for keeping me accountable, I will refrain from that error in the future