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


I have not attempted to leap to the conclusion that every single mentor acts this way, if I have, I apologize for grossly misrepresenting my opinion, but I don’t see where I have indicated that. I only mean that it is a reality which is possible within the rules and statements made by FIRST.

Good, I’m glad that you see that, unfortunately that does not change what I have seen at competition, I don’t mean to say that every pit looks this way, but some do.

Ah yes, that is an opinion I have clearly articulated, thank you for clarifying, as even I didn’t know that I thought that way!

Seriously, why on earth would you say that, I am in no way against putting teams on the field because of a time crunch, I have felt my fair share of blows in that regard, I honestly don’t have much of a response to that because it was such a leaping assumption you made about me.

My teammates would laugh if they saw this, the 7 days before bag I spent 73 hours in the lab. I know what a time crunch is, and if that’s what it takes to put a robot on the field, then I guess my mentors have done a pretty good job of enabling my dedication, and allowing me to show them what is possible. Additionally, last year the plate mounting our lift to it’s driving chain broke in the middle of a quarterfinals match. It was a student who led the charge in organizing the other students in the pit to make a new plate in the extremely short time we had before our next match. That is the environment my team has made possible.

I think academic success is pretty unrelated to an experience in dedication and inspiration, I don’t quite see how related that is to the issue at hand. Regardless, last year’s seniors (the only ones I’ve known well) both made it to their top college of choice (both to purdue), and just two days ago one of them visited the lab and told us about the co-op he had just qualified for, as well as his experience of quickly becoming one of the leaders on the manufacturing team of an extra-curricular engineering team he had joined. So I hope that is evidence enough that our team fosters both a culture of student drive and grit, and academic success in higher education.


It’s cool, Joe, we all do it sometimes. In my case, the reverse of what you speculated ended up happening: I went from very involved in the design to less so, and now I just try to anticipate needs for parts, and I run the cnc to cut out spare pieces once the kids have put in lots of hours.


Joe, I’m NOT saying that you are getting a great experience and that your program is delivering great student outcomes. What I AM saying is that you’ve made a blanket statement that a student-built program as you defined is ALWAYS superior to others that integrate mentors more. I have provided examples of how that has worked for us. I have shown how we deliver equivalent levels of excellence from our students. So I don’t think that you can argue that yours is superior–you don’t have the evidence. You can argue that in the appropriate setting (and I’d like to know the socioeconomics of your school which has a big influence) that you are also getting an “equivalent” outcome. And I would buy into that, but I don’t necessarily agree that it might be a universal outcome, again depending on the setting.

You are arguing for a universal ban on a direct mentor involvement in the build process. If you are saying differently, then you should change the tone and content of what you are posting. I’ve given examples here of how mentors have contributed or been necessary components of delivering important outcomes. That your team has been successful with your model is not an argument for universal application to everyone else. It’s an argument that multiple models can flourish in FRC.

BTW, I used the academic outcome as a usable handy metric. If you have another metric, we could discuss that. I know of a number of our students who left college early or even skipped college to go directly to dynamic companies in STEM jobs based entirely on what they did on our team.


Okay look, we could go back and forth on this forever, we are clearly both misunderstanding each other, and while I would love to have this conversation with you in person, that is not possible, so instead of attempting to refute your points, and then wait for another response that I’ll find issue with, let’s just recognize that neither of us are going to change our opinions, and forget about it. Or if you’d really like we can keep going, but honestly this is taking up time I could be using to get ready for our next competition.


Only a sith deals in absolutes…



I think we’ve made our respective points about as completely as we can. But if we can agree that it is possible and desirable to have multiple paths to team development that benefit students in roughly equivalent ways, then we’re done with this discussion.


I can happily agree with that statement, are you a cat person or a dog person?


At the moment, cats because they can take care of themselves when we’re gone for the day. But dogs are fun!


I like hanging out with dogs, but I prefer to own cats. Cats are easy to have around, but owning a dog is like halfway to having a child in terms of responsibility.


I guess it’s time to come clean, or rather dirty. Last weekend in Little Rock, I fixed a robot. With my own hands. For a team I’m not even a member/mentor of, as their robot inspector. This Brazilian rookie team had only two members (one mentor, one student) whose English was any better than my Portuguese (based on high school Spanish 40 years ago and conversations with my mother about her few-days emergency trip to Angola even longer ago). Neither of their English speakers was their electrician. It was all hands on deck in the hour before quals started (not yet having passed initial inspection), so I rewired their RSL, showing their electrician student what I was doing purely by getting his attention, pointing, and doing it. I then did a few random tug tests on their other wiring (some good, some not so good) to demo where their other problems were likely to be. It felt right, and in the same circumstances, I’d do it again.

One thing that many of the “student only” posters don’t seem to get is that FRC is “mentor based”, not “professionals based”. In the vast majority of cases, teams don’t have professionals build the robot and students drive it (I’ve only seen one team where I’ve even suspected this). FRC is absolutely about the students - inspiring them, and to the extent possible teaching them and getting them ready to become STEM pros. Mentors are there to guide, advise, and fill in the gaps when students aren’t able or available or willing to do so; sometimes that means doing some design or engineering or programming or machining. However, continuing to do a job when students are ready to take it over is IMHO going beyond the definition of being a mentor.


Normally for the design process mentors write mechanisms we want on the robot and put them on sticky notes (pastel colored of course). A parent of a junior on the team gets to place the sticky notes on the “official decision cork board”. Each student then one at a time asks a magic 8 ball “may I throw a decision dart?” On a positive confirmation student dons the “blindfold of gracious professionalism” and is allowed to throw one dart with there non dominant hand at the cork board. If the dart hits a sticky note we add one point to the mechanism. If the students fail to hit anything they must endure the walk of shame around the building while singing Elton Johns “I’m still standing” (this helps teach students the importance of tenacity in the face of failure). We allow each student 3 attempts at asking the 8 ball for permission and so each student can score up to 3 points. After all students have exhausted attempts we tally the points. We let all students prototype mechanisms but whatever combination of mechanisms makes the coolest looking power armor goes on the robot. The student who caters the best dinner by 3 days before bag gets to decide the drive base (we don’t know what to do with bag being removed).

I’ll have to check how programming is done.


Dang it Waldo, giving away our trade secrets. At least you didn’t tell them about…

I mean

Never mind


Totally on cat train as well, I feel like cats are so much calmer and less obtrusive.


After a long Saturday of working with the team oh, there’s nothing like coming home to a bouncy puppy, who loves you no matter what


I prefer a cat that acts like a dog.


Probably why we don’t own a dog…