We are completely student driven, we have five mentors, but they are a biology teacher who just signs the paperwork, a chemistry teacher who is learning as he goes along, just like us (we are a fourth year team, I being one of only two seniors in their fourth year on the team), a dad who hardly knows anything, thinks he knows everything, and overall has a net negative impact on the team imo, then we have a very lovely mechanical engineer, and a very lovely programming mentor, both are extremely helpful when we have questions about what materials to use, how to machine something, if they can see any glaring issues with the design. But our mechanical guy will not design anything for us by our request, and the programming mentor steps in a bit where needed, especally with trouble shooting. Our team is very small, Three Seniors, all mechanical designers, one of which also does the electronics, and I do most all of the mill work, a junior who does pneumatics, a sophomore who does mechanical, a sophomore who does a lot of machining, including most all of the lathe work. Then a group of probably 6 freshmen who are purely in training. We have pushed ourselves to the absolute limit this year, and myself and the other main senior have averaged 40+ hour weeks easily working on the robot. We definitely completely opverdesigned the bot, but I think the feeling of pushing the team to accomplish something great is very present when it is the students that are doing all of the work.
Ultimately my view on mentor involvement is that mentors ought to step in when something goes completely out of a students control. This in my opinion never happens mechanically except in bizarre cases of mysterious problems that seem to have no source or solution (i.e. last year when we had speed ramping on half of our drivetrain, the mentors helped us take steps to troubleshoot once we were completely stumped, it ended up being a voltage ramp in the code with a typo in the line) this is a much more common occurrence in programming, where problems are complex and intangible. We don’t have an electronics mentor so that’s pretty much all on us and the orange hats. Should also say I have no problem with mentors machining student designed parts when the students are unable to.
I firmly believe that the lack of mentor involvement on our team has led to a more valuable experience, one where you are supposed to solve your own problems, where you learn how to organize and lead a team. You learn how to lead a build team, including instruction and quality control. Several times while reflecting with our mechanical mentor he reveals his knowledge of our design shortcomings, yet didn’t tell us, because we didn’t question it ourselves. He was not setting us up for failure, no, he was setting us up for learning.
Additionally, I accept no justification for mentor designed robots, this is a high schoolers competition, and as such, high schoolers should be the ones to design their robot. Mentors should not have any reason to wear white gloves, our team rule is “No mentor hands on the robot” and by god we stic by it, I want to look out onto the field, victory or defeat, and own it, be able to say that the W or L is a result of my own work.