Its a fine line to walk, and has been mentioned by numerous others. I think the more assets available to a team, the more mentor involvement becomes to leverage these things. Whats important though, is to also leverage the mentors to do actual mentoring even if the work to be done is beyond the scope of the students.
The entire purpose isnt about winning, its not even about a robot competing against other robots. Obviously, first and foremost is to inspire our young people to pursue a path to utilizing and progressing contemporary technologies. Secondly is to teach them life skills, that arent really developed in any other youth program on a mass scale. We inspire by doing exactly that, utilizing modern technologies to build a robot to play a different game every year.
The method is exposure, familiarization and practical application to contribute to this “project” as the student grows. As technology progresses so does first. If this were really a student built robot, the students wouldnt learn nearly as much by their end of high school. Think of the time and training it takes to be able to successfully run a CNC. Of course they could find some speeds and feeds and tutorials on how to make the machine run, but what have they actually learned if there wasnt someone there to show them the how and why what works and what doesnt (this is also why i advocate starting everyone on a manual milling machine, imo its the easiest way for someone to understand how a cutter moves through metal as they can feel it in their hands there better than anywhere else). They would take much longer to acquire these thinking skills on how to adapt to different problems. The problem is that most/(nearly all) are not ready to tackle these challenges on their own and be successful at it.
Most students will need their entire freshman year as just an exposure to even know whats going on. Their second year they are learning the how, being heavily coached on what to do, and the 3rd year imo is where the real mentoring starts and they are ready to learn more of the why. This is only the robot though, there are many parts to the first “competition” enough to be able to utilize a students natural abilities and interests in a variety of subjects, not just things needed to build a robot.
To me it seems, the teams that have the most long term success are the ones that are able to leverage their alumni network to keep the torch moving forward, it also illustrates how successful the team has been in its history at executing exactly what first’s intent is.
Like i started off with, its a fine line, and im sure there are many teams where the students are too hands off and its a issue that while it feels like beating a dead horse, is good to constantly reevaluate, not just because its good to try and develop best practices across frc, but to give us some introspective on what were are doing ourselves.