Is FRC Actually Inspirational to Low-Resource Teams?

Yeah I used to be on a materially & financially low resource team (our single mentor/coach was a goldmine of expertise but there is only so much you can do with less than 5 team members, hand tools, and a drill). To put things into perspective:

  • our team was primarily composed of middle schoolers (yes you read that right)
  • the team lasted 2 years then burnt out/ran out of students
  • the team had such few members that we had to borrow friends from another team to even have a complete drive team
  • no dedicated workspace
  • simply competed with the KOP

We rarely ranked well and if we did, it was because we got picked by a highly rated alliance. However, the coach was extremely positive and always encouraging. Later on, I was inspired by teams like 971 so I taught myself control theory and signals & systems. Sure its just theory, but I saw it as the first step toward building great robots. Also the FRC worldwide discord (especially the programming discussions channel is amazingly inspirational and helpful).

Being at a disadvantage isn’t what kills my inspiration. Rather, its the feeling of “I cant possibly do insert difficult goal” because then it is learned helplessness. As long as I realize “if they can learn x then I can learn x too even if it takes me longer and I don’t have as many resources,” I can be inspired.

There is a good video on the topic of looking up to those who are better (smarter, better funded, etc) than you and realizing you can do “it” too, “it” being whatever you want to achieve: My DUMBEST mistake learning board repair - YouTube

Honestly, I’m glad I had this FRC experience rather than an FTC experience. Experiencing failure and having to deal with low resources motivated me to learn things like CAD, programming, control theory, etc on my own. This may not translate to others though since our coach was amazingly inspirational, passionate, and hard working - a rare trait.

Also the fact that this topic is in slow mode is kind of annoying because I tried to edit my post but CD didnt let me :frowning:

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Come to think about it, this mentor probably is the single largest reason for my interest in engineering. I mean I was already interested in STEM (LEGOS, doing math, etc.) but this mentor channeled my interest toward engineering and exposed me to the possibilities. He was probably a 1 in a million kind of person. The kind of guy who would chat with students & parents for 2 hours after team meetings in the parking lot of the community center about his experiences leading teams of IT professionals at Cisco and other things. He really knew how to captivate my attention.

Regarding what FIRST can do to make programs more inspirational:

  • somehow ensure that mentors will be inspirational. idk how this would work but especially for low resource teams (few mentor resources), the coach and mentors strongly influence the team culture (at least we let them) and an inspirational vs non-inspirational mentor can make/break the team spirit.

  • to some extent, yes, doing well in the competition (ranking highly, playing in elims, etc.) helps inspire you that “I can do this.” But honestly I think doing well in a competition comes a lot from the motivation of team members - I say this from my experience on a nationally highly ranked Science Olympiad team. Not sure how much FIRST or other teams could have helped our team as we weren’t exactly the most motivated (but that could also be a function of being in middle school???)

I know a big big big part of it is preventing overreach (and we are guilty of it pretty much every year)
A semi functional everybot is nowhere near as much fun as a highly function singlebot.

Something that is hard (and I feel that it could be addressed on CD somehow) is how multiple functions are emphasized so much on CD.
“You should focus on a only scoring powercells… but you won’t get on an alliance if you can’t climb” At champs this may be the case, but not at most regionals.

Not sure how we can stress this on CD where much of the discussion is centered on maximizing scoring, not necessarily reliability (and in turn more fun with driving on the field rather than sitting on it)

I’m fairly sure the larger grouping of posters on Chief are members or teams that are typically medium to high performing at events. This tends to skews posts to more about the maximizing gains over single task focuses. Given that, many posters from the elite teams do advocate that teams build simple (ex. the Everybot).

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True. Here’s a relevant topic for reference.

Also the first topic I ever replied to on Chief, with that reply still being my top reply to this day (which probably says something about the quality of my replies, all things considered).

100% agree with your reply
What I was getting at was the conflicting message that is present on CD.

In our left hand we hold the motto “Build within your means”, in the right hand “You will be left behind if you cannot maximize your scoring potential”

In fact this exact scenario is playing out in another thread The possibility of a yearlong model for FRC
On the “Yea” side: This will increase the means for teams to compete
On the “Nea” side: We will be left behind unless we maximize our time commitment

So if you budget your time within your means (as per the CD motto) you will be left behind (as per the CD unofficial? motto). Not that either is official, but I hope I got the point across

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Perhaps @Oblarg can start a google doc/form and people can add their suggestions for how to increase inspiration? That way we have a single compiled list of (actionable) items to try to act on.

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I have a feeling that’s going to go over only slightly better than the RFID whitepaper did.

The reason being that different people are inspired differently.

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So I am the coach of a high monetary low mentor team. 6805! in Omaha Nebraska. Most years are rough, as we have no other teams anywhere near us. It can be pretty disheartening for my team when they see how outclassed they are at the competitions. The team really likes to leave school for a couple of days and compete, but the opportunity to feel like they have a chance are pretty much missing. As a coach and teacher if it were all my choice I would stop FRC and only compete in FTC where the time is more easily managed, and there are more opportunities for team on team interaction. I would honestly like to see a much longer build time. I understand FIRST might have logistical reasons not to, but why have the game come out in Jan to compete in March or April, why not have the game come out much earlier, September or October? Then less experienced or teams with no mentors or other issues would have the opportunity to make a robot with less stress and have a chance to iterate it. I know those are our problems.

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What about the teams that have the robot built for them, sent to them, and all they do is drive it?

Robotics

Under the some definitions here, I believe my team would classify as a low resources. Aside from the entry fee, we have <$2,500 to spend per season. We also have a big mentor problem exasperated by the pandemic. The school itself provides little support; I’m essentially the only coach, with the second only being a school administrator who signed on to fulfill the 2-coach requirement to register. The pandemic gutted our already-small mentor pool (we had 3), with them having moved out of state or have graduated and now have jobs that don’t let them invest as much time FIRST as may have previously been possible. We’ve already never been able to program our robot ourselves due to a lack of resources and have been reliant on team outreach. Next season is going to be scary - and I’m honestly scrambling to find a different job for next year so that I’m not here for when the team implodes. The school was never ready for FRC, and other programs would be a better investment.

That said, the students did seem to enjoy it a lot pre-pandemic. They like figuring out how to use tools and build mechanisms during build season. But that was with us barely getting by with the skin of our teeth and many nights of working from 3pm to 9pm multiple days a week (the burnout was intense) thanks to some amazing mentors who are no longer here. I don’t see how the team can possibly function next year and provide an inspiring experience.

What? I’ve never heard of teams like that

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Care to go into detail as to what teams you’re talking about? Or are we just gonna indirectly call out teams with no evidence.

Where can I sign up?

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I am also very interested in the mail-order FRC robot people.
More time for driver practice, likely better documentation than anything we had, and I assume there’s a pit assistant package somewhere? Like the Honda guys that deal with all the engine stuff for Red Bull.
I’m sold as long as they also do the bumpers.

Inspiration printing goes brrrrr

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Everybot Doordash service, coming 2023, full bot + bumpers to your door in a week!

You get charged a 30% delivery fee though, and you have to tip the builder…

Maybe I should just build the bot myself at that pricepoint.

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I would be down for mail-order bumpers. Send in your frame dimensions, robot CAD for mounting, and preferred mounting hardware, and you get a red and blue set with pre-applied team numbers shipped to your door.

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Thoughts on rent-a-driveteam? For an additional charge, 6 seasoned high-schoolers will show up to your event and drive your pre-assembled everybot for the duration of the event. That way you can spend all your time being inspired and don’t have to waste time reading game manuals, practicing driving, or talking strategy with other teams.

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Wasn’t there a thread just this Covid summer about trading robots? Did anyone do that?

I remember when that actually happened, but it was about 27-28 years ago. To imply that it happens now is ridiculous.

Andy B.

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