Kettering University Rookie Robotics Team


As with most graduating seniors involved with FIRST, I was excited at the prospect of a FIRST College Scholarship. I was fortunate enough to receive a very generous scholarship to Kettering University. Now, I am halfway through my first term at KU (yes, class started in June) and I absolutely love it.

Kettering is a co-op based school who believes in hands-on experience. Most of you are familiar with the Kettering Kickoff which the school hosts each summer; a truly wonderful and exciting event. Also, many people have heard of team 70, which is a team sponsored by the university.

I would like to introduce you to a new Kettering University Robotics team, one without a name. A few of the scholarship recipients (Kettering gave out 9 last year) felt that we should do something in return to Kettering for the scholarship that we received. We recipients, and some extremely motivated FIRST alumni, are in the process of setting up a second robotics team.

This team is designed on the ideals of what we consider to be, the perfect team structure. One of our biggest complaints with our previous FIRST experiences was the structure of the teams. We felt that the students did not get as much of an experience as they could have, had they been in a system where their input was considered. In simplicity, it is a democracy.

We are straying from the politics of team structure, and letting the students structure themselves. We want fewer parents and engineers working on the robot, and more student involvement.

We plan to have a group of Kettering Students mentor the team. No engineers, no politics, no one in it for the wrong reasons. We want our students to enjoy their experience, learn as much as they possibly can, and have fun!

The students will get to decided almost everything on the team; from the name and colors, to what regionals are attended.

In addition, we plan to work in two very important concepts that we learned from our previous teams. The first is the ability to not have a defined high school, so that any student in the area willing to make the commitment can join our team. The second is a senior scholarship fund based on the number of years involved with FIRST,

Now to the point: what do you think of our ideas? We are seeking sponsorship, and are in the process of collecting funds. We appreciate all input!

Aren’t politics unavoidable in any situation that involves a group of people?
What are wrong reasons for being in FIRST?

In addition, we plan to work in two very important concepts that we learned from our previous teams. The first is the ability to not have a defined high school, so that any student in the area willing to make the commitment can join our team.

Although we couldn’t compete last season for finacial reasons, I started a rookie team that draws students from the entire area…including homeschoolers. We do have a homebase at one of the high schools because 1) they gave us our our room to work in and store out stuff 2) they let us use the auto and wood shop and 3) it’s the closet to the college, where myself and other mentors attend. It works out well.

I was wondering when we were going to hear about this (Bob Nichols told me last week). Go A-Section!

I noticed you mentioned Team 70, which I hear isn’t doing too well. Are you going to save team 70 and include them in your “Ideal Team?”

The first is the ability to not have a defined high school, so that any student in the area willing to make the commitment can join our team.

The students will get to decided almost everything on the team; from the name and colors, to what regionals are attended.

Team 217 is the same way. We are greatly funded by Utica Community Schools, but we allow anybody from Macomb County to join our team. It works out very well, as we get a good variety of people and ideas.

PM me if you want to discuss more, or talk to me when I’m up at school for the Kettering Kickoff meetings.

Excellent question.

I don’t want anyone joining a team that I am setting up because their parents want them to.

More importantly, I don’t want a team that I am setting up to be in it just to win a competition and go home with a medal. I would much rather go home 10th or even 50th and see that my students have learned something, enjoyed the experience, and can re-apply that knowledge and experience into other areas of their lives.

Isn’t that what FIRST is supposed to be about?

I think so.

He’s got a point. In my four years of ROTC, I saw more than my fair share of students who were forced in for one reason or another. I don’t think any of them performed remotely close to cadets who were motivated on their own.

Our team is run this way and I am an engineer. Our team is based on the engineer and parents guiding and mentoring. Maybe your experience with an engineer led team was not the best but do not automatically leave them out. Make sure that all mentors know and follow the vision and goals of the team.

On our team the students make the decisions, my role is to ensure that reliability is one of the outcomes. The students that stay with the team are there because they want to. We tend to get students joining for a variety of reasons. The structure we have in place requires that everyone has tasks so anyone who joins for playtime or their parents want them to eventually drop out.

I think you will find that the students will require structure until they learn enough to run the team and all its phases. A true democracy is great but someone has to make the hard decisions when needed. You may not want politics but you know that people are people and sometimes it takes a higher level to settle differences.

I wish you luck, you are taking on a big task. There are many other threads that talk about college students starting teams that have great advice.

i like the ideas behind this team that you are proposing, and it would be wonderful if a team like this could successfully be made. however, flint already has 7 teams within the city… would an 8th team be beneficial to the others? teams within the area are already talking about combining with each other because they are competing with each other to get students. that is one of the reasons why team 70 is struggling, and i fear that adding an 8th team would just cause difficulties to the other 7 teams.

why not try and improve on the teams already in the area? there are a few near-rookie teams that could use the mentoring that you guys are willing to give to this new team you are producing. this is just a suggestion from a 5 year first member from a flint team, and in no way am i trying to put down your idea. if you guys can pull it off, i would be more than willing to help out with this new team.

P.S… i also go to KETTERING, in fact, i live across the hall from you magnasmific… :ahh: :smiley: :ahh:

Ok, that’s just creepy! I had no idea so many FIRST perople were KU freshmen!

Anywho, we’re not really pulling students from Flint. We are primarily going for schools not involved with robotics; (Oakland Christian, Brandon, Marist, ect.). As well as home schooled students.

However, we are also ready to help mentoring other local, struggling Flint teams. We have found many many people who want to help in our little program.

thanks again,


sponsor…try to attain many small sponsors rather than one huge one…if the ever have a problem and a company drops out (which they do from time to time) you only lose 10% of your budget rather than 100%. Just a thought

Allright young ones…
Time for the voice of dissent.
Now remember, I’ve been there (in a big way).

Repeat after me:

I <state your name> hereby swear that should my GPA, at any given time, for any one semester in the next 4-8 years drop below a 3.30, I will immediately discontinue my involvment in my FIRST team.

I <state your name> understand that there is more to life than FIRST. I swear to join other campus activities, and maybe even find a nice guy/girl who will date me.

I <state your name> promise that my academic career is foremost in my mind, and I shall work my hardest to be successful, such that I can become a REAL engineer, and maybe get somewhere in life.
I understand that I would be a much bigger benefit to FIRST as a successful adult, than as a college kid.
I know that my parents are paying for me to go to school, not help a FIRST team.

I <state your name> hereby promise to not make the same mistakes made by so many others before me.
I will not fall victim to the sweet song of the denim-king.
I will live happily ever after, with liberty and fraternity for all.

Seriously guys. I’m not joking. For every “successful” college FIRST story, I know 10 major bummer stories.
I’ve seen GREAT people burn up in bad ways.

Some facts:

  • You probably think you know what you’re getting into. You don’t.
  • You probably think you know a lot about running a team. You don’t.
  • You probably expect to be able to balance school and FIRST easily. You won’t.
  • You probably think you know how to be a good mentor. You don’t.
  • You probably think that you’ll be smart enough to skip FIRST meetings to sudy for the big test. You won’t.
  • You probably think that even if your GPA drops, it won’t matter because employers care more about FIRST. They don’t.
  • You probably think you “owe” FIRST for all it’s done for you. You don’t.
  • You probably think you know how much Thermo sucks. You don’t.

Join Mini-Baja, it’s more fun anyways.

Consider yourself warned.
It’s a small weight off my conscience, the rest is up to you.


Ohh yeah… don’t ever be ashamed to ask for help. We (the entire community) are all here for you.

To add to what John said:

FIRST will be around after you graduate college. If you really want to stay involved, volunteer at at regional event once or twice (at most) if you can fit it into your schedule without killing yourself. This will keep you in FIRST, provide valuable services (ex: scorekeeping, reffing, VIP tours, Team Tech support, inspecting, etc…) to the regionals, yet allow you to have a life.

For those of you that want to do the team thing, be realistic with your time. Become realistic at scheduling. When planning things out, conservative is better than optimistic. Limit yourself to one particular thing for the team. Keep in mind that one specific thing such as, running the team, might be a big too much to handle.

I’ve been through the job hunt in the last year, a 3.0+ is a requirement, and I was very glad I had one. FIRST helps get you in the door, but a good GPA gets you the job.

Finally, Thermo did not suck. I’m an Electrical Engineer so didn’t have to take it. For the EE’s out there:

  • You probably think you know how much Electromagnetic Theory sucks. You don’t.


At this point, you have already mentioned Team 70 and their involvement with FIRST. You are also stating that you have ‘very motivated’ people willing to be involved in the start of a new team. If you are looking to show the university that their contributions to your tuition have paid off, and lo and behold, they already have a team, why are you reluctant to join the ranks of this team? Have you approached this team? Are there differences between teams? If so, that’s none of the business of anyone on the forums here. But if not, you are essentially starting a new team for reasons that can prove fatal. How is Team 70 doing, as per sponsorship and such? Do you think you’d be able to compete? Is the University willing to have two teams compete against each other, both for sponsorship and on the field?

You have high hopes for a team - you have a set way you want things to run, and a set way of doing them. I must commend you for doing this, as some would be not as wise. However, you are not considering your personal interests, the interests of your other team, and the interests of the University.

Your issue is more complicated than you make it out to be. Currently, every year we see many more rookie teams coming to existence, which is excellent. However, we also sit back and see teams who have existed for years slowly fade away; should this be for lack of team sponsorship, involvement, etc. is irrelevant. The MAINTENANCE of teams is just as important as the growth.

Starting a new team is not always the answer. If you claim that other teams were not in FIRST for the right reasons, or that the students did not get the benefit they could have, your answer is NOT to start a new team, but to try to fix what you can. If another team is phazed out from your competition, is that a victory? No, it’s a loss. We are a community, not a group of competitors that are out for blood. The same goes towards your team. The teams that I am personally excited about are the new teams that form in areas that were previously exempt from FIRST, not the teams that separate and form again. I also owed a debt in FIRST - for the great experience I received, for the knowledge I gained, and for the opportunities that were opened for me. Had there been a team at my particular university at that time, I would have joined it, not simply decided my debt warranted a new team.

Please reconsider your position, or try out a year or so of what we’ve proposed in the last few posts. At least then you can say you’ve given it a shot, you’ve gained more wisdom on what you’d like to define in your new team, and possibly you can figure out a way to sustain yourselves better.

Amanda Morrison

For the sole purpose that my sister goes to the school, I believe I know the answer to that. At Kettering, there are 2 different sessions, A and B. They each attend school for 3 month periods, and then work for a company as a coop for the next 3 months. I believe that the current Kettering team is the B session’s team, and that Alex is a member of the A session. Therefore, he is not at school during the currently sponsored team’s sponsorship. It’s basically like 2 different schools. Alex, please let me know if I’m incorrect on this and I’ll delete this post.

I understand the co-op sessions at Kettering. But why does that mean that they can’t work with Team 70? How do they plan on working together anyway, if that option isn’t available?

I believe that the current Kettering team is the B session’s team, and that Alex is a member of the A session. Therefore, he is not at school during the currently sponsored team’s sponsorship. It’s basically like 2 different schools.

Hey, don’t try and push Team 70 off onto B-Section! Since Robotics Season happens in Jan-March, that’s A-Section’s turf - You should know that :stuck_out_tongue: . The problem (well, one) is that nobody from A-Section has shown an interest in helping the team. They’re basically running alone at the moment, from what I hear.

B-Section ends up scattered around the country for Robotics season. That’s why we have B-section Kettering students on many teams such as 66, 322, 27, 47(?) and of course 217. :smiley:

But you ARE correct - we’re essentially two different schools.

Ambitious undertaking - good-luck, but John states many truths.
If things don’t work out, consider mentoring existing local teams - experienced FIRST mentors should consider this option as it allows the person to customize/balance the amount of involvement with the rest of their life goals. As a “local” team, we would be a stretch, but weekends are prime time involvement, so… if it doesn’t work out, give me a call we have a mentor program for college students.

Mike is dead on.
I see this as the true “success” formula for college FIRST.

This way, you can help mentor a team. Give back to the kids. Learn a TON from the existing mentors. Grow as a person. AND… Not be overly responsible for things, so it interferes in your schooling.
(Like if the robot isn’t finished, but you REALLY need to take some meetings off to study for Thermo, you know the job will still get done without you.)

Often, the toughest part of being a college mentor is the “obligation” to finish the job. I have conciously sacrificed my academics because I felt pressure not to let my team down, and not to let my kids down. This pressure shouldn’t fall on a college student (imho). It is way, WAY too easy to let other things slide for FIRST.

Thank you Mike.

I am the Kettering student that Beth mentions. Dan is right about the time frame, so the Kettering students who are mentors are on their work terms, not in school. I would never try to mentor the team (any team) during school term. Alex, I know you have great ambition, but I don’t think you realize what Kettering and Kettering’s messed-up schedule is going to do to you. Like others before me have said, give it a year, or help out at the events. You don’t have to be a mentor or a student on a team to keep FIRST in your life and continue to have an impact on other people involved.

As a member of team 67 for many years, I’d agree with Dan’s comment that not many Kettering students (if any!) participate on team 70 (our pits are often next/near to each other). By the time FIRST season rolls around, you’ll have a feel for your new school and you can decide how much time you can commit. Then I would advise to help the existing teams in the area. If you want to thank Kettering, give that team a hand! Every team, in my opinion, can use people with knowledge and enthusiasm. I know some students on teams in the area, and they would love your help.

Allow me to clear things up a little.

I am more than willing to extend our efforts to team 70. However, their team in concentrated in Flint.

We already have students from a different area (Oakland county and Macomb county) helping set up the new team. Parents, engineers and students; all with exceptional corporate connections. These people heard about what we wanted to do, and ran with it. We’re moving along quite nicely.

Basically, we want to set up a team that these high school students who are helping us can join. I do not know of the requirements of team 70, but i believe it is limited to Carmen Ainsworth.

I have never known a team to turn down ‘exceptional’ corporate sponsorship.

I also have not known a team unwilling to accept more students.

It sounds like you have not done a lot of research or talked extensively with Team 70. Maybe you could talk to them a bit and see what they think of your endeavor? Should they have the kids, the money, and the effort behind them, you could be in need of another team… however, intuition tells me this may not be the case.