Mentors level of power

Hi I’m in 1189 gearheads but I’m also in a journalism class and I’m doign an editorial about the level of mentor involvment in a team. so if any of you cna tell me how much your mentors do that would be awesome (I realize theres a topic simular to this one ,but i have a deadline and its just easier to ask the question head on)

Thank you soooooo much

During the 3 or 4 weeks before the kickoff we had a programming mentor teach our programming team how to work the camera. The other subteams relied on the veteran student leaders to train the newer members. Worked pretty well. And it helped us get a lot done.

The first week or so of the season our mentors will help us the students organize our ideas and come up with a general direction of what we wanted to do with our robot.

As time progressed our mentors would assist the team members when they worked so hard at a problem where they needed to have some help, but not at a point where they are doing the work them selves because this is really a program for the students involved.

The good news is by the time we got to the regionals the students on the team were doing nearly all of the work on the robot when it came to repairs.

I know there are teams that have mentors coach their teams. Theres nothing wrong with it at all, we all run differently than each other, but our team just feels that because the robot was built by the students it is the students job to coach our team to victory.

On 1902 we had two types of mentors, college mentors and adult mentors.

The college mentors are the heart of the build season. They bring in years of FIRST experience and know how things work. For the most part they are the ones that pass on the knowledge to the high school students, who do build but also learn and will someday be college mentors themselves.

As much as possible we have the HS students do the building. We all vote together what we want the bot to be.

In software 50%+ was programmed by a HS student with an adult mentor guiding him. The HS student was so good he helped other teams as did the adult mentor.

Added note:

My guess is that:

College mentors did most work on bot
High school students 2nd most work
Adult mentors 3rd on time working on bot (exception is software)

On team 716 we have 4 main mentors that are alwasy there. One teacher that started it and dose the paperwork. One of the main office secretaries that got sucked in is the organizer in general. then there are 2 mentors that help with the mechanicla side of stuff. one is an engineer from one of our sponsers and the other is the dad of a former member. Our mentors usually run our meetings but if we want to do certain things the team decides. the mentors give advice to us as we build the robot. the only thing the students don’t do is machine our gear box, its really complex and the only mill machine we have is at that mentors house a half hour away. all of the programing is student done, the engineer knows a little of it but not much. Our animation is totaly student. this is a school alumni that comes once a year and helps us but usually its done after school by 3 or 4 students.

The mentors on my team try to keep their hands off as much as possible to let the students build as much of the robot as possible. It has always been something we’ve done. The mentors lead the design phase to keep everyone on track. Once students have come up with a design then mentors discuss it and its feasability, then one of the mentors puts the robot in CAD. The mentor prints out drawings and then the students machine everything, a couple students dont need any assistance and other newer ones are shown how to make the parts by mentors or the other students. Mentors also make suggestions and discuss ideas with the students when something has to be changed on the robot.

The programming team this year was completely done by the students, each year they have become more and more independent of their mentor (this was his goal). They wrote the entire code by themselfs, though the mentor did write a backup code just in case.

We had a new electrical mentor this year so he sort of worked with the students because he didnt know any more then the students did about the robots wiring, Between them i would say he did half and half the work.

As exploding bacon was talking about above we also have two categories of mentors, adult and college. Me and another alumini were the 2 college mentors, we graduated last year and did a lot of the mechanical work on the robot. Last year students designed and built the drive train, this year I designed it again (as a mentor) and I set up a management plan and had the students build it. When it was built to spec I did build a couple of new things myself because I knew the design and what needed to be added. I also did a lot of work right at the end of build putting in limit switchs and chain gaurd mounts and such that nobody else bothered to do. This is part of the problem when you let students run the build, things get left out and nobody wants to do them, and things that dont operate correctly dont get fixed. I guess that was why I was there.

During our fall season our mentors help us with the organization of the team again and to conduct the interviews and to recruit new students. They also get the schedule ready for us in the fall.

In the Winter they get the team together and try to do team building ecercises and get the new people intertwined with the other members. They also try and get the T-Shirt designs together.

After kickoff the adult mentors keep the students on task and they plan all of the trips and events we are going on. The adult engineers take us under their wings at GM and have us start on the robot with design on building while we try and teach the new kids what FIRST building is all about.

After the Build season there is the time in between ship and the first event. This is where the mentors plan out the schedules of what we are going to do and they get all the small things done.

Our mentors are the backbone of our team and without them we would probably fall apart at the beginning of the season.

Being a rookie team, the build season was very interesting. The first 5 weeks were completely student driven and built. Seeing that most of our team consists of freshman, our mentors (parents, teachers, profs. from the university) needed to teach students basic skills (using tools, proper techniques, fundamentals of structural design, etc), but the students did all of the building.
Week 6 is when our mentors took a more active role in the building of the bot. By the end of week 5, most of the individual components were build, but not integrated. The students needed quite a bit of help integrating these components, so the mentors stepped in. It was a great learning experience for our kids. I’m not saying that the mentors slapped the robot together, but that we needed to meet our deadline, so they stepped in to help.
That’s speaking for the mechanical teams. The spirit team, the website team, and the CAD team were completely student driven, all the way. The CAD team did not even have a mentor to teach the students! Using the tutorials, our students were able to figure it out.
As for my area of expertise (Electrical and Programming), these groups were also completely student driven. We had a couple of great mentors that showed kids on the electrical team the basics of wiring and fundamentals of electricity, but the students did all of the wiring for the bot. The programming team consisted of myself, another student (Casey, CD Handle: chatterboxx333), and a mentor (Keith, CD Handle: Oddjob). Pretty much what happened here was a huge collaboration. Each of us wrote blocks of code and synced them daily to an FTP. This was great because if Keith couldn’t make it, it wasn’t a big deal, because I could still see his code and work on it. Vise versa. We had every sensor working that we had attempted (camera, ultrasonics, IR range, accelerometer, gyro, mecanum drive encoders) and a beautiful mecanum program. Most of this was cut due to our mechanical team (We lost our scoring mechanism due to weight), but the point is that between the 3 of us, we were able to code very efficiently and before the deadline. When it came to crunch time (<27 to ship), it wasn’t a huge panic to figure out code. It took all 27 hours to tweak, but it was done and ready.

If you need more information, PM me, and I’ll post more.

Well on 1305 right now we have 1 Main management mentor who helps with small edits on award submissions, but she more so is our main contact and helps getting us moving. Without her we wouldn’t have completed a Chairmans on time we started about five days before it was due and we still won and did amazing at Waterloo.

We then have a IT mentor who supervises the IT things like the website and our drive on the school boards network, but she also controled acouting at the compititions.

Then a more business Mentor whos new to the team and is taking on being the Main mentor for our Vex team

For non-teachers we have a professional engineer who showed us how to create the pieces and part for the robot, and we got a programmer (unfortunatly no offence to him but our student programmer already knows more) who also helps during the build week. And our main mentor husband is a huge contact source for us.

So ya these six amazing mentors make up the mentors of team 1305

College teams are a different story than others…

While many teams may have college mentors come and help the team…few teams are actually based out of a college, meaning the lab, machine shop, and mentors all come from a college…in our teams case, Northeastern University.

With our college team we have almost 0 “adult” mentors. We have a faculty member from Northeastern University who handles our official things. Other than its all college mentors. So teams that may have parents helping out along with others, we have nothing but freshman, sophomores, middlers (thats what they call 3rd year @ Northeastern because we are a 5 year school), juniors and seniors in college.

Mentors play a huge role on any team, but on our team the college mentors are what keep the team running. We have 4 high schools participating on the NU-TRONs, and 2 colleges. Mentors have a number of roles, from helping with design to machining, to wiring, programming as well as planning trips and meetings. Because we have 4 high schools it is not easy to deem captains from the high schools (although we do). We LIVE on a listserve that connects all the members of our team. We do not have 1 single way to contact the whole team, this is where our mentors come in.

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This stuff is great guys, along with this question I’d like to ask another one too

How much control should a mentor have on a team?

Like lets say you team runs in a group structure system, meaning you have a student group leader for strategy,build,imagery,etc and then other students as team members for that group

Lets say your group makes a decision and a mentor comes in and shuts down that idea because they don’t think its going to work. When you ask that leader why they say “Its not going to work its a waste of time” (we’ll assume also of course that the group of students came up with a good idea and not an idea to,say make the robot fly =p).

Now do you think thats fair?

Should a mentor be able to do that?

What should a mentor be able to do, not to do?

yeah i know its a lot but it would mean the world to me if you guys answered these truthfully!

I have watched several teams implode because of these issues, so these are good questions.

Before I get into answering the details of the questions. Let’s remember FIRST is to motivate the kids to “a new kind of hero”. I have seen bots built by all kids and almost no mentors, and then go out there and get killed. And other teams the mentors deliver a finished bot with kids never touching it and the team does great. Which motivates the kids more?

We have had lots of debates on this, and I think it can be both. But again it is for the kids but it is a team thing. So no one person, kid or mentor should have total control over the build, it should be a team decision.

Really depends, again it is a team thing. No one mentor on our team has total control.

Hey 1902 proved pigs fly :slight_smile: .

If a mentor does that then it is bad management. Any team member needs to yield to the team. Also there are bad ideas, but they shouldn’t be shut down but worked with and mentor should work with the kids towards the best plan.

But why was the decision made without the mentor involvement? It should be a total team decision working together to make it happen.

Sounds like a problem you had in the past. In Proverbs in the Bible it says when you hear one side of the story it always sounds good until you hear both sides. So I would like to hear both sides before passing judgment.

Again it is a team thing. If you want to run off mentors, just ignore them. If mentors want to frustrate the kids just ignore them.

I think kids are really good at thinking outside the box, I listen to them. But at same time the mentors adult and college bring in a lot of experience and should be listened to.

Sounds like there are deeper problems here that need to be worked through.

Either work together as a team or you will go nowhere.

Sounds like a problem you had in the past. In Proverbs in the Bible it says when you hear one side of the story it always sounds good until you hear both sides. So I would like to hear both sides before passing judgment.

I figured i should of put an exclaimer, Our team has never had those types of problems and I’m not using this information for the team…its simply an example to -me- of a mentor incorrectly doing his or her job and as very extreme situation.

so please this is not a one sided story type thing that I’m going to bring back to my mentors and say how they run our team terribly. Its for my editorial, and that was a HYPOTHETICAL question, thanks

I think mentors should have unlimited power, able to fly, bend heavy steel, spoil milk, make babies cry, and… oh. Never Mind.

Being the mentor, I find myself working extra hard to NOT DO STUFF. I want to be the reference for the students, the consultant. It’s not my job to build the robot, but to explain how to others.

I can tell you, I’d rather be building it, that’s the fun part (for me). alas.

For the most part, I watch and help, but let others do. When there’s a decision to be made, I help by explaining some pros and cons that others may not have though of. I bring process thinking and the classical design methodology to the team. I engage students in the design and thought processes necessary, and let them com to their own conclusions.

On rare occasions, I will fabricate something myself, but only for reasons of safety or when specialized equipment (unavailable at the school) is required.

On even rarer occasions, the coaches and mentors will get together and make a decision affecting the robot. This happened once last season (and not at all the season before), and we were pleasantly surprised to be challenged on the decision by the students, who eventually figured out a better way - and that’s what went into the crate. But for the most part, we’ll only do that when we’re at an impasse, 'cause there’s a schedule to keep…


Enough to keep the kids from hurting themselves, the team (and its affiliated entities), and others. This is a non-trivial amount.

Like lets say you team runs in a group structure system, meaning you have a student group leader for strategy,build,imagery,etc and then other students as team members for that group

Lets say your group makes a decision and a mentor comes in and shuts down that idea because they don’t think its going to work. When you ask that leader why they say “Its not going to work its a waste of time” (we’ll assume also of course that the group of students came up with a good idea and not an idea to,say make the robot fly =p).

Now do you think thats fair?
As tempted as I am to avoid the question (as FIRST is not fair), I will say that a good mentor will elaborate on why something is a waste of resources (time, material, money, etc.). This is not always obvious to the kids.

Should a mentor be able to do that?
Absolutely, provided that the mentor explains his or her reasoning. Shooting down an idea is one thing; curtness is another.

What should a mentor be able to do, not to do?
In my opinion, the mentor ideally should handle the things that the kids can not or should not do. If they can do things better than the kids, then teach the kids and work with them until they’re just as capable–then let them handle it.

[edit]As a caveat, this would be my ideal situation. I found myself doing more as much or more work on 1618’s robot this year compared to any of my years on 1293, for a variety of reasons. I’m hoping to be far more relaxed in 2008.[/edit]

on 340 (and 424 for that matter) we have several very involved mentors. They offer insight but rarely touch the robot (if ever) but they do mill things for us. we have a bridgeport in shop and very few people are trained to use it so they will step in and help out but they use cad drawings made my students. other than that the team is mostly student run. the teacher will put his foot down if we get off on a really bad idea that would be un-accomplishable. I really like how we do things here at the GRR complex

At 1540 we have a strict rule that mentors do none of the work on the robot in any way. The mentors are there mainly to steer us away from really bad ideas, and to be able to answer questions that might arise. We have student “managers” of each department (software, fabrication, design, control systems, etc…) who organize all of the other students. The managers also spend their time during the off season training new members.

I think the biggest effect of being a student built team is that there is no safety line. If we are really far from finishing 5 weeks into the build season the students have to put in the time to get things done. While this could lead to a disaster, it really makes the students step up because it is our project.

My personal view is that in a perfect world all teams would be student built, but its hard for many teams to be student built. Having a team that is somewhat built by mentors isn’t bad, and its certainly better than no team at all. But I think that students learn more when its them doing all the work.

Yes I have seen student build robots that have a tough time competing year after year. But I have been involved in a student built/run team for 4 years, a team that has been successful for 7 years in FIRST. Mentors don’t touch the bot, and this is the first year we let them touch the software a bit, and we have been very successful on and off the field (chairmans, 2 EI’s, multiple other awards, missed the eliminations only 3/13 times). So yes teams that are student run can be just as successful as mentor driven teams, but I agree that it is less frequent.

/On Topic
But after all that we do have one main engineering mentor, who I view as the perfect mentor, he is a retired electrical engineer who helps guides us during the design process and has been with us for all 7 years. He lets us make our own mistakes, he is only there maybe 1/3 of the time, so we never get into a situation where we rely on his information. He helps us when we ask him, never enforcing his opinion over ours.

/Off Topic
I am really interested to know how other teams work, because I really I believe strongly in having the students as the “a new kind of hero.” Letting the mentors to guide the students, I still strongly believe this is a High School Robotics Competition…

We are proud to have a student run team. We have one main mentor, who due to family obligations is unable to be there every day during the build season. In fact, I would say he is only there for about 15 days out of the build season. He handles all of the paperwork between to team and FIRST, which we are very grateful for, but he even says he enjoys watching us learn from each other and our mistakes rather than to do any work on the robot himself.

We also have Stanford mentors, but instead of giving us a lot of help during the build season, they run and offseason competition where we build mini robots for vex sized game, but with FRC parts so we give the freshman training. They rarely come during the build season, they are grad students though so they have bigger things to do.

I will say one thing though, if you plan on going with a student run and built team, do not expect to instantly be on the same level as those teams with engineers actively involved with the robot. I have heard rumors of our team being called “114 park” back in the day when we couldn’t construct a reliable drive train and sat on the field most matches doing nothing. But these past 4 years have been in my mind a turning point for the team. Our technical knowledge has expanded greatly, mostly past down to us from previous years students. IMO our robots have become better and better, and being on the team for the past 4 years it has been amazing watching the team transform from a random group of students into a well organized robotics team. It may take time, but I find it rewarding knowing that a machine I spent 55 hours a week on is performing on almost the same level as that of professional engineers.

Just my $0.02, maybe more like $0.03 :stuck_out_tongue:

Mike C.

Well Said.

Also, from what I’ve seen from your recent drivetrains (05 and on) it’s hard to imagine a time when your robot didn’t move.

We have a few pretty involved mentors, however the “level of power” they hold is kind of varied.

For instance, one of our manufacturing mentors can say something and although some of the build team might question why, chances are we’ll do it. And he usually gives us a clear, logical answer.

However, in another case, one of our other mentors could say something (usually questioning the strength of something or the layout of something), and most of the build team would ignore or mentally write him off (either because the question was redundant or illogical, etc, and I’d like to think that it’s not without reason).

Altogether, though, most of the stuff is designed and built by students, with some mentor intervention on what type of bolt to use (and why!), or why not to mill with the drilling chuck, or a design idea (that might not even make it onto the design/robot).

So, mentor power? I’d say, as a percentage, 30-40%. But that’s just enough.