Mentors not wanting to stay

One of our biggest problems this year is our mentors not wanting to stay and letting us work on the robot. We have had several times where we asked them to stay later and we are told we are done when they want to go home. We only have three mentors and two of them rotate days to watch us. We have all so had days where we did not have school, not weather related, and we asked them to come in and they wouldn’t. We currently have the robot in the bag not completed that we bagged around 6 o’clock yesterday because they did not want to stay later. Several people on our team feel like they are there to just baby sit us. Any time we have tried to talk to them it seems like the response always is you will do what I say and usually is in a raised tone of voice.

I was just wondering if any other teams have had problems with there mentors and them wanting to stay. I know it is hard on three of them but they knew what they signed up for.

What did they sign up for?

Keep in mind your mentors are donating their time to be at the shop with you and not every mentor is capable of staying all hours a team could possibly meet. Maybe it is something to have a team discussion over but keep an open mind to what your mentors can or cannot give. Just like sponsors you need mentors to run.

One of the hardest parts of mentoring an FRC team is balancing one’s personal schedule. Many teams want to meet right after school (usually around 3:00)… but many mentors can’t get off work until 5:00. Sometimes schools have vacation/holiday that doesn’t match with mentors employees, so students want to meet but mentors may need to work. Many mentors also have families, and need to balance their involvement with the team with actually seeing their families once in a while. It’s tough, it’s really really tough.

I suggest talking with your mentors about their other time commitments. Work to understand why they are committing to the schedule they have so far, and express your gratitude for their time. Work to make it less confrontational and more constructive.

Then you can talk with them about your desire to expand the program. Ask them for help recruiting more mentors - with more mentors you can probably meet longer and get more done!

  1. Are the students really being productive? If my team is not being productive for several hours and then wants to stay late, why should I?

If I have students that are busting their butts and want to finish a task, I’ll stay as late as needed.

  1. I’m assuming you are based out of a school? If so, you need to find the teacher that is crazy enough to put in the required time.

Petition your school district to give the teacher a coaching stipend. To be a successful team you need a teacher that is willing to make this a year long adventure and a stipend may help you recruit one.

  1. It takes a special kind of lunatic to be the school sponsor/mentor for an FRC team; when you get one be thankful.

To a degree, mentors are certainly there to babysit(in the sense that there needs to be an adult around, you can’t just leave a bunch of kids unattended while working with potentially dangerous equipment).

I can’t speak for all of them, but I think mentors already give as much as they can. If they have other obligations or simply just want to call it a day for whatever reason then that should be respected. If you’ve already tried talking to them about it and they can’t fill that need for the team then try to explore other options like finding more mentors or just dealing with the situation as best you can.

I can’t say I know your teams situation but when I see kids just screwing around most of the day(or most of build season for that matter) instead of doing the things they were supposed to be working on then the last thing I’m going to be doing is staying longer than I planned on.

I know in our situation, most of our mentors are college students so we can’t always be at meetings and the school limits when the team can meet (Monday and Wednesday afternoons, Friday nights, and Saturdays). I’d like to stay later but the fact of matter is we have obligations to attend to as well. I’d talk to your mentors about your situation and see if you can make a plan for what needs to be achieved at each meeting.

First of all, being in the district is a good thing. In accordance of section 5.5.2 of the admin manual, you have 6 hours to work on your robot on the 7 days before a competition. So you still have 6 hours to work on your robot before your first competition.

Secondly, that is sad to hear that your mentors don’t want to stay over but remember, they are volunteers, and they do need their time. My biggest tip would be to have members on your team do as much as possible at home by themselves. I’m not sure what all your team does, but try doing as much CAD, Scouting, PR, and other prep work at home. Basically, since your time at the shop is limited, only do the stuff that can only be done at the shop in that time. Make sense?

Lastly, I’m not sure if you were on the team last year but your team had a heck of a rookie season last year. You guys got to worlds last year by being good at mid season changes. Your robot started out last year pretty good but you guys made a major change part way through that let you play at an even higher level. I bet your team can do the same this year. Don’t let a bad first competition performance put a damp on your team.

If you have any questions or want to talk more in private, fee free to PM me.

I know they have a busy schedules and they have family. Its not like we have asked them to stay late all six weeks. It has just been the last couple days and for all of them not to be there on bag day and not wanting to stay late on day up set some of the member on the team. The fact that we only needed one part ,which broke that day, to be finished and they would not let us go get the part mad us a little mad. We are only a 15 minute drive from andy mark and could have easily got the part and fixed the robot. I personally and on the drive team and we have had hardly any practice time. We did go to a week zero event but left fairly early because we had some major problems. I was on the drive team last year and las year we had a different mentor who always stayed late and two keep in mine two of our mentors are teachers and the other is a retired electrical, so having practice around there work schedule is not a problem.

Like I was saying, you have 6 hours to work on the robot at your shop in the 7 days leading up to your first event. Also, remember that you can work on your robot as much as you want to (fitting within 30 lbs of prefabricated parts) at competitions. If it is just one minor part, you should have it fixed within your 6 hours of unbag time.

Does this include the pit setup day before the first day of quals (Thursday)?

Here’s what the game manual says:

Teams may unlock their robot for a total of six (6) hours during the 7-day period preceding any two-day
event in which their team will be competing with their robot. The six hours may be broken up in any way
the team wishes, with the exception that no single access period may be shorter than two (2) hours. The
robot must be locked up in between sessions and this must be documented on the Robot Lock-up Form
each time.

I believe this is 6 hours before competitions. Not including pit setup. So my guess is if you have competition matches on Friday and Saturday and pit set up is Thursday Night, I don’t think you can work on your robot Thursday night. Remember, this is only for district competitions. Not regionals.

Edit: The admin manual also states that you can work on your robot at competitions when your lock up form has been seen by an inspector and the pits have been opened for robot work. I believe most events allow robot work on pit setup night. If they approve work in the pits on pit set up night, this is NOT including your 6 hours of Unbag time.

Have you asked your mentors what it would take to get them more personally invested?

Someone UNDERSTANDS!!! :cool: :cool: :cool:

I understand your frustration, I was on a team in high school where we had a fantastic group of mentors who, on the weekends, were willing to stay with us as long as we were being productive. On school nights we closed the shop before 11 usually so we had to go home and sleep or do homework.

The team that I now mentor, as a college student has a very different schedule. Our kids don’t get out of school until roughly 4:15. Secondly we have kids coming together from 3 different high schools. So we have very limited time to work during the week because we have to bring the kids in right after school and then send them home earlier than we would want to so they can go homework and get some actual sleep. On the weekends however it is a very different story, we obviously have more free time but, we have very few mentors for our team. We have 4 adults that are there most nights and 3 college students, myself included who are there. With few people its hard for us to put in the long number of hours on the weekends to try and make up for the lost time.

Just in the past 5 days, not counting today I spent nearly every minute that I wasn’t in class or sleeping at the shop, and I was burnt out after last night. So while I may want to stay later on the weekends and do more work I know that I just can’t handle doing that all the time.

My suggestion is that you really find out what is holding them back from spending more time at the shop and see what you can do to change the situation.

Consider asking for more parents to get involved to serve as mentors. A good number of our team’s mentors have students on the team so that helps keep them motivated and interested. It also helps spread the load when you need adults to be present for certain things (i.e. running to AndyMark to pick up a part.)

Take a step back for a moment. The life of an adult (mentor) is quite a bit different than the life of a student. The last thing you do to a volunteer who is spending their own time to help is to tell them they aren’t doing enough. I don’t want to come down hard on you, but you seem pretty thankless toward folks who just spent 6 weeks devoting all their free time to helping you.

While 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or even 1 hour may not mean much to you, that’s the difference between seeing my kids and wife or not seeing them (I get home 15 minutes before their bed times). Likewise, as an engineer, I have to be in at work at hours that blow most team members minds. 1 hour is the difference between getting some sleep or continuing to accrue a sleep deficit that ends up with me getting sick at least once a season.

Take it easy on your mentors. Make it fun so they come back, and try to develop MORE of them so you don’t burn out the ones you have.

As an insanely dedicated mentor on 1678, I have this to say. I have lost too much sleep this season to remember how much sleep I have lost. I’m certainly on the younger side of FRC mentors, but it really just comes down to what each person is able to take on. Everyone has a different level of personal bandwidth for their lives and sometimes they just can’t do everything, so they have to choose where their energy goes. Most people tend to favor older commitments and obligations and there is nothing wrong with that.

I work at a job where I can tell my boss that I am taking a day off for robotics and it’s no big deal. I can come into work between 5 and 10am work 8 hours and leave for the day. My boss understands how important the team is to my life and that my mentoring continues to push the bounds of my knowledge and skill as an engineer. I am so ridiculously lucky and thankful as an employee, but not everyone can have or find that level of flexibility in their lives.

When I lost my wife in 2013 I was lost as person and I just needed something to focus my energy on to distract myself from having lost her. So I made the decision to help people, do something I was good at, and surround myself with people who care about me. And with that decision I poured my heart and soul into mentoring 1678 and making as much impact as I could. I believe that most of the fanatically dedicated mentors out there have similarly profound emotions in regards to their teams and FRC. So I guess my point is that it’s always a complex and personal issue where someone decides to spend their time and with whom.

We have had similar issues this year. At the end of the day, mentors are usually under appreciated. Believe it or not, mentors are REAL PEOPLE and have lives. Be grateful for the time they give you. For next year, I would talk with them BEFORE build season to create a rough timeline so you know the time you have and the speed you need to work. Maybe overtime if they see your dedication, they will naturally dedicate themselves more as well. I wish there was a magical answer to give your team the support they need but this is just something you will need to work around. Most importantly don’t treat your mentors like they aren’t doing enough. sass and attitude will make things worse. Hope everything works out with your robot

  • Andrew

I apologize in advance for those that will not agree with what I am about to write and if you have issues: be aware on this I speak for myself.

I -REALLY- dislike that the 6 week build season opens up mentors to criticism that they don’t ‘spend enough time’ with their students. It’s frankly insulting and sometimes actually dangerous to the scale of the opportunity mentoring presents and I think it hurts people sometimes physically.

I am personally a very busy person and it is possible that a personal crisis for me could have a global economic impact. During a build season I often have to pick between simply finding 10 minutes to do anything and going to help someone. Then I take the chance that when I go there: now I can help, but maybe the students have other priorities. Worse I spread around my e-mail, try to get on Slack, check ChiefDelphi and yet I have noticed that people do not consider me available to help unless I am physically present at a place that reduces my access to the Internet in such a way that I am then in jeopardy of creating personal risk. Even more frustrating if I get interrupted while I am there, again, who am I to have responsibilities.

I manage engineering teams on an International level. Do you think it would be acceptable for them not to work unless I am standing on top of them? Has anyone seen my name or any of my company logo on any MORT robot, or any FRC robot at all, despite my money pouring into FIRST on and off for 20 years? I often don’t even get a receipt for my donations and I am hardly the only one.

The only thing I have come to dislike more than this 6 week build season over the 20 years I’ve been involved with FIRST is that it’s -NOT- really a 6 week build season at all. So it’s not like telling the people that depend on me outside of FIRST it’s -just- 6 weeks is true. No it’s easily 20-30 weeks for me with periods of much lower activity during the summer because we run into April and we start up again in September.

-THIS- is the reason I have decided to be more a sponsor and mentor in a less ‘always on way’. I personally refuse to accept the pretense of the 6 week build season any more. It may work for some of you but this is toxic to me. I can rally my resources to build a Makerspace with the necessary resources to work whenever it is possible in a year. Freeing myself to actually have a life. I can still give FIRST money and volunteer. Heck I can even create opportunity for the students like this they don’t have now.

At least this new approach for me allows me to think of this in hours committed to mentoring versus hours being dragged into a crisis beyond my control with implications far beyond the understanding of other people.

I don’t know the OPs team. I do not know how many other commitments to FIRST your mentors may or many not have. However at least for me I do know that Mount Olive High School is now one of the few, possibly the only school anywhere, that hosts jrFLL, FLL, FTC, FRC and has 2 FRC teams in the same school. So to my fellow mentors and students that read this and for those outside of our MAR circle: when you think someone is just not giving up enough - it is a commendable thing to sacrifice for another in little ways (a meal, a hug, a trip to the store in your car) let alone bleed for them, often in silence, as I have seen some mentors do. Just never you mind if you win - it is often literally that you tried at all and if more people gave just a little this world would be a better place. Some of us have time, some of us have money, some of us are just positive people to be around - whatever the balance of the sacrifice is - this should not be about a few people cleaning up the mess of millions.

The digital janitor

Before you ask others for their time, make sure you are maximizing the time you already have. If that isn’t enough then consider looking ahead and saying “well we aren’t meeting these goals so we should see if we can stay later do any mentors have any time in the future that they can stay later.” Sometimes mentors say no because they can’t not because they want to.