I’ve been a FIRST coach for 12 years.
When I first started, I was almost literally thrown into the role headfirst and with very little say in the matter. I was a Social Studies teacher and just a bit of a computer nerd. Yet here I was expected at 28 to bring a group of high school kids that I barely knew through a six week period of using tools and equipment - most of which I had no idea what was being used for or how to safely use in the first place.
Fortunately, I had a great set of parent mentors who worked with my rookies to build a robot that took us all the way to Worlds - where my mind was blown and my life changed. Since then, I’ve been a Senior Mentor, WFFA Finalist, an Emcee of FRC, FTC, and FLL events alike and the coach of not one but two FRC teams from the ground up.
But even with all of that, I was afraid. I stayed to the shadows of robot building - focusing on the community awards that were the safe place of my English degreed self. I’d make suggestions here and there, try my hand at a tool or two, try to learn 3D design or walk everyone through the design process but in the end my mantras were: I’m not a coder. I’m not an engineer. I don’t do math. I’m not a builder. I’m just the coach - the facilitator.
Over the past three years with 8044 I’ve been forced to recon with this fear. For the first year, I was the one with all of the experience and for the last two, I’ve found myself in the position of being a Build coach and having to work with students through the process of building and designing and creating… knowing that I wanted success but not being sure of how to get there.
I’m making this post for all of the rookie coaches and veteran coaches who may not feel like Robotics coaches. The fear of failure is a hobbling tool and one that must be overcome. In doing so - or continuing to struggle to do so - you may find that you actually are a coder, an builder, a designer, or even - Just a tiny bit - an engineer.
This link is the video to our best game played at the Tallahassee Regional - with a robot that I know that I worked hand-in-hand with the students to build. And I made a lot of mistakes. And we still have things to fix before Bayou. And I still had tons of mentors and fellow coaches to help. But - there are parts in there that I did on OnShape, and lines of code that I at least understood.
22 balls - 21 made in a match and a 4 ball auto. Not bad for a first event of a team with a 12 year Community awards coach.