paper: Accomplishment by Means of FRC

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As you are the audience with the knowledge and skills to critique this sort of thing, I would be grateful for comments that would make this a better, more insightful piece that honestly reflects the FRC experience.


I have to admit, not what I expected but glad I took a look. It takes some time to get through the entire chapter but it is well-researched and offers a fascinating perspective.

The following excerpt is my favorite. It captures my belief that the dirty apprenticeship model can trump the effectiveness of the “bright vision of what Technology’s Future should look like,” especially for young people who struggle in the traditional classroom. (And in full disclosure my husband is one of those old-guy artisans back in the corner, so there’s that too.) While I know this perspective is held by others, you’ve articulated how this approach is often pushed aside and ultimately forgotten.

Students with a duct-taped and wired-together pile of rolling aluminum and plywood will drag their contrivance up to the Shop trailer proposing a complicated fix, or want sixteen little brackets fabricated with holes drilled at specific intervals and countersunk, the machinists will look over the problem and proposed solution and suggest putting eight stock-sized fender washers against both sides of rickety bearing flanges to spread out motion forces and the fix is done, much time, effort, materials saved, and the students learn an authentic lesson in the creative use of these practical Making skills. From the perspective of initiates to these events, this tucked-in-the-corner artisan labor put into helping teams “get it back” seems merely a quirky appendage to the pit activity supporting the spectacular show on the playing field, the classic “sideshow-of-a-sideshow.” The fetching media faces showing clips of the event on the nightly news will never put up the visuals of a clunky-looking trailer tucked in the outskirts with a couple of old guys intently focused on metal and plastic and weird gear; the images do not assist the bright vision of what Technology’s Future should look like. But when the one or two repaired parts follow, imbedded in the machine all the way to the national championship, that accomplishment, the skill sets of the artisan pressed upon the weird gear may get no mention, forgotten by all, but these one or two custom fabricated objects may have been the difference between having your team called down from thousands to take the Blue Ribbon on the playing field, or watching others take it while sitting in the bleachers.

Some constructive criticism, your writing style is quite dense. My initial suggestion would be to look at shortening sentence length and trimming some of the modifiers. This should help make the piece more accessible by a broader audience.

Thanks for sharing. I would be interested in seeing how this chapter fits into the larger piece of writing. POLLY

Thanks Polly-

You are very gracious, and I’ll take your advice to loosen things up a bit.

The larger book, to be titled All Thumbs, is focused on an audience of educators who are used to writing and reading research.


Put this on my to-do list a month ago and finally got around to reading it today - hopefully my feedback is still useful.

First, thanks for writing and sharing. I agree with much of what you’re presenting. Even though I’m now a graduate student at an elite university, the hands-on practical work I did in FRC is still one of the best learning experiences I’ve had. I learned how to design things in 3D modeling software, read datasheets, bend acrylic, write software feedback control, break chain, tap holes, and countless other things. These have been invaluable, but I never would have learned them in a classroom. Thanks for helping articulate that story.

  • I concur with ElvisMom that the writing is dense. In the words of Mark Twain (I think): “When you catch adjectives, kill most of them. That way the rest will be special.” There is a ton of great detail in the document, but it overwhelms the real content and message.

  • I cringed a little when I read the first paragraph. Shouting “Robot!” is despised by a great many people here. :wink:

  • $14 million in scholarships / 2k teams = $7k / team, which is definitely less than the average amount that teams spend. I was confused by that whole paragraph, so sorry if you weren’t saying that there is more scholarship money than teams spend in their seasons.

  • I’m not convinced that “college” is a primary reason for the majority of students in FRC. It wasn’t a reason for me, my siblings, or most of my teammates; we just loved building robots. We spent every waking moment thinking about robots because it was that much fun. Yes, many of us got into great schools or netted impressive scholarships, but that was almost an afterthought. That said, I haven’t done a formal survey, so if you have, don’t let me stop you.

On a different note, the formatting on Scribd is making me crazy…

Thanks Steven, for the advice. Still learning how to translate the educator/researcher style into something that real people will read…

Good quote on killing parts of speech!

The book will come out on Smashwords next month.

Have a great summer and excellent season next year!