Poor Dean's Homework 2013 Turnout

Since the submittal period is now closed, I counted the Dean’s Homework 2013 submissions in the Box.com submittal folder and gathered the following statistics:

  • Out of 2,850 FRC Teams, only 43 submitted a video. That’s just 1.5% (The reason I included 2014 rookie teams in that statistic is because a 2014 rookie team did in fact submit an entry, FRC Team 5038 from Israel. If you really wanted to use only the 2013 data, then it’d be 42/2,548 = 1.65%)

  • Out of 3,000 FTC Teams, only 5 submitted a video. That’s just 0.166…%.

  • Out of 23,000 FLL Teams, just 2 submitted a video. That rounds to 0.01%

  • And out of 3,800 Jr. FLL Teams, none submitted an entry. 0%.

With 188 days from announcement to due date, I’m wondering, why are these numbers so small? Yes most of the time was during the summer, but there was still about 3 and half months that teams were still in school when a <120 second video could have been made. There are also many teams who struggle to find sponsors, rookies, funds, etc. during the off-season, but I at least expected the percentages to be greater than what they are. If you were a team that didn’t submit a video, why didn’t you? Did you not have the time/resources, weren’t aware, we pursuing other opportunities, etc.? And if you did submit an entry, why did you and how much effort did it take (time required, amount of people that worked on it, etc.)?

*Team Statistics retrieved from FIRST website here: http://www.usfirst.org/aboutus/first-at-a-glance

That’s strange… It wasn’t totally mandatory, also there weren’t any publicly known awards or incentives for submitting one. If either two were in place the turnout would’ve been much higher probably, the way I see it. That being said, I was shocked that only a very small number of teams submitted one. Many teams already have had plenty of video experience with Chairman’s submissions and more.
What I noticed, apart from actually completing the “assignment”, I’m assuming not many knew about it. Nobody really knew what it was or knew about it on my own team until I informed the rest of our leadership about making the video.

Dean’s Homework every year is something that all teams should do, because the homework will help teams and FIRST accomplish their goals. Creating a video like this, for example, is something that teams can use in their promotional and fundraising activities, yet few teams do it.

So, why don’t teams do it? There are a couple of reasons, I think.

First, most teams aren’t at champs, and aren’t there to hear the homework being given. For those teams, their season is already over, and they might not meet again until the fall. And once they do meet again, they’re probably focused on other things (recruitment, fundraising, training, etc) and just don’t think to go look up what Dean’s Homework was.

Second, the benefit for teams isn’t always directly apparent. It’s not like the homework is required or earns them any direct benefit… the benefits come from how a team uses the results of the homework.

So, how do we fix this?

First, word on Dean’s Homework needs to get out there more - Teams should be unable to avoid learning what the homework is (and by teams, I mean both mentors and students - it can easily be ignored in e-mail blasts that generally just go to mentors). We need to start talking about it at champs. Word needs to go out to the regional directors/planning committees to talk about it at off-season events in their area. We need to talk about it at kickoff. And it needs to not be due until a team’s first regional (I know some teams that haven’t even yet met since their last regional back in March!). I would be willing to bet that I could ask at my team’s next meeting, and none of the students would be able to tell me what the homework was.

Second, there needs to be some sort of direct benefit/recognition to teams for completing the homework. While it adds some administrative overhead, I would support making completing the homework a requirement for Chairman’s in future years. That one small change would get Dean’s Homework much more visibility and participation.

I’m not positive, but I don’t think my team submitted Dean’s Homework this year. But that didn’t stop us from creating a similar video to what the homework wanted in order to enter a contest to win $500 for the team from The Original Pink Box. The team saw a chance to get some direct, instant benefit from the activity, and took it. That’s really what’s missing from Dean’s Homework.

This is actually exactly what happens.

We see it, but its probably a general lack of interest. Its the offseason, not all teams meet, or have higher priorities. It just gets passed over.

Most teams are still just scraping money together during the offseason. Many also don’t meet prior to September, or when they do meet after September, it is for very few meetings just prior to Kickoff.

It might be like any other homework assignment that kids don’t have to submit for a grade - who’s actually going to do it, other than a small minority?

Unlike Dean’s Homework in the past, this “assignment” was something that most teams never have really done, and the bandwidth and overhead required by a team to do a project, that like Jon said, had no direct benefit, is hard to justify even for the relatively small number of teams who “meet year round”. Teams have to raise money, train students, do community events, do some optional but beneficial work like putting together training sessions for team members or planning FLL tournaments or drafting legislation or helping kids apply to college…

This year, FIRST wanted teams to submit a 2 minute video about whatever for no clear reason. A lot of teams already put a ridiculous (in a good way) amount of effort and time into creating their 3-minute Chairman’s Award video. To pull something liek this off, you’d have to probably be a large team of 70 or more students where a dedicated video subteam can justifiably form and not fold into an operations/outreach/media subteam, you’d have to meet all year, you’d have to have the available equipment, prior b-roll footage, people available to interview, and time on top of everything everyone does inside and outside of robotics the rest of the year,

Wow, I see a whole lot of excuses here. It’s a two minute video. Most everyone has a video camera in their pocket right now. There are various free video editing software suites for educational use. Even if you don’t meet during the summer, there were 3 months from Sept to now to get something together.

If it wasn’t a priority, that’s fine, but don’t blame FIRST or Dean if you didn’t get your homework done. Blame yourself.

“Influencer” says you need to target 6 key areas to ensure a culture shift/change or effort occurs:
Personal Motiviation
Personal Ability
Social Motivation
Social Ability
Structural Motiviation
Structural Ability

When looking at the assignment, Dean’s Homework does an excellent job with Structual Ability (submission website and tips), Social Ability (forms and easy links and explaining in a public forum). The “tips” are really the only “presonal ability” element, and honestly the rhetoric that it must be exactly 2 minutes (not 1:59, not 2:01) with tight editing and blah blah blah sounds a bit imposing for folks that are not video producers.
On the motiviation column, Dean loosely sights FIRST’s desire/motivation, but then does little to explain the social motivation, and there was virtually no tie-back to personal motiviation.

Dean spends 1:40 seconds explaining his desire for material: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBkoDB6ky1M&feature=youtu.be
But having watched it 2-3 times, I ask, “What is in it for me?”

I realize this isn’t a “Chairman’s attitude”, but let’s face it, the vast majority of FRC are not Chairman’s teams (yet).

Hallry wants to know why? IMO it was a lack of solidly hitting all 6 areas of influence.

Had FIRST offered (and there is still time), for a reduced or free entrance fee for the top 10 or top 100 submissions… Or a sweet Video camera to the best produced, a laptop to the best story, and championship bid to the most inspirational… I think they would have gotten a ton more material. Instead of focusing on the quality/tight editing, if they just asked for the stories in 1-2 mintue format, they could have found some awesome stories, filtered those out and then asked those folks for a re-do.

For those of you that follow my posts/thoughts, you might have guessed that my biggest/ most upsetting thing for the new points structure was not adding in a points section for a “complete Chairman’s submission”. If I was on the points committee, that is probably the most important thing I would have gone to bat for (2-5 points for a complete chairman’s submission).

So, to re-wind the clock, imagine some of the incentives I suggest were put in place. Then imagine that in the email blast, you received a notice about how “Some of the best and brightest teams have already submitted”.
Imagine that the teams that submit are then asked by FIRST to help 2 more teams make a submission and we will give you producer credits…

I don’t fault FIRST in not seeing this as it is a very high level organization. It has always assumed that if it throws out a noble goal, then folks will want to go for it. While some do, others require the carrot, the tools, the social connection, and the social support system to help go for that goal.

Maybe if we treated a few other areas of FIRST like we treat the robots*…

*In successful areas, the social, structural, and personal motivations/abilities are taken care of:
Kit bot, build it classes, strategy programs, tutorials, key awards linked to doing well in those areas…

Then we have a lot of work to do, don’t we? This paragraph saddens me.

Since going to st. louis, our team has met for less than a total of 5 hours, and most of the students who were on the team in previous years have yet to attend a meeting. A lot of teams just don’t meet in the offseason because of other time commitments. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the main reason why there’s only a few submitted things.

I probably shouldn’t have written this right watching the 1:40 of “motiviational speaking”…

Let me try re-wording it a bit:

Here is a Great Opportunity for a true Role Model team:
While Dean’s Homework may have been due Nov. 1, I seriously doubt they wouldn’t appreciate some more material (if you can submit it in a timely fashion). As only 43 teams submitted, your team could be responsible for submitting 10% more by helping 4 other teams make a video in the next 30 days. Think about that. By helping 4 others tell their story, you could give FIRST 10% more material. Better yet, interview some of your local Lego League teams and help those kids make a video! If you submit 4 FLL videos, you will have increased FIRST LL submissions by 300%!
Remember, a Chairman’s team just doesn’t brag about all the stuff they do, they do stuff they make an impact on FIRST’s mission of spreading the message. From the website:
Chairman’s Award

The most prestigious award at FIRST, it honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST.

IE, a Chairman’s team not only does their homework, but is a role model for others by helping them do their homework as well.

While I don’t like doing things just for the sake of winning CA, think about how powerful this phrase would be in your essay and presentation:

"On Nov. 2, we were hoping to see hundreds if not thousands of inspirational videos from fellow FIRSTers. When we saw 50 total videos, we got a lump in our stomach as that is barely a whisper for an effort designed to make a roar. On Nov. 3rd, we stopped wringing our hands, and rolled up our sleeves. We pledged to FIRST we would help out and worked with teams to triple FIRST’s FLL videos, doubled their FTC videos, and contributed to 10% of the total FRC videos submitted. "

My team didn’t know about it. I am sure we all got the email blast, but this one just missed us. This is something we would have done just because it is pretty easy. We do this kind of thing just to show the kids video editing. Truthfully we probably have enough footage to already do this.

Pity we didn’t know about it. I guess we (my team) all need to read all of the First emails instead of skimming over them.

Nobody was blaming FIRST.

We heard about it, we wanted to do it. It would have been really cool to do one, especially since there were so few.
Why didn’t we?
Poor time management, poor team organization, poor top of mind awareness.
It wasn’t lack of interest on our part - we just flat didn’t do it.
Which is a shame, because we did some pretty cool things that could have been highlighted.

Personally, I don’t want to submit something that’s half-heartedly done. If I do something, it should have quite a bit of effort in it. So a two minute video taken with a phone with impromptu planning is not exactly something I would call “done with effort.”

What happens is you have about 20 or so “core” students who do a majority of the items the team does (not true for all teams, but several that I know of this usually happens). Once the school-year starts, we get back into the robotics mood, and then we worry about things like website, recruiting members, several PR events, among the students’ other extra-curricular commitments.

Because there is an endless queue of things with immediate consequences, Dean’s Homework I’m sure kept getting pushed back in that line repeatedly because there were no immediate benefits or consequences to completing it.

I don’t think anyone was saying FIRST or Dean was to blame.

To go along with the themes of ‘this is no reward or carrot for teams’, Rockwell is offering $10,000 in grants for a 60 second video. Even with this a big potential reward and only a 60 second video, the deadline was extended due to a lack of entries.

I think the biggest issue is teams not knowing about these opportunities and most teams just don’t meet during the summer/fall.

There is still a week to submit: http://www.rockwellautomation.com/rockwellautomation/news/110-anniversary/engineering-our-future.page

1923 did not get to finish ours by the deadline. We barely have students meeting consistently before Nov 1, let alone the time to dedicate to video production for it. (We’re not going to submit something hastily thrown together; if it represents FIRST, it’s got to be good.)

I think if this deadline was extended to later in the year (December), or even ‘By the next Championship’ - since that’s when the next homework is given out, we could have made a pretty great submission.


Anything you capture for your team’s media over the year could be usable here. However, where are most of your video/media resources going? Chairman’s. If you film the stuff you put into Chairman’s, then you can repurpose it for the homework video. Similar content, different end result.

This also could have been promoted better within the community, as well as by FIRST. One email against the hundreds that people can get per day, is going to be ignored – they announced it on the social media pages for FIRST, but not everyone in the community follows those. Our own little CD community could have talked about it more.

But you know what we could do, since we’re all so disappointed? Make a video anyway. Perhaps FIRST could extend the deadline. Maybe the submission folder will stay open.

Who cares if it’s ‘for the homework assignment’ or not?! Use it as practice for your media students, before the kickoff. If you don’t have any media students/mentors, see if teams around you do and can help you. You’ll need it for Chairman’s anyway later.

I think the best thing FIRST could do to drive submissions would be to extend the deadline, at least until Kickoff – and the best thing the community could do is to keep reminding each other of the homework challenge, until all the teams we’re friends with have submitted. It’s not hard to make a two minute video; it’s slightly harder to make a well-produced two minute video, but in very few cases is it actually going to be impossible for a team.

1923 will be putting ours out when it’s done, regardless of whether the deadline is extended. It’s about promoting FIRST to our community & beyond, not about getting a gold-star on Dean’s Homework.

My honest response to seeing this thread:

“Wait there was homework?”

I pay attention to FIRST every day, and I don’t remember hearing about this project at all. Maybe it’s just me, but a bunch of people I’ve just asked didn’t know about it either, and it would have been a fun and amazing opportunity to help spread FIRST. If it was only majorly discussed at championships, then the majority of teams aren’t hearing about it, and the occasional chief delphi post about it doesn’t really help get the information out there.

You’re a veteran. There’s always homework. I think the assumption made by FIRST here is that teams will go and seek out Dean’s Homework, and that’s just plain not the case.

That gets me thinking…

My memory isn’t perfect after 20 years of events, but wasn’t Dean’s Homework previously assigned during Kickoff and not the Championship? (Many years ago). If a team doesn’t watch kickoff, then there’s really something wrong.

Why not have the yearly homework put out in Dean’s speech there, rather than at the CMP? That way everyone sees it.

It was previously assigned during Dean’s kickoff speech, and IIRC during his Championship speech he would generally provide an update of some sorts during his CMP speech. I did notice that it was missing during this year’s kickoff speech (and now that I think about it, I’m not too sure if I remember Dean even having a long speech during kickoff). Could it have been overlooked in the recent efforts to make kickoff shorter/more fast-paced?

2012 during kickoff he emphasized three things:Incorporate FIRST into everyday life, tracking Alumni, and nominating juniors for Dean’s List (Source)

2011 was announced at Kickoff as being incorporating the word “FIRST” into everyday life (Source)

2010, was to reach out to inviting people outside of teams to FIRST events (Source, this page doesn’t describe it much, but I personally remember an emphasis being put on inviting “outsiders” to FIRST events)

2009 and 2008 were pretty typical of Alumni network creation and spreading the word of FIRST via media.

2007 was trying to get legislative initiatives/writing to local politicians.

Special thanks goes out to Team 365 for being one of the top google results for “Deans homework 2011” and keeping consistent URL formats to allow a change of number to give me results :smiley: