At the end of build season one of the captain’s of a rookie team asked me a couple questions that made me question our teams education system and some potential problems I found.
The barrier of knowledge between a kitbot to a fully in house robot is large and can require years of trial and error to transition
Not all teams have access to mentors that can help students learn
Students have busy schedules that can inhibit them from learning or they get behind on pace which can become a problem to manage where they are and what support they need
Education plans that are effective can take some teams years to build depending on experience and members available
Learning resources out there already such as white papers and docs may be hard for newer students to learn from especially if they don’t have a mentor to help them along the way. When I first started I remember I needed a lot of support to understand certain concepts and having experienced seniors and mentors to help digest those topics really helped me but it might not be accessible for rookie teams.
For how many non english speaking FRC teams there are there aren’t too many resources for them that have been translated.
I mentioned on points 1 and 4 about trial and error and although I think it’s really effective to helps students learn I think spending multiple years on expensive bots might not be the best.
Mainly I wanted to hear if the community had any of these issues or even some more I haven’t covered.
My team has been in the game for 20+ years so we’re far from rookies, but we also have struggled with good education systems for our new members. Most recently we had COVID put a temporary halt to our recruiting, so our training systems fell into a state of disrepair.
We relied on of our seniors to run teaching this past year, and while that worked okay for us I understand that rookie teams don’t have those people available to them for the beginning of their journey.
Along with that it can take a multiple years of trial and error to figure out what works best for each team, based on team size, structure, meeting frequency, competitiveness, available resources, and other factors.
One issue that is related to your points is making education engaging for rookies, but not too much so they feel like they can handle the challenge that robotics provides. I’m a Programmer so I know that there can be a learning curve with FRC programming, especially for a rookie team.
My team is still figuring out how to deliver lessons in an accessible format to new members. We’re aiming for the students to do hands on stuff as the main focus of the learning process, because that’s what makes learning robotics different from school for our students. It’s hard to keep students motivated if they feel like it’s too similar with school and end up getting overwhelmed.
Yeah I agree with the balancing act of teaching students but not overbearing them with material. I think FRC can sometimes scare students away and what I thought about was using videos to teach students. i remember docs and whitepapers when I started were really hard to understand but videos like Zero to Autonmous really broke it down and made it much easier to undertand plus students can go at there own pace.
Videos are helpful if you want someone to talk you through something but you don’t have a mentor or experienced student to do so. FRC definitely comes off as very content dense at first to our new students, so we just break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
TLDR: It is extremely hard to learn what is needed to build a fully in house robot in the timeframe of the 4 years that a student has on a team. The best thing I ever learnt was 1678’s Golden rule #3: “Steal from the best, Invent the rest”. Watch robot reveals, behind the bumpers, and worlds matches from previous years to better understand how teams design their robots to attack the unique challenges of each year. This can make it easier to identify what works when you go to design your robot at the start of a season no matter how much experience your team has.
I feel like I need to preface this with “this is not an ad” , but everything I learnt about robot design was from watching robot reveals and the like.
In my first year (my team’s second) we didnt have the knowledge of experienced mentors to know what works and what doesn’t, and we ended up building a robot that we tend to avoid thinking about . Of course we learnt an absolute ton that year, but, as you mentioned in the original post, it really isn’t an efficient method when your students only have 4 years on the team and robots can cost thousands of dollars.
There was an offseason conferance that year where I learnt the most impactful thing I ever learnt in FRC. 1678’s Golden Rule #3, “Steal from the best, invent the rest”. It started me on a journey of robot reveals and behind the bumpers, and after watching hundreds, maybe thousands , of hours of them, I felt that I got a really good understanding of how teams went about identifying how to tackle a game. I found that it can somewhat circumvent the years of experience required to know what works that veteran teams have.
Being able to look at robots from past years to see how they have approached different game pieces and mechanisms was absolutely invaluble to my teams success in future seasons and is the very reason why I created the Unofficial Mechanism Encyclopedia.
It makes it easy for teams to find mechanisms from the robots of the past and apply those ideas to their robot design process. It can help to reduce the amount of trial and error when you are able to find something that works and adapt that to the speecific seasons challenge.
On the translated resources point, I’m trying to get the Unofficial Mechanism Encyclopedia translated into as many languages as I can.
Currently there is a Portuguese and a Turkish version of the page, but I am trying to find people that are willing to translate it into Hebrew, Mandarin, Spanish, and possibly Dutch and French too.
If anyone reading this is fluent in these languages and would be willing to help please feel free to contact me.
We’ve been climbing a pretty steep learning curve since being effectively wiped out by Covid. I think the most helpful thing for us has been the longstanding team policy of bringing up 8th graders if they seem ready to learn and have supportive families. If your first year on the team is mostly learning and your last year (in theory) mostly teaching, it helps to have three high productivity years versus two. Or alternatively two years to learn before hitting the soph/jr years that historically are the most productive ones for FRC teams.
Limping out of Covid we had 7 returning students, four of whom came up as 8th graders. Total student years of experience? 9. Going forward we look to be at 29 returning students and total student years of experience a bit over 50. It helps to have that 5th year if you have the prospects. It also will increase the percentage of girls on the team as, at least anecdotally, their interest in STEM drops after 8th grade.
Yeah, I remember speaking to a team that went through the same issue where after Covid they had to restart the entire team. I think that experience even if little is a gold mine because especially rookie teams or teams that are mostly made up of seniors don’t have that continuation of experience which can be damaging to the point the team can’t continue.
Like the chance to reflect and rebuild your team infrastructure? I know a team that was pretty badly damaged by Covid because unfortunately they didn’t have returning members. But overall I think it has showed the flaws of education a lot of teams had.