I’ve been thinking about what my team’s fundamental objective and I’m curious if other teams have found one goal that they prioritize above all others.
Let me give you some examples:
Example A: Team optimizes for team member fun and community spirit
On team A, we do everything we can to engage our team members. When given choices on what to build, we tend toward the ideas that excite our team the most. Every day after building, we gather as a team to celebrate our accomplishments over dinner. Through these practices, we build a team that feels like a family of robot-builders and inspiration-spreaders.
Example B: Team optimizes for winning
On team B, we try our best to win because we believe students are inspired when they see how they can succeed. To accomplish this goal, students design most of the robot with lots of mentor assistance. Once parts get delivered from our sponsors, mentors help a few expert students assemble and troubleshoot the robot.
Example C: Team optimizes for student learning & leadership
On team C, mentors are minimally involved in all aspects of the team to give students a chance to grow their leadership and engineering skills. Student leaders are elected and they orchestrate all aspects of the team, with an emphasis on developing student skills. When design decisions are made, students consider what choice would allow for the most opportunities for students to learn more.
Some questions to consider if you want to describe your team:
What is your team’s fundamental goal or objective (not just what you put on your Chairman’s essays)?
How is this shown through your team’s operations? For example, When design decisions (and/or important team decisions) are made, what are the fundamental driving factors?
What role do mentors and students play on your team and why?
Final note: I think we all would not benefit from another mentor-built debate (please take that debate here). Instead, let’s try to focus on learning more about teams different from our own and why their objectives work for them.
Our objective changes a bit year-to-year, depending on how much turnover we’ve had. We had a lot of seniors leave last year and a couple of transfers, so about 50% of this year’s team is new.
So, we really have two goals:
(1) get this group from not really knowing a whole lot about design, build, construction and so on to having a functional robot that they can be proud of.
(2) Do that better than we did last year.
First off here’s your first “like” for:
We tend to be somewhere between A and C but not B. We are a low resource team so for now we don’t let “winning” be our end all since we’re already at a disadvantage on several fronts. (not a vent, just knowing ourselves)
Now we DO try to build a good robot and we are focusing more and more on students learning and leading. The reason for the little bit of A is that we try to let them try new ideas (even one’s that have proven less effective for other teams in the past)
Personally if they ask me for an idea, I try to make it a goal to give them the most off the wall idea I can that is still “plausible” though far from effective.
We’re C I would say. Mentor’s have input in our design, strategy, team decisions, etc. but us the students do a lot. We’re a small team with a good group of sponsors and supporters and I would say our #1 goal is to build better students. A good robot is a positive side effect.
Our mission is pretty consistent, although we do give the students the chance to update it every 3-4 years:
To inspire girls of all ages to incorporate STEM into their lives and to revolutionize the perception of women in STEM
Each year the team gets to decide how they are best going to pursue that mission, and it is a little different depending on the group. Some want to focus on Chairman’s, some on on-field performance, some on outreach… ultimately we’re looking to simply improve the way the team functions and our overall impact each year - but there are a lot of ways to do that!
We also have a very young team this year (~50% are first time members, with ~45% of team freshmen).
One of our main goals is to direct the energy of our new members. They’ve attended an off-season event, outreach, fundraising; but they still have the dear-in-the-headlights look about them. They’re excited about being on the team, but want to begin build season yesterday.
We also want to do better…
Everyone wants to win at something, but if we had to choose between the 3 examples, I would say that we work a lot on Example A with an emphasis on Example B.
When your examples are clearly biased towards one viewpoint of the “mentor built” debate, it is hard to not have people bring it up (oops!). Perhaps your three examples can simply reference “team members” instead of “students” and “mentors”. I’ve known some very win-oriented students and some very education-oriented mentors.
That being said, our team is somewhere between B and C. Students so most of the meeting planning and design work, but rely on input from mentors throughout the process. One thing that most students do not get in their typical classroom experience is project management skills. And FRC is all about managing resources and human output. The kids want to win, but they want to learn some useful skills along the way. And somewhere in there they play games and go see movies together.
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