UNgracious UNprofessionalism

I have been watching a plethora of YouTube videos lately that are showcase and reveal videos that are posted by many teams at the end of build season. There are videos of good robots, not so good robots, and some absolutely incredible robots! The topic I want to discuss is the amount of ungracious and unprofessional comments left by some FIRST participants accusing these incredibly hard working and productive teams of having robots that are mostly built by corporate sponsors, or robots that are barely built by students. These comments are extremely negative, uninspiring, and most of all, ignorant. When I look at a team with a well built, beautiful robot, like Team 254 or Team 118 (Winners of SVR 2013 by the way, congrats!) I can only be inspired at how they are doing FIRST right!

The reason I say that these type of teams are doing FIRST right, is because they work with sponsors and engineers so much that it is an integral part of how their team is run. What is interesting as well is how these high performance teams usually have a huge number of students, and they are being accused that their students don't do enough or even anything, which is highly illogical. I'd hate to say that FRC teams that work within their high school which lack a decent amount of engineer mentors who work in the industry and are forced to make robots that are completely student built (Team 701 is guilty of that) are not doing FIRST right, but they really aren't. FIRST was originally started so students were not limited to the resources of their schools or parents. They are ideally supposed to be teams that are formed with students who may be from different schools who work with an industry partner and can work in that partner's facilities and use that partner's resources. I find it a huge issue that some people in FIRST now think that this type of partnership is "cheating," "unfair," or "too easy." I want these people to know that this type of attitude is not in the spirit of FIRST, and is completely ignorant, because what they consider "cheating" is how an FRC team should work. Team 701 has been running for 13 years now without the industry resources such as engineer mentors or large amounts of expensive professional machinery, and by seeing these high performance teams I wish we could do FIRST right. 

This year, some FIRST participants have assumed that our 2013 robot isn't made by students because of how well built and aesthetically pleasing it is, when it actually is 100% built by our students, aside from powder coating, which isn't actually part of the building. The only thing our few mentors actually do is supervise, teach, and give advice. I get how stupid these kinds of comments can actually be now. I actually find it a compliment that a 100% student built robot can be mistaken for an industry built robot. A 100% student built robot is a great thing, but it certainly isn't something to brag about. 

The whole point is, that I want all FIRST participants to understand that it is normal and should be praised that a team can work with an industry partner to construct a phenomenal robot, and if they aren't working with industries, they haven't done FIRST right just yet. They should feel inspired by high performance teams to do better, rather than being envious and making ignorant and incorrect statements. I think that a team of students can fully take advantage of the FIRST experience if they do work with industries. I wish my team did that, and I know that if Team 701 did, and if more teams did as well, we would have more exciting and competitive events, and students that are even more inspired and passionate than they are already.

Are the comments on Chiefdelphi or on Youtube?

At Bridgewater our team had a run in with 2 teams who i will not mention. One is one team would walk by our robot and laugh at it. The other team while we were waiting for our next match, we overheard them say to attempt to give us a foul because we were taller than 84" in our autozone attempting to block the full court shooter. That is just not in the spirit of FIRST and not right. being the better team they were in need of a dremel so we offered it to them and when we did they didn’t even say thanks, but we knew we were the better team

Any advice on how to limit reactions like this within a team?

Like I mentioned, It’s mainly YouTube comments that made me bring up this topic

Are you talking about reactions such as students complaining about another better performing team or making assumptions that they can’t even be sure are actually right?

This topic pops often. Here is a big thread on it. It all depends on the goals of a team. Some prioritize winning, others inspiring, and others the students learning and running their own team. There isn’t a right or wrong choice here, but many people have very strong opinions about it. I have my own, but I’d rather not beat a dead horse.

Libby Kamen says it well:

Keep it civil here.

YouTube comments? YouTube comments are dumb regardless of the subject. Don’t take them to mean anything.

Youtube is a notorious cesspool of ill-behavior.
They think that being anonymous gives them the right to say whatever suits them and there is little to no moderator control (they are more concerned about copyrights then offensive comments). I have no answer for you about what to do about the comment except to simply rise above it.

Both. If you are better than us, you must have your mentors build your bot.

Curious what teams do to discourage these counter-productive notions throughout a team.

  1. Rise above the hate
  2. Ignore obnoxious cesspool that is YouTube
  3. Go to championships
  4. Keep running your team as well as you currently are, but recognize room for improvements.
  5. Make improvements
  6. ???
  7. PROFIT (or inspire; this is a non-profit organization)

I definitely want to keep it civil. I dislike internet arguments just like anyone else. It is my opinion that teams should be partners with industries, but it’s not a strong enough opinion that I would get uncivil about. And I think that if teams do this, they don’t have to prioritize at all and can be everything you mentioned. They can be a winning, inspiring team that is run by students, yet assisted by professionals, so new knowledge can be gained, instead of having older students teach new students what they know and perpetuating their knowledge yet hardly progressing it, whereas new mentors can always bring new ideas from what they have been trained and educated in.

Exactly, Youtube videos not limited to FIRST videos all have very rude comments on them. Youtube comments are just people sitting behind a computer trolling. You can thumbs down them to try to help the problem.

If I was a team receiving hateful comments like that I would go the route that 148 has, and just making videos uncommentable, but that’s just me. That being said, a majority of the comments on 118 video do defend them, and attack others who are posting things described in the OP.

I know YouTube comments are dumb in general, but I’m talking about comments left by participators of FIRST on other FIRST teams’ media, who I would expect to leave more intelligent comments and represent this organization better.

I try to make my students understand that what they say can make an affect on people, and I am trying to make my team just like the high performance teams that are both praised and sometimes ridiculed, so they have to keep in mind, that if they want to say ill-informed things about a team, they shouldn’t because the team you are insulting now, may be the kind of team we have in the future.

Up until I read this I completely agreed with you thoughts. One would think having a 100% robot built by students is a great thing, and would love to brag about that. Because being a student my self there is nothing greater than seeing what my contributions to the robot have done. Even if we win or lose the joy and happiness given to us students is what building the robot was about in the first place.

I used to have the same view as you when I was a student. I LOVED to mention that our robot was all student built. I understand the great feeling of accomplishment you have, but as i mature and start seeing the FIRST program through the eyes of a mentor, I find that leaving it all to the students can create a gap between the student-mentor partnership that is so vital to a well rounded team. And I say that it can, not that it will create that gap. There just has to be a balance,

I always find it best to start with the presumption that “the other guy” has the best intentions at heart.

Last year was my first with FIRST and I did wonder how in the world other teams built such awesome robots if the kids were doing the building… Instead of getting upset, though, I asked questions, got to know the other teams and learned what they were doing well. Being very gracious overall, they were more than happy to share. This year, we incorporated some of their strategies into our seaons and… our robot is one of the awesome ones now! Yes, it is student-built. One of the most important things to learn is balance: Once you realize that it’s not “alll about the robots,” but rather about learning, mentorship and gracious professionalism, you find that every team needs a different balance amongst mentor and student responsiblities. for instance, a rookie team of three with only freshman will need a lot more direct input from mentors than a well-established team with 40 students, half of whom have been in FIRST since Lego League… Moreover, no team will be able to establish itself long-term if the kids are not doing the work. What teenager is going to just sit around for six weeks and watch some old guy build a robot? For those who would doubt the work the kids on our team do, I would invite them to our pits - where they would see mentors standing back and watching the kids work: proof that the kids know the robot quite well and have been very involved in the building process.

Regarding the 84" and stopping the full court shooter comments… My team has a FCS and, at our regionals, we would walk through the pits and watch many other teams put up last-minute blocking devices. I’d chat with teams as they did - usually (with a smile) advising them to make their blockers a lot shorter. As the mentor who works with the drive team, we would talk about how to deal with the blocker - the kids worked hard on our robot for weeks and were not going to let a simple pool noodle and some duct tape stop us. Yes, one option was to drive forward - to the autoline - and shoot from there. Yes, we discussed whether or not the tall defender would be able to push us back or would find itself shoved across the autoline for a foul. We also discussed whether or not the blocking contraption would be robust enough to stop more than a Frisbee or two and were not opposed to shooting until their blocker gave out.

I don’t view this as unprofessional or ungracious. We were simply looking at the opponents’ attempts to stop us and discussing what we could do about it. If a blocking robot is not strong enough to stand its ground as we push forward clearing a shot, that is a weakness in its design and something, in a spirited competition, we would be exploiting. Likewise, if an opponnent puts up a blocking thingy that cannot handle the repeated abuse it will take from 50+ mph flying disks, then it shoudl be exploited.

At one of our regionals this year, our robot had a flaw - it was a little too top-heavy. Entering the weekend, we had thought we had dealt with it well-enough - and were feeling quite confident about the issue until our first match in the semi-finals. Then, we took a hit at a funny angle and went down - our first tip (or even close) of the weekened - and we were out for the match. Many of the younger students on the opposing alliance hollered and cheered at our misfortune - and probably said some things they shouldn’t have. This happens: we are working with kids and it is all meant to be a learnign process. Instead of letting this bother them, our kids handled with grace. We were the big-bad FCS beast and we had been beaten fair-and-square. We did have an engineering flaw and it was exploited (albeit by pure chance). Later, a mentor form that team apologized to us for the behavior of his kids: they had turned it into a learning opporunity for their students.

So, my point? FIRST, if we always assume the best of others, we won’t see ungraciousness where it may not be. Second, FIRST is all about learning Gracious Professionalism and if all our students had it down, they would not need FIRST. Third, when another team’s students are struggling with Grace and Professionalism, recognize that their mentors most likely realize there is an issues and are working on it behind the scenes - just don’t expect them to lambast their kids publicly. All of our teams, at some point or another, have (or will have) moments of which we are none-too-proud. Heck - even the mentors will. (Personally, I said some things to an Expedia agent that were neither graceful nor professional when trying to make flight reservations for my team last week…:o )

So, what to do about YouTube comments? Graciously and Professionally let it go.

I agree. GP is something some students, even mentors have to learn in time.
As for pushing 84" robots into the auto zone to get fouls, it’s just a strategy that is completely fine in the spirit of FIRST. If the bot can be pushed in the auto zone, it’s a flaw of the design and the drivers, and is nothing against the opposing team. We had to do that at our latest regional so our full court shooter could score. Usually, the fouls were not even on purpose, but consequential since the only way the opposing blocker was ineffective was if it was out of the auto zone

It makes me so sad when teams post and say things that just bring other teams down. Our team has just recently become competitive with the robot and thanks to some really amazing mentors who have taught us everything they know, a full machine shop at our school, and some really dedicated students, we have been recognized at competitions for our work. We’ve gone from being in the lower half at competitions, to being in the top 15, and we are so proud of that fact.

At one event we went to I had an adult come up to me, look at our robot, then ask me where we send our parts to have them made. He was blown away when I said that we, the students, do it at our school. I take a lot of pride in the fact that students are making jaws drop and that students are able to do work that looks like it was made professionally. And I think all students do. Students built our robot, but we couldn’t have done it without the knowledge of our mentors who have taught us almost everything we know about machining, SolidWorks, and CAMWorks.

At another event we attended a student from another team came up to me while the majority of our team was working on the robot (with a mentor helping theses students). This student from the other team asked me “why I was just standing there while my mentor built our robot”. This really hurt me, and the other students who heard the comment. It brought our whole attitude down for a little bit. I just hope the people who say things like this realize that they are devauling the work that students have put in. My team takes pride in everything we do. One of our big slogans is that if your are going to do it, you need to do it right and to the best of your ability. You have to take pride in your work.

I completely agree with Libby Kamen on the topic. If what your team is doing is inspiring students, I don’t care how you do it. If your team is completely student built, built by mentors, sent somewhere to be machined, designed by mentors, designed at school, whatever. If your students can take pride in what they have in their pit and can say that they want to pursue STEM because of it, that is up to you. I just hope that teams who say these hurtful things know their words can hurt the students on teams, as to the teams that face these comments, like so many others have been saying, you be the Graious Professionals and rise above it and let it go.