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  • #16
    Originally posted by 3493FTC View Post
    The judges can't see everything, and it is not uncommon for the more senior volunteers to pass on information to the judges, ie. that team over there just cursed out the volunteers, perhaps not the embodiment of FIRST. A volunteer would pass on that a team seemed to only have mentors working on the robot. One of the hidden purposes of the judging session is to make sure that the students built the robot, and if a team fields a very uninformed judging session followed by volunteers seeing mentor involvement, any judge would take them out of contention for most any award.
    What do you mean by hidden purpose? Is this something told to tournament directors by FIRST? I have read the judging manual and didn't see any mention of making sure the student built the robot. While I agree with you that the kids should be the one that built the robot. I still think it is overstepping bounds to tell your judges to disqualify teams from awards because you saw a mentor elbow deep in the robot in the pit.

    Besides the fact that there is no clearly stared rule prohibiting it. There are also many reasons that a mentor may have there hands on the robot at a competition. I would be lying if I said I never touched my teams robot. I let the kids do all the work, but I often go behind them to check their work and make sure what they did was correct and safe. Now, from an outsider walking by it may look like I'm working on the robot, but I am actually just inspecting my kids work. Is that grounds for disqualification from awards?
    Last edited by FTC5414; 04-11-2015, 11:23 PM.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by FTC5414 View Post
      What do you mean by hidden purpose? Is this something told to tournament directors by FIRST? I have read the judging manual and didn't see any mention of making sure the student built the robot. While I agree with you that the kids should be the one that built the robot. I still think it is overstepping bounds to tell your judges to disqualify teams from awards because you saw a mentor elbow deep in the robot in the pit.

      Besides the fact that there is no clearly stared rule prohibiting it. There are also many reasons that a mentor may have there hands on the robot at a competition. I would be lying if I said I never touched my teams robot. I let the kids do all the work, but I often go behind them to check their work and make sure what they did was correct and safe. Now, from an outsider walking by it may look like I'm working on the robot, but I am actually just inspecting my kids work. Is that grounds for disqualification from awards?
      Just as we trust that the judges and referees will be fair, we must trust that the senior volunteers will use their common sense. They won't go around looking at teams, but if a senior volunteer hears "No, don't touch that, I'm working on that" from a mentor to a student, something might be up. They're not looking at the pits, there are judge positions whose job is to look at the pits. They just happen to be in the pits volunteering, and if they see a blatant, obvious, and undeniable case of bad behavior, I would argue that they have an obligation to inform the judges. There is a difference between giving the judges more information and telling them to do something; there is an obligation to do the former and it is overstepping bounds to do the latter.

      While it is not specifically stated in the rulebook that "You may not have mentors build a robot and give it to the students to drive," that certainly falls under the blank check of Gracious Professionalism. By hidden purpose, I don't mean an obscure rule or administrative secret. It just makes sense. If you were Dean or Woodie Flowers and you had to create something like FTC, you would want to do something to curb mentor-build student-driven robots. The judging session would be perfect for that. Then the fact that it can give an inside look into team dynamics made the judging session much more than just a "who-built-it" session.

      Previous post changed for clarity.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by 3493FTC View Post
        Just as we trust that the judges and referees will be fair, we must trust that the senior volunteers will use their common sense. They won't go around looking at teams, but if a senior volunteer hears "No, don't touch that, I'm working on that" from a mentor to a student, something might be up. They're not looking at the pits, there are judge positions whose job is to look at the pits. They just happen to be in the pits volunteering, and if they see a blatant, obvious, and undeniable case of bad behavior, I would argue that they have an obligation to inform the judges. There is a difference between giving the judges more information and telling them to do something; there is an obligation to do the former and it is overstepping bounds to do the latter.

        While it is not specifically stated in the rulebook that "You may not have mentors build a robot and give it to the students to drive," that certainly falls under the blank check of Gracious Professionalism. By hidden purpose, I don't mean an obscure rule or administrative secret. It just makes sense. If you were Dean or Woodie Flowers and you had to create something like FTC, you would want to do something to curb mentor-build student-driven robots. The judging session would be perfect for that. Then the fact that it can give an inside look into team dynamics made the judging session much more than just a "who-built-it" session.

        Previous post changed for clarity.
        Ok, this makes more sense. I guess I have just never seen the level of mentor involvement that you are talking about. The most I see is a mentor elbow deep in the robot helping the team members fix something, which IMO is fine. I have never witnessed a mentor completely taking over the robot and telling the team members to go away. I have been at every level of competition, including two super regionals and the world championship last year, for what its worth.

        That's why I assumed you just meant if you saw a mentor working on the robot with their team you would disqualify them from awards. Which I disagree with. However, if what you described above took place I could see why you would want to tell the judges. I still feel that the volunteers should stay out of the judging process and refereeing; especially if they have a team competing in the event. It just opens the door for claims of conflicts of interest. But thats just my opinion. Besides, like you said, if the team members truly didnt build the robot...its going to be painfully obvious during judging.

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        • #19
          The question of how much a mentor should do is something I as a mentor have struggled with a lot. So sometimes I look back at FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. That is - lets get people - kids, parents, mentors, & public in general excited about what we can do with Science & Technology.

          These kids are learning by doing the work - not by listening to a lecture. That is part of what makes FIRST so great. The kids are often getting to do things that people go to graduate school to learn or have years of experience to learn. So, they need the mentors to guide them thru what the best choices are, what are the equations to use, etc.

          As an example - take the FTC game this year - if you want to calculate the amount of force a ball needs to be hit with to launch it 4' in the air, many of the students won't have had the physics class where the necessary equations would be covered. But a mentor could give them those equations and guide them thru getting the right numbers to fill in there. Having the students then do experiments to verify the results. The students may not have had the background to really understand all the nuances for why to choose those equations or the theory behind it - but they get the general idea can good exposure to the cool things you can do when and so why they should go on to take those physics classes.

          Same thing with working on a robot - you can show someone how to do something far easier than the 1000 words necessary to explain it. So that means that the mentor needs to put their hands in there to help show the student. Or sometimes they have their hands in there to be the extra hand holding a wrench or the student it just having a problem physically getting the bolt thru the hole.

          That being said - I don't like the idea of a bot built all by mentors and the kids are supposed to keep their hands off. However there are many shades of gray between an all mentor built robot and one where the mentors never touch a wrench. Both extremes probably never happen but there are some teams that are closer to one extreme and some that are closer to the other.

          And let us not forget - very often mentors do their job because they love to play with the cool technology too. We wan the students to learn and do much of the work - but we also want the mentors to have a good time. If the mentors are having fun by helping the kids it will be more enjoyable for all and will help grow the program.

          I must say that trying to police mentor involvement levels in hard rules is something I do not like the idea of. Better mentoring of the mentors so that they can better help the teams I think is preferable.

          And as a reminder to those who might be judges - teams change over time. A team that had over involved mentors one year might not the next. The mentors learn how to do their job better just as the kids do. Even over the course of a season it can change. It is way to easy for someone to say "Oh I know that team - I heard that their mentor always does everything for them." Judge the team on what they have done and what they present at the competition, not rumors.

          So to summarize my somewhat rambling thoughts on this - Mentors should help the team to much of the actual work and that doesn't necessarily mean completely hands off. Mentors helping allows teams to achieve designs and cool robots that they wouldn't have been able to without the mentors. Having cool well designed robots helps keep the kids (and mentors) excited in science and technology - which is our ultimate goal.

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          • #20
            Originally posted by DanOelke View Post
            The question of how much a mentor should do is something I as a mentor have struggled with a lot. So sometimes I look back at FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. That is - lets get people - kids, parents, mentors, & public in general excited about what we can do with Science & Technology.

            These kids are learning by doing the work - not by listening to a lecture. That is part of what makes FIRST so great. The kids are often getting to do things that people go to graduate school to learn or have years of experience to learn. So, they need the mentors to guide them thru what the best choices are, what are the equations to use, etc.

            As an example - take the FTC game this year - if you want to calculate the amount of force a ball needs to be hit with to launch it 4' in the air, many of the students won't have had the physics class where the necessary equations would be covered. But a mentor could give them those equations and guide them thru getting the right numbers to fill in there. Having the students then do experiments to verify the results. The students may not have had the background to really understand all the nuances for why to choose those equations or the theory behind it - but they get the general idea can good exposure to the cool things you can do when and so why they should go on to take those physics classes.

            Same thing with working on a robot - you can show someone how to do something far easier than the 1000 words necessary to explain it. So that means that the mentor needs to put their hands in there to help show the student. Or sometimes they have their hands in there to be the extra hand holding a wrench or the student it just having a problem physically getting the bolt thru the hole.

            That being said - I don't like the idea of a bot built all by mentors and the kids are supposed to keep their hands off. However there are many shades of gray between an all mentor built robot and one where the mentors never touch a wrench. Both extremes probably never happen but there are some teams that are closer to one extreme and some that are closer to the other.

            And let us not forget - very often mentors do their job because they love to play with the cool technology too. We wan the students to learn and do much of the work - but we also want the mentors to have a good time. If the mentors are having fun by helping the kids it will be more enjoyable for all and will help grow the program.

            I must say that trying to police mentor involvement levels in hard rules is something I do not like the idea of. Better mentoring of the mentors so that they can better help the teams I think is preferable.

            And as a reminder to those who might be judges - teams change over time. A team that had over involved mentors one year might not the next. The mentors learn how to do their job better just as the kids do. Even over the course of a season it can change. It is way to easy for someone to say "Oh I know that team - I heard that their mentor always does everything for them." Judge the team on what they have done and what they present at the competition, not rumors.

            So to summarize my somewhat rambling thoughts on this - Mentors should help the team to much of the actual work and that doesn't necessarily mean completely hands off. Mentors helping allows teams to achieve designs and cool robots that they wouldn't have been able to without the mentors. Having cool well designed robots helps keep the kids (and mentors) excited in science and technology - which is our ultimate goal.
            Very well said! I agree with everything you said here.

            When I was first year coach/mentor I probably did much more work on the robot than I should have. But, to be honest, I was learning as much as the kids were. I had to do a lot of things myself before I could even tell the kids how to do it. Looking back now, I know I did too much, but at the time we were just happy to have a robot that worked for competition. For the record, I am not an engineer or computer scientist. So I had no background in robotics/programming.

            Had some volunteer walked by and seen me in the pits, they may have thought I was too involved. I can tell you that the kids did everything they could and we all together learned a ton.

            Now, after our fourth year of competition I can sit back and let the kids do most of it. Not going to lie, sometime I have to tell myself to step back and take a more hands off approach, but I still like to work side by side with my kids, and I think they enjoy that and I hope they learn a lot from me. Like you said, I'm a nerd...I like building things and solving problems. So I get excited and want to jump in and play with tools and stuff.

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            • #21
              Too much adult involvement

              I understand that some teams may need assistance their first year, but having too much coach involvement does not help the students at all. I am a third year coach and the first year was rough. We didn't do very well. I would not go back and change a thing, though, because my team now is exceptional at programming and building. We had a mentor available but he only taught the kids engineering principles and would help with ideas if they were struggling. Neither he nor I had our hands on the robot at all. The more hands-off the coaches are, the more hands-on the kids become. The kids love it when it is "their" robot and "their" programs. It is clear to me that they would rather not do well and have it be their own work than win an event and have it be the coaches work. I have been coaching for 9 years and i have seen this at every level. It happens in FLL even thought it is not allowed. The point of FIRST is for the kids to learn and grow and not whether they win or lose.

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