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  • Please consider a rule change as I see this issue growing

    Please do not take this as sour grapes or not being a gracious professional. However, I am seeing far too much coach involvement in FTC teams as we moved further up the competition levels this season. My team had the amazing opportunity to advance to a super regional this year, and after only being in FTC for 2 seasons. During a recent competition my team was situated in the pits very close to two teams from the same school. At no time during the entire event did we ever see one team member working on the robot or programming it. The entire time, we saw the adult mentors or coaches doing all of the work. Several times my kids asked me about the situation and I had to remind them what it was to be a gracious professional, and to focus on what they needed to do in order to advance. Unfortunately (and again, no disrespect), one of these teams was the highest ranked team and ended up moving on to the next level of competition. Now, I am certain that the judging staff witnessed this because the team was not nominated for any awards, but the team still advances.

    I would really welcome some sort of rule change, etc. which limits the engagement of mentors and coaches in the design or programming of robots. Currently, there is no rule that stops this, and a team could easily advance through robot games to a World Championship and even win the robot games at a World Championship purely because there are no rules to stop this. As more and more teams witness this behavior, along with the lack of a rule preventing this, I could see this becoming a "father's" competition much like the pinewood derby days of old. I know there is no way to police this during the building season, but certainly during competitions, there should be a means to warn teams away from mentor or coaches "over involvement" in the process. It truly is disheartening to a group of young kids who work hard to prepare a robot for competition to see this go on.

    Somehow, please explore some form of monitoring at competitions or events so that teams are HIGHLY discouraged from having coaches and mentors so involved in the actual robot itself. I believe you will see support for this from a majority of the FTC teams out there. I just think many ignore it, but I fear the ability to ignore will become the real challenge in the future.

  • #2
    Originally posted by FTC6981 View Post
    Please do not take this as sour grapes or not being a gracious professional. However, I am seeing far too much coach involvement in FTC teams as we moved further up the competition levels this season. My team had the amazing opportunity to advance to a super regional this year, and after only being in FTC for 2 seasons. During a recent competition my team was situated in the pits very close to two teams from the same school. At no time during the entire event did we ever see one team member working on the robot or programming it. The entire time, we saw the adult mentors or coaches doing all of the work. Several times my kids asked me about the situation and I had to remind them what it was to be a gracious professional, and to focus on what they needed to do in order to advance. Unfortunately (and again, no disrespect), one of these teams was the highest ranked team and ended up moving on to the next level of competition. Now, I am certain that the judging staff witnessed this because the team was not nominated for any awards, but the team still advances.

    I would really welcome some sort of rule change, etc. which limits the engagement of mentors and coaches in the design or programming of robots. Currently, there is no rule that stops this, and a team could easily advance through robot games to a World Championship and even win the robot games at a World Championship purely because there are no rules to stop this. As more and more teams witness this behavior, along with the lack of a rule preventing this, I could see this becoming a "father's" competition much like the pinewood derby days of old. I know there is no way to police this during the building season, but certainly during competitions, there should be a means to warn teams away from mentor or coaches "over involvement" in the process. It truly is disheartening to a group of young kids who work hard to prepare a robot for competition to see this go on.

    Somehow, please explore some form of monitoring at competitions or events so that teams are HIGHLY discouraged from having coaches and mentors so involved in the actual robot itself. I believe you will see support for this from a majority of the FTC teams out there. I just think many ignore it, but I fear the ability to ignore will become the real challenge in the future.
    I too see this as a problem. My team started FTC back in the ring it up season and our main school mentor has left us to run the team with as little parent or teacher involvement as possible. This approach has worked very well for us and, because of this, our team members have learned about managing a club like a business. This past year, we have noticed a lot of teams rely heavily on adult intervention. FTC as a whole, in the opinion of a high school senior in his third year of FTC, puts too much of an emphasis on mentor and parent involvement. Our team has done very well without the need for mentor or parent involvement. We learn topics like advanced programming, i2c, solid-works, and physics on our own to be able to use in the robot. Because of this, we know how to do anything on the robot and can perform tasks involving these topics outside of building our FTC robot. This kind of approach is very hard to pull off but with dedication and focus, any team can pull off learning any topic needed to build and optimize an FTC robot.

    That being said, I go to competition and, when im not working on our teams robot, I help other teams with programming or electrical issues. I have been in the pit trying to help teams get their robot working and sometimes I can see a team where the mentors/parents have obviously done most of the work, leaving the kids the decorative, some design, and driving to work on. Its disappointing when I try to help a team that can not be helped because they do not understand how their robot works. These teams often fail in the qualifiers but there are amazing bots that were not built by students that can win the overall competition or there can be teams that have a mentor built bot and win some award, making me feel cheated.

    I really do agree with FTC6981 in saying that this problem is definitely occurring and that many do ignore it or dismiss it as the students "learning by example". With the addition of the new hardware, it would be nice if FTC revamps rules to prevent over involvement. Please do not dismiss this because I know for a fact that this is a widespread feeling throughout FTC and FRC and should legitimately be addressed.
    Thanks for your time,
    Jeremy
    Team 6191 Vice President
    Team 6191 Short Circuits

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    • #3
      Oregon published a code of expectations which I believe had FIRST's stamp of approval. IMHO, it made our State tournament better. You can read the document here: http://www.ortop.org/Documents/FTC_2...pectations.pdf

      from the FTCMentorGuide (which reminds me I could do better)

      Twelve Basic Guidelines for Mentors
      1. Be a mixture of honest guide and cool teacher.
      2. Avoid the temptation to do the work or to deprive Team members of the chance to discover the right the answer on their own. Mentors should guide a Team without directing it. This creates the best learning and growth experiences for Team members.

      ...
      Last edited by korimako; 04-02-2015, 03:36 PM.

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      • #4
        Korimako,

        I REALLY like that document! Now, it needs some more TEETH. As a Tournament Director, when I saw things like this in the pit area, I made note of it to the Judge Advisor. Those coaches/mentors were talked to by the Advisor and they were made aware that because of their over involvement, they would not be considered for judging awards. However, it still ignores the fact that there are teams out there who don't care about judged awards, and are there to win the robot games. I would really like to see First create a position of Ref. Advisor who walks the pits looking for this activity, and has penalties assessed in matches from teams who do this. Again, I am not raising a sour grapes issue, this is a problem that I am seeing more and more, and it is going to get out of hand quickly. We had one team at my tournament that they even listed in their engineering notebook that the main programmer was their Coach/Mentor!!! At the test area, he was doing all their code changes, which of course got reported to the judges. But this does nothing to penalize a team in the game portion of the event. That is where the changes are needed, and those changes need some teeth. In my opinion of course!

        6981 Coach

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        • #5
          I don't know about teeth, but promotion might be good. I think we should strive to do better than penalize. Maybe the pit admin table should have a physical 'coaches' robot & tools as a subtle reminder. But I hope all mentors would drop the tools/laptop/Strategy conversation lead if a ref/judge/coach/another mentor approaches them and reminds them that it'd be better for the kids if they were doing that. I don't have a best answer but lots of room for gracious discussion.

          Maybe a coaches meeting would be a good spot to highlight such an idea. If everyone (coaches,students,officials) has the same expectations I think it could be a cooperative effect. I think that's what I observed at our State Championship with the above document - n=1 (ie zero statistical significance!)

          Rick




          Originally posted by FTC6981 View Post
          Korimako,

          I REALLY like that document! Now, it needs some more TEETH. As a Tournament Director, when I saw things like this in the pit area, I made note of it to the Judge Advisor. Those coaches/mentors were talked to by the Advisor and they were made aware that because of their over involvement, they would not be considered for judging awards. However, it still ignores the fact that there are teams out there who don't care about judged awards, and are there to win the robot games. I would really like to see First create a position of Ref. Advisor who walks the pits looking for this activity, and has penalties assessed in matches from teams who do this. Again, I am not raising a sour grapes issue, this is a problem that I am seeing more and more, and it is going to get out of hand quickly. We had one team at my tournament that they even listed in their engineering notebook that the main programmer was their Coach/Mentor!!! At the test area, he was doing all their code changes, which of course got reported to the judges. But this does nothing to penalize a team in the game portion of the event. That is where the changes are needed, and those changes need some teeth. In my opinion of course!

          6981 Coach
          Last edited by korimako; 04-03-2015, 03:05 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Hi Folks,

            Thanks for all of your good comments.

            Today, FTC does not have a rule that prohibits adults from working on the robot. While we encourage coaches and mentors to let the students do the work, we do not forbid adult involvement, nor do we penalize or disqualify teams who have adults assist with the build of the robot. Sometimes a struggling rookie team needs that extra bit of hands-on help. Sometimes a team of students have built a robot so exceptional that everyone who looks at it believes a group of students could not have done that work. In both cases it would be a shame to disqualify or penalize the students. FTC is a hybrid of the FLL "hands-off" model and the FRC "hands-on" model. We believe that students can learn much from working on their robot, and they can learn much from working along-side of adult coaches and mentors.

            As an aside, team built robots are generally quite creative in design, and do quite well in the competition against robots that may have been built and designed by adults.

            Thanks for the great questions!

            JoAnn

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by FTC Cause and Effect View Post
              Hi Folks,

              FTC is a hybrid of the FLL "hands-off" model and the FRC "hands-on" model. We believe that students can learn much from working on their robot, and they can learn much from working along-side of adult coaches and mentors.


              JoAnn
              Joann, I think we are both agreeing that there is no such rule or penalty currently. What I am saying is that First should consider one. Remember back to my scenario where a team is at a competition, and looking across the pit aisle at a team where the mentors and coaches are working on the robot mechanically, and doing all of the programming in the pits. The team watching this has a difficult time understanding why having parents/coaches/mentors working on a robot allows them to advance to the next step of competition. I am seeing more and more adult involvement, and as long as First takes no position on this, the issue is going to only get worse.

              I truly can't see any circumstances where an adult/coach/mentor should be doing ANY work on and FTC robot, regardless of the how developed or under-developed the team is. Trust me when I tell you that this is a larger issue than you realize, and while it may not be a subject many teams want to discuss, I really would like to see this out in the "open" as this should be a "kids" event, not an event for the parents or coaches in my opinion. It truly looks bad to all bystanders who are there watching in the pits. All I'm asking is for FIRST to consider making some rule changes on this.

              Thanks!!

              Comment


              • #8
                This may be another area in which a survey of all mentors would yield a clearer picture.

                I am also a tournament director. I have not witnessed the problem discussed. The adults I am most familiar with are just as likely to be in another team's pit helping as they are to be helping their own team. Wouldn't it be ironic to get all those other teams disqualified. ;-)

                I have no objection to guidelines reminding coaches that the students are expected to do the majority of the work. I do object to attempting to police this. If you think a coach is doing too much work, go over to her and invite her for coffee while the kids figure things out. That is much better than DQing a team for awards or giving them a major penalty in their next match.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by NEOFTC View Post
                  This may be another area in which a survey of all mentors would yield a clearer picture.

                  I am also a tournament director. I have not witnessed the problem discussed. The adults I am most familiar with are just as likely to be in another team's pit helping as they are to be helping their own team. Wouldn't it be ironic to get all those other teams disqualified. ;-)

                  I have no objection to guidelines reminding coaches that the students are expected to do the majority of the work. I do object to attempting to police this. If you think a coach is doing too much work, go over to her and invite her for coffee while the kids figure things out. That is much better than DQing a team for awards or giving them a major penalty in their next match.
                  I support this as an excellent and diplomatic idea.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by FTC6981 View Post
                    Joann, I think we are both agreeing that there is no such rule or penalty currently. What I am saying is that First should consider one. Remember back to my scenario where a team is at a competition, and looking across the pit aisle at a team where the mentors and coaches are working on the robot mechanically, and doing all of the programming in the pits. The team watching this has a difficult time understanding why having parents/coaches/mentors working on a robot allows them to advance to the next step of competition. I am seeing more and more adult involvement, and as long as First takes no position on this, the issue is going to only get worse.

                    I truly can't see any circumstances where an adult/coach/mentor should be doing ANY work on and FTC robot, regardless of the how developed or under-developed the team is. Trust me when I tell you that this is a larger issue than you realize, and while it may not be a subject many teams want to discuss, I really would like to see this out in the "open" as this should be a "kids" event, not an event for the parents or coaches in my opinion. It truly looks bad to all bystanders who are there watching in the pits. All I'm asking is for FIRST to consider making some rule changes on this.

                    Thanks!!
                    I too, as a mentor of a rookie team, have personally witnessed this at FTC events. I see it as a problem that will only get worse, especially as the technology requirements change this year with more advanced programming and coding requirements.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by NEOFTC View Post
                      This may be another area in which a survey of all mentors would yield a clearer picture.

                      I am also a tournament director. I have not witnessed the problem discussed. The adults I am most familiar with are just as likely to be in another team's pit helping as they are to be helping their own team. Wouldn't it be ironic to get all those other teams disqualified. ;-)

                      I have no objection to guidelines reminding coaches that the students are expected to do the majority of the work. I do object to attempting to police this. If you think a coach is doing too much work, go over to her and invite her for coffee while the kids figure things out. That is much better than DQing a team for awards or giving them a major penalty in their next match.
                      If you have not witnessed the issue, or if FIRST is not aware of the magnitude of the abuse, then maybe a survey for all the coaches and mentors would be appropriate.

                      The issue is not a big deal when someone helps a struggling team. The issue is when adult involvement directly leads to a team winning an event. While we all agree its not always about winning, it is a competition, with rules and guidelines. Those that blatantly ignore those rules affect the moral and motivation of everyone else, including those struggling teams...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        With so few people that post in these forums, this is an extremely limited picture of the FTC field. The only locations that are represented here are Pennsylvania, Oregon, Ohio and California. I was at the west super-regional just a few weeks ago, and I saw nothing that indicated any sort of physical participation on the robot. I'm only one person, and if we can get someone else who attended superwest to say that they saw too much adult participation, then we can nail down that not only do we have too few people to accurately judge, the people we have aren't accurate themselves.

                        As to a survey of all mentors, I ask how such a thing would be implemented. The best way to beget change is to make change easy. I know that at least one mentor from each team signs up on TIMS, and they there have to undergo a screening process. I don't think it would be much work to either include a link inside the screening process or to clone the code that requires mentors to be screened to require them to complete a survey as well. Of course, if we are going to require people to take a survey, some of the options must be "decline to answer," for few rookie or second-year teams will be able to assertively declare a stance.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by FTC6981 View Post
                          As a Tournament Director, when I saw things like this in the pit area, I made note of it to the Judge Advisor. Those coaches/mentors were talked to by the Advisor and they were made aware that because of their over involvement, they would not be considered for judging awards.
                          I agree that mentor over-envolvement is not good for a team, but I feel like what you described is over stepping the bounds of a tournament director. Teams shouldn't be disqualified from winning awards because they did something that isnt against the rules. Just because you feel it should be against the rules, doesn't mean you can enforce it as a rule at your competition.

                          Also, I feel that judging should be left to the judges. And should be preformed based on what THEY see and what is laid out in the judges manual. Unless there is a section of the judges manual that says teams that have a mentor touching the robot shouldn't be considered for awards, that should not be grounds for disqualification.
                          Last edited by FTC5414; 04-09-2015, 09:55 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by FTC5414 View Post
                            I agree that mentor over-involvement is not good for a team, but I feel like what you described is over stepping the bounds of a tournament director. Teams shouldn't be disqualified from winning awards because they did something that isn't against the rules. Just because you feel it should be against the rules, doesn't mean you can enforce it as a rule at your competition.

                            Also, I feel that judging should be left to the judges. And should be preformed based on what THEY see and what is laid out in the judges manual. Unless there is a section of the judges manual that says teams that have a mentor touching the robot shouldn't be considered for awards, that should not be grounds for disqualification.
                            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 be inclined to think that they were not following the spirit of FIRST, and not very deserving of an award.
                            Last edited by 3493FTC; 04-12-2015, 01:43 AM. Reason: Clarity of final statement

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                            • #15
                              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.
                              At one tournament we attended, there were GP forms for teams or volunteers to fill out to report any acts of genuine GP they observed, or to the contrary, any non-GP acts. The more information the judges have from more perspectives, the better, I believe.


                              Originally posted by 3493FTC View Post
                              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.
                              I think this is a good idea. Even kids who aren't great presenters should be able to answer questions about how they built the robot, or the process of design and redesign to get to where they are today. Awards shouldn't recognize adult work.
                              --
                              Jim Poston
                              Virginia City, Nevada USA

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