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FRC-3215 Mentors

What our Team Expects from FIRST Robotics Challenge(FRC) Team Mentors

Working with the robotics program is absolutely awesome in the same sense as: running a distance race, hiking up a 3000m peak or a graduate school project. The FRC build season is physically exhausting and mostly motivated by the knowledge that a team is counting on you for your unique and valuable skills. At the end of the build season you have contributed to building a 150lb robot (including bumpers and batteries. Weight limit is 120lbs). Again, it’s really awesome!


The program relies on volunteers and is particularly successful when the volunteers are trained and experienced in the field they are working with(but this isn't required for self motivated learners). The first year I spent 30+ hours per week, on top of my full time real job, learning the systems entirely on my own(should have reached out more to the local veteran team). The second year I recruited, but didn’t do a good job of delegating tasks or understanding who could be counted on. This past year things went pretty well and the new programming mentors were a really great help. 


A very important thing, learned from experience, is for mentors to have real, dedicated commitment to the team and teaching students engineering concepts. The team needs mentors who are self-starters and willing to learn and research on their own. For programming mentors this includes becoming functionally proficient in the teams language of choice, ours is Labview, at an FRC level. The team needs people that will sign up to be there several times a week and take on and own full tasks like a new mentor did with the camera last year. Owning a task means teaching and working with students on how to do that task, not doing it yourself. We will show you where to find information, how to get started, help along the way and do the overall project management. As we all know, the most effective way to learn something is to get thrown into the deep end!


Our team follows a tried and true teaching strategy of a gradual release of responsibility: “I do” something first to show it being done, Then “we do” it together, then “You do” the project. The fall training is geared towards taking care of the “I do” phase and the build season (January-February) is the “we do” phase. The students graduate onto the “You do” as they progress through the years and off to college to become engineersThe absolute, most important part of our program is that mentors aren’t doing any of the physical work, but rather enabling and guiding students on the work. As soon as an adult touches a task, the students will abandon the task for lack of ownership. Instead, the mentor needs to assist the student in owning the task.

The most fun students to work with are the highly motivated ones without experience. You get to guide somebody, probably smarter than you, through light bulb moments and they will amaze and astound you with what they do with the knowledge you have taught them.


To give an idea of what an FRC robot build takes using last year’s real numbers:


The program is a 6 week rapid build and the robot takes >120hours of effort to design, assemble and test with, on average, 6 mentors and 12 fully committed students


Our team meets 4 nights a week from 4:30 – 7:30 (3 hours/day) and on Saturday from 10-4 (6hours).

Students are putting in 18 hours/week x 6 weeks during build season = >108 hours.


Mentors worked 2-4 of the weeknights and were varying on the weekends. The program moves very fast and if you really want to be involved I recommend arranging your schedule to be there every night for the first year. For the first 4 weeks I personally did 2 days a week (4-5 hours total) and every weekend (6 hours) and then extended hours every day for the last 2 weeks for about 90hours of volunteered time onsite and another 1-2 hours every day in coordination effort as the lead mentor.


The program is amazing and very rewarding to participate in for those willing to commit the time.