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Slightly OT: Mentoring a Robotics Team

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  • Slightly OT: Mentoring a Robotics Team

    One of the activities I have been involved with the last two years is the FIRST Robotics Challenge put on by FIRST (think Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and Dr. Woodie Flowers, MIT professor):

    A key aspect of the program is the use of mentors (people with experience, that's all of you) providing their knowledge to the students on the team. These are big robots (5 feet tall, 3 ft wide by 3 ft long, 120 pounds), with powerful motors, gears and control systems. Most are made out of aluminum and various other materials. Teams range from having CNC machines to handdrills. Robots range from full CAD drawings to seat of the pants design. All aspects of it is fun and challenging.

    The build season starts on January 9th when this years game will be announced. The build season ends on February 23rd. In 6.5 weeks you go from nothing to a working robot that meets the game requirements. It is intensely satisfying and involves all of those things that draw us into machining, materials, and computers.

    Just as in life, there are teams that are haves and teams that are have nots. You can tell pretty quickly which teams have mentors and which ones don't. Given that mentors are a major part of the program, the students aren't benefiting as much as they could if they don't have mentors.

    It's not hard to mentor, you just need to get started (kickoff is January 9th).

    To locate a team to mentor:

    If that doesn't work, contacting one of these people who will get you connected to the right team:

    I hope you consider it. You will have a lot of fun. It may even help to justify the need for that new tool for your shop because you might need to help make a part for the team.

    - T

  • #2
    FIRST is great! I was a mentor in Austin when I worked for Intel. I haven't had time since I switched jobs, but it's very rewarding, and the competitions are really a lot of fun!
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."


    • #3
      Rats. There are 4 First Tech Challenge Hotshot teams in BC but none are within 500 kilometres of me.

      I'm not sure how well it would work here anyway. The rules here are that I'm not allowed to so much as touch a machine tool in a school shop because of insurance issues.

      The really ironic thing about that is that I helped put a dozen students through High School by letting them work in MY SHOP to fulfill their work experience requirement for graduation.
      Last edited by Evan; 12-17-2009, 11:48 AM.
      Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


      • #4
        I have been a mentor at the Bonners Ferry High School since they became involved. Some of these kids hardly know how to use a screwdriver. Some do excellent CAD work. Takes a lot of "mentoring" but is worth every minute when you see kids really want to learn. After school and weekends plus late night sessions are the norm. All in all it is enough to make one proud of these kids!

        If you get a chance try it.



        • #5
          I've been mentoring Team 1164 in Las Cruces Nm since 2003.

          Check out our team website:

          we also compete in a smaller local competionc called BEST.

          We built the last two FIRST Robots in my work shop, I've used the team as an excuese to buy a lot of my tools!
          When I get Time... I'll...