Orientation

New Member/Parent Orientation

  • Introduction of Mentors
    • Mentors - who we are. We have many mentors on the team. Many of them are alumni of FIRST teams, ours and other teams. Others are parents of current members and former members of the team. Others have joined us because they work with or know other mentors and are drawn into the team. Mentors are what makes FRC special. Students get the opportunity to learn and work with mentors who are professionals in various fields. 

  • Intro of team and expectations 
    • What is FIRST?
      • FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” and was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills. 
      • The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting Mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership. 
      • The vision of FIRST: "To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders." Dean Kamen, Founder 
    • Time and effort commitment 
      • Robotics is much more like a sports team or an activity like Marching Band than a typical school club. As such, it requires a commitment to showing up in order to have a successful experience on the team. Students who make the commitment learn skills that will help them in college and beyond. However, since it is not a class, students need self motivation to attend and get the most out of the experience. We will talk more about team commitment a little later. 
    • Large Team - We have a large team and are always working on better new member integration. - We have grown a lot in the past few years and have a lot of new members on the team.  It is exciting and there is a lot to do on the team.  We are always adjusting some of our methods of orienting new members to take care of everyone. If things seem a little disorganized at times, hang in there. There is a lot to do to have a successful team and having more committed members will allow the team to accomplish more.   We have a group of students working on orientation.
    • Learning process - Much of what we do is self driven. Mentors and opportunities are available to help students succeed. To be really successful though, students need to take advantage of the opportunities. One former student once said, “FRC differs from school because there are no right answers in FRC”. This can be challenging to students used to more concretely directed learning but it is also exciting. Also, there are no homework assignments but if a student commits to a task with a deadline and doesn’t finish by the time it is needed, it is likely that someone else will complete the task. 
    • Gracious Professionalism - This is an important concept in FIRST. This means we help other teams before and at competitions and then during the competition, compete like crazy. When you are wearing a team t-shirt or otherwise representing the Spartan Robotics team you should always be helpful, gracious, and never speak ill of another team. We have a good reputation in the FIRST community and strive to maintain that reputation. 
    • Opportunities on the team - Yes, we build a robot, but there is so much more to having a successful robotics team. We want everyone to learn and work on things that they are interested in and enjoy. There are other things that need to be done too so think about other talents and interests that you have that can help the team. Some other areas with opportunities to contribute are: 
      • Writing and communication - We need to submit reports for awards as well as sponsorship applications. We also need students who are interested in working on website content, facebook, and twitter updates 
      • Graphic design - We make t-shirts, fliers, website articles, report layouts, and poster boards. 
      • Photography - We can use help documenting events. 
      • Videography - We try to release a video of our robot before our first competition each year. This is to show off our robot to the robotics community. We also take match videos so that the drive team can review them after each match and learn from what happened. This also helps with debugging the robot when it misbehaves during a match. 
      • Scouting and game strategy - This is an important part of what we do as a team. The scouting team gathers data at competitions to help play the game and also determine who we want as our alliance partners in the elimination matches. 
    • As a team, we strive for excellence -  A robot that is just ok won’t perform very well. Excellence lets students hone skills. Don’t take it personally if someone tells you that something needs to be redone. Loose wire connections, pneumatic systems that leak and parts that are put together improperly can result in a robot that sits dead during a match. The games are hard on the robots so the robots need to be put together well. During a competition, only qualified student mechanics and programmers are allowed to perform critical work on the robot. This means that an inexperienced member may not be allowed to do critical tasks at a competition but back in the lab, where the work can be checked and redone if necessary, they can do those tasks and learn and become qualified. However, there are also less critical tasks at competitions that any students can help with. We strive to have students doing the work on robots whenever possible. 
    • Value - The robotics team works best for those who show up often, engage, and ask questions. Those that occasionally show up have a hard time engaging and may feel like the time they do spend with the team is not well spent. There is usually more mentor support for students who are committed to learning and showing up. Being on the team works even better for those that spend lots of time on robotics outside of the meeting times. 

Robotics Schedule and meetings

  • Time commitment 
    • While there is no minimum time commitment to be on the team, we have found that members need to show up for at least two meetings a week during the build season that starts in January - about ten hours a week - to get the most out of the program. We have found that students who don’t make this level of commitment often drop out because they do not feel integrated into the team. The really committed members on the team probably spend 2-3 times that many hours.  It is also important to note that only students who are active members attending at least two meetings a week will be excused from school to attend competitions, particularly the Championship in Houston. 
    • The season has a very tight timeline so for new students to have the best experience possible, it is important to take advantage of training and involvement before the season starts. During the season, students will work on tasks with strict deadlines alongside mentors and other students. Again, If they can’t meet the deadline, someone else will likely finish the task. 
  • Season dates 
  • 9/29-9/30/2018 - Chezy Champs at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose (off season competition). Off season events are fun because we compete with the previous season’s robot. It is a great way for new members and their parents to get a taste of a competition. Chezy Champs is particularly fun because many of the best teams on the west coast attend.   
  • 11/10-11/11/2018 - Madtown Throwdown in Madera (off season competition near Fresno). We will be taking three robots and will need lots of help at the competition. We will drive to Madera on Friday after school and come home on Sunday. Monday is a school holiday. This is a great time for members to get to know each other better. Family members are welcome to come too. This is where we debut our “third robot” that the team is currently working on. Many new members have been involved in designing the robot and will help make parts and assemble the robot. 
  • August through Dec - training and preparation for the season. Taking advantage of training during this period will make the season more fun. 
  • 1/5/2019 - 2019 Season Kickoff - the new season game will be released that morning and the team will analyze the game and begin planning and prototyping our design ideas. This is an exciting time when the robot design is roughed out. A lot will be done during that weekend. You can attend the local kick-off at San Jose State University, watch the kick-off with team members in the lab, or watch it at home. The first few days are when a lot of strategy and design decisions are made. Try to attend as many meetings during this time as possible - you won’t regret it. 
  • 1/5 - 2/19/2019 - Main Build Period - we will be meeting 5 days a week - 4 work days and one leadership meeting - to get the robot designed and built in these six weeks. That’s not much time and we need all the help we can get. The leadership meets one day a week to work on planning. All members are welcome to attend and participate in the leadership meetings - we always need leaders and we provide support. 
  • 2/19/2019 - Stop build day - this is when we seal our competition robot in an official bag until our first competition. This deadline is important because any modifications we make after this date are limited to software and something like 40 pounds of hardware. Stop build day is the Tuesday during the MVHS winter break. We will work all three days of the long weekend (President’s Day holiday) as well as Tuesday. Stop build is at 9:00pm on the 20th and people typically work on the robot until it is bagged which is oftentimes just before the 9:00 deadline. If you are planning on taking vacation during this winter break but also want to work on robotics (highly recommended), try and schedule vacation after Tuesday. If we work hard and things go well before bagging the robot, we will be able to take it to NASA to test it out and practice. 
  • 2/20-our first regional in March - Second Build Period - We build and test the practice robot and have drive team practice. The purpose of the practice robot is to test the robot design, work on coding, make improvements, and make changes before our first competition. During this period, things slow down... but only a little. It depends on how much we got done before stop build day. 
  • FIRST Regional Competitions - Team 971 attends two regional competitions.  The dates for the upcoming season (2019) will be released in the fall and registration for these events begins in September.  We usually don't know what events we will be attending until sometime in November.  Below is what we did last year for reference.
  • First FIRST Regional Competition - We usually go to a regional in California in the middle of March. In 2018, we were registered for the San Francisco Regional at St. Ignatius College Preparatory, 2001 37th Avenue, San Francisco on March 16th-18th. The San Francisco regional runs Friday through Sunday. The first day is a practice day and when any changes that need to be made on the competition robot will be made. Some team scouting will be done that day. The first day is optional for those not working directly on the robot. The second day is a competition day and everyone who can attend is needed to help work on the robot and scout the other robots - we rarely have enough people for all that needs to get done. This year you do not have to miss school. Matches on Saturday and Sunday morning are qualification matches with randomly selected alliances. Sunday is another full day of competition with the double elimination matches in the afternoon. The top 8 seeded teams in the qualification matches select their alliances for the elimination matches. This is when the scouting data is used. 
  • Third Build Period - This is between the two regionals and the team makes modifications and practices for our second regional. 
  • Silicon Valley Regional in San Jose. We usually go to this regional and attended in 2018. It was 3/29-3/31. It is held in the Event Center at San Jose State University. Thursday is a practice day and when any changes that need to be made on the competition robot will be made. Some team scouting will be done. This day is optional for those not working directly on the robot. Friday is a competition day and everyone who can miss school is needed to help work on the robot and scout the other robots - we rarely have enough people for all that needs to get done. If you absolutely can't miss school, you can come on Saturday. Saturday is another full day of matches with the double elimination matches in the afternoon. Everyone should come and help. Friday is especially important so that we can get good scouting information for our drive team and alliance selection. 
  • Final Build Period - This depends on whether we qualify for the championship. During this time the team makes modifications and practices for championship competition. 
  • 4/17-4/20/2019 - FIRST Championship event in Houston. As some people on the team say, "When we qualify for the Championship" we will go to Houston in April. However, in order to attend, we need to win one of our regional events, win one of the top two judged awards, or if any are available, pick up a wildcard slot by being a finalist (in the second place alliance in the competition). This is definitely possible if we work hard during the season. We have qualified to attend in 2004, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. In the years after 2009 that we didn't qualify it was because of some reliability issues but we were very close to qualifying. Returning members will tell you that the Championship event is worth the effort.  This coming season, the Championship event will be held during spring break.
  • We meet in the lab 
    • Wednesday evenings all year. 7:15-9:15 
    • During the off season we also schedule additional meetings on weekends as needed. 
    • During the season from January to April, we also meet on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. 
    • We also meet on any school holidays during the season including the 3 days over Martin Luther King weekend. As we get closer to the deadlines, students often stay much later on Friday and Saturday nights. However, hopefully the more people who commit to helping as much as possible, the less we have to stay late. 
    • Leadership meetings are every other Thursday evening from 7:30 to 9pm during the off season and every Thursday during the season. All members are welcome to attend. 
  • NASA drive practices 
    • There has been some confusion about the NASA drive practices. Unless there are drive team tryouts or general team drive days, these practices are for the drive team and students who help with programming and/or maintaining the robot. If you are interested in going to help and/or see what it is like, watch for sign up emails. There are often jobs that new students can help with and it can be fun to go to practices. Helping to keep the robots running is good practice for those who are interested in helping in the pit during competitions.n  Parents are welcome to go and help or watch. Only adults who are US Citizens or Green Card holders can go to NASA due to NASA security rules. There are no restrictions on students who are younger than 18. Watch for emails about NASA practices and adults who want to get a pass, submit pass requests before the deadline on Thursdays. 
  • Training 

    • Training opportunities will be made available and students will need to take advantage of them. 
    • Tool training - everyone should do at least the basic tool training. There will also be more advanced tool training if interested. Talk to Archer, Bahar, or Mira for more information. The team website has a section on tool training. Use it as a guide. 
    • Programming - talk to mentors if interested. Programming is an area where we are growing but is also an area that requires students to put in substantial amount of time outside of meetings to be successful. If you are given a task and finish it promptly, you will probably be given a more challenging task. That is how you grow. There are many opportunities for programming besides just programming the robot such as scouting, data visualization, and vision to name a few.  Because we are not a class, learning basic programming is a responsibility of the individual students.
    • Workshops - Look for workshops on CAD, Electrical, Pneumatics, Design and other things. 
    • Ask questions. With a big team, we will do everything we can to involve students but the students who ask questions and ask people when they are unsure of what to do will likely be the most involved. 
    • Be willing to try new things. You never know what you will enjoy and be good at. 
    • Beyond the basic training, for interested and committed students there will be training on the lathe and CNC Router. 

    Safety 

    • We take safety very seriously. We care about each individual’s wellbeing and safety. We have never had a serious safety incident on the team. If you see something that you think is not safe, please speak up when you see it and tell Wyn and Michael. Michael is the mentor in charge of safety for the team. Supervising mentors are responsible for safety during team meetings.  No special qualifications are necessary and they are giving safety training before they first supervise the students. 

    Communication 

    • Because this is an after-school club, we rely on email to relay important information and requirements. 
    • Students need to read their email regularly. We also use a communication method (Slack) that can be viewed as a phone app and come in like a text message.  
    • There needs to be one parent on the team elist.  Forms and requirements being prompt and up to date with all of the team requirements is a sure sign that you are an active and interested member of the team. 
    • To be an active member you need to (see How to Join the Team for more details): 
      • Be a MVHS student
      • Show up often - Showing up for at least once a week during the off season and twice a week during the season will make a big difference. 
      • Fill in the contact information form 
      • Take the safety test 
      • Turn in the safety waiver 
      • Turn in the permission to be driven form 
      • Read your email and respond promptly to requests. 
        • If there is an event form sent out, please respond whether you can attend or not. Wyn spends a lot of time tracking down non responders. She would rather spend this time doing other things. 
    • STIMS - This is a requirement for FIRST. STIMS is the FIRST Student Team Information Management System. Team members must sign up and a parent needs to approve the student’s participation by signing the consent and release form electronically. 
    • Attendance 
      • We are going to start taking attendance because it is important for us to know who are the active members. This will help us with planning activities. There is a sheet on the cabinet door inside room 522. Put your initials by your name under the meeting date. 
      • If you decide you do not want to do robotics any more or know that you will not be around for a while, please let Wyn know. We spend a lot of time figuring out who the active members are so that we can figure out who will be attending competitions and other events. We also try and check in with students to make sure they are integrating into the team and reach out to them and encourage them to do more if we find they are not participating like they have in the past. 

    Competitions 

    • We encourage all students and families to attend the competitions. There is always a lot to do and see at them. The competitions are great opportunities to learn a lot about robotics quickly. I highly encourage all new members to attend at least some of the Chezy Champs off season competition later this month. It will help you understand what we are working toward in a season. We will be traveling to Madera over the Veterans’ Day weekend and that is a lot of fun too. 
    • At competitions new members can 
      • Help with scouting - this is a vital part of the competition. The team needs data on every robot at the competition and the more people who can help with this the better. There is a lot of strategy involved with the game and this data is important. The more people who help with scouting the better because then people get breaks. There will a meeting the Wednesday before Chezy Champs that will talk about what to expect at the competition and also how to scout at the competition. 
      • Look at other teams and robots - at Chezy Champs there will be some of the best robots on the west coast. Go and ask questions. 
      • See what we do in our pit - a limited number of people can actually be in the pit working on the robot because of the small size but you can observe and see what goes on. In Madera in Nov, we will have three robots and a bigger pit area so there will be more opportunities to work on the robots. 
      • Watch matches. See how the competition works and how the robots work. 
      • Cheer the team on and show team spirit.
      • Parents are encouraged to attend the competitions - even the away events. We book blocks of rooms for students and families. 
    • More experienced members 
      • Help lead scouting 
      • Take care of batteries for matches 
      • Take match videos 
      • Analyze match data 
      • Make robot repairs and modifications in the pit 
      • Prepare for matches 

    Miscellaneous items 

    • Costs 
      • There are no entry fees to be on the team. 971 has generous sponsors who help fund the team. However, we do ask members to pay for their own travel to competitions. Students share rooms to keep costs low and the competitions in California tend to cost around $120 with food. When the team travels to the Championship, costs are higher and can be from $700 to $900 depending on airfare. Traveling to team events is a great experience and really helps the team get to know each other better. Students do need to miss school for some of the competitions and active members will be excused from class. We offer scholarships to help with travel for students who cannot attend otherwise. 
      • For traveling to the Championship in Houston, Texas, parents can try to use frequent flier miles but students have to be going on a flight with an approved supervisor or their parents - no exceptions. We only go to the Championship if we qualify at a regional so if we qualify, we will start purchasing tickets as soon as possible. Please start thinking about whether you would likely go before the regional competitions. 
      • T-shirts and other swag 
        • Every active member and mentor receives a free t-shirt from the team. This includes new members in the fall. Wyn Schuh hands out these t-shirts and you need to have completed the requirements and she needs to know who you are and that you are showing up. Feel free to introduce yourself. 
        • After Wyn gives t-shirts out to new members, there may be some extras for family members. There will also be an opportunity to order extras when we make them for the next season. They are $10 per shirt. 
        • We also may have hats and sweatshirts if members are interested. During the season, we take orders for extra shirt. Many students get extra shirts so that they can trade them for other teams’ shirts. We also have team hats, polo shirts, sweatshirts, and fleece jackets available. There are some in stock in the lab so ask Wyn Schuh if you are intestered in checking them out. 
      • Safety glasses 
        • Same as for t-shirts except that you need to have finished the basic tool training. You will receive a pair of new glasses with your name on them. You will also have a slot in the safety glass rack. The names are in a loosely alphabetical order by first name. If you need over-the-glasses frames, let us know. Put them away and take care of them and you will have unscratched glasses. You can also take them home before competitions so that you will have your own glasses to go in the pits. Glasses are required in the competition pits. 
      • Potlucks 
        • We periodically have team potlucks so that parents can be join us and see what the team is doing. We encourage parents to join us and meet other parents and students on the team. 
      • How parents can help out 
        • Bring food 
          • During the season we usually bring in food on Friday nights for the students and mentors. We have several parents bring in dishes so that no one person has to feed the whole team. 
          • We keep a bin in the lab to keep snacks for students to eat during long meetings. Families are welcome to bring food to keep that stocked. Wyn often times take in left over bagels and cream cheese from church to the Sunday meetings. Feel free to do the same. 
        •  Become an approved driver
          •  In order to drive students, drivers need to be approved by the district. Being an approved driver allows parents to take students when last minute drivers are needed. Search for “volunteer driver” on the frc971.org website for the form and directions. 
          • Help with logistics Areas we need help include travel arrangements, carpools, and picking things up from stores or our manufacturing sponsors. 
        • Making playing field pieces 
          • While the students are working on brainstorming robot designs, parents and mentors work on making some of the game pieces that will help them with prototyping and testing. 
        • Become a fingerprinted volunteer 
          • By becoming an official district volunteer, you can help with supervision on the team in the lab as well as on trips. Search on “Fingerprinting” on the frc971.org website for the form and directions.
        • Become a mentor 
          • If you have skills in engineering, programming, management, graphics arts or many of the other things that we do on the team we would love to have you join the team. Working with students on the team is fun and rewarding. 
      • Student testimonials 

        • When asked what their favorite part of robotics is, many students say the social aspect. The team spends a lot of time together working hard. They also spend time enjoying being together. Going to out of town competitions helps team members form bonds with each other. 
        • One of our former students, currently in college and mentoring the team said, 
          •  The most valuable thing I learned on the robotics team was what working as an engineer (of any kind) means. School (even college to a large extent) really doesn't involve much engineering. To me, this means solving open-ended problems with complex constraints as a team. I find this kind of work really fun, and I hate seeing high school students who share my passion for it decide that engineering isn't for them based on their experiences with what our school system considers "engineering". I think actual experience is by far the best way to decide whether you want to study engineering in college and beyond, and have some idea which area you want to learn more about.
          • To get involved, show up, watch, help, and ask questions. Understanding "why" (why are we doing this? why aren't we doing that? why are we doing this now? why are we doing it this way? why is that important?) is the fundamental qualification for being trusted with any task, and often the most widely applicable part of the task too. Helping more experienced students and mentors is a great way to learn how to do something and an excellent opportunity to ask "why". 
          • If you're worried about asking too many questions, mention it. Most people who worry about that are nowhere near asking too many questions, and people will let you know if you are. 
        • Another student who has graduated, wrote this while she was on the team, 
          • Robotics has and continues to be the most meaningful part of my high school experience. It was the first activity that inspired me to lead and more importantly, the only group in which I felt comfortable making mistakes and asking for help. That’s because I knew my mentors and teammates would be there for me. 
      • Many student alumni come back and mentor the team while they are in college or beyond.  They enjoying being part of the team, continuing to learn new things and to help other students learn and be part of the robotics team.

    Summary 

    •  
      • Fill out the forms 
      • Show up often 
      • Actively participate 
      • Ask questions 
      • Learn lots 
      • Help others - We have been pleased to see new members helping newer members with things like CAD. 
      • Be safe 
      • Have fun 
      • Doing so can be life changing and hugely rewarding