Students First
Student-Centered Robotics

Student-Centered Robotics

Student Education

Student education should be the focus of robotics teams. Students’ primary focus should be on learning, rather than winning. It is crucial for adults involved in these teams to prioritize teaching over doing. According to FIRST Robotics, mentors and coaches have a significant responsibility in guiding, supporting, and inspiring the students participating in the program. They should not only foster technical skills but also critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and teamwork.

The foremost duty of mentors and coaches is to share their knowledge and expertise with the students. This includes guiding them in designing and building robots, teaching programming languages, and introducing various engineering concepts.

By imparting their wisdom and experience, mentors and coaches empower students to acquire new skills and explore their potential in the field of robotics.

Moreover, mentors and coaches should serve as role models and sources of inspiration for the students. They should exemplify professionalism, dedication, and passion for STEM fields. Through their commitment and enthusiasm, mentors and coaches motivate students to pursue careers in engineering, robotics, and related disciplines.

Additionally, mentors and coaches are responsible for facilitating the development of essential life skills in students. Effective communication, time management, and teamwork are not only vital for success in robotics competitions but also in various other aspects of life. By providing a nurturing and supportive environment, mentors and coaches help students build confidence, resilience, and leadership abilities.

In conclusion, the education of students should be the central focus of robotics teams. By emphasizing learning over winning, prioritizing teaching over doing, and fulfilling their responsibilities as mentors and coaches, these teams can effectively contribute to the development of students’ technical skills, critical thinking abilities, and overall growth.

More Equitable Competitions

We believe that students should be able to compete against other students rather than industry professionals. Allowing adults to build robots for competitions goes against the core values and principles of FIRST. The competitions are specifically designed to be student-led and student-driven, providing a platform for young minds to showcase their talents and skills in engineering and robotics.

By allowing mentors to take over the design and building process, students are deprived of the opportunity to learn and grow through hands-on experience. It is through the process of trial and error, problem-solving, and collaboration that students develop crucial skills that will benefit them in their future careers.

Moreover, the presence of adult-built robots undermines the spirit of fair competition. It is unfair for student-built robots to go up against highly advanced machines created by experienced mentors. This not only discourages students from participating in the competitions but also diminishes the sense of accomplishment and pride they would feel in their own creations.

Additionally, the involvement of mentors in the competition takes away from the mentor-student dynamic that FIRST aims to foster. The program encourages mentors to guide and support students, not to overshadow their contributions. By allowing adults to build robots, we are sending the message that student efforts are not valued or respected, which can be demoralizing for young participants.

In conclusion, it is crucial to maintain the integrity of the student vs student dynamic in robotics competitions. Allowing adults to build robots not only creates an unfair advantage but also undermines the educational and developmental aspects of the program. By upholding the principles of FIRST, we can ensure that students have the opportunity to learn, grow, and shine on their own merit.

The Delight of Discovery

We believe that by allowing students to experience the delight of discovery, they will be more inspired by and engaged in robotics. It is crucial for robotics students to have the freedom to build their own robots and make mistakes along the way. When adults take over the construction process, they rob students of the opportunity to experience the joy of discovery. Making mistakes is an essential part of the learning journey, as it teaches students valuable lessons.

By allowing students to try, fail, and try again, they develop resilience. Building a robot involves overcoming challenges and obstacles, and when mentors take charge, students miss out on these valuable learning experiences. Overcoming difficulties during the construction process helps students build resilience, perseverance, and problem-solving skills.

These skills are not only important within the realm of robotics but also in real-world scenarios. In everyday life, obstacles are common, and creative solutions are required to overcome them. By experiencing the process of building a robot and facing and overcoming challenges, students develop the skills necessary to tackle obstacles in various aspects of their lives.

Therefore, it is essential that adults step back and allow robotics students to take charge of their own learning. By doing so, they provide students with the opportunity to experience the delight of discovery, learn from their mistakes, and develop essential skills that will benefit them in the future.

Student Centered Teams

We believe that student-led teams are essential for students to reach their full potential. However, it is important to address the power imbalance between adult mentors/coaches and students. Without a system in place for students to hold them accountable, some mentors and coaches may exert too much control over the team.

For us, a student-led team means that the level of adult involvement is determined by the students themselves. If they want or need a lot of adult guidance, that is their choice. Ideally, if adults are doing most of the work on the robot, it should be because the students want to learn by observing. However, in some cases, adults may take over more than the students desire, leaving them unable to voice their concerns without fear of being kicked off the team.

It is crucial for students to feel invested in their team’s success or failure because they have contributed in a way that aligns with their own desires. Some teams naturally develop a harmonious student-mentor relationship without any conflicts. However, instead of relying on luck, we recommend that teams have a meeting at the beginning of the season where students can openly discuss their expectations and hopes for their involvement.

Students should be able to express how much they want mentors to do versus how much they want mentors to teach. Additionally, students should have a say in the following matters:

  1. How many mentors should be on the team? It is possible to have too many mentors.
  2. Should mentors have specific knowledge about robotics or teaching skills?
  3. If mentors exceed their boundaries during the season, how can they be reined in?
  4. Do mentors solely make decisions about leadership and team positions, or are students involved in those decisions as well?

FIRST’s Values

We believe that in order to improve students’ learning, we must abide by FIRST’s values of Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition. It is essential for mentors to guide and support the students throughout the building process. The main goal of FIRST robotics is to inspire young people to become future leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. By providing guidance and support, mentors can help students develop their technical skills and problem-solving abilities. Mentors can also offer valuable insights and advice based on their own experiences, helping students navigate challenges and make informed decisions. Ultimately, mentors play a crucial role in fostering a positive learning environment and empowering students to take ownership of their projects.

At the same time, it is equally important for mentors to allow students to actively participate in the building process. FIRST robotics is designed to be a hands-on learning experience, where students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in a real-world setting. By actively participating in the building process, students gain a deeper understanding of the concepts they have learned and develop practical skills that are essential for their future careers. Additionally, active participation helps students build confidence and a sense of accomplishment as they see their ideas come to life. By striking a balance between guidance and active participation, mentors can create an environment that fosters creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking.

By guiding and supporting students while allowing them to actively participate in the building process, mentors can help students develop important life skills beyond technical knowledge. FIRST robotics emphasizes the importance of teamwork, communication, and leadership, and mentors have the opportunity to instill these values in their students. By working collaboratively on a robotics project, students learn how to effectively communicate their ideas, listen to others, and work together towards a common goal. They also have the chance to take on leadership roles, where they learn to delegate tasks, make decisions, and motivate their team members. These skills are not only valuable in the realm of robotics but also in various aspects of their personal and professional lives.