Archive for April, 2011

19
Apr
11

FIRST Book, Championship, Mentor’s and Sustainment

I’m hoping all went well during FIRST Robot Season. This was a great season, I think a lot of kids learned a lot things. I know I learned a lot from the kids.

I want to make sure everyone know about the book “The New Cool” by Neal Bascomb. This is a cool book about FIRST, I just got it and has just started reading it. However, I’ve talked with others who’ve read it and they all love it.

Also, the FIRST Robotics Championships are almost here, April 28 through April 30. Anyone who wants to see the best in FIRST robotics and what can be done in 6 weeks should see this. Or at least watch it on the web on the NASA website or TV on the NASA channel.

At least here in Texas I’m concerned about 2 things. In Texas, the state gave a lot of money to start new teams. However, I’m not sure how much thought they gave to finding technical mentors and to team sustainment. A lot of the teams are coached by science teachers that have no idea of the technical aspects of robots or the engineering behind them. Don’t get me wrong the teachers are great, dedicated teachers, but without the knowledge to build a good robot. Typically there are no plans after the initial frame build, no guide to help them show the kids how to move forward. There are 4 Engineering disciplines needed for a good robot. Some Engineers are knowledgeable in some of these but not all of these. I know a lot of the teams with Electrical or Mechanical Engineers don’t have the programming knowledge needed to make a good robot. The 4 areas are:

  1. Programming
  2. Electrical
  3. Mechanical
  4. Project Management

Project management isn’t really an Engineering discipline, but engineers, as well as robotics coaches, need to know about project management.

The other concern with the Texas FIRST money is team sustainment. There is a lot of money out there for rookie team startup but after a couple of years, the team has to find sponsors and do fund raisers for the team money. In this day and age, education funds are drying up and corporate funds for projects like FIRST are drying up. Teams need to be creative to do this.

Over the next months, I’m going to see what I can do to find resources for Engineering mentors or at least some way to learn what’s needed to build a good robot, as well as, what to do about team sustainment.