Any FIRST Robotics mentors here?
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  1. #1
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    Default Any FIRST Robotics mentors here?

    I became a mentor for the local FIRST robotics team Mercury 1089 last season, because my grandson joined the team. I casually mentioned I could make parts on my home built CNC mill if needed. What I didn't know was that a mentor that had been with the team for many years had always made the machined parts, and he was now team leader at another school. So I wound up cutting and machining virtually every part on the robot! I also spent one weekend slicing up sheets of plywood to build a playing field to test the robots.

    At the end of the season the lead mentor for the Design group also left. So now I am lead mentor for Design. I worked with the design team last year and they were using Inventor. I knew the school had an Inventor class. what I didn't know that was that none of the students on the team were in the Inventor class. When I said I'd make parts I told the students I would only make parts, they had to draw or model them, and my grandson would program them for our machine in CamBam. The lead student was showing me a part and I recommended he move a hole over to make it easier to machine. He got this funny look on his face. I said "Whats the problem? Just change the dimension". So we opened the file and my draw dropped. Not one single dimension or constraint in the whole model! Took us 45 minutes to fix it.

    So this year I am moving the team over to SolidWorks, what they did in Inventor is useless. Not because I use SolidWorks, although that does help. Because these kids will be looking for jobs soon. What do you want on your very sparse resume? A program with 3% market share or one with like 35%? Getting SolidWorks for the team took a huge effort. SolidWorks sponsors FIRST with free student licenses. The licenses specifically EXCLUDE installing the software on school computers! So I raised hell with SW about this as it essentially says rich district where every kid has a personal computer gets to use SolidWorks. Poor districts with only school computers don't. I finally got written permission to install on school computers only for use by FIRST.

    I also have a summer project for the team that I have almost completed. All the better teams are getting CNC routers, lasers, and such. The advantage isn't in being able to make better parts. It is all about getting parts made very quickly during the 6 week design from scratch, make parts, build, program, test season. So I am making parts to build a very special metal cutting CNC router. An old customer donated $3500 worth of 8020, I acquired linear rails and large stepper motors for a project I abandoned. I got a large metal coolant pan to go under the table, a large electrical cabinet, sound proofing materials, an industrial shop vac and other parts at the local junk yard. I cleaned and cut up all the metal and machined every piece for the fasteners. So when school starts and team has little to do until January we are going to build our own router. A fabulous teaching experience they can brag about.

    However the point of my post here is that FIRST is a fabulous way to pass on your knowledge in any field to students who are motivated. You know they are motivated because this program is a huge amount of after school work for the students and we worked lots of late nights getting to the competition last season.

    There are over 7500 FIRST teams so likely one near you. You don't need anything more than a desire to mentor students. So who here is already involved?

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    Quote Originally Posted by garyhlucas View Post
    .... So I wound up cutting and machining virtually every part on the robot! I also spent one weekend slicing up sheets of plywood to build a playing field to test the robots.

    ....
    Do not make the parts. No way... Bring in the kids and let them at least push the green button if not post and more.
    Lead but do not do the work. You don't really help if you do the fab side.
    They need to now that you just don't draw this stuff you have to make it.
    What gets bad is if there are a few "mentors" or experts on board. Then it gets into my dick is bigger than yours and you teach lessons in corporate politics.
    I live in automation alley, no shortage of egos which should be parked at the curb in such endeavors but it happens and you ask yourself "Am I actuality helping or best just to not participate as the Doubting Thomas"?
    Been there, done that for the kids I'm kind of the wet blanket.... that's not good.

    It is not about winning it is about trying. The goal or win is we made something from nothing.
    Trophies and titles be dammed . We built this and we own it.
    That is what you have to get your team behind. The whole point is to get them engaged. Your spot means nothing.
    Bob

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    I am an FRC mentor at the local high school. I mostly maintain and improve the machines and teach how to make parts, but do make some in a pinch on my home machines. The school has a Haas TM-1, a Grizz 14x40 gearhead lathe, an Asian mini-mill, a little Mach3 CNC bench lathe, a couple bandsaws, a couple drill presses, and miscellaneous sanders and grinders.

    Most of the kids get to the level of being able to mark out and drill holes, cut stock to length, face a shaft in the lathe, and push cycle start on the Haas. Some kids get quite advanced and can pick up part zero and set tools. My son is very advanced, but he has an unfair advantage. Any FIRST Robotics mentors here? He cranked parts through the Haas for two weeks straight last year. A couple kids can do CAM.

    The prior shop teacher mostly ran the Haas by himself, with no student input. I have improved that situation a lot. I also added DROs to the Griz and minimill, added a VFD and worm drive to one of the bandsaws, put a 5C collet chuck on the lathe, got better mill and lathe tooling, found them a better bench vise, and got them some Kurt vises.

    We had s couple summertime CAM and milling lessons at my shop over the summer. About 6 kids showed up each time.

    I find it quite gratifying. The kids are not always immediately grateful, but I think I make a difference. That’s all I need.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    I am going to google this, but is FIRST an acronym for something? I keep seeing it in capital letters so I have to ask...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike1974 View Post
    I am going to google this, but is FIRST an acronym for something? I keep seeing it in capital letters so I have to ask...
    For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

    It's the most awesome thing I've ever participated in when it comes to high school activities. I've been doing it for about 12-13 years now, and it's a lot of fun watching high school kids learn how to design and build functional parts. They often take the skills they've learned and go on to become engineers who can actually design parts that can be built.

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    Bob,
    A few things you should know. I agree about letting the students make the parts. This past season was a look and learn for me, to learn more about the program and the personalities. The team has a 10’ x 20’ closet, cheap miter saw, chinese drill press and some pistol drills. The dick always sourced any machining and it was crude.

    The swinging dick is who left. I found out he usually designed and built the robots with a little help from the students as he demonstrated his prowess at hacking things together. So that is why design was struggling, first time doing it themselves in years!

    With the two people I might butt heads with, one because he is a dick and the other guy I like but his skills aren’t up to the task, gone I can push hard.

    So this year will be very different. I am working with another mentor and I got a donation of pallet racks like Home Depot to put in the closet leaving space below for rolling workstations we are getting. No more working on a folding table and school desks. This change also makes room for the CNC router we are going to build.

    When I mentioned getting a router I got the usual pushback. Where will it fit? It’s too dangerous. It will make a mess. It’s too noisy. So I designed a fully enclosed almost completely sound proofed 24” x 48” x 7” router, that is on pneumatic tires, and fits through a 35” opening like a school door. I got all the metal, framing cut up and machined, electrical enclosure, router motor, shop vac, metal pan under the table, sound proofing materials, stepper motors, linear guide rails and wheels, casters, and most of the machined parts are done. So this is kit that the team can assemble. The naysayers will look damn foolish if they say you can’t do that, and I sell it to another school with more sense!

    I got SolidWorks for the team and we have set up a library on Grabcad. My grandson and I are starting to build the library in the right way and I will be getting every student with a desire to learn SolidWorks a chance to learn it, no matter what group on the team they are on.

    Did I mention this is FUN?

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    1756 Argos.
    I've been going through the same sorts of stuff for 7 years or so. It takes incredible amount of time and people to teach. Luckily we now have very good support from the school. Building good relationships is more important than making good parts.

    We now have the drafting teacher as a mentor and many of the kids are taking his cad classes. We've helped him with develop his drafting and solid modeling classes to make them much more applicable to industry and set him up with a small laser and 3d printers that he uses both in class and for FRC parts. We got the welding teachers support to use his plasma table however we wish (by repairing and upgrading it and cleaning his shop and fixing just about every tool he has).

    We are lucky that our school actually has industrial arts programs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by garyhlucas View Post
    So who here is already involved?
    I just recently became a mentor for the mechanical group of a FIRST team that is starting their 3rd year in competition. I was recruited here on PM by one of the students.

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    Yes some things are very surprising. Our school still has a wood shop. I was surprised that the Robotics team wasn't getting help from the wood shop teacher or students. I met with the wood shop teacher to see why. He said they never asked. I repaired a belt sander controller for him while I was at it, and helped him fix up a 3D model.

    So this season I may see if we can engage him and his students when we need to build a game field. Last year another mentor and I cut up 8 sheets of plywood and about 50 2x4s on my portable table saw and using a skilsaw. In the rush to get done I was 4 inches into a cafeteria table with the skilsaw before realized it! Caught hell for all the sawdust too. The wood shop has a big table saw and dust collectors.

    I went to pick up some propane today at an appliance dealer for my foundry furnace I am using to cast parts for the CNC router I am building. Owner is an old customer and friend. When he heard what I was doing he donated the propane, AND a really nice rolling workstation intended for a high end kitchen! 24" x 72" top of 1-1/2" thick solid maple, all stainless frame and drawers, big wheels. Only used as demonstrator in the show room.

    I also got another local vendor to donate pallet racking like you see at Home Depot for our closet. I suspect no one really brings up FIRST on a regular basis so these companies don't know that we need this stuff.

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    Anyone has the chance, do it, its a gas. Working with so many bright kids is amazing.

    And to 'let the kids make the parts'

    sure, but as I tell them, if they get really good at this machining thing, they have made some poor life choices.


    Seriously, we are building engineers, not machinists.

    I have more or a vision of one of these future engineers sitting in a meeting to discuss the software they had written for the project when the meeting drones on about how the prototype has some holes missing and oh no we are going to miss the deadline and the machine shop says two weeks and they up and grab the part off the table, bring it to the maintenance shop and fix it, return to the meeting and toss it on the table and say 'Let's GO!'



    The program is really about working as team throughout the design build and competition. Seeing the contributions of all the members of the team.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gustafson View Post

    And to 'let the kids make the parts'

    sure, but as I tell them, if they get really good at this machining thing, they have made some poor life choices.

    .

    Really ?

    Your going to run with this quote ?

    On a site devoted to....wait for it...."Machining"...

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    Quote Originally Posted by digger doug View Post
    Really ?

    Your going to run with this quote ?

    On a site devoted to....wait for it...."Machining"...
    Absolutely

    I expect everyone of those kids to be a lead engineer by 28, and they are going to make how much money and the would most likely not even be a half decent lead machinist in that time

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    You can train them and gain their respect, or bitch at them for what they don’t know when they become your boss. Your choice.

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    I have been helping the local community college robotics team build combat robots.
    teaching them welding and manual machining. we now have access to a tormach mill and lathe, so I will be teaching
    them to run that. we are using fusion 360


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