When each of us took interest in or joined robotics, we relied on the advice and knowledge of others– whether that be in the form of YouTube videos, Reddit subposts, friends, or from current and past members of robotics. We all had a starting point, and none of us arrived where we are today without help. And, at Columbus Space Program, we make a point to never forget this.
One of FIRST’s Core Values is “outreach.” Every team handles outreach differently and establishes opportunities based on their values and causes. But still… How can one characterize outreach?
Outreach is defined as any unpaid volunteer work done by members of any team with the established purpose of enriching the surrounding community. CSP believes that no team should be barred from reaching their potential solely due to a lack of funds or resources, which is why, each season, we open up our practice field for other teams in Georgia to use if they would like to.
Through the eleven FLL (First Lego League, K-8) and FTC (First Tech Challenge, 9-12) teams we mentor within Georgia, we are not only able to keep an eye on how the next generation of robotics progresses, we also use our personal skills to funnel knowledge back into this community– of which we were all once a part. Typically, when we mentor, we assign each member of a team to one specific ‘skills’ category– design/build, research/innovation programming, and awards. The FLL or FTC members are then sorted to one or more of the categories based on their own, personal interests. As student-mentors, we tailor our mentoring to the FLL or FTC teams’ preferences (individual learning, small-group learning or rotational learning).
Current FLL member, Milan, exclaimed: “my favorite part of robotics is block coding. It’s a little hard at first, but it was cool to guess how to fix things and make it work.” (far left image)
Current FLL member, Sai, emphasized that “organization in the build space is key to an organized and efficient team… We learned the hard way this year that we needed to section off our team into groups, lining up tasks like a queue, but mentoring has made it a lot easier to do so.” (far right image).
With mentoring, CSP’s goal is to kick-start a cyclical learning process that sticks around throughout the years. Creating a solid, sustainable foundation allows these teams we have worked with to eventually operate independently, as with the FLL team at Richard’s Middle School we have mentored over the past few years. What’s more is our reach past FLL mentoring and into FTC. Students join robotics at different times in their lives and, even if they have experience, they may be moving to a school that does not possess an established team. This is why, in an effort to increase the longevity of Georgia’s robotics programs, CSP aims to continue mentoring throughout the levels of robotics– FLL all the way to FRC.