FIRST Robotics Competition Blog

Celebrate Your Mentors With Us!

Jun 14, 2021 Written by WFA Winners Eric Stokely (FRC Teams 258, 360, 2557, & 5295) & Allen Gregory (FRC Team 3847)




There is no denying that this 2020-2021 FIRST season has been unlike anything of us expected. PPE, recruitment for the future, code, CAD, social distancing, “is my Mic on,” online meeting agendas, and any of a thousand other issues were all were jumbled together. However, FIRST has always taught us that the ability to shift to changing circumstances is a life skill, and it was tested pretty heavily this season.

FIRST Headquarters found a way for teams to still compete and work together, finding ways for online meetings to be useful for cooperation and solving problems. They also kept Dean’s List and the Woodie Flowers Award intact. And as this odd season winds down to a close we all realize that some things have stayed constant, and one of those has been the impact your mentors and coaches have had on your teams. And many teams learned new skills to cope that will continue to be used as we all return to a normal routine.

As the Woodie Flowers Award winners have worked through your Woodie Flowers Nominee essays, we all continue to be humbled by the efforts, compassion, and strength that your mentors have shown with their students. Their work, in many cases, needed to increase to be able to keep teams meeting and productive. Selecting Woodie Flowers Finalists from the scores of people represented in the student produced essays for each award group has been a challenge. Without the distraction of a robot to design and build, it seems many teams put extra efforts into their Woodie Flowers Nominations which made the selection process that much more meaningful and difficult.

And yet some teams chose not to submit for the award. Sometimes you didn’t because no one could fit it into their schedule, other times you feel there are too many strong teams and mentors which you believe will overshadow your mentors’ efforts, the worst excuse is not knowing the deadline for submission. Acknowledging your mentor is the actual point of the nomination, taking the time to put down into words what the mentors on your team have done for you has meaning. I have never met a nominated mentor who didn’t feel a sense of pride that they were submitted for an award that has the name of Woodie Flowers associated with it.

As we all start into next year’s season, start taking note of what sacrifices, what extra things your mentors are doing. As we always learn from the current season to make the next year better do that for your mentors. Start working on the essay early in the school year, keep drafts, involve more students in the nomination. So, make the selection group’s job harder next year with more nominations, celebrate what your tireless mentors have been doing for your team and for FIRST.

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It would be awesome if FIRST provided more mentor-centric awards. This could be in the form of more WFFA winners (a specific example: changing the District format to have multiple winners like the Chairman's award), adding another level below WFFA (but above just a nomination), or a totally new mentor-centric award. This program is built on the backs of mentors, and it's disappointing that these individuals don't get more recognition. I know both those who mentored me while I was in high school, and those who mentor beside me now, have made an incredibly strong impact on me, but have slim chances of winning a WFFA given that fact that they need to go up against every mentor in New England. I'd give anything to see more all-star mentors get the recognition that they deserve

I agree that there are tons of deserving mentors, it's also really difficult that the students who write the essays receive no feedback on what elements of their essay were impactful. I totally understand that the essays all have to be reviewed, which is a long process, but for some students, it may feel to them that they pour their heart into a piece of work that gets sent off somewhere on the internet, and ...that's it. 

Even the single bullet point feedback that was provided to FRC Innovation Challenge finalists this year was like night and day motivation to continue to work on student-led written submissions for our FRC team in Ontario.

I understand the concerns in this area. I have pointed out the feedback on this blog to the WFA group for their consideration. 

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