Before I begin this week's blog, I wanted to let you all know that jchong made some major updates to the IMU library code on GitHub. There is now complete support for all three official languages (LabVIEW, C++, and Java) and handy guides specific to each language. Check out the most recent drivers and user guide here!
If you have been following this blog series for a while, you likely know all of the teams that have enjoyed support from ADI employee mentors and sponsorships in the past. But with the merger with LTC last year, we were able to bring a few new teams to the list. This week, I talked some more with Bruce Whitefield, a Quality Manager at the Camas facility in Washington.
I had the pleasure of meeting Bruce in person at the Houston World Championship last year and snagged a cool team t-shirt (in exchange for a Platypi t-shirt of course...t-shirt trading is apparently pretty big in the FRC community, particularly at World's). Is this not the most clever use of a team name ever? And I thought 2468 Team Appreciate was a cool team name/number combo.
I may or may not have been wearing mine a lot this build season...
Bruce is one of the core mentors for 2471, Team Mean Machine. He started off helping his son, who was one of the founding student members of the team. His son has since graduated high school and college as a Mechanical Engineer. Now, he designs 3D printers. Bruce jokingly said "I'm still playing around with robots!"
As mentors, we typically get to see a lot of development during the four years a student is on the team. They rarely leave the team the same person they were when they came in, and it's one of the things I love most about mentoring. Their successes are our successes, and their struggles are our own. I asked Bruce what the most amazing thing he's seen one of his students accomplish and he told me about one of his students that went on to become a Dean's List winner at the 2014 World Championship. To be selected as part of that small group of students is an amazing feat. It typically brings extra scholarship opportunities and makes a nice addition to college resumes, sure. But the students that get selected usually went to great lengths to help out in their communities, and do robotics, and keep their grades high. It's a special caliber of student, and they are usually the most amazing to watch do their work on a team.
Like any job, being an FRC mentor has its rough patches. I've had my fair share in just the 3 years I've been doing this with 2655. (Bruce has done 11 years so far!) However though it gets, though, there's something that keeps us coming back for more even when we get to Week 3 of Build Season and wonder "Why did I decide to give up life outside of work for this again???" For Bruce, it's watching what students are able to accomplish because of the impact that being on the team had on their lives. "The growth in learning and capabilities and confidence is amazing," Bruce said, "They launch out of high school on a much higher trajectory because of their FRC experience." One of their lead mentors bad to pull away in the middle of build season last year due to a death in the family. "The next week we had four team alumni show up at the shop saying 'We're here to help,'" Bruce told me. If that's not an indication that their lives had been so touched by this program, I'm not sure what is.
In the spirit of last week's article, I asked Bruce if there was anything he had learned by being a mentor that he might not have learned otherwise. "Quite a bit about CAD software, machining and CNC tools that I never would have had the opportunity or motivation to explore on my own," he said. "You don't learn until you have to teach it."
His favorite story though?
"I often remember the freshman who was watching from the periphery of the action on a preseason project. I handed him a drill and pointed to where the hole needed to be. He looked at the drill and then at me and asked incredulously, 'You mean you guys will let me drill a hole?" Turns out he had never held a drill before. I said, 'You can drill them all!' After we got the drill pointed the right direction, he proceeded to do so wih the biggest smile I've ever seen. Simply being trusted to touch the equipment started changing his life."
This blog is part of a series covering the 2018 season of the FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST POWER UP. Stay tuned for more updates, including coverage of the Championship Events in Houston and Detroit at the end of April! Get to know the ADI teams, learn more about our donation boards, and meet the employee mentors that make it all happen!