The value of having FLL alumni connect with your team

By: Heidi Buck

FLL Androids mentoring the FLL Marshmallow Puppies

Having someone who has ‘been there’ and ‘done that’ offer advice often generates the sincerest form of mentoring. For kids, especially, being guided by someone relatable and who has experienced what they are learning often times provides the highest level of inspiration.
Since role models are defined as those we hope to imitate, what better role models for our teams than FLL alumni – who embody the ideals of Gracious Professionalism?

One such group of FLL alumni that are ‘mentoring in earnest’ is the second year FIRST Tech Challenge team – Antipodes (FTC 4529)
For the past 2 years, they have mentored the FLL team Androids (formerly Marshmallow Puppies) as they themselves moved from FLL to FTC.

So, what do the Androids think about being mentored by these FLL alumni?
When we first met the Antipodes it seemed liked they could do everything and we could hardly do anything.  They were really nice and spent the time to talk with us and show us how we could make our robot better.  That helped us do much better on our robot and project the next year.

They were an inspiration for (us)…  we did so much better the next year because of the ideas they gave us and getting to see how well they did things.
– Androids

The FTC 4529 Antipodes - explaining their last season's 'Get Over It' FTC robot to the FLL team Androids

The Android’s coach added that being mentored by the Antipodes helps energize his team: 
…their excitement about what they are doing is infectious.  They are generous with their time and ideas, taking the time to share ideas they have and discuss ideas our team has.  After meeting with the Antipodes, our team is energized and ready to take on new challenges or implement new ideas that they brainstormed together.

And, it isn’t just the Androids that benefit from the mentoring experience. As the coach of the Antipodes relates:

      During last year’s visit, the first thing on the agenda was a demonstration of our (FLL) robot.  It turned out to be their first perfect run.  The Marshmallow Puppies didn’t know what to expect, so they stood there, quietly taking everything in.  Our girls just looked at each other and said, “That was 400 points,” in a composed, mentorly way, but really wanted to jump around and high five each other.  It was a memorable moment for our team. The next year at the FLL NorCal Championships, the Androids told us how much our visit had been an inspiration for them, and that it changed the entire attitude of their team.  It doesn’t feel like you’re doing that much:  just going and talking to someone, explaining what you’ve done, asking them questions, having some laughs.  Then later you discover you’re visit was the turning point for their team…amazing.

The Androids get a firsthand look at a FIRST Tech Challenge robot!

And for the Antipodes themselves, mentoring is more than just passing on some of their FLL knowledge and experiences. Now that they’ve moved on to FTC, they can  share a whole new level of FIRST with the Androids.

     It’s really great to have the opportunity to work with other girls who are just as interested in robotics as we are.
It was great to see how much the Androids had improved since last year.

     Last year they were such cute little Girl Scouts.  Now they’re taller than us!

FTC 4529 - Antipodes with the FLL team Androids

They have learned so much about the engineering process… it’s nice to think we had something to do with that.
– Antipodes FTC 4529

The Androids and Antipodes are 2 FIRST teams who understand firsthand the value of mentoring!