As you all may know, the FRC season was switched to online this year due to COVID-19. There were quite some differences compared to previous years, so to see the students’ opinions on this season, they were asked to fill out a questionnaire. Here is a summary of the responses we got:
Rookies (first year students)
Everything about FIRST and robotics is new to the rookies, and with the fact that this season is different from previous ones, it is not surprising that they were confused as to what was happening. Some found it interesting thinking of ideas for the Game Design Challenge, while some others were disappointed that there weren’t many hands-on activities. On the bright side, we are glad that they enjoyed the atmosphere and the inclusiveness of the team, despite being online.
Second year students
As for the students in their second year of robotics, most didn’t enjoy robotics being online instead of in-person. The main reason being, lack of socialization between members which makes it harder to work with others, and also make them lose motivation. On top of that, because there was no robot to build, those who did programming and build last year started to lose interest. However, there are some students who did enjoy planning and working on the Game Design challenge, especially those who got to do the sales pitch. They thought it was less stressful than building a robot. There are also some who would have preferred to have done the Innovation challenge, however, the team chose not to participate since we did not have a solid idea.
Third year students
The students in their third year of robotics found that the season ran quite smoothly considering the circumstances. The majority enjoyed discussing and brainstorming ideas for the Game Design Challenge, and some even got to use different skills, such as making an animation video. Majority of the third years said that robotics this year wasn’t really “robotics”, meaning that there was no robot to build, therefore, no programming, build or CADing was involved. This season had a lot more writing to do, which is the part most students did not enjoy. They were also discouraged by the lack of interaction between members, which almost completely got rid of the social aspect of robotics.
Seniors (fourth year students)
The students in their fourth year of robotics took on leadership roles. With the season being different than usual, students were not able to further develop their skills during the build season like they normally would, therefore, the leads wished that they could have started teaching the necessary skills to the younger members earlier. Despite that, they are pleased to see that the members took the effort to participate in team meetings as if it was a normal season.
The seniors did find interest in creating their own robotics game, which is something completely different from previous years. However, since this is their last year in robotics as a high school student, they would have preferred a normal season, where they could build a robot and compete it at competitions.
Like the students, the mentors also struggled with motivation due to many changes in their work lives, lack of in person meetings and the uncertainty of what a pandemic season would look like. The mentors were very impressed by the student leaders who took the initiative to figure out how to run an online club. The students were the ones to find the communications tools (google meet and later discord) and they also ran the team meetings every Saturday afternoon through the season and a few dedicated sessions in between. This was an unexpected outcome that the mentors were very pleased with. Watching the students develop their leadership and communications skills and taking the initiative to get the team going reminded us that this is why we mentor this team of amazing students.
Ultimately, everyone made the best of the 2021 season, but the Roboravens are eager to get back in person and make another robot! We’ll see you at the next competition!