FTC Tips

Tip #1: Gracious Professionalism

Students will hear this phrase over and over, “Gracious Professionalism”, but what the heck does it mean?  Here is FIRST’s description:

Gracious Professionalism is part of the ethos of FIRST. It’s a way of doing things to encourage high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.

With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended.

In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.

To me, this means that we work hard, play fair, do what’s right and we strive to make sure that every team gets a chance to do their best on the competition floor.  In this light, we should learn a lot and have lots of FUN!

How can mentors show Gracious Professionalism?

  • Have fun.
  • Remember that the goal of our program is to improve students’ knowledge of robotics,  engineering, and life in general.  Students are choosing to do this in their free time and we want this to be enjoyable for them.
  • Listen to the students.  They have great ideas and the robot that they bring to competition should be theirs.
  • Make sure that team schedules are made available to students and families as soon as possible.
  • Do not build the robot or write the programming.  Mentor-bots don’t teach the students anything.  A robot that they build teaches them a lot—even if it doesn’t work, it gives them the opportunity to rethink things and try again.

How can students show Gracious Professionalism?

  • Appreciate your fellow teammates.
  • Be respectful to the program mentors.  These are volunteer positions and it can take quite a bit of an adult free time.  They are giving up time with family, friends, work, hobbies and relaxation to work with a group of kids.  Most meetings are at times when the mentor has already worked an 8 hour day, rushed home to have dinner with their family and then they come to spend a couple hours with students.  The last thing they need to do is fight for your attention.  I can’t tell you how important our mentors are—we couldn’t have teams if adults didn’t volunteer to help us out!
  • Be on time.
  • Take responsibility for yourself.  If you say that you will do something for your team, do it.  If you run into problems and need help or ideas—ask others!
  • Use your time wisely.  If you are at a meeting and you don’t think you have anything to do, see me or your mentor.  There are always awards that we could be working towards, documentation that could be added to the engineering notebook, or even organization or cleaning in the shop.
  • Respect the facilities and equipment that we are allowed to use.  It takes a lot of work to line up classrooms/work spaces, robot parts, and money—don’t do anything that increases our risk of losing any of these resources.
  • Share resources with other teams when needed.  It’s more fun for everyone when teams are competing at their best.
  • Congratulate others for their successes.
  • Be gracious winners – don’t make other feel bad.
  • Be gracious losers– everybody has a bad day sometimes.  Please use the opportunity to think about how you can improve the situation and recommit yourself to building success.  Judges and other teams notice how you handle adversity—leave them with a positive view of you and your team.  They say engineering is 99% failure and 1% success, failure isn’t the end of the world–its the start of your next try.
  • Have fun!