Glad to hear you are planning on helping out the ones following in your footsteps.
Rule 1: Make sure they are safe, that they wear their safety glasses, etc.
Rule 2: Don’t design their robots for them.
Rule 3: Don’t build their robots for them.
Rule 4: Don’t program their robots for them.
Rule 5: Don’t let them use something on their robots they don’t understand and can’t explain to the judges.
Having said that, I should add that I’m no fan of “constructivist” theories that insist kids need to figure out how to do everything for themselves in order to learn “authentically.” I guess constructivism is the flavor of the decade for education, but from what I’ve seen of it, constructivism too often leaves kids “lost at sea” and causes kids to “construct” knowledge improperly (rotating metal shaft supported in a hole Dremeled into a piece of aluminum plate - really, guys?), so I tend toward a more old-fashioned traditional approach. In fact, some might call it an *ancient *approach, known as the Socratic Method.
Mentor: “So what makes you so confident your chain here can withstand the forces it will be experiencing?”
Kids: (group shrug)
Mentor:“Did you test it?”
Kids: “Uhhh… nnno.”
Mentor: “Did you do some kind of calculations?”
Kids: “How you do that?”
Mentor: “It’s easy. You take the sine of these angles, calculate these force vectors created by the cube weights here and here, then figure out the torque induced in the-”
:mad: Kids: “We’re only in 7th grade, remember?”
Mentor: “Oh… uh…”
:eek: Kids: “What’s a Tork?”
Mentor: “So, uh, okay, let’s think of ways you can *test *this thing…”
I don’t think it’s wise to let the kids use an idea of their own that you know is doomed to fail just so they can have the “authentic” experience of failing. It’s better to use the Socratic approach and probe them relentlessly until they see the light. And if they are totally stuck, it’s far better to start presenting a variety of design options and get them to talk about the various ideas rather than let them wallow in their own misery and ignorance for mind-numbing stretches of time, as strict constructivism seems to require.
As for teaching programming, I have them work with RobotC, and very early on I walk them through how to create Defined Functions specifically for their robots. Then they are free to use those Defined Functions to program the robots for autonomous, etc. I insist they use sensors instead of Time simply because I want them to learn more.
I urge them to help teams that ask for assistance at competitions even if they are scheduled to go against them sometime that day. Fixing the non-functional robots of other teams teaches my kids how NOT to design crappy hardware.
Be sensitive about the emotions of the parents of the kids on your teams and on teams your kids play against. Parents can get crazy competitive at tournaments. Also, parents can be very sensitive about what their little darlings are doing - or not doing - on your teams. Try to smile when they take your picture.