Final Project

This is it! Here are the links to the final video. Eventually these videos will be posted to Vimeo, but as of right now the best way I could share them was via google drive.

Initial Demo video on drivetrains :

Final Video on drivetrains :

Next steps:

I am going to be continuing to work on creating this full curriculum over the next year in an attempt to finish before the next FRC preseason starts. The biggest remaining flaw in this video is the audio quality and consistency. I barely dabbled in audio editing for this project but that Is the main improvement I intend to make before mass production.

Conclusion :

Overall, I feel really good about the improvements I’ve made over the course of this study. This new video is far more clear, concise, and engaging than the original. And finally, thank you to everyone who supported me throughout this process!

Project Reflection

During this Independent study, I have learned a ton about not only video creation, but also how to teach others effectively. I think the most important lessons I learned from the process was how different it is talking to students about complex concepts than a peer. Being on the robotics team for multiple years now I have grown into a habit of communicating as concisely as possible, although in most cases that means using technical jargon that is completely incomprehensible to a bystander. Now, given that I am teaching these “bystanders”, I have had to adopt an entirely new and foreign method of communicating that is a lot more clear and drawn out. While this has been incredibly useful in my study, it’s also a major skill in everyday life. Communication is a massive part of my day to day, especially as a leader. 

The process of my study was also very formative for me. Talking to each of the mentors of other teams, getting feedback from students or mentors, and just the iteration the project went through was very valuable for me. I have always been a one man army on projects I’ve undertaken. In many cases this resulted in inefficiency or just lower quality work overall. I think during this study I have learned how to strike a balance between my personal drive to complete everything on my own and getting feedback from others. This led my final project to be one that I am incredibly proud of.

Looking at the side by side of my first attempt at an informational video compared to my final iteration, my work is pretty night and day. Simple things like video quality improvements and lighting to changing the content and even the way I speak have made such a huge positive change to the end result and this is a video that I would feel comfortable using as a learning tool. 

I think overall this study went very well. The biggest struggle was in battling with my ever full schedule to find time to work. If I were to do this project over again, I would likely have done it in my junior year, since I would have had much more time to sit down and spend as much time as I wanted on the project. Other than that, I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience.

Finally, thank you to all of my advisors for being a positive part of this experience for me!

Weeks from 11/14/22 – 11/28/22

The next big issue to tackle was the visual appearance and present-ability. For these few weeks, I have been working with a professional in graphic design to address the issues that I had with the first video. The motion graphics were low quality, the transitions barely existed, and the presentation of visual information was unclear.

The first of those three, the motion graphics, is an easy one to fix. I determined that the most effective course of action will be to cut out motion graphics entirely. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that motion graphics require an intense amount of work, and a major part of designing these videos is doing so in a way that is easy to replicate since there will eventually be over 50 videos. The second reason is that motion graphics are just less visually interesting than real life footage. This is what I plan to replace motion graphics with.

the second of these to tackle is transitions. This was the most difficult to create. Each of these transitions required about the same amount of time as one motion graphic, and I ended up making four(which will all be visible in the final video). This is also where I consulted Ken(the graphic design professional) the most. He helped in making sure that each of the transitions followed the design language of the rest of the project. These transitions are different from the motion graphics in their usability as well. While a motion graphic is created for one specific purpose, each of these transitions can be used for every video with only one or two small changes, making them easily usable over the course of the entire project.

The final issue with the original was the presentation of information through visuals(information on the screen as opposed to being spoken) I used a lot of recordings of my browser and pointing with my mouse. This is a very inconsistent way to show ideas as it depends on my multitasking ability to both talk and keep the visual engaging. For the majority of the final, I plan to do away with this. I will instead voiceover pre-recorded footage to help get around this jumpy prior method.

The final steps will be to record all of the footage, voiceovers, and transitions and compile them into one video.

Week of 10/31/22

This week was primarily a week of planning for the final video project. Now that I have met with many different students and mentors to discover what I most need to add or change about my prior video, I have a good sense for what to put into the final. The first major consideration is how to be more concise. The first video was around 15 minutes long. For an informational video, while that is reasonable, It was difficult for students to focus on the content long enough to retain all of the information.

Since this video is educational, there isn’t a lot of entertainment value by definition. In order to keep the attention of the viewers for as long as possible, I made the adjustment to keep the video at or under 6 minutes. This is a MAJOR decrease in overall time from the first video, and I am still aiming to convey all of the same information, so whats the plan? Well the major change is cutting out the unnecessary piece of old less usable drive trains from the past. This section alone took about 5 minutes in the total runtime of the first video. The second major change is cutting down on the how, and focusing on the why. In the organizational structure of this curriculum, strategy comes first, then elements of a robot, and finally skills to build a robot are last. This video falls in the second section which is mainly an overview section talking about how different parts of the robot relate to strategy, making talking about the how of a drive train much less effective.

The script is now complete and can be seen here:

Quarter Reflection

What have you been learning so far? Give a brief summary.

The first major thing I have been learning about the most effective ways to communicate information online, in order to prepare for my actual video curriculum, this will eventually allow me to be the most engaging possible for my audience. I have also been doing outreach to other teams to meet with their mentors and figure out what is the most important content to teach kids. On top of that I have gathered information on what big improvements I need to make to my video format itself to make it more engaging by creating a demo video and sharing it with other teams.

  • What has stirred your emotions?  Anything delightful, intriguing, frustrating, shocking?

It has been very interesting and slightly frustrating to learn about how other teams operate. For us, mentors play a back end role just giving us the support we need to succeed. For a lot of other teams though, the mentors play huge roles in the actual creation of the robot, leading to the students learning significantly less and participating significantly less.

  • What new questions do you have about this topic?

How do I make my videos engaging?

This question stems from feedback on my recent demo video that has shed light on the necessary improvements to production quality and entertainment value in order to retain viewers.

  • What are you learning about your learning process? 

I have always been internally motivated to learn. This has made me resort, a lot of times, to the internet or my own research of some kind to answer any questions I have. Through meeting with these other teams, however, I have gained a lot of confidence in my ability to learn from others since these other team mentors have been such different and interesting perspectives to learn from.

  • What has been the most helpful thing that has come from meetings with your content advisor?

The most helpful thing that has come with meeting with my content advisor was a structure to this early research phase.

  • What do you need to change?

For the most part, I would like to spend more time on my study. With college applications going on I have had to spend less time than ideal on this project. I think that this will naturally fix itself once time opens up since I have a huge interest in this field, but I will need to ensure that happens.

Week 10/10/22 and 10/17/22

These past few weeks have been dedicated to creating an in depth planning document. I have learned a ton about how to teach others through my meetings with other teams, so these weeks were when I took the time to solidify these new learnings into a full plan which can be found here(only DA accounts can open) :

Here is a condensed recount of the plan for the full course:

FRC Design Process

  1. In depth guide to design process
  2. General principles of success (what makes a good robot?)
  3. What to prioritize in a game design process (conceptual level)
  4. Full walkthrough of an example game(rapid react, 2022’s game)
  5. Overview of what parts can be used in FRC(electronics, pneumatics, etc)

Overview to a robot in FRC

  1. How do they move
  2. What kind of mechanisms are common (completely conceptual)
  3. How to learn more

CAD skills

  1. Basic skills overview(UI, useful tools, part studio intro, assembly intro, examples/student exercises)
  2. FRC applications of CAD/Onshape tools(gear ratios, student practice, gearbox project, intake project)

So this is the “final” plan for the course! I will likely still make edits to this as I go, but this is a progression that I feel is achievable for anyone to go from completely new to a useful member of the team. For a few weeks I will be working on the production quality piece that I mentioned in my last post. I’ll start working on a “branding” scheme to make the course stand out, create transitions, rendering presets, or other assets to aid in making these videos as high quality as possible.

Week of 9/26/22

This week has primarily been used to gather feedback on my demo video. I ended up sending the video to a few teams through a few FRC social media networks. Largely the response to the idea itself was very good. Most teams had felt similar feelings of having nowhere to start learning in the first year or two of their experience. The response to the video itself was similarly positive about the content. The majority of the feedback was talking about issues with overall production quality.

Some of the comments were:

  • Low camera quality
  • Many editing issues that caused distraction
  • Too many advanced terms used when describing parts of robots(not beginner friendly enough)
  • Lighting
  • Slightly too rant like

Most of these comments were fairly expected critiques of my editing skills as well as general low video quality. This was unsurprising given that this is my first video I’ve ever made and the purpose of this video was to test the content delivery of the format. This was for the most part successful with the necessary improvements mostly being to language accessibility and coherence of the script, both things that can be easily addressed.

The main thing I learned from this week was the huge degree that production quality affects the likelihood of someone finishing a video like this. My perception of tutorial style videos was that it was more about content than overall video quality, but this is only partially the case. While the production quality isn’t necessary to convey information, people are very likely to click off a video that isn’t pretty enough for them. This definitely gives me some work to do on the editing style of my videos and I will likely have to invest in either new equipment or find better ways to use my current equipment. Overall though this feedback was very valuable and I will give more updates on how to address these issues in future posts!

Weeks of 9/12/2022 and 9/19/2022

These past two weeks have been very interesting. I met with all three of the teams mentioned in the previous post as well as combing the web for any teams talking about their team structure and learning systems. The results were very surprising. From talking with all three teams the main factors that they assert are integral to their success are as follows:

  • HUGE amounts of time in the lab during the FRC season(from early January to early April). By huge amounts of time, I mean huge. These teams work until 8pm to 12am every day once the main season starts.
  • Mentor assistance was the other factor very high on the list of most important pieces of a team’s success. Each of these teams have significant mentor support during their season. For team 95, they have about a 2:1 student to mentor ratio. For context, we have about a 20:1 student to mentor ratio. This is important partially because these mentors can work on the robot and with kids at a lot higher capacity than our team. Since they are so hands on in the process, they constitute the majority of the knowledge base of the team.

The big takeaway from these two major factors is that the mentors guide the team through the season. The students are a tiny part of leadership and deciding team direction. What this means in the context of my curriculum is that I am creating something entirely new. I went into these conversations looking for what mentors teach kids before the season starts to get a jump start on the season. It seems that most high level teams don’t do this because of the high amount of mentor support. This isn’t only based on these conversations either. There are interviews with other top teams, 118 an 148, that are available on youtube. A similar mentor guided building process was expressed there. Since all other teams competing at a high level solve the generational knowledge using mentors, I will essentially be designing a video curriculum to simulate a mentor.

I was also unable to glean much in the way of teaching practices out of these teams as most of them simply don’t have any formal training for their students. This leaves a lot of the actual course content decisions up to my discretion, meaning I need to do a whole lot more research and planning! Woohoo!

Video Progress

I have finished the demo video for my content and it is ready for feedback. I unfortunately can’t share it as it is not hosted on youtube or vimeo yet, but I will as soon as possible! This week(week of 9/26/2022) I have begun reaching out to teams nearby as well as back out to team 95 to get feedback on possible improvements to the format/production quality of the video.

Near Future

Now that I have a starting point for my research, the next step is to design the full video content and order for the curriculum. I don’t yet have a time estimate on this but I will likely be reaching out to more teams as well as talking to our own members to plan this out. For now, thanks for reading and expect more updates in the near future!

Week of 9/5/2022 – Initial Outreach

    Since I have inadvertently become a teacher, the first step in creating my curriculum is research. There isn’t a lot of knowledge out in the world on how to run an FRC team though, and even less about the off-season and learning curve specifically. There are no studies or any official sources of knowledge on almost anything FRC at this point. So, in order to figure out what will be the most successful content in my curriculum, I reached out to some of the teams that have done the most consistently well over the years, 33, 95, and 2481. I chose these teams because :

  • 33, the Killer Bees. This team is the 4th most decorated in the world at having won 49 blue banners(FRC’s equivalent of a gold medal), they are in one of the most competitive districts in the world, and they have been a team since 1996
  • 95, the Grasshoppers. This team has been around for about the same amount of time as the Killer Bees. I have talked with this team in the past and I know they have a very unique method of preparing for future seasons.
  • 2481, the Roboteers. This team has gone to worlds for the past 8 seasons in a row. They are a high school team(as opposed to a community team) making them a more 1-to-1 comparison with DARC SIDE.

    The idea behind talking to each of these teams is to find out what they consider the reasons for their success year over year and look for any patterns between them. Also, since all three of these teams have been at it for over 15 years, they have clearly figured out a teaching method for the newer students on the team. Figuring out this process will be vital in prioritizing skills to teach when I begin formulating my own curriculum.

    The other preliminary research necessary is determining the format of this online curriculum. Many online learning platforms have done this in various ways, with the most common of which being a video series. This is my current plan, but the specifics of how to make these tutorial style videos as engaging as possible among other complications has far more difficulties attached than just stating “hey I’m gonna make a video series”. To vet my current plan for this tutorial series, I have been in the process of creating a demo video. The content isn’t super important for this first video, so I chose a fairly standard and widely understood topic, drivetrains. I will be sending this 10 minute video out to as many teams as I possibly can by Wednesday, 9/14.

    And that brings me to the end of the first week! I hope to have heard back from at least one of the teams I reached out to by the end of next week. In the coming week the plan is to:

  • Reach out to a few more local teams
  • Finish and send out demo video
  • Reach out to a Hawaiian FRC mentorship group for opinions on this curriculum and if they would be interested in partnering down the line. (more info about this in the next post)

Thanks for reading and I’ll be back with more updates next week!