How to win a WFFA this year

Around the MentorBuilt office, excitement about the new season is high. As much as we are looking forward to playing Destination: Deep Space this year, we are also eagerly awaiting the recognition of over a hundred additional FRC mentors as winners of the prestigious Woodie Flowers Finalist Award.

The WFFA is named in honor of Professor Woodie Flowers and his contribution to engineering, education, and communication. This award is presented to individual mentors only at the Regional and District Championship level, celebrates effective communication in the art and science of engineering and design. Nominations for this award are required to be written and submitted by students, and winning nomination essays must describe "how this individual excels above all others as he or she inspires the team."

In this article, we'll explore sure-fire ways that you too can be awarded a WFFA and carry home a coveted blue banner for your team this year.

1. Keep your hands out of the robot
If there’s one thing we know here at MentorBuilt, it’s that mentors aren’t supposed to build the robot! Maintain white glove status at all times. Openly criticize any mentors you observe giving into temptation and picking up a tool.  If those mentors need something constructive to do, suggest they ghost-write your WFFA essay.

2. Force your students to nominate you every year until you win
Statistics are your friend here; the WFFA is just a numbers game. If your students nominate you every year, eventually the selection committee will run out of other qualified mentors and pick you instead!

3. Develop a culture where there is only one right answer: yours
Never let students see you make a mistake. Undermine anyone who approaches you with even mild criticism. Dean Kamen is never wrong, and neither are you.

4. Trash talk all other potential sources of role models
Mentors on other teams are dolts! Help your students develop a healthy animosity towards competitors with differing opinions.  And don’t get us started on adults from outside the world of robotics... what kind of positive influence could they possibly have on your students?

5. Become friends with your students
Give all your positive attention to the students writing your essay. Don’t teach any hard lessons or set up students to face any unique challenges. Sitting down to write your WFFA essay should be the easiest thing in the world for them to do.

6. Steer your team's girls into essay-writing
Constantly remind your female students that although it’s cute they want to try using power tools to design, construct, and field competitive solutions to the many technical challenges of FRC, they really should get back to work on writing an essay nominating you for WFFA instead of working on the robot.

7. Reward students randomly
Recognize strong contributions, but not all the time! Make sure your “system” for rewarding positive behavior on your team is as inscrutable as the rest of your decision-making process.

8. Bully your kids into writing a nicer essay
Yell at students for doing something incorrectly, even if you never instructed them how to do it properly in the first place. Are you communicating the art and science of engineering and design? Heck yeah you are! Loudly!

9. Ensure students to prioritize robotics over all other life activities
Make sure any student that is not a self-proclaimed “geek” feels ostracized in robotics. Emphasize to your students that sports are the devil, and that everyone who doesn’t do robotics can’t be successful in the STEM world we’re trying to create together.  Encourage your students to sacrifice their time, money, mental health and grades for the team.

10. Encourage kids to take care of their mental health, and then flip out when they do
For example, tell students that school is a higher priority over robotics, then punish them for skipping meetings to do homework. After all, FIRST was founded on the fundamental assumption that the traditional education systems are broken and should be wholly replaced.

11. Write your own essay
You’ll have plenty of time for this, since you won’t be involved with designing and building the robot.

12. Fit the demographic of past WFFA winners
Based on past trends, to increase your odds you'll need to become a mid-to-upper-class aging white male.  This is an advanced technique and is not recommended for all.