Norman Morgan, or Coach Norm as he is known to most, has been coaching FRC#2468 since their inception six years ago. 2013 was a breakout year for team 2468, winning the Hub City Regional Chairman’s Award, finally taking home their first regional banner at the Alamo Regional, and putting on a great performance on the Archimedes field at the Championship event. Coach Norm has been a huge part of that success and was honored by being presented the 2013 Hub City Woodie Flowers Finalist award. Coach Norm is truly dedicated to his students and spreading STEM in the community. Coach Norm expands on why he got into education, how he got the opportunity to coach Team Appreciate, and much more.
[Responses from July 30, 2013]
CD Username: Coach Norm
Current Gig/Job: Robotics Teacher/Head Robotics Coach/District Coordinator
Waylang Baptist University, Bachelors of Science in Education
Waylang Baptist University, Bachelors of Science in Education
Texas State University, Master of Education in Educational Leadership
Former Team(s): none
Location: Westlake High School, Eanes ISD, Austin, Texas
Hobbies: Reading, Yellow Lab Puppy, Sports, Playing with technology
What inspired you to do what you do? Tell us a story.
I am a 4th generation teacher and the son of two teachers. I watched my Dad work as an Ag/FFA teacher with students and the impact he had on their lives with after-school projects. I went into education as a basketball coach, even paid for my college with a scholarship. I wanted to a job that allowed me to not only work with young people, but also give me a chance to continue to learn each and every day. I went into the profession really because I was going to get paid to do something that I thought was fun and exciting. I was getting paid to play each and every day – what better job could there be?
What is your day job, and how’d you get there?
I am the lead robotics teacher and coach at Westlake High School in Eanes ISD. My principal called me six years ago with a very leading question: “Norman, Do you have an open mind?”. She went on to ask me to start the robotics program for our school which I had helped do some research on. We started out with 35 seniors, one junior, and one freshman that year. The program has now grown to classes for 7th thru 12th grade and over 130 students participating in after-school robotics teams for those grades. I teach three levels of classes in the high school including Concepts of Engineering and Technology, Scientific Research, and Design I and II. I am the CEO for lack of a better term for our district Robotics program.
What is your favorite story to tell about robotics?
In seventeen years of coaching athletics, I never once had a professional coach much less a college coach volunteer to spend time with students in the gym on a regular basis. I currently have 16 professional coaches who volunteer each and every week to work with our students on their projects. These professional coaches (mentors) provide knowledge, skills, and connections that I as a high school teacher can never provide for my students. I do not have to be the expert. Teaching is not about giving someone the answer. I think teaching is about providing the environment for students to grow and learn. The mentors and I provide this environment by leading the students on the projects.
What’s your favorite robot that you didn’t help build?
Wow, that is a tough question. Teams like 1477, 118, 148, and 624 are local teams that inspire me every year with their robots. The robot that has most impressed me is probably FRC 1114’s Simbot SS. 2008 was our Rookie year and we had a chance to watch Simbot SS at Championships in Atlanta. The robot was simple, functional and elegant. I was amazed at the efficiency of the machine.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? (Work/Robotics/Home)
I am a technology geek at heart. Twitter has been a huge part of my professional development for the past several years. I use Tweetdeck for both my Mac and PC computers. iPad apps include Zite, Flipboard, iTunesU for my class as well as for me personally. Numbers, Pages, iBooks, Linkedin, Google+, Kindle for iPad, and Nook for iPad.
SolidWorks for CAD on the PC, Google Drive and online docs, Dropbox, Evernote, Skype, Facetime.
What’s your workspace setup like? (Work/Robotics/Home)
We work out of our classroom and shop which used to be one classroom. The shop is 18’ x 30’ and the classroom is also the same size. We have an additional storage area down the hall we got this past year that we use for storage and an electronics workbench area. We share this space between our FRC team and our four FTC teams. We have a Jet lathe, Grizzly vertical mill, drill press, band saw, portable saw, and Makerbot Replicator 2. We have on order a 28” x 50” gantry style 2 ½ D CNC. The past few years, we have borrowed a similar CNC from our mentors that we use for the duration of the FRC season. We practice wherever we can arrange including outside the back of the shop, school hallway, cafeteria, etc.
What do you listen to while you work?
I listen to anything from Youtube videos, podcasts, sports talk radio, Pandora, etc. while I work in the classroom/shop. I personally like country and classic rock. John Fogelberg is awesome. We do not always listen to music in the shop, although we have a student who has an obsession of Taylor Swift. I usually let the students control the music in the shop when we work.
What’s your schedule like during build season?
Our school day ends at 4:05 and we have most of the students on the robotics team in the last period of the day. During season, we use the class for more of a study hall for most of the students. We have a proposed work time that follows.
Our typical build schedule is:
Monday/Wednesday – 4:30 – 7:30 although that usually leaks over to 8:30
Tuesday/Thursday – 6:00 – 9:30 and that usually leaks over as well.
Friday – No Work until late in the build season
Saturday – 9:30 am – 4:00 pm scheduled time but most often that time extends as well
Sunday – not scheduled until the last few weeks before bag and tag.
Many times the students are willing and able to stay longer in the evenings to work with the input of mentors who usually do not get to the shop until 7:00ish.
We are always struggling to manage our time better.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else
If you were to ask my team, mentors and parents, it would probably be strategy. I analyze each and every match from a coach’s point of view. I was a basketball coach for 17 years prior to becoming a robotics teacher/coach. My background of coaching has given me a different perspective than most others. Strategy, to me, is something that can be evaluated continually not just at the beginning of the season or when you are making your pick list.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I ever received was from my Aunt Kaki. She painted a poster with the following saying on it “I am not judged by the number of times I fail l but by the number of times I succeed; and the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of I can fail.” It hung on my wall in my bedroom above my bed. I read it everyday from the time I was 12 years old until I graduated from college.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Candy (Hot Tamales, Dots, Candy Sours) and my wife’s cookies.
Fill in the blank. I’d love to see John Novak from Bomb Squad answer these same questions.
Anything else you want people to know about you?
I consider myself a lifelong learner and believe that we all should be learning something new everyday.
“I am not judged by the number of times I fail but by the number of times I succeed; and the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail.” – Tom Hopkins