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  #16   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 09-18-2018, 08:47 AM
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ratdude747 ratdude747 is offline
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Re: Design and Communication

I can't speak from an FRC perspective (as I haven't been formally affiliated with a team in the last 7 years ), but I can speak from an engineer's perspective.

(Context: I'm a new projects engineer for a Toyota supplier. I develop equipment and run trials on such up until launch day. In a way it's like a perpetual build season)

Here's how projects go: Generally, Either I produce well running equipment that kicks butt but my project management suffers and I get yelled at/lousy review, or my project management is better but the resulting equipment kinda stinks (which also produces a lousy review and people yelling at me). Which is better? Don't know. All I am told is "I want it all". From a corporate perspective both are valuable and needed.

In a way, this is like with FRC. The former favors on-field awards/performance; the latter favors off-field performance. Which is better (or what blend is best) depends on what you want as a team and what you need as a team. People are different, and different people need differing amounts of structure to thrive.
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Unread 09-18-2018, 10:03 AM
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Re: Design and Communication

I've recently been of the belief that process is for controlling the unpredictability of people.

If you have a group of individuals who are arbitrarily smart and arbitrarily good at communicating, there is not need for any established process. The team will simply "do its job" because everyone is exteremly capable of doing their jobs. No need to define a process that describes how to do the job.

When people left to their own devices tend to introduce chaos, that's where a process might be able to help.

"Process" is often just a fancy term for "cat herding".
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Unread 09-18-2018, 10:19 AM
Strategos Strategos is offline
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Re: Design and Communication

The consensus seems to be that a rigid design process slows down the team, reduces flexibility, and is generally incompatible with the FRC challenge. Are there any specific practices that work well within FRC constraints (aside from flexibility to subteams, version control)? How do teams instead assess their progress and stay on schedule? Do similar considerations apply to build season planning more broadly?

Somewhat unrelated, but how do team track inventory, from purchasing to stocking the build space, to parts on the robot. Adam mentioned that Part number systems were a standard process among the elite teams, and my team is currently looking into revamping our inventory system.

Thanks everyone for sharing all this valuable information
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Unread 09-18-2018, 02:05 PM
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Re: Design and Communication

Quote:
Originally Posted by Strategos View Post
Somewhat unrelated, but how do team track inventory, from purchasing to stocking the build space, to parts on the robot. Adam mentioned that Part number systems were a standard process among the elite teams, and my team is currently looking into revamping our inventory system.
I think he was mostly talking about numbering parts that they design (based on what he has talked about in the RAMP videos). If you have globally unique part numbers for each robot part you design you can better track what is moving through the pipeline.
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Unread 09-18-2018, 02:57 PM
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Re: Design and Communication

Quote:
Originally Posted by Strategos View Post
Somewhat unrelated, but how do team track inventory, from purchasing to stocking the build space, to parts on the robot. Adam mentioned that Part number systems were a standard process among the elite teams, and my team is currently looking into revamping our inventory system.
We've developed what we call our robot indexing sheets - these are a system of google sheets with information about our stock, suppliers, and ordering systems that connect to our robot parts list to automatically keep track of each part from design conception to reception and completion. Here is an example of one for our current offseason robot: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...it?usp=sharing. It's by no means perfect, but we've found it to be helpful so far. If there's interest I can share a blank template without all of our parts on it.


EDIT: I've gotten enough people asking about a blank version that I've made a blank template here. PM me with questions if you have any!

Last edited by Andrew_L : 09-18-2018 at 04:10 PM. Reason: Adding blank template link
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Unread 09-18-2018, 05:40 PM
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Re: Design and Communication

Quote:
Originally Posted by Monochron View Post
I think he was mostly talking about numbering parts that they design (based on what he has talked about in the RAMP videos). If you have globally unique part numbers for each robot part you design you can better track what is moving through the pipeline.
Thank you for the clarification!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew_L View Post
We've developed what we call our robot indexing sheets - these are a system of google sheets with information about our stock, suppliers, and ordering systems that connect to our robot parts list to automatically keep track of each part from design conception to reception and completion. Here is an example of one for our current offseason robot: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...it?usp=sharing. It's by no means perfect, but we've found it to be helpful so far. If there's interest I can share a blank template without all of our parts on it.
Thanks for sharing this resource!
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Unread 09-18-2018, 06:21 PM
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Re: Design and Communication

I'll offer my experience with CAD:
Part number systems and some sort of tracker can be a godsend. We use a Google spreadsheet with a row for every part number, then columns with quantity per robot, expected manufacturing method, and then a series of Y/N columns such as approved for manufacturing, stock ordered, stock cut, and finished manufacturing. Typically it's "owned" by one or two students who make sure that everything is on schedule.

With reviews, our rule is that at least one other person has to see a CAD for it to be shipped to fabrication. Typically, this review lasts 10-30 minutes and consists of:
  • Drag the assembly through its range of motion
  • Check for interferences
  • Sanity check the numbers
  • Find small, not-gonna-fly tolerance or strength issues
The design either passes (most of the time) or it fails, in which case you sit down for maybe 45 minutes and fix all the issues you can find. This helps with correctness and prevents stupid mistakes but can let you get through quickly.
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Unread 09-18-2018, 06:35 PM
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Re: Design and Communication

I can't say I'm surprised that the top teams are focused on individuals and key people making the important calls. While this isn't the direction Adam was going, it really just leads me to ask:
(a) how are teams developing those individuals? (for teams that function how Corsetto described, where often students are those key people)
(b) does the focus on key personnel leave others out in the cold, or does the rising tide lift all boats?
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Unread 09-18-2018, 10:50 PM
GeeTwo GeeTwo is offline
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Re: Design and Communication

Teamwork requires two things: common purpose and trust. If your trust is inherent in your relationships, you don't need much formal structure or formal communications to hold it together. I thought I had something else to say, but now I think this covers it; formal structures are a means to build trust among "teams" which otherwise wouldn't have it.
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Unread 09-19-2018, 08:58 AM
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Re: Design and Communication

One thing that's totally missing from the discussion above is the effect of the communication structure on the less skilled/exeperienced members of the team. A small core group that communicates effectively through informal means might come up with a good design. In fact, it might be more likely to come up with a great robot. But it totally fails the goal of "spreading STEM education" beyond the cohort that would have been engineers anyway. That's not to say that formal design reviews are going to inspire freshmen, but at minimum you have to have a process that allows them to keep up with changes and makes them feel engaged.

The LigerBots have implemented several processes that we believe they are a net positive for everyone but are specifically aimed at supporting the rookies and less involved students.
  • We break up the team into small brainstorming groups for the initial design (one of our coaches spends days considering the group assignments).
  • We assign students to specific build groups that are supposed to have internal communications (we're still experimenting with how rigid to make those assignments)
  • We use color coded sticky notes for tasks on a Trello style board (maintained by a very dedicated mentor!).
  • We use Slack for communication, with channels for each build group,
  • We have daily status meeting at which group leaders speak but everyone can listen in to catch up.
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Unread 09-20-2018, 03:24 PM
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Re: Design and Communication

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew_L View Post
We've developed what we call our robot indexing sheets - these are a system of google sheets with information about our stock, suppliers, and ordering systems that connect to our robot parts list to automatically keep track of each part from design conception to reception and completion. Here is an example of one for our current offseason robot: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...it?usp=sharing. It's by no means perfect, but we've found it to be helpful so far. If there's interest I can share a blank template without all of our parts on it.


EDIT: I've gotten enough people asking about a blank version that I've made a blank template here. PM me with questions if you have any!
I already shared it privately with Andrew, but I figure I'll share it here publicly too. I was inspired by 299's Part Indexing Sheet to create my own version, better suited to the way my team operates. Some functionality is shard, some is removed, and some is added. I put some sample parts in so you can see how it works. Hopefully this can help inspire someone else like 299's inspired me. If anyone has any questions, comments, or suggestions, please let me know.
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