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Unread 12-06-2018, 10:18 AM
brennonbrimhall brennonbrimhall is offline
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Build Season Schedule

Ever since my first year of FRC, I've done a M-Sat schedule. Recently, I've seen more teams move to schedules that meet less times per week in an attempt to reduce mentor burnout. We're discussing a similar transition on 6844 - but wanted to check with the larger CD community about some questions we had. So, for teams that meet less than 6 times per week:
  • Do you find that you have to meet longer each meeting to accomplish the same amount of work?
  • What unexpected challenges, if any, were encountered by a schedule like this?
  • What benefits did you expect to gain by a schedule like this? Do you feel that you were able to achieve those benefits?
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Unread 12-06-2018, 10:26 AM
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Re: Build Season Schedule

Triple Helix has pretty much always met M, Tu, Th from 6-9 PM and Sat from 9 AM-6 PM.


1. Do you find that you have to meet longer each meeting to accomplish the same amount of work?

3 hours seems to be able the sweet spot for the minimum weekday meeting time. Anything less and your ramp up and ramp down times are just way too much of your meeting time each meeting. If you're meeting every day for 2 hours you'll find that you just have more effective time by shifting to fewer days and adding an hour to the meeting.

2. What unexpected challenges, if any, were encountered by a schedule like this?

Long meetings over a lunch time may require your team to provide lunch for everyone. We have parents volunteer each Saturday to prepare lunch (paid for by the team). Tacos are my personal favorite.

3. What benefits did you expect to gain by a schedule like this? Do you feel that you were able to achieve those benefits?

The main benefit is that everybody has scheduled time at home. No one is at the shop for 7 days a week. You have time to do your homework, eat with your family, sleep, etc.

Evening meetings mean non teacher mentors will have an easier time making it to meetings.
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Unread 12-06-2018, 10:50 AM
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Re: Build Season Schedule

Quote:
Originally Posted by brennonbrimhall View Post
So, for teams that meet less than 6 times per week:
I would highly recommend most teams meet less than six times per week, at least for the first 2/3 of the season. A lot less gets done at each meeting when you meet so regularly, and burnout increases.

Quote:
Do you find that you have to meet longer each meeting to accomplish the same amount of work?
Only to a very small extent - in that you may need a little more time to get back into a task you haven't touched in a couple of days. This washes out once meeting lengths are of any amount of substantial time (above 2.5 hours) and probably less actual shop time is needed per task after that.

Quote:
What unexpected challenges, if any, were encountered by a schedule like this?
The biggest thing is making sure parts are ordered promptly and frequently, as you have fewer opportunities to do this. This sort of schedule is also much more sustainable if a good portion of CAD design is done after hours.

Quote:
What benefits did you expect to gain by a schedule like this? Do you feel that you were able to achieve those benefits?
The reduced burnout pays dividends all year. You are more productive throughout the season. Time away from robotics gives you more time to think about what you'll do next, and it's easier to go into every meeting with a purpose and goal, rather than just because It's A Robotics Day. Shaker switched to ~3 days a week in 2013 and it's not a coincidence that our competitiveness greatly improved then.
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Unread 12-06-2018, 11:46 AM
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Re: Build Season Schedule

We've pretty much always had a 15-hour per week schedule - 2 hours m-th, 7 hours saturday. Keep in mind Parkinson's Law - work grows to expand the available time. When it comes to robotics, I would amend that to be "the pace of your work slows to fill available time". When you're in a crunch, you know you don't have much time, your team tends to work more efficiently. We're using a custom google sheet to create a gantt chart for the season - something that can be updated each night and will help show how delays or improvements affect the entire schedule, and something that the team is dedicated to looking at every meeting.

Also, every mentor on the team takes 1 night off per week (scattered across all of the weekday meetings). That lets us ensure there are still enough mentors there to oversee things safely and help the students when needed, while letting us have some semblance of a life outside of robotics. Having friday evening, saturday evening, and all day sunday free, along with one other weekday evening of my choice really helps keep me sane and involved with the rest of my life!
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Unread 12-06-2018, 12:07 PM
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Re: Build Season Schedule

From a student:

- Remember that homework is a thing. Providing room for homework to be done will help mitigate the stress level of the team, which hopefully will lead to higher productivity.

- If you do go for the long-haul tactics some days, consider putting in a healthy break. That doesn't mean 12 minutes to wolf down a sandwich. If you're in the shop for 7hr, give 45 minutes of off-time. Encourage the students to get moving. Bring a frisbee or something. My team is looking to invest in Spikeball and KanJam sets. Most of us are really competitive, so its a great way to blow off some steam during break. That time can also be used for homework, studying, eating, napping (I bring my hammock and set it up between some pillars outside the build space), etc.

- Talk to your students! The easiest way to find out what is best for the students is to ask the students themselves. Explain your thoughts and your reasoning, and see if they agree. Find out what changes they'd make.
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Unread 12-06-2018, 12:28 PM
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Re: Build Season Schedule

Apex meets 4 times a week as scheduled, M, T and Th from 4pm to 8:30pm and Saturdays from 12pm-6pm. We add meetings (typically for extended hours) on days that there is no scheduled school, and the Saturday meeting hours usually get extended late in the season. I credit 1318 IRS with inspiring our schedule, we have a few mentors who were on their team for a year and had a revelation experiencing a similar schedule there.

Your first questions is difficult to answer because Apex 5803 has used this schedule since we started, so I'll take a less direct approach. My prior three teams (971, 190 and 1983) all had more frequent meetings from 5-7 days a week. I was mentoring 1983 for the two years prior to starting 5803, and their schedule for those years was M-Th 6pm-9pm and Saturday 9:30am to 3:30pm, for 18 hours of scheduled meeting time per week. Apex's schedule contains approximately the same number of total work hours (give or take for meal times) across fewer days. Apex and Skunk Works are very different teams with different resources and team makeups, so it doesn't make sense to compare what's able to be accomplished in the amount of meeting time.

I will add that part of our schedule is driven by our school. They want us to start meetings as soon as possible after classes end at 2:45pm, and we have to balance that against when mentors are available. During the off-season we meet twice weekly (M & Th) from 3:30pm to 6pm, and during build/competition we have parents volunteer to supervise a study hall from the end of school until the 4pm meeting start. So our scheduled start time is part of that. We also have parents volunteer to bring dinner for the team to the weekly build/competition season meetings, which is every weekday meeting.




What benefits did you expect to gain by a schedule like this? Do you feel that you were able to achieve those benefits?

There's a lot of benefits to this approach, beyond extra time at home to spend time with families, work on homework, etc. Primarily, it helps with planning. Parts orders usually don't arrive next day, but we can do orders and shipping around our meeting days. This usually means that at any given meeting there are fewer subsystems held for parts. It also gives us a lot of natural schedule buffer: In the event that we're horribly behind, adding a few emergency meetings isn't quite as much of a crunch on everyone's non-robot time. It's a lot easier to add a meeting on a Friday or Sunday and still have days off during the week than to end up at 7 days a week or try to extend normal meetings to start earlier or end later on weeknights.

Our design process is also based around having a significant number of non-meeting days. We use OnShape, and the vast majority of our CAD is done outside of meeting hours over the internet, and then we use our meeting time to prototype and build and feed back what we learn into the CAD. So work is being done on "off" days, but it's on-your-own time work.

We also don't have a permanent workshop space, we have to rearrange our work area at the beginning of every meeting and then restore it to "storage" config at the end, so longer meetings are more efficient since setup/teardown is the same amount of time for every meeting.




What unexpected challenges, if any, were encountered by a schedule like this?

The biggest challenge we've had with this schedule is getting mentors who are able to show up to meetings before 6pm on week nights. We're fortunate to have a number of Boeing mentors who get off work early enough (yay, aligning to 1st shift shop hours).
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Last edited by Nuttyman54 : 12-06-2018 at 12:34 PM.
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Unread 12-06-2018, 12:56 PM
tjwolter tjwolter is offline
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Re: Build Season Schedule

5826 is shifting from 6/week to 5 this season.

We are an "off site" build team with most of our mentors having limited availability for weeknight sessions but better on the weekend.

So it is projected to be after school M/Tue/Thurs. Sat 10-4. We have short Sun afternoon meetings as well. Remember, this is Wisconsin. There's not that much to do in January and February.

Jon's suggestion of a mandatory mentor day off is a good one. I'll propose that. As we start our 4th season we have a team better able to organize themselves than we did in the past.

Answers to the three questions particular to our team:

- We probably get 60% of our real work done on the weekend sessions. Longer time slots, more mentors on hand, etc.
- I can't comment on this year's slight adjustment but when we added Sunday afternoon sessions there were no major issues.
- We build in space at one of our Sponsors. They are running a business (making high end CNC routers). Weeknight sessions tend to bump into the tail end of their work day more than weekend ones. We also want our team to have a bit of a life outside robotics. Dropping Wednesday sessions helps kids get to church activities which in our community are usually on that night. Giving them Friday nights off should, in abstract and unproven theory, afford them a build season social life!

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Unread 12-06-2018, 01:12 PM
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Re: Build Season Schedule

Team 1493 met 3 times a week last year-
Mon- 3-4:30
Tues- 3-4:30
Thurs 3-8:00

* some notes about this schedule- The Monday after kickoff we take a team field trip during school hours to the local practice field and spend the day brainstorming and determining the design best suited for our team. Students are able to come on any free periods to the lab and work on robot (all our mentors are teachers in the school). During our week of testing in Jan the teachers are given no tests to proctor and students can come in all day and work. We also have some off schedule days that we take the drive team to practice field and fine tune things.

- Last year was by far our best year ever and mentor burnout was extremely low. My wife did not feel like she was a single mom for months.

This year we are going with
Mon 3-5:30
Thurs 3-8

Fewer meetings allows us
- to be much more focused and have jobs all lined up so almost every student is busy during entire meeting
- Be realistic about our design/strategy- Limiting meeting hours limits what we want our robot to be able to do. The 118 Everybot and VEX MCC would be much better design choices for many teams that meet 6 days a week. These robots can be easily be built in the schedule we use.
- NO BURNOUT


I have been debating making a build blog similar to what 95 has done the last few years to help teams who are interested in how we work through this process.

Last edited by 1493kd : 12-06-2018 at 01:13 PM. Reason: addition
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Unread 12-06-2018, 02:10 PM
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Re: Build Season Schedule

Over the past months I've been coming to the conclusion that our schedule is pretty different compared to almost everyone else.

Monday: 2hrs mandatory study, 4 hrs of mandatory build (including ~30-45 minutes for dinner)
Tuesday: 2hrs mandatory study, 4 hrs of optional build (hard limited # of people, also including ~30-45 minutes for dinner)
Wednesday: 2hrs mandatory study, 4 hrs of mandatory build (including ~30-45 minutes for dinner)
Thursday: 2hrs mandatory study, 4 hrs of optional build (hard limited # of people, also including ~30-45 minutes for dinner)
Friday: 1 hr mandatory study, 2 hrs of mandatory build (generally design review / week in review), 4 hrs of optional build (hard limited # of people, also including ~30-45 minutes for dinner)
Saturday: 2 hr mentor meeting, 8 hrs of optional build (hard limited # of people, also including ~30-45 minutes for lunch, broken up into morning and afternoon sessions for signup)

The majority of mentors only attend 2-4 days per week.
Students with grades issues are not allowed to take part in the mandatory build sessions, but are still required to come for study time.
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Last edited by Clayton Yocom : 12-06-2018 at 02:14 PM.
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Unread 12-06-2018, 02:29 PM
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Re: Build Season Schedule

Team 5550 usually meets 3 times a week until week 6

Monday - 5:30 to 8:30
Thursday - 5:30 to 8:30
Saturday - 9:00 to 5:00

This past year we tried to have specific tasks to be done written on the white board before all of the students arrived so that when they stepped in the door they can be assigned a task immediately and start working on it. We always put more tasks on the board than we think can be accomplished that day.

We may adjust the Saturday schedule for this year. By the time 3pm rolls around, usually everyone is dragging and we are not very productive. I think meeting from Noon until 5 on Saturdays might work out better.
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Unread 12-06-2018, 03:29 PM
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Re: Build Season Schedule

1902 met from 6-9 M-F and then 10-5 on Saturday for several years.

In 2016 we switched to Monday - Thursday from 5-9 and Saturday from 9-5 (often running over) and have seen pretty strong benefits.

Having that Friday off to catch up on life and school has helped avoid lots of burnout. We've added in a few Fridays and Sundays depending on how behind we are, but typically only Sunday in week 1 and sometimes Friday and Sunday in week 6.

I will note that a lot goes on outside of build meetings. Much of the CAD and some machining happens outside of those hours.
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Unread 12-06-2018, 03:30 PM
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Re: Build Season Schedule

When I was on 74, we met Monday-Thursday from 6 to 9, and Saturday from 9-3. Often, Saturdays went til 4 or 5, and there was a mentor meeting before the Saturday meeting at 8. None of these days were strictly mandatory so students could keep up on grades and spend time with family, but students had to log a certain amount of hours in order to attend competitions.
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Unread 12-06-2018, 04:11 PM
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Re: Build Season Schedule

45 met from M-T and Thurs-F 5:00-8:00ish. On saturdays we met 9:00-4:00. We had study table sessions after school until then so students wouldn't get behind on work. During that time we were usually productive. We waited until around 5 to start the actual meetings so mentors could get off work and have time to get to the shop.

We took wednesdays off so we wouldn't have that mentor burnout along and so students did not practically live at the shop*. Saturdays we would have parents bring in lunch (Chicken and Noodles was always popular.) We were able to socialize and be a team.

Theoretically with this schedule you didn't need to show up each day, even though I always did. If we needed to, I (along with technical mentors) would call emergency work sessions if we were behind. Hopefully with no bag in 2020 there would be more time to work. The students still had to log shop hours and needed to log enough in order to travel.
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Unread 12-06-2018, 05:09 PM
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Re: Build Season Schedule

Q Branch has always met T, W, Th from 5:30 to 9, then Sat from 8-4 as long as I have been on the team (2017, 2018, 2019). I find that I don't burnout until the last week, but some of our members sometimes start to feel it around week 4/5. I don't know if this schedule makes us more productive, but I can't say we aren't productive.

Hope this helps.
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Unread 12-06-2018, 06:01 PM
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Re: Build Season Schedule

Quote:
Originally Posted by brennonbrimhall View Post
  • Do you find that you have to meet longer each meeting to accomplish the same amount of work?
  • What unexpected challenges, if any, were encountered by a schedule like this?
  • What benefits did you expect to gain by a schedule like this? Do you feel that you were able to achieve those benefits?
4276 meets 4-8 on T&Th, 9-3 on Sa for weeks 1-3, and add another weekday for weeks 4-6.
(Technically its 3-4 is homework time, and 8-8:30 is clean up)

We meet for at least 4 hours because we need to unpack/repack our robot room every meeting, and that's at least 30min per meeting.

For the last six years I have been the only teacher on campus connected to the team. So I need to be there for meetings... hence fewer days. We've gained another teacher this year, so we'll likely split duty and MAYBE add some hours.

Our first semester finals are during week 3. So student burnout is just as important to prevent as mentor burnout.

If our team had a dedicated work space, we'd meet more often, and have days dedicated to certain tasks. Right now its everyone-do-everything every meeting.
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