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Unread 10-22-2005, 02:25 PM
sciguy125 sciguy125 is offline
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facilities

One cause of great concern on my team our facilities. We've been worried about it since we started up, but the problem has become more pronounced with our suddent increase in membership. Our official location is the school's physics lab. However, we're allowed to use the other rooms in the wing after school as long as they are free. Anything messy, however, has to be done in the lab (because it has tile) or outside.

The problem is that we're sharing the room(s). We don't have them to ourselves. Often, there are labs set up, so we have to be careful not to damage any physics equipment and put everything back when we're done. We also can't leave anything out. When we get there, we have to unpack to get started. Before we leave, we have to clean up. Each process takes 15 minutes if we work fast. That's also disregarding the amount of time it takes you to get your head in the game after you've spent a while trying to figure out where you put something. We also have funny shaped tables that are hard to work on. In general, the room is not conducive to robot building.

We were lucky enough to get part of the closet in the lab and another, decent sized, closet outside. I think we were supposed to be sharing the outside closet with the janator, but it seems that our conquest of much of his territory has effectively evicted him. Originally, we were planning on using the outside closet for manufacturing (drill press and the like), but we've filled it up with stuff. The robots take up a sizeable amount of space. Then, of course, we've also had to store materials and some of the bigger tools.

We've accepted a lot of new people this year and a few of us are concerned about the future. It's become extremely crowded. We didn't have to use the other rooms we have access to, but now, there's so many people that we've been forced to. We used to be alright in the lab, but it's too small for everyone to work in now.

A few have gone on several surveying missions to try and find us a new location, but nobody has turned up anything useful. I'm concerned that we won't survive much longer unless we find better facilities or limit the size of the team. I don't think many people will take kindly to the latter, though. A few of us also discussed finding facilities off campus, but we don't think that it would be a very good option either. The biggest problem is transportation. It's just way too inconvienient to have to go somewhere after school. And a fair number of people won't have transportation to get there. We'd just be back to square one. Instead of packing and unpacking all the time, we'd be driving. At that point, we might as well stay where we are. Labor is cheaper and more convienient than gas.

I also came across some unsubstantiated information that another local team had the same problem. Apparently, they died and were absorbed into another team. I would prefer that we not go this route. For one thing, aside from the programming class, this is the closest thing the school has to a technology class. This is the only place that students can come to learn about engineering.

So, what does everyone else do? What are your facilities like, and how do you manage?
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Unread 10-22-2005, 02:33 PM
Rickertsen2 Rickertsen2 is offline
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Re: facilities

Is the problem that there do not exist facilities or that you are not permitted to use them?
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Unread 10-22-2005, 02:45 PM
sciguy125 sciguy125 is offline
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Re: facilities

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rickertsen2
Is the problem that there do not exist facilities or that you are not permitted to use them?
They don't exist. Well, they do exist, but they're used by someone else. If we want them, we'd still either have to share or kick out the current occupants. We found a couple suitable rooms, but they're already in use.
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Unread 10-22-2005, 03:28 PM
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Re: facilities

Please don't discount the use of a building "off campus". By locating such a space you may no longer be constrained to using your space when the school is open, etc. By having meetings at a central location, possibly during the evening hours, you may be able to attract more mentors willing to work with your team. Look in your community for an empty warehouse or storefront which is located in a decent area (especially if you will be there working at night). If it has been empty for a while, see if your local zoning board/town council, etc. can help you contact the real estate company. Town officials would probably like to see the building occupied rather than sit empty, and you may be able to get the space rent-free as a tax write-off for the real estate company.
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Unread 10-22-2005, 04:59 PM
sciguy125 sciguy125 is offline
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Re: facilities

Quote:
Originally Posted by KathieK
Please don't discount the use of a building "off campus". By locating such a space you may no longer be constrained to using your space when the school is open, etc.
Well, a few of us have had some off-the-record discussions about off campus sites. We feel that it'd only be usable for manufacturing. As it stands, we send drawings to the machine shop and we assemble it on campus. While it would allow us to do more manufaturing on-site and solve various problems, it creates other problems if we want to use it as a primary site.

Time hasn't been a serious problem. We're limited by the time our moderators can spend with us, not the times the school is open. The school is open from 5am?-10pm. We're supposed to leave at 10pm, but we've stayed later on several occasions. However, the school has a rather strict policy about not having school related events on Sunday. Toward the end of build period, we get special permission to work on Sundays. I'm not sure if they'll let us continue this habit though. This rule would apply whether we were on campus or not.

The other thing is that we're always supposed to have a moderator supervising things. My understanding is that this is for security and insurance reasons. This moderator must be a teacher, so parents won't cut it. On weekdays, however, he can only stick around until 5pm. That gives us about 2.5 hours. Even if we move off campus, I'm sure that we'd still need him around (officially at least).

The main reason the idea was shot down, though, was that it's too inconvinient. Not everyone lives in the area, so they can't stay too late (at least not too often). There's also the issue of transportation. I'm sure there would be a huge drop in membership if we moved. It's just not practial for everyone to drive somewhere after school. Legally, (by school policy, for insurance purposes), anyone who doesn't have their own source of transportation would have to get a ride from a faculty member that's in charge of the event (students couldn't give each other rides).

A way around most of the legal problems of moving off campus would be to dissocate ourselves from the school. If we did that, however, we'd lose our biggest source of funding. I also don't feel that it's the right direction, because, again, this is the closest thing to a technology class that the school has.

If we end up in a situation where we have to face dying or moving off campus, I think we'd be better off merging with another team and using their facilities. As I mentioned, however, I don't like that idea very much.
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Unread 10-22-2005, 08:05 PM
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Re: facilities

Don't worry Phil, our team has survived lean and tough times, but is now in a favorable position. Our original coach for our team loved robotics, but he retired in 2002. His replacement was anything but enthusiastic about robotics. He slowly made it known that he didn't like us. We met at nights and during the days on weekends in the school wood shop, and we had to content with night school two nights a week. We also had to set up and clean up everything every night - except weekends. Our team did own a Bridgeport milling machine and a lathe, which were donated to our team from a local company in our rookie year. And our storage space was somewhat tight and inconvient for storing lots of playing field pieces and old robots.

But never give up hope. There is usually greener grass somewhere else. Since our team involves three high schools, we decided to move to another one of our high schools. That other high school was overly happy that our team was moving there, and did everything they could to try to accomidate us. We now have tons of storage space, access to a full wood shop and computer lab, and we also now have our own private machining room.

So maybe your team should look to expand. See if there is any other high schools in your area which have better facilities. Don't worry too much about having to pull everything out and put it away every night. Since our team is a multi-school team, we cannot have afterschool meetings - only night meetings and weekend meetings - which has worked out fine for us for seven years now.
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Unread 10-22-2005, 08:12 PM
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Re: facilities

We have three fairly small rooms/closets that are just for us.

One is maybe 12' x12' and is our primary room. We keep all the robots in there and we have a large tool chest with the pull out drawers. Two walls of the room have stainless steel counters (yuck). There is a sink in there too but it is never used. There are two good size tables in there too, and the workbench table is stored in there. We use this room for all sorts of things, but it can get pretty crowded pretty quick/

Another room adjacent to the first is maybe 7'x12' and has metal shelves from floor to 6' high all around the room. We store all parts from previous years kits and small materials (wire, pneumatic hose, tape, paint, etc) in there as well as all the software and printed materials. Also, we keep our (one and only) computer cart in there.

The last room is maybe 6'x12' and maybe 20' away from the first two (computer lab in between). We keep the floor drill press and bench grinder (on pedestal) and belt/disc combo sander in there. We also keep all raw materials (wood, metal, pvc) in there. Down one wall are those chrome wire type shelves where we store lots of lego kits, and a couple miter saws.

The floors of the above three rooms are all your traditional school type time floors.

And that's about it. The rooms are all primarily for storage. It gets really crowded with more than 4 people in any one of them. So, our primary space where we assemble and test and design things and hold meetings is the computer lab. There are empty tables and chairs scattered around in the middle and computers (G4s, pretty much useless for us) around every side. The floor is carpeted. We do all our test driving in here too which is hard because it is only an 8.5' cieling. This room is not ours. So, we must clean up after every time and leave it just as we find it. Stuff that makes a mess like cutting we typically do outside in the parking lot just outside the back door of the computer lab.
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Unread 10-22-2005, 08:19 PM
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Re: facilities

We had just refurbished our site last year. It's a great place to work for certain and I feel very blessed that we have it.
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Unread 10-22-2005, 08:32 PM
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Re: facilities

Quote:
Originally Posted by sciguy125
Our official location is the school's physics lab.
During build season, we built in our school's physics lab. It was a classroom, with desks and lab tables, and for storing our tools and other stuff, we had to use a closet that was roughly 5' X 8'. During build season, we moved the desks around and out of our way so we had more of a workspace, and at the end moved them all back if there was school the next day. If it was a Friday or Saturday, we just left them there. haha We left at least half an hour at the end of a build day that was a school night just for cleaning up and putting the room back in order for the next day. Sometimes on really nice days, we would take the tools outside to work because we wouldn't have to clean up as much dust, particles, or filings as we would have to inside. Later on in the build season though, the weather had gotten worse and so we were stuck inside for the the days and just moved all the desks out of the way and sometimes even had to stack them because of the space.

Shortly after build season ended, our new science building was finally opened so now we have two rooms there, one about 10' X 10', I'm not sure on dimensions, and another that is about 8' X 10' for tools. Our main room, the bigger one, is filled, tools, carbon fiber, the desks, 2 computers, a cart, two shelves, a desk, and our robot from this year and last year. Only 3-4 people can fit in there, and that is if two are sitting at the computers. It's nice, but we still like working out in the hallway for building or we go outside in the school parking lot.

Working outside on a nice day is always good and relaxing, getting fresh air, except when it's raining and then that's a bad idea.


Good luck finding a good workplace. A physics lab isn't all that bad.
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Unread 10-22-2005, 10:10 PM
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Re: facilities

Just reading this thread makes me realize how incredibly privileged my own team is and just how much I took our workspace for granted.

As far as I know, for the first few years of Cooney Robotics' existence, all work was done in the facilities of our primary sponsor, Quest Technologies. Having never been very far into the building, I don't really know what was and was not available to the students at that time.

Sometime before I joined the team in 2003, however, the team was able to move back into our high school. We started out with a fairly large electronics classroom that had been created from a former auto garage (the back of our school once had a rather large garage for mechanic classes, this was split up into a few separate rooms) Off to one side is a large closet-like space where a drill press, 4 computers, and nearly all of our materials and "works-in-progress" bots are kept. We also have access to a "cage" in the basement of our school where we keep larger items like game pieces, extra wood and metal, and our crate.

Two years ago, our school decided to cut a number of the tech-ed programs, so the team "graciously" offered to overtake the metals shop as well. Though we had access to it during the build season, we usually had to clean up everything every night - this acquisition gave us the chance to store more of our metals in the room itself so that we wouldn't have to go elswhere in the building to get parts to build with.

We also have been graced with access to an excellent computer lab that the website and 3D animation teams use extensively.

We have been very blessed. It has taken some time for all of this to happen. Moreso, it has taken the efforts of a great deal of students, mentors, and teachers to make this awesome space a reality. Despite this, we have started to scale back the numbers of team members. Even though we have all of this space, a number of mentors have raised the point that there are only so many students that you can fit around a robot at one time.

Of course the selection process is difficult. Having to turn down your peers is never a good feeling. It is for this very reason that we leave the carrot of next year and extra rooms at regionals dangling out in the open for all to see. There is always the chance to add one more dedicated member to the FIRST family.
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Unread 10-22-2005, 11:50 PM
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Re: facilities

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stonefan5271138
A physics lab isn't all that bad.
That's because you haven't seen our lab. The wing that we get to work in is below ground level. There's an patio-like area outside that we can use, but I don't like it because it's not level (for drainage reasons). We try not to take anything upstairs because we have to haul it up the stairs. As far as I know, we haven't been given an elavator key. The tables in the lab are also horrible. They're hexagonal with a raised island in the center of each of them. Each side is about 3'. The island leaves about 15" of workspace around the tables' perimeters. It's impossible to put a large flat sheet of anything on the tables. However, the island does make a nice space to get things out of the way. The stange shape also makes it hard to clamp down things to be worked on (no right angles to hang things off of). There also aren't any windows in the lab or in the rooms that we usually occupy. During build period, we get there in the morning and resurface at night. Do you know what it's like to only see 6 hours of sunlight in 3 days? I do...

The wing was one of the last parts of a 30? year plan to remodel the school. It was finished the year before the team started. This last phase created 4 new buildings (and replaced one). We don't have much hope for new buildings or major renovations any time soon. It's just that the school wasn't prepared for anything like this. Had we been around 5 years ago, things might be different, however. It doesn't look like the school ever planned to have an engineering or technology program. However, we did find some ancient electronics from the 60's or 70's in the closet. That would seem to imply that such a program existed at some time.

Overall, I guess that it's not that bad, but I don't think we have much room for growth. We've only been around for 3 years, but I think we're already starting to push our limits. We've been able to make due with what we have and have learned to work around some of the problems. But, we might be in trouble if we can't find a way to get some growing room.
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Unread 10-23-2005, 12:49 AM
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Re: facilities

Quote:
Originally Posted by sciguy125
As far as I know, we haven't been given an elavator key.
Actually, we have been, but working upstairs still isn't nice, because it's so far away from our actual rooms, that it would probably take forever to bring everything upstairs anyhow. And the concrete isn't flat whatsoever...
Besides, that, everything Phil said is accurate, and I especially hate the oddly shaped tables, you cant lay a posterboard flat on them. Besides, the OI doesnt fit completely.

But not to sound too negative, and I am very grateful that we are allowed to use the lab, closet and other storage that we have.

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Unread 10-23-2005, 02:04 AM
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Re: facilities

Working off school property, in my experience, almost always means fewer hassles and problems. Inherently though it always creates the issue that some team members have difficulty getting there, but I've seen the problem to become negligible.
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Unread 10-23-2005, 03:12 AM
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Re: facilities

Prior to 2003, 100 worked in a number of different places. For quite awhile, we have had a room that was maybe 7'x15' that we stored all our stuff in. It was impossible to work in it, as it was packed, which mainly meant doing any kind of work outside in the hall.

In 2001, and a few years prior, we worked in a shop a parent had at his house. It was a great place to build a robot, but pretty far away from the school, which was a little limiting.

In 2002, we worked almost exclusively in a machine shop at the Stanford Linear Accelerator. It was a great place to work, because we had every tool imagineable, tons of space that was relatively unused by others, and materials/other random stuff a FIRST team might need. It was relatively close to the school, which wasn't really an issue. The greatest part about working here was that we didn't need a teacher with us everytime we wanted to meet (which would have been the case had we been at school). This led to being able to hold much longer meetings, more often, which seemed to be much more efficient. It allowed things to be much more fully completed, in a single period of time.

In 2003 we moved back to the school for a number of reasons. This year was also unique because students from another school in our district joined our team. We also got a second room that had been used as a science office. It was a decent size, and combined with the original room, usable for our purposes. Whenever we held extended work sessions we also used some of the science rooms for the extra space.

The one real disadvantage that I found to working at school where we had only the barest essentials of power tools was that if you couldn't cut it with a hacksaw, or use a hand drill/drill press, it had to be saved and taken up to be done at the shop at SLAC. It wasted a good amount of time, whereas in the previous year, if we needed to mill a slot, or pocket, or whatever, we'd walk over and be done with it in a short amount of time.

The other limiting factor was needing a teacher present at all times, both to unlock rooms, and for legal reasons. We had a few dedicated science teachers who were great, but nobody could expect them to be there 24/7.

I'd say overall, your best bet would be to try and find some kind of dedicated space that is large enough for you to effectively work, and yours for the duration of the build period, on campus or not. Once you have your own space, you can start thinking about all the nice machine tools and other toys you'd like to fill it with
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Unread 10-23-2005, 07:54 AM
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Re: facilities

Your lucky you have any sort of technology stuff on the site. 759 have built robots at people houses every year. last season the robot was built in several locations depending on the facilities. for example one mentors was a builder and so had a garage/workshop area with stuff to work with wood and basic metal things. Another student has a little conservatory with a mill and another guy lives on a farm with welding equipment. It was assembled in parts and bought together. For the years before that it was built at a workshop which one of the students parents owned, as he repaired/restored buses and that was an amazing place to work at ... andit was somewhere where the bot could live for build season.
we share a big cabin thing, which we basically used the back 1/3 of so that they caretakers etc have access to their stuff on a day by day basis. we arn't allowed to work in there due to health and safety though. It is worth trying to get a sponsor to donate workshop time or space and i believe this is what they are trying to do this year
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