The end of the first week is a great time to take a few minutes to look at your progress and make adjustments, if needed. In some years past, we’ve made adjustments at about this point. We’ve redirected our prototyping effort if something just wasn’t working out. We’ve reorganized the team as needed to address issues. The important part is taking the time to examine how the season is going. If you just put your head down and work, you might find that the ship deadline arrives before a finished robot!
Is prototyping not returning the results you want? It might be a good time to take a different approach to the problem.
Have some of the students you planned on being on the team not shown up? Now would be a good time to shift your plans to work with the “active” members.
Are there any problems at all with the team? Now is the perfect time to address them, before they get compounded by week after week of build season.
For our team, this year has been going amazingly well - due in a very large part to our student leadership. We have 10 mechanical students, 4 electrical, and 6 programming… and only 4 mentors to work with them, which represents the worst ratio the team has had. Despite that, as mentors we’re spending less time organizing the team, less time leading discussions (now we mostly stand in the back and listen, occasionally asking them to think about something a little more), less time doing any design work, and less time getting our hands dirty. The students (especially the captains and sub-team captains) have really stepped up this year and taken the burden off our shoulders, and the results speak for themselves:
The chassis would be rolling right now, except a few of the sprockets are bad and need to be replaced. While unfortunate, it doesn’t really hold anything else up… and it’s not something the students could have foreseen. Heck, even having experience with this stuff, it wasn’t something any of the mentors saw until we actually put the chains on yesterday!
We have two practice bots running, and as of yesterday one had a fully functional prototype of our entire mechanism attached (it’s fortunate that we used a similar mechanism in a previous year!). At our next meeting, drivers will be able to pick up tubes drive around, lift them, and place them on the rack. Unfortunately, this prototype doesn’t go all the way to the top row, but given how fast it was constructed, I don’t see that as a problem!
We have a 1/4 scale version of our entire lifting mechanism, proving out the design (reaching to the top row!) and showing us exactly what we need to know in order to build the real thing.
We’ve identified where everything on the robot will be attached, including exactly what volume will be used for the electrical components. We’ve never had this good of information so early in the build season… In fact, this is about 2-3 weeks earlier than last year!
Please, share with the rest of the community how your team is doing this year - especially if there are any technical issues that are preventing you from staying on schedule! Also use this as a chance to recognize any individuals who have really stood out during this first week and made a real difference to the the team. Recognition for a job well done shouldn’t just come at the end of the season with the Dean’s List or the Woodie Flowers Award. It should come constantly throughout the season!