If I were a different person this would be a white paper but I literally have a folder in my Google Drive called “Katie Makes Too Many Presentations” so this comes in Google Slides format:
The Little Dog Robotics Resource Guide
Note: There’s a lot in the notes section that helps contextualize the slides.
Disclaimer that this was made long before the VEX stuff happened and the reliance on VEXpro was a reality for my teams. I chose to leave that in for the sake of historical accuracy and to highlight how kit-like products were beneficial to my teams.
Who is Little Dog Robotics?
Long story short, Alex (my partner) and I were eligible to put a logo on 253’s 2020 tee shirt. Obviously that means we needed a “company” name. I also use it for my quilt business because I already made a logo.
What is this?
It’s a presentation I made two years ago because I was thinking a lot about what made our specific FRC teams successful (by our own metrics) and what lessons we thought were valuable.
That’s a good question.
Teams are aware of the obvious resources: Money, Time, and Equipment. However, you can give a team infinite of each resource and they can still struggle to be successful because there are other resources missing, namely: Experience, Network, and Institutional Knowledge.
Experience: Ability to recall common solutions and best practices (but not specific to FRC)
Network: Ability to ask for help
Institutional Knowledge (IK): The ability to recall & apply specific solutions from the field of work (ie FRC).
Additionally, resources aren’t a binary yes/no thing - they’re a spectrum. I used Pokémon evolution as an analogy in the presentation.
In the Pokémon analogy, a lvl 3 Experience Resource might be having folks like carpenters, machinists, or other people who Make Stuff For A Living on your team. A lvl 2 IK might be FRC senior students and lvl 3 IK is having a 10 year FRC veteran mentor (with an asterisk that pure Time Spent on The Team isn’t the point, it’s about being actively involved and improving and learning in those years of experience).
Is experience and IK a roundabout way to say “mentors?” Yeah. But one the key points of this presentation is that I believe you can work around what you don’t have… to a point.
I can’t TLDR this part, but basically there are a lot of ways to work with what you have and around what you don’t - it’s all in the slides. I outline how that worked for 4 different years of two different FRC teams.
And here’s the part where I completely contradict myself: when I wrote this, I genuinely believed that on some level, “all you need to succeed is a can do attitude.” And depending on your definition of success, that can be true. However, a positive attitude doesn’t change that it was a lot easier to be successful when I was on a well-funded team with access to free sheet metal and a full shop than when I was on a team with a limited budget and only hand tools.
Which brings me to my last note:
Why are you publishing this now (so much later) without an actual video of you presenting?
I did present this at WRRF in 2020 but can’t find the video. However, I workshopped this with my Network and since then it comes up occasionally that they want to reference an unpublished presentation. I don’t love every single thing in this and there is always so much more to say, but I’m not revising it any time soon and I’m so flattered that people want to reference it. So here we are.
So knowing that this was made a while ago, here’s some food for discussion: what am I missing? What resource work-arounds are your teams using? What resource work-arounds can my team use? Why is it that a productive network seems to have a sweet spot between 10 and 200 active people?