Best Pre-Season Meeting Ideas

After several years of mentoring and coaching, I’m taking over the head-coaching responsibilities for our team next year. I couldn’t be more excited about it! I am lucky that I have inherited a successful and well-run team and I look forward to continuing that tradition.

So here is my question. What are the best pre-season meetings and/or activities you can remember having on your team? I’m looking not just for what the meeting was about, but about how the meeting was run that made it so exciting and fun.

In the past we have done mock kickoffs for made-up games, programming meetings, drive-train meetings, lots of safety meetings and meetings getting ready for competitions and demos, among other things. For this year, I’m considering offering a VEX challenge where the students break down a game and design VEX robots. I’m just looking for any other ideas that might really help take us to the next level.

My other hope in doing this post is to create a coaching resource for other teams, so don’t be shy.

In previous years, our team has always done a combination of:
-Vex style competition with sister teams including mini build season (about 6-8 weeks 2 days per week)
-Mock kickoff with a previous year’s game with brainstorming,
-1 meeting where we did activities to build teamwork
-Engineering 101 classes presented by our CAT mentors (mechanical, electrical, controls)
-Safety 101 including machines test (must pass before a student may use machines)

I hope this helps, good luck prepping for next season!

Learn everything and study everything about the following teams:

1114
2056
217
111
254
67
51
47
16
1625
71
233
330
469
177

One of the most important things you can teach a student is how to study the best practices of the best teams.

Watch this video a million times or until it sinks into your brain.
http://www.simbotics.org/media/videos/2011/presentations/kitbot-presentation-kitbot-steroids

I am currently proposing implementing a “R&D” department for the off season. Where we design and make multiple types of drive trains, control schemes and to just practice in general. I see it as a win win situation. Rookies get 4 months of practice prior to kickoff, we can literally pick and choose what drive we want and not have to design the drive over again. That gives us extra time to practice.

VEX/minibot competitions are awesome preseason warm-ups. It actually is what several (if not a lot) teams do to get kids ready. Similarly, pre-season projects to get kids up and running in the shop are good ideas (such as building shelving units, making a demo bot, remaking the team crate/cart/pit/etc).

1675’s favorite preseason (and build season)(and all seasons) activity is team bonding. We play a lot of silly games to get kids and mentors all used to each other. If you can do something extraordinarily silly in front of your team, you can present ideas and ask for help in front of them too.

If you’re looking for a fun, valuable, single meeting project this is one that our mentor IKE did with 33 in the fall last year.

The idea is to have the team break into subteams and come up with a paper airplane which flies the furthest/ beats the mentor. This only requires computer paper (3-4 sheets per group) and a open place like a hallway. Groups should be small, 4-5 people to a group max to keep all students involved. Students get 10 minutes to build their first airplanes. When up, one student from each group lines up in the hall to throw. Students then get 5 more minutes to change, rebuild, or practice. When time’s up throw again. This time the mentor throws too. He crumples up a sheet of paper and throws (presumably) further than any of the others.

The more important part of the exercise is the lesson the students should take away. Observe which designs went furthest, which were most consistent and compare them to FRC robots. Also stress how those who were able to practice beforehand did much, much better than those whose first time was for real (at the competition).

The biggest lesson they should take away from the exercise is not to overcomplicate the problem. How to get the sheet of paper the furthest down the hall? An actual paper airplane would almost certainly beat a ball of paper if time was given to develop it. However, the ball is the much better more consistent option given the time constraints. More often than not the same holds true for FRC.

Anyways, my team found it very valuable for only the 45 minutes it took to do. I would personally recommend it to all teams both young and old as a fun learning experience.

Regards, Bryan

All ideas mentioned have been solid thus far. Some our team has used:

-Mini vex competitions
-Team building events (egg drop, spaghetti bridge, etc.)
-Off-season competitions
-Robot “re-dos” (rebuilding an older robot that has been out of commission)
-Sub-system development (new drive train ideas, end-effectors, software)

There is one thing I’d like to emphasize though, particularly when it comes to new members joining your team. Teaching these new students how to research FIRST and robotics on their own is an invaluable skill. Letting them know that chiefdelphi exists is a start, then start showing them how to search for pictures, threads, papers. This will allow new students who are really amped about the competition to go out on their own discover some cool things that even experienced team members haven’t found.

-Brando

The first thing our team would do is obviously, meet ahead of the kickoff. There a few months in advance, we’d review pictures of teams (ourself and others) tactics, watch youtube videos, watch video on matches we did, and break down in detail the shortcomings and strengths of the bot we built the competetion before (which was usually still assembled). There, we’d also get into our design flaws, and look into why parts broke and how to avoid it in the future.

From there, we’d rebuild/fool around with design concepts and maths and if we had issues our bot from the year previous couldn’t do, we’d modify/improve it as best we could, even if only for demonstrations. Also, we’d have a design prebuilt (like a square, saves time when engineering, and we’d work with the square or if that failed just start over) and when kickoff came, we’d breakdown/analyze the kickoff video and start looking into easy and effective solutions to complete the task.

For those who were into it (the code monkies) they’d do a game of “tactical forecasting” where they’d predict “why should we be chosen?”, or, “if our bot does this, what are other potential designs other teams might come up with?”, and “can we counter other designs somehow?” (graciously of course). The strategy of the game for some is just as exciting as the build.

One of the things we have had success with is taking a past game that the mentors are familiar with but the students are not and complete a some aspect of the game, usually a mechanism.

This season we are also reworking our “standard” drive base to make it lighter/stiffer/generally better.

If your school district doesn’t completely freak out some sort of PR project like a T-shirt cannon or parade bot can be a good idea.

Or… How about doing something that can really kick you up a notch with that? Develop a strategy for that game. Then develop a robot design (or mechanism). Look at the winning teams from that year, and their strategy. See how yours stacks up, and figure out what they saw that you didn’t.

In essence, go through the first week or so of build season from the past over a meeting or two. There are really simple strategic games, and really nasty ones.

We actually did that last year with Rack and Roll, which worked out well on accident.

One good pre-season meeting could be about service projects, scouting ideas, designing a new pit, crate, or uniform. Practice CAD and animation. Also a really good thing you can work on in meetings in the off-season is trying to help other schools in your area become teams (Spread FIRST :D). Thats enough to have your teams hands full for the of season.

Thank you all for providing such great ideas so far. I’ve already incorporated several of the ideas you have presented into the calendar. I hope that the CD community keeps them coming.