Hi. I’ve been involved with FRC since 8th grade (I got a special invitation to join the team from my middle school tech teacher).
Over the years I have developed enough knowledge to actively participate and help lead the student core of the team. In taking this role, it is my duty to provide solutions to problems that I’ve seen over the years. I came to this forum because it happens to be the most knowledgeable community on anything FRC related.
Fund Raising - Every year my team seems to be scrambling for the bare minimum to enter our regional competition (forget about the nationals). This takes away valuable time from team organization and “pre kit-arrival” planning. Are we in the same boat as everyone else? If not, how does your team avoid this problem?
Team Members - Many times I feel the size of a team has an inverse relationship on the productivity of the group. I realize this is a learning experience, and really the competition is meaningless, but it seems some people come down to the meetings and do nothing but detract from the other’s ability to work effectively. I feel that there is a core group of people that are very knowledgeable and work well together to finalize a goal. Then there are some people that aren’t that knowledgeable that somehow find ways to inhibit the smooth flow of work put into the project. I am in no position to tell people not to come, nor do I feel that it would be justified if I could. However, are there any tips on getting these “lazy” people to work? I’ve tried assigning tasks that are semi-crucial to the team, such as tool organizing, PR work, and the like - but it seems like these projects, though important, are degrading and no-one will stay on task. (Granted, if I was put on one of those assignments I probably wouldn’t stay on task either). Basically, I’m looking for a way to keep people mainly working in areas they can produce good work in. I don’t feel one person should be isolated to a single job without any input on anything else, but it always seems to waste so much time (our single most important resource), arguing with someone who doesn’t know a piston from a Victor about how to wire the robot (note, this is a complaint I hear from most of the “core” group of the team, not just myself).
Thanks in advance to anyone that can help out, and sorry for the long post. I tend to ramble on a bit, but some times it can’t be avoided.
Your first concern is shared by a lot of teams(ours included), especially those in not so heavily industrialized areas filled with auto companies and the like. Our team, due to lack of funding was only able to attend one regional last year, and for the same reason only planned to go to one this year. We are, however going to another regional and nationals because we got more community suuport after winning FLR. There is no simple solution to lack of funding, the best way to do it is to approach local companies one by one. One business probably won’t be able to give you the 6k to go to one regional, but two or three put together probably will.
As for your second concern. Our team makes it very clear to anyone who wants to join, at the very first meeting, that when it comes time to work, you work. Those who can’t do that usually leave within the first week or so. We ask each and every new member what they are interested in and put them into a build group where they will be of most help as well as learn from the verteran members. There are times when people get a little off track, but just a little reminder of what they are to be doing is all it should take to get them back to it.
Well, I think you should lay down some guidelines of what you expect from your members.
It really helps if before the build season you educate the new members to the components of the robot and the kit of parts. Have them practice wiring, running chain, pneumatics and other skills they’ll need in during the build season. This way they’ll be able to do more than PR and organizing the robot.
My best answer to this would be to start fundraising in the middle of the summer, don’t stop fundraising. Go around to local bussiness with a pamphlet of what first is, what your team does in the community, and speak to managers and owners of local bussiness. Get your school involved, hold candy sales, present to the school board and get them involved. Find major bussiness with offices in your area, and request to present to them. goto local shopping malls and present there asking for donations or even mentors you’d be surprised who you could attract. Car washes are always a fun summer event and raise awareness about your team.
Parents, Reletives, and family friends can be a great assest to financial support.
The best way to get “Lazy” people to work, is to ask them what they want to do. If they are unsure allow them to float around the team and find what they are best at. Perhaps give them a job where they are in charge, but still participating in the aspects of what they are in charge of. Try not to pick on them, as that will most likely cause for a hostile situation. Speak to mentors about problem students, they may not always be aware of that as some students seem to only do work when the ‘teacher is looking’. If they feel they do not feel welcomed by the team, give them a nickname.
Coffeeism said it nicely hold workshops in the preseason, educate students on safety in the workshop, what each component does, how the code works. Make these workshops optional (except for safety), and you can easier tell where students are more intrested in.
As teams get larger, students can feel unnessecary or over looked as returning members who know how first works tend to do a majority of the work without explaining what thier doing and why. We try to emphasize peer mentoring. its a great way to increase student involvement
Thanks for all the suggestions guys. I’ve always been a “reader” but never actually signed up and posted, and now I see that waiting was a mistake. This is one of the most responsive forum communities I’ve been involved in, and I thank you for that.
Good luck to all who are finishing up 2005, and of course, see you next year.
Keep in mind that many students are there to be inspired, so inspire them! It’s important to have a bonded and cooperative team. Work towards team socials (bowling rocks), among other things, before the build season.
Getting community support is really important, so get out and give the team a goal to work for together, and have constant updates on how close you are to that goal. That way people stay motivated, and you can celebrate with pizza or something.
You may want to consider putting in an interview process for entering your team. You can either be selective in this process, or you could try to use it to find out what people are intersted in by having them fill out applications about their strengths and what they want to learn at the beginning of the fall. That way your season is year-around in a sense, and you can get more work and fundraising done.
One of the most effective strategies for fund raising is to simply not spend every penny you get. Our team is not done fundraising for THIS year until we have enough money to compete in at least one regional NEXT year. It took us a few years with a goal of $1K more than we started with to get to this point. But now that we are here, we intend to maintain our stash.
It takes a lot of the pressure off and ensures that there will be a team next year, no matter what. We might only go to one regional instead of our normal 2 and the Championship, but we will compete.
Is your team “organized”? By that I mean, does it have structure like an organization would? If you have a large number of students on the team, having organized committees defined (with committee descriptions) may help. Often we find rookie members have no idea what being on the team means. They come onto the team thinking they will build and/or drive the robot. We have a meeting early in the fall which explains the financial and time committments that will be necessary to be on the team. We establish attendance policies. We explain that just like on a sports team, not everyone will drive the robot in competition, but everyone will have a chance to try out if they desire. We meet year-round and hold fundraisers in the summer and fall. We hold workshops in the fall as well as a Teambuilding Weekend.
We have an active mentor group. In previous years the mentors would choose which committees interested them, and the students would do the same. This year the students formed the committees and invited the mentors they wanted to be on their committee. We caution students not to overcommit themselves. Many of our students have found that being on the computer programming committee, or the website committee, meets their interests. One of the advantages to having a larger number of students is that you can expand the team to do a website, or an animation, or have a public relations committee, or a spirit committee, etc.
I would recommend that you do an end of the year assessment - all students on the team will get a chance to say what met their expectations and what didn’t. This will help your team plan for next year. In addition, if a team member felt (s)he contributed greatly, but the team does not agree, it opens up a dialogue where expectations can be discussed.
alrighty. we do fundraising year round, and we never stop. we start before or right after the previous year’s competition even ends (our first car wash of the 2006 competition year is Apr. 30), and we go on fundraising right up to or even after kickoff in January. During the summer we generally do Car Washes on Saturdays about every week or two, more or less depending; and we keep on doing Car Washes until its freezing and we really cant stand it anymore (even then we’ve been known to have car washes in like 50 degree weather, which i realize isnt exactly that cold for some of you, but for being used to 80 degrees most of the time, it’s cold). During the Fall we also hold a Golf Tournament at a golfing place nearby where we get a certain percentage of the revenue from golfers, sponsors, etc. and during the Winter, we do gift wrapping at the mall and at Barnes & Noble starting two weeks before Christmas. on top of that we also go around to local shops like Wal-Mart and Cocoa Beach Surf Co. and ask for sponsorships in any way possible. Even if they dont sponsor us with money, they can help out with team uniforms, spirit stuff, etc. Students are expected to keep track of how many fund raisers they attend, for in order to go to competitions and have fun, they need to show their dedication to the team, which links in to your second issue:
yes, there is an inverse relationship to the amount of people working on a project and the productivity of that project to a certain extent depending on the project iteself. in order to avoid this problem without turning away people who wish to be a part of the team, we have everyone split up into different groups which specialize in different aspects of FIRST that need to be addressed. For instance, our team splits up into 19 different groups, consisting of:
Base Design Group
Chairman’s Award Group
Control Systems Group
Electrical Systems Group
Field Construction Team
Graphic Design Team
Manipulator Design Group
Media Productions Group
Public Relations Team
Where everyone who wished to participate in that certain area would have to sign up to work under a mentor, although for the most part team members were limited to one or two groups at a time, unless they wanted to end up like me with absolutely no life outside of robotics and ripping out their hair due to the frustration with having several deadlines creep up on you at once. despite all of that, this organization, or something similar to it, is great for management of the team in general and for optimization of the best possible productability of each group. As i mentioned before, students are required to attain a certain amout of fundraisers/hours they have dedicated to the team/community service hours in order to attend trips (for example, to go to our home regional it was require for students to have attended 2 fundraisers and dedicate 25 hours to the team, while to go to our out-of-state (Denver, CO) one needed to attend 5 fundraisers and dedicate 60 hours to the team, and to go to the Championship Event, they needed to attend 7 fundraisers and dedicate at least 90 hours to the team; many team memebers tend to go above and beyond though, logging in well over 100 hours and close to 200 in many cases) this helps get rid of most of the slackers on the team… and although odd-jobs sometimes help keep them busy (like helping clean whatever machine shop you’re working at, or having them sort through hundreds of pictures to find decent ones for the website) sometimes you’ll just have to deal with them as best you can. try to find something that really interests them or they’re really good at, or if worse comes to worse, you may just have to sit down with them and be honest, and say something like, “if you dont stop goofing off/messing around/being lazy, then perhaps you really shouldnt be here. i dont want to ask you to leave, but if you dont buckle down and get to work like the rest of us, there will be consequences”
As for the arguing with people who “don’t know anything”… [strike]i dont know the difference between a piston and a Victor either[/strike] (okay i know what a piston is but i dont know what a Victor is) … for those people, instead of arguing with them, try taking them under your wing. talk with them calmly, explain the difference, and instruct them about what you are doing as you go along. if they are seriously interested and they want to learn, take your time with them as you go along the processes. sure it may take more time, but instead of having one more “slacker” on your hands, you will soon have an able, capable, and eager member of the team which can actually contribute and help you! personally, i’d rather have someone explain whats going on if i make a mistake than be yelled at because of it. remember, when dealing with someone you feel is annoying or a slacker or who you feel is just lazy, take a deep breath, count to ten, remember gracious professionalism, and address the situation in a calm, collected manner. you never know what that person may be capable of once you’re both on the same level.
i wish you the best of luck, and i hope my 2 cents helped.
Heh, there are more groups there than there are total kids in the club on its best night. We’re a very small school, and even with such a small team there still seems to be “too many cooks in the kitchen”, or… too many “aspiring cooks”.
I would agree with all of the suggestions so far and would like to make one point on the fundraising issue. As a team faculty advisor we have taken the approach that if you actively work for some of the money then others are more likely to donate after they see your efforts. Our first year we got no money from the school just our sponsor/mentor Georgia Tech. Once we did some fundraising and made some operational money the principal then asked how he could help. Now the school provides us with around $6000 a year. Also look around your area and see what opportunity lends to money making. We started a Lego League Workshop at a small fee per student to train the students and teachers so that we could develope a strong FLL program in our area and now this is an event that they wait for each year. This year the workshop made $4000. Think out side of just donations. We sell pizza at the Dome in fact they want us to work the Championships.
These were good suggestions. I am only going to add to this a little bit.
It is good to ask the students what they would like to do. Some students will be very responsive to this. I love it when I encounter a rookie member who knows what they want to do. In order to get an idea of what team members want to do, we have everyone (veterans and rookies) fill out a role application to let the mentors know what they are interested in doing/learning that year. However, often there are rookies who have NO CLUE what they want to do. I was one of those rookies. I never had any experience with any technical aspect of the robot before, and I had a hard time even knowing where I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to be doing. It was hard for me to be just left alone to go find a group to work with, simply because I was not comfortable. It would have helped for me to have someone constantly guiding me and telling me what I needed to do, and showing me new things so that I could begin to work independently.
So always make sure that there is a system of guidance in place for the rookies who are less comfortable joining in a group, especially if they don’t know many other people on the team or are less experienced. If you want, you can assign a veteran member of the team to be “shadowed” by a rookie member of the team …so that the rookie will always have someone to ask for help. Make it clear to the veterans that they must be respectful of those who are just starting out, and tell them to be patient. A person who is treated well and is comfortable in their environment is much more likely to continue to want to be a part of that environment. As Jeff said, peer mentorship is very important.
I have made previous posts concerning team involvement and also some fund raising ideas. Rather than repeating myself, here are the links. There is good information in the rest of the threads also.
An alternative to a role application would be to have them sign off on something that would either make them a reall active member i.e. 7 days a week during build or a more passive member 3ish times a week.