Effect of Climate on Team Sustainibility

My team has worked partially outside for the last four years, and it has been essential to our sustainability and functioning. Luckily our climate never gets below 40-45 degrees (with 60 degrees being the most common temperature), so this a viable way to build.
I am wondering how many teams in mild climates have been dependent on building outside, and if being located in mild climates helps team sustainability as compared to harsher climates.
This is particular relevance going into 2021, as I suspect many teams in mild climates will try to build outside in order to protect against COVID.

  • My team worked partially or completely outside for 2020, and we live in a mild climate.
  • My team did not work outside (or very rarely worked outside) for 2020, and we live in a mild climate.
  • My team worked partially or completely outside for 2020, and we live in an inhospitable (ie very cold) climate.
  • My team did not work outside (or very rarely worked outside) for 2020, and we live in an inhospitable (ie very cold) climate.

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EDIT: A mild climate is one where it does not regularly get below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit

Could you elaborate more on how you believe working outside helps team sustainability?

I’ve worked in FRC build spaces that had insufficient heating where water bottles could freeze indoors in some rooms, to those that had mild enough weather during the build season to at least open a garage door for fresh air during the daylight hours, as well as those with no AC in the summer (imagine 80F+ temperatures indoors). These were all quite different experiences. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I’d say the main reason why I think having the option to work outside helps teams stay sustainable is because they’re less dependent on having a large indoor workspace to use. My team worked out of a classroom for 2020, but we did most of our machining outside in a courtyard because it was A. easier to clean up and B. there was more space. We were also able to have a full half-field in the outside space, which we certainly couldn’t have done indoors.
I suppose working outdoors wasn’t essential to my team’s survival, but it certainly enabled the cyberdragons to have a better program.
In addition, mild climates make unheated/uncooled workspaces easier to deal with. A workspace where water bottles can freeze sounds pretty miserable to work in, and probably decreased the number of students/mentors active in the team.
Milder climates wouldn’t have this issue.
Of course, none of these factors will stop a team on their own, I just figure that the easier it is to have a team, the more likely teams are to survive and thrive.

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The freezing issue was more from the school saving money by automatically turning off the heat in the wood shop outside of core school hours, such as on weekends. We could manually turn the heat back on, but it would just take a while to warm up on cold days. We also ran electric space heaters near commonly used tools to keep those areas warmer, as even with the school heat on full, it might not get above 65F indoors.

In addition, people who live in colder climates are used to well, living in colder weather. Some will complain about the weather, but it’s not a sudden surprise. That high school was built in the 1950s and did not have AC, so students there were used to classes being anywhere between 65F and 80F indoors depending on the month.

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There are really only 3 times I can think of where we have conducted activities with the robots (or robot parts) outside:

  1. Community demos/fundraisers at local eateries, sponsors or even at an ice rink once (Swerve on Ice - sounds like the latest Disney on ice show…)

  2. Prototyping shooters (2017 in particular).

  3. Spray painting or burning the ends of ropes where the fumes would have been an issue indoors.

We did have a corn roast in our courtyard during a local practice / scrimmage following IRI in 2018, but the robots were inside at the time…

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Ah 65 degrees sounds a lot more manageable. I’m glad to hear that it wasn’t freezing inside.
What I’m thinking about are teams at schools without a woodshop or any kind of dedicated room for robotics, where teams may need to work outdoors
Or teams that work out of a garage/backyard.
In 2019 in particular for my team the only dedicated room at our school was a former ROTC room without any heat that was separate from the main building, along with a covered breezeway outside of it. The room itself was not legal to use power tools in due to not meeting fire code, so we rolled them out onto the breezeway outside. The breezeway regularly got to 45-50 degrees, being an unusually cold year, but my team was still able to have a successful build season.
If we were in a colder climate, we may have folded at worst, or had a less successful build season with limited weekday access to an indoor build space.
Luckily our school and head teacher were able to get us to share much nicer heated classroom for 2020, with access to a courtyard.
We may have to figure something else out for 2021 as things were unfortunately not kept clean enough in the classroom, but we have a few different options.
By the way my team’s school supports us quite well, there’s just not a lot of space/resources available on campus. They have been very generous and worked very hard to get us the resources we have.

With the size of the field components from the last 3 games, you’d need a pretty big space to build them all indoors. Outside has been essential for us in that regard. That said, I would still prefer to work indoors in most circumstances.

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We practiced outside regularly during the season. We have also moved the robot between school buildings some years. The shop can get pretty cold if the door is open, but there have been few days where it’s cold enough to affect work (except that I hide in the heated classroom on those days).

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We weld outside. We aren’t allowed to in the building. Everything else is inside.

We had an unseasonably warm season, when our lead controls mentor left the team. He liked to cycle and build trail outside, and you could actual do that. So I suspect his friends doing that made it easier. So in that way, cold climates are better for sustainability because, what the heck else could you be spending your time on.

But our climate is averaging near or below freezing most of January and February. Our previous work space had poor insulation so we needed extra heaters during extra cold days. Having better heating in our shop now makes a large difference. We have limited summer activity but mostly no to limited AC. We run fans, but it still gets pretty hot and humid.

We’ve been lucky to have the school and previously the city cover some heating cost, otherwise it would bite into the sustainability. Same goes for other building cost like lighting.

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In the summer (aka dry season) here you can leave everything outside without worrying about inclimate weather. But build season is during the winter (aka rainy season), so assuming we can work outside on any given day isn’t really an option for us. The temperature isn’t really a problem (it doesn’t get below mid-50s), but it tends to rain once or twice a week and rain and power tools don’t really mix. That being said, our miter saw shelf lives outside and we do most of our cutting there, and we will test mechanisms outside weather permitting. We also keep extra storage in an outside shed out back.

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OP mentioned COVID, risk of COVID spread is lessened by at least an order of magnitude if you are outdoors.

As for OP’s actual poll: Our team is from a very cold place during winter. We’d only go outside to run cuts on the table saw (sawdust problems).

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I’m glad to hear that most teams have a sustainable space regardless of climate, and that teams in mild climates use the outdoor spaces to supplement indoor workshops.

I was curious to get a glimpse of how teams have historically had their sustainability influenced by climate, it seems like my team’s experience of working entirely in an outdoor breezeway/unheated room is unusual (at least pre-covid).

It will be interesting to see how COVID-19 affects how teams use their build spaces, hopefully teams in both harsh and mild climates can persevere.

Threads like this one: FRC Teams removed from high-schools due to COVID-19 space constraints make me worried about how 2021 will pan out for teams, especially teams in harsher climates.

Hopefully most teams will be able to find space and survive.

Pretty sure Caleb already bakes climate into his event prediction calculator.

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I wasn’t with a team in 2020, so I can’t answer your questionnaire directly. From 2013 to 2018, I worked with a team in Slidell (build sites about a mile SSW of the intersection of I-10, I-12, and I-59). Throughout this period, most of our linear metal cutting was performed outside, our drilling was split approximately evenly between inside and outside, and most of our assembly was inside.

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7461 expanded a lot in 2020, going from ~13 kids to around 30, and we’d often set up tents and work outside (to protect from the rain and/or snow). It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it helped us fit our larger team into a rather small build space

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We tend to use our outdoor space for spinny saws (chop and table), large stuff, and storing a bunch of tables that are usually stored in the shop (due to * reasons*). Some painting. Some BBQ. If it rains we just pull it all back into the shop and stuff that needs to be done outside goes out the OTHER shop door to where there’s a semi-covered walkway. I’m saying we were partially outside but we’ll work inside in bad weather (SoCal bad weather, mind you!)

We’re in a temperate climate–in summer, we open both the main shop garage-style door and the windows near the ceiling for maximum cooling, and have an AC unit in the electronics room. In winter, we close the door when it’s raining and if it gets too cold.

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In south coast Australia during build season temperatures are ~18 to 40 C (64 to 104 F). Our indoor space is fairly large and without air conditioning, but we have lots of fans to keep air moving. We do all the drop saw, table saw, and grinding work outside to help with noise and swarf. We’ve never left things outside because either a primary school child could hurt themselves on it or it would be stolen. Or both.

In terms of sustainability, we haven’t found working outside to be especially important, although being able to take lunch breaks and play sport outside is a definite bonus.

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I certainly agree with this. Having had to build outside for 2018 and 2019, i wouldn’t say it had a profound impact on the sustainability but more so the work ethic of students and mentors alike. We saw improvements with putting up shade sails, regular zooper dooper breaks and misters placed around for everyone to stand under.

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Around here it can get down to -40C/F during build season though typically not lower than about -30C. I think it would probably be unwise to try to make accurate cuts outside on aluminum when the delta between outdoor and competition temps is almost 120F. Maybe if you mark the cuts inside and cut outside.

But in reality, nobody wants to work outside at those temps. Just one of the many added challenges we face when doing FRC in the frozen north. When US teams are pleased to be able to get parts overnight from Thriftybot or Rev for only a few dollars and we have to wait 2-3 weeks for the same parts to arrive plus pay enormous duty/brokerage fees and enormous shipping. (Ask @Ryan_Dognaux what it’s like trying to get parts into Canada).

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Here in Colorado, heavy snow is fairly common during build season. This year, one of the only places we could fit our practice goal was outside the loading doors to our shop. So, we spent lots of time testing and iterating our shooters outside in the snow. There are also great memories testing other robot parts in the snow in the same loading area in past years. 10/10 experience.

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