Having a Hard Time Getting Members Involved

I am a member of a rookie team that had an “interesting” dynamic during the last year. Of our 13 members, 3 did 95% of the work. The three of us tried to involve the other members, but they were either uninterested, distracted, or were scared to ask how things work and, by the competition, didn’t have anything that they could do to help because they were not involved enough during the build season to know how our robot worked.

I think most of them want to learn how to do things, and the mentors and students who were working on the robot routinely tried to get them involved, but all of our attempts to teach them things and get them more involved have failed. Does anyone have any ideas that could help us get them involved? I would really appreciate some help.

We have “workshops” before kickoff every year, where we give everyone an introduction to the different technical parts of robotics - electrical, pneumatic, programming, machining… once they are introduced to these areas, they will feel much more comfortable asking for something to do.

Also, let them take responsibility for something on the robot, even if you are not sure it will turn out great. They can only learn from their mistakes, and if you help them along the way, they will not feel overburdenend. A successful result will encourage them to do more things on their own in the future.

Something that team 1629 did/does is…

Because not everyone is interested in ALL aspects of technology at the beginning of each year we do a brief over-view of most of them then the students devide into the different groups (electrical, programming, mechanical, etc.) then our mentors who are most fimiliar with those “sections” lead the groups, and the students and mentors work together in their seperate groups then once a week we “combine” groups to “put it all together”… It seems to work fairly well… It makes fixing the problems easier too because if its programming then you have “experts” working on it… Same with elect. mech. etc.

PS students can be part of multiple groups! :slight_smile:

Believe it or not, that’s pretty close to normal. It’s a proven fact that in a business, 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people (the 80/20 rule). So, while I do agree it’s best to split up the work more evenly than this, I will just say that you are not alone in your “interesting” team dynamics.

Both of the above posts are very good suggestions, so listen to them.

One of the great things about FRC is that it is “scalable”. Teams can be anywhere from three students and one adult… to, well… massively huge. And honestly, there is usually plenty for everyone to do.

That is because building the robot is just one aspect of FRC. Oh, sure… it is kind of one that you’d really look rather silly if you forgot about… but consider that team members can make huge contributions to:

web site, animation, drafting and design, programming, interface design, marketing, communications, accounting, logistics… and I’m not even talking about the team effort required to go for a Chairman’s award.

Consider that if you finish in 20th place at a tournament… who is more important, those who built the robot, those who programmed it, or those who made your team visible, prominent and negotiated your way into being the choice of a top eight team? Everyone has a role to play in team success, and it doesn’t have to mean that everyone has to build.

Mind you… it would be nice to have more than three builders whom you can count upon. Build is one of the more crucial aspects of a team, but don’t forget to see how people who don’t want to get their hands dirty might be able to make a contribution.

Jason

Also pay attention to how you’re involving your team members. If the non-participating members are being asked to help without a specific assignment, you may not have much luck.

In the years we’ve had smaller teams, we’ve had success with assignments for new students or less technical students. Start small, perhaps with tool assignments. For example, say you’ve decided to use rivets. Give one of those students the task of doing rivets. They are your rivet person. No matter how much faster it is for you to reach over and grab the riveter and do it yourself, you call that student over and they take care of riveting.

As one of the strong team members you might feel impatient; like they’re holding you back. But it will build teamwork and gain participation from team members who don’t know quite what to do. You would really appreciate it if you brought a damaged robot back to the pit that has a broken drive train and damaged rivets. Your 3 strong team members can focus on the drive train, while your rivet specialist takes care of the chassis.

Be creative in your assignments. Turning your other team members into specialists can complement the strengths of your stronger team members.

More symphathetic i can not be.
our situation is a little better- 5 students did 95%…
i can tell you from what i see in my team- that its all about motivation. if they had the motivation you wouldnt have to ask “how to get them involved”…
so the question that needs to be asked, is how do i get them motivated? how can i make this interesting to them? and so on, which only you can answer because you know these people better than all of us…
hope i helped,
Ziv

Usually what happens in the case of new kids like freshmen, they slack off during build season and our pre-season workshops called MORT University, but when they arrive at a competition and can’t help out they realize what they have to do for next year and want to get more involved. Seeing the performance of other robots can inspire you to take part in your own robot more.

-Akash

1629 has always had a “core” group of students that contribute the most t the team, however, by using groups as james describes:

Because not everyone is interested in ALL aspects of technology at the beginning of each year we do a brief over-view of most of them then the students devide into the different groups (electrical, programming, mechanical, etc.) then our mentors who are most fimiliar with those “sections” lead the groups, and the students and mentors work together in their seperate groups then once a week we “combine” groups to “put it all together”… It seems to work fairly well… It makes fixing the problems easier too because if its programming then you have “experts” working on it… Same with elect. mech. etc.

And by giving all of the members homework assignments in between meetings,for example the last one was what does The Engineering Inspiration award mean to you. In this way all the students can participate in a discussion. But you must remember that not all members of the team have to be working on the robot there are award submission, buttons, decorations and countless other things to be done. The fact is that some students will always overachieve but this doesn’t mean that others won’t once they find there niche.

One thing that our team does to get better involvement is design challenges during the fall. These are simple little challenges that are for teams of 3-4 that help people learn to work in a group and work with the tools. Some challenges we have done are: Rubber band drag racers, Moustrap cars for distance, 2.0L water rockets for hang time, Toothpick marshmallow towers for height, egg drop, and many others. We try to do one simple fast one (marshmallow towers 1 hour) and then one more complex rubber band drag racers (2 2 hour meetings). These really seem to break the ice and help with building/creativity skills.

Indeed, that’s what’s going on in our team. Suddenly I’m hearing rookie team members starting to come around me and saying “Next year, we’ll do it! we talked about it and we agreed we’ll do our best! we’ll do this, and this and that and etc…”. I’m hearing this also from 9th graders in our FLL teams, who most of them want to join the FRC team next year (and I’m starting to think we might need more room to fill in our team(~40 members!) :ahh: ).

I’m was entirly pleased to hear that there are FIRST members that are very motivated towards next year, and I want to help them have their best next year (which will be my last as a student team member :eek: ).

That’s why I’m gonna’ plan an overall meeting for all those interested in FIRST in our school and we’ll sit and talk about what has been with FIRST in our school, in our city, Herzliya; talk about what’s our current state and what do we have to do next year, what we’re thriving to do next year and what we can do. Hopefully that meeting will spark the first team goals ideas for the FRC and FLL team(s) in our school and will bring us to realize we need to start working now and work hard along the year to succeed in what we want, which in short, is our motivation.

motivation brings things done, things done quickly allow for more time on making things better, completing other things and etc., and those bring you the road to victory (which still requires full attention (which can only be brought through motivation).)

What I’m trying to say?
First years don’t allways work. Pre-seasons and workshops help motivate, but the main motivation comes after participating in the competition, like he said.

You are receiving some excellent advice in this thread. :slight_smile:

One thing that I haven’t seen yet that I’d like to contribute is the value of the postmortem. That is a time that the team meets to evaluate the season. Everyone comes prepared with ideas and suggestions of what went well, what didn’t go well, and what can be improved upon. Someone is charge of writing down all the pros/cons/needs for improvement on the white board. Then we divide it into sections: robot, Chairmans, Spirit, Safety, etc. We can get a little loosey goosey and start crossing over into sections so our teacher keeps us on track and in one section at a time. If they cross or mix, we make sure to note that further discussion is needed.

There should be plenty of time allotted for this meeting. If it has to end before the postmortem is completed, schedule another time to finish it. Then, next year, make use of the suggestions. Learn from what you have just achieved and implement it.

We compete in a fall competition as well, BEST, and at our postmortem for that this year - we learned that one of our freshman team members did not want to do anything but work with tools, building. It could be the field or robot, but that was all she wanted to do. She was not interested in anything else. We were able to apply that information to FIRST, telling her that it was up to her to sign up and talk to the sub-team lead of the area she was interested in. Some students will work in any areas under the sub-team leads. Some will not and sometimes hang back or don’t contribute too much - but they continue to come to robotics. That means that there is interest, the trick is to find out/identify what the interest is and how to apply it.

We have had a mixed experience on our team. I spend a large amout of time directing traffic to ensure that everyone gets involved as much as possible.

First, have a mentor that is the ‘get everyone involved’ mentor. Look for people sitting on the sidelines, or goofing off, and give them specific assignments.

Don’t be afraid to assign busy-work. Our students have made coat racks, alternate parts for the robot - i.e. a second gripper concept - or investigated new types of sensors.

The biggest challenge is students that are afraid to try anything unless you are physically holding their hand - and sometimes I spend half an hour just doing that.

We have also had good luck with having new students mock up aspects of the FRC robot in vex kits. (We have about five kits to play around with.)

As a last resort their are safety posters, reading the rules and reading Chief Delphi.

In some ways, as a small team, it is a balancing act to keep everyone engaged AND build a quality robot. Normally, we shift focus through the year. Our fall preseason is almost 100% getting people trained, the first three weeks of the build season are biased toward engagement and the last three weeks are a panic to finish the robot.

Hope this is food for thought…

If you have the resources to build a “twin” or practice bot, that is a great avenue for helping members who are unsure of their skills (1) quickly decide if this is their cup of tea or not, and (2) let them work on a meaningful project with a bit more flexibility in completion time and workmanship.

On top of that, having a twin can really save the day when you have shipped knowing there is a problem that needs to be ironed out, and to provide practice for drivers.

We’ve done this the past three years, and as a result every class of graduating seniors has been replaced by ranks of motivated and competent underclassmen.

We participate in an off-season competition (OCCRA). Depending on where you live, maybe you can find a similar event. It is a great opportunity for students to get hooked onto robotics.

Even if there isn’t such an event in your area, maybe you could look for off-season competitions (such as ARC, Kettering, etc). In these competitions, you use your robot from the previous season to compete. They are low-stress, high-energy environments where students can get all of the fun of a FIRST competition, without all the stress and hard work =P

Although if your postmortem is too lengthy, team members may just look at it and get scared. This is speaking from experience. Last year, after our final competition, I came up with a 5 page list on my own of stuff that we could improve on, a lot of which was impractical. The rest of the team just kind of stared when I brought it up and it became infamously known as “The List”

This is by no means an unheard of problem.

The thing is, you and the other 2 students who are dong 95% of the work are probably motivated, “wide eyed and bushy tailed” kids who really want to get involved and get to work.

Some students feel intimidated by the task of building a robot. When others are around who even LOOK LIKE they know what they are doing, people get nervous about embarrassing themselves.

Motivation is a funny thing. Some people have it right off the bat, and some people take a long time to find it (and may never find it). I know from my experience, getting people to competitions definitely helps. A lot of the kids that have seem kind of un-excited have got “bitten by the bug” at even small vex competitions. The key is to get them involved. Ask them to help out with stuff and guide them along the way. Show them its not that bad, and that even people who are completely unexperienced can contribute.

One final note…theres a quote that says "Without a sense of urgency,dersire loses its value. " —Over the “off-season” it is imperative that you keep interest alive. While team members may have finally gotten interested during the saturday of your last regional, it is a LONG LONG time before you start building a new robot again. Doing things like vex-bots, or even off-season projects definitely keep the interest up and may even help you recruit new motivated people to the team.

hope it helps

brando