Now that the main season is over, teams are transitioning to their offseason plans-outreach, starting new teams, building mechanisms for next year, or just taking a break. In spirit of this, I’m wondering….what does your team do in the offseason? How do you plan the offseason? How often does your team meet?
Our off-season is dedicated mainly to outreach, recruitment, training, and getting sponsors.
Outreach varies circumstantially; sometimes it’s planned months/weeks in advance, other times not so much. Notable events for us this off-season are a visit to the local Chamber of Commerce and a School Board meeting demonstration.
Recruiting is carried out through our open house event, as well as through formal invitations that we send to students who are currently in middle school robotics or have been through our FLL Explore program. We typically allow these students to attend off-season events before asking them to commit.
Our team plans the off-season by having the student leaders and mentors lay out what new/current members need training in and going through that.
We typically meet 2 times every other week.
The big goals for us this offseason are A) Swerve, B) Proper vision integration/pose estimation, C) Building a design subteam, and D) Getting students more involved in the sponsor/grant process. (Not in any particular order; most work will occur concurrently).
We’re usually really busy in the off-season. Some of what we do is organizational, like the transition to new team leadership for the new season and team reorganization (if needed) to address any problems from the season. We also always do a retroreflective on the past season to analyze what we did and didn’t do well.
Meanwhile, this is usually our busiest time of year for outreach. Many of the elementary and middle schools have STEM fairs or other events that they love to have an FRC team show up for and this is, to be honest, often a great recruitment tool for us (though we don’t limit our events to ones at schools that feed our high school.)
For other activities, this is the time when we run workshops and training sessions to improve skills for team members. We’ve also started a mini-build season after AP exams wrap up to practice building on a tight schedule. The mentors set a challenge and the team tries to build a robot in two weeks to meet that challenge. It’s usually designed to push some aspect of design and implementation that we think might be useful for the next season.
There’s also a fair bit of just ordinary work: lab cleaning and organization, repairs and improvements to the last season’s robot, preparation for the off-season events of the summer and fall, etc. We mostly meet three times a week after school for two hours, except for the mini-build season when we meet every day just as we would during a real build season.
Since COVID hit, 599 is essentially a new team. We graduated more than 75% of the team over the two covid years, and the students that were left were basically rookies. Since then we’ve adopted some new offseason practices, we did them offseason 2022, and plan to them offseason 2023
We write tons of grant applications and NPGs using our schools non profit 501c3 status, we do outreach to our returning sponsors, local politicians, local businesses and run a fundraiser. Last season we used a fundraising tool similar to gofundme or piggybackr called SnapRaise. They were really cool and came to our school in person to kickoff our fundraiser and were great to work with. We try to get all funds needed for the whole season during the offseason so on-season fundraising is cut to a minimum.
In the 2022 season we built a WCD low goal everybot. We were not satisfied with that robot so we spent the summer CADing a brand new Swerve Turret bot inspired by Einstein teams. We then competed in two offseasons. It a great learning experience, and this year we built an arm, but for the offseason we’ll be CADing and building an entirely new robot again.
(4 Build Seasons in a row does take a toll on students though)
We have the CAD team participate in CADathons over summer and early offseason to gain design experience for next season. We also run a rookie integration program to have rookies choose their subteam early and get them trained fast to be ready to hit the ground running for build season. Training is incredibly important to us because we are a student lead team and we heavily lack mentors. We have one full time coach and less than 5 mentors that come in when they can, but were always looking for remote or in person support!
Outreach and Awards Prep
We run typical outreach over the offseason like FLL teams, community outreach to neighborhood councils, city parades, reaching out to middle schools, etc. All this helps us fundraise by growing connections, while also giving back to the community. We also train our awards subteam so they know what they are going to be writing for Impact, Tech binder, and potentially dean’s list.
Anyway hope this helps
Additionally to the twice a week every other week, based on an idea from @D.Allred, we will likely be running a new student bootcamp one week when the new school year starts, prior to our second off season event(SCRIW)
Basically we will meet every day one week after school like a normal build season and work on training. It will help with skill retention, often when you have spaced out meetings like you do in the off season, students will forget what they learned by the next meeting. But if you get repetitions before you forget, you’ll retain the info and such better
Traditionally after our last comp, it’s usually the same season for APs and end of the school year activities. During this time, we just host a end of the year celebration, and plan out for our next semester off-season. Once we get back from summer break, our hardware team has always built an rookie robot (just a robot with a drivetrain and the bare essentials), and usually we prepare for Chezy Champs as well. Our software team works on programming the rookie robot and testing different ideas and new code. Our off-season meetings are only like 4 hours long, compared to the 18-20 (or even like 30 hour long weeks) hours per week
We’re building a toolbox, doing various sorts of training, work on finding a new build space, fundraising. The loose goal is to start next season in a better position than we started this season. If we repeatedly succeed at that goal, we’ll be on a good track.
We usually meet once or twice a week with our incoming freshman to teach them the basics and get ready for our offseason events. We also work on some other projects non competition related along with preparing for parades and showcases to recruit new students. Mainly gives new kids a chance to experiment and see what they’ll want to do in the season. (We probably do other stuff, but idk)