Hi everyone, I’m engineering mentor.
This season was so disappointing, our robot fail from beginning to the end at Laguna Regional MX. The result our rank is 36/36 .
Few weeks later (crying mostly) my team is working again, they learn many things from teamwork, they look to the future with hope and new ideas, and so much more commitment than before. Now, I know how this should be done.
But I really need some help Specifically on:
how do you work wit the new members?
About the training, documents, manuals, things like that.
Workshops are usually the best way we introduce the new members to the world of FIRST. It allows them to meet their peers while learning techniques they can apply during build season.
I’m sorry your team had such a negative experience at Laguna. On the plus side, you can definitely only go up from here.
Most of the teams I’ve worked with spend considerable time over the summer and in the fall building up their students, and revising their curriculum. Approaching the game challenge, what you should get in advance of the season, maximizing your odds at event, and tons of other things are fairly specific. Familiarizing yourself with the components of a robot can be done via the documentation on screensteps live, and plenty of YouTube videos and online courses exist to address the specific types of technologies used on a FRC robot (like brushed DC motors for example). Screensteps Live is also a fairly good place to learn about robot programming if your team needs to learn about that too. Nobody is going to be an expert on this going in, so making sure that everyone is willing to teach one another to fill in the gaps (student to student, student to mentor, mentor to student, anything really.)
Ultimately though, it comes down to one question: What is your team’s goal?
Once that question is answered, you can start to work towards achieving it. If your goal was to attend the Championship for example, you’d have to answer the question “How do we qualify for Championship?” And you follow it all the way down.
As to specific training documents, Karthik Kanagasabapathy’s Effective FIRST Strategies, and Mike Corsetto’s Strategic Design talks are invaluable resources to approaching the season slightly better. JVN’s “Engineering Design Process for Robotics” is also an invaluable paper to understanding how 148 works (at least as of the time of him writing it.)
All that said though, the manual doesn’t change all that much year to year for robot construction rules. You can read a prior season’s manual to learn the process of analyzing the game, look at other robots and see why they did well. You also have almost two decades of robot photos available to you on Chief Delphi and The Blue Alliance for research and seeing how teams approached similar challenges in prior years.
I find it incredible that even after ranking dead last your team is still striving to improve and do amazing things. That’s what the program is all about. Feel free to reach out with any questions you might have you don’t want to ask on a public forum.
I recommend checking out FRC-docs instead, as it is the official replacement for screensteps.
As FRC-Docs is still incomplete as-of this post and still needs major editorial checks, I’d suggest reviewing ScreenStepsLive as of the end of the 2019 competition season.
EDIT: Per one of the WPILib Docs contributors, the FRC-docs site is up to date for 2019 content and is going to have 2020 content added as it’s written. So you can start using it now, my mistake.
One other help is to try to go to offseason competitions with the new members. I don’t know if there are any close to you, though…
By the way… the frc-docs project has a new permanent home at https://docs.wpilib.org/
Getting new students up to speed (and moving the existing students “up the ranks”) has been a little project of mine for the past few years. Here are the things we’ve done, all of which I think have been valuable.
1. "Geared Learning"
Geared Learning is a program where our returning students teach some basic team knowledge and skills to the incoming rookies. We made a list of what the “perfect rookie” knows, and put together a plan to teach those things. We re-wrote the program last year and it worked awesomely.
2. Mock Kickoff
In a mock kickoff, we pull out the rules to an old game (old meaning between 2005 and 2015) and go through the first 2-3 days of our build season process, as if we were going to build a robot for it. We talk about rules, strategies, and mechanisms (note: I want to stop talking about mechanisms this early, and instead start talking about “unknowns” and “problems we need to solve”). This teaches all of the new students what to expect, and shows them why our kickoff process is how it is. It also gives the new student leaders some practice in leading this disucssion.
In the fall, mentors from our school district teach workshops to all four of our district teams. Last year we taught 6 classes, and we’re hoping to do the same this year.
4. Off-Season Robot
After the season ends, we design a robot over the summer that we build in the fall and bring to an off-season event in October. We let last year’s rookies do a good amount of the work on this robot, and let the “veteran” members look over the work of the newer students. It’s the last piece of our “rookie education” program. This summer I also taught some Solidworks and engineering design classes beforehand, just in case.
+1000 on Mock Kickoffs
Having to deal with training and skill-building, he said everything that needed to be said!
Another perspective however, is being aware that the biggest struggle with new members is understanding what FRC even is - and we often tend to forget that. The more comfortable they get with the game manual and the whole team in general, the more open they are to jumping into projects on the team.
I don’t care how silly, ice breakers REALLY help this whole situation. New members come in not knowing anyone on the team and this can be easily fixed by learning names, grades, and subteams. Coming in as a freshman, simply knowing who were the seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshman made joining the team a lot easier. Things like that shouldn’t matter, but for many intimidated kids it really does make the whole transition into FRC more smooth - especially before being put into workshops and teams that they might be too scared to ask questions in front of.
We fit all of that stuff into our Geared Learning program. Returning students explain the program to the new students, and the “final project” from the Outreach department is to have the new students organize a “geared learning graduation party” for the team. Team building is suprisingly difficult stuff to get right.
Agreed! We’ve been trying to find the best way to incorporate it too and I love what your team does. Might have to look into something like that ourselves!
This isn’t just an FRC problem. I’ve seen it at work, church, and community groups as well.
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