How will/have you run your Team Virtually

My school is asking us to propose how we will run our team of we don’t go back to school or go back in some hybrid format. Has any been running a team online / virtually or given any thoughts. I would like to keep the kids engaged and keep the team alive until next year. I don’t expect to compete , or even build a proper robot, but want to offer something for these kids.

Any ideas on what I should propose?


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We’ve been running virtually over the summer, but it does limit what you can do. We’ve been meeting to work on Chairman’s and Fundraising, things that don’t really require you to be physically present. We just had our annual summer camp (shortened to 2 days instead of 8) virtually, which meant drastically changing everything about it.

It’s easy to see how you can do programming training virtually, or practice CAD. But it’s much harder to come up with a plan to handle actually building things virtually, or getting them working toward a goal they can be excited about. I hope you get some better responses!


My team is a VEX/FRC Team and we created a discord server before quarantine and got all our members on it. We’ve been running weekly programming, marketing, and build meetings. VEX is starting to meet in person to work on bots but as far as FRC meetings go… We are going to wait to figure out how to continue build.

Our team is planning on doing a significant amount of virtual work. We were thinking of doing Zoom or Google Meet lessons. We could introduce new members this way, as well as gauge who wants to be on the team by who actually takes the time to get on the meetings and participate.

For the lessons, we want to do them live with the team and then record them for future use. If I understand correctly, we’re kind of going through each major area/sub team in roughly the order that we’d learn about them during build season, if that makes any sense (for example CAD, then CAM and mechanical, then programming, scouting, etc.).

We’re also working on a team Slack.

Lots of Google Meet (which is the district’s adopted platform). Crossing my fingers that they release the breakout rooms feature soon to free up (human) bandwidth.

We also need to replace the holes left by our seniors, which includes perhaps the biggest single CAD force the team has had in its history. So there’s lots of room for Onshape growth to soak up training time, and then we can really get the 2021 CAD dialed in tight while we wait for conditions to improve.

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I’ve been struggling with this with my two FTC teams, and while FTC is obviously a very different program than FRC, I think many of the same things apply. We’re using the pandemic as an excuse to work on some team skills that we’ve been wanting to work on for a while, mostly CAD and out-of-meeting team communication. We’re really emphasizing CAD work this year, especially now that we’re switching to OnShape which should make remote collaboration much easier than in previous years. In this process, we’re also hopefully trying to split the robot into as many modular sections as possible, such that only a student or two can come into the school if/when they can to build just their section of the robot, given our shop can only accommodate only about 4 or 5 people with social distancing. Our robot is made mostly using COTS parts and custom laser cut pieces, so if need be, we even have a backup plan to have the teachers and staff cut the pieces that the students CAD then ship or have student pick up those pieces if we truly cannot build in our school for any extended period of time before our first meets in November.


Like everyone, we’ve been figuring out what we can as we go along. Over the summer, we ran some Onshape classes over Google Meet, and it actually went relatively smoothly. Here’s the tips we picked up along the way for distance Onshape teaching:

  1. Keep everyone working in the same folder. You want to be able to check each student’s work along the way. Open each student’s work in a tab and check them periodically.

  2. Limit the scope of each lesson. It’s hard to stay focused on one thing for more than an hour or so over a video chat, so don’t make lessons that go over 60 minutes. To keep those limits, I made template documents for each lesson that had all of the necessary COTS components imported, or in one case I prebuilt some parts to assemble.

  3. Write down your dimensions somewhere. I had @Footie writing down every dimension in the chat window of the meeting so the students could reference them easily.

  4. Have some TAs. I also convinced some students to hang out during the lessons and check on people’s work. It really helps to keep things moving smoothly.

As far as real “running a season” stuff goes, that’s a lot harder. We’re trying to get 3D printers spread out through the team as much as possible so that people can manufacture parts without contacting each other. We’ve got robots in various programmers’ garages so they can work, and one of our programming mentors is working on a non-contact teaching setup in his garage with a large-ish TV and wireless keyboards. It looks like students aren’t allowed going to be allowed on campus, which means if we get far enough along to need a router, then we’re either going to be outsourcing to a waterjet/laser, or mentors get to do the fabrication work.

You also need to look at alternative forms of competition. Virtual competitions are fair game (there’s lots of “building stuff” video games out there). I’ve floated a “cardboard battlebots” idea around our team a few times, but it hasn’t really stuck yet. We’ll see.


We started with Discord. No cost and we can setup rooms for discussion topics.

We’ve been having weekly team meetings, as well as leadership meetings.

The team meetings are generally pretty informal, as not everyone can attend*. Usually with some announcements at the beginning, followed by playing games bonding activities. Leadership meetings before quarantine were all discussion anyways, so those haven’t been affected too much.

Earlier in the spring, when quarantine began, we also ran online CAD, business, and Excel trainings over Teams. If you’re running trainings on specific subjects, I’d recommend telling people who might be interested ahead of time so they can plan for it - it’s easier for people to make time for a single training on a subject that interests them than to meetings every week.

*Unfortunately, not everyone on our team has consistent access to Microsoft Teams (our communications platform of choice). We normally all use school issued laptops, which have it pre-installed, but those are returned for the summer.

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tl;dr I have been developing some google classroom stuff and you can join with the class code aemt35u

With some inspiration from 3538, 3005, and talking to students on my team, I determined I wanted to create some training material to guide students. Students don’t have to complete things as if it’s homework, but it gives them some structure when they don’t even know where to begin learning. I’ve found that it is key to have deadlines to motivate some students to I’ve broken the training up into various topics and skill levels, with the skill levels roughly broken down as (some exceptions made based on the topic):

  • Novice - a focus learning components and terms. Completing this training means you should at least understand the conversations and be able to identify components. the “I do, you watch” level in the mentor guide
  • Advanced Beginner - a focus on learning application. Someone completing this level can do discrete, well outlined tasks, but may occasionally need help. the “I do, you help” level of the mentor guide
  • Proficient - a focus on being able to solve a problem without all the intermediate problems identified. Might sometimes need help, but knows how to go get it, whether from a mentor or research. the “You do, I help” level of the mentor guide
  • Competent - this level is someone that can identify the problem and find a solution with little to no outside guidance. the “You do, I watch” level in the mentor guide

Right now, I’ve got what I think is decent rev A done for the design - novice level. I’ve started some stuff for the novice level version for manufacturing and electrical, and advanced beginner for the design and manufacturing, but I haven’t made the quizzes or completed the material yet. I have a goal of having at least four “novice” level google classrooms completed by the end of the fall. I want to use this long term. There’s also obviously some things where I can pull in training materials from other teams, and I plan to link to those appropriately. For instance the “advanced beginner” for our design includes a lot of links to @cadandcookies onshape Design and Modeling videos and I’m confident that I will be adding links to training material that Spectrum, 1678, 1114, and several other teams have available on their websites, in chief delphi, or on youtube in the classes somewhere along the line. No need for me to reinvent the wheel on everything.

a video from a Texas Robot Mentor chat where I talked about what I’m doing with google classroom and walk through it a bit more: Texas Mentor Talk 7/27 - Part 2 - FRC & Google Classroom - YouTube

The “public” version anyone can join if they want to run through what I have is at class code: aemt35u


My team has been experimenting with virtual CNC machining!

Basically our coach goes into the shop alone and we use Zoom to host a livestream with cameras to show Mach3, a wide angle shot of the CNC, a phone camera for closeups. Our CNC/CAM students give him directions on running the machine (he has machining experience, just not any specific to our Omio CNC)

Today was our first virtual machining session and it was a great success.


I grabbed some more screenshots from today’s CNC stream.

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