increased team size

We have been a fairly smallish team the last few years, usually around 15 or so. We have had problems with simply to much work for not enough people, so this year we have decided to do a lot more recruitment and get more of the school involved.We currently have around 30 new students who are interested which is great and all, but i just have a few questions for the larger teams. Now I know having more new students than old students is going to be a lot of work, but we are prepared for this, and are also getting more mentors to help out.

First of all where do you hold your team meetings?
our classrooms only really have room for 30 students, and that is just not enough room for the entire team to have an all inclusive meeting. So where do teams hold meetings? Do you split up into several groups, admin and build, and simply send out emails to keep everyone informed?

Secondly, how do you keep new students interested? We are going to be doing training sessions before kickoff this year, so students learn how to use the tools, and know how FIRSt works, but should we maybe get a few vex kit to keep them excited, and get them thinking the way of first?

Is there anything else we should be prepared for, any useful information we should know about?

IDK about you, but as a first timer last year, I was hooked from the beginning, may be thats just me. Personally I would only want people who are genuinely passionate about robotics. We hold meetings in a bungalow behind the tech shop, it fits 30-40 people fine. (I never counted so, might be overestimate) We had the webmaster just email important news to every member every time needed. IDK about training part; I was already programming before I joined so I never needed help. I guess just make them do small projects that will only take a week or 2 or have the veterans walk them through the actual robot making process and have them try making it.

Useful tip #1: Probably only about half of the new students will wind up continuing on. Plan on about 30 all told (old and new) by the time February rolls around. (Though, according to Murphy’s Law, that means that they’ll all grab friends and stick around…)

Now, as regards some other issues you’ve brought up:

Room size can be dealt with. You could have one meeting in two rooms, connected by your choice of methods. You could find a larger meeting space (say, a cafeteria or multipurpose room) for whole-team meetings, and have breakout sessions in classrooms. If you don’t have to meet at school, try getting a meeting room at a community center.

How to keep students excited and interested is another fun problem. Vex kits can work… but why not improve last year’s robot? How about finding an offseason you’d like to compete in? You could also look up old games, simplify them a bit, and challenge students, working in groups, to come up with a strategy and a robot for that game. (This will also help you in January, right after Kickoff.)

Be prepared for some of the students just standing around doing nothing. There are several ways to deal with this.
Method #1: Homework area. Set aside an area for working on homework if there isn’t anything to do. Beats having teachers mad at you when homework is late.
Method #2: Find more work and volunteer someone. CAD, Chairman’s, animation, PR, the list goes on. Cleaning the robot work area is also an option.
Method #3: To be used only if a student does not do #1 or #2 and they aren’t already working on something. Suggest that they get a good night’s sleep at home. “Hey, we don’t have anything for you tonight, see you tomorrow!” Rotate who gets that one, though–you don’t want to single out one person.

Our meetings start with a brief meeting in our lead teacher’s classroom where the student and adult leaders outline to everyone what we are trying to accomplish that night. The student leaders hold a brief meeting, then everyone breaks into their respective subteams to work on whatever is necessary for that night.

Typically, mechanical, electrical, and programming students fill roles into whatever needs to be done, like design a robot cart or fix a mechanism on the previous year’s robot. They go wherever they need to go, like the school’s CAD lab our the machine shop. Public Relations stays in the classroom and makes plans for the business side of the team, and our information technology team typically stays with them and helps out where needed.

At the end of the meeting, everyone goes back to the classroom and talks about what they accomplished that day.

Basically, the more students you have, the more interesting projects can be worked on at the same time. It also gives some of the more experienced students some logistical experience balancing the talents and work efforts of the general membership.

For keeping students interested, I’m a big fan of project-based learning over tutorials–from personal experience in high school, it was very rewarding when I could point to a part of my team’s robot and say “I helped design that.” I remember much more from those experiences than any presentation I have ever been given.

We have 54 students on our team this year with nearly half new.
We work out of three rooms (one is the shop)

We are doing FTC this year for the new students… using veterans as mentors …
We are in the middle of brainstorming…EVERY PARTICIPATES>>>>>

They all learn… it is important to find things for everyone to do…
Even with a team our size we have no shortage on work that needs to be done…

Website, learning CAD, learning animation, fund raising, buttons, spirit, pit construction, award presentations, team outreach, etc etc etc.

We also do a special study hall after school during the build season so students can use their time wisely and help each other keep up to speed in their classes.

It takes a lot of work… we have a great mentor team and a fantastic parent booster group…

Big teams should be fun for every student… just like small teams…
No one ever wants to told that we have nothing for them to do… that would be a major turn off I would think… If you have smaller activities… just invite the participants…

I would NEVER tell a student to go home after they made the effort to get to a meeting.
I need to honor their time and effort…

Now I have told students to go home… but those times were for completely different reasons…
disciplinary in nature…

good luck!!

Sven,
We have a larger number of students so it is a real challenge. The school has a larger lecture type hall that can accommodate the team. We meet for 30-60 minutes each Monday night, to get team stuff out of the way and then break into groups. Some will work at the school and some will move to the sponsor’s building if there is work there. It is essential to have something planned. Training works best in small groups so groups size is reduced to eight to ten students during those sessions. We are lucky to have a number of mentors who can cover all the small groups.

As a member of a team that exploded in size over a couple of years’ time and learned to manage that growth - the only words of wisdom that I would like to offer to you are these: honor the journey. Take the time as you go through this year - to learn how to be more organized. Learn how to manage the team better in areas that will need strengthening. As you go through the year, identify those areas, document them, address them as best you can this season, and then re-address them at the end of the season so that you are better prepared for next year. By being mindful of the changes, the unexpected positives and negatives that arise, and the challenge of growing the team - you are honoring the journey.

Congratulations on garnering this challenge. May it be a worthwhile and fulfilling experience for all of you.

Jane

One question for you other teams: how do you deal with rides when going to the regionals? Do you guys get a bus, get individual rides or just take the core team?

How could you possibly only take the core team? The regionals are the reward for the hard work you put in. They are where you learn what works well and what doesn’t work so well. It is a chance to see how other teams met the challenges of the game. I can’t imagine telling someone who has put work into the team that they had to stay home.

David,
We are sort of the host team for the Midwest Regional and it is close to the school so everyone who raises enough money for a tshirt and has maintained grades can attend the Midwest regional with parent’s permission. The second regional must be a bus ride away and a skeleton crew attends. This is just the pit crew, drivers, and a few needed for strategy and scouting. Total is about 15 students. Travel for Champs is the same, we must take a bus. Typically we have kept it to around 35 since that is all that will fit on a bus with chaperons and school staffers.
I should also add that insurance for the schools requires that students must be driven by parents or school staff. Mentors, chaperones and other adults may not drive students in our district. Even if a parent OK’s the adult, it cannot take place. For the Midwest Regional, school buses on Friday and Saturday handle the majority of the team. Pit crew and drive team are shuttled down in a school van.

Well it is quite possible, like for example, our football team has about 70 kids in it. We can not afford to take 2 buses, so our coach has considered only taking the guys he believes will benefit the team. So far he has not done that yet. It is an option, but I guess its not the “FIRST Way”.::rtm::

David,
You were correct in your initial assumptions that different teams handle this differently. Before the district model, our team would send the pit crew and comp team on Thursdays (practice days), and then the rest of the team would come on Friday and Saturday. For thursdays, we would coordinate mentor vehicles in order to hual mentors, tools, and the 7-10 kids for thursday. Friday and Saturday we would schedule a bus from the school. Occasionally other conflicts would require a seperate group to ride with a parent. Students were not allowed to drive to events.

With regards to “the FIRST Way”, there are lots of different ways that FIRST is done. What may seem completely ridiculous to one team is perfectly reasonable to another team. In the past, we discussed the importance of a 3rd regional and whether or not it made since to take the whole team. It was an open debate each year that included time away from school, money, and logistics. With the District model, it is less of a debate for us, but more of a debate for teams that previously did not compete in 3-4 events each year.

Good question.

Team 1676 has a big group of students this year, and we have in previous years. In our high school, we have a computer/engineering room that is big enough to hold our team and mentors. Some advice that I can give you is: 1) If you can’t hold your team meetings in a single classroom, try to hold them in the cafeteria, or library in your school that way everyone can attend the meeting. 2) Our team has a program called Pi-Tech Academy, which is very similar to what you said on how you train the rookies on your team. I don’t think that your going wrong there, but what you should do is have a sub team leader for each thing on the team and then the students who want to do that sub team; let them created a schedule with the sub team leader on when they will be taught different things that they should know prior to build season. That is how we teach our rookies and it has been good so far. Hope this advice helps!