Managing large team travel

I have a general question about team travel. I am a mentor on a large team (>50 students). It gets very expensive to travel and I am struggling with how to manage it equitably. Do all members on your team travel to events, particularly state? If not how do you determine who goes - is it based on seniority? Function on team? Commitment (outreach and/or attendance requirements? Or combo?

Hey there! We have 115 students on the team, but only travel with about 40-50 per event. We do this by restricting eligibility for travel based on activity on the team.

We do very careful tracking of students’ hours during build season, as well as their participation in outreach and fundraising events (no matter what their technical contribution is to the team! I’ve barred build Directors from traveling for not meeting fundraising expectations before).

We set these expectations from the moment they join the team in the fall using our Team Handbook - so it’s important to make sure nobody gets surprised. Parents and students agree to this document before they pay their dues for the season, and are held to the expectation to be able to meet travel eligibility.

If they’re not travel eligible, they can still participate in just about everything else - and in fact, are encouraged to so they can meet it for future events.

Hope that helps clarify!

1 Like

Is it the same 40-50 students that attend multiple events? Or do you rotate students out between events? (Presuming more than 50 students have been meeting expectations.)

We have 32 students on our team. We do not restrict students from going to any events. Because Israel is relatively small, usually it is not too expensive to go to events and the farthest one is one and a half hours far (the closest is ten minutes far from our school).

If we advance to Championship, every student pays for themselves, but most of the students do attend Championship.

Our team does have a cap on the number of students who travel with the team, mostly so we can all fit on one bus. Thus, only ~40-50 students can travel with the team to each event. This year we started tracking the hours for each member to determine eligibility for events.

I’d suggest polling your team members first to see who wants to go if you don’t have any of these systems already in place. Oftentimes you will find that a fair amount of people will not want to attend the events (we only had ~25 people choose to go to Detroit out of 56 members).

When we go to out of town events students are expected to pay for the cost of hotel and food. (We make exceptions for those who may not have the means.)

But our team does not charge any other kind of fee’s so it’s seen as being a pretty reasonably arrangement.

And we typically arrange for carpooling as best we can.

Disclaimer: We are not a large team by some standards. (~40 students)

1 Like

That’s correct - about 70 total of our 115 are eligible for travel right now, but not everyone can make every tournament - so it’s whoever out of the travel-eligible group can make it. We make our best efforts to make it so that all eligible students come on the trips - so 40-50 is a general rule of thumb, not a hard number.

Libby, thanks so much for your response and for the link to your handbook. I took a quick look at it and I definitely see some holes we need to plug in terms of accountability for attendance and outreach and parlaying that to travel eligibility. Do you mind if I share your handbook with other mentors to kickstart this conversation with them?

Follow-up question … at what point do you determine that 2 robots must be built? I see from your handbook that you (Libby) meet on alternate days. Do you have the same mentors for both bots?

Last year we had about 35 students which was manageable in terms of those who wanted to work on the bot actually getting to do so. This year we have >60 and have problems keeping everyone engaged.

Libby … are you a club or an actual team with 501c3 status, if you don’t mind me asking?

Not Libby, but we always build two robots, although that might change next year with Bag & Tag ending. We started doing it in 2009, and have done it every year since then. It doesn’t always work well to keep everyone busy, because two inexperienced people aren’t equivalent to one experienced one, and building a robot requires a good number of experienced students.

As far as team travel, we’re 59 students this year, and we have a (pretty easy) requirement that each student log >50 hours in order to travel with the team. The really dedicated students are currently clocking in around 200 for the season, so 50 seemed reasonable.

We do the same thing Matt’s team does (two robots, one practice and one competition, in an effort to keep 60+ students busy) but travel eligibility is determined by two factors: a) an performance evaluation where leads (pit lead, lead programmer, Chairman’s submitters) observe applicants over the offseason, as well as the first three weeks of build season and b) an hour requirement to meet at least 60% of possible build season hours (this typically comes out to around 80 hours since our shop has been open 7 days a week ever since kickoff). GPA is a “third factor,” but it’s just as a precautionary measure to make sure kids grades aren’t slipping (2.5 or higher).

Our travel team came out to around 27 students this year, however, all other students, as long as they meet an hour requirement (60ish) are welcome to attend our local regional, San Diego, and depending on if we qualify, potentially Championships.

I’d be happy to answer any of your travel planning or coordinating questions @Pollyurathane if you have any others :+1: I’ve been helping plan my team’s travel arrangements for the last year or two.

1 Like

My team has 30-40 kids in a good year. They’re all welcome to participate at our local regional, though if I recall correctly they have to meet a GPA requirement in order to miss school.

This year we’re traveling pretty close (from San Jose to San Francisco - just far enough to need hotel rooms), so we’re bringing 20 kids. When we travel farther we usually bring a few less. We (the mentors) first sorted the member list by attendance, then talked through whether there was anyone lower on the attendance list who “deserved” to go more than someone above them, based on our sense of how hard they work and how much they contribute. We had the team president separately compile his own list of who he thought we should bring (also based on effort, contribution, how essential they’ll be for succeeding at the competition), because sometimes the student leaders see things we don’t. We compared lists, and came up with a final list of 20. Then we found out a couple kids weren’t available to travel, and invited the next couple kids on the attendance list.

So I guess the short answer is that we use attendance as a proxy for sweat equity, then make sure the results feel right and adjust as needed to make the final list.

@snichols … are you with the cheesy poofs by chance?? :grimacing::wink:

I can vouch for @quarky, her team is shockingly well organized, and I think they have documentation for it as well.

2 Likes

So what I’m gathering through your kind feedback is that there is a solid mechanism in place for determining raw eligibility. Some of you refine that list further through collaboration about merits. That’s great info for the future for us!

This drives another question … how do you handle students who are not engaged? By this I’m talking about those who spend the meeting milling around annoying others, on their phones (or heaven forbid Switch) or otherwise just disengaged? I’ve actually asked some kids “why are you here?”, not to be mean but out of genuine curiosity. Do you quit them from the team?

We have 95 students on the team, with 44 attending each event. The process for selecting this group of students which attend each event can be found in our team handbook: https://www.citruscircuits.org/team-handbook.html

Best,

-Mike

1 Like

Yep yep; while we don’t have formal/ general documentation, if you would like help organizing and documenting the planning process through the Google Drive Suite, I’m happy to be of assistance :smiley:

  1. Of course you may share! We leave it up online for that exact purpose.

  2. About alternating days - the mentors (and student leads) split up across the days. As lead mentor, I’m there every day barring illness. We started building 2 robots as a ‘modified’ twin in 2013 (~60 or 70 students if I remember correctly) , so we could have some parts to iterate with after lockup. In 2014 -2016 (broke 100) we built sort of shabby versions of twins, and then from 2017 on we’ve been making pretty identical 'bots.

  3. We are a school district team - not a club, about the same level as a sport. We use the school’s student activities account (and a line item in the district’s budget) for robotics activities.

It’s situational. If someone brings a Switch, I’d tell them to put it away or leave (I’m “bad cop” on the team). If they’re milling around not contributing, or actively slowing progress then I would look for some small task to hand out (buffing and deburring parts, organizing the hardware, etc.) If I don’t have a small task to give out and they’re actively impeding progress, then I would just tell them to move somewhere else.

1 Like