Organizing A Successful Team

I am a senior member of a fairly successful robotics team. Meaning we have made it to states and worlds a few times in our relatively short run as a team. The last two seasons though we have had trouble earning enough to points to make states and or worlds. There are changes that need to be made to our team organization so as to make build more streamlined and other aspects of our team more efficient, but I’m unsure if just building a better robot in the next season is what we need to make it to states and worlds. Yes, it would help, but our robots have been good in the last two seasons and we’ve still had a hard time winning. Is there any specific strategies that teams employ during/after/before season that make an impact on success? Ways to structure the team for build? Ways that teams breakdown the game for design or game play strategy? Ways to design around the randomness of FRC alliances? Any advice would be appreciated even if it isn’t about build because this is a rebuild and restructuring year.

It sounds like you are asking about winning more matches and events. You *may or may **not *need to rebuild and restructure the team to do that. I suspect that you have put an incomplete problem statement here, since you seem pretty set on restructuring already, and maybe you should talk it out more with your lead mentors and fellow leaders?

Since you asked about winning, I see winning as 70% strategy execution, 15% reliability, 15% your actual robot capability, 2% luck.

Start with Karthik’s Strategic Design presentation.

After that, CIS released some pretty excellent resources focused on this year’s game. It’s in the Whitepapers section; one of their mentors might come by to drop some links.

“Strategy execution”: Define your alliance strategy. Drive well enough to execute it. Drive practice with partners (other local teams). Your team needs to have a handle on the game, and your driver needs enough practice to execute. How much practice? All of it. Now double that. Double all of that practice. That’s still not enough. Practice more.

“Reliability”: Everything about the robot that prevents either practice time or match time from being used effectively.

“Robot Capability”: What you actually built, the sweet whiz-bang engineering bit. Be careful - if you spend too much time here, you won’t spend enough time practicing!

+1 on watching a bunch of Karthik video.

He says it in much more detail, but the top level takeaways to me are:

  1. Understand the game
  2. Decide what’s most/more/some/less/least important to do.
  3. Design and build a robot to do as many of those things AWESOMELY* as your team is capable of doing in about four or five weeks.
  4. Get LOTS of drive practice.
  5. Keep improving. (may mean becoming more awesome, or adding more things you can do well).

*: Doing one or two things awesomely is way better than doing three things decently or four things somewhat and definitely better than doing all five, but not really.

Here’s a link to the white paper from this past year! As of right now I definitely intend to do a other paper for 2019. I’m far from an expert when it comes to FRC strategy, but I think it’s always nice to hear other (outside) perspectives on game strategy, especially early in the build season. Reflecting back on the contents of the 2018 paper, I would say it’s a moderately valuable resource given the timing of when it was released.

I’ll echo the other posts stating that Karthik’s strategic resources are awesome. I learned a lot of what I know by reading through all of them.

Without knowing the current team structure that 3688 employs I can’t really comment specifically on what you should improve upon in that regard. Every team is structured differently and your existing structure has led to some success in the past. Did anything change from 2016 to 2017/18 as it relates to your team structure? I wouldn’t commit to wholesale changes until you can identify what caused your success in 2016 and what you failed to duplicate in the following years.

There are certainly things that can help to make your team more consistently successful. One of these is strategic design which others have mentioned already. Recognizing what your limitations are and building within those limits is arguably step 1 for on field success.

Another thing that I strongly believe helps teams is collaborating with the teams around you. If you haven’t already, open the lines of communication between your mentors/students and the mentors/students of other nearby teams. Bouncing ideas off of each other and seeing different perspectives is hugely valuable.

You can have a huge impact on your team’s success as a senior leader. When it comes to setting yourself up for success in 2019, I would start by recruiting your classmates to join the team, pushing for your team to do an offseason project in an area that your team can improve on (maybe develop a solid WCD that you can use in future games), and putting in some work to raise money.