Team 4565 needs leadership help!!!!!

Hello-- I’m Gabe representing Team 4565 the coyotes out of Mesa Arizona

This year will mark my third year on a FIRST team. I have good and bad things to say about my experience on my team.(Just as i’m sure anyone would) My team is in its fourth year we started our first year off with ultimate assent (the year right before i joined) So far we haven’t seen much improvement as far as organization, robot construction, team effort and are lacking just the basic fundamentals in how a FIRST team should operate.

Now with that said this year i was given the position to finally turn our selves around.(basically starting from the ground up with a 3 year team) this is where i’m the most hesitant at this point. My plan is still in the works but i can pitch the basic concept. I believe strongly in we are building and inspiring future engineers of tomorrow. I have always preached that FRC is a high school level program so high school students should be participating. I understand that’s not always the case with every team as some have a reputation to keep within the FIRST community to be a “power house team” and have actual engineers come in a basically build the bot for the students. Which is somewhat understandable. But my long term goal for this team is to keep it classy as far as strong team effort and student participation goes.

My biggest thing is mentoring future team members. I for one came onto my team with some big ideas and aspirations for what i wanted to do. Thankfully i had a mentor who was a senior and was nice enough to help me complete some of those goals and trial and error at a lot of the things i wanted to accomplish. But thanks to him i am now team caption and lead programmer and i most likely wouldn’t have stayed on the team if he wasn’t there keeping me in line ;).

Another area i wanted to clarify was individual departments within the team. When i made fliers i divided it into departments for ex. strategist/programming, Mechanical and build, Business and finance/Human resources and website management and design(and possibly management of social media as well) at least what i thought the basic jobs on the team would be. Now this is where i couldn’t make up my mind on what to do. Basically this is where i guess you would get into workshops on off season. But lets just say for example that John Doe and Bob Smith both want to go for the same position and that position only really needs one person to specialize in it how would you go about giving them both a equal chance to excel in what they want to do and if Bob is better at website design than John how do i say hey John i know you really wanted to work on our website but here is a list of other jobs around the team you could focus on and when Bob starts to slip up you can take over??(I just need a little clarification on how to go about assigning jobs from the gecko)

One thing i was looking into was a gantt chart. A way to keep a organized workflow and time various tasks and set dead lines for various things within the project. I Just wanted to see if any other team out there was using the same method and if they found it effective or not?

put all the management out of the way one thing i mentioned at the beginning was team effort. I value being apart of a team and working unified as such but how do i bring our team closer and getting to know a little bit about one another? I understand that team bonding experiences are important but what would anyone recommend as far as effective team bonding?

I have to apologize on the length of this post as there is still a lot to be mentioned. I hope i have at least the most rudimentary concepts to pull this off and also looking forward to anyone’s ideas or criticism on the matter.

Hi Gabe,

Lots of great ideas! I’m sure someone will give you specific feedback on your ideas in a reply.

Two things I’d advise you to do as your team’s new captain.

  1. Get a lot of mentor support. Many of your questions can be answered or ideas better developed by collaborating with adult mentors on your team. They don’t have to be engineers either!

  2. Improve your written communication skills. Leadership capacity can be cut at the knees by poor communication. Pay more attention to how you present your thoughts in written form. A good reason to pay attention in your English classes :wink:

Focus on developing these areas to increase your leadership capacity and in-turn benefit your entire team!


Our team has had a lot of reorganization as well. As far as organization of team responsibilities goes, it is always a good idea to play into team member’s interests. If two people want to work in a field or position, let them co-exist in that project. The fact the one person knows more than the other just makes it more of a learning experience and opportunity for student leadership. Encouraging skill building in various areas can be useful, especially with careful use of language when describing the fields. As far as team building goes, my team has mostly bonded over traveling. Going to very regionals or off-season events definitely makes us stronger as a group and we’re all doing what we love. Project management is certainly a difficult issue and there are several ways you can go about it. One was is splitting up the team into various subteams and hopefully having a mentor for each subteam so that the tasks they have to do are strictly their own. Another are various project management websites and apps that can structure the list of tasks in a visually appealing and organized way.

Hope this helps!

Student participation is very important and you are striving towards an awesome goal in increasing student participation on your FRC team, but also part of FIRST is students working alongside mentors. Mentors are always there to help students and guide them during stressful situations throughout the season and during competition. I’m not saying your forgetting this key idea, I’m just emphasizing it.

As for gantt charts, Team 2052 KnightKrawler used the gantter plugin for google drive during the 2015 build season. As a team we never got to a consensus on whether or not it was useful, but it did a pretty good job at keeping our team leaders up to date on tasks to do during build season. I’d recommend your team to try it out(Possibly test it out with an offseason project or project of some sorts to see whether it suits your team or not). Here is a thread on gantt charts and how other teams thought they were useful or ineffective(Along with example charts used by other teams).

  1. Assigning jobs. I’d suggest that the most important thing here is that the teams reaches a consensus on how jobs, particularly leadership jobs, will be determined. You might want to vote for some (though I’d suggest against this for other reasons); you might want to include a skill test (e.g. for human player); you might conduct interviews. Whatever it is, figure it out as a team. And don’t undermine the positions of your own teammates: for instance, don’t say “when Bob starts to slip up you can take over”.

  2. Gantt charts. I’m a fan, particularly if you can get each department to buy into the deadlines beforehand and agree on task interrelationships. You’ll want it to be something you fully commit to, though. Let it take up a wall of your shop, or update a digital at every integration meeting. It’s a great tool, but only if you use it.

  3. Teambuilding. In my experience people get to building relationships pretty quickly when they’re locked in a build shop for 20-hour weekends. Eating together is always an excellent teambuilding activity, as are mini-engineering games and just playing frisbee outside. If you’re not sure what do to, don’t overthink it. Instead of trying to plan out something overly elaborate, just take the time to watch your people interact and see what they need. Adapt; remember you’re there to serve them.

This. And never ever, ever, ever let someone tell you that programmers (or engineers) don’t need to know how to write. Ever. Seriously. Don’t do it.

How your team is **organized **is not nearly as important as how well it communicates. Communication means that people speak, and people listen, and that they do it on **all **of the appropriate time scales. This means everything from the wiring team letting programming know that “yes, the battery is installed and you can load code now” to travel plans to robot design to passing on knowledge (aka mentorship). It also means that everyone knows who has what decision authority and respects it. If your organization supports communication for your people, it’s a good way to organize. If your organization inhibits or even doesn’t support communication, tweak it or replace it as needed. If two people are speaking at the same meeting at the same time and it isn’t corrected promptly, you have a problem. If a decision is made and the people who need to know (or even worse implement) the decision don’t know the decision or ignore it, you have a **serious **problem.

Remember, the *FIRST *mission is to inspire, recognize, and prepare people for careers in STEM. You don’t have to beat the powerhouse teams to do this, but especially as a leader you should always strive to make the most of the assets that your team has. Pick a strategy and stick with it (unless you **explicitly **decide to change it). And OBTW, you can neither stick with a strategy nor change it unless you’ve…

**communicated **it.

Be flexible. Don’t stick to an organizational structure if you don’t have the team members to pull it off. If there is no one person with all the skills required to be a team captain or department lead, maybe you need to assign two people with complementary skills to be co-captains or co-leads. Or vice-versa.

And on a related note, let me repeat a highlighted post I saw recently:

One of our sophomores this year won our “tribal knowledge” award for student mentoring, and another sophomore won our GP award. The team didn’t win any awards in 2014, or even qualify for eliminations, but I know we did **something **right last year. Don’t just teach STEM fundamentals; evangelize the mission and ethos of *FIRST *and your team.

Team 226 started using SmartSheet ( in 2014-2015 as our team project management tool. It has Gantt chart capability. We also use SmartSheet to create forms for sign up, membership tracking, and others. In the past, we used Excel, but that did not work well as it was difficult to share and edit by multiple students at the same time. We evaluated many different project management tools including:

Gantter (plugin)

and selected SmartSheet (at $400/year) as our tool. Gantter was eliminated from our selection because when multiple users are updating data, the last person’s data will override other user’s data. Gantter can still work well if only one person is allowed to edit the data at a time. In our first year using SmartSheet, we did fairly well by creating and tracking tasks. This upcoming year, we are seeking to further improve our project management skill by leverage more SmartSheet capabilities.

On communication, we use GoogleGroup to email team updates weekly to all members and parents. Parents really appreciate this so they know what is going on with team events and activities.

  • John