Team Organization

In this season, we had some difficulty with scheduling, paperwork, mentor and student involvement, student education, and organization.

How do you (and/or your team):

a) organize your team in and out of build season?
b) ensure that a student never has to ask, “what is that?” or “what does that do?” or “how does it work?”
c) schedule effectively?

This looks like a great thread in the making.

Instead of responding, I’ll just say that it would take me a day and a tour of our facilities to explain how we do it in a little rural town, on a small piece of rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. :slight_smile:

Team Organization IMO is the single most important foundation to a successful team or one that is on its way to being successful. Besides having the common construction, documentation, and administrative team, I’d add construction support, business manager, sustainability plan, and outreach as other important areas vital to team success.

**How do you (and/or your team):

a) organize your team in and out of build season?
b) ensure that a student never has to ask, “what is that?” or “what does that do?” or “how does it work?”
c) schedule effectively?**

I’ve learned in recent years that spending the time and energy to find mentors and experts in the above mentioned areas, instead of trying to do it all by yourself, will bring great success to your team. I see so many rookie teams where the teacher does 90% of all the work done to run a program.
Organize your team as a year rounded team.
Establish communication protocols between subgroups, weekly meetings, etc.
Schedule with an end in mind.

There are some great examples out there. It’s just a matter of finding them.

I agree with Glenn that if you start with the mindset that the team should be “year round” it pays off in the long run.

Take a look at the Mentor Resources Library. Although it needs updating <sigh> it has some good examples of team handbooks and team project management. http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc/content.aspx?id=14036

There are some links to resource papers on NEMO from this site, but here are all of them: http://www.firstnemo.org/resources.htm
Look for updates of the NEMO resources page this summer.

And there are also terrific examples posted in the white papers here on cd.

We use a business-like management system. We have two directors, one engineering director and one PR director. We have five managers, two engineering (mechanical and programming/electrical), two PR (outreach and chairman’s), and one scouting/strategy.

As for ensuring a student never has to ask those types of questions, I think they should be encouraged to ask those questions, and learn through the answers they receive.

This year, we had a system I personally did not like:

1 captain/leader
2 team managers (logistics and spirit)

The rest of the team was fit into these:
Minibot
Minibot Deployment
Programming
Electrical
Arm/Claw Design
Drive System Design
Fabrication
Field (Make the replica field and cart and ect)
Drive Team (arm operator, driver, coach, human player or analyst)

From September to December each year, we have “Pi Tech”, where we answer all those questions so that during build season we can focus on the myriad new questions that pop up. We meet once or twice a week and perform tasks normally required to build a robot.

For example, in 2010 Pi Tech we wired up a complete robot control system on a piece of Lexan. Everything to make the Pi Tech robot chassis (build by the drivetrain team, of course) able to drive was included, from battery to motors and everything in between.

So on January 8, 2011, the electrical team knew exactly what they had to do to make the real robot work.

Our team is trying to incorporate a system like the Pi-oneers, where we train new members pre-season. We had a small version of it this year, with training workshops etc, and it improved most general knowledge. We haven’t decided on the exact format for next years, be it building a kit bot from a previous year, from design to built, (re)building the t-shirt launcher, or just various isolated tasks.

We have a student leadership committee with the president and vice president, and captains for electrical, mechanical, business, and IT. The safety captain is also included. The students usually meet one day per week during build season with a group of mentors to discuss what still needs to get done, and what we need to look out for.

We try to do offseason projects to teach the students things. Even just designing something can be hugely beneficial: students can learn how to use the CAD software, become familiar with the design process, and learn to do the math associated with things without ever turning a bolt. In respect to not having students ask “what is that”, I’m not sure whether that’s about tools or cross-training team members. If it’s about tools, you could have someone who’s familiar with the tools and the safety procedures around them teach people to use them safely. In a perfect world, the veteran students will teach the rookies. That’s how I learned to use the tools. In respect to cross-training, we try to occasionally have team captains tell the entire team what progress has been done on the robot, either at a meeting, or through emails.

About scheduling effectively, we try to break up the build season into weeks, and post every task that needs to get done during that week on a whiteboard at the front of the build site. We haven’t had too much luck with the schedule being followed, though.