Team Organization

I’m a student lead in an FRC Team - recently elected. Our club is independent from our school and runs in a garage workshop afterschool and on the weekends. I want to have students take lead roles so that I can keep track of the progress of different aspects during the season at the same time.

My question is this: What lead roles should I have, and what are some requirements that each lead should have? How should I go about assigning these?

We tried implementing this a couple years back and it backfired because our students aren’t set to a strict schedule. Most of them come when they are free and have time.

Thanks, I appreciate it!

Before you decide on team roles, I would suggest that you gather as a team and decide on what is most important to your team.

List out the objectives for the team and rank them in order. Once you have done this, create a Gantt Chart. Example Gantt Chart

If you can establish your objectives and then chart where they belong - it is much easier to establish roles. Choosing roles before you decide what your most important objectives are is futile. It can lead to absolute failure - especially if you have a small team.

Breakdown your team’s schedule into large bits (pre-season, Build Season, and Competition Season). Then take those and break each down into weeks or days.

Place the objectives into the season that they most naturally lie and then assign stop dates for each objective.

THEN decide on roles as to where each person’s talents lie and how often they can meet.

This will allow your entire team to see what is important - who is responsible for which area - and how you can cover for those team members that do not meet the deadlines.

Just my 2 cents.

If you don’t have many team members, a single captain (over the entire team) would most likely suffice. I don’t know how long your team has been functioning, but if one student stands out as the most passionate and dedicated to the team’s objectives, they would probably be a good choice for a leadership role.
On my team, we have two co-captains (one for fabrication and one for marketing) who work closely together, and then six department captains. Each co-captain is in charge of three departments, but they are not necessarily experts in all of them. Our team is 40 members, so this specific structure is probably a little more complex that what you are looking for. But the basic structure of captain(s) may be helpful.
Any captain(s) should be in contact with each other and everyone on the team. That way, they know who is coming to meetings and who isn’t. Structure is for efficiency.

I second Chief Hedgehog’s post. From my perspective, as team captain of 4607, I definitely realize the positive correlation between organization and success as an FRC team. Even in the two year period that CIS has been a team, we have already reformulated our organizational structure multiple times. Like Chief stated, start with making a “hit list” for your team that includes everything that needs to be accomplished in the preseason, build season and competition season. From there, it will be more apparent on how to divide your team into subgroups efficiently. Currently, we have the following main “squadrons” for the build season that each then include additional subdivisions: build, electrical, programming, marketing, PR, finance and strategy.

Our team is organized in the fashion that members can chose their level of team involvement time wise. We have found this to be successful in the sense that it allows for a variety of students to join our team, including athletes and those involved in our school’s theatre program. For each squadron, we have a student lead. For these leads, we often base decisions on three factors: dedication, reliability and experience. This being said, our student leads tend to be seniors that have had at least one year of experience in the squadron of which they are in charge. This leader then works with classmates and underclassmen so that we maintain a continuity of knowledge over the years. As a leader, expectations are that the individual supervises all operations carried out by the squadron and makes sure everyone stays on task and that goals are achieved according to the team’s timeline.

Another important leadership quality needed of student leads is to make sure team unity is present. The mission of FIRST is indeed to invoke a love of science and technology in young adults, but the often overlooked effect of FIRST is that of creating a second family for students. In my two years on CIS 4607, I have had the pleasure of meeting some of my best friends through the team. I hope everyone can have the same experience I have had in that sense. With a quality contingent of squad leaders, this should be no issue:)

That is similar to my team. We have co-captains (technical and business) (I am the business one), a safety captain, and three subgroup leaders (electrical, mechanical, and programming). Now granted, we are rookies. This might not change next year.

I think organization is very important for a FRC team. It enforces sustainability and helps everyone feel included. It also helps with commitment since people feel part of the ____ team.

Our three captains founded the team, so we and or teacher sponsor are basically over everything. Then our team members voted on the subgroup leaders at the beginning of the year. We voted and appointed our leaders, but I’ve heard of a team or two that let students volunteer to be on the executive team. Hey, whatever floats your robot. (yes that is a water game reference)

Whatever you do, be consistent about it. Most teams make a team handbook (ours is currently in the works) that outlines goals and guidelines. Also have a business plan so you know what you want to spend money on. Make sure every member gets attention too. Mentors and teachers can help with that.

Like ebrnc said, unity is very important. I met one of my best friends through FRC. :slight_smile: The robot might change year to year, but the team is forever. Learn from every season, and always improve. Good luck.

Our team functions with one captain (who fits a more managerial position) and many subteams with leaders: Mechanical, Electrical, Programming, CAD, Machining, Media, Business, Safety, Scouting, and Chairman’s. The reason we have so many subteams is because we have a relatively large team (IIRC, last year’s registry went over 80 at one point). The subteam leaders are the most skilled in their field and have executive power. They’re picked with about the same requisites that ebrnc listed.

These leaders work very closely with eachother and form a microcosm of the team as a whole. It’s not all equal though, some have more power than others. For instance, safety and scouting are often given to up-and-coming rookies and won’t have as much influence on the team simply because they lack the experience. In a similar vein, the technical subteam leaders will have more influence on the robot than media, business, or chairman’s will. Because they specialize in their field, it is difficult to function at peak ability when they’re not in the lab. Because of this, you may want to enforce a stricter schedule if possible (or pick subteam leaders who you know will be there almost every meeting).

Team organization is important, of course. But - if I may digress a little - one thing that I think should be emphasized more is team dynamic. The relationship between captains, subteam leaders, and other team members should be (at least roughly) ironed out before the season starts. How should you handle inter-subteam discrepancies? What should trigger an impeachment of power? Under who’s jurisdiction should Issue ‘A’ fall under? On our team, there is democratic power among the subteam leaders during arguments while the captain acts as a mediator. The mentors have pseudo-oligarchic/autocratic power if disputes get out of hand (There’s more to it, but I’ll cut it short for the sake of brevity). Because everyone has agreed on this system beforehand, we can go through any arguments as smoothly as possible. Of course, the way a team should behave is more of a case-by-case decision, and the way our team best functions may not apply at all to how your team will best function.

Sorry for the little tangent; but, I believe the two topics go quite hand-in-hand. No one wants drama to get in the way of the robot, but it will likely come up and it will be disruptive. Team dynamic will no doubt evolve during the season as well, but having some understanding of how to interact will make things run much smoother. If you prepare for both, then you’ll have a swell season.
Good luck! :slight_smile:

We have our main coach and a systems manager (who will be linking all of the sub groups together), Programing, Electrical (I’m leading), Chassis, Appendage, CAD(?) and Documentation. Systems needs general knowledge in all fields and everyone else needs to be a veteran in the group they want to lead.

Spencer, just so you know, CAD is mechanical’s job. For our team, according to what I heard earlier, all older, more experienced mechanical team members are going to be doing CAD, the actual design, and just giving specs to newer members so that they gain machining experience, which seems to be a good idea, IMO.

Here’s an excerpt from our team manual, regarding lead positions:

  • Team Captain / COO - Avak Archanian

The COO will serve as the non technical lead in charge of everything that is not the robot including, but not limited to: team logistics, fundraising events, team bonding, community outreach, and team finances.

  • Team Captain / Lead Engineer - Maddie Magno

This role serves as the technical leader in charge of everything that is the robot. The role includes but is not limited to: overseeing the part management system, maintaining the manufacturing schedule, managing the Gantt chart, setting the order list, and working with sponsors to get parts made.

  • Manufacturing - Adam Shrager

The Manufacturing lead is responsible for maintenance of all the machines in the shop and ensuring all parts are completed to spec. This means going through and measuring every part after the machinist has completed it and signing off on the drawing as well. In addition they are responsible for training on the machines and shop safety.

  • Public Relations - Rachel Alaynick + Ram Zallan

This position has three main functions: team to sponsor communication, communication with other teams in FIRST, and community outreach. The functions of team identity go hand in hand with this position so the position will also be responsible for social media and team branding.

  • Programming - Christian Locker + James Kradjian

The programming lead is responsible for the robot code. This includes a working drive code, manipulator function, and autonomous mode. Programming is a full time teaching/working position where the lead will have to not only get their own work done but ensure the upcoming programmers are constantly learning more.

  • Electronics - Sidney Ortega

The Electrical and Pneumatics lead is responsible for all electrical systems on the robot. This includes procuring batteries and all wiring for the robot as well as drawing full electrical system layouts. In addition to electrical systems the lead is responsible for the pneumatic systems on the robot. Ensuring that all tubing is routed correctly and we are safely operating our pressurized pneumatic system. This lead will work with the mentors to spec correct pneumatic cylinders for robot actuation.

We have 8 leads currently, but this is only because of our larger team size. We try our best not to be departmentalized, as everyone on our team does a little bit of everything. Like others have said, it all depends on the different aspects of your team, for example, if your team doesn’t have a dedicated machine shop like our team, you may not need a manufacturing lead. The system of leads updates depending on what your team needs, so it’d be hard to say exactly what you should do.

Tying way back to the first reply post, the bottom line is that the team organization is a means to help you accomplish your goals - if the structure gets in the way, CHANGE IT! 3946 Tiger Robotics has had a slightly different organizational structure (divisions split, merge, just plain change) each year in response to a number of factors (not necessarily complete):

Who are the leaders - make sure that the amount and type of responsibility matches people’s abilities and commitment levels (be challenging, but not overwhelming). We have split or merged divisions based on the would-be leader’s capabilities. Sometimes you have a good candidate for a single team captain; sometimes not, so you might have two co-captains with complementary strengths.

What worked well last year - keep it, or build/tweak on it slightly.

What failed last year - even if the structure should have worked, change it around. On at least one occasion, we eliminated a division not because it wasn’t needed, but because it had become a home for goof-offs the year before. Said (non-robot build) division became a “committee” instead.

On the other hand, don’t reorganize just because you can – while all improvement is change, NOT all change is improvement!