Too many newcomers

Hello, i am currently a senior and one of the leaders for our frc team.
Our team is, or was, quite a strong team. We have started since 2015 and went to the worlds competition twice.
However, most of the main members were seniors last year and they all have graduated. There are only 5 returning members including me.

The real problem came up when we got 50 new members this year.
We’ve tried everything we could - we made them build 4 different drive bases, and we made them make other robot parts like conveyors, intake systems, elevators, and many more.

I still don’t know what to do until kickoff.
Also, even when giving tasks only some did most of the work. This really improved their skills, but there are so many more left behind.

I have no idea how to fix this issue. Please share any ideas or past experiences that worked.

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I don’t see an issue here. You’ve given all these new students a pretty good head start and your team will now hit the ground running at kick-off. Many other teams (my own included) have not done this and will have a very steep learning curve come January.

As far as the some people doing all the work thing - welcome to the real world and just about every group project I’ve ever been exposed to.

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We have the same issue: lots of new blood! It sounds like you are -way- ahead of us! We have been running workshops to teach the various robot things, with breakouts for things like programming.

One thing you might add is driver training. I brought in three big RC cars and a pile of cones. These are peppy enough that they aren’t too far from real bots. Vex bots are waaay too slow! They are actually LESS maneuverable, though. That, in combination with our 2020-2021 robot gives the kids something to drive that has actual physics. There’s a lot of learning towards “the joysticks are NOT purely digital” and “wow, I can actually choose -not- to hit that cone!” Plus, the fun factor is high and people can watch, reset cones, and kibitz.

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In fact, we have! We’ve started driving our drive bases, and we made the new kids drive around pvc pipes.
But i still am looking for more ways to motivate them. Do you have any ideas for games they can play? I thought about robot soccer but the kids always ended up trampling and ripping the balls.

Keep up what you’re doing, you’re on the right track.

But don’t forget there’s more to FRC than just assembling drivetrains, mehcanisms, and wiring a robot. Start some other activities on the various other elements of FRC.
*Do a “mock kickoff” to rehearse how to quickly get the grasp of a new game and plan your strategy & design
*Get a group to start working on your Chairman’s Award essay
*Start a YouTube channel & train some students on video editing for weekly build season vlogs & your Chairman’s Award video
*Have some students start developing autonomous routines for your new drive bases
*Have some students start experimenting with different types of sensors on the various manipulators you built. What sensors are best for detecting different objects in different scenarios? What sensors are best for determining the current position of your mechanisms?
*Upgrade your pit for competitions. Have some students figure out how you can have improved storage, better banners/graphical displays, have portable seating, or accommodate more tools (like a benchtop drill press or bandsaw).
*Practice building bumpers so you can build them quickly and efficiently come build season. This is also a great chance to experiment with different ways to mount your bumpers, different ways to put your numbers on bumpers, different ways to change bumper colors, etc.

You’re on the right path, but there’s so many options out there for what you can do to help best prepare your team and the students that comprise it to be successful.

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You can always do mock-kickoffs. Choose a past game, present them with the animation and the rule book, and have them start designing. If you want to go as far as actually playing the game, nothing is stopping you!

Other option I highly suggest:
Present your new students with the Compass Alliance Pathways. They cover tons of basics, which is exactly what you want to train your new member in. Let them choose which pathway they want to work on and make sure you can implement everything in that pathway. As leaders, ask often what you can do to help them accomplish their pathway, but don’t insert yourself too much in the actual work, let them do it. By doing so, you let them take ownership of the challenges they face, which will inspire them to continue to push forward.

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Good problem to have and there have been good suggestions to deal with it. We are not in quite the same situation, but still, a team of 27 and only 7 with any build/tournament experience.

A couple of small ideas I’ve been either toying with or have done.

Precision part competition. We are operating almost entirely with drill press/miter saw sort of tech, so not as applicable if you are already in CNC nirvana. But, CAD designs a simple part and prints the cut sheet/blue print. six inch length of tube stock, 45 degree cut either end, a few .2 inch holes in the right places. Give another kid the duty of official inspector. A tote board to record variance in whatever parameters you prefer.

Parts ID. Just things taped to a sheet of something. What is this?

We are trying to standardize with a few fasteners and such, so much time wasted on the hunt. So…full points for something like: 10-32, button top, 1.5 inch. In my own personal Nirvana kids would always be able to find such things…

We are also stocking up designs to be posted on Github so we can fab things post Kickoff. Sure you can buy brackets and gussets, but it is better learning to design and laser cut your own. (We do have a sponsor who will cook 'em up for us…they want kids who know how this is done).

And so forth. There’s always more to do. There is never enough time to do them.

T

I totally agree with the “crazy challenges” idea. 3946’s post-season robot was designed to quickly stuff the pyramid into the exchange, with pretty good switch capability as well. When the 2018 post-season drive team practices became weary, I suggested that they “do it backwards”, that is, BUILD the pyramid from cubes pushed out from the exchange. It became a regular thing, and not only was it a great demo, it helped the driver to go from good to crazy good.
Outside of driving, things like “cleanest solder joint” and “strongest angle” can build skills through friendly competition.

We made a fictional game and bought some Romi kits. The returning students and new students are working together on two teams to compete against one another in our mock game, named Kitchen Katastrophe. We warned the returning students if they were caught doing all the work, we were going to duct tape oven mitts on their hands.

Dec 4th is our competition. Guess we’ll see how it turns out. The goal of everyone learning seems to be coming to fruition.

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i love that! can you tell me more about the rules for your game?

How about developing some other sub teams? Awards, media, business, animation, scouting, outreach…. As was said, there’s a lot more to having a successful team than building robots.

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It sounds like you guys are doing everything you can which is great! A lot of the suggestions I’ve seen are awesome ideas as well. I think most teams are in the boat you guys are in so I wouldn’t see it as a disadvantage at all. Speaking for my team we only one member (of our total 26) who has been through a regular FRC season. Of those 26, 12 are completely new to FRC. We are going through a ton of training, like we always do similar to what you guys are doing. In the end I’ve always found that first year on the team is a complete whirlwind for students (and mentors). There is SO MUCH to learn that the best teacher a lot of times is going through the experience. Occasionally we will have a first year student come in and hit the ground running but that is pretty rare. Even our kids who did a great job learning the ins and outs of build last year really don’t have any experience at a competition and that can be pretty hard to simulate. I’m not sure if any of this is advice as much as it is reassurance that you guys are doing the right things and those newbies are lucky to have a leader like you looking out for them and team!

This was the initial teaser we did up. We have since come up with slightly more formal rules and we have a 3rd team building field pieces (not described in this document). We have a Google presentation document that is more recent. I was planning to post a whole pkg after competition so we could also annotate observations and suggest alterations, as well as possibly CAD for the field pieces.

The field pieces are a ‘Pantry’ which has a rotating chamber and an AprilTag inside of it, a ‘Scale’ which is basically a teeter totter for 2 robots to balance and get points. Also a ‘Stove’ that needs to be ‘lit’ (a dynometer that a robot needs to drive on and spin to light an LED).

The game pieces are small metal tags with printed AprilTags representing letters in a secret ingredient.

Mini bot rules.txt (3.7 KB)

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What specific things are you doing to prepare your team for the FRC season?

For those newcomers who are involved, great. They will be the core of your team. Find out what they like/want to do and let them practice more. Examine old robots, wire up a test board for electrical or pneumatics or…

I am worried about the rest, though. Were they afraid to get involved? Fearful of failing or looking foolish? Overwhelmed by stronger personalities? Overwhelmed by things waaaay out of their (perceived) capabilities?

Or they joined on a whim, or for a better college application, or to just fool around or play games?

Find out. This is important.

If any of the first set of reasons (or similar), get them some one-on-one time so they, too, can get more comfortable doing things. Have them do things, but guide/help/mentor them until they gain some confidence. Just find out why, then address that issue head on.

If the second set, then perhaps they need to be reminded that it won’t be tolerated. If they are quiet and not disruptive, OK (e.g., they have homework to complete) but if they impede team progress in any way, it’s adios amigos, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. (OK, be more politically correct, but you get the idea). But first see if they will get involved, since their help can be valuable.

All that being said, do note that large teams often feel lucky to have as many as 35% of the members actually making significant contributions. Organizing a large team is a considerable challenge, and unfortunately some just get lost in the cracks. But it’s not a bad problem to have!

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You will likely find some good ideas by watching this excellent video series on managing an FRC team: This Is How We Robot - Season 1 - YouTube

we:

  1. split to four teams: all do different drive bases (swerve, tank, h, mecanum)
  2. build different components (roller claws, hoppers, chain & tubes, elevators)
  3. did inventory of all items we have
  4. started CAD education by making a google classroom and uploading assignments

for #4, we realized that telling them that each assingment is worth points and those points affect evaluation for drive team is very effective and motivating

I think this is a big problem that we have.
some kids are definitely overwhelmed by their more competitive peers, and i think they want to be a part of them but don’t have the personality to do so.
I want to find out how to involve them too but i got no clue.
Time will definitely help, as i was one of them, but i don’t think people normally last that long.

They definitely are afraid of being seen as foolish, and i need to construct an atmosphere that accepts that.

One of our real problems is that there are way too many kids who come but do nothing. They usually just do their homework or watch youtube, but some actually bother the working kids.

I think these are mostly the kids who have joined but lost interest. However, they cannot seem to leave because they have already paid their fees ($400).

Is there anything to alleviate this problem?

I would suggest you:
(0) Watch the videos I linked to above, and
(1) See which kids are interested in the “non robot stuff” (graphics, fundraising, business, etc), and
(2) Pair up an “accomplished” kid with one who is “afraid” and have them mentor them, and
(3) If someone is providing negative value (eg bothering others), give them a chance to do something positive and if they won’t, send them home. Tell them if it continues, they will be off the team w/o refund.

Kids who are afraid: work with them specifically, by invitation. Kinda don’t give them a choice. Ok to have 2 or 3 together, fir “xxxx” lessons (drilling. Cutting. Bolting. Riveting. Wiring. Whatever)

Non-disruptive kids: try to get them involved, but don’t worry if they don’t. Just make sure they understand that disruption will not be tolerated.

Disruptive kids: Speak to them privately as they are exhibiting the disruptive behavior, pull them aside and tell them if they don’t want to be productive that’s fine but they can’t prevent others from being productive. If they continue, give them their 400 bucks back and tell them to leave.