Too many students in the build site

This year we have a lot of people signed up for the team, however, our build site is nowhere near capable of supporting the entire population safely. We were wondering if some other teams had come up with an effective solution to manage students during build, maybe some sort of schedule or something? We would like to stay away from limiting student participation if at all possible.

Thinking about various roles within the team:
Do Strategy/Scout students need constant access to the workshop?
Do Programmers/Control students need constant access to the workshop?
Do Awards/Media students need constant access to the workshop?
Do CAD students need constant access to the workshop?
Are there physical jobs that could be done outside the workshop? For example, pneumatic plumbing, control board layout & wiring, sensor testing & calibration?

At competition, we have a 6-team member max in the pit. Those six people constantly fluctuate, but it’s a hard limit. (It also keeps those pesky adults away :slight_smile: ) Perhaps you could institute a similar limitation in your shop.

Maybe create a schedule - fab team has access in the beginning of the season; assembly team toward the middle; controls intermittently throughout etc.

But be sure that students who are not in the shop have valuable and structured projects on which they may work. FRC is becoming more and more not about the robot; there are always jobs to be done that don’t need to be done in the workshop. And also make sure all students have adult supervision and guidance.

What if a 2nd location isn’t an option? Has anyone had success with rotating students in each day? I’d imagine there would be issues keeping continuity on one project from day to day, but I don’t see many other options for teams with this issue.

We used to have this issue. It is particularly an issue around machine tools.
My suggestion has been to train people and qualify them to operate specific tools and then they are the ones that should be near them. If there are enough rotate those groups into that work area.

Now the only thing the other students need is a room as most of them have laptops. Generally it is much easier to find a room than build more shops.

We rotate and schedule students. Each technical subteam has multiple coleads who trade off days so that one is always present, and they work with their subteam mentors and members to schedule students. There is almost always a veteran student there two nights in a row to maintain continuity.

We try to have veterans attend 3 weeknights and half of Saturday and rookies attend 2 weeknights and half of Saturday. Those general guidelines change depending on the subteam and situation. Media, for example, doesn’t meet every night and during less hectic times, Electrical gives some members more nights off.

We used to take a survey at the beginning of the season to figure out what nights work best for students and then set a weekly schedule that stayed the same throughout the main build season and cut back a bit leading up to the competitions. Our Media team put together on online scheduler that subteam leaders can log in to to set schedules. Members can then log in and notify leaders if they can’t attend a meeting. It gets the job done well, assuming subteam leaders and members all do their part.

We do it with our small team. There are some continuity issues initially but that’s where you have to keep communication between groups.

And there are FAR worse problems to have. :smiley: Just wondering, what are the numbers before and after?

We had this issue and ended up relocating our entire team from a classroom to a warehouse. I don’t know how practical this is for your team, but it definitely fixed our overcrowding issue.

We’re thinking about doing rotations, but we’re definitely worried about continuity, like you said. Another thing is that we don’t want to disallow the most involved members of the team who are there all day and all night normally, so that takes up about 10 slots already.

We’re currently sitting in a 1,200 square feet area that we rent out of a strip mall. It’s bigger than a classroom, but not as roomy as a warehouse. The toughest part is that we have to have most of our meetings for other subteams (awards and programming mainly) at the build site as well because of the huge amount of overlap between members of each subteam.

It’s definitely a good problem to have, when compared with the converse…it’s just we never expected it to grow this much. And it’s only temporary, so I think if we can make it through this build season, it’ll be fine. Thanks for the advice everyone!

We split our team into a number of sub-teams and give each sub-team a day or two a week. That sub-team has the right to the shop. If other people need to do work in the shop, they can, but the designated team has precidence

This is an issue my team deals with pretty much every year (We have 50 members and our work space is roughly 12’x20’ Plus a classroom that we use for meetings on occasion). As a team we do everything in our power to keep students on the subteam of their choice so at times we have had a build team of ~15 kids. We handle the situation in a couple of ways:

Our CAD and Programming sub-teams work in the hallways outside of our shop which keeps them close enough that if needed they can come ask questions to the builders but for the most part will stay out of the way, this helps out in a huge way to keep the space relatively usable.

Nearly everything in our shop is on wheels, so a the beginning of our meetings we roll everything out of the shop (including stuff like past robots, tools, hardware, etc.). This is another way to really optimize the space you have.

We avoid doing shifts on our build team because of the disconnect it often causes in projects but often do it for both CAD and Programming, often they either work in two or three hour chunks.

As far as your particular situation goes I would highly recommend that everyone has a dedicated space so sub-teams stay out of each others way (like a corner where all the cadders congregate).

We stole a page from MORT’s playbook and are doing this. If not qualified you have to stay away. We have a lot of room, but we also have 115 students on the team.

Plus, we spread out for ‘clean’ work, even if it is in a hallway, anything that isn’t in the build space. As long as we respect the rooms and leave them as we found them, near by classrooms are available to us.

We work out of a mentors garage - a nice garage - includes a Bridgeport, nice lighting -
We have grown from a team of ~ 15 for a few years to now a team over 50 students.

2 years ago at about 35 students we experienced lots of issues with overcrowding.

Last year we developed a 2 shift system with sign-ups to keep at any one time a limit of about 16 students - which we we feel can effectively work in ~4 subteams. Mentors also shared time. Requires lots of communication to keep things moving forward in one direction - but in general we felt it worked to keep all students as engaged as they wanted and to keep enough continuity between shifts.

We have grown again another 10 students - so we will see how that goes.

3946 is working out of a single rather large science classroom with adjacent storage rooms. To help with the crowding and time involved in setup/breakdown last year, we purchased rolling shelf units, one for mechanical department, one for controls (wiring and pneumatics), and they’ve helped a bunch. We also have an exterior door with a concrete pad outside, so most of our major cutting takes place out there in decent weather. We also have a single coach who pretty much has to be there for every session,so we didn’t want to double the number of sessions - and we have enough trouble coordinating across departments when we’re all in the same room!
This year, we put a t-shirt/mini football launcher out for several of our home games, and there were about twice as many interested in the team as we could possibly support. We decided to have tryouts - each mentor (and several of the veteran members) came up with a “challenge”, which ranged from building a tower out of dry-erase markers and plastic coins to wiring up a basic circuit to “pressure math” to programming an arduino to make mods to the standard “sweep” servo demo program. We graded on both aptitude and attitude. About 30% of the initial applicants decided during tryouts that they didn’t really want to do this after all, and another 10 to 15% were eliminated based on disruptive behaviour or a half-hearted approach to the tasks. We’re counting on attrition to get us down to where we need to be by build season, though we haven’t eliminated the possibility of a second cut. We used the aptitude portion of our testing, combined with student preferences and department needs, to assign departments.
Throughout the tryout process, I was a bit disappointed that we did this because we had to. After the first actual meeting following selection – I want to do this every year! There is just no way to adequately compare the energy and attitude with previous years. With the disruptors and whiners away, the energy of both students and mentors is contagious.

When I was a mentor for 1646 at Purdue back in…2007 (I think?) we tried to do rotation, but with mentors - not students. We were doing this because all the team mentors were college students though (no professional engineers, and just 1 un-involved teacher that was the non-college/high school student), and it was tough to take that much time away from a college course load

What we basically did was something a schedule like this A+B team (get everyone on the same page); A team (X meetings in a row); A+B team (one night, update B team on A team problems/solutions/progress), B team (X meetings in a row), then repeat.

This doesn’t meet your needs exactly. It might be feasible to have your different subteams on different schedules so that the A+B team nights isn’t the whole team, but only say the whole manipulator subsystem or whatever.

It’s simultaneously great and not-helpful that all your non-building subsystem teams are also involved in the robot building process. It’d be great if they could just meet somewhere with some computers or wifi access and get some of the work done remotely. That might help some nights, but it doesn’t sound like it would be a solution.

Best of luck to y’all this year. It’s a problem that needs a solution, but like you mentioned it’s a good kind of problem to have!

Our team is at a boarding school, so it may be hard for other schools.
For our build and electronics teams during build season, we have two schedules. Our team breaks in half (mostly due to the day/boarder differences, but not always) and one team meets right after school while the other meets after dinner (7-ish). Usually the teams will prototype different types of robots (with the same base and driving system) and then decide on one. Once they decide on one, the two teams tackle different parts of the robot and practice schedules change depending on who wants to work on what. Every Monday we have an all-team meeting (including all other subteams) to go over progress and goals for the week where people can ask questions and have input. Everyone has one day off during the week and weekend practice can be attended by anyone who wants to come. During the weekends and Monday afternoons are when all builders meet and work together.
Programming and Business usually meet in a different place or at a different time.

Well, even once we separate the non-build subteams there are still a lot of students we would like to involve in the building process. We may just do the rotations idea.

Once we are in the STEAM center, any overcrowding problems should go away.