Training New Members?

Hi all!

I’m the mechanical design lead for team 4904 Bot-Provoking, and I’m trying to come up with some fun but effective training activities and lessons for next year’s freshmen. There’s a catch, though… I’ll be a sophomore next year, so I have virtually no experience with training new members at all (training on our team this year wasn’t spectacular this year, either, so I don’t have an example to follow). Does anyone have any suggestions for:
-ways of teaching CAD
-ways of teaching everyone at their own rate
-ways of keeping everyone engaged and wanting to come back

My current plan is to start with something really fun to get the new members engaged… maybe teaching prototyping by having them build 2016 shooters? Then we could use this as a lead-in to basic CAD, with the recruits transferring the dimensions of their prototypes into CAD and then laser cutting new shooters? Then I’m thinking of making a series of presentations about concepts and applications of these concepts to give during meetings. One issue we faced this year was people missing meetings and not learning key elements, so I’m also planning to create a series of videos that go over the concepts covered in the meeting presentations and post them on our website.

I’ve got a basic idea of what to do, but after having done FRC for a year I’ve learned that basically nothing works according to plan the first time, and things generally cost twice the money and three times the time expected. Feel free to share what you do for training on your teams! Cheers!

Prototyping a shooter sounds rather finicky for a starting point. How about a harvester for phase 1, working up to the shooter, and (if you get that far) an indexer?

Our philosophy on this is a bit sideways to yours, as several years we have been much better at recruiting than at having enough space, equipment, or mentors for all the students. We go heavier on the slow parts early, and get most of our attrition out of the way well before build season.

In general, the best way to promote people learning at their own rate and keeping them engaged is to find some way for them to learn on their own time - which may mean helping them install the CAD software on a personal laptop, having a lot of open shop time, or taking projects home (watch your liability to injury and things not coming back).

Why even start them on robotics? I am starting to feel the more and more I challenge my students to come up with ideas for a robotics based design project the more they put themselves in a feedback loop that tells them they don’t know enough about robotics to design a creative robotic solution.

If you erase the stigma that you are training your freshman to be mechatronic engineers and replace it with the stigma you are training your freshman how to come up with creative solutions, use CAD, Build their creative solutions, and work as a member of a team. Then you can start with things that are a lot more fun such as impromptu design projects, team building exercises, Scrap Bin sculpture contests, etc. All with the same end goal that I mentioned above.

As for a few minor things such as you saying something along the lines of since you are a sophomore you don’t feel prepared enough to train these freshman. Kill that feedback loop in your brain now. I am probally not the alumni/FRC member that has taken on a executive role their sophomore year and led a team to win a regional, go to worlds, and be 2nd place alliance captain at a state competition. You are probably a bright minded individual who was put into your current position because people believe in you. There is a plethora of knowledge online on how to train people and how to be a solid team leader. I would check out youtube and just google things like “Training volunteers” “Project Leadership” “Engineering Project Management”

On a closing note, Use Prezi instead of power point for your presentations, and good luck.

This year our team tasked newbies with creating vex bots that could place 1 inch diameter balls in a 3 inch high goal. This seemed to be very effective in engaging new members and a lot stayed in the team. I was a freshman newbie this year and I found them to be a great way to introduce newbies into robotics.

That makes a ton of sense. I’m just worried that they won’t want to take their work home and learn on their own time (most of my class didn’t this year, so only a couple of us ended up learning)

Oh I totally forgot about vex! I think that would be a super great idea. Did you expand upon the fundamentals of vex into some more FRC related concepts?

I think you bring up a great point with the whole feedback loop about not knowing enough regarding robotics. Maybe we will start with team building and simple activities at first! Thanks so much for sharing.

Very much this. There’s only so much anyone can learn in the limited hours you spend at robotics, especially pre-build season. A dedicated team member will learn far more on their own than they do at meetings.

One thing that helps keep people engaged on their own time is being sure to use an online team communication tool like Slack or Basecamp (we use Basecamp, and we absolutely love it). Having a communication channel open between mentors and students at all times is invaluable. A huge portion of our programming development (which has been one of the biggest improvements on our team this year) occurs outside of meeting hours, and this is only possible because everyone involved is constantly in contact.

For the purposes of training, I want to illuminate the distinction between CAD and Design. Cad is simply the tools of cad. Knowing how to sketch, extrude, revolve, all that good stuff can be learned from online tutorials at student’/ own pace. Once kids know a good chunk of cad, they can begin to learn design. Design is all about figuring out what to cad. There’s a big jump between saying go cad a shooter and actually being able to cad a shooter. Most of that design knowledge comes from experience, but it can be taught at some level. Try taking inspiration from your old robots in house, other teams that have posted cad, 973 ramp videos, all of these resources combined with a good foundation of cad knowledge will really help your students learn a lot and learn it quickly.

That’s actually exactly what our team does and how I ended up learning CAD. This doesn’t really work for everyone though, so I was looking for a kinda one size fits all (if that exists) approach

What cad software do you use? If it’s Solidworks, introduce your students to Solidprofessor or one of the many other great online tutorial series (There’s probably some equivalent for other cad software, I just don’t have specific examples). That’ll allow your kids with other interests or who aren’t quite ready to work from home to learn at a slower pace, but also learn the same things as your kids who are all-in and are ready to devote tons of time. Having the same system where kids can work at their own pace is vital to the success of a cad team, especially on a larger one.

Absolutely concur! We use Slack, and we have two mentors who track it daily (or more often) all year round, and the great majority track it several times a day during build/competition season. Having a comms channel open serves so much more than training - we use slack to coordinate demos, sponsor-pickup days (two this coming week!), and meals during build season as well as mentor support and build coordination. The two essential elements of a team are a common purpose and trust – and clear communications supports both!

We use slack as well, and it’s a really really valuable tool to have.

We are in a similar position and planning the following.

Section 1: Instructor led SolidWorks installation and setup. Creating your first Part SolidWorks tutorial

Section 2: Part Development and 3d Printing. Applying the knowledge from Section 1, create a hub to accommodate a ½” hex shaft. Install Apex and utilize Apex to 3d Print the hub.

Section 3: SolidWorks Assemblies tutorial
Section 4: SolidWorks Drawing tutorial

Section 5: Project 1a: Create a climber for the 2017 SteamWorks
competition. This includes creating multiple parts for the climber and creating drawings to be used to make these parts.

Section 6: Project 1b: Download the standard parts to be used with the climber and combine the standard parts with the custom parts in project 1a into an assembly.

Section 7 and 8: Project 2: Create chassis rails, bearing block and gearbox plates following the 973 Greybot Videos WCD Part 1. Create a full chassis assembly based on the same video.

Section 9: Project 3: Create a 2d Arm sketch based on the FRC 973 Greybot Video Designing Linkages with Sketches

Section 10: Sheet Metal Tutorial

Our driving factors for the above included

  • Get SolidWorks installed on student computers, so they can get started and work independently
  • Get them excited about CAD and robotics by having them 3d print a design in their second CAD session
  • Project Climber: Get them working as a team by working in teams of 3 students to CAD, design and build the climber.
  • Project Climber: The machining for this project is the checkoff for students to use tools in the machine shop
  • Project Climber: In parallel, we will support each team on the motor choice, gearing, sprocket choice, axle spacing and chain length with the students investigating and implementing their solution. This will move them down the robotics parts, resources and design knowledge path.

If our new students complete the above through Section 6, we will have some nice capability.

Note, this is our proposed approach with our first section in a week. I would like feedback as well.

This looks like a pretty good curriculum. I wonder, how long do you anticipate each section taking? I think some of your sections around the middle (esspecially the projects) will take a few meetings to complete. That should work out well though, as you have already spent a few meetings doing training.

We are allocating 3hrs per section. I expect students will complete the early sections quicker than this which allows them to start working on their own. I expect the latter sections will generally be completed by students self teaching with a mentor available for questions and guidance.