What to do with a large team?

Our team has 100 people this year, and in the past, the most we’ve had was around 45. After deciding to cap electrical, programming, and design at 10 people each, we have 70 people on our mechanical team. We’re going to have people work on the robot and field components, but what are some other mechanical tasks our team could do so they are not just sitting around?

The other option would be to move people into the other subteams but what other tasks could they do there?


We have 6 subteams on 3082, each of which has a lead. There is some mobility but we try to keep people focused on one so that they can specialize:

*Programming ~5 people]
*Electronics/Pneumatics ~5]
*Build ~10]

and then the three you’re looking for (probably)

*Awards (Chairmans, E.I., Entrepreneurship etc) ~5]
*Business (getting sponsorships, maintaining relationships with sponsors) ~5]
*Public Relations (relationships with the school, organizing public events, social media) ~10]

Note that this a new system for the 2018 season, as Awards, Business, and PR were all consolidated into the “Outreach” team during 2017. However, we decided to split it up since we had a LOT of people on Outreach. So far, it seems to be working fairly well with getting people focused on specific areas of outreach. It also helps that we have a much smaller team than you. PM me if you have any questions about this system.

I think it’s pretty common that “everyone wants to be on build.” It’s definitely something that we have run into, but it is important to emphasize as early as possible that you realistically can’t have more than 10 (15 if you stretch it) working on the robot. You don’t want to disappoint people come build season. However, everyone does play a part in strategy, design, and basic prototyping (cardboard, 80/20, scrap wood) which is a lot of fun.

EDIT: I looked at your TBA and it seems like you are in a similar place to us, with a limited awards history. I personally think that you should get a couple of people (especially those who can write really well) to focus on that.

Here at NRG, we start every year with about 150 students. We are divided into 4 technical (CAD, Mechanical, Programming, and systems/electrical) and 2 non-technical (Marketing and Business) Sub-groups; each having their own chief officer CTO and CEO respectively. Additionally, we have a few optional teams such as IT, Outreach, and Media as well as our try-out positions of drive team and pit-crew.

We do not limit student partion in anything; however we require that in our training season each student be registered as part of a subgroup. Teams and try-out position are optional and secondary to your primary subgroup. As the year goes on, our team naturally becomes much leaner, averaging out to the 30 core students who attend DCMP and World’s. Being a core member can means putting in over 40 hours of work a week, an investment simply too high for most students.

tl;dr: The numbers will naturally thin out as students decide what clubs they really want to devote their time to.

People have been saying to have a business subteam, and while we do have that, how many people could that consist of realistically?

Depends on what all you think is part of business. If it’s just sponsorships and sponsor relations (like it is for us), no more than 5. You’re going to have people sitting around a lot otherwise. If it also includes our PR subteam, then probably 10-15. Add 2-5 on top of that for awards.

God I hope you have several mentors!!
There are other non robot related thing for students to do.

Video stuff: Vlogs, reveal vids, documentary, how to’s

Scouting: developing a system paper or computer

Public relations: Seeking sponsors, spreading the FIRST/ STEM message, team spirit


Animation: there are awards for this

Developing a business plan: there are awards for this too

Chairman’s award:

Other build projects
t shirt cnnon
robo chair
tote bot
Re doing your pit

Good Luck!!!

So far, we’ve been assigning groups of students to work on separate offseason tasks. For examples 1 group of 4 students works on dismantling the left side of a 2015 robot elevator, while another groups works on the right side. “Group leads” who are generally in their second year, float around helping teams that need it. This worked great until this week, when our team started to grow bigger as members started inviting their friends.

If you do come to the point of everyone wanting to be on build (or a lot of people) after the prior subteam divisions, you should implement a rotation system. Our team has more than doubled, so I am in the midst of planning one now. Essentially, students in mechanical (where we have almost 35 students) would be grouped into '5’s. Each group would have a letter (A-G in my case). Depending on the outstanding tasks on our team management tracker (Trello), groups will be assigned to different things to work on. There can be multiple groups on the same day and time, but they would just be working on different things.

I myself am trying to improve this system before implementing it, as I have some foreseeable concerns.

1.) People like to be with their friends. While I am accommodating for 2 optional friends they want to be in groups with, it is difficult to get everyone involved. I know I came to robotics because my friends joined, and I don’t want to change the culture too drastically where it feels like an extra class.

2.) When you implement groups, schedule conflicts are inevitable. Because we meet everyday after school, it allows for students in multiple activities to be a part of robotics without sacrificing one or the other too drastically. But if a certain group is only called one day of the week, during which the member has a conflict, they would miss a significant learning opportunity.

I’ll update the thread once I implement the rotation/have updates on my concerns. Best of luck!

Maybe do a survey or set up a Google sheet for team members to fill out to communicate when they’re available, and come up with the groupings based on that? Good luck - managing a large team so everyone’s busy, happy, etc. is a real challenge so matter the setting. You’re going to learn a lot, but it will be frustrating at times.

Completely overlooked asking them their availability directly. Won’t solve everything, but will definitely make coordinating easier. Thanks!

It’s a challenge, but I love it. Having gone from ~20-25 members to ~50 was quite the shift, but it just brings more enthusiasm into the lab!

We’re building 3 offseason robots to give everybody enough work. We have a group working on a west coast drive system, another trying to duplicate 254’s shooter/feeder in time for an event in November, another group doing an articulating arm similar to previous “pick & place” FRC games, and a tee shirt cannon attachment for our fundraising robot.

If you guys have enough mentors I’d just divide up a few projects… We’re already seeing attrition and shaping up to have a core team of about 20-ish passionate students for January (our kickoff probably had around 40-45 show up). Which is great because we usually have about 10-12 kids who are passionate.

We got feedback that even with 25-30 we’ve had over the past few years that only a few kids could actually do work; so we just gave them more robots and projects. I feel like it should be a big payoff in January with the experience that they’re getting.

4607 was on this trajectory 4 years ago. We decided to start a FTC team for the next season and it has been a success. We are now up to four FTC teams and looking to add a fifth team.

We have found that these students that have been a part of the FTC experience wish to stay with their FTC team and then turn ‘Varsity’ on our FRC team later. This allows us to develop more mentors, stronger FRC members, and better quality robots throughout all levels.

If you insist on remaining 100+ students each year, then you will have to look at your team’s structure. We are now up to nine different departments for 60 students. We have Logistics, Business/Marketing (see DECA), Safety/Inventory, Programming and Web Design, Engineering, Fabrication, Strategy and Scouting, Electrical and Wiring, and Chairman’s.

My team, 1002, was faced with this issue many years ago. While having the extra human resources can be a blessing, it also requires a whole lot of planning to manage effectively.

What I can recommend is to go ahead and think strategically for the long term. Is expanding your program to accommodate 100+ students in your vision for the team? Would it be better to be selective and only allow a few people to join? Would it be feasible to add FTC/VRC/BEST teams? As a team, you should think about these questions and what your vision for the team is.

If you go down the route of wanting to expand, some additional thoughts…

What proved best to CircuitRunners all those years ago was adding additional competition teams and other initiatives in following years as we expanded. Last time I checked, the program had 130+ students with an FRC team, two FTC teams, a BEST Robotics team, and a GRITS (offseason FRC) team. In the past we’ve also done VRC and Zero Robotics. In addition, we’ve had around 8-10 students who work on year-round outreach and sponsorship opportunities as well as “executive” student leaders who spend their time managing the entire operation. On the business side, we have people dedicated to social media, awards, PR, advocacy, build documentation, media, recruitment, conflict resolution, finances/procurement, and training/on-boarding for students and mentors… all of which had an increased role that needed to be definitively assigned due to the expansion of the organization.

I guess my point is if you do decide to expand, be prepared for the extra management commitment. While it can be a tough beast to figure out, I honestly view it as a great learning opportunity and real experience in how a large organization works!

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Besides dividing up like other people said. For mechanical I would use this as an opportunity to build a practice bot. But if you cannot do the practice but I would have people prototyping constantly to come up with the best design. Say it’s a manipulator you can use the 30lbs load in to your advantage by making it the best it can be after stob build and doing much better than you would have without it.

This year my team has 26 if all members come every day it will be perfect for our setup. But we always love more.

Some teams break the team into 2 or more teams. Meaning they create more separate teams that compete independently which usually the mother team supports and sponsors the child teams. However this only works if you have multiple or a very VERY large work area.

With a large team I immediately think “community outreach”. Even if you only get 25% participation in a “neighborhood cleanup day” you still have 25 warm bodies.
We have 80 students on our team and we experiment with different methods all the time. During build we assign students to certain days. i.e. Tuesday Thursday, Saturday afternoon or Wednesday, Friday, Saturday morning. Our class requirements has everyone showing up on Mondays. Things get crazy so we will generally have less experienced students help with other teams like field, Chairman’s, fund raising, etc. Sometimes they just make buttons.

Building a single robot doesn’t scale well to even >5 people at one time. It gets pretty crowded and hard to work.

Prototyping, on the other hand, scales well with huge numbers. More people = more prototypes. Our team will usually have 2-5 people working on one prototype, and the more 2-5 person groups we have, the more prototypes we get to try.

In short:

Prototype a whole lot more than you ever thought you needed to. Prototype effectively. Prototyping concepts to perfection is where World Championship winning mechanisms are made.

Build multiple robots, if you have the budget for it. This doesn’t cleanly double the number of people working on robots since they are not usually built simultaneously, but it does help.

Fundraise to allow for a big enough budget to accomplish both those things. If you have this many people, it does get easier.

Finally, do recognize that most teams when they are that large will have a “core” group of 10-20% of the students and then less committed students on the “fringes”. Figure out how to best engage these groups (eg pairing committed students with less commited ones).

if you have enough resources I would recommend making 2 robots.

Wow! That’s great. We also found ourselves heading to 50+ team “members” and had to make a change. After a certain point, we really could not be sure to offer a solid FRC experience. Many of the students were not fully comitted and we are mentor limited…

We implemented a tryouts period and we don’t take everybody. Recruiting night is the last week in August and we lock in the team selection in November. During that time we do tech training, outreach, off season competition and have some fun activites to see how the applicants will get along. We are looking for motivation and dedication.

Then we pick the team. The first year we did this was AWFUL for me. I felt like a really bad person for not taking every student… However, the results were immediate and the new team structure was better than ever. All of the students were more focused and the team vibe was better. Our team had a really good year and the next recruiting night brought 170 applicants. Please note that a lot of our aplicants find that they are overcommitted or that perhaps FRC is not what they want to do. We make it clear that FIRST is a big committment and will take a lot of their time.

The next year, we also started a second team. Basically we divided the group into two teams. It’s been a resource challenge (Mentors and space mostly) but great for our teams and way better for the students.

IMHO, you can do ANYTHING with a 20 student team. We know teams who do a great job with less. As the team gets much larger it is hard to make sure everybody has value added work to do.