Your Team's Hierarchal Structure & Methods of Organization


This year was our rookie year, and we’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit. However, most of us think that if the leadership were to be more coherent and do its job more effectively, we could achieve even more.
Thus, we are currently in the stages of building a new leadership under a new CEO.

As part of that leadership, we are to assemble a new hierarchal structure for the team, and work out new methods for the sake of discipline and organization.

My request from you, dear experienced FRC teams, is to help us out on the following:

  1. Your team’s hierarchal structure. That is, how your team separates its members into several divisions (i.e Engineering, Electronics, Programming, etc.) in a set structure.

  2. What methods does your team deploy to motivate people to do their job? Do you require them to be around for a set hours a day?

We’re hoping for enough cooperation so that next year our FRC experience would be even better. All sort of input would be highly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,
team #3075

Please share some info about your team.

Relative team size:
Mentor Involvement:
School Involvement:
Access to resources:

These variables can be independent to success, but they will effect recommendations on how to organize a team for success.

Our team’s organization is outlined in our team handbook which you could find here: This handbook is from 2007 where we had a pretty large team, and some students covered more than one role depending on what they were doing and how much time they wanted to put in. For example, a communications leader could also be on the one of the build subteams. Check out other teams’ handbooks for more ideas on organization. Our handbook gets updated every year.

We tried motivating kids by keeping track of how many hours they put in and then judge if they should letter in robotics. Parents then spoke up and the requirements for lettering changed so it’s not based on hours but on other requirements. We have not kept track of hours since because some team members weren’t completely honest on the sign in sheet and not everyone who was there logging hours was productive. I would not recommend logging hours or offering letters to students in robotics. Very few teams offer letters and being on a FIRST team should pay off enough. Kids should already be motivated to build the best robot they can, and learn as much as they can. They shouldn’t need extra incentives.

Thank you both for the swift response.

I was actually asking how your team is built, in order to assess the varying structures and eventually come up with one for ours. Here it is, though:

Relative team size: It was pretty small this year (our first) - 12 members. We’ve been recruiting lately, and can expect at least double the size for next year.

Mentor Involvement: When it comes to practical work, our mentors don’t do anything. So far, they helped us with organizing the team on the run and supplying resources, but that’s about it.

School Involvement: The project is based in our school. We’ve been working closely with the school’s management this year, and hopefully next year as well.

Access to resources: Our mentors help us out with that.

Regarding the methods of work motivation. You see, being our first year and all, most of our school wasn’t too excited about this “new robotic thingy”, so only a select few signed up and later on in the project, most of them resigned, leaving the team with only twelve dedicated members.
However, since we’ve won the Rookie All-Star award at our regional and got to enjoy a cross-atlantic vacation in Atlanta, everyone is hyped about it right now.

Our worries is that people are going to sign up just for the sake of going to Atlanta or enjoying the fame that comes with winning a few prizes.
With that in mind, our purpose is to motivate them to actually work their $@#$@#$@# off like we did last year… only we lack the method to do so.

As for the link to the notebooks - thank you very much! it is highly appreciated. If I only knew this existed before… :rolleyes:

Team handbooks are a great way to learn about how teams organize themselves. FIRST links to top team handbooks]( on their website. They also have a page of resources for new teams, which might help you guys with organization as well. Chief Delphi is also chock full of team handbooks, and posts about team organization if you dig around a little.

Even at the ripe old age of seven years, our team is still working on how we organize ourselves. As our team matures and develops new goals, and as our size and mentor number changes, we have to change our leadership to fit along with it. Our current team size is about 30 including all of our members, but there is always a small core group of very dedicated students. This happens on most teams.

Right now, our leadership structure is based off of a 5-person student management team with a President, Vice President, Community Liaison, Treasurer, and Secretary. These students organize the activities of the whole team, taking into account the input of all of the team members. Each has different responsibilities, but overall they control how the team interacts with students, families, mentors, sponsors, our school, our community, and other teams. You can read about these roles in our team handbook (open the folder that says “Team Documents” and then click the link that says “Team Handbook 08-09” and it will open the Word document). We’re expanding upon that for next year to give each role a subcommittee to help accomplish its goals, as our goals grow larger each year.

Students also organize themselves into subteams like mechanical, electrical, programming, strategy, documentation, spirit, community, etc. Usually subteams have their own mentor that supervises them, and students tend to take leadership roles upon themselves to organize the teams. We’ve tried structures like “declaring” a subteam in the past, and we’re probably reorganizing the structure for subteams this year as well. There are many methods that can work, it depends on your team’s philosophy and approach to FIRST.

Having a solid system of organization that works for your team is important to keeping your team happy and successful. I’m glad to see you’re doing your research to ensure a great next season. Good luck!

if you do not get much of a response, it could be because there are numerous threads covering “your question” at length.

We have about 24-35 students typically. Our ground rules are the School is responsible for supporting the program from a Disciplanary and Attendance standpoint. Mentors are of Technical and Non-technical. We currently have 3 “full time” technical mentors, and then 2 Non-technical for website, and Chairman’s related activities. We also have parent and school support (some teachers). We have 1 overall team leader that is a mentor. during the build season we break up into functional groups. Each of the 3 tech mentors has a area they lead, and then an area of expertise they advise on. Each mentor typically works with about 6-8 students on a regular basis.

The reason I asked about “your team” was:

There is a lot of danger in:
"With that in mind, our purpose is to motivate them to actually work their $@#$@#$@# off like we did last year… only we lack the method to do so.

Often in large groups, 20% of the people will do 80% of the work (not always, but often). If 80% work is good enough to win, you can kick the other students out. If not, then you still need them.

Not everyone involved wants to or will work their &^$%&^$ off. A good leader gets the most they can from those involved and figures out how to get success from that. We always try to make sure there are no net negatives (i.e. way more effort put into them than you will ever get out). A really good goal is to get more students involved, and have them commit to a certain level that you can expect/rely on them to achieve. (5 hrs/ week, 10, 20…). Since travel for your team is likely very costly. I would have a minimum involvement level in order to get to go on the big trip. That can mean hours, fundraising, or a combination of things. This minimum investment level tends to weed out the participants looking for a free ride. Keep it as reasonable as you can. We do our best to reward good behaviours and remove bad behaviours.

Relative team size: ~15 students, ~10 mentors, several parents, ~3 graduates

Mentor Involvement: varies from time to time. our mentors prefer to let the students work by guidance.

School Involvement: we’ve been forced to move into our school this year. we have a lab with lathes/mills and a prototyping cnc that we are allowed to use, as well as CAD software and other computer stuff.

Access to resources: varies, obviously the above plus our sponsor, DANA, occasionally lets us use their ‘real’ cnc [3’x3’x5’ ish work area]

Student motivation: all of the current students were convinced to join for various reason and almost all (actually all but 1) are still on because they enjoy the program. Its fun, simply.

Travel: students must have 60 build hours in, all of which are scheduled for ‘normal’ meetings, however, multiple students have amassed over 100 hours in the build season and in '04 one student pulled ~150 hours and it has to be signed by the mentor the student worked with. during the trip, every 4 students has to have a chaparone outside of the competition area unless they have been specifically told to go somewhere or do something, (then -->) in addition we have a buddy system which means during the competiton and at the hotel, each person needs to have a buddy if they leave their room/area.

funding: the team gets funding mostly from DANA <sponsor> and the school however students are required to pay $400 each season to travel and offset expenses. parents acting as chaparones do not have to pay for their room but extra parents pay 100 for their room

suggestions for your team, since you are traveling overseas is definately have chaparones for your students, not to ‘baby’ them, but to keep them safe and out of trouble, and require certain work-hours to travel/compete with the team. also, as far as motivation goes, tell incoming students that they “have the opportunity to lead your award-winning team to another great season” it usually works and its completely true =) I think i missed this up top, but our team is organized into subgroups: drive/base, GameObjective/manipulator, programming/electronics, and several students that ‘gopher’ in between sub-teams whenever needed (they also do the website). a mentor and a student co-lead the sub-team. in order to keep the students involved in design, one of the things we do is require every student to watch the game video and come in the next meeting with a possible design which could potentially be used. sorry for the rambling style here but i’ll prolly add more later. good luck =)

Like evreyone above me has mentioned, the Team Handbooks that teams post are very good places to find examples for a team structure. I’ve went through several of them to try to find some tips to the structure that I wanted my team to have when I was the appointed the CEO for one of the years.

Most teams have the same roles (just in different names) and same heirarchy, and they usually vary from different reasons:

  • Team size: Usually bigger teams would like to spread the work between all of the students and to give them all a chance to be part of the doing. These teams have the leasure to have various sub-teams, and sometimes even create sub-sub-teams under those sub-teams since the area of work of the two sub-sub-teams is under the catagory of the sub-team (for example, 1 sub-sub-team of the Shooter mechanisim and 1 sub-sub-team of the Collector mechanisim, which are both under the Operation sub-team)
    Smaller teams don’t always have a lot of set of hands which know how to work in a certain criteria, say, only one guys knows the programming the best then anyone else in the team. These teams would prefer to have a smaller set of sub-teams. Those smaller teams can also work like the bigger teams, by giving multiple roles for certain members that are really dedicated, but sometimes that could be risky, depending on the type of roles a member is given.
  • School/Teachers/Parents/Students: Some schools, teachers and parents will restrict some of the students authority in the team. Some schools will assign the teacher as the team leader or (also) as the responsible for the team’s financial aspects, due to the students being, well, students - they are not adult enough to handel financial subjects.
    Other restrictions will be the hours of work. Parents won’t want their kids to work 24/7, and the parents and teachers wouldn’t want the students to have their grades drop due to their time spent on the robotics project.
  • Dedication: The overall dedication and hours the students and mentors will want to spend on the project will define how the structure of the team will be. No reason to add other sub-teams like Animation and Vizualization (applying for the Autodesk Awards) if your team wants to work only on the robot and doesn’t want to spend their time on the 3d softwares.

I think this question will help you a bit in trying to understand what team structure you want:

Why have a Mangment role in the team?

A: You have decided on having the different and basic sub-teams in your team’s orginization - Software, Electronics, Mechanics. Each sub-team is in charge of one part of the robot.
If you have a small team, and the robot is pretty simple, it means that each member sees the other members and gets to spend more time with them and create a better bond between them. If that happens, co-operation goes much more easier in the team, and when each sub-team needs something from the other sub-teams (Mechanics need to know that their new mechanisim works, so they need Electronics to wire the motors and Programming to write a test code to see that the basics of the mechanisim works) because of the close bonds between the team members, the other members will understand the nessecities of their team-mates and will be willing to help them out.
If you have a large team, and the robot is planned to have various complicated areas in it, like a multiple-swivle-woosh-bang-bang arm mechanisim (you can see I am no mechanical guy :rolleyes: ) which is really fast and really powerful, a set of a dozen laser and ion particale sensors to have more presicion on the aim of the arm, the speed of the robot and obstruction evasion AND a neo-Dean-Kamen Algorithm that calculates all the information in 0.00000001 miliseconds pre loop (…Ok, you get my point) - each sub-team will be busy with itself on trying to devlope these crazy stuff.
At some point, one of the sub-teams will need the assistance of another sub-team to do some tests so they can continue their work. There will be soo many projects within the project of building the robot in 6 weeks that could be just too much for everyone.
You need that Management team/guy to look over everything that’s going on in the team, check the time schedule and sometimes give the bad news of: “I’m sorry, there just isn’t enough time to do what you’re planning to do…that is the…“Helicopter Rotor System for Robot Aviation”…?”
The management team needs to be the contact between all sub-teams and to give out a request from one sub-team to another, when there is just too much work to personally contact the other sub-team.
The management team can also take care of other orginizational subjects, such as the finance, communication with other groups (The school, the parent, the local offical FIRST contact, other teams, etc…), public relations and other logistic part of the team.

Hope I’ve helped and good luck with building your team’s structure. :slight_smile:

Wow. Frankly, I did not expect such involvement and commitment from the community. Luckily enough, I was wrong. And so I’d like to thank all of you for the well thought input, and assure you that your help won’t go in vain.

We have gathered most of the suggestions and made up the following structure:

If you have any suggestions for improvements, please do not hesitate to do so.

You guys can’t even imagine how grateful I am for all your contributions to this most important topic.

Thank you!


I disagree. Recognition of achievement is a nice thing, whether it’s a word of appreciation, a thank you note, a Nobel Prize, the Stanley Cup, a Chairman’s Award Banner, or an FTC Inspire Award trophy. If the school is in the practice of awarding letters for team achievement, it is perfectly reasonable to put the robotics team forward for recognition. (Although if the school doesn’t award letters for debate, speech, band, or other non-sports competition, I wouldn’t get too worked up about robotics being left out.) People like recognition, and there is no reason I can see to leave robotics out.

Hierarchy: We generally are divided into President and VP. These two people handle the everyday stuff of robotics.

As for the sub-teams. We generally have people who are specialized in one particular area and veterans who are specialized in one area generally take charge of the sub-team.

As far as inspiration goes, I believe that people on my team respond well to responsibility. If you give them a BS job, they’ll recognize it’s BS and not do the job well and often goof off. But if you give them true work and responsibility, members generally respond really well and they often end up performing the job better because they feel that they are directly working on something that matters.

Our team has a fairly simple structure that works pretty well for us. Obviously you can’t necessarily copy and paste it, but I imagine it is a good model to adapt. Works for us at least.

Heading the team is the Ultimate Force of the Universe, our mentor Mr. Wittman. He invests a ton of his time and energy into the team, and does everything from helping to line up demos to managing finances to mentoring. If we had to say someone “in charge” of the team, it’d be him, but our head mentor doesn’t micromanage excessivly or anything.

We have a Team Captain and Assistant Captain, they also lead the team’s meetings to decide the general robot design.

Our team works with a sub-team system we call CDTs (Component Design Teams). Students head one team each (Electrical, Chassis / Drivetrain, Manipulator, Controls, Programming, Strategy, Awards, Finances, etc.). This gives students a chance to direct, make mistakes, collaborate, etc. Assistant CDT Captain positions are given to students under the grade level of the captain of that particular CDT to learn effective leadership skills from them. The CDT Captains, in addition to leading the members of the design team, work with each other and the student team captains in order to make sure all of the robot will fit together.

Students can join as many CDTs as they feel that they can assist with, but most join about 2 or 3. By joining you’re expected to be committed to what you sign up for, though more lenience is given to rookie members as they try and find their passion.

Mentors help along the way, joining CDTs like students and working together.

When people mention changing the culture, this is one thing I’d like to change.

I know this isn’t the topic at hand. I promise to give a more thread topic focused post this weekend.

Would anyone mind giving us some feedback on the following structure?

Thanks in advance!

That’s not a bad structure to start with. I do have a couple of questions, though.

  1. Why is “Media” under “Software”? It might make more sense to have it under “External Affairs”, along with stuff like the public relations group.

  2. I’m not sure that having the Strategy group led by the captain is going to work. I’m not saying it won’t, but strategy is probably the most important thing in the team. It may need a dedicated leader on its own account–especially when you’re scouting other teams at the competition. If the captain is busy separating the mechanicals, electricals, and programmers due to somebody making a mistake, he’s not going to have time for the strategy/scouting.

  3. Who would be the C.E.O? Mentors, students, parents?

It just seems like there are too many officers/leaders. If your team is 15-25 people, do you need 7 of them to be in charge? That just seems like a bit much.

With that being said, I am going to discuss how 1766 used to work when I was a student there. I honestly don’t know if they do things this way anymore. Odds are they don’t, but here you go.

When I was a student on the team, I was the organizer(just one of my jobs). This job required that I keep track of progress in all parts of the team. I told the machinists how long they had to get the parts done, I watched the welders finish their work, the electrical knew when they would get the bot for work. Though, I didn’t just tell people what I needed them to do. They told me what they needed me to do. I made sure materials was ordered, I recruited temporary help when needed, and I kept track of who screwed up and who did well.

Having 1 person keep track of the team is a very good way to organize a team given a few things.

  1. The team isn’t massive.
  2. The person taking the position, must have time to see everyone work.
  3. The person must be able to detach themselves from the workers.(You can’t do favors for friends. If I give more time to my buddy in electronics, I take time from the welders…machinists…programmers…and everyone else.)
  4. The person must be respected(not necessarily liked) otherwise nobody will keep to your deadlines.

If all these specifications are met, this organization plan is very effective. It can be used as the sole means of leading or can be used along with another. I just strongly suggest having an overseer of some form. Even if this person does nothing but watch everyone else, they will get plenty of experience and learn lots. Not many traits are useful in as many fields as a supervisor.

  1. By media I meant Multimedia, which will be responsible for the robot’s 3D design, the 3D clip and all necessary things pertaining graphics. Thinking of it, it could be named Graphics instead.

  2. Good point, I’m gonna refer to it in the end of the post as both you and Molten brought it up.

  3. We only have two mentors, and they don’t have any official assignment in our structure. That said, the CEO is going to be one of the students, much like all other positions in the given structure.

Regarding the team’s leadership. It is to be divided into three ranks - C.E.O, Officers and Leaders.

Leaders are at the bottom of the leadership ladder, and their job is to simply be the one to give the last call if the need arises, and report of the situation to their Officers. That said, being a Leader only means that the person has the last say in that particular team, and that he should report his progress on to his superiors. Perhaps the title may be interpreted incorrectly, and is thus subject to change, as Leaders aren’t practically in a leadership position. :stuck_out_tongue:

Officers, however, are in charge of things. There are only few officers (ranging from 2 to 4). The officer is to manage a whole division, coordinating between its sub-teams and making sure that everything goes as planned. In order to do that, they receive casual reports from their sub-divisional Leaders, and act accordingly.

The C.E.O’s position is pretty much a given - he’s to oversee and supervise it all.

When the need arises to perform an administrative meeting, only the following are invited to participate for the sake of organization:

  • C.E.O.
  • All Officers
  • Leaders who are currently needed at the meeting. Sometimes, no Leaders will be called upon for the meeting.

Now, regarding the Captain’s duty. I agree, the Captain does have way too much on his back to handle it all in a decent manner. Thus, as both of you very well suggested, I’m thinking of separating his duty by creating another role - an Executive.

The Executive will be the practical overseer and ensure that the link between all divisions is stable and clear. He will be the one to coordinate between the divisions when the need arises, and thus, will be considered an Officer.

The Captain, on the other hand, will only be in charge of the Strategy team, but will also have a say regarding Internal matters.

Again, thank you all for the input. I would highly appreciate it if you continue posting your feedback as so far it’s been very helpful.


The robot’s 3D design (you mean CAD right?) is usually a separate team, I consider them more important than the graphics and animation team any day. We try to have 1 or 2 CAD kids/adults work with the mechanical subgroups and then the larger CAD team puts together the entire robot. Nothing wrong with pooling the CAD kids into graphics, just pointing out that what they do might be a little more significant to the team (just in my opinion).


I think your ideas for team mangment are not really meant for small teams, of 15-25 as you say.

The whole point of having this mangement system with multiple of levels is in order to have an overall look at the whole project, usually when you have thousands of workers, there are a lot of individual projects in work, that in the end will be integrated into a final complete design containing parts of each project. Your project is only 25 people. I say that it is enough that you have all the sub-team leaders to manage their own sub-team and to be able to coordinate with thier other division’s sub-team leaders and to formulate a combined report to the CEO.

Having the officers, those who collect the information from the leaders, who in turn, by their own expirence with the sub-team and their own thoughts, give a summerized report to the officers, in the end, the officers won’t have much work to do except collect the data from each sub-team and to give the CEO an overall of the progress of the division. In the end, there won’t be much overseeing and mangment by the CEO. The CEO turns to be the president of the team - the one who gets the summed info, if he wants, gets more detailed information, sets certain orders as he sees and in the end, uses that information to publicize the team’s action.

Now, I’m not saying that is a bad thing, but you should conisder, again, the amount of students you will have in the team, how many hands will you need working on each subject/sub-team and can you afford to have people that just look at people doing stuff (and where’s the fun in that? Get them involved. Assign certain members of a sub-team, [maybe certain leaders] to have the roles of an officer/overseer).

Be sure to remember this while you’re giving out roles:

Most of the students in the team are there to be involved in the doings, to have a part in the final design.

By having both a captain and a CEO, you’ve effectively created two different leaders to do the same thing. Nir has a good point about the CEO’s role; have only one person (whether student or mentor doesn’t really matter to me) be the one to generally direct things.

I’m going to use an example here: My Aero Design team.

Size: ~ 20
Divided into 4 groups, each having one officer. Any team member can participate in any group, but each officer oversees one area.

The areas, in order of when they get the most team members, are:


Each has its own officer, as noted before. As most of the members tend to slide from one group to another, there is supposed to be a committee overseeing each department; the leader of that area is the head of the committee.

Now, there isn’t an obvious team captain in the above structure; in fact, whoever leads Operations is the captain, and all the others work with him/her. But, if something in one of the departments needs doing very soon (say, we’re trying to finish the planes with about a week left), that department gets a bit more authority.