Achieving Designer/Builder Synergy

I’m a designer on a team of 5; my current job only involves documenting all of the captain/builder’s work in the design book (as I’ve noticed in other teams, the builder usually does most of the designing). I’m fine with that, but I feel like for some judged awards, and maybe in terms of having a build that goes above and beyond, this system limits us because:

  • Many of our robot’s subsystems and sensor utilizations are similar to that of hundreds of other teams’ subsystems

  • I can barely understand how our robot is put together, making me less credible during judging

I don’t have very good building sense, and have worked with the builder many times to try building a popular subsystem (4-bar, claw, etc), but it’s nearly impossible for me to build off of other people’s work and extensive research; I find it’s easier to identify my own challenges and goals, and then pursue my own route, coming up with a new concept with little inspiration.
I’m not a great builder (I can’t tighten a nyloc to save my life), but I’d really like to contribute quality ideas and make our robot better, and make it, well, ours.

Are there any teams out there that have a designer and builder that work together well, or anybody else that could give me advice on how to design in a way that supports the role of our builder?

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It sounds to me like you’re having some teamwork troubles. First off I would recommend speaking to your teammate(s) about what you’d like to accomplish and how you would like to help (even if you don’t know all the details yet). For me personally, working on a team is very initiative-based. I would say that the best way to improve your designer-builder relationship is to just throw out ideas and discuss what may be the best option at any time. Once you’re given a counter-argument (which is bound to happen) try working together to find the best of both worlds between multiple ideas.

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You might have some luck getting into extensive CAD work. Having a full working model of the robot before building is extremely useful in terms of thinking ahead (less time and parts wasted).

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I can’t really speak to how to do this as I am the main builder and designer, but something that works for us is throwing more basic ideas out without the way to implement it. This gets ideas out without having to look at how feasible it is to do, which is fun as well as helpful for designing things. ALSO a pain when trying to figure out how to build it.

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