Club membership requirements

We’ve been competing in VRC for a 2 years now and I would consider that we have been very successful. The first year (Skyrise) we had 2 teams where both qualified for states and one qualified for worlds but did not attend. Last year we had 3 teams and all qualified for states and 2 attended worlds.

Our club is growing and I am receiving a lot of inquiries to join this year but my current resources(robot parts and space to build) may require me to place restrictions on club membership.

Does anyone have similar issues? What type of requirements do you have for your club members? Anyone have ideas of how to be fair about membership?

For me, there are currently 8 people in our group. I personally don’t like so many people in my team, plus I have to juggle teaching other new people basic RobotC, but my job as leader is to just try to get them interested in something new. I can always find a job for someone to do, whether it be working on the robot, programming the robot, or even busy work. Pertaining to you, you said that you had three teams and you’re worrying about space. I am guessing that you currently have only enough people for 1 or 2 teams. Unless it is 30 people trying to join 3 teams, you can probably section of some people into “subgroups”, like 2 people on notebook, 2-3 on robot, and 2 people on programming to bounce ideas off of each other. If you’re still determined to put some requirement, just give everyone trying to participate a little test. The test should have questions like “How much time are you willing to put on this robot?”, “What are your likes and dislikes?”, and “Do you work well on a team?”. These questions, while cliché, can really weed out some of the lazy people. You can then give the rest who fit in your standards a little practical test on a Squarebot or a Clawbot.

We had 12 members last year. Based on the expressed interest so far in the first 2 weeks of school, membership could approach 30 members. That is a number that would be to much to handle in a single classroom.

How many do you normally have in a class at your school?

I wouldn’t say 30 is too much because each one of our Freshman classes has 45 students in it with about 5 in each doing vex, along with the veteran teams in other classes

Are you associated with a school or a private club? What kind of facility do you meet at? How much are you charging?

I would love to have this conversation as we are running into growth issues too. We already are large but the word is out and lots more want in. We have a ton of teams and will fill up any local event registration by ourselves. And now many more people are wanting to come on board than have left the club through graduation and some just dropping for various reasons.

But now we are at the limits of competition entry and manpower to oversee so many teams. Our board is 8 members now to help run our club.

We had our first hard and fast cut being just the local Downingtown area. But we still have more subscribers than capacity. What are others doing?

This is the Vexmen last year. 28 VRC teams plus 6 Vex IQ teams. This year who knows how big?

If you are successful, you can have problems that are unique to your success. I’ve been involved with Exothermic Robotics since 2006, and the club runs into the “too many youth” problem every 2-3 years. We have dealt with this in a lot of ways:

  1. Finding a larger meeting location. Right now, we can handle about 45, but it looks like we might have 60 interested youth. We will either find a larger meeting space, make better use of the one we have, or redirect some youth elsewhere.

  2. Over the years, EXO has either spun off or helped form new clubs several times. There are more youth on these teams than in EXO itself. Think about whether it makes sense to spin off a new club.

  3. We have always been age-restricted (14-19), so we do not have the VEX IQ problem. I admire the VEXmen, but we don’t have the management resources or space to handle 100 VEX IQ kids (which is what I think we would draw if we started an IQ program).

  4. No matter what, do not give into the temptation to have 10-person teams. For a little VEX robot, that’s too many people. Find the way to keep the count at 4-7 people per team.

  5. EXO membership is first-come, first-served. It would be pretty easy to downsize and become an “elite” team, but that’s not how we roll. We also try to make sure that money isn’t an issue. During the Great Recession, we always had some “scholarship” students in the program.

Last year we had 2 teams with three people each. This year we have 3 teams with 13 people each.

Decentralize! I started Cornerstone Robotics 10 years ago to provide homeschoolers an opportunity to participate on a robotics team. I had 10 students the first year, then quickly grew to three teams and maxed out the space in my basement. I convinced one of the dad’s to come and help regularly and then the next year helped him start running a couple teams out of his house. That opened up space for me to add another team.

VEX IQ came along and I added a second robotics day each week so I could start a couple IQ teams. I’ve tried to do the same with our IQ teams, with team moms/dads taking over the team and moving it to their house after 1-2 years under a veteran mentor. I have 3 new mentors/coaches that I’m working with right now to get their teams up and running.

This year I had to turn away about 20 IQ students and 4 VRC students because I didn’t have the space or mentors to handle them. For IQ students we decided to add teams at a specific age level, so that is how we determined who was accepted.

Myself, a couple of the mentors I recruited early on, and a few of our team alumni now spend about 20% of our time supporting new Cornerstone teams as well as other new teams throughout the state. This year Cornerstone will have a total of 11 teams with 50+ students meeting in 7 different locations around central Indiana.

Growth here in IQ has exploded, with Indiana on track to add 400+ new elementary IQ teams this year and the potential to add another 1,000 teams over the next 2 years thanks to Mayor Ballard and Governor Pence. With this growth Cornerstone mentors spend even more of their time working with new school based teams to get them up to speed quickly.

We do have our mentors run each robot team and we provide the overall club responsibilities. It provides the framework to build and improve your robots. The older kids help show the younger kids what is possible and expectations of design notebooks, etc.

But that is not one of our limiting factors, having enough space for events are. We have gotten to the point where there are not enough competitions to support any more teams for our area. I like having 5 events per team per year as it gives a great progression to reiterate your design over the season, improve your design interview techniques, and have fun playing against other robots. More teams makes that really tough to impose on other smaller groups.

Middle school has three main teams in the area each with an average of 10 teams each (Vexmen, Great Valley, Norristown) and a smaller teams from a few more clubs (DCCS, some Philly schools like Masterman, Haverford, and others). So large tournaments all around now for middle school to fit everyone.

In the high school division, there are more schools signing up, but only one or two has signed up for hosting events. And when they have 2-3 teams, hosting for 30+ teams is a tough ask. The Vexmen will now have 13 High School teams this year. We always offer to help with fields and judges and referees, but to someone who has not hosted before, making a large event can be daunting. It took us a few years to get the process under our belts. We still don’t seem to run on time.

Vex IQ has more space and two teams have hosted a few events. but we are still int he 15-24 teams per event range.