Our program is funded by parents and little bit augmented by school (school… only due to provisions, not voluntary). We found that 10 or more is wrong size to both team dynamics and management. Kids like playing with the robots but we found that parents are the cause of many problems. Schools that have a program that does not involve parents, dynamics are different. They seem to create a better environment for the kids (hint, less parent involvement).
Q: Do you allow teams to stay together from year-to-year if they want to do so, or do you try to split up teams and spread out the skill base?
Yes to former. As you develop a team (ie, as team evolves), the team gets used to the process and work well together. If the team is highly productive, then leave it alone. No to latter. Actual results: When we kept same teams, it went well. When non-coaches/mentors (insert “educator” card here), decided to split based on skill/experience, it was devastating on multiple grounds (non-cooperation, chemistry, skill/learning, etc). If it is a parent-managed team and the team dynamics were not so great, it is most likely (rarely not) due to parents and parent skills.
Q: Do you find it helpful to keep kids on teams by grade? So only 5th graders on team A, only 6th graders on team B, etc?
No. We had a mix. Have not tried only 5th or only 4th etc. It not only helps mixing but younger kids listen and learn from older kids. Although there is a mentor, kids listen to kids better. It also helps them have fun and focus.
Q: Do you allow teams to self-select, or do you assign players to teams (around a coach or around available practice time for the player)?
No. This is up to the coach. Most kids like to select based on social skills. That would be bad later on and are also high maintenance.
Q: If you allow teams to self-select, do you have issues with students who are not “as well connected” with other kids in VEX and therefore aren’t asked by classmates to join their team? Do you have issues assigning students to an existing team in this circumstance?
Yes. This is always the case. No issues assigning a student to a team, as long as it is accepted by the mentor and can get along with the team. We had such cases. Some kids need to be assigned or monitored. Student asking another student to join might be more with middle school or EDR. In elementary, asking to join ends up in “a” team not “our” because it is up to mentor.
Q: If you have 5-8 grade, do you allow kids to self-select whichever program they want to do, whether IQ or EDR?
No and yes. If you have both programs then it should be based on the student capability or willingness. Normally, you should already know that based on previous year experience. IQ vs EDR is also a preference. This is very subjective. There are pros and cons. Our IQ graduates have realized that it would be better to start with EDR and get their hands dirty. The next year they would do better. Now the other side. Per parent (=mentor) perspective, they thought to do IQ so that kids will feel better and try the same thing one more time so it is “easy”. The same parents now default to “should have just gone with EDR” as you gain more experience. It is hard to do it the first time.
As for IQ vs EDR, there are many other factors to consider… Funds, experience, resources, time, etc. There is no set criteria written in stone for this. It depends on team maturity as well. EDR is metal so lots of tools, heavier parts, and learning curve. IQ is simple, plastic, smaller.
We make a team and select kids to role based on their preference within the team. We even had a few kids who are good drivers but did not want to be main, for example. They were happy to be asked but tried harder to do another role.