How To Run A Successful Team

Hey forums! This my teams second year in robotics and we had some questions on: leadership (who to choose), sponsors (how to get them), and roles(who to assign to what). If you have any wise comments please post.

Just build robots. Team hierarchy is a waste of time. Natural leaders emerge from the chaos. People naturally gravitate to things they are good at. Assigning roles is pointless.

What about sponsors?

Sponsors will make your life easier, however in reality it’s the team members that will make the difference in whether a bot is successful or not. Assigning roles is debatable, but whats important is that the members who are truly passionate about it get access to the robot as much as possible. I would suggest not splitting up the design of individual components among team members as each part relies heavily on each other(ie, don’t split up drive, lift, and intake)

Some things I’ve picked up over the year I did Vex competitively:

  • Constantly reiterate, especially when you’re new. Every time you build something new, your bound to learn something new, which will only make your next robot better. By the end of Sack Attack, I had built 7 -8 robots from scratch before settling on the one I had at worlds, all having some fairly significant design differences.

  • Driving Practice is greatly underestimated in my experience but its extremely crucial. A driver for worlds should have at least a couple hundred hours under his/her belt if they expect to do well IMO. Especially at high level matches where you’re under a large amount of pressure, the practice really starts to show.

  • Don’t be afraid to reverse-engineer other teams, you’ll learn ALOT this way. I spent my summer from 2 years ago building a SA version of 1103. While it was pretty terrible and really didn’t work, I learned a lot about building efficient drives, pneumatic claws, etc. which all helped in the long run. Of course supply credit when necessary if you compete with such a bot. :wink: As you gain experience, you’ll find your own “methods” of building robots and this advice won’t be necessary.

Hope that helps.

I would tend to disagree. I think that team roles are very important for a successful team. I think that it is important to have a defined programmer, builders, scouts, drive team, and pit crew. It just helps everything run smoother in a competition.

With roles, I think that it is also important that members have cross roles (backup programmer, scouts, build, and driver) This allows people to learn more about the different aspects of robotics, and still perform the jobs that they are good at and like to do.

Sponsors- Ask around or just go out and ask for donations. More often then not, companies would be happy to invest if they know that it is going to a really great cause. Which VEX is one of the best out there.
Just be honest about what you need with them. They might not cover the full cost, but after getting 3 maybe 4 businesses, it should all start to add up.

As for “roles”- well if you have never done anything before, have everyone just try something for a bit- drive, journal, program, build, coach etc. Some people can just naturally do this or that. I know for my team, 1200G, we gave everyone a chance and the person who did it the best would do that job. Now for things like building or keeping the journal updated we all pitched in. Building a bot and running a team is not just a single person effort.

It takes everyone to make a team successful. Hope that helps a little bit! :smiley: Good luck come next year!

Thank you guys for all of the help, but our team is really feeling the need for sponsors. If anyone has any in-depth details or stories on how they got their sponsors it would help out a lot. again we don’t need sponsors but we would be a much more competitive team if we had them :slight_smile:

My team has also struggles with sponsorship, but we have been able to pay for both my school’s FIRST robotics team and 5 full VEX robotics teams with a single spaghetti dinner with a silent auction. If you are able to join forces with more teams, you may want to look into doing some kind of organized fundraiser.
Currently, my team is working at selling products to earn money. Believe it or not, we have earned hundreds of dollars with the HEXBUG fundraiser found at , and we are getting a good amount of money with one of Coca-Cola’s fundraising programs.

Money is definitely a huge element in building a robot. On the matter of team roles, I personally think that it all depends on the team. My team last year was pretty darn successful for our first year, but basically everyone hated each other because of the enforced team roles. This year, I have broken off into a smaller team, and we don’t have formal roles… I let the programmer do his thing and help him when he needs it; likewise, he lets me build without insisting on helping. Our third guy just kind of communicates between the three of us. So if you really feel the need for roles, go ahead, but when it really comes down to it, if everyone is working hard and stuff is getting done, I’d say, don’t worry about it.

Sorry about the long post, I guess that I have a lot to say about this topic:)

there is no right or wrong way for a team to run successfully.

in my experience, i found that equality and voting never worked and having an outside impartial view was better.

after two years of arguments with the 5119 crew, i branched out and funded my own team, this worked well for two years, and in the end of the third year i re-structured for worlds and the structure that worked was:

myself as Team Captain
and george and joel as equal engineers,

my duties are:
social/media/programming/finance/programming/notebook management/ sponsors/CAD

there duties:
build robots

after many years of VRC the guys at my school decided that they only wanted to build, and didn’t want to do anything else, so there was a natural structure that naturally came out, it wasn’t the best but worked for us, i am currently considering building a VEX U team when i go to uni, and from my experience i would hope for the following structure:

Each member to program, each member to CAD, each member to have input to the design process, each member to be involved with build process and have input on every sub-system, and for a leader to emerge that would be able to do everything but be able to delegate.

as a one man team for two years i have literally done everything, and at worlds this year i bought two members of 5119 with me, there were arguments, but for a team to be successful there will be arguments, there will be problems, but being a successful team is being able to work out problems and build a successful robot.

in terms of sponsors, i found showing determination, whenever i contact a company, however big, i always contact the CEO. firstly, being able to find there email address to start with is hard, being able to overcome this step shows that you mean BUSINESS !

when talking to businesses, always remember they want to hear what they will get from it, as well as what you will get from it, in my experience, always start any negotiations with what any sponsorship would do for the team, not just it what it will pay for, but how this will impact you. like the trip to Anaheim this year will be a key point that i will be able to mention on applications for years to come.

with sponsors, it is all down to preparation, and finding the right business, a local business won’t be able to completely fund your robotics program, that’s fine, just be thankful and get additional sponsors, with large companies, they are normally helping charities, so they might not always be able to help you.

i would just say contact as many companies as possible but in the right way, don’t just email there contact us page, make a connection to a person that really means something, if you can’t find a CEO’s email or phone number, talk to the PR centre, this is something that is PR gold for a big company !

hope any of this helps !
feel free to PM me with any specific questions

It all depends on team members. If you have a team full of truly passionate team members, everyone will do everything to make the team better, including working in harmony, even without any role assignment. If you are running a team in which robotics is merely a hobby for team members, then nothing would work. We clearly assigned responsibility this year and at the State Championship, only three people were running around, including me, programmer as scouter/coach and our captain as driver. Others just sat there and played with their phones.

In my opinion, everyone should know everything while focusing on one or two. If a designer does not know programming, how can a programmer explain to him his difficulty programming it? At a tournament people should be assigned to focus on specific roles, but when working everyone should know everything, discuss everything together and make a decision together.

Any stories on how you got your sponsors? :confused: :o Please!

All you do is go out to companies, ask them for money and tell them what for. It’s different for everyone, but most of the time the mentors will probably go out and just ask. Sometimes it is better for the teammates to go out and ask for the money. It’s very easy, you just need to make the first approach to a company or organization and ask for donations. You may have to fill out a form or two but normally companies are good about helping out for something like this.

Our club is from the same state as you, so I will explain how we got our funding. Our first team started off by getting as much funding from local sponsors as they could. They did well, won some awards, and went to worlds. If you can say you qualified teams for worlds, companies are more likely to sponsor you. Our club has gotten better funding over the years, which helps you build better robots, which helps you win more awards, which helps you get more funding. My point is that it is an endless loop. The better you do, the better you can do the next year. This year has been our most successful year yet. We sent 2 of our 3 teams to worlds. One of our teams won the world excellence award, meaning even more people will hopefully sponsor us. Basically, talk to anyone at any technical company you know. Explain why you want funding and how it will help, not only your club, but them too. Make sure to recognize your sponsors on your banners, and team shirts. I know this was long, but try to get out in the community, fundraise, and gain sponsors. To a company, giving sponsor ship doesn’t cost them that much, but in vex, a little funding can go a long way. Thanks for reading his whole paragraph, I know it was long, and I hope it was helpful.

Do you typically give a presentation? Do you email them? If it’s easier to explain this, what is your process for creating a relationship with a sponsorship?

We try to go through people who someone knows in the company. If you can talk personally to someone high up in a company, it is easier to get funding. They can see why it helps, because if you know them, they’ve probably been told about VEX before.

My first year competing in VEX back in the Sack Attack days, we tried a team hierarchy with myself as the captain, and it just never felt like a good way to run a team. (although I guess it all depends on how the team operates, and maybe the size of the team as well) Since we’ll be a rather small team (Around 3 people) for the Skyrise season, we operate more as colleagues than superiors/subordinates. It works out better when one person doesn’t have the pressure of leading everybody (I was taught a long time ago the first rule of leadership: everything is the leader’s fault) and it also helps ensure that everyone has a fair say and a right to contribute/debate about the design and strategy.

Now as far as roles and responsibilities go, there is nothing wrong with specialization in different aspects of the team (construction, programming, design, strategy) and have one person as an expert on the topic, but it also helps if others on the team have a fundamental understanding of that particular aspect as well, so team members can easily figure out where they best fit on the team, what they’re good at, and what they might need to improve on. I’ve never really competed with a large team, but I would assume that “project leaders” wouldn’t be a bad idea, since they would probably be more experienced in their particular field and be able to help their teammates learn and understand it as well.

Regarding sponsorship, this year is probably the year we’re going to be much more involved in actively seeking out sponsors and grants. While we still have some adult sponsors and mentors to guide us, we’re transitioning from a High School team to our own independently run team and with that comes a lot more responsibility in terms of logistics and finance management. We never really had to worry about finance since the school and TSA chapter were able to cover most things like travel and registration. (Although we did gain quite a bit of experience during Toss Up, as myself and some of my team members had to purchase our own robot parts on occasion)

I agree 100%. Our team functions as a leaderless ensemble, and although it took us a couple years to find our best roles, we have reached a good equilibrium and it has worked out well for us this season. Any major issues we need to settle can be decided by a team vote or by our coaches.

As far as sponsorship goes, you may find you can get help from local businesses (restaurants, stores, etc), which will add up to a significant amount. Corporate sponsors and research firms are also good people to approach, as well as community volunteer/service organizations and foundations made to promote education and STEM. Letters about your team and its needs, flyers, and well-placed phone calls are good ways to get the word out, and from there you can follow up with anyone who is interested.

Thanks for all the help. :slight_smile:

We experienced this to some extent as well. I don’t know exactly why, but at the world championship I was extremely surprised and pleased to see our entire team working together to coordinate and cooperate to get everything done.

Though as part of the drive team, I think we will always be running around as much if not more than the rest of our team. We have to meet with our partners, determine strategy, and work on skills. There’s a lot to be done.

We experienced this to some extent as well. I don’t know exactly why, but at the world championship I was extremely surprised and pleased to see our entire team working together to coordinate and cooperate to get everything done.

Though as part of the drive team, I think we will always be running around as much if not more than the rest of our team. We have to meet with our partners, determine strategy, and work on skills. There’s a lot to be done.