Large Team v Small Team

Hello everybody, I had a few questions for everyone about your teams.

What is your preference between a large team (8+ members) versus a small team (< 8 members)?

What are the advantages of each and disadvantages of each?

What size of team do you have?

Here is my reasoning for this post - We have team that was recently split into two, this took place during the end of the school year, later we found out that a few members would be leaving our team. Now that these members have left, we could either have a large team or a small team.

Thanks for all who reply :slight_smile:

To use the optimum number is between 3 and 5 - with 5 being the sweet spot. With 5, three can drive at tournaments and two can scout. During the design/build phase, you can break into smaller groups and tackle individual challenges. With teams larger than 5, you risk having idle team members - only so many hands can fit on a robot. Five is also good because it is an odd number - so there are never any tie votes when the team makes a decision. Four members is almost as good a five - except there are tie votes. Three is good because you never have tie votes but makes scouting at tournaments challenging. Personally, I would never go less than three. One important lesson from the Vex experience is how to work in a team. That proves challenging for the students but is a real-world lesson they must learn.

Four to five is our optimal team size. Beyond 5, someone is always left out to work on the robot during the build season. You can divide into subsystems but the scale of Vex really allows you to work on the entire robot. Specializing roles IMO takes away from the experience Vex provides to see the full picture.

It depends upon the commitment level of the team members too. A larger team of semi-committed folks will have the same overall participation of a smaller team of deeply committed folks. If some folks have another commitment that takes away from robots, then a slightly larger team may work.

Three hands on team members is most optimal for build and programming but falls down when there is no one left to scout at tournaments.

We have always tried to run our teams of 3-5 students per robot, attempting to mix experienced students with new ones. As a community team, we take in new students throughout the year, so we try to have some 3-person teams to start the summer so the new members can join up onto existing teams without having to do major reorganization. We stop actively recruiting around February, so we can prepare for States and Worlds.

We’re trying something new this year: our High School Seniors all wanted to form a powerhouse team, so we have a team of six. One member has taken on project management, others will take on the online challenges, another is a statistician who will specialize in scouting. Our other H.S. team and our 2 M.S. teams are all at 3 each.

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I believe five is the magic number for events, and three is probably the right size for a build team. Small teams are at a big disadvantage at large events (unless you win all your matches :)).

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We found that 5 students is the maximum number we want to have per robot. 4 students is better than 5, and 3 is also better than 5. If it’s a team of 5 dedicated students, I would prefer that they stay as one team and build 2 robots.

No voting in robotics! One of the options is better than the rest. It’s the team’s job to find out which one is better and why.

Agree, Adam. However, a lack of a decision is no decision. Voting helps get the team moving forward. Sometimes team members get into a stalemate and just need a direction to head in order to make some progress. Sometimes you just need to prototype an idea to see whether it will work or not. But, with limited resources, you can’t prototype them all.

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Reaching consensus is the way to go for any engineering project…if a team is stuck, it’s time for a mentor to help them get unstuck and learn how to reach consensus.

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we have 5… 2 builders, 1 programmer, 1 notebook, 1 online challenges. It seems to work out nicely. 929W was 3 people and they did amazing as well… it sort of depends on commitment and skill. 5 people does split the work out nicely though.

Interesting that everyone is saying 3-5: This will be my third year on a 2 person team. I’ve found that 2 works really nicely, especially because I don’t believe in voting. There’s always a right answer and the team should be able to rationally decide what it is without needing to vote. If there is a vote, there will always be a sense of “If only I had voted the other way, we could have done better and qualified for…” The other advantage to 2 is both members are very familiar with the robot. Both my partner and I could literally have built our old robot from a pile of scrap parts because we knew the design so well. This made maintenance much easier and faster, which helped a lot under the pressure of a competition.

That said, I realize 2 is not always workable. If there are 20 people interested at a school, having 10 teams isn’t exactly realistic. (Only $1000 per competition, obviously very reasonable for public schools.) 3-5 teams of 4-7 are much less expensive and workable. And everyone is different: some people might prefer a larger team where they can really specialize in a few parts of the robot and have less time pressure. But personally, I will always prefer 2.

Infinity Minus 1 - I beg to differ on “there’s always one right answer.” And this comes from a person that has worked in the engineering field for 32 years (not bragging - just giving it context). There are always engineering trade offs that make finding the optimum answer difficult if not impossible. If there’s one thing you should take away from your Vex experience is that there are trade offs and the optimum answer strongly depends on what you are willing to trade (cost, weight, torque, speed, performance, etc). You just can’t have it all - and part of finding the “best” path is figuring out what are you willing to trade and what you are not willing to trade.

For example, to be lifted or not to be lifted was a big decision last year. There was no right answer - but after the decision was made - if you were going to lifted, you needed to be fast, nimble, and relatively small. If you were planning to be lifted, you needed to be larger, not so fast, and probably have an accurate long shot to shoot the driver preloads. All the “optimum” design solutions for the lifter might be “all wrong” for the field bot.

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My school has 4 teams of 1-4 active members and about 6 inactive ones per team. We have really large crews at competitions, which is nice, but we tend to have idle hands during meetings when we have high attendance, which sucks. We’ve been working on fixing that issue, but haven’t had a whole lot of success so far. From my experience, I think smaller team for actual work on the robots with larger pit crews of people more interested in areas like animation and PR for support would work well if you can manage it.

As someone that just went from a 6 person team to a 3 person team, building and designing is a lot better with a 3 person team, because everyone is doing something. As on my 6 person team, only 2 people were doing anything for build and design (although the 3 person team is built of all around better quality team members the 6 person team). That being said, I believe that the 6 person team far outweighs the 3 person team when it comes to competing a competitions. For competitions I would say a team with 5 people is the perfect amount.

3 to 4 depending upon the game and robot (1 driver or two)

Last year, only my team qualified to States, and the more…commited…members of the other team went with us as support (scouting, battery management, etc.), turning us from 3 active members into a 7 person team (3 drivers and 4 support). At my organization, we have much more fluid teams due to our relative closeness.

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You don’t want to go over 5 per team. Having more than 5 people for such a small robot (compared to FRC) carries the risk of idle team members, because there can be too few meaningful tasks to assign to each team member.

In my experience though, 4 seems to be the ideal number.

My team has 10 people and it seems to work well for me at least, there is clearly people that are more involved than others but everyone that wants to work on the robot has plenty of opportunity to.

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This is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen on this forum. Just wanted to highlight it so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

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blush