Making a team more serious...

Hello everyone,

Over the VEX “Break” our teams got mixed around.

Now that everything has settled down, one of the teams is messing around.

Keep in mind this team is a younger (12-13yo) team.

I keep telling them that they need to get a good design and start building because we don’t have much time before competitions begin.

But, as you would expect, they don’t listen.

And that’s why I am here. It’s not a “huge” problem but, I would like your advice.

And who knows, this might help another team in need.

So go ahead, share your ideas on keeping a team on task. I would love to hear your advice.

Thanks in advance.

I think going to a competition and failing is the best way to get newbies serious. If that doesn’t work then they are probably hopeless.

I never thought of that, that’s a good way to do that, however why spend the money on a team that you know will fail? --That could go either way.

It has worked for us before too… Last year we started with 7 teams, and after 1 competition for the 3 non serious teams they were done. Sorted everything out cost wise to lose 3 teams.

Some of the kids from those teams were still serious but simply did not do competitions (classroom learning). I believe it helped them a lot

Hmmm, that’s pretty cool, are you a highschool team? (through a school)?

Yes, we have been a pretty successful club since Toss Up

Honestly, from experience, its very hard to change these people’s minds. I remember my middle school club would either 1: Put you on the “Slackers” team or 2: Straight up kick you if you didn’t show enough effort. This was sadly implemented after I left and is also the reason I turned to forming a private team. I realized that to get good team members, you have to invite good people in the first place. It’s possible to help them change, but it’s almost never worth the effort. (And you’re not hurting them bc most of the time they’re not even interested in robotics; usually a parent intervention thing) If you absolutely HAVE to have them on your team, I would recommend talking to your mentors to let them focus on making the other team members more helpful while you can actually focus on building a better robot, and general team things. Then, invite other people who you know have a good work ethic and are dedicated to robotics.

That’s a good way to think about it.

Those people often aren’t interested in robotics. If they still want to be on the team, my club allows it (we are required to per school policy), but we try to find other jobs for them to do. For example, we have several people working on submissions for the Online Challenges. Granted, many of those people are also interested in robotics, but the trick is finding what the person is good at/interested in, then using that interest/talent to benefit the team.

Joys of middle school years! A lot of good points here. Don’t forget that the brain is developing at a fast rate during these years, more growth than any other stage during their live. So don’t give up on them too quickly, they can be redirected and can mature before your very eyes.

I let my teams experience failure and help them recover from that experience. I encourage good practices: upkeep of engineering notebook, good build quality, and teamwork. It takes time and patience. Managing middle school teams is definitely not for everyone, but extremely rewarding.

We have one HS and one MS team and notice a definite maturity difference. Since we only have two teams, we do keep a tight rein. I’m not sure if this is possible when you have a large number of teams, but we set daily goals then “hover” to make sure those goals are met and they are staying on track. If we leave the room for just a few minutes, we may come back to conversations of who likes who, who the best teachers are, etc. Which is all fine - if they are actually working while doing this talking! We have found, too, that the kids can focus more when they have something tangible. Now that we have moved from prototyping to building a robot they can focus better and can see the end goal. Don’t give up on anyone. However, if you do feel that someone is there only because his or her parents want him there, have a private conversation. We have had kids that really didn’t want to be there and it can be a distraction and demotivator for other team members. I have found that since shedding these individuals, the team has more focus and motivation.

For those who aren’t serious, we just get them to do different things in the club. you don’t have to go to competitions to learn about robotics. For examples, one kid is working with our engineering teacher to build a 2-stage linear lift. There’s been this 1 girl who has been in robotics for 3 years now and she’s just our manager helping our teacher. Finally, we have a little 8-person class on RobotC taught by one of our juniors. Now, pertaining to getting people serious, I strongly advocate for the “Let them Fail at a competition to show them how much work they need to put in” method partially because that’s how I learned and partially because I’ve seen it work with our other teams. One of our teams last year didn’t try at all with their robot because they thought that the other teams didn’t try as well; you can imagine how that went in the competition. Now, this year, they are the team that advocated for new parts because our old parts “weren’t sufficient enough.” Also, as @JustinM said, letting teams fail in competition is a way to get the people who aren’t serious out of the competitive game. We always start out with too many people, as robotics is the most popular club (yay), but after the 1st competition, we always get to 4 teams (This is only my second year, but my teacher has told me that this always happens).

They really seem to enjoy robotics, they have come up with some good ideas. Maybe merging the two teams and finding jobs for them could work.

Yeah, that’s a good way to think of it, I don’t think I was as serious as I am now when I was in middle school… :stuck_out_tongue:

Find what people like about robotics. If they don’t have anything then it’s usually a sign they shouldn’t be at robotics. If you send them to go do what they enjoy doing they will rarely slack off. If they still slack off they don’t really love doing what they are doing or they feel like they have nothing to do.

Require them to store their cellphones in an area far away from where they are working (store the cellphones inside a locker, in another room, etc.). If they need to use the cellphone, then they must step away from the work area, perhaps to a separate room. Despite all their claims of the phones being useful and necessary to their work, teenagers experience their cellphones mostly a distraction.

While the phone thing is true, a true teenager finds a way to goof off using anything in their surroundings like a pack of wild wolves (the most appropriate comparison ever).

Having multiple teams is definitely an advantage: the less-serious students can migrate toward “recreational robotics” while the die-hard students migrate toward the more competitive “travel teams”. This year, we have grown to the point where we don’t expect all the teams to go to every event. “Recreational” teams can compete at all the events we host in-house (since they don’t cost us registration fees), but a team won’t go to a paid competition unless they have a viable robot. Also, with huge growth in our VEX IQ program this year, we will encourage Middle-School kids to stay with VEX IQ and become awesome programmers. Moving forward, we won’t have a 6th grade student on a VRC team unless they are experienced with IQ and have an acceptable maturity level. Our experience with 6th grade VRC students is that most of them goof off too much, and like sawing metal parts into little pieces.

I could not agree more! Before going to a competition this past weekend (the DHS Back to School Bash) I informed the team members (we have 3 teams) that they were taking their robots no matter what, and they would have to deal with what they have or have not done. It was quiet a motivator and some of the teams had more success than others, but they all learned from the experience. I went ahead and registered them for another competition at the end of October, so now they have to get with it and prepare their robots like they should have before. Seems like a fast pace, but in the end those that don’t want to put in the work will leave on their own, and those that are serious will rise to the occasion.

me - “hey could you guys put your phones up we really need to get the robot done”
kids that dont care - “dude what are you a teacher? SCREW OFF NERDDZZ XDD LOLOLOLOL”