Management of large number of teams

The Downingtown Area Robotics VEX program has continued our huge growth:
*]2006-07 - 1 Team - 5 roboteers
*]2007-08 - 2 Teams - 9 roboteers
*]2008-09 - 4 Teams - 25 roboteers
*]2009-10 - 9 Teams - 44 roboteers (and growing)
I expect to have 10-11 teams by January. But in 2010-11, if we keep this up I’ll have 20+ teams and almost 100 roboteers,

So I’m looking for team managment ideas that have worked for those of you with larger teams.

We did start Adult Mentor Workshops this summer. It’s a seven week program that covers mecanical, electrical/sensors, programming and team management. We had 6 mentors in the summer session, we have 9 in our current group (and the idea is that some of those mentors will go and start teams in their schools) So I’m working on a supply of mentors.

I’m looking for ideas in:
*]Team member management - how to seed the teams with roboteers
*]Design - how to keep from coming up with 10 of a similar design
*]Parts management - presently each team has the basic nuts, bolts, etc. The pull sensors and metal from a common area
*]Logistics - presently we rely on parents to get roboteers and robots to events. Is it worth trying to do a bus, or do we keep up with the parent car pools?

Any ideas you have will be great!


Team 254 currently has 6 teams with around 40 students.

We typically make the most experienced students the team captains so we don’t end up with teams that have no idea what they are doing.
We don’t actively prevent teams from using similar designs, but we encourage teams to have their own design meetings and to not copy other teams.
This year, we gave each team a budget so that they could get the parts that they wanted specifically.
For the nearer tournaments, we carpool, but for the further tournaments we take one of our school’s vans or buses or a plane.

We could start a club of big programs. Exothermic Robotics’ history:

2006-7: 5 members - 1+1 robot (FVC) (the “+1” was a practice robot that competed)
2007-8: 18 members - 3 robots (VEX/FTC)
2008-9: 40 members - 8 robots (5 VRC/ 3 FTC)
2009-10: 70+ members - 12? robots (10-11 VRC / 1 FTC)

One thing I’m impressed with is your student-robot ratio. I work hard to keep it to six students per robot. We expect a 10-15% drop out rate among first-year teammates, and SOMEONE always has a schedule conflict. Six to seven students per team usually means that at least four people will show up for build sessions and competitions. With our current mentoring staff and huge number of rookies (40-ish) I don’t know if we could handle or afford 16-18 teams.

Since I would like others to have a chance to contribute ( :slight_smile: ) and – as you all know – I have all the answers, I can share how our parts management is changing this year. Last year, each team had a box of small parts (screws, nuts, spacers, washers, bearing flats, etc.) and drew on a common stock of steel, aluminum, wheels, and electrics.

This year each team gets a small-parts kit, and everything else is picked like kids pick sandlot baseball teams. This Tuesday we are spreading out the high-value items (like electrics, chassis kits, omniwheels, and aluminum structure) and teams will take turns picking what they want. By the end of the day, everything we own will “belong” to a team for the season, and will go into their storage crate and parts bin. We are using Plano 1373 STOW 'N GO™ tool boxes for team parts and tool storage, backed up by flap-lid storage crates for larger items. (We bought the Plano boxes from Amazon and the storage crates from Costco. Make sure your storage crates have steel-wire-reinforce hinges – the all-plastic hinges are junk.)

Each team will have a budget to buy new parts (probably $350 or so, depending on fund raising), and will manage their own inventory. Inter-team barter is legal, as is sharing and donations.

Our thought is that it will encourage teams to be more aware of the true cost of building their robots, rather than viewing parts as some great gift from Mr. TYler’s credit card, and will teach Valuable inventory and purchasing management skills. A lot of engineering is designing the right solution within budget constraints, and we think our new system will more accurately reflect reality.

We use the Stow and Go for each team. Your flat lid box, what’s the internal dimensions of them? Does a completed robot fit inside? That may solve my storage area problem if I can have the robots inside the flat lid box.


*]Member management: we had ~70 interested students this year, which we let sort themselves into teams they felt comfortable with. We told them what makes each team unique, in terms of dedication, etc.
*]Design: as Kendall said, most teams come up with independent designs. “Distributed success” makes this easier - if you have one design consistently dominating, your other robots would probably copy it.
*]Part management: we found that keeping parts separate is really a pain, and it often costs more (storage, storage space). We keep everything in one cabinet, but each team gets first dibs at the parts they order. If they want to trade for other parts, they can do so.
*]Logistics: parents usually work for us, but a bus would probably be better. We’re using the school vans for the SoCal tournaments this year.
*]Mentors: Although we run quite a large club, we don’t have any mentors beyond our school faculty moderators. Many of our students participate in FRC, which usually heps, but our experience comes from the team captains and other veterans. Juniors and seniors often choose to take AP Physics B and C from our physics teacher / robotics moderator, so they provide knowledge about torque, acceleration, etc.

We just passed week 6. We are pretty have a pretty stable group at 55 students, 9 robots. They did a week of design and finished the second week of build.

I’ve taken the suggestion of setting a budget for each team at $300 in parts. So far that is working pretty well, teams are doing a decent job.

We have a pretty good set of mentors and I’ve had some parents get involved, we are running an average of 10 parents, so we have a good roboteer to adult ratio.

From a logistics view I’m thinking that 50-60 roboteers is about the max we can coordinate to get to one place at one time.