New Team Questions

Hi guys,
I’m starting up a new team this year in a school that has never thought about creating a VRC team until I transferred in (it’s a boarding school). That being said, I would be the only person who would have any idea what they were doing, the school is small but I see a lot of potential talent among some people. My question to you all is since there is only one of me: about how many people should there be on this team and what would be the best way of going about teaching them all how to build, program, and drive the robot. I have my own ideas, but I just wanted to hear from you guys.

For example: do any of you have “special” work days in which you dedicate all your time to working? Finding time to do all of this is going to be the biggest problem of all, the schedule is already fairly busy, followed by sports afterwards, so the amount of time is very limited.

Do you have some kind of check list that you go through when building, or getting ready for competition?

Lastly what do you guys do if you get a lot of initial support, assign the team roles, and then the bulk of the people lose interest?

Officially, we meet Mondays for an hour (2:30-3:30) and Thursdays for 3.5 hours (2:30-6:00). This gives new people a chance to become interested in the team and have some fun without a huge time commitment. They can learn the basic skills, and build a robot that is somewhat functional.

Unofficially, we meet daily for 4 hours. A few friends and I get out of class at 11:30, and we just go to the Robotics lab after school. We stay there until 3:30. This gives us a chance to test out the crazier ideas we have, and get in some much-needed build time.

My point with all that was to say you should set meeting times that are what is the absolute minimum to let people build a robot (which in my experience is around 5 hours per week) and tell them they can come in more if they want to. The people who come in more, put them all on one subteam. When the others realize that the people who meet more are way further than them, they’ll start coming in extra, too.

That’s what we do, at least. By Worlds last year the entire team was there from 2:30-6:30 or 7:00 every day. No one said “You have to show up.” They just decided it was important to be there, and did. It’s amazing what wanting to win will do to people.

As for team roles, people naturally gravitate towards what they’re good at. Put them in teams of four or five, and then just see what happens. If there ends up being 5 “builders” on one team and 5 “programmers” on another, go back and mix them up. Otherwise you’ll have one awesome robot that can’t drive straight, and a crappy robot that has the best autonomous routine in the world.

What would you do if you had multiple people wanting to do more than one of the fields? I can understand their interest to learn about it all, but they also have to take into consideration that there is only one of me, and I can only do so much with so many people at one time, all while keeping up with my other school work. Our possible mentor knows a little about programming, but I don’t know to what extent so I’m not sure if I want to rely upon him too much or at all.

I’ll see what I can scrounge up for time, I was possibly thinking about weekend meetings for those who have time to make them, but other than that, I can’t see too many other open slots of time in our schedule. :frowning:

We don’t really assign roles, we just make sure everything gets done. I do most of the building/wiring on 127C, help with programming and do the engineering notebook. The other main guy on my subteam is doing mainly programming, but helps out in other areas if I need him to and is going to drive the robot at competition. You just sort of naturally end up doing multiple things over the course of the year. If you end up with people wanting to do a bunch of things, let them. VEX really lets everyone do everything if they want to.

As for time, you can actually get a lot done in an hour. I don’t know how your lunch breaks are set up, but we had half of the team in there today rebuilding the X-Drive on one of the robots. They got all of the motors off, the pillow blocks mounted, and started remounting motors in that small window. If you go in with a plan, it’s plenty of time.

If you’re worried about a lack of programming knowledge, don’t panic. We’re actually working on a series of videos that will explain how to program a robot in any of the three languages we’re familiar with (EasyC, RobotC and now PROS). Ideally we’re going to start posting in about a week or so, because as of today the robot is in a state where we can reliably get it to do whatever we want it to. This is in addition to the dozens of tutorials already online, the extensive documentation that comes with the programs, and the helpful forum here where we’ll answer any questions you have.