Sharing supplies between teams

I’m not sure if all teams go through this, but my team has a problem that nobody has really addressed nor figured out a solution for.

My robotics team is under my school, Neuqua Valley High, meaning we are funded by the school and can get so many parts every year. In addition, we have SEVEN TEAMS that all share the parts that are purchased every year. I know that most organizations have more than one team under their name, but I’m not sure about having seven.
Now the problem is pretty obvious: There aren’t enough materials to go around between seven teams. Some teams get more, others don’t get as much. It’s my first year doing this, and I’ve seen enough. One team hoards a whole bunch of spacers, while another team (one that I worked with a lot) doesn’t even have enough working shaft collars. Even though each team gets their own kit, but a ton of stealing goes on between every team, except for the teams that refuse to do such things. No surprises - those were the teams that couldn’t even put on better motors on their drive when it broke.
The only thing I’ve done so far is just buy my own parts or bring my own stuff to school (Last summer my family purchased an entire competition kit, plus a bit more). But even after that problems still came up. At one point I bought a gyroscope and programming module (out of my own pocket) but after State, when I came back after that weekend to take some of my own things off our robot the gyroscope had already been taken off our robot, programming module in another team’s kit, and now it’s nearly impossible to get them back until the end of the season.

TLDR: Seven robotics teams trying to evenly split supplies doesn’t happen; 1-2 teams always take more and then leave the rest with the lesser portion.

With that small bit of ranting aside, I’d like to ask you guys if this is something that goes on between your teams (if you manage multiple teams or have sister teams), or if you have any solutions to the problem that I described.

There are a lot of organizations with 7 or more teams. I am sure you will get some wisdom from some of them. I only have 3 teams and we struggle with having enough parts. Our teams have to tear down a robot to build another one. By the end of the year, we combined two of our teams to save money and only took 2 teams to state even though all three had been tournament champions and could have gone.

Allocating parts is always a tough thing. The mentor needs to be involved with that. Parts individuals bring in on their own need to be marked somehow so those stay with the correct team and that should not adversely affect what parts they get to use from the school.

There will always be an uneven distribution. One thing we have done is have the teams submit a proposal for what parts they need and why. Let me see your design and the most worthy design gets the parts (within limits).

One thing that helps in our group is that we all see ourselves as one big team. Rather than competing against each other, they work with each other and help each other. Our two middle school teams shared a programmer. The primary driver on one team was the primary builder on another team. Everyone is invested in the success of all the teams. The high school students worked as mentors/advisers to the middle school students. Since there was less experience with the middle school, they worked on simpler concepts. No matter who wins, they all win.

We do NOT give each team their own kit. We have ALL of the parts in communal parts bins. The teams are to take only what they need for what they are they are building on a particular day. Although, this doesn’t totally eliminate conflicts, it does help get away from the “this part is ours” mentality and gets to “these parts are all of ours”.

I’m currently only a student so I will send these suggestions to the main teacher that runs the seven teams, thanks a lot!
As for seeing an organization as one big team… that may be harder because a lot of the students on the team are either A: Hyper Competitive or B: Don’t care at all, so a lot of the time you see the type A taking from type B, even though there are people who really care that are with type B. We hard one team get all their batteries taken and when I tried to do something about it (our teacher didn’t intervene here) they just said that it didn’t matter. That team that lost all their batteries had one or two team members that had spent 7-8 hours of their weekend working on their bot, but really its gone so far that people don’t even care.

Our teacher’s tried this to an extent, but it only goes so far. This is something I’ve suggested before, but the teacher’s really insistent of every team having their own set of stuff (joystick, chargers, batteries, and other bits and pieces). There are some communal parts, but usually those are tank treads, normal gears, and a lot of stuff that usually doesn’t get used for the season’s game. Because of this, whenever anything goes communal, it gets taken or hoarded. One team even took the communal dremmel and hacksaw and hoarded it in their kit.
Thank you for your input though. By the end of this season hopefully some people can talk to the teacher about this problem.

My program has 9 teams with 65 members. You NEED to talk to your coach so they can put in place a communal area for parts and fasteners. we have two big shelves with trays that are split up into diffeeent types of steel and the other side gears and stuff. WE also have shelves on our work bench that have all of our screws and nuts and spacers.
If you have questions or need pictures for ideas dm me @8110x.the.ribbits on instagram

We have 13 teams and also use a communal parts method. We have small toolkits that we have our screw drivers, lock nuts, screws etc in, and boxes in which we store our robots (there is some metal but not a lot). Our mentor keeps most of the new parts in a locked toolbox and you must explain why you need the part before receiving it. Of course some teams do end up with more of a certain type of screw, more wrenches or whatever it may be, but just make it clear that talking to other teams and asking for parts is okay. One of the most common phrases in a robotics session is “Do you have any ______” and 99% of the time every team you ask will say “Im not too sure, just search our box” and thats it. It works well with having this many teams.

Each of my teams has a small container with their Cortex, their Joysticks (main and partner), their VEX net keys, their license plates and a flash drive to store their programs. These are the ONLY things that belong to a particular team. We have a large charging station and batteries are communal as are ALL other parts. I am lucky enough to have been doing VEX Robotics for many years (14 years) so we have quite an extensive array of parts so hoarding is generally not an issue. It is all about establishing the proper culture. As @blatwell said above, we see ourselves as one big team that fields multiple robots, not 6-7 individual teams. It can be a difficult culture to establish, but one established it is largely self-perpetuating. I would be happy to share my thoughts with your teacher.

We have a small program and don’t have this problem. However, I was judging earlier this season and a team was using mechanum wheels. Knowing the drawbacks of mechanum wheels (had a team use them one season but abandom them mid-season), I asked why they had chosen them. Their answer was that they were the only wheels left when it came time for them to select their wheels. Sad.

I’m set up so each team has their own brain, controller, partner controller, partner cable, two VEXnet keys, robot battery (2), robot battery charger, 12AAA, and a AAA charger (with brick). All of those items are labeled with the team number/name and they are responsible for it.

Each team has a 24 divider parts box for a selection of nuts, bolts, etc. They have a blue tote that holds all of the above stuff and any “work in progress” items (like an Arm that is being built). Each team can keep a spare motor in their 24 box. But all the sensors, etc go back to a common area. Claws stay intact. If you need a motor and you rip it off a claw I make your entire team stop building, get a motor and reassemble it.

The rest of the items are in a common box. As the mentor I go through each team’s tote every other week and harvest out the items that are not in actual use. We talk about why they have the part, where it’s going and the schedule for it. If there isn’t a hard plan, it goes back to the common area.

Every week we do a purchase list by team. I’ll make a pass through the common box to make sure that it’s not in stock and then we order it. I then track “did they use it” so when they come back next time I go "bought you XYZ and you didn’t use it, need to see HOW you are going to use this new set of parts.

I do pre-guess some parts. Like if teams are planning to build arms, I’ll order some of the turntables, since they make much better arm supports. So that way when the axle does it’s bendy thing, I have the right thing for them to move forward.

The case of the gyro, if it’s yours, you need to get it back from the team, and the mentor/school needs to get the one for the team. Your situation is why I don’t like personal items on robots.

I disagree with communal parts. I think too often people with communal parts don’t think about the consequences of how they use the parts. When a team has their own set of parts it is their responsibility to take good care of them. Communal parts allows the diffusion of responsibility, students will think they can let metal bend or make needless cuts because they can always swap for a better piece. When a team knows this c channel is theirs to use they have consequences for wasting parts.

I think you just need to organize the parts better and stop people from stealing. Every year the teams should be assigned parts and if possible some budget to buy new parts with.

@tabor473 – Nobody cuts stuff without me being involved. That keeps a 35 C being cut into 5 unit chunks.

Cutoff chunks are saved and teams are encouraged to scavenge them first. Sometimes the smaller parts trigger different ways to build things.

The only problem I have with @Foster 's method is that the mentor has to be so involved that the students dont necessarily have the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them which is essential to the VEX experience. I am not saying that Foster’s teams have this problem but that system takes an incredibly dedicated mentor that is very knowledgeable about VEX which is in my experience near impossible to find.
Our club operates with each team having a kit containing everything they could need to build a robot. We get two orders per year once around Aug and then another mid Dec. If a team does not have a part they can ask our other teams, but if the team being asked doesn’t want to share they don’t have to as it is their kit. This is partially because many of the kits have personally bought parts. Our mentor does not control or know what is in our kits as we are largely a student lead organization who manage ourselves.

Our school has a system where each team gets a parts organiser and a medium sized box to put parts they have built or will need. All other parts are stored in communal boxes It works reasonably well however we need to clear out team boxes every few months as they just become full of random parts teams don’t need. If you do need something from another teams box though asking normally works.

I agree. We have a “CUT PARTS” box. Teams are not allowed to cut any parts unless they have gone through that box first and shown that the cannot modify a part from there to fit their needs first.

We do, too. In fact, our kids would rather use a cut part than have to cut one themselves. Having cut pieces of almost any length significantly speeds up prototyping and building. We have separate bins for pieces 1 to 10 holes in length, 11 to 20 holes, 21 to 34, and full sized pieces. We do the same for single bar, too. We have single bar in almost any length imaginable.

Ya I understand that. I was more thinking of less obvious ways of people abusing parts.

Attaching something stupidly so it bends. Letting a motor stall against a hard stop for a while every time making it more likely to trip in the future. Shorting pins 1 and 10 on cortex. Accidentally snipping wires. Breaking pins on sensors and motors.

I think people learn to more careful with their parts when they actually are affected by past mistakes. Just my idle thoughts. I think there are a lot of bad habits that make parts less competitive for future use.

I’m not sure how many teams we have or how many people (I do know it’s a lot…like 7-10 teams total; split between comp and non-comp), but we keep everything in large, organized cabinets full of marked bins lining our current robotics room. If you can get some more funding, definitely get those. One of them is a tall steel double-door cabinet with hooks to hang organizing bins for screws, motors, and sensors, and the others are basic plastic storage cabinets with wide shelves that usually hold the robots, wheels, modified stuff, miscellaneous buildup, gear/drive kits, and long metal (c-channel, base plates, rails, etc.) parts all in totes or boxes. The only reason we “steal” (we’re polite about it because we’re a small school and know each other) from each other is if we need a specific length screw or piece of metal. Our system works very well, except everything has the inherent issue of being misplaced or disorganized xD

@tabor473 Broken things also come back to me, since they need to be replaced. Thats when the discussion starts on “How did this break”. (I don’t know get the response of “I don’t know when a spare will arrive”). They are stuck with the cortex / battery for the season so breaking them has an adverse effect on them.

It’s not really me being engaged. The average adult can figure out that cutting stuff randomly doesn’t work out in the long run. We have how much a part costs and make sure people understand there is a shipping charge that is also part of the cost. So ordering a single C channel and getting the $11 min shipping charge makes it expensive. So we do a little lead time teaching.

It’s all things that people need to know. Amazon has made a huge mess of “You need to think ahead” since roboteers now think that everything you want is Prime shipping, you get it in two days :frowning: