Working as a team

I’m really curious to hear what other robotics teams are like.

My school is pretty small (less than 400 students) so our robotics team is naturally small. We have at most 3 active members. By active, I mean people who come in after school, after sports, during free periods (break/lunch) to work on the robot.

How many people are on your team? How often does your team meet? Are there special “work days” where you guys spend a lot of time dedicated to building the robot?

Do you have a process that you go through each year come up with a design for a robot?

The school only bought 1 programming license and installed on our teacher’s laptop so I have to ask for permission every time I want to program our robot.

How does your team accommodate multiple programmers or programmers who want to work from home? Do you have a computer dedicated for robotics provided by the school?

How do you guys prepare for competitions? Like a day before, week before, etc.

My experience so far is a little mixed. Me and another student are the only ones that really work on the robot. We can only get 1 hour of work after school because our teacher has to lock up the building and go home.

If I want to program the robot, I have to find a time when my teacher isn’t teaching because she uses her laptop during class. Even then, I only get 20-30 minutes of work done at a time.

People officially on the team: 9
People who come in often: ~4
People who come in all the time: Me :smiley: (driver, builder, programmer, captain)

We used to have only one programming license, but now my new teacher is starting a robotics course next year, we now have extra RobotC and EasyC cdkeys to use.

We have a somewhat beefy computer for modeling, but no one knows how to use it, so I’ve been trying to teach myself. Because robotc isn’t crysis, I’m borrowing an old laptop from the school to program in.

I started doodling designs and looking at robotics competitions the day the new challenge was announced last April. But I really started designing in September. Our team doesn’t have a full game piece and goal kit yet, but we do have a few balls and cylinders and a goal, so we practiced with that. At the competition we attended a few weeks ago, we were able to practice on their field nearly two whole days to set up a decent autonomous program. Now that you can rearrange your robot on the tile, autonomous is much simpler than past years.

I work on the robot basically every weekday from 2:30 to 4:30, but sometimes stay late by myself. That doesn’t count watching hundreds of videos of past competitions while procrastinating on homework though.

We do FRC and Vex. The FRC team has 40, and about half of them are on Vex teams (there are 3 vex teams)

Myself and Bryan (BJC on these forums) are team leaders of two of the teams. We work with our underclassmen to build a competitive robot, using the design process we use in FRC. As this is our first year in Vex, we are still learning how to translate our knowledge about large robots to small robots.

We started by reading the rules, and coming up with rule basics, determining game objectives, robot attributes, and finally came up with as many robot designs as we could. We then used a weighted objective table to pick the best designs. Each team (of the three) purposefully did not pick a design that another team was using, as we don’t want all of our robots to look the same.

We meet at our FRC meetings at Chrysler every Monday, and in a classroom every Tues, Wed, and Thurs. Since we hosted a competition a few weeks ago, we have two full fields (one in the classroom, which isn’t set up, and one in my basement). Me and Bryan come every day, as well as a few other dedicated members, and we occasionally see everyone else. We can already tell who shows future leadership qualities, and who will be the team leaders a few years from now.

As for CAD, Bryan and I both know how to CAD, but I usually prefer paper for rough designs. Bryan does full CAD models of his robot subsystems he works on, and they look really nice when he’s done, although he does tend to build things with a few throusandths precision, and mills a lot of his parts.

I got a laptop from the school to program on, but they were throwing it away (1.4ghz Centrino, 1gb RAM (upgraded), Win XP Pro, Integrated Graphics). We got three more for our tournament, and kept them to run the field controllers and as more programming laptops. As we program in C, home programming without robots does not require the programming laptop. All of our robots have a single joint motorized arm, collector, and skid steer drivetrain, so the code is portable between them all.

My school consists of 5 teams in total. There are about 4-5 people on each team. We have dedicated days (Tuesday and Thursday) every week when we meet until 5pm to work on robotics. This works for most of our teams, however my team and I have found that we work much more efficiently in longer sessions at my house once a week.

My team and I meet almost every weekend for 5-8 hours. There are 5 of us. 1 captain/lead designer (me), 1 builder, 1 main programmer (username Thorondor on the forum), 1 builder and programmer, and 1 designer. On the field, I am currently the coach and we are working on deciding who our two drivers are going to be.

We have a pretty detailed design process that basically boils down to: Game analysis, Strategy, Design based on criteria (which are determined by strategy), Build, and Test. This process is repeated over and over again as we analyze video of competitions and other robots throughout the year.

Before a competition, we make sure to get a couple of weeks of driver practice a program testing done (however we work on the program all the time, even without a robot).

We have friends who work at a computer shop who have gotten us our own laptops that were spares. They work quite well for programming. As for multiple programmers, we tend to just have both of our programmers huddled around the laptop. (However, I recently acquired an old 40 inch flat screen that we are going to hook the computer up to so one programmer can be coding while the other is working on the robot but both can see what is happening for troubleshooting. I would definitely not say this is necessary, but it couldn’t hurt :D)

Also, our main programmer does coding from his laptop at home even though he doesn’t have RobotC on it. He just codes based on what he knows and then fixes syntax later in the actual program.

I would say it is extremely important to have your own laptop though, so ask around your community and see if anyone has one they are not using.

Hope this was helpful. Good luck this year!

My school is very small(a little over 200 students). Our robotics club has about 40 students in it. About half of them are on the forum. We have 7 teams and we meet on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We meet for over 7 hours a week. We are pretty lucky because our club has their own building on the school campus that we can go over to at any time.
Each team spends 2 weeks in the beginning of the school year designing their robots, then they start building.
Each team member has a specific role that they do. My team 1200A Syntax Error builders are mbrunn and mcops. drbayer is the team captain of our b team and he helps everyone with CAD.
Our school has student laptops that we get to keep. Our club has 16 licenses of EasyC. The programmers can program during their study halls.

I would definitely suggest getting your own copy of robotc/easyc. You could also uninstall the current version of easyc/robotc that is on your teachers computer and install it onto one of your own laptops. Programming is something that can’t really be done in small sessions. It is most effective (for me at least) when i can code for hours at a time. (This is mainly for autonomous modes and such) This allows you to code, then test the program, fix whatever went wrong, and repeat the process. If you have robotc and are mostly fluent in the language you could even just code in a text editor and then bring it in and copy it into the robotc program. I sometimes do that and it works well.

Wow. It seems like your teams are pretty large. I have my own computer but the problem is we only get 1 license and it has to be on a school computer. They installed it on a teacher’s computer because all teachers are issued laptops and they wanted something portable to bring to competitions.

I understand that programming in small sessions is bad practice, but it’s my only option to get work done. If there was a free programming option that worked for cortex, I would totally switch to that so I could program from home.

I’m trying to figure out a better system for our team right now. It seems that our teacher is reluctant to come in to school on weekends to let us work on the robot. We rarely have time during the week days because once school ends, we have sports that go until 5-6pm.

If you could somehow acquire a laptop and call it a school computer then you can uninstall the version on the teacher’s computer and it revalidates your code and you can install it on the new computer. Old laptops work really well cause it doesn’t require much power and you could make it the “robotics computer” Obviously computers are pretty hard to come by though. Do you use easyc or robotc?

Easy C. I’ll ask the school if they have any old laptops laying around that we can use just for robotics.

The Nerd Herd competes in three robotics programs (FRC, ROV, and VEX) in addition to having a dedicated administration team, so our team has about 120 members all together. My team (687z) has 7 members, and we meet just about every day of the week other than Friday. Monday and Wednesday meetings last about 2 hours. Tuesday and Thursday meetings last about 4 hours, and weekend meetings are about 6+ hours. (I’m going to meeting at someone’s house today, in fact.) As most of our members have other extracurricular obligations to fulfill, there are only 2 or 3 of us (myself included) that are always there.

   In terms of design, our process is based on the[ waterfall model]( The Requirements phase is essentially handed to us in the Gateway manual, so we go straight to the Design phase. After brainstorming several designs, we used a decision matrix in order to properly assess each one. While this may sound all good and dandy, sometimes (like this season) our chosen design doesn't pan out during the Verification phase, so we have to back to the drawing board. This process repeats until we have a working design, which ideally is 90% done two weeks before competition. The next two weeks are spent driving, programming, making minor improvements to the design, and making presentation materials.

   With regards to programming, we ran the RobotC trial last year (back when it lasted 90 days) for most of the season, but when that ran out we had to purchase a single license, which is installed on our main programmer's computer. In addition to our head programmer, about half of us are competent with programming, so the rest of us simply make edits with our text editors of choice. (I personally prefer sublime text.)

When do those 2-hour meetings happen during the day? Our team gets a dedicated 20 minute block in our school schedule (10:40-11am, once a week). Any work that needs to be completed is either done after school from 3-4pm or during free periods (not many people have free periods because they are taken up by ensembles).

The two hour meetings are held after school from 4PM-6PM. The four meetings are held from 2PM-6PM as some of us get off early on those days. From about 2-4 PM on Mondays and Wednesdays there is a robotics class, but that’s primarily for the FRC and ROV programs.

We have 7 members, 3 of them “serious”. We meet once a week from 2:00 - 4:30 as an after school club. The week before a competition, we sometimes manage an extra meeting at school, but we need permission from the teacher (I’m a parent mentor, but a science teacher graciously lends us his room). Or some years, a student will volunteer a home for a Saturday meeting, which typically lasts 3-8 hours, depending on the host.

Before we start building for the competition, I have the beginning students build a few simple robots from step-by-step instructions which include a driving base, claw, lift, and sensors. After that, they’re free to look at designs from other teams (including team journals from previous years) and propose ideas for the current challenge.

Our school has a license for EasyCv2 and v4, and I also purchased my own license a while ago for v2. I “lend” my code to students if they request it.

Here’s our team checklist:
The Week Before

  1. Work through the Robot Inspection Checklist, found in the Game Manual. Fix any issues that don’t meet specifications, so you won’t have to fix them on the day of.
  2. Check for any communications from the tournament coordinator. Verify that you have the latest version of Master Code.
  3. Finalize carpool arrangements.
  4. Charge batteries. Remember to pack the charger(s).

Tourney Day Checklist - Things to bring
Robot (with team # and other requirements met)
Fully charged batteries (and spares, if you have them)
Battery chargers (both kinds if needed)
Laptop with your programs
Extension cord and power strip with enough sockets for all battery chargers and laptop
Robot kit with spare parts
Safety goggles/glasses
Engineering notebook
Supplies like tape, Sharpie markers, pens, scissors, Ziploc bags for emergencies
Give-away items, like buttons or handouts
Snacks (if allowed)
Money for food (if sold on site)
A desire to have a great time!

It’s tough to make progress when you get so little time with the robot. Is there any way that you could get permission to take the robot home for a weekend (inviting the other team students to work on it as well)? I know that sometimes schools have rules about school property leaving campus, but if there is a way to do it, I’d recommend it.

Having your own software license is also beneficial, even if you don’t have the robot at home. You can write programs at home, then transfer/test them on your school’s computer. One year, our head programmer wrote programs for an imaginary robot (the one that she anticipated would be built by competition day) using the field drawing. Her program was downloaded to a robot that had never touched a mat until its Programming Skills run, and she earned the team 13th place at Worlds in the robot’s first run of her program.

Good skill to your team! (I don’t believe in luck)

I noticed you all have really small teams. We have 146 members on our team so…
For programming, we have a few team laptops which all have RobotC on them. We share them across all of our subteams. Some people also bring in laptops with RobotC on them. Some people use EasyC, but for the most part, we use RobotC.
We usually have builds for 2 hrs a day. Sometimes we have a build on the weekend for 3 hrs or so.

People interested and actually into robotics: ~10
People that sometimes participate: ~7
People that always participate: ~4
People that actually do stuff: mainly me (design, build, program, plans, decisions, etc.) I’m not the driver though, 'cause I have high latency… >.>

There’s only one main team that goes to competitions. But there are many side projects throughout the year.

My school just got into this a year and half ago. Programming license is on my laptop, as well as a school desktop. I’m the only one that programs, and I barely know much, so it’s a major disadvantage.

146 people??? That seems like there would be way to many conflicting opinions lol.

I agree.

Do most of them get quality hands on work? I know when I was in FTC, there were about 12 people on my team, and I barely got to work. I was the kid who just sat and watched.

This year (and last) we had 5-6 people, and I got SO much more hands on work. It has been great!

About the thread post.

On my team, there are 5 members. We meet for 3hr on Tuesday from:
3:00PM-6:00PM, and sometimes when we need to get more work done we meet on Tuesdays from 3:00PM-8:30/9:00PM.

We have one programmer, one driver, one operator, one coach (or two), and everybody helps out with pit work.

Everybody helps put thought into building the robot, but then me(Jesse), Jesse M, and William mostly build the robot. The others help out, but not as much.

Woodward Academy officially has roughly 12 members on the team, with 7 who are really into it. 10 of us take a fall semester course called Advanced Robotics which gives us 50 mins to work on the robots which then runs into a 1 hour lunch. In addition, we stay most days after school to 5 or 6PM. We also will frequently hang out in the robotics lab prior to homeroom in the morning, but we rarely work then. We have very few mandatory meetings throughout the year, as we encourage everyone on the team to pursue other interests and extracurricular activities around the school.

We use RobotC, and have 2 laptops that are for coding, however our main programmers prefer to use their own laptops. We have a 12 seat license, so essentially anyone who wants a copy of RobotC can have one, so long as they give the license back before they graduate.

We have 3 sub-teams, and we rarely assign people to a particular robot until just before competition. This facilitates us to use each of our skills on every robot.

Right now we are working on creating a steady stream of recruits by starting a middle school team, and we also have an intro to robotics class that builds and programs squarebots for a semester.

The Vexmen is the Downingtown Area Robotics arm for Vex competitions. DAR has FRC for high school and FLL for upper elementary school kids. Vex was supposed to be just for middle school but we had such interest by the graduating middle schoolers that we formed some high school teams this year.

Our Vex team is now 100% parent mentor based so it’s not after school at the schools. We have 17 teams - 14 middle school and 3 high school teams with 4-5 kids per team. We cover a district of 2 middle schools and 3 high schools with some kids from private schools on the team too.

FLL has ~25 kids and FRC has ~35. So the Vexmen is the largest group of students. See our website for our teams, and history from 2010-11 season too.

We have some teams that meet 6:30 - 8:30PM Tuesday nights and some teams on Wednesday nights due to space (and controlling the chaos). Evenings are when you can get parent help. Each team has at least one parent mentor, some have 2 or 3.

For programming, we have a few donated laptops but many people bring their own. We have a set of license keys but some people have bought their own ($49 for the year, $79 for permanent license at We are 100% Robot C.

While less than ideal, you can always program the .c file in notepad and bring it back to school on a USB memory stick. I would reccomend backing up or emailing your program anyway so you don’t lose it. Robot C does not care what computer you use to write the code so you can write at home and bring it back in. Debugging does need the robot though.

If you can not do all the work at school, can you take the robot home to work on it? For autonomous programming some 3-4 hour chunks of field access is really valuable.

My school’s club has about 40 “members” with only about 20-25 people showing up during an average week. We have one club meeting a week on Tuesdays during lunch (which only gives us about 30 minutes a week as a club), but there are multiple team meetings for individual teams throughout the week for each of the four teams. It really just depends on what the captain feels like and when people can make meetings. The meetings for my team are usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays afterschool until 5 (3-5). Sometimes they go 3-7 if we are really stuck on something or we work on Saturdays from 11-6.

We have about six or seven people on each team and it gets a little chaotic when everyone shows up to team meetings.

We have three seats of robotC on individual peoples’ laptops and two seats of easyC.