A group of individuals is nothing without structure and organization. Learning the individual strengths of each of your teammates to create robots together will turn you into a force fit to conquer even the toughest game challenges. This article covers team organization and collaboration, knowledge sharing, gracious professionalism, and fostering a safe team environment.
The first step to organizing a team is determining who does what. Generally, FTC® teams are organized into design, assembly / mechanical, software, and outreach squads, with different sub-squads for different tasks - for example, an outreach squad could have a sub-squad working on industry connections. In addition, your team will probably form cross-squad teams, such as your drive team and scouting team.
To effectively manage these squads, you will need to set a carefully chosen leadership structure - leads should possess good delegation skills and be willing to facilitate learning experiences for those assigned to their squad. Optionally, a captain can be chosen as well to oversee squad leads.
Each individual member should decide which squad they would like to participate in, as people work better on tasks they care about! In addition, each member should be involved with outreach in some form, to get them involved in the community and teach them the importance of service. In addition, this will improve your judged presentations.
Finally, your team will need to decide when it meets. Week to week, this will largely depend on the amount of work that needs to get done, but it is recommended to schedule 1-2 mandatory meetings a week to facilitate collaboration.
Teams should strive to increase their knowledge of FTC design, software, and outreach both before and during the season. The more you know and experience, the easier it will be to tackle engineering challenges you encounter.
Practice over the summer.#
Summer projects are a great way to explore robot concepts and start outreach. For instance, your team could research different lift designs and create a decision matrix of strengths and weaknesses. More often than not, the designs you research will make it onto your competition robot in the upcoming season - and regardless, the mechanical techniques you learn will be helpful. Reaching out to STEM businesses before the season will help you gain insights that could be helpful for the upcoming year, and planning and implementing outreach initiatives in your community will give you a headstart for the season.
Create and utilize resources.#
To start the learning process, Game Manual 0 may be useful! Have your team peruse the resources here, and use that as a starting point for your own knowledge base. Make sure to check out the Useful Resources section, where other resources are cataloged. Additionally, compiling your own resources will allow your team to explore different techniques and materials, and provide useful documentation for future team members. You could create a library of FTC legal sensors and goBILDA kits. Make sure to include all your members in these processes.
Cross-train your members.#
This is the most important knowledge-related pointer, in my opinion. Having all your members learn at least one skill outside of their expertise will go a long way towards increasing collaboration and efficiency. Programmers who CAD will be able to design and integrate their own sensor cases, reducing design team workload. Designers who know outreach will be able to write their parts and speak to their designs more effectively in judging. Outreach people who know the mechanical and software processes on their robot are more effective.
Create a training program for your recruits.#
When new members join your team, some of them will probably not know how to build and program a robot, or may have experiences with different techniques and softwares. Document a specific onboarding program for your new members - what logins will you have to give them? What softwares will they need to learn? What are some design techniques they will have to learn? Assign dedicated members to teach younger members about these techniques and to share their knowledge.
Teams should be gracious and professional both at practice and events - stress to your members that each of them is a representative of your team. Encourage them to actively assist other teams both at events and online. Finally, keep an eye on your team and ensure everyone is getting along well and being respectful.
Fostering a Safe Environment#
Your team should strive to be as inclusive as possible. Ensure other members are not making homophobic, sexist, racist and/or transphobic jokes, and educate them on why they should refrain from doing so. Be actively mindful to not create a “boys club” culture where women are objectified and sidelined, and make sure every member feels comfortable in their position. Everyone should feel comfortable in your team environment.
Create a logo design for your team, and a corresponding style guide on fonts and colors to keep consistency when creating marketing materials. This will make it easier for you to design posters, flyers, t-shirts, stickers, and even branded plates for your robot!