- Hopefully, your team is still very much engaged in the robot build and you are making progress. Certain team members may not be fully engaged in your build because they do not agree with your design. Take time to talk to these team members to encourage their input to make the concept you have decided upon better.
GRADES / MUlTI-TASKING
- Monitor how your student team members are handling a multiple-day work schedule and maintaining their school studies. Some teams have grade requirements necessary to stay on the team. Try to suggest ways the students can balance school and robot building. Teams could provide mentors or homework sessions before or during parts of the build session.
- By now your adult mentors may have begun to realize the true scope of what they have volunteered for. Try to be flexible with their schedules to minimize burn-out. There is a delicate balance between needing to make progress with your robot design and appreciating the non-robotics needs your adult mentors have (i.e., family obligations, work obligations, etc.).
- Building a working robot can be broken down into successfully completing smaller milestones (i.e. drafting a concept, building the FIRST chassis, wiring the controls, etc.). Find opportunities to celebrate when your team reaches a milestone. Examples of celebrations made include a team cheer, high fives, or team hug (not recommended for all teams).
KEEPING YOUR SCHOOL / SPONSORS / PARENTS IN THE LOOP
- Keep your school administration aware of your progress. Invite them to come to your work area and see what the students are doing and talk with them to see what they are learning. This may be a significant step to securing support and sustaining your team over time.
- Find a way to communicate progress with parents who are not actively involved with the team and with team sponsors. E-mail or website updates are good ways of doing this.
Continue to celebrate your success. Having your robot look somewhat like you envisioned this should help. Be aware of students and adult mentors who are stressed. Being involved in four weeks of robot build puts strains on home life and schoolwork.
Ensure that people have some time off when they need it. Although this is about building a robot, it is more about building people and relationships.
Continue to schedule times for a sub-set of team leaders (adults and students) to gather to discuss how the season is progressing, what tasks need to be done, and what resources are needed to accomplish those tasks. Meeting in a small subgroup allows some retrospection and an environment where the key leaders can see the big picture.
Depending upon your progress and the size of your team, you may need to schedule specific times when a certain sub-team (i.e., electrical) needs time on the chassis to wire up the electrical board, or when mechanical needs to install a functional component. By planning for some “shiftwork”, your team may be more efficient these last few weeks and avoid the “I never get time on the robot” syndrome.
Your team has been through five weeks of intense interaction. By now you should be able to find reasons to celebrate all your hard work. Take advantage of every opportunity. Make sure you recognize key individuals for their accomplishments and/or extra efforts also. We all like to receive recognition for a job well done.
Usually, by week five, you have some tired and cranky people. Acknowledge this and make sure people are taking breaks to get some rest and to manage their life outside of robotics. There is still a robot to ship, but try not to do it by leaving a trail of spent team members.
Depending upon your progress and the size of your team, you may need to schedule specific times when the electrical sub-team needs time on the chassis to wire up the electrical board, or when mechanical needs to install a functional component. By planning for some “shiftwork”, your team may be more efficient these last few weeks and avoid the “I never get time on the robot” syndrome.
HANDLING NON-CONTRIBUTING TEAM MEMBERS
Though difficult for many to do, addressing team members who are not contributing is very important. By now, most people know who works hard and who hardly works. Have one-on-one conversations with those team members who have not participated fully or have not met the expectations of team membership. Make it clear what your expectations are and what the consequences are. Some teams reserve team travel to competitions for only those who have met these expectations. Require performance to improve in a certain timeframe. Be firm if you need to carry out corrective action.
However, if you have not set team member expectations early in the season, you may have more difficulty dealing with those who are not meeting expectations now.
ROBOT CRATING CEREMONY
Plan to do something special during crating the robot. This is an opportunity for your team to recognize what you have accomplished over the past six weeks.
OPEN HOUSE FOR FAMILIES / SPONSORS
In the midst of getting the robot in the best shape possible, try to arrange an open house for families of team members and, perhaps, sponsors. Be clear to the attendees that work is still continuing and that takes precedence. However, realize that many family members (especially those of the adult mentors) have made sacrifices for their spouses, mothers, fathers to participate in this program. Acknowledging their sacrifice is a nice gesture. Opportunities also exist to invite sponsors to see what you have been doing with their money, supplies, and equipment. Take advantage of it.
It is important that all team members understand the schedule for the last week. Do your best to carve out blocks of time to complete what you need to before ship. Try to ensure that the right people are available also. If the drivers break something during practice, there should be someone available to fix it, if the drivers are otherwise employed.
You may need to restructure your team prior to attending the regional event. Roles will change at the competition. Understanding which roles you want to fill and who will fill them may take a bit of a shuffle.
Your pit area will not be able to accommodate more than a few people at a time. Prepare for this beforehand and determine who should be in the pit and when.
Possible competition roles may include - Competition Team (necessary), Pit Crew (necessary), Scouting Team, Spirit Team, and Chaperones/Travel Logistics Team.