Organization Structure and Longevity

A successful robotics club is an investment that will teach members various important skills in engineering, as well as in many other fields. In addition to teams learning from external resources, being able to learn from other teams and members within the organization is a system that can help your organization successfully teach new members through generations of teams.

Engineering Notebooks

Not only do engineering notebooks provide documentation of your robot and design process for judges at competitions, they also serve as knowledge bases for future teams in your organization. Well-thought-out and thorough notebooks can serve as a database for building techniques, game strategies, and programming solutions for other teams in your organization long after you've graduated. On top of the content within the notebook, the notebook itself can act as an example of how to layout and format a notebook, to continue the cycle.

In-House Resources

The best In-House resource for a club's longevity is passionate students who will share everything they learned with new students. This is often fostered by working together across sister teams. Sharing design ideas throughout a season, asking for help, and giving help, as well as game strategies and more.

Another good way to develop resources is a shared drive folder (on a preferred platform). Teams take hundreds of photos and videos throughout a season. Compiling these will allow for new students to get a boot camp of what the process will look like. This is a great spot as well to compile build techniques or interesting mechanisms that have been developed in the club. Haverford (169) has employed this in the past where teams will compile their photos towards the end of the season to the drive and will share everything they have learned.

Code libraries are very helpful in organizations to assist in the start-up process for a new team, or new students. Commonly, this is done on Github. Compile all code that is created throughout the year, and in past seasons. BLRS has a GitHub here with past seasons of code as well as PID, Odometry, and Pure Pursuit libraries (some of which are private for team use only right now).

Past robot libraries, displays, and notebook libraries are also helpful. Similar to the shared drive mentioned earlier, this is a great way to document designs, mechanisms, and build techniques. The easiest way to teach robotics is to show someone a past robot. If it is possible, displaying some past robots (ones that have done well for example) in the club meeting space helps to show a team close up how robots work. Some teams like SJTU have CAD models of their past robots as well. And notebook libraries can just be a shelf in a meeting space that show past notebooks that people can look through as needed.

At Purdue, the BLRS Wiki is in itself a form of an In-House Resource. Team members are asked to document knowledge that they have gained from VEX. This covers so much from organization creation, to build techniques. For BLRS, it is all published, however, this is not required. Resources like this are a great way to document learnings across an organization.

Interaction Between Teams

Mentorship between the more experienced teams in an organization and the less experienced teams is one of the most effective ways to ensure the long-term competitiveness of the club. If all of the knowledge on how to be a successful team rests in a single team in the organization, the organization will struggle when that team graduates. However, even after graduation, there are still plenty of opportunities for graduated members to continue to help their VRC organization. Staying in contact with teams using communication platforms such as group chats and Discord are great ways to continually receive build advice and programming help while alumni aren't able to help in person.

To take mentorship to the next level as a VRC team, working alongside other teams in your organization can help develop multiple competitive teams at the same time. This has many benefits, such as mutual improvement of each team, better drive practice (viable 1v1's and practice matches), and the ability to coordinate alliance selections. Many top-tier organizations have employed this strategy throughout many seasons with great success, such as 169 and 8059.

Another great thing to look into is communication with other teams across regions and the world. The Vex forum for example has thousands of teams communicating daily and is a great place to ask questions and share knowledge. Similarly, Youtube has hundreds of Vex-related videos from reveals to tutorials. Many regions also have Discord servers. With parent permission, these are a great way to get involved in the VEX community. The largest server is Vex Robotics Competition (VTOW, this is an unofficial discord not affiliated with VEX) which has teams from around the world. Talk to teams in different regions though to find out if there is a local Discord Server.

Teams Contributed to this Article:

  • BLRS (Purdue SIGBots)

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