FIRST 101: Keeping Your FIRST Team Organized!

After you have a robotics team, the first step is for everyone to know their general role on the team based on team members’ experience. One way to divide a team into subgroups is as our team has done – mechanical, programming, and outreach. This division doesn’t have to be absolute – all members can contribute to and learn about any subgroup, but it helps to know your primary contributions and responsibility. Each subgroup functions as a mini-team, so they should all be organized accordingly. It’s helpful to have a subgroup leader for each subgroup. Depending on how large your team and subgroups are, your leadership structure should grow accordingly.

Once the team is subdivided, it’s important to have a collaborative workspace for your team. We recommend having a group chat over a platform like Discord or Slack, where different subgroups can have their own channels with all members still being looped into conversations. You also should create a shared Google Drive folder or something similar where you can organize all of your team materials and also have sub-folders for different subgroups.

You should also establish fixed weekly meeting times for subgroups that work with everyone’s schedule, although different subgroups can choose how many times or how long to meet. Create a schedule that suits your interest, objectives, and available resources.

In order for your team to be effective, during your first or second meeting you should develop a timeline at the start of the year and stick to it. Start by writing down when the competition will be and work backwards, filling your timeline in with broad goals and deadlines. At the beginning, these do not have to be very specific. You can choose to set a broad goal for every month, or even goals for the end of your school term/marking period. As you get closer to these dates, you should break these goals into smaller goals. Setting concrete goals with deadlines helps to prevent procrastination because it’s easier to meet these intermediate deadlines. If you front-load your work and don’t let it pile up to right before the competition, you’ll also be less stressed and the competition will be more enjoyable!

Ultimately, every week you should be able to set goals and concrete tasks for the week to delegate to each team member which keep you moving forward and on track with your overall timeline. Team members can work on their goals during the week outside of meeting time. As the organization gets more specific with a smaller time span, you might even want to consider a mid-week check in on how team members are progressing with their respective tasks.

For weekly meetings, an agenda can help keep meetings on track and ensure you cover everything important. It’s up to you how you wish to spend your meeting time – some meetings could be devoted to brainstorming and planning sessions while others could be time devoted to getting work done.

Good luck with organizing your team! Remember: goal-setting is important, but always break your goals up into smaller goals. Start big with a vision, and then make it achievable. If you have a handle on that, you’re all set to go for an amazing season!

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