Team #4419 invites you to donate excess hardware and software;
- Electrical Tools
- Mills & Lathes / Bits & Blades
- Laser Cutters
- Electrical Components
- Modeling Software
- Metal & Carbon Substrates
- 3D Printing Machines
- LED Lighting
What roles are there in the team?
Your role in the team is determined by what you decide to contribute to. You don’t have a specific role in the team as a whole, and there are no subteams like in other FRC teams (like Electrical, Mechanical, Software, etc). Instead, it’s up to you to ask the right questions to figure out what’s happening and what to work on. It will be your decision what to work on, and there won’t be anyone “in charge of you” (see later in the doc “cabals”), and it’s up to you what you think is the most valuable thing you could spend your time on.
What is a cabal? (pronounced kə-ˈbäl/cuh-ball)
A cabal is a multi-disciplinary (eg, electrical + programming + mechanical) group made to accomplish a specific project/goal. For example, a goal could be making a shooter or setting up an object tracking system.
A goal is broader than a task, where a task is a specific thing you do, for example: update the firmware on the RoboRio, or fabricate a machine apart, whereas a goal would be a broad target, and you figure out the tasks as you work on the goal.
We think it’s not a good idea to separate teams based on skillset/discipline because in order to make most, or almost all, parts of the robot, multiple teams need to work together for it to happen in the first place; So the idea is to make the people working on that section work tightly as possible to increase efficiency, and not limit communication bandwidth by having to communicate between teams.
Also, because our team is quite small on the scale of FRC teams, we should try to be as efficient as possible, where effort given by team members should translate into real visible change, rather than it being wasted on organizational inefficiencies that other bigger, less efficient teams may be able to afford.
How does the team structure itself?
We aren’t opposed to the idea of having structure, but the idea of having long-term structure, which ends up making the team serve the structure rather than the project we’re working on.
The team structure refers to the roles of each person within the team, what their specific job is. This helps the team organize what everyone is doing, and to clear any and all doubts about a specific person’s role.
Each cabal decides its own structure as it fits the needs of what they are working on. The structure is only short-term and lasts as long as the cabal, or until the cabal changes the structure to fit its needs better.
How do I get started/How do I get better?
You are heavily encouraged to ask questions, both to figure out what’s happening, and to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, that is the way one can learn best and figure out what the team is doing.
Too many questions is not an idea that we subscribe to. It is commonly seen by some, who are generally not at the top of their field, that a person that asks too many questions is seen as “not smart” or “not capable,” but we don’t agree with that at all, speaking from our experience.
There are many approaches to learning, such as being taught. However, there is only so much one can teach, the rest of the way is your own understanding I’m minding. You are your best teacher, others serve as great mentors, and in order to teach yourself, you must ask many questions.
How do things get done?
There is no “management” as such, rather, team members should take initiative to work on what they think is valuable and or important to making our robot.
Cabals (sometimes) do have “team leads,” but they aren’t a managerial role, instead of acting as a resource bank, keeping the doings of the cabal in their head, so if anyone has questions about what is happening, they can act as an “oracle” of information.
To initiate some sort of project/idea, just start working on it. Talk to other members and try to recruit people to your project/goal, both for help and because gaining insight and other personal opinions/ideas will influence your own opinions, and make your idea or project better. You should then work on and build upon that idea with others to make it a reality, or a working prototype. After this process, inform the rest of the team about what you (and others) have done, to get more feedback and insight for an even better end result.
Prioritizing work and the things that you aren’t getting done
It’s natural in a flat structure like this to feel like you’re failing because for all the stuff you decide to work on, there are dozens that aren’t getting your attention. This is completely normal, and it isn’t expected of you to devote time to every opportunity that you are presented with or asked about. It’s your decision to prioritize and choose the most important work to do; You will learn how to do this better with experience.
Expectations for working in a cabal/How meetings work in cabals
The whole robotics team does have officially scheduled meetings, but cabals themselves don’t. It is easier and more effective for cabals to have more organic in-person and online discussions (over text or voice chat) to discuss things rather than having these scheduled meetings, and to avoid conflicts with other meetings, but it’s up to the cabal in the end.
One thing we will use is Discord threads, where you can create a temporary channel to discuss stuff, so each cabal may have their own thread that they use for their internal discussions.
How do I find out about active cabals/projects underway?
We do have a list of currently active cabals and who is part of them, but the best way to familiarize yourself with what’s happening is to ask around. You can ask anyone really, and if you’re looking for someone who is involved with certain projects you can check the list.
If you see a cabal you are interested in working on, just write your name down and start participating in that group:
By letting them know
Asking to figure out what they’re currently working on
Showing up to any meetings they have (you don’t necessarily need to have meetings, see next bullet)
Participating in organic discussions IRL or on Discord.
How do I create quality work?
As is common with most good engineering projects, you must prototype quickly and iterate. We cannot stress how important it is just to make something working first that covers the core requirements, as opposed to trying to make something that is the best from the beginning, as the latter is not possible with complicated projects with thousands of variables like this one.
Then, from the point you have the core prototype, iterate, iterate very frequently, and get lots of feedback. That is the best way to engineer and just design in general. This also applies to non-engineering things as well, the whole prototypes and iteration idea.
In short, the secret to quality work is to Move Fast and Break Things. Elaborating more on the break things part, don’t dig yourself into some structure from the beginning, make sure your ideas can change rapidly throughout the competition season, as well as not fall into the sunk cost fallacy.