In past years, we ran our robot activity like a club. We held weekly meetings, discussed our plans and strategies, and did some work on the robot in Mr. Nelson’s shop. The biggest problem with this process was that the team members had so many other activities like school work, sports, home chores, etc. that very few spent any time working on the robot between meetings. So, Mr. Nelson (who was semi-retired and had lots of time to spend) did much of the design and construction of the robot.
This year, we will need to follow a different plan. Mr. Nelson will be less available because he is now the full time math teacher at Fairfax High School. And more importantly, if we are to accomplish the objective of learning about physics and robotics the members should do most of the work.
The distance that our members must travel to Mr. Nelson’s shop has always been a problem. Some live in Bolckow, 24 miles to the southwest. Some live in Barnard, 12 miles to the southwest. Some live in Ravenwood, 9 miles to the north. We have had past members from Stanberry, 9 miles east. And now that Mr. Nelson is teaching at Fairfax, we may recruit some members from there, 45 miles east. These distances are also an opportunity. The future of work in many companies includes a widely distributed workforce — employees working out of their homes or local offices, actively cooperating with other employees hundreds or thousands of miles away.
This year, we will develop our robot and compete as a small design company, not as a club. Each member will have a specific job title and responsibilities. Each member will be given clear objectives and must accomplish them or the team could fail. Members should be able to accomplish most of their work on their own or with smaller teams. Company-wide meetings will be held less often and will provide an opportunity to report on individual activity and to bring the pieces together.
If we are to be successful, it is essential to recruit more members and for each member to shoulder their share of the effort. In return for the increased effort, members can expect to learn much more about STEM, including how engineering work is often done in 21st century companies.