COVID-19 has unexpectedly forced many of us to rapidly adapt to change. Everyone’s experience is unique, especially for Team Sprocket’s leadership team. This blog highlights the leadership team’s experience running the team during unprecedented times.
COACH: EZRIE MCCURRY
When school first shut down, and we were holding all of our meetings virtually, I found that we adjusted quite well, as we were continuing work that had already been started, and were working with relationships and the bond that we had built over the build season. The new school year has presented new challenges that I’ve never had to navigate before. Without in person meetings, we aren’t able to build the same rapport we normally do. Although there have been many set back, I do believe that we will take away many positives from this school year. Virtual meetings necessitate improved communication skills especially when it comes to design. You can’t just go grab a part or mechanism that you’re thinking of to demonstrate what you are trying to explain. Instead, you have to find other ways to articulate what you mean, and that is a very valuable skill to have. I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing the creativity and resilience of our members. I have been blown away by the things that our members have been able to accomplish thus far. Seeing sophomores step up and become leaders has been amazing.
MENTOR: KENNETH WAH
In March of 2020, Team Sprocket's San Diego Regional was cut short and went into immediate shutdown. Obviously, COVID19 and quarantine have been difficult for everyone around the world and despite the shutdown, Team Sprocket was still one of the fortunate teams. From March until now, the largest question for the robotics team has been - what now? What does the team do now? How do we recover? Well. Team Sprocket has been slowly rising back up, slowly recovering while coping and embracing the future. With any physical interactions off the table, we have adjusted to hosting a mock build season, numerous workshops, and trying to recover the knowledge of two generations of Senior Team Sprocket members that are expected to lose due to COVID-19. Throughout this difficult time, it's time we embrace what's happening rather than compare what we can do in person versus what we can't.
It was definitely a struggle to adjust and get accommodated to all of the changes and the new situation, but working hard alongside my fellow captains and the rest of the team made it easier. We all had problems to deal with, but we're all part of Team Sprocket because we love it, so we didn't let anything stop us. It was a bit awkward and complicated at the start, but once we got settled, we started to find our groove again.
Adjusting to an online version of the team was definitely a struggle. It was harder establishing a steady line of communication between members of the team and I was definitely harder to get through meetings as the atmosphere wasn't the same. Not being able to see the members grow and learn took away one of my favorite parts of being a leader on the team. However once we began to hold more and larger online events I was glad to see the members begin to reach out to each other and other mentors more often. While there have been sparks here and there, I still haven’t found the driving flame of the team, but as we continue to move forward I sense that it isn’t too far away.
It's hard to do everything in front of your computer sometimes, especially when you can't collaborate with others easily. Sometimes, it's easier to derail on your priorities when there's little time to meet together, so I think it's important to balance being independent and being a strong team player. Overall, things aren't going bad besides the obvious point that we can't do much physically.
OPERATIONS LEAD: BELLA LICEA
Quarantine has definitely made things challenging for Operations, but it has allowed us to focus on improving our skills for the future and most importantly, passing down knowledge. The biggest challenge we have faced so far is how we would host outreach events and workshops. We’ve had to think outside the box and look for alternatives, but we’ve learned that there are lots of at-home opportunities and we can’t wait to share it with the public soon. We’ve also had to think of different bonding activities for our team and although we won’t be able to have our big team holiday parties this year, we hope the team will enjoy our virtual bondings this year. We are eager to return to campus and plan/host events, but for now we will build our skills and continue to plan for virtual events.
PUBLICITY LEAD: CHRISTA TANG
Leading this year was definitely a challenge. My biggest challenge was communication. With everything online, it’s extremely difficult to see everyone’s progress and work ethic. In addition to quarantine being a natural demotivator, it was hard for me to decide how much work to give my members. Although I’ve faced experiences like none other throughout my years on the team, I realize that the at-home environment gives us the opportunity to focus on things that we wouldn’t normally have time for. For example, with this year marking Team Sprocket’s 10th anniversary, or branding guidelines are about 5-7 years outdated. Now, our subteam has time to update it so that we can represent our team the best we can.
PUBLIC RELATIONS: CODEY MA
Quarantine has been a difficult ride for us all. On top of the already stressful situation, a change in scenery within robotics was inevitable. Team Sprocket has done a fantastic job transitioning from an in-person setting to a virtual setting. The transition was stressful yet very rewarding. The team was able to establish a stronger leadership core, yet create more opportunities for members to grow and learn. Overall, the team was able to pull together and form the strong iteration of Team Sprocket to date.
CAD LEAD: NATHAN WIN
This quarantine definitely took me by surprise. Having to adjust from in person meetings to them being completely online was a huge change, and it wasn’t something I had prepared for. Now that all meetings were remote, only work that could be done by computers was possible. Processes like prototyping and actually manufacturing a robot were no longer possible, and it made me question how our year was going to pass under such different circumstances. However, I felt since my CAD subteam was the main focus of the projects this year, I was able to place them in an environment where everything was entirely dependent on their work. I felt that this pressure would help them grow faster, and I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to give them as much experience and knowledge as possible. I’m confident that going forth this year my subteam members will be prepared for future years to come.
CAD LEAD: BENJAMIN WU
Since much of CAD is already done on a laptop or PC, it wasn’t difficult for us to convert our material to be taught in a virtual format, using Google Classroom to assign work and GrabCAD to submit part and assembly files. In collaborative design, communication is essential to the success of the team, so working during a quarantine makes that much more challenging. Our team’s transition to Discord has proven to be quite effective, as members can quickly join a call with a lead or another experienced member and screen share their models to diagnose any issues they may be running into. The most difficult part of managing during quarantine for me is holding each member accountable for their work. If any member is unable to fulfill their part, their subsystem will be incomplete, and the robot will be unable to operate as intended, so being able to ensure member productivity is a must. This is where subteam meetings come into play: 2-3 meetings a week dedicated to catching up with each CAD member’s progress and setting time aside to discuss and help with any problems or challenges they encountered during their work.
ELECTRICAL LEAD: TREVOR HWEE
The COVID-19 Pandemic has truly affected every aspect of our life, including robotics. Fortunately, even though we are limited to how the electrical subteam can meet and work together, we have still found ways to adapt and overcome this obstacle. In particular, the electrical subteam has moved to using virtual platforms like zoom and discord to continue our learning. While this transition has been tough, with members losing internet connection or just the lack of physically meeting with one another taking a toll on our efficiency, we have remained resilient and look to continue this “online” environment success through the next several months to keep Team Sprocket’s electrical department at its peak performing level for upcoming seasons.
MECHANICAL LEAD: PRESLEY MOON
Adjusting in quarantine was difficult. With my subteam being almost entirely hands on, I couldn't rely on my past curriculum anymore, and in general had a hard time adjusting to go completely online and hands off. Before, I was able to do a short lecture and presentation and then it would switch to the members practicing and I would supervise. Now, since I can't teach them how to improve their technical abilities, I'm trying to teach them the process that we go through every build season so they'll have an easier time adjusting to the work that we usually do, and I suppose technical abilities will just have to be taught whenever the opportunity comes around.
PROGRAMMING LEAD: SARTAJ DUA
This year was my first year being a lead, so I had a lot to get used to. Not being able to see anyone in person made that experience a lot more difficult. However, I was quickly able to adapt to it and it didn't turn out to be as bad as I thought it would. Managing online actually had a lot of benefits. It was much easier to get information to members and to hold meetings. Creating a distance learning plan was not super difficult because of the variety of programming related resources available online.
PROGRAMMING LEAD: BRANDOM KAM
Quarantine has introduced some unique challenges when it comes to managing the programming subteam. One of the main obstacles that have stood out to me was training and teaching the new members. When we were in person, it was much easier to visually show and communicate different concepts pertaining to programming with each individual member. However, this interactive learning style is made much more difficult in an online environment. There are many methods I've tried in order to compensate for this issue. I've recorded lectures so that people can reinforce what they learned, posted extra online resources for people to explore on their own, and create open meetings where people can ask whatever questions they want. Although these solutions aren't ideal, we all have to learn to quickly adapt to the pandemic. Even with these obstacles, I'm sure we can overcome these challenges and come out stronger than ever.