Proposals serves two purposes: To inform the officers and the club about the plans of each project and to help team leaders in their project planning. It is comprised of a description of the project objectives for the new year, a schedule, and a budget. Generally, the proposals are due to the officers by the beginning of the school year. Final budget amounts are then determined and announced in the subsequent weeks.
A preliminary proposal may be requested in advance of the final deadline to allow officers to plan for the year.
- 1 Proposal Contents
- 1.1 Prior Results
- 1.2 Project Description
- 1.2.1 Year Long Objectives
- 1.2.2 Goals For Next Year
- 1.2.3 Vision Characteristics
- 1.2.4 Resources
- 1.2.5 New Member Projects
- 1.2.6 Budget
- 1.2.7 Supplemental Documentation
- 1.3 Changes
A short description (one to two paragraphs) of what went right and what went wrong in the previous year. Serves as in introduction to the proposal. You should try to focus in on the question of why something failed. If the robot was unable to drive try to summarize why the issues occurred.
Prior results should not have suggested solutions to the identified problems. Instead, it should focus on identifying problems and areas for improvement.
Year Long Objectives
To define objectives for the year, the proposal should have what will be referred to here on out as an objectives pyramid. The objectives pyramid is described below.
To define year long objectives, a few (3-4) short bullets, hereafter referred to as objective statements, should be written to concisely define the focus of the project in the coming year. The objective statements should be focused on desired changes and improvements in approach from year to year. An objective statement should not be a statement of intention to design and build robots for competition (except in the unlikely case of a new subteam appearing), but desired improvements or changes to the approach to designing and building robots relative to the past year of the project. These objectives are at the top of the objectives pyramid, as the goals expressed in the objectives statements must be supported by all work done as a part of the team.
Each objective statement should have an associated justification. The justification explains why each objective statement is important, and, hence, why it is a goal. These justifications are for the benefit of both Core officers in understanding goals for the coming year, as well as for future generations of team leadership.
Subteam Objective Statements
From there, subteam objectives should be defined in the same format as the objective statements. Each subteam objective statement should support the overall goals of the objectives statements. A subteam objective statement should have a clear scope, a set of actions that need to be taken to successfully complete the subteam objectives in the coming year. Subteam objectives do not have to be based solely on the objectives statements, but should come from similar motivation.
Like the objectives statement, a subteam objective statement should focus on desired outcomes, not implementation. Additionally, subteam objective statements should also have associated justifications, for the same reasons as the overall objective statements.
The actions that need to be taken to complete the subteam objectives become tasks. A task refers to the set of actions required to successfully complete the objectives defined by the subteam objective statement. Tasks are then to be divied up among groups of members according to the difficulty and required skills of each task. Who partakes in which task is not required on the proposal, but a rough number of people to complete each task should be indicated. The tasks are the bottom of the objectives pyramid. If the tasks are completed and designed correctly, they work to accomplish the overall goal of the year, I.E., the objectives statement. Tasks should be on the order of a couple of months of work. For example redesign of a sub system could be a task. Tasks should be detailed enough to provide direction, but not so detailed to dictate tasks on a week-to-week or day-to-day level.
Tasks are the first time where implementation should enter a proposal. Tasks should also have justifications, for the same reasons as objective statements and subteam objective statements. These justifications should identify the associated subteam objective, as well as explain the importance of the task.
The milestones are a means of demonstrating progress to the officers, the advisers, sponsors, and the campus as a whole. They also give members a clear sense of where the team is headed and provide motivation. They should be easily demonstrable and realistic without pushing back dates. A good milestone is one that members will prepare for with the same vigor as the actual competition deadline.
Milestones can be tasks, parts of tasks, or the completion of important work supporting a task, such as repairing robots. Milestones shouldn't be vague objectives such as 'working robots' or 'be ready for competition.' Specifics should be given. Milestones are the deliverable and the tasks are the action(s) that need to be taken in order to produce the milestone.
To more easily see connections between tasks and milestones, the list of milestones should be grouped with the subteam objectives and tasks.
- Sept 15th 2009 - Fix the all the things broken at competition last year and demonstrate the old rover completing some of the task
- After fall break - Demo at least 2 new prototype drive-trains
- Week before dead week - Prototype - Demo new drive-train in tele-op driving, successfully acquire data from sensors, demo a new end-effector,
- Feb 1st - Demo new manipulator using individual joint control
- March 1st - Extended range driving
- Spring Break - Demo some of the competition tasks using the manipulator
- April 30th - Finalize travel plans, demo robot performing some competition objectives
Goals For Next Year
Make a list of goals for the year after this one. Unlike the previous section the goals here do not need to planned out but should be reasonable within the time frame. Additionally If your team is looking to spend large amounts of money in the future for technical tasks please include that. These goals should address the issues that a team faces on the timescale of two years. What do we need to focus on now to aid us later.
- "Improve team specific training" - This is a meaningless statement. Improve in what way? This does not give any useful information of what needs to be done moving forward.
- "Increase new member exposure to actual robots by adding additional outside of meetings times to only run robots" - This is a good goal. It should go in the short term objectives section. This can be accomplished as written in less than a year.
- "Establish new member training for each sub-team" - A good training program can take years of tweaking to become effective.
- "Implement XX to improve motion control" - Even better would be to give a short reason as to why XX will improve motion control but technical goals that may take years are good.
Write a bulleted list of characteristics that are not prevalent now that you would like to see in the future of the team. These do not need to be specific but should give a sense of the direction the team should be taking.
- "Increasing visibility of what leadership does" - has the right time scale and does not get into implementation specifics.
Every team will need resources to complete their project and the proposal is where teams indicate what will be needed to successful complete the project. Resources are broken down into capital outlays/tooling and Travel/Registration.
While our shop and SCC provide an abundance of tools, team leaders may find that certain items are not available. There may also be large equipment purchases that the robots will need. In both cases those items should be listed here. Team leaders should also consider what resources will be needed to manufacture parts and should list those resources here.
In the proposal teams should indicate what competition they are going to, what dates the competition is held (or at least a rough idea of when those dates are known), when registration is due (expected if not known), when registration money is due (expected if not known), and expected cost for registration and travel. Do not forget to account for gas, rental car fees, flights, hotels,
In addition the proposal should state the anticipated cost for travel per member. This number should include lodging, but not food. It should be based on a projected number of attendees.
New Member Projects
How to incorporate new members into years of development when they lack experience is the hardest task for new leaders each year. Walking the fine line between instructive and useful is challenging. If a new member project is presented as something that will never be useful then they will have no motivation to complete it and will often quit. If the project is way beyond their experience they will feel as though they should know more and will quit out of fear. The ideal new member project is one that is non-critical to a successful competition, highly instructive, specific, visual, provides ownership for the new member, will be on the actual robot or useful, works closely with a more experienced member, and overall makes them want to keep coming to RoboJackets. These objectives often conflict with each other, the focus should be on building a better team when it comes to new members. For this section you must list at least one new member task per sub-team. Keep in mind that you will not retain every new member, make assumptions that they want to stick around and learn. Focus on the members that you keep rather than the ones that you lose.
- "Fix computer vision" - You are giving the impression that they must fix computer vision. This is not practical and will not happen. More specificity and an experienced member assisting would make this project good.
- "Manufacture part X to be used on the robot" - Teaching a new member to manufacture a part is good, but here there is potential for a lack on context on why the part is useful, why it works they way that is does. Favor design work with new members when possible.
- "Implement GUI to display robot state" - This requires a full knowledge of relevant state variables and where to get them from. Once complete this new member should have an overview of what comes from where and what it should look like.
- "Use machine learning to detect XX" - If your team has a high focus on machine learning or wants to experiment with it this is a good goal. Giving a new member a chance to work with the existing tech stack or to create one is admirable. Be careful to have an experienced member assisting.
The budget contains details on the cost to build the robot and should provide as much detail as possible. An example of sufficient detail are cost for metal for the frame. Its understood that teams may not know what their final design will look like (for example which motor they will go with). Careful study of the market and the competition though can go a long way in determining what a maximum cost would be for an item. For RoboJackets, surpluses are okay, deficits are impossible since we can't operate in debt. Ask a core officer for assistance if you are lost. SGA budgets are formed by heavily condensing budget proposals. Capital outlays (items that will last three or more years) should be listed on the teams budget as they require purchasing, but should be listed in a Capital Outlays Section. Please anticipate costs for shipping in your line items so the amount you have after submitting a PO and after receiving it will reflect shipping.
Any documentation that the team leader feels is required in addition to the above.
Changes can be made to any master schedule milestone, pending Vice President approval. The criteria for approval are:
- Time until deadline in question
- Progress made
- External factors
Changes should be made well before the deadline in question will be missed.
It is understood that problems will arise along the way (Robotics is still very much a research field). As such, team leaders have several options when their projects come into unexpected problems. Working directly with the Vice President to keep the master schedule relevant is a good place to start. You should consider why the issue has occurred and realize that the master schedule is a living document that should be changed to reflect changing priorities or unforeseen roadblock, not a lack of effort.
The authority to approve or pull funding rest solely with the officers. Team leaders and interested parties can offer input but can not make decisions regarding funding. Funding decisions are approved with a unanimous vote by the officers. This authority is not dictated in the constitution but has been standard operating procedure.
In general the officers can only enforce the milestones and objectives that the team leader defines. Even in the event of a change request the officers can only approve or dis-approve changes that the team leaders comes up with. Under normal circumstances officers cannot create objectives, milestones, or otherwise guide a team. Any officer on a team, on matters of team objectives and milestones, is subject to the decisions of the team leader. The only applicable events in which an officer can have any leadership of a team is:
- if appointed by a team leader,
- if there are no members to take lead of project,
- or if a project has repeatedly missed deadlines and is sufficiently behind schedule to the point where competition appearance may be in question.