See the attached Powerpoint for a copy of this presentation. It was delievered by Greg Marra and Tom Bottiglieri at the 2009 FIRST Robotics Conference in Atlanta, GA. It was video taped, and FIRST should be posting it online soon.
Organizing a FIRST Robotics Competition, FRC, team and designing a robot from scratch in six weeks is a monumental example of real-world project management. Recently, in the field of Software Engineering, a growing movement has arisen known as "Agile Development". The practices behind Agile Development were designed to help tackle large projects and manage engineering teams effectively. Many of the core Agile tenants can be applied beyond the scope of Software Engineering, and can help FRC teams focus their energy when designing and fabricating their robots.
Many of the practices we discuss can be incorporated into existing teams' operations. Working simultaneously in independent small groups within your team can increase productivity, giving students more hands-on experiences. Focusing on system integration increases students’ understanding of the robot as a system and reduces headaches that arise during the last days of build. Utilizing COTS components and black boxing controls system elements enables students to focus on areas that interest them, instead of reengineering problems with commercial solutions. We illustrate these examples with anecdotes from our experience as Regional Mentors for rookie teams in the Boston area.
We believe that applying some of the Agile practices that have revolutionized the Software Engineering world can have a profound impact on the efficiency of FIRST teams and improve the experience of students participating. Hopefully you can take some of these practices back to your team to reduce design problems, increase hands on experiences and system understanding, and have more fun!