Archive for February, 2014

XYPRO Engineering Team Building – doing the Robot!

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

As part of our annual corporate kick-off event, this year the entire engineering team took part in a full day team building exercise. Taking over all the available space at our Simi Valley headquarters, we were split up into color-coded groups, each of which included members of different parts of the engineering team. Armed with a Lego Mindstorm EV3 kit, each group was presented with a series of tasks (requirements), which consisted of pre-constructed courses on which the robots needed to navigate a maze and move obstacles around the course . The challenge? Design and build a robot that would be able to complete the tasks by the end of the day.

Structured roughly along the lines of our Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), time was allocated for requirements definition, project planning, design, development and unit testing, QA testing, and deployment.

Things got off to an energetic start with each team doing a good job of dealing with 600+ Lego pieces, learning the software used to program the robots, and planning out the approach. Would some teams jump straight into robot building, with others spending more time documenting requirements and planning? Each team allocated their tasks well so everyone was kept busy, but what factor would planning things out early play? Would those who made that early effort see a payoff later in the day…?

As the day progressed, some very different approaches were becoming apparent, and the teams were realizing that completing all three challenges was going to be difficult, if not impossible. The teams naturally started with challenge #1 which wasn’t necessarily the easiest. Some gentle “guidance” by the mentors to evaluate all the challenges and focus on the easiest challenge first proved helpful and soon each team was making solid progress on that challenge.

With 90 minutes to go before “deployment”, each team was given some time to QA their robots on the actual challenge courses. Some teams’ robots completed the challenge on the first try, others needed tweaking, but all had something ready to attempt the challenges. Each team returned back to their workshops to complete final tweaks before deployment.

The moment of truth, the “Deployment Phase.” Each team must now present their robot, outline the approach they took to the challenges, and detail what worked (and what didn’t!). Scores were based on how well they worked together as a team, how well they presented their solution, and of course, how well their robots completed the challenges.

Each team gave an entertaining and informative presentation describing their efforts during the day, the approach they’d taken, and the robot they’d designed. Some of the teams that jumped straight into building their robots found that some more time on initial design would’ve been helpful. Each team presented a robot that was able to complete at least one of the challenges, and as such, all should be very proud of their efforts.

This exercise reinforced the importance of planning, particularly when confronted with such a daunting task (600+ pieces! Understanding requirements!!! A new programming environment!! Difficult challenges!!! Ridiculously short timeframes!!!). It also reminded us of the value of working together as a team, which really was the main point.

At the end of the day, the Blue team (or “Team Teal” as they renamed themselves) won, narrowly defeating the Yellow team by only one point! Congratulations to all the teams, on what was a fun and very constructive day. Bring on Kick-Off Challenge 2015!