We need build sessions!


#1

tl;dr:
I would really like to see regular build sessions once a month or more. I think it would really help with getting more people building robots. If anyone would like to host or knows somewhere we could go to have a build session, please tell the club! We really need people to help with this! If you have or know somewhere to host, I have a number of suggested questions for you further down in this post. You don’t need to answer them if you want to host though!
Way-too-long post:
I strongly believe build sessions are needed to help stimulate club activity. I would like to make it so they are hosted once a month for sure. To do so, I believe the load needs to be shared in the group, so people would take turns hosting or pick up for someone unable to host. The most important thing about trying to have build sessions is having them at least once a month every month. If no one person can host every month, it could be a rotation with three or four members sharing the build session. I also think we should rotate build sessions because I don’t want someone to become burned-out from hosting as has happened in the past.
While I would like to host them, I’m iffy on hosting them and I can only have a max of five inside my available working area people comfortably, given how cluttered it is and I have little in the way of tools. I do have a fair amount of working table space though. While there could be more people, they would have to spill into my backyard which is not ideal given the current weather.
The reason for my belief is because I remember that people used to bring a lot more stuff to club meetings when I joined around ten years ago. I remember that a lot of my introduction to lower-level custom robotics came from both meetings and build sessions. While we are hosting good talks during meetings, I remember that a lot of the push to actually get stuff done came during the build sessions. While back then it was an almost entirely different group of people from today, I would like for the club to get closer to what it was in terms of member participation, and I believe build sessions can help, especially people just getting started.
Something else that I believe is crucial for build sessions: hosting them regularly at least once a month. They used to be called Friday Night Build Sessions and that name really was true sometimes, every Friday except the one before the meeting. While every Friday is a bit much to ask, once a month would ensure that everyone has a chance to talk and work with other members on their projects and get the help they need to keep a project moving forward.
I think we should send out a mailing list request for people who would like to and would be able to host a build session. Responding to this thread or creating your own would be fine too. The two most important things are whether someone is able to host and whether they are able to host it regularly. If someone is able to, I have thought of some questions that would help prioritize who hosts and what can be expected. Note that prioritizing is only under the assumption that there are multiple people who could host at the same time. If we need to prioritize, it should mainly come from needs of the group, capability of hosting, and how long it has been since they hosted. One example might be that the club is working on several projects using metal for robot chassis, so we might want to prioritize someone who has tools for cutting and shaping metal and avoid someone who would prefer not to deal with metal shavings everywhere. Another example would be to prefer someone who lives fairly close to other members, so generally preferring someone an average of 20 minutes away over someone an hour away. Something I must stress though: we should not deny someone the option of hosting if they would like to. If someone lives an hour away, only has a few tools, and not much space, I would rather have them host a build session than not have a build session. The most important thing is to always have a build session even if it’s not ideal. However, that does not mean someone should be pressured into hosting. If someone has to cancel at the last minute, they should be able to and hopefully someone else can host for them.
While I am focusing on hosting at someone’s house, there should be suggestions for hosting at a non-residential space. If you, the reader, have suggestions, please suggest them. I know some people don’t want to host at their house but would probably like to help make build sessions happen(one of those people being me!).
On the detailed questions: someone should not be required to answer them to host. Again, they are only for if we need to decide between two people who can host at the same time and for understanding what is expected to be available at the build session. I understand that some could be invasive to a person’s privacy, which is why someone shouldn’t be required to answer them. If someone is willing and able to host, here are the detailed questions I suggest answering:

1. Are you able to host regularly?
2. How early are you able to start a session and how late are you able to keep it going?
3. How often are you able to host?
4. What days of the week would you generally host on?
5. Are there good or bad parts of the year for hosting?
6. Do you have enough chairs, table-space, and power for five to ten people?
7. What tools do you have?
8. Do you have spare parts you’re willing to lend or give away during build sessions?
9. Can members safely leave or forget stuff and expect to get it back?
10. How cluttered would the space be if no cleaning was done prior to build session?

I’m less concerned about clutter because I’m used to build sessions at the houses of former members of Jerry and Rich where it would generally be moderately cluttered in the working area. I’m not opposed to having some spillage into a backyard as it used to be like that at during Jerry’s build sessions, but I understand that it could be an issue during extreme heat or cold.

Here is how I would respond:

1. Are you able to host regularly? No.
2. How early are you able to start a session and how late are you able to keep it going? Starting no earlier than 2 PM and ending no later than midnight but preferably by 9 PM.
3. How often are you able to host? At most every two weeks at a good time of year.
4. What days of the week would you generally host on? Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
5. Are there good or bad parts of the year for hosting? I cannot host during the school semester.
6. Do you have enough chairs, table-space, and power for five to ten people? Sort of. Five people could fit comfortably in the basement but we could cram more in and ten people outside in in the backyard and driveway.
7. What tools do you have?  Table saw, soldering iron, drill press, bench grinder, small 3D printer, and a variety of hand manual and power tools.
8. Do you have spare parts you’re willing to lend or give away during build sessions? A few.
9. Can members safely leave or forget stuff and expect to get it back? Sort of. It will not be stolen, but it might get lost and not found for a year.
10. How cluttered would the space be if no cleaning was done prior to build session? Quite cluttered, but it would be easy to make free table-space and bring out tools.

Again, what I’m stressing is making sure there is a build session every month. It doesn’t have to be the same person or same place, it just needs to happen.


#2
  1. Are you able to host regularly?
    No.
  2. How early are you able to start a session and how late are you able to keep it going?
    6pm - 12pm
  3. How often are you able to host?
    Every 3-4 months.
  4. What days of the week would you generally host on?
    Friday.
  5. Are there good or bad parts of the year for hosting?
    No.
  6. Do you have enough chairs, table-space, and power for five to ten people?
    Yes
  7. What tools do you have?
    Table saw, soldering iron, drill press, bench grinder, small 3D printer, and a variety of hand manual and power tools.
  8. Do you have spare parts you’re willing to lend or give away during build sessions?
    A few.
  9. Can members safely leave or forget stuff and expect to get it back?
    Sort of. It will not be stolen, but it might get lost and not found for a year.
  10. How cluttered would the space be if no cleaning was done prior to build session?
    Not very