Team 254, also know as The Cheesy Poofs, is arguably the one of the most accomplished team in the FRC community. In the team’s participation in local regional competitions, the team usually goes undefeated and walks away with first place, securing their position in the international Championships. While this is a common trait with the many successful teams out in the community, team 254 shows its strength during the Championships. As a place where the best teams internationally gather to compete, the Championships become a true gauge for a team’s robot and the team’s experience. Within the past few years, team 254 has been the only team in history to take two Championship wins in a row. Team 254 also currently holds possession of the most banners (the most prestigious award form) at 52.
THE 254 SECRET
When comparing Team 254 to a typical team, 254 carries itself in a unique way. A close attention to detail, from the fabrication of the robot to the construction of the pit at competitions, is consistent across almost all of team 254’s processes. The consistency as a result reflects in successful products, robots and team. However this is not a hard concept to understand, so why aren’t other teams following team 254’s footsteps and reproducing their success? The secret behind 254’s success and why only 254 is able to successfully repeat victory annually lies in three major parts.
Unlike a majority of the teams that are up and running in FRC, team 254 is one of the teams that have been active near the beginning in 1992. Since 1998, team 254 has been accumulating experience through trial and error for at least a decade before it started to become what we see today. However, unlike the other teams that 254 started with, 254 actively documented their mistakes and experiences to prevent reproduction of failures. This legacy process is easily overlooked as low priority in most teams, which then consequently never gets done. Eventually as students graduate and new students fill the spots of leadership, mistakes as a result resurface.
Mentors in any team are easily the reason why the team exist or not. On the bare minimum, mentors are responsible for getting the team started through basic requirements like the registration fee and team management. However, when a team starts to grow older than the terms of the student members, usually the only people that stick around are the adults that started it all. Mentors can be considered a team’s most valuable resource for a few key reasons.
Funding — Adults understand money a lot more than children. For many parents, $100 as a generous contribution, is doable. For some parents working in companies that can afford it, can contribute thousands. In the case of 254, the mentors, both past and present,
First Hand Knowledge – Mentors have a wide array of background that in one way or another can contribute to the development of the team. More importantly however, when student members graduate, mentors that have been around for a while are able to act as teachers and smoothly update new members on things like conventions and prevent easy mistakes done in the past.
Resources – For your average team, shops could be provided by the schools and mentors. This includes space, tools, comfort and possible food. For 254, their NASA mentors provide the team access to the NASA Ames Research facility where they do a lot of their work. On top of that, other sponsors of 254 have likely been partnered through previous and current mentors of the team. Sponsors like Solidworks and Carbon provide provide products like software and 3D prints, while sponsors like Gilbert Spray and Dropbox provide services like powder coat for coloring the robot and complimentary subscription to Dropbox’s service.
Professionalism and Image
Just by comparing the robots that team 254 have made to those of other teams, a clear difference is apparent. The robots have a consistent design from gusset plates and bolts to the color scheme. Furthermore, the robots also dominate competitions with a clear difference in capabilities. Beyond competition, the team also successfully execute its public image and relation in a honorable manner. Under the 254 branding documentation found at https://www.team254.com/resources/identity/ members must follow the team uniform guidelines outlined. When looking at its internet interface, 254’s website also follows the well-known blue identity that stays consistent with the blue robot and the blue uniform. When perusing the pit 254 sets up every competition, one can see trusses, lots of open space, and an interactive touch-screen monitor. Most teams utilize their pits as a for robot modifications as a priority. Team 254 is able to execute this requirement, but with an clean aesthetic that sets them apart from the rest.