Team Collaboration

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FSAE is a large process: a lot of parts, a lot of money, a lot of time, and possibly a lot of people. Most companies have to deal with this issue too, so there are quite a few solutions out there to help you organize the team. Solutions that work for one team may not work for another due to differences in how the team is structured.

Collaboration During Covid-19

If your team is allowed to work remotely during the pandemic- Weekly worknights and worknight meetings are even more important. Get everyone in on a video call weekly to check in progress. Voice channels on Discord can provide a drop-in casual chat outside meetings replacement for working together in a physical shop, house, or computer lab. Having a central CAD repository/PDM system becomes even more important when working remotely. If your team didn't have one before, it's much more important now.

Covid-19 Team Collaboration Checklist

Worknights

Having weekly worknights is key to getting team members to all focus on working on a car together. Starting the worknight with a team meeting is a great way to encourage everyone to show up on time, to have status updates, and to get everyone on the same page. Having everyone on the team see each other work together at the same time is very underrated as a motivational tool, to build trust, and have fun. Sharing the vehicle model with the entire team can help get everyone on the same page and show off the work everyone has been doing.

Collaboration Software

Many teams have started to use Slack, Microsoft Teams, discord, or other collaboration software. The benefit of the software over something private-only like facebook messenger is that team members are welcome to join, leave, and adjust notifications based on conversation topic and interest. Especially helpful for getting new members into the conversation.

Slack

Slack brought chat channels to the professional workplace.

Versions

Version
Cost (USD)
Features
Free $0 Access to 10,000 of your team’s most recent messages

10 integrations with other apps like Google Drive, Office 365 and many more 1:1 voice and video calls between teammates 5GB Storage per team member

Standard $8/mo

per active user

The full context of your organization’s message history

Timely info and actions in one place with unlimited integration Face-to-face communication with group voice and video calls of up to 15 teammates Secure collaboration with outside organizations or guests from within Slack 10 GB per team member

Plus $15/mo

per active user

Advanced identity management through SAML-based SSO and real-time Active Directory sync with OneLogin, Okta and Ping

Compliance requirements met with data exports for all messages Around-the-clock teamwork and assistance with 99.99% guaranteed uptime and 24/7 support with a four-hour response time
20 GB per team member

Slack offers Slack for Education for 85% off Standard or Plus paid plans.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is the newest addition. The development team has added a lot of new features during 2018-2020, which has brought it up to par with the other platforms.

Pros:

  • Free with Office 365 if your school has it.

Cons:

  • Channels have excessive unnecessary vertical space compared to others, which makes it less like a conversation. However, if your team uses threads properly to create sub-conversations, then this issue goes away.
  • No voice channels - only meetings and calls

Discord

There is a Formula Student general discord athttps://discord.gg/QNb6qX9

Originally branded more towards gamers, discord is likely already popular with gamers on your team. Discord is free to make a server, and students may subscribe to Discord Nitro or Nitro classic to get the perks below:

Version
Cost (USD)
Features
Free $0
  • Unlimited message history
  • Screen sharing
  • Up to 8 users on a video call
  • Up to 5000 users
  • Unlimited Storage
  • 8MB File upload limit

Nitro Classic

$4.99/mo $49.99/year per user

  • GIF Avatars.This perk allows Nitro users to change their avatar into a moving GIF.
  • Random Discord Tag.This perk allows Nitro users to change their Discord tag into any number they like. However, after the subscription, the tag will randomize.
  • Custom and Animated Emojis.This perk allows Nitro users to use custom and animated emojis in any server. This includes DMs. However, if one tries to send a message with Animated Emojis without having Nitro / Nitro Classic, a message will appear, telling the user, that they need Nitro / Nitro Classic in order to send animated emojis.
  • High-Resolution Video.This perk gives Nitro users to screenshare with a higher video quality (720p @ 60fps). This perk also gives 1080p 60fps quality when they go live.
  • Bigger File Uploading.This perk allows Nitro users to upload files up to 50mb.
  • Server Boosting.This perk allows Nitro users to boost their favorite servers. When a user gets Nitro Classic, they are awarded one boost.
  • Special Nitro Badge.This perk gives users a shiny Nitro user badge on user's profile.

Nitro

$9.99/mo$99.99/yrper user

  • GIF Avatars.This perk allows Nitro users to change their avatar into a moving GIF.
  • Random Discord Tag.This perk allows Nitro users to change their Discord tag into any number they like. However, after the subscription, the tag will randomize.
  • Custom and Animated Emojis.This perk allows Nitro users to use custom and animated emojis in any server. This includes DMs. However, if one tries to send a message with Animated Emojis without having Nitro / Nitro Classic, a message will appear, telling the user, that they need Nitro / Nitro Classic in order to send animated emojis.
  • High-Resolution Video.This perk gives Nitro users to screenshare with a higher video quality (720p @ 60fps). This perk also gives 1080p 60fps quality when they go live.
  • Bigger File Uploading.This perk allows Nitro users to upload files up to 100mb.
  • Server Boosting.This perk allows Nitro users to boost their favorite servers. When a user gets Nitro, they are awarded two boosts.
  • Special Nitro Badge.This perk gives users a shiny Nitro user badge on user's profile.

Pros:

  • Free
  • Your team probably already has some members that use it
  • Has voice channels for casual drop-in conversation and impromptu discussions. You can easily see who else is working on the car at the moment, and hang out with them.
  • Has integrations such as Integromat for filesharing
  • Bot support

Cons:

  • Gamers may need a second account on discord, so you can actually see team members names instead of gamertags, although this can be avoided with Server Nicknames
  • No ability to save messages

CAD

Having a single source of truth for your CAD files is very important. Every team member should have access to the latest CAD of the entire vehicle.

SolidWorks PDM

Pros:

  • Seamless integration into SolidWorks
  • Requires users to lock out files to work on them to prevent conflicting versions and accidental changes.

Cons:

  • Complicated IT system required

3DEXPERIENCE

Pros:

  • Dassault is providing free access for students during covid-19.

Cons:

  • You have to use 3DExperience

Inventor Vault

Available for teams who use AutoDesk Inventor as their primary CAD software.

Google Drive / Dropbox

Works for smaller teams. For larger teams with many simultaneous users, being able to lock out files during editing to prevent version conflicts becomes more important. Also, having one main computer (such as a shop computer) which always has an up to date full-vehicle assembly will help to spot issues.

Pros:

  • Free
  • Most teams are already comfortable with these platforms for document sharing.

Cons:

  • No SolidWorks integration
  • No ability to lock out files
  • File references can become problematic

Network Drive

Some universities will allow you to setup a network drive so that your CAD files are accessible from anywhere on campus. If you want to work from home, you first VPN into the campus network. Universities can even setup automatic backups so that if someone saves over someone's work, not much is lost. Can work well if you are vigilant about only saving the files you need to save.

Pros:

  • Free, if your university allows it
  • There is only ever one set of files, so no synchronization is required

Cons:

  • Easy to accidentally save over other people's work if you're not careful
  • No CAD integration
  • No ability to lock out files

Subversion (SVN)

SVN is a version control system developed for software before git. While git is a distributed system, SVN has one central vault, which users can lock out files for editing. There are hosts for SVN servers, or you can create your own SVN server using software like SVNEdge. All the users would use software like tortoiseSVN to sync files.

Pros:

  • Locking out files is optional.

Cons:

  • No SolidWorks integration (yet).
  • IT knowledge required to set up own server.

Git and Github

Git is primarily used for software development. It is built upon the ability for two people to simultaneously edit a text file, and then for git to be able to merge these two files. Because of this, users are not able to "lock" so only one user can edit at a time. Unfortunately because merging is not possible with CAD files, Git is a poor option for anything other than text files.

ECAD (PCB Design)

ECAD collaboration software is mostly redundant with the MCAD section, however ECAD doesn't integrate quite as well with typical CAD repositories, while also having some of it's own unique tools.

Altium 365

Available for teams who use Altium Designer as their primary ECAD software.

  • Seemless integration with Altium Designer
  • Allows non-ECAD users to view models in the workspace

Altium 365 integrates with MCAD through their MCAD Designer plugin. MCAD CoDesigner integrates with Solidworks, PTC Creo, Autodesk Inventor, Autodesk Fusion 360, and Siemens NX to merge 3D CAD data with PCB design.[1]

Software Development

Git and Github

Great for software - Git is the industry standard. Central repository for files. Easy to share. Revision control. Setting up a central, team controlled git repository can be difficult. Each new member to the team should be given access to every repository for the team. Otherwise repositories become silo'ed and knowledge can be lost by graduating team members' repositories not getting shared with the younger members.

Subversion (SVN)

Subversion is a central repository either on a hosted service or on a team member's home server. It allows for a central storage location for all files, where the team leads can add students to all files at once. See tortoiseSVN for users and SVNEdge for the server.

SVN is usually only used if pre-existing architecture demands it; Git is much more common nowadays.