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Happy New Year! 2024 - The Year of Community


Hello my friends! As we start a new lap around Sun, we have some pretty big goals for the new year! At the end of last year, we started talking about these goals which can be grouped under the idea of "increasing membership and community."

With the goals below it became clear that at the end of the day, we want the group to be useful and shared by more people like us - people who have a love of making things or are wanting to take the first steps into this world. To do this we have the following goals and solutions:

Goal #1 - Build out our Workshop Roster

Starting with the request for volunteers for workshop hosts, we collected a list of topics that they would be willing to host a workshop on. You all were asked to vote (and you still can) and we have a list of topics that we plan to host over the next several months. The ultimate goal is to host a workshop per month.

This month, we have a fantastic workshop lined up on Fusion 360 hosted by Morgan!

We welcome new hosts and hope that you might consider offering a workshop to our members. Our requirements are simple:

  • Documented - The workshop needs to be well documented and the specifics be outlined:
    • What - What is this workshop about? What do they need to participate? What should they know before this info would make sense?
    • Why - Why would this topic be useful to our members?
    • Who - Who is the audience of this workshop?
    • How - How will they get the items that are needed? How long is the workshop?
    • When - When would you be available to conduct the workshop? 
  • Fees - If you are offering a kit for your workshop, a fee may be charged for materials. However, if you are offering a workshop that is profit driven, then the ASC may require a fee for a "commercial" sale.
  • Time - The max length of time for a workshop is 3 hours (from 1pm to 4pm on the third Saturday of the month) but can be less than 3 hours.
  • Membership - You don't have to be a regular member. If you are a professional or skilled hobbyist and would like to share some information on a specific topic or product, you can have the floor.
  • We Want You! - If you want to talk more about your idea, PLEASE do let us know by either talking to me at a meeting, direct message, or through our Contact Form.

Goal #2 - Provide a More Neutral Online Place for Content and Community

We have a pretty strong Facebook group where people post projects and ask questions but there are many members who have told us that they do not want to be on that platform. Additionally, as much as we like Meetup, it is not a very good tool for collaboration or community. So, over the last year or so, I've been building up our website.

In 2022 I wrote an article describing the changes that were underway and projected for our website. I am happy to report that those changes are complete - mostly. To be clear, all of the structural and technical changes are complete. I am still adding content. In my previous article Website Update 2022 Ed., I laid out my checklist. All but one of the items has been added. I invite you to look around and explore.

Under the Community tab on the menu (login required) you'll find:

  • Social tools and your profile - similar to other social media sites, our site has a social system to allow for sharing of content and collaboration. These tools can be used to share pictures of a project you're working on, for a subgroup to collaborate on a project with another member, get feedback on a question, poll or file that you want to share, etc.
  • Forum - The site forum is a handy way to share threaded conversations about any topic you like. The difference here is that the forum is a site wide - all member - conversation. This differs from the "social wall or feed" in that this content sticks around and is easier to search. A good use for the forum is to host workshop content and follow-up conversations.
  • Resource Documents - This area will hold documents for the group that can be used over and over like videos on how to solder to meeting notes to sign-up forms, links and checklists. We will also be hosting schematics and other technical documents from club kits and workshops.
  • Marketplace - If you all would like to post items that you want to sell or trade (no eCommerce functions built in), you can list them here.

For those who are worried about shared information, I want you to know that not only do we not sell or share information, but also that this site is privately owned by our group. All of the costs of the site are donated by me or others in the group. No ads, no sales, no shares.

Goal #3 - More Advanced Competitions

Over the years we have exceeded our goals of being welcoming to those who are new to electronics, mechanics, 3D design and printing and other topics. However, we also need to expand past the introductions and set stretch goals to keep pushing those who are learning the basics on to more advanced goals.

Over the last few years Patrick has been working on several kits for use as both introductory and advanced platforms for Sumo competitions. The work he has been doing has resulted in an affordable platform that not only can be used by those new to electronics and coding but also can be expanded on for more challenging tasks and competitions.

In the year to come, we would like to host regular in-house coding workshops, challenges and competitions. In the workshops, we would build and get the basic functionality working, and then work up to more interesting ideas on how to build strategies in code. From there, we would like to issue blind code challenges to be completed by the next meeting. Lastly, we want to host full competitions with prizes to the winners.

Goal #4 - More Partnerships as We can Accommodate

We have two big events each year, The first is Engineering Day that we host with the ASC in February. We partner with Jason and Jenna Rogers to have the Engineered for Destruction robot combat event which is always a blast. In late September / early October, we also participate in Maker Fest.

Both of these events are a big chance to show the area what we are about and usually are the motivation that some of our members use to push forward bigger and more interesting projects. It would be fun if we could expand on that.

We would like to welcome more of you to participate in these events OR, if you are an organizer of other large events in the area, to work with you. Please contact me or message me if you are are interested!

Goal #5 - Get the Word Out!

We need to make sure that the people who would like to be a part of what we are doing know we are here and know that we want them to be a part of our community. That's where each of us can help.

  • We have a "press kit" - a set of documents that we would love for you to sharing with others.
  • Look for potential member groups and share:
    • Are you or do you know any teachers who might find our group useful?
    • Are you or know someone on a robotics team? We may be able to help answer questions or challenge ideas.
    • Are you or do you know a technology professor? Maybe your students would like to prep with others on the next IEEE competition.
  • Volunteer at Public Events - as a group we participate in several public facing events regularly. People love seeing what we do and will have questions about membership. Displaying your projects and sharing the love of your projects has always been one of the best way to see what we're about. Please consider volunteering at these events even if you are new and may not have a project.

Also, we have flyers that you can put up on public bulletin boards that lets people know where and when to find us. We would love a hand getting those in front of tech minded people and in places where tech minded people are.

Goal #6 - Encourage Leadership

Do you have some ideas that you would like us to consider? Is there a project or event that you would like to make happen? We want to hear from you!

This February 17th will mark the group's 17th birthday and over that time we have had several people take ownership and stewardship of various aspects of MTRAS. We would not still be around if this sense of leadership by members didn't flow to the surface.

As always we encourage you to think of this as your group and in doing so, hope that you feel welcome to make suggestions, design programs and events, and help steer the course for the next years of the group.

If you want to help but are worried that you don't know what to do, please reach out! We are happy to mentor those who are new to the group and we have checklists and documents to help with organization.

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***NOTICE: Fusion 360 Workshop 1 date changed
MTRAS Promotional Documents and Graphics

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