ETRB - East Texas Robot Builders
  About Me

 
Hello. My name is Roger Arrick and I started the East Texas Robot Builders group in order to spread my enthusiasm about building robots.

I'm owner of Arrick Robotics, past president of the DPRG - Dallas Personal Robotics Group, and author of Robot Building For Dummies, so you can see that I'm really into this stuff.

The goal of the ETRB is to have monthly meetings to discuss and build robots. Fun is the key ingredient but there is a lot of learning, building, and friendly contests going on too.

This website is under construction so check back often to see my progress.

Email me: Roger@etrb.org


ETRB Organizational Structure

preliminary

Many problems exist with the traditional club structure that can impact the success and enjoyment of the members. ETRB is structured in a very different way in order to avoid many of these problems.

Typically, a club is started by a single person that has extreme enthusiasm about a subject such as computers, photography, birdwatching, etc. The person creates the club and appoints himself/herself as president. This usually works very well and the group may grow nicely for several years with the careful attention and hard work of the founder.

As the membership grows, so does the interpersonal relationship conflicts and politics. Most of these conflicts are driven by a very small number of people - sometimes only one or two. This, along with expanding overhead, results in the focus being slowly moved from the original purpose to other issues which often alienates original members (old-timers) who pack their bags and leave because the fun is gone. At some point, the founder usually chooses to move on and let someone else take the helm. The person that takes over often has a different set of motovations and ambitions which impacts the clubs direction and focus - sometimes for the worse, sometimes for the better. We see this transistion in business and other aspects of life too.

Ultimately, the club tends to reach a ceiling of success that can't be penetrated. Some original members abandon ship due to the drifting focus, and new members join willing to ignore or even participate in the off-topic issues. Overhead also increases and the club's goals are sacraficed as the discussion moves to checkbook balances, accounting practices, officer duties, meeting locations, voting rules, etc. Don't underestimate how out-of-control this situation can become. Friendships can be lost and visions abandoned.

In order to skirt these issues, focus on robot building, and maximize member enjoyment, ETRB is structured in a very different, yet efficient way. The President exercises control over all group issues and decisions. There's no multi-layered governing hierarchy, no membership dues, and no bank account. There's not even formal membership - just individuals that want to participate in the groups goals. The result is a simplfied group structure with almost no overhead and a sharp focus on accomplishing their goals. Gone are the power struggles, bickering over fund alocation, and endless discussions over non-robot issues.

Group Goals
The goal of ETRB is simple: to learn about and build robots with other like-minded individuals in a fun and safe way. If people are not leaving each meeting and event happy having made friends and learned something, then the goals of the ETRB have not been reached.

Group Structure and Membership
ETRB is a single-level hierarchy with only a President. There is no vice-president, secretary, or treasurer. There is even no formal membership or membership dues. If you attend 3 meetings or events, then you may have your name listed on the member page. Also, anyone attending the first meeting may have their name listed on the member page.

Money Issues
Issues concerning money are a common source of problems for clubs. For this reason, ETRB will not collect money, spend money, or retain money. The President may purchase and pay for regular expenses such as the meeting place out of his own pocket. Expenses such as pizza, parking, or entry fees to external contests are to be paid by individuals, not a central club fund.

The ETRB may not own any assets including money, equipment, buildings, etc. The ETRB may not become indebted through loans, verbal IOU's, mortgages, etc.

Direction
The President provides the final authority for the direction of the group and its activities utilizing a strong membership feedback role. The President accepts and considers input from all sources and even creates commitees to offer recommendations on important issues such as contest rules or meeting places, but final decisions are that of the President.

The President may pass their position to another person at any time.

Newsletter/Website
The website at ETRB.org acts as an on-line version of a traditional newsletter that clubs of the past needed to keep members informed. Printed newsletters are a lot of work and cost a lot of money, and the internet does a good job at replacing them. The expense and maintainence of the website is the responsibility of the President. Volunteers and donataions may be used.

Contributions
One of the downsides of having a club without non-profit legal status is that donations are not tax-deductable. This is a small price to pay to have a more enjoyable group, and if a company or individual really wishes to help, then they are likely to be happy to donate without a deduction receipt. Having such a status is very costly, consumes many hours from club officers, requires accountants and other services, and carries certain liabilities.

Conflict Resolution
This is the core reason behind the unusual structure of ETRB. Members agree to let the President resolve conflicts. This won't make everyone happy all the time but without this, the group can be consumed by off-topic issues and the fun can be lost.

Troublemakers
Every group eventually gets troublemakers. Even though they are few and far between, just one can ruin things for everyone else. The ETRB President assumes the role of telling these people they are not welcome to the meetings or events. Legal remedies will be used when necessary.

Alternatives
There are some that might find this style of organization bizarre or mean, but those that have been involved in clubs where the fun and magic was replaced by politics and arguments will appreciate it. Others are welcome to create their own group using a different organizational structure and I will offer my support and encouragement.

Changes
No provision for changes to these bylaws exist outside of desolution of the ETRB.

Thanks for reading,
Roger Arrick,
ETRB founder/President

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