Vexmen Team Website
Entry ID #: 2172
Created: Mon, Jan 11, 2016 8:28 PM
This website is for the Vexmen Robotics club from Downingtown Pennsylvania. With over 180 students on 34 High school VRC, Middle School VRC, and VEX IQ teams, the Vexmen are an extremely large club. Our name is a pun referencing Marvel’s superhero team, the X-men. Each robot is named after a different X-men character giving the club a cohesive brand image. We have a long legacy in VEX and that legacy is visible in our hall of fame tab. Since 2010, the Vexmen have not walked away from a Vex Robotics World Championship empty handed.
The club website is vital to our club’s organization, structure and brand image. I usually received two or three requests a week for information from prospective members through the website’s contact tab. It is an extremely useful tool in explaining and promoting the club. The website is also vital to the club’s vitality and overall organization. Coordinating 34 teams is difficult and time consuming. The website helps us publish necessary information to the members. Meeting times, news, and directions are easily accessible on the homepage. Since we have a annual growth rate of 40%, we have many new teammates each year. Because there are so many rookies, we have the blog section of the website devoted mainly to basic tutorials and miscellaneous news. For example, we have posted information about the Vex online challenges and how to join the vex Forum because many new teams were confused or unaware of their existence. The blog section helps educate the members of our club and the general public. We also use this space to advertise for our eight week classes we run every spring. There, we reveal our true secrets. Last year, we registered with Amazonsmile, a program where part of the proceeds from amazon purchases made through smile go back to the club. A convenient Amazon smile portal is located right on our homepage.
This year, I introduced two key new features that make club organization so much easier. Firstly, since our club is based in Pennsylvania, the new PA child protection rules mandate every volunteer in regular contact with minors must have a PA Child Protection Certification Registration. We have so many mentors that organizing and collecting the forms would be a logistical nightmare. Instead of repeating the same information over and over again, I created a page on the website that walks the mentors through each step to make sure all PA requirements are met.
The most exciting new addition to the website is the Parts ordering system. Ordering parts for 34 teams is extremely challenging at best. We do a mass, club wide consolidated order once a week. Teams do not order their parts directly through vex. Instead, the club collects and approves their parts request and purchases the all team’s weekly orders at once. This is done for budget management purposes. To save hours of hassle and headache, I introduced the Parts Ordering System. Now, teams can ‘order’ parts directly through our website. Our club’s treasurer, Mr. Leubeck, can easily see and track orders through the website. He can approve, deny and organize orders quickly and efficiently. Since instituting this system, we have had fewer double orders, misorders and failed orders than before. The parts order displays the pictures and part numbers of each part. It was difficult, extremely tedious and time consuming to fit every part and a picture into our system but it was worth it in the end. Prior to the ordering system, we did orders through email. The team would email their parts order along with the part numbers and names of desired components. Often times, parts would be misordered. With the new system, that has not happened yet. It is really exciting and it is operating smoothly.
We host this wordpress powered website at dreamhost. We use several plugins freely available to streamline our website construction and make it as accessible and presentable to our clubmates. We connect our google calendar to our website’s upcoming events page to keep everything in sync and updated. This prevents any confusions. We use mapquest to include google maps to build night locations and event locations. This helps prevent losing clubmates to long drives to far away events. We use User role editor and audit trail to manage internal users and activity publication. J shortcodes, slickr flickr, and shortcodes ultimate help us go above and beyond our knowledge of HTML code. Woocommerce is the basis for our store, and of course we have WP Super Cache so pages do not need to recompile after every request. Most of our Pictures are hosted on flickr becuase I have found it to allow the pages to load faster than when the pictures are hosted on wordpress. We backup our website every so often (aka when I remember) because we have been hacked twice >:( but have recovered thanks to our backups.
After six long years of upkeeping and expanding the website, the torch is being passed to the next generation of vexmen. I cannot wait to see what fantastic ideas and updates they will make. The website is the mortar that holds this wild bunch of teams together. It helps unite us all under one name. From publicity and promotion to parts ordering, www.vexmen.com has become a jack of all trades and our go-to tool for team spirit.