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  #16   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 08-06-2004, 09:53 AM
Max Lobovsky's Avatar
Max Lobovsky Max Lobovsky is offline
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

As several people have mentioned, I think one of the best parts of FIRST is how FIRST can cover so much ground and not be the worst for it. Chairman's or Championship, whatever you choose, there is a great community and great organization there for you. Both would inarguably be great accomplishments. FIRST brings the often very different people who find each of those goals most important together. It isn't just For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, its also For Inspiration and Recognition of Community Service and Selfless People (FIRCSSP? I need to work on that a bit more...)

As for purchasing, I think the rules are excellent as they are now. In fact, I would remove some restrictions on components (like pneumatics and motors). The reason buying components is fine and still provides opportunity for students to do stuff is because of two rules in FIRST 1) The low cap on spending, and 2) the restriction on buying goods that are not available to any team. Combined, they make it impossible to find a component that can make up a significant part of your robot. Unless FIRST robots start being mass produced, there is no way 3500 will buy any major part. Either the part is too specific to FIRST and costs a lot, or its too general and then you need to add work to make it functional (Andy's gearbox has got to cost more than a DeWalt transmission, but it will be a lot easier to drop in and use.) Because we all compete with these same rules and because many teams reach their budget cap, or would if they acutally had the need to, the rest of the competition is left up to the work put into robots.

Consider this: What is a conservative estimate for the time that goes into a robot (Don't forget all the time you spend outside of your designated build hours)? 8 hours/week * 10 people * 6 weeks = 480 hours. Assuming these people would be averaging a meager $8/hour and that a rough estimate for a non manufacturing job is that it costs a company twice the employee's wages to employ him/her. That comes to 480 * 8 * 2 or 7680, or more than twice the allowed maximum spent a robot. What I'm trying to say is that you can't realistically purchase a significant part of your robot.
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Last edited by Max Lobovsky : 08-06-2004 at 10:02 AM.
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Unread 08-06-2004, 10:14 AM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Billfred
So suppose that a middle ground was struck.

Instead of getting a plop-it-in-and-go TechnoKats gearbox, you received the gearbox with some assembly required. You've still got to learn how to put it together--you just don't have to worry about puzzle pieces not fitting.

Teaching how to assemble off-the-shelf parts can be fun, I swear.
I like that solution. It seems like a pretty good balance to me. It's obviously up to Andy and the Technokats to decide how they would want to market their "product" but I think that idea may be a good compromise. Plus, it would probably be easier to ship machined parts and instructions than it would be to ship a fully-assembled product.
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Unread 08-06-2004, 10:19 AM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
I like the idea of that kind of constraint. I want teams to have to deal with:

"Oh man, can we really afford the weight/time of building this CVT? Will we be able to have it AND that [insert other component here] we wanted? " - (Actual Internal dialog going on in my head right now)
The $3500 cost limit, and the $400 single part cost limit still exist. These will force teams who are considering buying these gearboxes to make some crucial decisions when it comes to tradeoffs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve W
Here I am again. On the opposite side of the wall. Were would we be if people only used rebuilt parts? Were does the design and thought process come in to play? The inspiration comes from the mind not the field. When you build your first gearbox. When you understand why and how it works. I have seen the light in students and mentors eyes when something that they designed and built succeeded. The people in FIRST are the best. They have ideas. They can look inside and outside of the box. Why get in a habit of buying this transmission or that arm?

...

Inventions are not built using premade parts. People come up with new ideas, from different angles and with renewed enthusiasm. Playing the game is fun, building and designing is inspirational.
Steve,

I didn't help Marconi invent the radio, or Da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa, I guess what they did wasn't very inspirational for me. While we're at it, why don't we get rid of the KOP entirely, and force all the teams to build their robots from scratch. I mean after all, "inventions aren't built using pre-made parts".

You and I have had many an argument on topics similar to this one before. I guess were just coming from two totally different perspectives. I see what you're saying, but I just see multiple paths on the road to inspiration.

---

Another reason why I am so behind these gearboxes, it's going to raise the level of competition. Say I'm a mentor on a team who has mastered the art of building two speed gearboxes. Right now I'm thinking, "That Andy Baker has done it again, now everyone is going to have a 2 speed tranny, how am I going to give my team an edge, better head back to the drawing board..." The elite teams are going innovate to gain a competitive advantage. Expect to see all sorts of cool new drive systems this year, as a result of the availability of these gearboxes.

Cooler robots = Impressed sponsors = More money for FIRST = Easier expansion = Easier culture change

Isn't this what we want?
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Unread 08-06-2004, 11:06 AM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Waegelin
I like that solution. It seems like a pretty good balance to me. It's obviously up to Andy and the Technokats to decide how they would want to market their "product" but I think that idea may be a good compromise. Plus, it would probably be easier to ship machined parts and instructions than it would be to ship a fully-assembled product.
Good point, but I'd again look at what JVN has said here. If it's fully assembled, I can certainly take it apart and give it to my students in a big pile. And if I really want to be a jerk (AKA teacher), I can tell them I lost the plans. Then, when they get stuck, tell them it's their problem to solve and not mine (and become the biggest jerk of the year ). Then, if they can't figure out on their own who to contact, I'd point them to AB, Team 45, and CD in general. Voila, students communicating with an engineer and competitors half way around the country to get advice/information about their design, it's assembly, application, maybe even integration. Sounds pretty real-world to me, but then again I'm just an English teacher .

If your team is not yet "old/mature" enough to handle that level of problem solving/stress, then use the assembled gearbox and concentrate on appendages, etc. It's all about knowing your personnel and where they are on the learning/pain tolerance curve.
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Unread 08-06-2004, 11:12 AM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Waegelin
I like that solution. It seems like a pretty good balance to me. It's obviously up to Andy and the Technokats to decide how they would want to market their "product" but I think that idea may be a good compromise. Plus, it would probably be easier to ship machined parts and instructions than it would be to ship a fully-assembled product.
Jeff,
I would argue that no "solution" is necessary.
Teams will always do their own thing. I feel a ruling from FIRST or a "compromise" as has been suggested is silly. Again, we've already got other design constraints, and FIRST could just be limiting a good thing.

Let's face it, a team of bad mentors is still going to put the gearboxes together by themselves with no student involvement. Has your rule changed anything? Not really.



What Rich has said about being a "jerk" certainly applies here.

I would do something very similar. (Yeah... I'm a jerk).

In fact (thinking back) we DID do that this year. On this year's robot we used the "rookie drivetrain" provided in the kit to power our arm. We took the (note: all premade) gearboxes and components, laid them down in a big pile in front of the kids, and said "go to it". They went to it.

In retrospect, it was one of the coolest meetings we had. Nothing like a bunch of kids elbowing the college mentors out of the way, and working together to make that huge mountain of stuff into something moving.

JV
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Unread 08-06-2004, 12:33 PM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

Quote:
Originally Posted by JVN
Plus, mentor burnout sucks. Making things easier for mentors in this competition (while allowing them to provide the SAME positive experience) is a definite good thing. There are so many people busting their butts for this program, and for these kids... why make their lives harder?
Can't agree with you more, mentor burnout does suck.

I just think that if you have the time and man power to make a good transmission then great, if not, there has ALWAYS been one there for you IN THE KIT to use if you attached a servo motor to the bosch transmission.... that is why ppl started making custom trannys in the first place, to outdo the stuff that came in the kit.

Now if you think you can do better than the technokats, good luck. If you figure out some new revolutionary thing well then that is what this is all about now isn't it?

You wouldn't spend hours on making a hook if you could go to home depot and pick one out? I hope not cause I will be a few steps ahead of you time wise!

Anything i can buy off the shelf and use that can save me some time in that six weeks I will probably buy it instead of making it. I'm not gonna reinvent the wheel cause I can already buy it

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Unread 08-06-2004, 01:48 PM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
...certainly not the Chairman's Award.
...and I look foward to counter-flaming
I was making it a point to ignore this part, but it keeps bugging me and since you are looking forward to the replies, here we go ... I could take so many directions here, but let's look at just a few personal examples I know about:

1. Visit Al Ostrow and Team 341. The've won a division at the Championship and would love to win it all I'm sure, but they've also won two Regional Chairman's Awards and were named a Chairman's Honorable Mention in 04 in Atlanta. Ever sit and talk with these kids and Alums? They're all fired up about their futures, FIRST, and sharing with others. NBC10 Tech Fest, Ramp Riot, Food Drives, mentoring, helping the disabled, visiting sponsors, demos, presentations to young kids promoting science and technology, on and on. These are people, very young people, who know every day that they do this they are positively affecting the future, creating limitless opportunities for themselves, and are seeing tangible changes for the better in their school, community, all of society, and most importantly in themselves. Make a visit and see if you come away remembering their robots.

2. Chesapeake Regional 2003 - 357 Royal Assault wins the Regional CA. Tears, joy, excitement. The students of 103 spent some time with them afterward. All they could say to me was, "We want to feel like that." Visit 357 and you'll see a huge LEGO effort and hundreds of young - REALLY YOUNG - kids fired up about learning, sharing, and the future.
Joy Troy and his crew are nothing short of remarkable for what they do for kids and for FIRST. Robots? Really?

3. 2004 SC Regional - Team 433 submits their first ever CA entry. They don't win, but they do win a Sat Judge's Award and come away with the respect of thousands. Small team with limited resources has impacted a community and the future in amazing ways. I suggest you talk with Meredith Rice about what she has learned in FIRST and what excites her.

4. Team 103 in 2003: I can write a book here, but let me just say that all of our lives are richer today, we have friends across the country, students and adults have had educational, professional, and job opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have, a town with more cows than stoplights is known for technology of all things, and after winning the CA, we all began to work harder to help others because it was our responsibility. Every time I write a letter of recommendation for one of these students and list their accomplishments, contributions, and the people they have encountered (Kamen, Lavery, Abele, Flowers, Wosniak, CEO's, Astronauts, ...) I think, "Holy $%&#! These kids are so far ahead and have so many opportunities because of this."

Man would I love to celebrate on Einstein someday, but there's no way it'll have the profound impact this has had. Get out there among these teams and spend time with them away from the craziness of the six weeks and find out what's important. They're all over the country and I could list dozens more team numbers here.

When you find a person (rare) or a group (much more rare) that is fully aware of the positive impact their efforts are having, believe that they really do make a difference in the world, and sense their own part in it as it is happening, the energy that is created is boundless and infectious. Some people spend their whole professional and personal lives in search of this feeling and they never experience it. From what I have seen, this occurs in FIRST more than anywhere else in our society and it is because of the CA and Gracious Professionalism, not because of the competition and who wins it.
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Unread 08-06-2004, 04:23 PM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

Rich, you are dead on. I love competition, love winning and love the challenge. The reason that I am involved as much as I am in FIRST is NOT because of these things. It IS because of the positive impact that I see with the students, mentors, teachers and those that they come in contact with. I have said many times that it was the students that drew me into FIRST. The excitement that I saw on everyones faces in Cleveland. The willingness to help out each other even if it meant that you might lose because of it. The impact that can be made by individuals and teams is huge. If I was given the choice of Chairmans or championship winners I would take Chairmans every time. To win at a regional or Championships is to win a battle but to win Chairmans is to win the war.

When at events you will not see me in the pits (not much anyway) with our team. I visit other teams and spend my time helping were I can and the on game days I announce. I do this because I believe in the principles behind FIRST more than the competition.

Karthik as per your quote "Another reason why I am so behind these gearboxes, it's going to raise the level of competition." I have to agree fully BUT is it all about the competition.

Note - Karthik and I disagree and argue lots. I believe that we are good friends and that there is no animosity held before, during or after one of our "discussions". I just wish that he would see the light.
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Unread 08-06-2004, 05:12 PM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

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Unread 08-06-2004, 08:55 PM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

Its all so much like Legos.

Back when I was roughly five or six, I got my second Lego set. My first set was a large tub of simple, basic bricks. It was, needless to say, not flashy enough for me. So my second set was the original Space Shuttle. And the third set was something equally flashy. I built set #2 and #3 exactly according to instructions, as I barely knew how Legos worked. I was very proud of #2 and #3.

But what happened for my fourth creation? I could have built another set. But the instructions were so tedious and long, and I had such a short attention span, and I used to build outside, amidst melted crayons (Crayons can melt in the summer heat, the resulting puddle has glittery stuff in it). My fourth creation, when I was 7, was the Mercury/Redstone complex. Lego has never made one, and I doubt it ever will. I was so happy with that tiny contraption.

I guess what I am trying to say is that when you have no idea what you are doing or have no wherewithal to work with it, following preexisting routes/guides is not a bad thing. Einstein didn't need to invent classical physics, he built upon a framework that already existed. It is a humble thing to acknowledge that you have built upon, "The shoulders of giants".

At the same time, there is no pride or honor in taking designs of others and calling them your own. When it was suggested to Daniel Webster that he take partial credit for a compromise between the South and North, it was sarcastically said, "And I, with the help of Moses and some others, wrote the Ten Commandments."

The real problem that I see with selling gearboxes has to do with sending a message. Like it or not, there are people in FIRST who do think that teams that have more money/resources/contacts/political affiliations/importance/insert of factor here do have a far better robot, since they have professionals build it. I am not addressing that issue right now, it has been talked and talked to death in the past. What I am saying is that the selling of mechanisms reinforces that stereotype/image.

This is not the first time teams have sold parts. I remember something about Team 120 a long long time ago (in a far far away galaxy) selling boards for use with their clone of the First RX. How did other teams react back then, in a time so few remember? Maybe a few ancients will enlighten us?
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Unread 08-07-2004, 10:04 AM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Venkatesh
Its all so much like Legos.

....

This is not the first time teams have sold parts. I remember something about Team 120 a long long time ago (in a far far away galaxy) selling boards for use with their clone of the First RX. How did other teams react back then, in a time so few remember? Maybe a few ancients will enlighten us?
I remember those. I even considered buying one for the team. But I wasn't sure I could actually get it to work, being a mechanical kind of guy. I don't recall any great controversy about them. The price was close to the production cost and as I recall they were giving away the art to make your own board. But it was actually cheaper to buy theirs (at least here in CA) as you didn't have to mess with chemicals or their disposal.

But the key thing was that they were intended for off-season use only. Remember that back in those days we had to ship the electronics back every year after the competition. You could either leave the control system at your last competition or pay a deposit and keep it until September or so when it had to be returned. So without something to take its place, your robot was a pile of spare parts.

There was great rejoicing when they announced that we would be allowed to keep the control systems, but it kind of killed 120's market.

ChrisH
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Unread 08-07-2004, 02:18 PM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

"We say it's about the robots, its not. It's about people, and things, and ideas."
-Woody Flowers

I fully feel FIRST is about meeting mentors, people from other teams, and people like Dean Kamen, Woody Flowers, and Dave Lavery. This is why all teams have buttons and identities, and why teams get to pick other teams to go with them to the finals. My team also made many mistakes with the robot and the drive train by having a direct drive. Our robot never ran for our regional, and still doesn't run today. Even without a robot, I feel I have gotten more out of FIRST than I have with anything I have ever participated in, and that is because of meeting a long list of people I wouldn't have gotten to otherwise, which includes members on this board to great people like my and other mentors, to Jeb Bush, to Kamen/Flowers/Lavery.
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Unread 08-07-2004, 02:29 PM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Katie Reynolds
... But you do realize that FIRST is "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology"
You forgot to include the full name. It's actually FIRST Robotics Competition.

Not saying it's all about the robots or anything, but in my oppinion, it's at least 50/50.
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Last edited by Paul H : 08-07-2004 at 02:34 PM.
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Unread 08-07-2004, 05:45 PM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul H
You forgot to include the full name. It's actually FIRST Robotics Competition.

Not saying it's all about the robots or anything, but in my oppinion, it's at least 50/50.
Yes, it's a robotics competition. However, it's still preceded in its name by FIRST (For Inspiration and yadda yadda yadda). Even then, the robotics competiton is only part of FIRST (not to mention FIRST Lego League and the events at FIRST Place).
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Unread 08-07-2004, 11:26 PM
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Re: It is about the robots (OpEd)

I've been thinking about this post quite a bit over the last couple days and I see a few separate issues here. (sorry this is long)

1) The majority of real-world projects are being driven by COTS products. COTS is an acronym for Commercial Off The Shelf. That means I can go to some supplier that provides exactly what I need and not have to deal with the added time and expense of custom orders and re-development of the needed equipment. Engineers in the real world don't reinvent anything they don't have to. There isn't enough time, not enough money and too many other things to do. (sound familiar?) Teams should have the capability to buy any off-the-shelf parts they can from available suppliers. If people want to start a company to provide parts to team, go for it. Innovation FIRST did it, so why not someone else?


2) More importantly, the vast majority of the students I have mentored have not gone into and stuck with engineering programs. This is due to a number of factors, but the greatest factor is that my teams have been reasonably well balanced in terms of what kind of interests people have outside of FIRST. Some of the students, mentors and other team members I value most are those that have less of an interest in engineering. Instead they have a desire to express themselves in art, music, business, and everything else. However, I can still do my best at being an effective mentor to the entire team because everyone uses a set of "transferable skills" in the real world.

Transferable skills include things like networking, time management, teamwork, research, creativity, and problem solving. The mentors/friends/people/students that have affected my life the most are the ones who continue to help me improve my transferable skills verses my technical skills. I am a better person today because of many people who I have met through this program over the last six years. My goal as a mentor is to make every student a successful member of the team. And when the student graduates, I hope they have a better understanding of themselves and will strive to succeed in whatever path their life takes them.

FIRST teams are very unique in that they require a very diverse set of skills depending on the goals of your team. The idea behind all the awards are to highlight which teams have gone above and beyond in certain areas of this competition. Each team must determine which awards it wants to strive toward. If that is Chairman's, Winning it all on Einstein, or fielding a moving robot, each team must determine what goals will benefit the students, the school, the mentors, and the sponsors the most. The Chairman's Award celebrates people and how people are part of a team and how that team has made an impact. Without many people and this award, many teams wouldn't exist as they do now, the CD website would not be what it is now, and FIRST would not have the personal impact that it has now for every participant.


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