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Unread 12-27-2003, 11:43 AM
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Design Sharing

In past years teams have kept robot designs secret. Why are we doing that? In an attempt to help out rookie teams and new members I am going to bring up the thought of design sharing to our team. What do you think?
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Unread 12-27-2003, 12:06 PM
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Re: Design Sharing

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rod
In past years teams have kept robot designs secret. Why are we doing that? In an attempt to help out rookie teams and new members I am going to bring up the thought of design sharing to our team. What do you think?
Now, that's what I call a great subject for discussion! To share or not to share is always a tough call, especially for long-time veteran teams and members. And if you share, how much do you share?

I think to ask teams to share their entire design before the end of build season is probably not a good idea. Why, you ask? Well, imagine what would've happened if Beatty (team 71) had let their amazing designs in 2001 and 2002 out to the public before the end of build season. Chances are, a lot of teams would have tried to steal 71's great ideas and use them on their own robot. So, you really can't fault them for wanting to keep their ideas under wraps. In my mind, sharing strategies and full-robot designs should be each team's own perogative. If they want to share their ideas with other teams, all the better for the spirit of cooperation. If they want to keep a potential championship-winning strategy secret, that should be their choice, too.

Now, as far as sharing technical data from previous years goes, I'm all for it. Things like the Technokats' gearbox designs can help so many teams, that I think it's a great idea to share such designs. I think if more teams (and I know mine is at fault here, too) would share their designs from previous years, it could be a great knowledge base for rookies and new teammembers.

So, in short, I think strategies and designs for this year's game can, and should be protected, unless a team chooses otherwise. Last year's designs, though, should be open and available to all whenever possible.
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Unread 12-27-2003, 01:17 PM
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Re: Design Sharing

I agree that sharing during the same build season is probably not the best of ideas, unless you share build facilities and time with another team. In addition to "the element of competitive surprise," it's probably not time efficient or practical to share ideas on the fly while trying to perfect a new idea yourself. To me the best time for this sharing begins when the season ends, especially with regard to drive systems, because real performance data accompanies the ideas. Also, those teams that post Inventor entries, white papers, etc. make them available to the public in Feb-April because the demand of the build schedule doesn't allow for such detailed sharing earlier.

For one, I love the anticipation of the unknown, as pictures become available and the first week of regionals starts. Helping out rookie teams is always a great idea and I'd never leave them out in the cold, but I'd try to help as much as possible prior to that first build with information/designs from previous years.

Good Luck!
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Unread 12-27-2003, 01:37 PM
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Re: Design Sharing

You've etched your name onto a tricky subject, Rod...

The veterans who have earned their place in being expected to have a unique, new, innovative, and/or stellar robot/assembly every year may not want to lose that 'title' (if you will). You may remember the mass histeria created by the pictures of Beatty's bot posted by oneangrydwarf over everyone trying to find out what they did.

While I would have liked to have seen things like Beatty, Wildstang, and Technokat's robots as it was being designed, I think it would also lose the shock and awe factor of some of the great designs. (Be it from a rookie or a veteran).

Then comes the matter of teams who do not make things in AutoCAD or take digital pictures (be it by ability or choice) who can not share their designs. Such as last year with team 470. We built our bot of scaled sketches and cardboard and string replicas instead of AutoCAD's precision. We had a unique design that many liked and others shrugged at.

Also, I think if you know the design before seeing it at competition, you might not want to visit the team and ask questions and study the parts. For example, I spent a good 20 minutes looking just at WildStang's wheels and "flippers" (as I've come to call them) as they tested some code.

When I worked at ComauPICO (Sponsor of a few teams) I had access to the full designs of a few automated assembly lines for Ford and GM. I had models of 2D Orthographic and 3D Solidworks pieces and in full assembly that I could look at. However, some of these were out on the plant floor only 30 feet away from my desk. Whenever I got the chance, I would go out and study certain pieces or maneuver's that the machines did. I found I can appreciate the mechanics of a design better in person than as a graphic.

The above are my reason why I am against the sharing of full designs before Shipping Date.

Now, the other side.. from ComauPICO expierience..

There were many times where I would look at the assembly, figure out what it does, then come back to my desk and pull up the drawings so I could see how it was assembled. In this respect, I would like to see teams post their designs after I've (and everyone else) have had a chance to look at them. Once we've come to appreciate the design, we can see the mechanics.

However, I do like the pre-ship pictures (without details) that get posted. It's nice to see what others are doing.
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Unread 12-29-2003, 11:47 AM
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Post A long list of thoughts on design sharing, trade secrets, and being competitive...

I think this is a touchy subject. Since there's a lot of different views on this, it's very likely that my point of view is very different than many of the other teams and team leaders out there.

I think that the Technokat's transmission design was one of the first, and is probably the most widely duplicated components in FIRST at this time. If you read the first page of the hardcopy booklet that team #45 passes out, Andy writes that the design is published in hopes that others would improve the design and share their insight to raise the bar of competition.

The truth of the matter is that because all of the details drawings are present, and the design works out of the box, many teams build to print the transmission and call it a day.

The overwhelming number of teams that have modified this design (in some very clever and worthwhile ways may I add) that even properly credit the #45 design as the primary inspiration, do not publish their changes, and some teams are even holding this as a trade secret (for lack of a better term). The question of course is, "Is keeping "trade secrets" ungracious, especially looking at the intent of the original publication and intent of the author?"

I'll fuel the flames of thought a little bit more:

Copying a design over and over is not inspirational. I'll give the benefit of the doubt to teams who are unsure about creating a transmission for the first time, and maybe want to just use one out of the box, like the Technokat's design. However, if you've prebought metal to make another duplicate of the same design you've built to print for the past few years, and are placing bets among yourselves on how few days you can build it... you're truly missing out, and missing the point of this program. I don't expect every team to be leading the way in creating the most amazing improvements to revolutionize FIRST, but I think that it'd be a shame for a local Boston Gear distributor to all of the sudden have 4 orders for a half dozen of the exact same 24 pitch, 3/8" face width gears, because nobody decided to even tweak the ratios on a gear set.

I guess my thesis is that I think that having a full set of details of a design, such that it can be "built to print", has caused laziness for many teams. I believe that having a simple 20 page picture book of different views, stages of engagement and exploded assemblies might have had a very different affect on the quality of innovation, since teams would have to do more design work on their own, and in turn, discovered more useful improvements. Most importantly, I worry that there are some high school students who may be short changed, and don't even know it.

To close, I have the utmost respect for Andy Baker and Team 45. I think that what they did was among the most gracious and professional moves that FIRST has had. I wrote that I have a mild fear that their gracious action may have inadvertently stunted the growth of some teams' capacity to innovate.

Am I proposing or suggesting that full details of components not be published?
Perhaps. (Though perhaps not... I'm just writing off the hip really.)

A thought provoking question:
If all of the details in all of the publications on Chief Delphi (including but not limited to the #45 design) were published with all the dimensions rounded to the nearest tenth of an inch, and no published tolerances, (giving a very fair representation of component scale) would there have been more or less innovation as a result?

When I say innovation, I mean changes and improvements. There would obviously be less copies. (Long term implication of less copies? )

Another thought:
How much weight does being "competitive" have on the whole scheme of inspiration? While I agree that it's easy to be discouraged if you're absolutely uncompetitive and not functioning properly... is it important that as much as possible is shared to increase the competitiveness of all teams?

This was a long one... we'll see what happens.

Another couple pennies in the bucket,
Matt
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Unread 12-30-2003, 07:37 AM
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Re: A long list of thoughts on design sharing, trade secrets, and being competitive...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Adams
Copying a design over and over is not inspirational.
There are multiple views on this subject, simply because there are multiple way of doing things around the country, and different situation at each school. I for one can only speak from the west coast experience.

For us, we do not get many mechanical engineers in the California teams. If it is up to the high school teachers and students to design the drive train, most of them would not have been close to the quality of other teams without professional engineer's help. By releasing their design, the Technokats, and Andy Baker specifically, inspired a lot of west coast students/teams more about engineering and designing than they could've on their own. It is true they are copying a design. But just building the copied design is such a great experience for those teams already.

I do agree that some people just choose to take the easy way out and copy others design. But I have a feeling that shared designs aren't lowering team's motivation to create new designs. Again, things are differet at each place. Some teams could have problem with getting professional help. Some others might have problem because their students cannot engage in their team year round. What I believe is happening is, teams who are motivated to create their own design, or new improvements on top of the shared designs are doing them anyway. Teams who don't, well, they just don't have the resources or they don't want to anyway. It is a matter of how the team works. A single white paper doesn't change that.

I am afraid this goes back to the issue about inspiration in FIRST. What exactly is the best way to inspire kids? Is it limited to 1 method and 1 method only? What is right and what is wrong? My gut feeling tells me we should let teams do what works for them. You can give them friendly constructive advices, build a support group and show the teams different ways of doing things, but in the end, the teams have to behave according to their environment and their resources.

I don't know about the rest of the country, but here in the Bay area of Northern California, WRRF create workshops so students and teams can learn what they need to know to start designing a robot. We also create a network so teams around the area can ask for help from each other, and share ideas and designs if they want to. There are trade secrets, or "competitive edge" from time to time, but after a year's competition, the teams are more than willing to share their design and their experience with other teams. All in all, it has worked well for us. There are teams who are competitive, but there are more teams who are in just for the experience of inspiration and learning.

So, try to give advice when you see teams aren't challenging themselves enough even though they got the resources, talk to them and see what they think. I learned that a lot of those teams are ready to move up to the next step and create a bigger and more experienced robotics program, but just need the right key and the right time to get started. I would go as far as to say showing teams the network of teams out there is as important as giving them a specific design. There is a chinese saying: "Give a man a fish, and he will have a meal. Teach the man to fish, and he will know how to feed himself."

-Ken L
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Unread 12-30-2003, 09:14 AM
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Re: Design Sharing

This is an excellent discussion. I would like to post many points on this. Matt brings up some good questions. Ken Leung not only responded very well, but he also brought up some of these same questions to me 2 years ago when I released the dual motor design after the 2001 season.

To answer Matt's question, I think that "it is all good" when a team releases a design, even if it is to the exact detail.

There are different levels of usage with regard to these print packages. I'll point out benefits of each.

1. A team uses the exact published prints (from Dave Lavery, Paul Copioli, etc.) and re-creates the design for their team's robot.
  • The team using the prints are exposed to a professional-quality engineering print package.
  • They are using a design that has already been proven
  • The using team sees aspects of design that they may not learn on their own (press fit tolerances, etc.)
  • The using team is building a foundation for future years experiences

2. A team uses portions of the published design, but integrates it into their specific design, improving or changing how the initial design is implemented.
  • This team may be building upon their experiences from example 1 above, but in the next year
  • This team is "raising the bar" and putting their own twist on a successful design
  • This team is performing a service to FIRST by taking what is already out there and improving on it. In most cases, this team is proud of their improvements and openly share this design with other teams (pictures, prints, etc.)

Our team agreed to start giving away designs after the 2000 season. We did this because we noticed that there are many FIRST teams who do not have engineers as mentors. Many FIRST teams are made up of 10 students and 1-2 teachers. If these teams want to compete with teams with "pro" designers, then they need to see what these designs are. We simply gave them examples of proven print packages. Not only do they get the design when they see the print package, but they see how to organize a print package and how a design is communicated to others.

I have found it very rewarding to give away these designs. There are tens of teams who have told me that they would've had no success if it were not for our team's effort to publish these designs. Teams have gone from middle-of-the-pack teams to regional winners with these designs. To the kids on those teams, not only designing well is inspirational, but winning matches is inspirational.

Andy B.
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Unread 12-30-2003, 03:08 PM
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Re: Design Sharing

Here are my sencere opinions on the subject:

During the season: No design sharing. Teams can feel free to view old pictures, old designs from previous years, or whatever. However, teams should all innovate on their own as to how to adapt these old designs (and create new innovations) for the current game. If teams need help with something specific, like a gearbox, there are plenty of designs from previous years to help you.

I feel this way for three reasons: 1) I feel that teams should innovate a little on their own so they get the full blown experience of what it's like to be an engineer - to solve a problem that hasn't been solved before without outside help; 2) once everyone sees a great solution for the game at hand, we'll get a bunch of cookie cutter robots - who wants that?; and 3) from a purely selfish standpoint - I LOVE the surprise of all of the new designs at the first regionals.


After the start of the season, it's virtually impossible to keep the designs a secret. Everyone has a digital camera these days and with a few good pictures, you can copy the majority of any design (except software, of course). With that in mind - go crazy and share whatever you wish - I'm all for it, as long as it's after the build season.

-Chris
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Unread 01-02-2004, 08:07 AM
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Re: A long list of thoughts on design sharing, trade secrets, and being competitive...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Adams
Another thought:
How much weight does being "competitive" have on the whole scheme of inspiration?
I think "competitiveness" is a big part of the inspiration in FIRST.

If you are competing with the realization that your bot has to go out and either win or get beat in every match, you will probably try harder. Just the fact that your pride/ego/whatever is pushing you to think about what the other teams will be doing, then try to one-up them or out-think them, is a good thing. If you decide that your team is going to compete then you have decided that people are going to increase their level of effort in all aspects of the game.

This is not to say that winning is the important part of FIRST. Its not. TRYING to win, and the PREPARATION for competition, are the important parts where people learn new things.

I would weight it very high, Matt.

Ken
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Unread 01-02-2004, 10:06 AM
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Re: Design Sharing

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rod
In past years teams have kept robot designs secret. Why are we doing that? In an attempt to help out rookie teams and new members I am going to bring up the thought of design sharing to our team. What do you think?
You can read about a similar idea we had several years ago here: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9504
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Unread 01-08-2004, 03:56 PM
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Thumbs up Re: Design Sharing

i think sharing is good. it lets ua all learn more much more quickley sharing of your oun desings is up to yourself but The desing of your teams robot thats somthing for them to agree uppon before any information is put "out there" Overall i think idea sharing is good i heard dean say once "If i have an idea and you have an idea and we share Now we have two ideas" Words to Love by. I leARned Volumes From Andy Baker's Transmition White Paper I also Got extremely Valuable info investigating The Thunderchicken's CCT and sending e-mails to Paul Capoli. I asked for advice form Ron Heartman with my crab drive desing He was a big help He even sent me Mounting screws for the Globe motors. Dan Quiggle on my team Pointed out a "Path of Least resistance" problem in my crab drive desing and helped me learn and do the calculations for it. the kilthro (Kiwi) drive, the gearbox desings, the crab drives, the "walkers". the Ball Drive, and all these other ideas ive been able to check out and experment and play with the myself. Ive Learned So MUCH. There is a sea of ideas and posted desings out there that can be learned from. The "I" In first stands for "Inspiration". Idea sharing Has Inspired Me Greatley. I hope to see much more shared desings concepts and ideas in the future
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Unread 01-08-2004, 04:06 PM
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Re: Design Sharing

Well just ask Truck Town Thunder about sharing their designs before....FIRST goes and makes a rule essentially saying what they worked on for six weeks is not allowed. They shared their design and got burned by FIRST....That's motivation enough for some of the teams I know to keep their designs a secret.
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Unread 01-08-2004, 05:40 PM
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Re: Design Sharing

Live Free or Die!

What kind of a competition results if a team with a phenominal design idea slaughters everyone else? From whom are established teams trying to hide thier ideas? [other established teams who have just as much techincal skill and as great of a talent and creativity pool?].

I would fully support a means of making design ideas, even scale plans to rookie teams who have little experiance and most likely a small talent pool to work with. What kind of a community is established if only the old guys have all the cookies?

Lazy teams would be shunned, as they would only be able to say that they copied thier drivetrain from Team #XXXX, while a rookie would be proud in reverse engineering such a drivetrain.

Thats my $0.02 PLN. (Too much Eastern Block Socialist flair?)
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Unread 01-08-2004, 06:05 PM
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Re: Design Sharing

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen Kowski
Well just ask Truck Town Thunder about sharing their designs before....FIRST goes and makes a rule essentially saying what they worked on for six weeks is not allowed. They shared their design and got burned by FIRST....That's motivation enough for some of the teams I know to keep their designs a secret.
Would it have been better if 68 had shown up at competition and the FIRST officials had decreed then their design was illegal?

Would it have been better if their design, which FIRST believed to be illegal, was allowed to compete anyways?
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Unread 01-08-2004, 06:11 PM
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Re: Design Sharing

I always scout ahead so those teams that do post their bots.... Keep doin' it! However I like being suprised by bots I've never seen before, much more fun that way!
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