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Unread 03-02-2006, 07:27 AM
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Re: [moderated] pic: The 2006 NiagaraFIRST Triplets!

Quote:
Originally Posted by doubleslash
unfair: the fact that collaborating teams get to bring three of the same robots to the same competition.

I highly doubt that even if some teams don't have the mentors, the facilities, the programmers, etc, that they won't have the drivers and human players to make their collaborated clone robot succeed at a competition. Having three teams with three robots is basically commensurate to one team cloning themselves in order to increase their chances in the competition three times.

A second problem is a repeat of what someone else noted, that if one team gets into the top 8, they will often pick teams they are collaborating with to join their alliance. I personally saw this happening at SVR last year, and believe that every team that gets picked by their collaborating partners is another team that could have gotten picked but didn't.

If you think of the teams as a black box interface, it doesn't matter to me how a robot gets built, by how many people with so many facilities and so many mentors, as long as they follow a basic rule that I think FIRST should adopt: "One team, one robot, one competition." If there's one robot being made, regardless of the teams behind it, only one robot is put in a box and loaded into the truck on the ship date, only one robot shows up at the competition.

I realize that this is rather difficult since the teams are still distinct (often geographically, by school), but I can't see how they would fail to manage if they could build a robot together why they couldn't see it at the competition together.

The best way for FIRST to go about making this happen, in my opinion, are a new set of rules to "level the playing field" - as they said when they introduced the Fix-it Window - a rule that allows teams to declare themselves as collaborating, who therefore are from then on, considered to be one team in the eyes of FIRST, the competition organizers, and their computer systems.

Example: instead of Team X, Team Y, and Team Z showing up at a regional with three robots, which are all the same, Team X, Team Y, and Team Z declare themselves as a collaborating team (probably sometime before the kickoff?) so that in the eyes of FIRST, they aren't Team X, Team Y, and Team Z anymore, they're "Team X, Y, and Z" now. This avoids the trouble that would occur if teams that collaborated were forced to register a new team, so that teams would constantly be registered and abandoned as collaboration partners changed. Instead, the FIRST system simply creates a meta-team that consists of multiple collaborating teams. That one team brings their one robot to the one regional. That one team plays with their strong robot. There are no other teams with the same strong robot going on in the background and tripling their chances of succeeding. And when that one team gets into the top 8, they can pick other strong teams that otherwise might not have been picked. "One team, one robot, one competition."

Again, I must repeat, that I do agree that collaborating produces stronger robots. But at the same time I see an inherent problem with this that takes advantage of what I might dare call a loophole in the FIRST system. I've suggested a way to remedy this. If anyone has further ideas on why my ideas don't work or aren't plausible (<- this is the one I'm looking out for), other ways FIRST could improve their system (or whether it really needs "improving"), please post them.
First, as Dean says, "FIRST is not meant to be fair." (paraphrased). See my post in the Rule 17 thread on "Levelling the playing field" vs. the fixit window.

Second, your concerns about collaborating assume that the final design completely outshines all others. This is only your one opinion, not fact. Since human players and drivers can't switch from team to team, the abilities of each robot is still limited to the students on each team. This was proven last year when 217 and 229 collaborated, and 217's drivers were much more comfortable with the robot than 229's drivers (No offense Jay T.).

Thirdly, if a team gets picked in eliminations, it obviously belongs there due to skill. If a robot is not picked, it obviously wasn't good enough to be picked as a partner. Whether you're 25th on the teams' pick list or 50th, it doesn't matter. Teams aren't going to arbitrarily pick another just because it's a sister team. And what if it is? Unless they win the regional together, it's a moot point. Just because one collaborating team wins, doesn't mean that the other "partner" gets to go to Atlanta. If anything, it's a disadvantage, because that "partner" team built a winning robot, and doesn't reap the benefits of winning.

Plus, your "plan" doesn't include the situation of when teams partially collaborate, such as the 217/229 collaboration. Though both teams were very similar, they were not identical. Would you combine these robots into one team because they collaborated, even though they're not identical? Moreover, would you combine all coincedentally identical robots into one team, just because they're identical? Your concerns are the same whether they collaborated or just coincidentally made the exact same design (which is very possible, given the specific rules of the game each year.)
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Unread 03-03-2006, 05:18 PM
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Re: [moderated] pic: The 2006 NiagaraFIRST Triplets!

I can see the advantages to making multiple robots. Personally, the part that always takes the longest time in robotics for my team is actual fabrication. As someone who machines this stuff, I know that it is easier to make 3 of the same part than 3 of a different part. In fact, it is just about the same to mill 10 plates instead of 3. This of course is a big advantage for the teams. Things get machined MUCH faster, and there is more time to troubleshoot and practice.

Isn't that the point? Most students can't fabricate on mills and lathes anyway. Why not use collaboration to speed up the fabrication process, and give the students proper time to make their robot? My team has ALWAYS rushed after all the parts were made, and we usually only have two or so days to program and practice. We dont have a dozen machine shops, we have one, and we're really pushing the limit sometimes on timeline. I see it as a very logical thing for teams to get together and design and build parts that are the same.

The only part that interests me however, is how the three teams managed to get together and design one robot, without arguing each other to death. It was hard enough to chose a final design for my team, took a solid two days of debating (and I mean solid, we went at it for like 14 hours straight one saturday...). I mean sure, teams can easily have the same frames and drive trains, because those are pretty standard. But how could multiple teams ever agree on how the manipulator should be done? If you think about it, lets say there are 30 people from each team, and a few mentors from each team. Three teams means 100 people, all agreeing on the same design. I'm sure it was quite a challenge. That is one of the big disadvantages I see in collaboration, just the delay you get from debating.

So my question to the three teams of NiagaraFIRST is: how exactly did you get everyone to agree on the same design? How was it organized, how long it took, etc. Details I guess. I dont know, if you put 100 of me in a room and tried to make me (us) agree, it would never happen. But hey, thats just me.

Otherwise...
The robots look very good. It is always great to see a group of people actually work together to create an awesome, well thought-out product.

A random question:
Have two (or more) teams ever worked together to make two robots that compliment each other? For example, in 2003, teams could have worked together and had a robot that focused on stacking, and a robot that focused on hoarding bins. In this game you could have gotten creative, and made one robot that collected and stored balls and fed them to a second, shooting bot. It would be very interesting to see that in competition...

Good luck to the NiagaraFIRST teams, I'm sure you guys will rock!
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Unread 03-03-2006, 06:22 PM
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Re: [moderated] pic: The 2006 NiagaraFIRST Triplets!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Swando
First, as Dean says, "FIRST is not meant to be fair." (paraphrased). See my post in the Rule 17 thread on "Levelling the playing field" vs. the fixit window.

Second, your concerns about collaborating assume that the final design completely outshines all others. This is only your one opinion, not fact. Since human players and drivers can't switch from team to team, the abilities of each robot is still limited to the students on each team. This was proven last year when 217 and 229 collaborated, and 217's drivers were much more comfortable with the robot than 229's drivers (No offense Jay T.).
I thought I made it clear that I believe that working together will produce a stronger robot, if three teams get together, they have three times the students, three times the mentors, three times the resources, three times the strength of the robot, and there's nothing wrong with that. What my concerns about collaboration were the fact that three copies of the same robot go to the same competition, tripling their chances of succeeding (note the distinction between competition and regionals, even if the robots go to different regionals, they still have increased their chances). Whether or not there is a disparity in the skill or practice the drivers of each collaborating team have access to is irrelevant, having three robots is better than one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Swando
Thirdly, if a team gets picked in eliminations, it obviously belongs there due to skill. If a robot is not picked, it obviously wasn't good enough to be picked as a partner. Whether you're 25th on the teams' pick list or 50th, it doesn't matter. Teams aren't going to arbitrarily pick another just because it's a sister team. And what if it is? Unless they win the regional together, it's a moot point. Just because one collaborating team wins, doesn't mean that the other "partner" gets to go to Atlanta. If anything, it's a disadvantage, because that "partner" team built a winning robot, and doesn't reap the benefits of winning.
You don't see that it's still inherently unfair to other teams? If all three collaborating teams are fairly picked on basis of skill, the fact remains that there are three of them, two of whom wouldn't be there without collaboration, meaning two other teams that tried equally hard over the course of the build time who didn't get picked. If a group of people work on a robot, they should get the chance they deserve to get picked, but not three.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Swando
Plus, your "plan" doesn't include the situation of when teams partially collaborate, such as the 217/229 collaboration. Though both teams were very similar, they were not identical. Would you combine these robots into one team because they collaborated, even though they're not identical? Moreover, would you combine all coincedentally identical robots into one team, just because they're identical? Your concerns are the same whether they collaborated or just coincidentally made the exact same design (which is very possible, given the specific rules of the game each year.)
I can't say that I've made up a plan, though I wouldn't mind some FIRST people perusing this thread and getting a few ideas. In your presented situation, all I have to say is that it doesn't matter if teams come together and agree with general design qualities, for example, a shooter up high, but when multiple teams come together to engineer a single robot, each one shouldn't get to bring a copy of it to the competition, and triple their chances of success. "One team, one robot, one competition" means exactly that, if the robots differ, then the teams differ. In your case where robots are coincidentally, it's important to differentiate robots that are identical and identical in design. Identical robots are exactly alike in every respect, which is almost impossible to occur just coincidentally. Robots that are identical by design have all the exact same design qualities, like having the same number of flywheels, same type of drive train, etc. Teams that collaborate and develop robots identical in design are likely to be more powerful, and if it proves to be a successful robot in the competition, people will learn that teamwork works. But that doesn't mean that teams can all bring the exact same robot to the regionals to increase their chances of success. Bottom line: every team should engineer their own robot, but that doesn't mean that they can't have similar design principles.
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Unread 03-05-2006, 06:15 PM
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Re: [moderated] pic: The 2006 NiagaraFIRST Triplets!

identical robots? not crazy about the idea at first i thought copycat designs at second i was like poor judges. third i was thank goodness i do not have to judge which of those three robots to give prizes too. I love the robots the look great but can the drivers out drive the other teams. Now they have to rely quite heavily on the drivers to out perform the siblings. can not wait to hear about it.
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Unread 03-06-2006, 02:24 PM
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Re: [moderated] pic: The 2006 NiagaraFIRST Triplets!

Quote:
Originally Posted by doubleslash
"One team, one robot, one competition" means exactly that, if the robots differ, then the teams differ. In your case where robots are coincidentally, it's important to differentiate robots that are identical and identical in design. Identical robots are exactly alike in every respect, which is almost impossible to occur just coincidentally. Robots that are identical by design have all the exact same design qualities, like having the same number of flywheels, same type of drive train, etc. Teams that collaborate and develop robots identical in design are likely to be more powerful, and if it proves to be a successful robot in the competition, people will learn that teamwork works. But that doesn't mean that teams can all bring the exact same robot to the regionals to increase their chances of success. Bottom line: every team should engineer their own robot, but that doesn't mean that they can't have similar design principles.
Come to a regional in which the NiagaraFIRST teams participate, and then give some more thought to this matter. If you saw the three of them last year you would know that despite the fact that they had identical robots, they were three clearly different teams. They all had their own style of play, and as an alliance leader thats how you would perceive them.

Last year at the Waterloo regional our team was in a position to be picking an alliance and the night before we never once said that any one of the Niagara teams was just as good as the other. We ended up picking team 1503 because at that regional we felt their performance would complement our alliance moreso than the other two teams. To their credit though, team 1680 was the highest-seeded rookie team at that regional and 1114 went on to dominate the Greater Toronto Regional (and went up against 1503 in the finals I might add) despite their performance in Waterloo.

The teams collaborate with each other to build their robots, they share mentors, and I'd gather that the students have gotten to know each other quite well. But when it comes to the competition, these are three individual teams, and should be treated as such.
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Unread 03-10-2006, 07:43 PM
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Re: [moderated] pic: The 2006 NiagaraFIRST Triplets!

Yep, as it is at GLR so far they look pretty good! 1114 and 1503 are working a bit better than 1680. I saw 1114 consistently put 8-10 in the 3pt goal in auto mode.
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Unread 03-31-2006, 01:21 AM
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Re: [moderated] pic: The 2006 NiagaraFIRST Triplets!

Karthik writes:

Quote:
As for how the details of how this collaboration proceeded. The day after kickoff, a joint brainstorming session was held between all three teams. 75 students got together and hashed out many designs. The mentors then evaluated them for engineering soundness, and together a consensus was achieved. From here, our mentors firmed up the design using their years of engineering experience. Students watched and learned during this process. Once the drawings were complete, each school was assigned various manufacturing tasks. If tasks were beyond our capabilities, local machining sponsors picked up the slack. Once all parts were built, the teams came together in 1114's shop, and the robots were assembled. The entire process illustrated our team's greatest strength, partnership.
I read this whole thread and don't see anyone ask the obvious question - "why are these robots so very, very good"?

That's the real issue, isn't it?

It seems that NiagaraFIRST's core team of Mentors is exceptionally experienced, organized, and accustomed to producing production drawings to a level of quality that teams of student builders can machine independently. Early enough to build, integrate, get the bugs worked out, and the robots humming - all in the same time constraints that everyone else has to work to.

We should all be so lucky.
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Re: [moderated] pic: The 2006 NiagaraFIRST Triplets!

I just can't wait till the day you go to a regional and 40+% robots look identical [not that we are far off considering exactly 10% of Waterloo's robots were the exact same]. Better yet I can't wait till the day FIRST itself gives you the design; you can't beat the engineers now can you. And even better, everything a team fundraises goes into a pot and is divided among all the teams, because we all know to this point FIRST is not so much about learning as it is inspiring, and what better way then to give every team a strong robot (thank you Derek for pointing out “Competitive robots are inspirational robots.”, and I do have more on that topic but maybe that can be in another paragraph) and enough funds to be able to go to one (or maybe two) regionals and Atlanta. Then one day it could turn into the fact that FIRST is just an assembly line, from which you can get your robot and program, and train your best drivers, so that you can have that edge over the other 2000 teams. Because after all isn’t that where FIRST wants to be one day?

Ok I know that was a little over the top and I meant for that, but really is that what FIRST wants, 10% (or even more) of robots at a regional identical, let alone one or two? I am not against all collaboration, and I am not going to beat around the bush and say I am ok with this collaboration. To be brutally honest I find it unFIRST, anti-inspirational, and anti-innovative. The anti-innovative I am sure is a give away, and everyone I am sure would agree with that statement (if you don’t I’d like to hear how it is innovative), what NiagaraFIRST.org has done is create an assembly line, and as impressive as it is that is not the goal of FIRST. Now back to Derek’s comment “Competitive robots are inspirational robots” (see page 5), yes I would agree to a very small point that this is true, but explain how (outside of being in a NiagaraFIRST.org team) this is inspirational; you and your team walk into the pits excited about the regional at hand, you see early on that there are three identical robots [which means theoretically each team did 1/3 of the work] and that they in fact do very well. Seeing this brings a dampen on your own work and what you have accomplished, because although yes you did well enough to accomplish the task you didn’t do it near as well as they did, as after all they did theoretically have three times the manpower, and each team could individually debug a different part of the robot. You leave the competition ok with the fact they won, after all they were smart enough to do this right? Besides there’s always next year (or in our case next regional), so far I really don’t have a big problem with it, but this is when I have a problem with it, next regional you do a lot better, you have debugged your own robot, and know are scoring 25-35 points a round and play a good defence (sorry again 1114 for breaking your belt), although one problem, the same teams just sweep everyone and win the competition, again not very inspiring to those out of those teams, only because we know they’ve collaborated and created three super-robots (which might I add are supposedly inspiring) and won three regionals. Maybe I am out of here, but I didn’t find it inspiring playing against them, or even with them, you know who is going to win. Too bad luck did wasn’t on our side at either competition, for instance, at Waterloo we had one qualifying match with 1114, two against, zero with 1503 and three against, and zero with 1680 and two against… funny how our standings were 3-7-0, this was because of a simple thing, they have a robot which in my mind can’t be reckoned with, which also is not inspiration in my mind.

I do need to say that this has not been an attack on NiagaraFIRST.org, it is against collaboration, I am ok with helping but not collaborating I find them two very different things. Also I think people let this get to far out of hand, sorry if I seem hypocritical, but people would not make a big deal had it been a failure and the teams placed bottom half of the pack, this I find very wrong, as it has the same effect no matter where you’re placed, it is remaking FIRST into a assembly line. I have meant all this to have constructive criticism to help NiagaraFIRST.org. Last I will leave with this, we have three other teams in the area, and would it be over the top to create quadruplets? What about winning each regional we go to? Would FIRST care if we brought that 10% up to 23%? Would NiagaraFIRST.org or any other team care? I myself would never want to do it (but I can say there some who would).

-David

ps ...sorry about the length, also if you have a problem with anything I said again I meant it as constructive critisism for NiagaraFIRST.org, feel free to PM me if you have a problem, I do not mean to start any arguements.
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Unread 04-16-2006, 12:31 AM
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Re: [moderated] pic: The 2006 NiagaraFIRST Triplets!

Quote:
Originally Posted by neilsonster
Come to a regional in which the NiagaraFIRST teams participate, and then give some more thought to this matter. If you saw the three of them last year you would know that despite the fact that they had identical robots, they were three clearly different teams. They all had their own style of play, and as an alliance leader thats how you would perceive them.
I think that the fundamental misunderstanding between me and other people here is in our view of collaborating teams. Whereas you and others here might view collaborating teams as three teams with the same robot, I see them as one big team with three robots.

In this way, your post parallels Don Swando's above post, where he says that teams are selected on a basis of merit during the alliance selection process, and also that it doesn't matter if the robots win unless they're all at the same regional. But if you change your view of collaborating teams as one big team with multiple robots, instead of multiple teams with the same robot, you'll see that this is wrong. Even if all three teams are selected in the selection process on a basis of merit, there are still three of them, meaning two other teams who tried just as hard couldn't get selected. Even if not all three robots go to the same regional, they're still in the same competition, meaning that the distribution of robots amongst regionals is only a difference of tripling your chances of success at one regional or enjoying an equal amount of success at three regionals.

In the same way, I'd still have to say that despite your post, collaboration is still unfair. Your statement that the three are "clearly different teams" with "their own style of play" doesn't change the fact that there are three of them. What, then, is to stop a team from bringing two or three of their robot to the regional, and asking them to all be put into the competition, as long as they promise to play each one differently?

This is where I derived my statement "One team, one robot, one competition," because I think that collaboration tests the boundaries of the definition of "team." I think it should be recognized that "team" is very abstract, and that it would be reasonable to consider the Triplets as one "team" who should therefore only introduce one robot into the competition. In my first post, I described a basic way for FIRST to formalize this.

Anyway, I heard that the Triplets did very well. I'd like to use this opportunity to say that I don't question that collaboration as a professional process, that it won't produce stronger robots, nor will I parade the statement that collaboration is ruining FIRST by stifling creativity, or whatever. What I'm trying to say is that there is a fairness problem inherent to collaboration because it takes advantage of a shady definition of "team." My problem isn't that collaborating teams are being selected for eliminations or winning regionals and awards, my problem is that other teams are not.
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Unread 04-20-2006, 10:28 AM
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Re: [moderated] pic: The 2006 NiagaraFIRST Triplets!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mluckham
... It seems that NiagaraFIRST's core team of Mentors is exceptionally experienced, organized, and accustomed to producing production drawings to a level of quality that teams of student builders can machine independently. Early enough to build, integrate, get the bugs worked out, and the robots humming - all in the same time constraints that everyone else has to work to.

We should all be so lucky.
Second that.

I'll confess my initial reaction to seeing the photo that started this thread: the design is an inspiration, but like some others I thought making three copies of it was somehow unfair.

Several weeks later I volunteered at Waterloo and saw the Triplets in action. My thinking changed.

Many of the things about NiagaraFIRST that are inspirational have been recited here already. To me the most inspirational is the speed with which the mentors developed the design for the practice robot.

In my day jobs, I've been an engineering professor, a lead engineer, a project manager, etc., and I've seen how difficult it can be to coordinate a good, usable set of drawings (or schematics or embedded software requirements) on a tight schedule. My opinion is that you can't really teach this skill -- you can only inspire people to develop it by example. And that is exactly what NiagaraFIRST is doing.
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Re: [moderated] pic: The 2006 NiagaraFIRST Triplets!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard
Second that.

I'll confess my initial reaction to seeing the photo that started this thread: the design is an inspiration, but like some others I thought making three copies of it was somehow unfair.

Several weeks later I volunteered at Waterloo and saw the Triplets in action. My thinking changed.
I is too my contention that collaboration - and working together in general - produce something greater than the sum of its parts. The great success the Triplets and other collaborating teams have enjoyed this year only confirms this to me. However, as these teams pool together their assets to become one large team, let them be treated as such in the eyes of FIRST.

So why not have some sort of system in place, some set of rules, that allows teams to temporarily combine into a single pseudo-team for the year if they intentionally plan on building the exact same robot? This way, teams can collaborate all they want, just as before, but the one flaw in the competition system they exploit is gone.
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