Thread: Design Sharing
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Unread 12-29-2003, 12:47 PM
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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some very clever and worthwhile ways may I add) that even properly credit the #45 design as the primary inspiration, do not publish their changes, and some teams are even holding this as a trade secret (for lack of a better term).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 Adams - Engineer at Danaher Motion
Team 1525 - Warbots - Deerfield High School
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