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.