Originally Posted by ngreen
... Probably why there won't be a programmer-only award for the robot, it is too hard to separate systems. ...
I'm solidly in this camp. I'm even not super into associating "autonomous award" with the programming team. As some of our favorite Poofy mentors have said recently, the best way to do auto is to design a robot which makes auto easy. It's not just programming's job to make the auto routine work. It's the whole team's.
On the topic of controls systems:
Embedded software is almost never an end unto itself. It's merely the description
of how you want a complex system to function. The lines of code written are just a particular means to a desired outcome. (see servo/toilet examples above)
I can tell you from (non-1736) experience - a poorly functioning drivetrain cannot be fixed by nifty software, no matter how wizard you think your programming team is
I don't believe it would be possible to have a "software award" for a controls system, auto routine, or really anything related to robot motion... Yes, software is a part of that. But the mechanical and electrical components are also a huge part.
What could you do a software-only award for? Perhaps a software development process or build infrastructure that caused a measurable improvement in development efficiency or software quality? Perhaps even an award for well-commented and well-laid-out code (a la FLL style?), demonstrating true knowledge of the usage of the language?
In all these cases, so much of the award comes down to communicating with the judges. Many judges themselves are controls engineers, and you have to be able to talk at their level. Others will have never worked with a controls system in their life, so you have to also be able to talk at their level, and you probably won't know which you have to do until the conversation starts. Having a solid innovation to "sell" is paramount regardless, but presenting it well can also make or break your chances at an award.