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Unread 09-06-2010, 09:44 PM
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Lightbulb Collegiate FIRST competition

So there was the thread started just prior to the 2010 World Championships about a collegiate FIRST Blimp competition. Has there been any real discussion about such a possibility? I just received the September issue of Servo and though that a Hooverbot game might be a bit more interesting. Velocities could be higher than blimps, control and agility would be better as well.
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Unread 09-08-2010, 03:42 PM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

I'm glad you posted this Andrew! I was going to make a thread in the next week or two, but now is as good of a time as any.

There certainly are discussions in the works. We have a planning committee that is working through all of the logistics to make a pilot competition a reality at the 2011 World Championship in St. Louis!

As a sneak preview, the game is likely to involve Quadcopters - 4 rotor aerial vehicles that have quite a bit of zip!

We would be happy to hear input from teams and we could even do so through this thread. What do you think would be important to see at the collegiate level? That goes for the game, the robots, the engineering challenges, the Gracious Professionalism and so on.

If you're interested in participating in the challenge, working with the committee or volunteering in some other way, please email me directly and we can go from there. You can reach me at FIRSTSeniorMentor 'at' gmail.com or through CD.

Thank you in advance!
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Unread 09-09-2010, 06:21 PM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

I never really thought that FIRST could be done on a collegiate level, just because during college competitions are usually based around the robot itself versus FIRST competition's where the way you interact is a part.

However, with that said, I would be more than interested in participating in one. The game would probably have to be much harder or the kits would have to be more basic. I feel that now FIRST has gotten very tight about the KOP, and especially with last year's game, that you're starting to see very similar robots. So something where not just the robot design but the actual hardware/software/electrical components can be different.
Basically something in between DARPA and FRC.

Also, add a formal design report, and presentation instead of the Chairman's presentation I guess.

So instead of Chairman's being the highest award, it should like Engineering Design, the actual report of the team, how well the presentation is, and how well they applied the principles. Although, that might be a bit tough on the judges.

I would be super excited to start a collegiate level team out here in University of Illinois - Urbana, for this and still be involved in FRC.
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Unread 09-09-2010, 06:44 PM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

FIRST in college does nothing to advance the goals of FIRST. I honestly don't see how it has a purpose.
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Unread 09-09-2010, 07:41 PM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris is me View Post
FIRST in college does nothing to advance the goals of FIRST. I honestly don't see how it has a purpose.
Well Chris, let me take a minute to enlighten you! Have a look at the vision and mission of FIRST found here: http://usfirst.org/aboutus/content.aspx?id=34.

Right off the bat, Dean has always been clear:
"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders." - Dean Kamen, Founder

The principle behind collegiate level first is to, in Dean's words, create the NCAA of FIRST.

The goal is to not only challenge college students at a greater level beyond what they see in typical curriculum, but to also provide inspiration to younger FIRST students in the other programs. Students play sports with dreams of becoming professional athletes. In FIRST there is much less visibility for our professionals, with the Collegiate Challenge we are building another venue through which to have a window into that world.

As it stands, a large majority of FIRST students do head off to college; this is terrific, but it takes more than just a college education to be a leader and innovator in today's world. That's where the values pervasive to FIRST provide the complimentary education necessary to excel.

I hope that helps provide a bit more insight! We will have an official release in the near future and it should paint a more broad picture of where we are headed.

I should also mention that the Collegiate level of FIRST will continue to embrace the values of community and Gracious Professionalism, and hopefully take things to an entirely new level!

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Unread 09-09-2010, 07:46 PM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

Quote:
Originally Posted by popnbrown View Post
I never really thought that FIRST could be done on a collegiate level, just because during college competitions are usually based around the robot itself versus FIRST competition's where the way you interact is a part.

However, with that said, I would be more than interested in participating in one. The game would probably have to be much harder or the kits would have to be more basic. I feel that now FIRST has gotten very tight about the KOP, and especially with last year's game, that you're starting to see very similar robots. So something where not just the robot design but the actual hardware/software/electrical components can be different.
Basically something in between DARPA and FRC.

Also, add a formal design report, and presentation instead of the Chairman's presentation I guess.

So instead of Chairman's being the highest award, it should like Engineering Design, the actual report of the team, how well the presentation is, and how well they applied the principles. Although, that might be a bit tough on the judges.

I would be super excited to start a collegiate level team out here in University of Illinois - Urbana, for this and still be involved in FRC.
This is great feedback! We definitely plan on emphasizing the engineering challenge. One of the possibilities is requiring teams to submit what would amount to a conference paper detailing the design decisions and engineering principles that underlie their robots.

We recognize the same dilemma in other robotics challenges. Not to point any fingers, but it's not just about the robot, it's about the experience of creating, engineering, innovating, problem solving, leading, being part of a team and so much more. I doubt we'll get it right on the first go around, but we're certainly going to give it our best shot.

From our discussion so far, I think we're close to your analogy of a middle ground between DARPA and FRC, although we are going to try and keep things somewhat contained and spectator friendly. That said, the KOP should be limited and the overall rule-set should be greatly reduced within the limits of safety. The idea being, allow students to be clever and innovative; let them come up with something so wild that it surprises everyone. We don't want it to be one of those trudge through the rules for loopholes, but more along the lines of insight and innovative engineering.

We can discuss your University's participation as well, please feel free to send me an email or PM. I imagine you must be involved with the JSDC during Engineering Open house, I have traveled to UIUC for the past 3 or so years with the ITR teams out of Chicago. The JSDC folks put on quite an event!

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Unread 09-09-2010, 09:24 PM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

I love it,

My only comment is be sure to make it more NCAA than DARPA.
The best part about FRC is the head to head competition, having 'bots fly thought an obstacle course one at a time is neat but it isn't FIRST, FIRST is head to head, intense action.

I can't wait to play

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Unread 09-09-2010, 09:51 PM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJmango View Post
Well Chris, let me take a minute to enlighten you! Have a look at the vision and mission of FIRST found here: http://usfirst.org/aboutus/content.aspx?id=34.

Right off the bat, Dean has always been clear:
"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders." - Dean Kamen, Founder

The principle behind collegiate level first is to, in Dean's words, create the NCAA of FIRST.

The goal is to not only challenge college students at a greater level beyond what they see in typical curriculum, but to also provide inspiration to younger FIRST students in the other programs. Students play sports with dreams of becoming professional athletes. In FIRST there is much less visibility for our professionals, with the Collegiate Challenge we are building another venue through which to have a window into that world.

As it stands, a large majority of FIRST students do head off to college; this is terrific, but it takes more than just a college education to be a leader and innovator in today's world. That's where the values pervasive to FIRST provide the complimentary education necessary to excel.

I hope that helps provide a bit more insight! We will have an official release in the near future and it should paint a more broad picture of where we are headed.

I should also mention that the Collegiate level of FIRST will continue to embrace the values of community and Gracious Professionalism, and hopefully take things to an entirely new level!
Mr. Jones,

I won't pretend to know more about the goals of FIRST but, as a college senior I feel I must chime in on this topic.

Collegiate level FIRST would be competing with such things as FSAE and other engineering challenges. Based on my limited experience I have noticed that the passion for FRC diminishes greatly after high school for many students. (This is based on my observations at Kettering University and is i no way conclusive) In addition to competing for student time it would also compete for funding, I know for a fact that Formula Zero (building a fuel cell powered race car) is not cheap and has required substantial outside support and thousands of man hours to get to the point where we have an electrical system that can be used. I imagine FIRST Collegiate would be the same way. Given the state of the economy would it be proper to start a new program to take away from the existing programs that do a phenomenal job of furthering our knowledge?

From another perspective, as an organization FIRST has a finite amount of man power. I know that everyone involved in the FIRST program, from the college mentors up to to the President of FIRST has a finite amount of time they can give. Personally I would like to see that man power directed at a new generation of students rather than have more expended on me.

So, really I just question whether it is the best use of FIRST's resources or if the goals might be furthered by partnering with an existing group or admitting that by college most students have already decided what they are passionate about.

I also understand the desire to allow college students to inspire high schoolers, as a college mentor myself I personally feel great pleasure when I see students who otherwise would not have gone to college inspired to go to school. However, I am going to be completely blunt here, the vast majority of college students are not going to be good mentors yet. They are going to be, for want of a better description, college students. Now, there are exceptions, I've had the pleasure of meeting and working with some phenomenal college mentors and would like to think that I am at least a mediocre mentor (Picone, hush!) but by and large college students sometimes set some very bad examples.

Of course, I could be way off base here, the only real way to find out would be to try it and see how it works out I suppose.

-Andrew Schreiber
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Unread 09-09-2010, 10:11 PM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris is me View Post
FIRST in college does nothing to advance the goals of FIRST. I honestly don't see how it has a purpose.
That's a pretty harsh statement there, Chris. Especially coming from a kid who talks about VEX robots all the time and wanting to have a team....
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Unread 09-09-2010, 10:51 PM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

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Originally Posted by Akash Rastogi View Post
That's a pretty harsh statement there, Chris. Especially coming from a kid who talks about VEX robots all the time and wanting to have a team....
Haha true! I think that college and FIRST can go hand in hand. My older brother takes stuff from grad school back to FRC and vice versa and then to work.
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Unread 09-09-2010, 11:22 PM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

So in regards to college and FIRST type competitions, consider programs such as community colleges which likely don't have mini-formula one racer programs are even a machine shop. FIRST or other robotics programs are not yet in 100% of high schools so there are still untouched students entering college. A FIRST type competition might fit a niche for 2 year colleges which have intro to engieering and technical certificate programs. These students could gain from the design/budget/time constraints of competition as well as possibly inspiring yournger students or working to motivate the most popular major (undeclared) in college to consider STEM majors.

I would suggest that more emphasis on autonomous and sensor input but not 100% autonomous. Would be great if there was machine to machine interaction as well. To fit the nich of community colleges, a standard kit with allowances for raw materials and custom electronic sensors.

<edit>
Let me add after posting that I would prefer the vehicle to not have wheels. Hoverbot, quadcopter, blimp...
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Unread 09-09-2010, 11:31 PM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

I understand that this thread isn't a poll, but if it were, I would be quick to join the side that the college environment isn't suitable for the ideals of FIRST. FIRST as an organization has continued to define itself by far more than the practice of innovation and engineering and that is what makes it inspiring; at least from my perspective. In almost a cheesy way, FIRST has introduced the ideas time and time again that the most important foundations of this specific organization are the building of a community with a shared interest and passion in science and technology. Far more than the practice of these skills in FIRST is the introduction of a new sort of education policy, from a tributary: FIRST to secondary school curricula--this is to integrate this idea of mentorship or apprenticeship: informal, more accessible and more practical math and science education into this setting. Far more than the actual study and practice of engineering, FIRST aims to create that spark and that enthusiasm for these fields that is found in FIRST which is why many college students become disinterested. What I have come to understand as a FIRST student, volunteer and frequenter of CD on a regular basis is that FIRST is "first" and foremost an educational organization. The medium and nothing more is competition. By introducing FIRST into the collegiate plane, an example is created for those secondary school participants to further define the goal of FIRST- one that many find obscure to begin-as an organization whose aim is not for them to learn in a new way to find that enthusiasm but to compete, win and feel that FIRST is primarily a sport. The way I see it, FIRST builds the interest and creates an incomparable educational experience. Once the student graduates FIRST, his job more than to become an engineer and continue to compete is to educate, to mentor and to share both his experience and his enthusiasm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by popnbrown View Post
So instead of Chairman's being the highest award, it should like Engineering Design, the actual report of the team, how well the presentation is, and how well they applied the principles. Although, that might be a bit tough on the judges. .
Sravan's statement exemplifies the logic of my argument. If for what this new game strives is anything other than the concept of what the Chairman's award rewards, is it still a FIRST competition? There is nothing wrong with this direction, I don't mean to say that at all, but for discussion's sake, is that FIRST or something else entirely?

If the students are already formally and effectively studying to earn a degree in this discipline, what becomes the purpose of the FIRST competition?

When "the robot is only an instrument", when FIRST is so much more than a science and technology competition, how is Chris' point anything but valid? Before a game is designed, this idea should definitely continue to be evaluated.

I disagree that the main purpose of FIRST is to guide students to pursue careers in science and engineering. Is that invalid?

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Unread 09-09-2010, 11:44 PM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

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Originally Posted by Andrew Schuetze View Post
I would suggest that more emphasis on autonomous and sensor input but not 100% autonomous. Would be great if there was machine to machine interaction as well. To fit the niche of community colleges, a standard kit with allowances for raw materials and custom electronic sensors.
You pretty much just described the VEX Robotics College Competition, now in its third year, featuring the rules you ask for, multiple tournaments, and a world championship event. Ninety-three teams competed last year. http://content.vexrobotics.com/docs/...-Challenge.pdf
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Unread 09-10-2010, 12:29 AM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

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Originally Posted by Akash Rastogi View Post
That's a pretty harsh statement there, Chris. Especially coming from a kid who talks about VEX robots all the time and wanting to have a team....
I do want to have a VRC College Challenge, but I've never even once thought my VRC College team would ever inspire anyone to pursue engineering as a career. It would just be a fun thing to do. Do you seriously think I'd be able to inspire anyone at RPI to change their major by being in VRC? To be perfectly honest I don't understand what you mean at all.

The reason I said what I did is because nearly any student that could be inspired by FIRST has already decided whether or not they are going into STEM by the time they enter college. No one goes to MIT or Caltech to major in English, and I've never heard of an incredibly successful engineer who went to Harvard. FIRST is about inspiring students to pursue science and engineering as a career. The way FIRST does this is by giving the students a challenge and a complex problem to solve, hopefully working with some awesome professional engineers on the way.

I understand the sports analogy, but I don't think a college program would inspire any more students to pursue engineering than something like Battlebots would. For a college program, the inspirees are all watching from a distance. They do not interact with the program at all. If you're aiming for a competition that's so incredible to watch that people go "man, I want to do that! How can I do that???", why have a program for college students with no funding base and no foundation when the existing Battlebots program has already been around for years? Battlebots is even televised.

The reason I react so strongly against this, though, is because I can't exactly see a way that this wouldn't take funding away from FRC teams. Colleges in FRC who want to do this would have to come up with thousands more dollars, so I bet more than a few would go "well we don't need to support that OTHER FIRST thing anymore". Any corporate money going to this would probably be better spent on new and sustainable FRC teams, which have a much higher "inspiration quotient" per team than any college team.
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Unread 09-10-2010, 01:18 AM
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Re: Collegiate FIRST competition

If I wanted to see quadrotors (or hexarotors) built by college students flying through an obstacle course or something like that, I'd join my college's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle team. Their objective is to autonomously enter a building, navigate through it to a particular room, and replace a thumb drive with a dummy one--while avoiding security cameras and other devices. Oh, and they're starting their second year of this particular challenge. Nobody got it last year...

I'm with the others here. There are literally dozens of college-level engineering challenges in any number of majors. If you're going to add one more, you'll have to get it accepted by somebody at several different schools.

BTW, if you are going to use quadrotors or something like that, safety, safety, safety. Prop guards should not be an optional item if you're flying near crowds, and safety zones ("no-walk" zones) need to be established. I'd also get in touch with the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) if it's a flying competition--they'll a) want to know that it's happening, b) possibly support the event, c) provide safety tips, d) they know what they're doing when it comes to flying things.
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2003-2007: FRC0330 BeachBots; 2008: FRC1135 Shmoebotics; 2012: FRC4046 Schroedinger's Dragons

"Rockets are tricky..."--Elon Musk


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