A bit unfair...

There is something my team and I are struggling to understand.
We are in no way calling first bad, or unfair, we just think adjustments can be made for next year. Why is it that teams can take a plan into a professional shop, and have their gearboxes made ? You can’t buy stuff already made, but you can pay for someone to make it ? Does this not give the rich teams the advantage ? My team built our robot for nearly $150 Canadian.
And to tell you the truth I think it was alot more fun, and a wayyy better learning experience. Having to search the school for smaller casters, ripping gym mats apart for bumpers…I don’t think that having parts of the robot professionally made is fair.
Nor is that in any way promoting learning and thinking.


It is going to be tough to decide where the boundry is for professionally made? What if you sponser has a CNC in house or milling and lathe all in house and someone on your team knows how to run it. The result is the same and it dodn’t cost the team any more money. We have 6 gearboxes on the robot all made by the engineers on the tools in the labs at work but the final product is no different than if we had one of the machine shop vendors do it. I agree a big budget helps this project, but a small budget and alot of available resources that you can use is just as important. There will be no way first can limit making parts for the robot and at that point there is no way to differentiate between in house and bought. Some of our prototype labs have unbelievable equipment that can make almost anything. Welding is just as big of an issue, correctly welding aluminum (especially thin stock) is an ART. For all of the teams out there who have a person on the team that can do aluminum welding, go pat them on the back. For teams that don’t you again are possibly at a disadvantage. To save weight this year we took off fasteners and started welding but you can’t do it if you don’t have a welder.

My opinion is this event is about as fair as what you can expect in real world engineering. Some jobs are low budget some have unlimited budgets. Sometimes they have to compete with each other. The trick is to do the best with what you have, money can’t always buy the best design

The amount of engineering and manufaction support depends on your team objectives and resoureces. Our team objective is to have the students do as much as possible, including the design and manufacturing. Partly because we have limited engineering and financial resources, but primarily because we want to get students involved and learn about engineering.

We may not have the most competitive machine but over the last five years we have come a long way. Our first year we didn’t know what a lathe or mill were and only had access to the High School shop which was limited to drill press and band saw. However, through the competitions and seeing what the other teams did we learned what was necessary to be successfull. Over the last couple of years we got the local university, CSU, to be one of the sponsors. The high school students enrolled in the CSU ME shop course and were certified to use the CSU machine shop. They learned how to weld, use the lathes and mills. Last year we won one of the design awards and this year, the high school students did most all the machining for the robot.

You should to keep in mind that the goal of FIRST from the very beginning has always been to ‘inspire’ students…not necessarily teach them. Of course, in the course of designing and building your robot, whether you do it, or the engineers do it and you watch, you WILL learn…but the goal that Dean Kamen had in mind from the beginning was to inspire you to want to do what the engineers do and become what they are.
And if watching them engineer and build parts for the robot creates inspiration in you…then FIRST has done its job. Would it be ideal to have ALL students have SOME hands on experience with their robot? Of course…but that’s not a requirement with FIRST.

Some teams do have financial advantages over others…but so do some businesses in this world. FIRST is a smaller version of a real life company. Learn from what you’re doing. Be inspired to be more, think more and accomplish more.

And good luck to you (all) this season!!!
-Lori- :slight_smile:

Oh I totally agree with you, for the past 6 weeks i have been saying how unfair the competetion, yes i may just be on a rookie team and not know anything, but i have heard and seen many teams (chief delphi teams especially) that have amazing robots that can do some crazy stuff. The problem isnt that they have awesome robots, its that the kids didnt build them, there are teams with like 2 less mentors than kids, and these shops that are bigger than my school. Also, theres lots of pictures ive seen of these cool robots where there are no kids standing next to it, its all adults. My team is doin it the real way in my opinion. We have 3 mentors that know about building that refuse to give us answers cuz they want us to learn (which is very fustrating because sometimes they give us the wrong answer) we have 3 supervisors that are learning about robotics with the kids, a mill, a drill press, a lathe and a bandsaw, AND we made a pretty good robot i think. I just dont think that it’s fair that we have to compete against teams of engineers that tell students what to do and get to work in a huge shop. I dont know if im just a rookie and dont know anything of if im also gettin the attention of other lower teams like us, but either way, thats my opinion.

I can see the way that this thread is going—
its boiling down to a us (no money/machine shop) vs them (they have everything)competition

that is not the way to go-

I have been the leader on a team that has had it both ways

1st year no engineers- just me the students and hacksaws and grinders
result- fourth place alliance

2nd year- engineers acess to a great machine shop
and tons of help with structural stuff
result- third place alliance

the following is not meant as a personal attack by any means just a statement of opinion-
use or discard as you see fit

/rant on

the people who make these arguments seem to be really not having a good time building the robot-
that can stem from two things-

a: not being invloved in the whole process and the B***ing about how no one ever listened to their designing ideas
b: bad student/adult leadership

and guess what- welcome to real life
no matter what you do there will always be people better equipped and people less equipped than you

its all about taking advatage of what is offees to you or in your realm of attainibility

/rant off

sorry- but I was getting really fed up with the us vs them and who builds the robot crap


I’ve said it before. The best way to handle the resource inequity issue is to break FIRST up into divisions and let the teams choose which division they want to compete in. This way you can choose to compete against the big budget division or you can compete in the lesser budget/experience division.

Actually we probably need 3 divisions: Expert/Pro, Amatuer and Novice divisions.


I was a member of team #157 through my years in high school and the students for the most part built everything in house. The team had members in every shop.

So what you are saying is that FIRST should not allow vocational schools to be part of this competition??? The whole basis is to inspire students to explore the world of engineering and to pursue a career in the field.

comments, questions???

check out there website


i think breaking the competition into expert/amature/novice

is possible the worst way that FIRST can go-

who decides who goes where-

it will increase the problems that already (and evidently) exist between those who have access to better stuff thatn other teams

would those who have “limited resources” not be allowed to compete in the upper levels
as i said once before- welcome to real life-

would one be for banning teams that have a vocational center because that system offers one

**or how about banning certain teachers from helping because they were at one time a enigneer-
or how about a machine shop that donates time and training would they be not allowed

someone else metioned that this is a microcosm of what the real businees world is like (and real life)
those who dont have what every body else has does one of two things-

whine and compalin about how rought is is on the off chance that some one will commiserate with them

or adapt and over come (like I have seen many teams do at the VCU venue)

I still don’t know how you could police divisions of resources. I would choose to be in amatuer or the mid-level. Last thing I heard from Chief Delphi was that the students had to be part of a semester program, if someone from the team could chime in and tell us it would be cool.

For our team the students leave at 6:00 P.M. most don’t come in for weekends so if we want the robot to get finished on time the engineers (some call us the magic machinists since overnight the parts just magically appear finished) stay later and come in to make sure it gets done. Maybe the students on some of these teams are waaay more motivated but our team could never get it done at 2-3 hours on weekdays only.

The first year I did this project I felt a little like Martin but instead of being mad that other teams had brought a better machine to the table, I was impressed that some of the machines could be designed and built in only 6 weeks. I now feel like Andrew, I regularly take students with me to get pictures and learn about how some of the ingenious mechanisms work on the robots. As an engineer I feel worse about letting the students build a design I know in my heart isn’t right for this event, especially if it is a core element (like the drivetrain) I would rather work with them to get a better design built that will be at least competitive.

I think a fair solution to the money problem is to allow more teams to purchase pre-made parts. These are cheaper than machined parts and would help the under funded teams. Machined parts are still better because they are custom made for each robot but this would help the problem. I also feel there should be less restrictions on composite materials like fiberglass and carbon fiber.

Does anyone remember the team “Central High School” in Manchester, NH (sry dont remember the #) 2 years ago they built a machine that stole the balls out of the goal and they were very successful. Their robot was not made out of special materials or anything special. They came up with a great idea and followed through so stop complaining and get over it. I am also on a more “veteran team” and we dont have the money of other teams but we stopped complaining on day two and built a robot that we (the kids) built, enjoyed, and competed with against the more financed teams and held our own. Basiclly get over it and go to the comp with your head held high!

How is it fair you ask?
Well, using a CNC does take a certain bit of engineering knowledge. Take for example team 22. They have an in house CNC which they have students train on.
You really cant say just because you dont have a cnc or other professional tools that its unfair.

in response do andrew, i dont think i fall under either categories of situations that you are describing, i had a spectactular time building the robot, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life, i am really dissappointed that it has ended because im a senior and this is a rookie team at our school. Im just saying, i think its a great idea that we are all trying to promote inspiration in of science and technology and all that, its wonderful, but if we are going to make a competition out of it, and hopefully make it fair, then we cant have some teams that have teams of engineers come in over night that build the robot and some teams like mine where im in the auto shop 25 hours a week. I dont know how to fix it, and i dont know if there is a solution. So really i dont know what im getting at. i just have a hard time with looking at other robots that it is totally obvious that the students did not build it and i have to go to the competition and get my butt whooped by this killer robot, it just kind of destroys our hopes before we even get there. ALTHOUGH i have never been to a competiton so i might be speaking total crap, but from what i have observed lately thats what looks like is going to happen. watever i’ll be quiet now.

If anybody cares, our robot actually made weight at 1100 last night! wohoo, we lost 20 pounds in 12 hours! check it out at http://art.cim3.org/ART_at_work/Pictures_18-Feb-2002_b/1_1_Dsc00040.htm

We’ve debated this issue around over the past six weeks.
Before the kickoff we did have a “high tech” metal fab sponsor/mentor but they kept us on hold. Two weeks into the build we find out that our only sponsor/mentor went bankrupt.
Without a machine shop we basically built our bot in 4 weeks using the mills and lathes at East York C.I. (Martin’s School)
We did it all our selves. Had we still had our Metal Fab Mentor we wouldn’t have learned nearly as much. As a Teacher I don’t believe in kids watching the engineers do their thing. This is the lowest level of learning “awareness” (1 step up above ignorance).

We (like others) can take pride in the fact that we’re driving our robot and not the ACME Bot.

now let me get some sleep :wink:

As another member of team 840, I’d kind of like to agree with Turbo although I have a different twist on the whole thing. I know a lot of people make a big deal about the competition, and I guess that’s where some of the inspiration comes into it and all (I havn’t been to one yet), but if you ask me, it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, or get beat by some beautifully engineered powerhouse robot. What matters is that less than a year ago our High School had no robotics team, and coming out of these 6 weeks, at least most of us are addicted to building and already coming up with designs for our next robot. It really is amazing. That’s where I think the inspiration is, and you just can’t get that unless you know you can build the whole robot yourself without (and no offense intended Matt) the “magic machinists” coming in and getting you out of a bind.

However, something else to realize is that our team has a particularly unique situation. 1) We are actually pretty equipped as far as a rookie team is concerned, having found an incredibly generous mentor that bought a mill for us, etc. 2) We have an amazing group of top-notch seniors that wanted to see this happen. We more or less came inspired and we were willing to do whatever it took to make this robot work. Our key students have been putting in time from 3:00 -> 8:00 every weekday for the past 6 weeks, and probably around another 20 hours on the weekends. Heck, we put in 17 going from monday to tuesday morning. 3) None of our mentors ever having been involved in a FIRST competition before, so there wasn’t an opportunity for them to say: “oh yeah, just do that like this,” because as far as the particulars of what we had to work with were concerned, they knew just as little as the students.

The result? We have a nice, 104% student built robot (we had some adults help us in terms of man power when punching out about 5 lbs of the holes at the end, which counts as negative work, giving us a total student contribution over 100% :wink: ), and a bunch of inspired students. Sadly, I don’t see this happening in the years to come. I don’t think our current junior class has the kind of student-base to draw upon to pull it off. In addition, a couple of this years seniors will likely be coming back to help for at least a couple weeks of the competition, at which point the tendency will be to take over and show people how stuff is done. I can’t imagine being there and not wanting to get my hands dirty. However, we’re going to try our hardest to recruit and train so that next year another team of all students can pull it off.

As much as I’d like to say that all students is the only way to go, I don’t know if it’s possible. Our team this year may very well have been a fluke. Only time will tell. But just so everyone knows, it can be done, so why don’t all of you engineers wait a little bit and see what the students can do before you jump in there and make stuff for 'em, you might be surprised.

Many refer to Chief Delphi as a bench mark, and example. Sometimes portrayed as great, often as a big money team and many times as a style they do not like, often as rich kids.

Some basic team facts:

Many of our students(most) are economically disadvantaged by even the lowest of standards.

Our high school ( I know I will hear about this ) is not the strongest in academics. Lack of experienced teachers is a reality.
In fact I say we have a almost non-existant physics and math program. Our general student body has no regard for learning. They exist to disrupt. They wander the halls. Our drop out rate is sad.

Our team members are special. They have a dream. We found them because of FIRST.

We have a mandatory FIRST Class. We teach communication skills, math skills (reading a ruler) and give most their first experience at holding and using a tool.

We focus on inspiration!

We have 4 students this year accepted and will be attending Kettering (GMI) and ALL seniors are accepted in college programs in a variety of subjects, many engineering as a result of our exposure and FIRST. We work hard at this.

The coaches (teachers), the engineers are role models for many students that need that special HARD push to climb out of where they are.

We are brutal, we are demanding, we are loving, we are what they need at this point in their life. Too often we are their parents.

I am the “shop” teacher. I have a drill press, a band saw. The engineers brought in many tools I only dream of having on a small budget. We are blessed to be sponsored by Delphi.

Yes we have parts made for us. The students learn about outsourcing. They watch, they learn, they participate to the safe level they can in any way they can. Yes this way is expensive, we have no choice.

Why am I saying this… well after many,hard days of build we are exhausted. Was it worth it. Yes. If only for that 1 student that gained a new spark in their eye. I know it is more than 1.

FIRST remains the BEST thing that has happened to our school in decades of the decay of our community and student body.

Please take the time to just say hi. Show them you are a caring person. We all need that.

Am I the only one who see’s that this is the exact same argument that surrounds baseball and its lack of a salery cap?? I think before we start complaining about how first is structered or how it is “unfair” we should look at the faults of other competitive activites that have the same issues. Do any of the people who post here really want to divide first into 3 divisions just because some people do not have the sponsorship of companies with hi tech machine shops? Wouldn’t that deteriorate from first as a sport? From what i have seen in my first year being part of this sport the respect for each other team reguardless of how pretty there robot looks like is tremendous. If FIRST was split into divisions that respect would deteriorate right?? Not that much at first but then over time you would get people who would be concetied because they were in the expert division or w/e.

Well these are just my thought and please before we instigate any huge moral/ethical debates lets get through the season and then lets discuss this stuff cause this is an isusse that shold wait its not goin to get changed anytime soon so lets concentrate on the rest of this season and then lets get a disscussion goin bout this. Well this is all I gota say.

Team 384’s friendly neigborhood programmer

I’m an engineer on team 47, I will at least try and attempt to respond to the questions at hand.

  1. Is it fair that small student built robots compete with “big money, engineer designed and/or built robots”?
  2. Someone (Matt) wanted to know how or what our philosophy or approach to FIRST was?

The answer to #1) the question wasn’t really clarified till later in the thread when Turbo stated “I just have a hard time with looking at other robots that it is totally obvious that the students did not build it and I have to go to the competition and get my butt whooped by this killer robot, it just kind of destroys our hopes before we even get there.”
My response is - see Lori’s post in this thread - she get’s it - she worked for Dean and was obviously listening. But, let me add this - the FIRST experience CANNOT be, no - SHOULD NOT BE - judged as FAIR or UNFAIR, based on the financial commitment of a company, but more importantly, the level of dedication that the people have contributed to the program. Measure it in hours of the amount of time interfacing with the students, explaining, teaching, and cooperatively developing the design and the strategy that they will utilize, or in developing and producing the Chairman’s award, Animation, or in developing the Competitive Assessment, or in Marketing their team, or in Fund raising - Doesn’t matter to me HOW you want to slice it - MONEY isn’t what differentiates a Great Team, Great Time, and Great FIRST experience. I’m sorry if you feel bad about “getting whooped by a killer robot that the students didn’t build” BUT, that is NOT a problem that FIRST has created - it’s something that is a by-product of living in an “unfair world” - It’s also very clear that FIRST doesn’t exist to promote "student designed, built, and completely funded robotic programs. But, on the other hand, FIRST is smart enough to know that, if that’s the only way to get a foot in the door, or to inspire a single student - it still could be an awesome experience. So. let’s just end the “Engineer built or bought vs Student only built” arguement as it is meaningless in FIRST’s eyes - although I’m sure it makes you feel better to get that off your chest. By the way, if success is measured using inspiration aas the metric - I would think that every school could rejoice in knowing that this program helped shape the direction of many of the students that were lucky enough to enjoy the FIRST experience - I can vouch for many, many students that I have had the pleasure of mentoring at PCHS.
As to the 2nd question - (Matt) Our program is set up such that the FIRST team members, do take a half semester of FIRST Robotics - they have a class during the day and lesson plans are developed relative to the FIRST robotics experience. Mr. Martus and the rest of the Education Coaches do a fantastic job. This program is a year round program, with alot of hard work and committment needed and provided by many Engineers and Teachers. I’m very proud of what we have accomplished in the past 7 years - I know it has made a difference - and that’s all that matters.
I am not sure how to deal with the inequities that are inherently part of any event of this magnitude - I suppose 3 classes or groups may allow some folks to “feel good” about competing with an equitable opponent - but, it seems like alot more work, and more room for teams to exploit others. I must admit I just don’t know what the solution is - I liken it to the Westminister Dog Show - so many classes and groups of dogs competing to determine the champion of the breed, then all the champions get together to determine the BEST in SHOW. Doesn’t matter what the size, shape, weight, group, or class - or how much the dog costs, how much it was trained - one of those dogs emerge as champion (the rest of the dogs are not envious, but maybe their human trainers, owners, fans, etc. might be). My advice is this - Nothing can make the FIRST experience FAIR, and that is NOT what should be the focus - instead, try as hard as possible to “Celebrate the things that are relavent” - Your team accepted a challenge (by the way, winning matches and being crowned champion wasn’t that challenge) - you (hopefully) successfully designed and built a robot that meets all the technical requirements including size and weight, and also it may even function the way it was intended to (yeah). Along the way, I hope you were succussful in mentoring the students and helping them recognize the benefits and advantages associated with the vast number of opportunities in the fields of Science and Technology. If you were even remotely successful (one student), you have succeeded.
Good luck to all this season - Stay focused on the students, not the outcome of the game.

I used to agree with you, but I have a different opinion now. When our team (T-Rx, 145) started six years ago, we had practically no machining or welding experience, I was the only engineer on the team (and I’m Chemical, not Mechanical), no access to a professional machine shop, no CAD experience, and struggled to put a running robot together. It was frustrating, but it was a blast - as fun as any other year we’ve had. Bottom line - I can completely understand where you are right now - I was there. AND the great part is that we all learned more by trying to be creative with what we had.

Since then, the program has improved each year. We’ve added a couple mechanical engineers. We have CAD and Inventor ‘experts’. We’ve added an aluminum welder who teaches the students how to weld. We have the support of a machine shop with a CNC mill. We have volunteers from 5 local companies.

It’s not about where you are, it’s about where you can go. Enjoy where you are now - you never be there again. Strive for continuous improvement year after year.