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Posted by Al Skierkiewicz at 04/28/2001 6:11 PM EST

Engineer on team #111, Wildstang, from Wheeling High & Rolling Meadows High and Motorola.

Hi All,
I have been reading with interest many of the posts about the game, the strategy, the teams, robot design and Robotica so here are my thoughts.

  1. National television coverage is essential for FIRST growth. If the statistics on Robotica are correct, then TV coverage is a proven winner. (As a broadcast engineer I can assure you this is true!) However, be very careful when comparing “us and them”. When looking at a non FIRST team, there may be an average of 3 people (1 or 2 students) per team compared to the number of students served through FIRST. Compare 525 teams (340 at Nationals) with an average 20 students per team, our numbers are reaching and teaching far more students. No contest on the education of our team members, either.

  2. If FIRST ideals insist that the education and guidance of students is foremost than the game and how it is played is a far distant second.

  3. Since we all play under the same rules with essentially the same parts, the competition is far more balanced than other robot competitions. Yes some teams still have an advantage over others, especially rookies, but we were all rookies once and I can’t think of any way to level that part of the competition. It is not impossible for young teams with little resources to succeed, look at all the rookie all-stars and the young teams who placed high at regionals and nationals. I for one think that divisions that will seperate teams into classes neither allows young teams to learn from those more experienced or for experienced teams to be challenged by the new ideas the rookies bring to the competition.

  4. Playing alliances of four teams with no opposition except the clock was an experiment I was not sure would work, but I am glad it did. It was exciting for the people who understood the competition, but a ‘walk in’ audience had no clue who was winning and the audience is the key to our growth and support. School administrators, school board members, business leaders and guests must be able to easily understand the game and get excited in the short time many of them have at regional competitions. We can’t get anywhere without the support of these people.

  5. In future competition, I would like to see the return of head to head for some much different reasons than have been stated so far. In a competition without the need for defense, robots will need less and less robustness in design. Remember last year’s rule book…“GM21.Robot shoving will be allowed and is expected to be quite common. It is very common for machines to run into each other at full speed and get into shoving matches, and for arms and various other mechanisms to experience the resultant forces. This should be taken into consideration when robots are designed and built.” This allows yet another design criteria to be investigated. Since we are trying to teach “real world” principles, this would seem to be essential.

  6. Allowing other matierials to be used in robot construction should be considered so that modern techniques can be taught to the students. I have read other opinions about opening up the Digi-Key catalog for electronics as was the Small Parts catalog for mechanical. I think this is a wonderful idea. It would allow the use of modern electronic wiring technigues like IDC connectors and printed circuit boards. A dollar cap will help with a restriction here so that teams with an abundance of electrical engineers will not have an unfair advantage.

  7. Since the nationals, I have been dubbing video tape from competitions on the Archemides field and the finals. I have concluded the following: Regardless of the team, robots performed their design functions well, robot failures were rare, and on average alliances were well matched. On rare occassions there were alliances of four robots of similar design, about the same as in previous years. Lower than average scores occured when the bridge unbalanced or when teams did not budget their time. (An overwhelming number of teams stopped the clock with 45-55 sec left on the clock when they could have balanced in the 15-25 seconds remaining.)

Finally, we are blessed with a few shining stars who have stayed with the program for a number of years and their combined experience helps their teams and others who will ask and listen. My sincerest thanks to Raul Olivera, Joe Johnson, Bill Beatty, Andy, Ed, Jim, Steve, Woody, Dean, etc. and all those nameless volunteers, for all their help over the years. The combined expertise of these individuals has taken the program into a professional, sharing, real life experience that will reap rewards for decades to come.

Posted by Joe Johnson at 04/28/2001 8:49 PM EST

Engineer on team #47, Chief Delphi, from Pontiac Central High School and Delphi Automotive Systems.

In Reply to: Answers…Answers…
Posted by Al Skierkiewicz on 04/28/2001 6:11 PM EST:

Al,

Excellent, well reasoned, and well written message.

They must put something in the water over there in
WildStang Country, your team seems to be blessed with a
lot of talented folks.

Keep up the good work.

Joe J.