CALL FOR QUESTIONS: Decision Making & Compromise

Hi Everyone,

As some of you probably know, I am helping to facilitate a panel discussion on Wednesday April 14th from **7:15PM until 8:45PM **in Atlanta.

See this thread for more information:

We have a lot of GREAT mentors signed up to discuss their perspectives on this topic. However, I need the help of the community to make this round table a success…

What seed questions should I ask to stimulate discussion on the topic of Decision Making and Compromise During a Design Process?

I have my list started already (in my head…) but I’d love to get additional input from those who will be in the audience.

What would YOU ask these great mentors?

Again, here is the abstract:

Decision Making during a design process can be difficult. How does a team make decisions? How does a team come to consensus? How do mentors and students interact to make decisions as peers? How does one productively argue without being overwhelmed by feelings? How does one put ego aside and compromise? What should a team do when some of their members refuse to compromise? How can mentors help students feel welcome in design discussions? How can students learn to argue like and hold their ground against professional engineers? These questions and many others will be discussed by a group of prominent mentors (all WFA or WFFA winners) who will share their perspectives and relate their own experiences on the topic of decision-making.

Anyone have any ideas?
Hope to see some of you there.


I have read your post about 5 times now and all it has resulted in is that I am going to really try to be at the discussion so I can learn all the answers! It’s a great, huge topic.

In a general sense, I would think your “seed” questions might be directly related to this year’s build process and maybe role play: Mentor A, you think a 6 small wheel drive train will work, Student B, you think 4 larger pneumatics will work, and Mentor C, you think they will allow articulation in a rule change. Have the discussion and, as a facilitator, interject to emphasize the process as it is developing.

Hang or don’t hang, tunnel or no tunnel. Role play is a powerful demonstration.

And, as always, any decision made by a group is one that no single member of the group thinks is the best or they would have proposed it! :slight_smile:

When is it best to abandon a design that hasn’t yet succeeded? How do you overcome sunk cost fallacy?

How much time should a team invest to prototyping? Is there such a thing as too much prototyping?

Also, a general discussion of build season scheduling and benchmarks would help a lot too. :smiley:

Present a scenario similar to this, make sure it includes time, feature, and resource constraints:

It’s week 5 of a 6 week build season and your team has decided to add an second arm to your hanging mechanism using 1/8" Aluminum tube stock. You 4 days to build and 4 days to test the new mechanism, you are out of 1/8" stock which takes 5 days to reorder, and your programmer is home sick with the flu.

Sounds impossible? What three variables can be fiddled with to ensure a successful outcome?

Time - Not enough time? Maybe you can work more hours in the day, perhaps overlap some of the fabrication/testing time.

Features - Blow off testing, don’t build the arm, scale back the arm’s requirements to fit available time/resources

Resources - Use a different material, borrow material rather than reorder, can someone else program?

Some of these questions are go/nogo type questions. If no one can program the arm then then the answer is “no arm”. Other questions are compromise type, is it OK to make the arm out of wood for example.

This seed questions gets people to think about the three variables that can be manipulated to arrive at a conclusion and also the different types of questions that can be asked.

Then, if you can work in the Rock, Paper, Scissor, Lizard, Spock theory of the Design Decision Making Process, that would be awesome:


At what point do you begin to consider mass of the components vs the functionality of them? I am alluding to prioritization of systems from a “must have” to a “nice to have” viewpoint.

Often first impressions of the game are incorrect; parts of the game are valued higher than others in theory but end up being quite uninfluential to match outcomes in reality. How can you predict how the game will be played while brainstorming on the first week?

I would love to hear the panels top 3 reasons for choosing their chassis architectures for this year’s game. With the variety of drivetrains representing several unique and capable designs, I would love to hear why they picked what they picked.

Also I would love to hear about any design regrets. I.E. we thought this wasn’t that important during the build season, and it turns this was more important.