Creativity Award to Champs

Don’t worry, I know that the creativity award winner does not move on to the championship…


What if it did?

I’ve been thinking the past couple of days and while I love FIRST and the game every year, I get annoyed when all of the robot designs seem similar. What if the creativity award went to championships though? I’m ignoring all of the number of team issues with champs but I think that it would really encourage new designs among all of the teams to branch out and try something new.

Usually the best teams are the ones that branch out and try something crazy but I think that a lot of teams just need an extra push to get there.

NOTE: I’m not trying to reward impractical creative designs but I just think that FIRST would benefit from some more teams trying to play the game a different way each year.

The available lottery invites to champs would decrease, which I view as a disadvantage personally.
I really like the creativity award, but when the creativity is effective they move onto champs anyway. :stuck_out_tongue: Plus if their robot isn’t great, they might change the creative aspect of it to a normal one to prepare for champs.

I think that most creative robot designs do not come about incidentally, but through the development of a very interesting and creative strategy. In 2015, we saw some stand-out and very unique robot designs. A few examples being teams 148, 610, 900 and especially 1657. These design’s came about from in-depth analysis of the game manual, and identifying the pinnacle aspect, making lots of stacks and having the bins to cap them with.

LOL… unique… in 2014 we were unique… in 2015 we were just doing what we had to do to get to the big event again. It was a unique-looking robot I guess.

I too would like to see more creative designs get to championships though. I worry that districts are going to force us to be a little less inventive with our designs for the sake of trying to win in less unorthodox ways… just the nature of the task.

How about the robot you built in seven hours at Champs that seemed like a pretty unique design:)

As I see it, the Creativity award already rewards teams. An award for a rookie or new team can really mean a lot. However yes, I do thing it is important that FIRST awards teams who think outside the box, and opt for creative designs and strategies, it really enriches the overall experience of FRC for everyone. Who doesn’t like seeing a release video and thinking “ahh, I wish I had thought of that” or “I never thought that that could work”.

Our 2014 bot was so unique it was impractical, but still got the job done. It’s a shame that we didn’t go on, because I would’ve loved to see it at champs. But if anything, we did win the creativity award.

I’m not sure that’s the case.

I’ll illustrate why my perspective is that this isn’t the case:

Lets look at two groups of teams from last season: the teams that one the most regionals or districts, and a set of teams I would consider as being universally accepted as excellent.

The first set consists of 1023, 1519, and 1983. Each won four of some combination district events, district championships, or a Championship division.

If you look at images of each of those three robots, you can see that while there’s probably some very creative parts of them, none of them won a creativity award at an event, and their overall designs aren’t particularly unique (this isn’t a knock against these guys, I swear! I know that a lot of work went into these robots, but there are also a decent number of teams that came up with very similar designs, especially at the top tier they’re performing at).

Lets look at the other set of robots I mentioned, which is 118, 148. 254, 1114, and 2056.

I cannot speak for anyone inside of these teams, I can only speak to what I have observed and heard from their member, and I don’t have any pretense that I really know what goes on inside these teams.

That being said, I almost never hear or see from them that their goal going into a design process is to be creative. The unique qualities of their designs do not, at least to me, seem to come from purposely looking to be more creative, but rather because those unique qualities make it significantly more effective in completing its design goals. These teams also don’t seem to be hesitant about “uncreative” activities-- such as adding a ramp to their robot last year. Of these, I would label 148’s at the most creative, but if you look at the documents that John has been so kind as to release publicly, that appears to come much more from carefully reading the rules, and seeing things that other teams don’t see, than it does from a conscious motivation to be more creative.

Now I’ll go off the deep end a little about what I think of similar robots and solutions to that, as a fan and as a mentor. From my perspective as a fan of competitive robotics, I want to see exciting matches with robots that take full advantage of the game-- from a robot perspective, this means that robots are all functional and that they aren’t ignoring some aspect of the game. I like robots moving fast, possibly crashing into each other, doing something exciting. This can be equally achieved by designs that are all similar or that are creative. Football (take your pick, American or otherwise) isn’t a boring sport even though every player is a human being.

From a mentor’s perspective, I want my students to learn, and I want my team to achieve or surpass the goals we set for ourselves. Typically these goals are effectively summarized as “win.” A subset of winning is learning how to set ourselves up to win-- I believe that in order to really win, it’s important to teach students the skills that make it possible for them to “win” and be successful generally in life.

How does this relate to unique robots, you ask?

The most creative robot I’ve ever built was also (in my opinion) the best one I ever built (if you’re wondering, that robot is 2220’s 2014 robot, Scorpio-- and how good it actually was can certainly be debated), but it was not the best because it was creative. The creativity came in when we were trying to fit our design constraints-- specifically, that it had to be able to shoot a ball parallel to and only a few inches off the ground. This necessitated creativity in the design of our shooter, the placement and organization of our electronics, the pivoting mechanism, and even the placement of our battery. Our goal was never along the way to make a more creative design, but in trying to fulfill our goals, we had to be creative, because robotics is hard. The “only” issue with this particular design feature was that it turned out to not be particularly useful in the game-- but if it had, we would definitely have pushed it more when speaking to the judges.

When it boils down to it, I’m not of the opinion that targeting creativity is the best way to increase diversity in design-- I think that comes much more from having an effective strategic design process and use of time during build season, which is something that I see teams that don’t perform well consistently struggle with. I don’t have the answers to what makes a successful team, or what can help more teams become more successful, but personally, emphasizing creativity in the abstract isn’t where I’d start. It doesn’t work to force people to be more creative by telling them to be more creative. FRC is structured in a way that makes creativity essential already-- the strict deadline, an interesting challenge. Add a couple more ingredients (good design criteria and drive to “win”) and I think we’re closer than we think to having more creative designs-- really, what I think most teams are missing is the design criteria part.

One of the benefits to emphasizing this though might be that it gets teams to actually read what the award is about, and not just assume they know what it is based on the name (I’m pretty sure that the Creativity Award is second only to the Team Spirit Award in terms of how much teams misunderstand what the award is actually about).

Anyhow, that’s my perspective. Hopefully it’s at least a vaguely interesting read-- I certainly had fun thinking about this.

Do you want a design challenge or a Sport for the Mind™?

While your point is great, I just wanted to point out that while the four teams you mentioned all won awards, only 900 won Creativity specifically. That being said, this is an interesting thought experiment. To answer the OP, I would be disinclined to make the proposed change. I feel the problem with sending Creativity on would be twofold.

  1. Is the Creativity winner more deserving to go than other awards, specifically, the other four robot awards? Chairman’s, EI, and RAS make sense because they stand for the epitome of team excellency. As for the robot award teams, many teams that build the most creative designs end up winning Quality or Industrial Design instead, for good reason. Would they be given Creativity over the other robot awards just to be moved on to Worlds? Is Creative design more important than Quality, Engineering Excellence, etc.? Which leads to #2:

  2. How would the most Creative design be determined? Is it the most creative design that plays in the elimination rounds? Or the most creative design at the event? Remember that engineering is about elegancy - if you’re an engineer, you should build the most efficient (Read: simple) robot you can rather than going out of your way to build something complicated*, and I would expect that many teams that don’t expect to win the competition may sacrifice their design quality even further just to make the “odd one out” robot that can’t stack more than 4 totes a match but is really complex. After all, doing that could now get them to worlds when they felt they didn’t have a shot before. And now they are sacrificing their own playing ability and hurting their alliance partners.

Just my $0.02

*Unless you are in a Rube Goldberg machine contest

This reminds me of a post someone made awhile back about making a scouting award. It prompted this comment:

Along a similar vein, I think creative approaches to the game challenge should be appreciated as just that: approaches to the game challenge. I’m a little worried about what will happen if people perceive creative ideas as just something you would do for a highly valuable award.

I don’t want to see people deciding that teams’ creative designs are made for the sake of being flashy and not for competitiveness (trust me, that kind of judgement happens enough already). That attitude easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because a lot of unorthodox strategies don’t seed well and rely on alliance captains seeing their competitive potential.

This idea could actually make it harder for creative bots to succeed in competition. Yay, pessimism!

I’m sorry OP, it’s a very nice thought. Maybe a better way to promote creativity is to expose more people to the ways effective creative teams operate. 1114’s strategy presentations are a great start, for example (

I had a similar thought a couple of years ago about sending creative robots to championships, and sent a note to FIRST with the idea. I mentioned different awards but was referring to roughly the same concept as the original poster. They responded with a blog post in which they basically said it wasn’t feasible because of a limit to the number of teams at championships:

Always with the good answers…

I hope you understand that there is an unwritten hierarchy of awards at events and creativity, although an important award, is not at the top of the robot awards. When judges look at the possible candidates for awards, often creative designs are also solid in many other respects. Good teams are often up for many awards.

Examples are 1519 that you mentioned and 1023
Team 1519 won Innovation in Control, Entrepreneurship, and the Excellence in Engineering award along with a District Chairman’s Award at their various events prior to CMP.

Team 1023 won Gracious Professionalism, the Quality Award and Chairman’s Award at their events…

This does not mean that they were not especially creative… or that they couldn’t have won that award too…but awards are spread out.

I would just be wary of the creativity award. At smaller events it may not be given for anything more than a unique design feature… it does not even have to work very well… Many great teams have won this award at both regional and district events… but often teams with creative designs that work win the other robot awards like Quality or Engineering Excellence or Industrial Design.

I am not saying that creativity awards are not given for really great ideas and great engineering but rather that often teams with great creative ideas that work have entire robots that work extremely well and therefore are put in for the other robot awards by the judges.