Duplication of programs as it relates to Chairman's

Jason Rees made an interesting post here:


[quote=Beth Sweet]*You’ll likely have better luck with this after the Championship. I know in the past, there have been teams who upon finding out what other teams have, have done something quick so that they can match a competitor (yes, tacky I know, but it has happened). So bring this back after Atlanta and I’m sure you’ll get some more info!

This is what is wrong with the CA! It shouldn’t be about trying to do stuff to win the award. It should be just doing what you can and what is right. But that is a discussion for another day.[/quote]

I’ll be honest, I have never been particularly involved with a Chairman’s Award submission over the four seasons I’ve been in FRC. It did, however, raise a few questions in my head (enough to warrant making a new thread).

Now, obviously, teams aiming for the Chairman’s Award are undertaking significant efforts to try to inspire folks. If Redateam puts out a program similar to that of Bluateam, odds are that Redateam is going to yield some further results beyond those of Bluateam even if the two are in the same community. Assuming that Bluateam has been documenting their work, any judge with good sense could tell which program was the original and which one has had the bigger impact. (The two are not necessarily synonymous, mind you.)

What are your thoughts on the topic? Is mimicking another team’s program in bad taste, or is it smart for a team to focus its resources on programs known to be effective?

I don’t think that it should matter either way, inspiration is inspiration no matter how its packaged or presented. If redteam inspires new kids in another country and blueteam inspires kids in that same country the next year what dose it really matter as long as those kids have received that possibly life changing information.
If Redteam starts a fundraising program to help illiterate children and Blueteam dose the same thing I think thats great because it is helping the people who need the help Even if the teams are just chasing an award they are still helping someone learn about FIRST and its goals.

I think that the “obtaining” of ideas from other teams is just as fair game as any other way you get your ideas.

The chairman’s award rewards exelence within a team’s actions. A team that has a successful program that has lasted for 4 years will be rewared over a similar successful program that has only been avalible for a year.

It’s also an award that promotes FIRST role models. I believe that teams that wish to one day have the high status of those winning chairmans, than to start similar programs and similar charities and so on is a good thing. Yes, in a way, the taking of ideas in theroy is kinda sinister, but I feel that the selection of the Chairman’s winner is more than how many programs a team starts, but how stong and how long the program has been in place.

And still, there are many more teams that deserve Chairmans that haven’t gotten their praise yet only because there arn’t enough chairmans awards given out each year. It will be a long time until a “we had the program first” bickering might begin. (if it ever does.)

“Ideas are cheap, The combination of ideas and execution and excellence and the whole process is what really matters.”
Woodie Flowers

We totally agree with Woodie about the cheap idea thing. That is why teams are encouraged to share and adopt ideas.

It is the execution and implementation in your local setting that matters most.

There is no one best way to run a team or get an award. But there is one optimal way for your team to achieve success.

The best engineering solutions in this world frequently come about from improving upon an exisiting design. The whole point of changing the culture for the better depends upon an ever growing number of folks working together for a common good without worrying who gets credit for it.

Is it fair that one team wins an award and another team doesn’t? No, it’s not. So what? Get over it, fast.

The effort to win the CA is the important thing, the few teams that get to celebrate as “winners” are hard-working, fortunate examples of that collective effort.

Billfred and I agree on most things, but I don’t think the whole “redateam/blueateam” thing works in this instance. In fact, that feeling of “getting credit” and “I want to win because my team deserves it” might be cultural givens in our society, but I’d challenge everyone to just entertain the idea that those thoughts (and we ALL have them) might be something we need to recognize as potentially harmful if they get out of control.

Also, let’s not forget, that “copying” comes with its own set of challenges and problems. In many cases my new school and community (Team 1712) is very different than my old school and community (Team 103), thus how we go about spreading the FIRST meesage and changing the culture in positive ways is also very different. Did I bring “ideas” wih me from 103? Sure did. Do we employ those thoughts and ideas the same way with 1712? No way, it just wouldn’t work here.

In any event the “effort to win” being more important than the “actual win” is not a new concept at all. Just look at the words of Vince Lombardi, Winston Churchill, Woodie Flowers, and many other great minds.


It looks like I started a little fire here & I just want to clarify a few things before anybody’s feelings get hurt.

  1. Our team has been just as “guilty” of doing things for the CA as any other team. As long as I’m around those days are well behind us.

  2. I believe the CA & EI are great awards to give out and have spawned some amazing programs that might not have happened otherwise.

  3. I believe there will always be the element of “doing something for the CA” in FIRST.

All that being said, lets look into why we are really doing a program like FIRST. We get to work with some great kids that usually want to learn something. We can have an enormous impact on kids. We are changing the culture, for good…

But sometimes for the not so good.

I see teaching kids to do things for an award as not much better than that parent at your pee-wee soccer game being disappointed at his/her kid for not taking the game seriously enough. We aren’t at the parent screaming at the ref status by any margin. But what happens when you hang your hopes on an award & you don’t get it. FIRST is about inspiring, what is inspiring about disappointing someone you look up to? I’m a teacher that loves his job. I don’t ever want my kids to think they aren’t good enough because they didn’t win an award. My kids rock!

I hope this clears things up. I just want to re-iterate that I was not calling anyone out. Every team is different. Every team is the same. Best of luck in 07-08, lets do some inspiring.

I leave you with this image.

Thanks for the image. I think we’ve all run into that guy sometime.

Back to the question: my view is that originality of programs may be a concern for CA judges, but shouldn’t be one for anyone else in FIRST. Even for the judges, the impact of a team’s program should always outweigh its originality.

As Dave says, steal from the best …

[Aside: I don’t mind confessing that my team borrowed a good idea from MOE this summer. Our interpretation of their one-day VEX event was very well received here in St. Louis. My recommendation to teams that want to duplicate a program: pick a good one, like we did.]

And once again, Kres and I find ourselves on the same side of the argument. Healthy competition is what makes life interesting. Unhealthy competition…well, you’ve heard Dean and Woodie talk about that.

I didn’t intend to call anybody out, the post just got me wondering.

I’m with you on the soccer analogy; you can’t hinge success or failure in any part of this competition on whether or not you brought home a trophy. (I should know.) So long as the team is on the right track, life is good.

People have said this already, and I agree that free exchanging of ideas should always be encouraged… especially when it results in the teaching and inspiration of others. I don’t think teams should feel guilty about borrowing a good idea. I don’t think feeling bad, (or even being a ‘sore loser’) about team B ‘stealing’ your team’s great ideas for robot camps, or whatever will do anyone any good. I think worse than doing things just to win a CA, is to outwardly feel or say you were ripped off while another team wins it.

A good idea implemented well is still a good idea, no matter who came up with it first. If it means more kids are learning about their potential, or more charities getting donations… great! I think problems occur when teams try to take on more than they can handle. For example, a team with 60+ members may have an easy time finding volunteers to run and staff a summer robotics camp, but a team with 10 regular members probably won’t. The 10 member team may try to do the camp anyway because it will “look great on Chairmans”, but it ends up being a bust. That’s when the programs end up being forced and not so great.

It’s always a good thing to recognize those who have inspired you to borrow from and build on their idea. Those who have gone before you and created history. You see it time and time again here in Chief Delphi - when one team is recognized by another for being the source of inspiration for an innovative idea, design, or outreach program, it is a sign of respect. The team who originated the idea is always happy to receive that recognition. It’s always cool.

The CA is an opportunity for teams to see what they are made of - to share their grasp of the big picture. It is up to each team to use that opportunity wisely and professionally. Doesn’t always happen, true, but many times, it does.

No clarification needed Kevin. As we move forward, this discussion needs to keep coming up. Each year we engage more and more “mainstream” society folks and having them understand these concepts fully as our numbers grow is an essential and difficult task.


Do teams “do stuff” because it will look good on Chairman’s? No doubt. Are people less served because the motives of the servers are not complelely altruistic? Not hardly.

Part of the rationale toward Community Service requirements for graduation is to get people used to volunteering, so that they might continue it later in life. The same could apply to projects that are part of a Chairman’s submission.

As far as duplicating other successful programs, why not? We duplicate the robots, sometimes via cooperation and sometimes via copying good ideas. The same can apply to volunteering, outreach, mentoring and informational efforts that FRC teams undertake. If something was successful on the East Coast, why not have another team try it in the Midwest? Or even in the next town next door?

One area where I’ve seen some contentious feelings in the past is when a team had a good idea for publicity. They made that idea known to others, but then didn’t follow up with execution. There were hard feelings when another team picked up the fumbled ball and ran with it. If the original team doesn’t have the time or resources to complete a program, why should they feel slighted when another team accomplishes the goal? It’s not about who does it, it’s about getting it done. Get the word out there.

I feel some of these hard feelings can be avoided with a little “give credit where credit is due”. If Team A comes up with a great idea and Teams B,C,and D copy it. The only tiem it matters is for CA and at that time Teams B,C and D should say “we saw team A do this and we thought it was great” Problem Solved. A great idea is spread and the one time it might matter whose idea it was is acknowledged.

Just like citing sources in a research paper, this is a fabulous idea. Citing where the inspiration comes from is a great thing!

And always remember “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. I wish I could cite that reference, but I sure didn’t come up with it.

“Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.” – Charles Caleb Colton

One of the criteria for the Chairman’s Award is that a team is a
“model for other teams to emulate”. This means teams shoud share their ideas and successes, and others should feel free to copy them, use them, and make them better.

If a team has used another team’s ideas, then the team should give credit for that, possibly even saying,

“team 9999 did something like this last year. We researched what they did, and expanded and adapted it for our program…”.

that would show that:

  1. you stay in touch with what other teams are doing
  2. you can adapt and adopt others ideas to fit your program
  3. you are honest

Many Chairman’s judges ask where an idea came from - teams should be honest about that.

i feel that well Imitation may be well intended often it leads to a lack of quality because the team may not see the reason that they are there to give that demo or mentor that fll team. i feel when it comes down to why you want to win
and to be frank, you shouldn’t just want to win. the reason to go demos and such, for the smiles radiate from a kid that just learned how to program or a charity that questions you about why a robotics team cares about there cause and in there end that smile
is the biggest award you can ever win

now i use to go to demos and mentor to win but now i go cuz i like to

as for rees i think over the years i have learned more about philanthropy than robots from him


If it isn’t copyrighted, patented, or trademarked its not theft, thus no citation is needed nor any feelings need be hurt.