Ethics of 2 teams building 2 identical robots

Our team is thinking about bringing back our sister team, and we we have 2 scenarios if we do bring them back. One of the scenarios is that we bring back the second team but have both teams build identical robots, similar to 254/968 in previous years. Some members on our team see this as being unethical, and think that other teams would hate us if we did this because it would make us look too competitive. I see it as a chance to give more teams members a chance at being on drive team and pit crew, and don’s see a problem with both robots being the same. I was wondering what anyone else thinks about this issue.

Do a forum search for Canadian Triplets. There was some pretty heated discussion a couple years ago. (Not to say they were the first, just that I recall that discussion vividly)

What do your team members think is unethical about it?

The fact that you bring back an old team into existence, in my opinion, makes those assumptions null and void.

Come back after asking your team what the specific issues are. What do they think possible problems would be? Why would teams ‘hate’ you for being a better performing team?

What else should you be asking yourself and teams like 968/254? Ask them logistical issues, design issues, how they run their collaboration. I have a feeling you’ll find that the building of two identical robots would be harder than dealing with any team who talks trash about you doing it.

In the end, do what you think is best for your team. Outside opinions that affect your performance as a team negatively probably aren’t the best.

Good luck! :slight_smile:

60/254 had some pretty heated discussion back in 2004 when they built identical robots.

254/22 (2005) and 254/968(2006-???–not sure if it’s still going on or not) didn’t draw anywhere near the level of heated discussion. Partly because the Triplets were drawing all the attention, but still…

There’s nothing unethical about it in my opinion. I don’t however think it’s a good use of resources in most cases. Having two different robots means there are twice as many opportunities for students to experience the design process…the sense of discovery that only comes from doing the work, prototyping, and making the tradeoffs.

At some point you can’t have any more people doing design work without tripping over yourselves. What that number is depends on how modular you can make things and the nature of the challenge. I’ve never seen a FRC challenge that couldn’t be designed by a half dozen people. You could maybe double that but I doubt any more than that would be manageable. The communication overhead just gets too large.

The whole point of FRC is to expose as many students as possible to engineering. Does having two identical robots accomplish that? In the case when one team is so on the ropes that they can barely get a box on wheels to function maybe so. In most cases, though, I’d say no.

So some of the members think that bringing 2 identical robots to a regional would be cheating because they think it gives us an unfair advantage to winning. That is the reason they think other teams will hate us.

Both teams have always shared the same shop, which caused major issues in 2009/2010. The reason they share the same shop is because the 1st team comes from the high school the shop is in, and the 2nd team is from a magnet school in the district. This makes it difficult to design and build 2 distinct robots because the resources in the shop are split. Back in 2009 and 2010 we both built separate robots, and almost did not complete them because we did not have enough shop resources.

We want to bring back the 2nd team because of the connection with the school and the culture of the team, but we do not want a repeat of the 2009/2010 seasons, where both robots were barely finished by ship day and needed much work at the competitions.

I don’t understand why this is an issue now – 1510 and 2898 have already done this in the past and nobody hates you for it.

If you believe building identical robots is the best course of action for the team, then go for it. It sounds like building different robots was a struggle in the past, but do consider it as an option.

Whatever you choose, there’s nothing stopping you. There really isn’t any cheating in FRC unless you break a disqualifying rule (opening the bag, being overweight, etc.). Everything else is strategic (retrieving a tube from an opposing lane, despite the penalty, and scoring it), if sometimes frowned upon. There are no rules against any level of collaboration between teams.

If it’s not in the rule book, don’t worry about it. If it is in the rule book, think carefully about your actions and if they’re in your best interests.

P.S. If being competitive is your primary goal, I’d suggest that building two identical robots as a single team, keeping the second as a practice robot, could very well provide a greater competitive advantage.

I personally have no problem with it, I think it’s fine. But you have to look at the fact that you will catch a lot of flak for it. Look at 217 and 148 in 2010. They got ripped apart for collaborating. So I say go for it, but be warned not everyone will be happy about it. But if it’s what you want to do, look past the haters and do what you want.

There is absolutely nothing unethical about this. Inserting “ethics” into the conversation here is inherently tainting the pool of responses you’re going to get.

Or… Brain wave.

Back in 2005, two teams collaborated. There was one minor detail, though–they did not build identical robots. Try “fraternal twins”–it’s a pretty good description.

217 and 229 built robots with very similar–or identical–towers and drive bases that year. But, they placed the towers differently on those drive bases, and there were a number of other less easily noticeable differences between the two robots.

So, why not come up with a pair of designs with as many shared parts as possible that is still different? Say, one team uses a mecanum base and the other a 6WD, and they share a superstructure design. Or share a drivebase design, but one team has a lift while the other has an arm. Or, have very similar mechanisms that are oriented differently.

You don’t have to have identical robots to collaborate.

We have always done 2 separate designs, and 2 completely separate robots. The issue is we might want to make both robots the same in order to save resources, and they other members say that other teams will think this is cheating. I don’t believe this, and think that this would be perfectly OK. i just wanted some other opinions that i could bring up for discussion.

Being competitive is one of our goals (and the main goal in some member’s eye’s), but in mine and the coaches opinion teaching more students is the main goal.

I disagree that you are halving the opportunities for students to experience the design process.

Done properly you allow twice as many ideas to be prototyped/investigated. You can focus much more effort on refining specific systems.

The challenges that come with a collaboration are a lot like those that come in the real world on an engineering project involving multiple contractors, vendors, etc. Students working through those challenges is great experience for the future.

There are certainly times it is and isn’t worth it. It definitely won’t be easy. But it can be very rewarding.

So because our teams are based out of the same shop, the 2 teams would be combined into 1 during build season. Once competition started, the team would split into 2 in order to have the 2 separate drive teams and pit crews. Would this be collaboration or something else.

I don’t think other teams, including ours, will think it’s cheating. However, besides the point I made earlier, it IS putting all of your eggs in one basket. Seldom can we be sure we’ve made the right trade-offs during the design process.

148 and 217 got so much grief in 2010 not because they shared the same design but because they built robots so much more advanced than other teams because of their hands-on mentors and IFI partnership. With your commitment to having students do most of the work that wouldn’t be a problem for you folks.

We’re building four BunnyBotsin our lab right now no two of them the same. The students go out of their way to make them different to have the fun of doing it their own way and to see which design turns out to be the most effective. I think it would be more fun and valuable for the students if they were different, but that’s just me.

It would be counted as collaboration.

This is effectively how the various collaborations of the past have functioned. X teams meld into one, then produce X+Y robots, one per team and a practice one.

It should also be noted that you want to be careful how the team is split. While I’m not sure anybody would really ask (and most don’t), it could be seen as one team building two robots and competing with two robots under two numbers, simply because the teams are so close (this would be the closest collaboration distance-wise that I’m aware of, and the only one where multiple teams shared a shop). There is a long-running rule about this (2011’s <R10>). While this is not your intent, this is where most of the questions will probably come from/are coming from on the team, if they’re asked. (And the general format, if asked, would be something to the effect of: How is this not one team?)

To that end, I would suggest three possible routes to take:

  1. Single team. There is no one-school-per-team requirement. Build one robot and an identical practice robot.
  2. Double team, collaboration, non-identical robots. See my above post for a short explanation.
  3. Double team, collaboration, identical robots. Make sure that the teams are distinct apart from the design and building (this will help with the above-mentioned rule question).

If I was to recommend one of those three, I’d probably go with #2 if you have the combined resources to pull it off. It’ll still allow many of the same benefits as a full collaboration (e.g., lots of spare parts for shared systems when you’re at the same competition), but will force the teams to troubleshoot problems semi-independently, which will reduce a lot of the questions. If you don’t have the resources, #1 and use a non-identical practice robot, say a modified older robot.

I’m not saying that this type of collaboration is against the rules; I’m pretty certain that it is not. I’m pointing out one place that you’ll need to make sure you have an answer for any critics (and the past collaborating teams have had such an answer).

Those are the exact 3 routes that we came up with in 1 of our meetings. Route 1 is what we did in 2011, and it worked very well, plus we had the resources to build 2 identical robots. Route 2 is what we did in 2009/2010, and it worked but not very well. We want to bring back the second team, but dont want the major flaws from 2009/2010 again. Route 3 is the compromise i would like to make.

Building a group of similar robots together seems more pragmatic than unethical to me. In particular inner city and close by rural teams that have limited resources of mentors students and facilities that could combine with other teams to make up for these lack of resources and build something that could actually be useful at competition instead of building a half functioning robot that spend most of it’s time broken in the pits so they can pack up and leave on Saturday afternoon after alliance selection.
These teams should be encouraged to work together so they can get more out of the completion than just that. Otherwise why bother showing up if all your doing is coming to the event to be dismissed as a viable option? That’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to the other teams at the competition.

I don’t see any issue whatsoever with however teams want to collaborate.

I don’t see this as being a problem as long as everyone on the two teams agrees on the design and works on the robots honestly.

We’ve seen this done before. I think in the '09 Regional at UCF. If memory serves one of the twins won.