I think there’s a difference between “We saw Ri3D did this, so we did it” and “We identified the Ri3d version as one way to solve the problem we’re trying to solve, so we used a similar concept to what they used, but tweaked it this was to better fit our robot design.”
How many passive gear mechanisms did you see this year that were similr to those offered by Ri3d? How many of those were well-engineered so they’d accept and place gears effectively?
If the student can explain the engineering decisions behind the design, that’s what makes the difference. If their explanation is “well Ri3d did it”, then they’re missing the engineering part.
Much of 5254’s success has been from “copying” the ways other teams do things. Our gear collector at our second event this year was based on 2168’s. Our 2016 climber was based on 195’s, our 2016 second intake was based on 971’s, our 2015 second can stabilizer and landfill collector were based on 1114’s. But they weren’t straight-up “copied”, because we had to figure out how to engineer similar mechanisms with the materials available to us. And if you ask the students behind these mechanisms, they’d be able to explain each hole and each gusset and why we used these wheels and why this pivots right here and why it’s taped with masking tape right there.
This is a really, really good question, and I have no particularly good answer. But I’ll hash out my intuitions below:
On the one hand, almost all designs come from somewhere. It’s very rare that a team shows up with a robot that can truly be considered a “unique idea,” and often “unique ideas” are not the best solutions. So, in that sense, I don’t think there’s any loss of engineering “legitimacy,” so to speak, from Ri3D or “we did this years ago” purely on principle.
That said, I think it’s certainly true that there are different degrees at play here. There’s a lot of difference between looking at Ri3D and running with some ideas that you like, and directly copying a mechanism from a released CAD. The latter likely requires much less actual understanding of the engineering, which matters.
I also think the motivation for using a Ri3D design matters - there’s also a world of difference between “they did it, so it must work and be good” and a proper analysis which concludes that the solution you’ve seen is a good one. To be frank, a lot of Ri3D’s design choices are driven by the very tight constraints they’ve placed on themselves, and thus the Ri3D design process is likely not a good model for that of an actual FRC team. A well-executed Ri3D copy might well be a very bad design choice, on the whole.
All of this ought to be able to come out in interviews, but whether it does or not is another question entirely.
An argument for good and competent match observers! We are the scouts for the judges and we watch for what is effective on the field. I think MOs should definitely be a judge with FRC experience. Must also be able to communicate results well to other judges.
I think a lot of times people forget that most judges are paired together when they go out to talk with teams. I think the best combination is always going to be to pair a seasoned FRC judge with a newer industry judge to “get the best of both worlds.” From my experience of having seasoned FRC and industry judges working together, the seasoned judges can help point out the FRC “norms” that may sound fancy to people outside of FRC, and the industry judges can help be non-biased players if their partner has to excuse them self from the deliberation for any sort of conflict of interest.
You would be surprised how many times I had to explain what cheesecaking was to judges this year and how creating “extra modular mechanisms that can be added to almost any robot” is actually pretty common :rolleyes: