FIRST and Wikipedia

Hey, this was on Wikipedia when I typed in FIRST robotics. This is only one section of the article. What do you guys think about it?

Criticism:
Engineer centered-teams are often criticized by more student-focused teams as having an unfair advantage. Some say that since students do not get to participate as fully in the design and construction phase as they would on a student-focused team, then the students might not fully understand all that is involved, and enter engineering with a false impression of what is involved. Further, it may encourage other teams to lessen their own emphasis on student involvement, and instead shift their focus to recruiting skilled engineers to help them win.

Some people think that, in general, student centric teams perform slightly worse in competition than those with the backing of a strong mentor corps, as the teams often have designs that are less competitive than ones where the mentors played a larger role. Especially in their rookie year, teams tend to make design and construction mistakes that reduce their ability to play that year’s game. Critics of the fully student-centred paradigm say that students may become discouraged and believe that they aren’t cut out to be engineers, thus reducing the inspirational role of the competition. Further, students may not be exposed to a full spectrum of engineering tools or processes.

I think that a criticism section on Wikipedia for FIRST would be a bad idea. The concept of too much professional engineer support has been beaten to death on the forum and most deemed it insignificant to the primary mission of FIRST- inspiration. I would delete such a section if it appeared on Wikipedia.

EDIT: Since it appears you have made the change already I will give you time to remove it yourself.

I agree, our team is considered student-oriented too. So this kind of section, I feel, does not examplify FIRST in any way.

I looked at the FIRST wikipedia page, and couldn’t find any previous version of the page that had the text you posted. In any case, the text above is chock full of weasel language (unverifiable “Some people say” claims, etc, see Fox News Channel for other examples). While understanding the controversy above is important to understanding FIRST and what makes it different from other programs, it would be better explained with specific, verifiable examples, instead of being full of weasel words.

edit: Ok I found it - there’s a seperate article for the FRC from FIRST. Still weaselly.

Further, students may not be exposed to a full spectrum of engineering tools or processes.

Has anyone actually used this criticism before? Im curious because I severly doubt that you would be introduced to the full spectrum even with complete backing of a company.

Here’s the link: FIRST Robotics

There is quite a bit of information on FIRST. If you want to find something that used to be posted on the page, you can look in the pages history.

Mike,

I think summing up the whole student/engineer centric discussion and coming down on either side of the debate is just asking for trouble. Your wording made it sound like the majority were in favor of engineer-centric teams. Near as I could tell from any of the numerous threads on the subject, there simply wasn’t any consensus on the issue whatsoever. I think, instead, that most everyone agreed that the entire discussion was insignificant to the mission of FIRST and that teams should go with what works well for them and what they feel comfortable with.

To the issue at hand, I think the section could probably be trimmed and rolled into the section above it. The debate is there and real and to ignore it would be somewhat disingenuous, but I don’t think it’s so important as to merit an entire subsection of the article. Similar the section on the debate about collaboration. Important enough to get a mention in the section on collaboration, but doesn’t need that many words covering it.

I actually wrote that section. My target audience was generally rookie teams with little connection to other teams and not knowing what to expect. It may be a smaller issue to the self-selected audience of veteran FIRSTers on CD, but to a rookie team a trimmed-down portion may be useful.

On my first team in our rookie year, we were just floored at the amount of engineer support other teams had. We thought they were bending the rules, even outright cheating. Having an article subsection explain it would have been useful at the time, since we were completely unaware of any reason or rationale for it. We always thought “high school competition” = “student built”. We believed that those teams with the huge amounts of adults in their pits were only claiming to be student built while actually being adult-built, and thought that by doing that, they were outside the rules. It took a few years to realize that they were actually fully within the rules and were just doing their teaching/learning in a different fashion.

The paragraph is/was probably proportionally too large and could probably be cut to something like “many teams make use of many professional engineers to help them build their robot. This is a large part of FIRST’s mission, to expose students to professional engineers, but at the same time unlevels the playing field.”.

Has anyone actually used this criticism before? Im curious because I severly doubt that you would be introduced to the full spectrum even with complete backing of a company.

You’re certainly exposed to less, in my experience. My original team didn’t use CAD for at least their first two years. All of our manufacturing was done kinda off-the-cuff: “ok, we need this piece to be 12 inches long, go cut it”. No drawing, no physics tests, etc. Last year (2006) when I mentored 1281 was the first time I’d seen CAD. I went to a meeting of a team close to me this year, and they were going very seat-of-their-pants as well. I’d be very interested to sit in on the design meetings of a engineer-heavy team, just to experience the difference. Although the CD audience probably doesn’t include many of them, there are lots of teams who could use a bit more exposure to the whole engineering process.

In any case, the text above is chock full of weasel language (unverifiable “Some people say” claims, etc, see Fox News Channel for other examples). While understanding the controversy above is important to understanding FIRST and what makes it different from other programs, it would be better explained with specific, verifiable examples, instead of being full of weasel words.

I don’t know any specific examples, and it wouldn’t really feel right to say “team 1114 loves the engineers and here’s how they do it”, since I don’t actually know and it is time-limited information. Like was said above, the debate IS important. Many teams can be disillusioned after getting thrashed by a professional-looking robot, and perhaps knowing the rationale of why that robot was allowed competing will help them in their next year. It is certainly unencyclopedic as it is though since, as you said, none of it is really verifiable. It’d be easy to reference individual posts on CD from a engineers vs students thread, but those aren’t good references. If I were to try to improve the page again I’d probably not write it the paragraph in question.

The concept of too much professional engineer support has been beaten to death on the forum and most deemed it insignificant to the primary mission of FIRST- inspiration. I would delete such a section if it appeared on Wikipedia.

To many teams, the marked difference in team organization that the engineer/student divide causes is a large part of the experience.


Shorter version of this reply:
-The debate exists, very strongly in the case of some teams
-Since the debate IS part of the FIRST experience, it should be mentioned
-The section in question could probably be shortened, headline changed to ‘debate’, or put at a higher level such that it doesn’t look like it is criticism of FIRST (as it never was), but rather pros/cons about the ends of the student/mentor spectrum.

And to try to turn this thread into something positive:
PLEASE ADD TO THE ARTICLE. If you know verifiable FIRST history, information about their mission, how games are planned, regionals organized, their finances, their sponsors, ANYTHING. Add to the article so it isn’t full of filler stuff like the debate over students/engineers and collaboration.

While I believe the article should mention that the debate does exist, the way it is worded now seems biased. And to totally ignore it from the article would be even worse. The best way would be to state that the debate does exist (I wouldn’t call it criticism), and state both sides of the issue.

*Debate:
When it comes to fulfilling the “inspiration” of FIRST, the issue is purposely left open by FIRST for FRC teams to decide themselves. A vast majority of teams are a combination of student and engineer driven, but there are some teams that are strongly tipped in one direction and not the other.

As such, there is often debate among the FIRST community on which method (student- versus engineer-driven) is best for inspiring students and fulfilling the mission of FIRST. While there have been strong arguments made for both cases, a common consensus can never be reached.

The official position of FIRST on the issue has been to leave the issue to individual teams to decide which is best to inspire their own students.

[note: I would possibly include a few links to ChiefDelphi forum threads as references for this section, especially on the debate parts.]*

As we have found before in the past in many discussions here on CD, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. If a strong engineer-based team inspires students just as well as a student-driven team, then so be it, even if they use radically different methods of doing so.

The final product, the inspiration, it all that matters. Awards and championships are just bling. :wink:

Im from 868 TechHounds, we are a student based team with 99% of our bot designed and built by students. I feel as if we performed higher than most engineer based teams. Our design is also very unorthodox and creative. I feel it is the most efficient picker and placer I have seen. It does make me sad walking through the pits and seeing many highly regarded teams with not a single student working on the bot, all mentors.

Folks, this thread should probably stop pretty soon. If we don’t, two things will happen:

  1. We’ll get into the Great FIRST Debate again. Everybody hates these, because they just decrease good will between teams.

  2. We’ll start debating how the Wikipedia article should be written. This should be reserved for the talk page

Another caution: Please be good Wikipedians. Don’t get the article moderated.

Why do we have to make this debate publicly available? If you go to the Battlebots Wiki page, they don’t have any civil debates posted… and I think posting one may scare some people away.

I guess what I really think is that this particular subject just doesn’t need to be addressed. It is way too specific. When people (or I at least) look at a Wiki page for an organization, I don’t expect to see their internal affairs posted.
Instead of waisting time on that, why don’t we expand the Team organization section with tips on how to start a team, and people to contact if interested, or even add a section entirely devoted to helping new teams be started. There are a lot better uses of our time than making an argument any larger than it needs to be.

-OK,I suppose there are a lot better uses of our time than arguing about the perspective taken when trying to enlarge and already over sized argument about engineers Vs. students as well; but who’s counting?

As I see it, people have the resources they need to do physics tests and teach themselves programs, and make a great robot. People have the internet. People can go online and watch videos to how professionals do it. If people are “student-oriented” then the student should take it as an obligation to teach him/herself everything he/she may need to know. Some people will tell themselves “well, I have no mentor to show me” then go learn it!

Look at me! I had no one to teach me Autodesk Inventor. I learned that program over the summer, I spent my whole time learning that program and talking to people with programs to what to do. I made emails; I looked at other teams that submitted entries. I am the one that leads the design crew and we are COMPLETELY student-oriented (just the CAD team). And look at us; we won two years in a row.

So no one can sit there and tell me there stories of no mentors, b/c I don’t buy it, to be honest. I believe people use it as an excuse to not commit to the process. It’s about passion, drive, motivation, and heart to carry on what you learn to the next generation!

Does anyone know where I can get a source for this comment?

The official position of FIRST on the issue has been to leave the issue to individual teams to decide which is best to inspire their own students.

Because that whole paragraph is probably the best handling of the issue. No weasel words, and it has a citeable sentence about FIRST’s rules.

I think we’re in agreement on the topic at hand but differ on the purpose of my post. My post served to remind the poster that his point is moot. FIRST is about inspiration and it doesn’t matter if you only have students on your team or a league of engineers. The students are inspired, mission accomplished.

I’m with Cory on the fact that the Criticism section should not be in the Wiki article because it makes FIRST look bad. Essentially what we have is negative publicity over a debate that is ridiculous to the point of not mattering. The Criticism section should not be there.

I would like to think that interested readers would use Wikipedia as a resource for information regarding FIRST, not for opinions.

Which is why I think we should change it to artdutra suggested. It doesn’t air dirty laundry, it acknowledges the existence of the debate as a part of team organization (which is a fact: it exists), and does it in a very good way. It also contains the fact that FIRST more or less leaves the ‘inspiring’ up to us. The only problem is that I haven’t found a direct quote from FIRST to that effect.

The Criticism section should be there, but it should have genuine criticisms of FIRST (too expensive, etc), not an internal debate where each side is critical of teams rather than of FIRST itself.

Deleting criticism because it makes FIRST look bad would make the article biased.

In a way this can be looked at as a research project. You may have considered this or done this. What about contacting FIRST, explaining what you are attempting to do, and ask for a quote? Nothing like going to the source.

My thinking is that Wikipedia can be a valuable tool and the marketing potential for FIRST is incredible as far as helping get the word out. Your interest in presenting the different facets of FIRST’s make-up/dynamics has potential and I think FIRST would be interested in learning about your efforts.