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.