FIRST Robotics Competition team 3201, Ross Rambotics, is excited for the brand new FIRST Innovation Challenge presented by Qualcomm. This challenge shares many similarities with both the FIRST LEGO League Challenge Innovation Project and the FIRST Tech Challenge & FIRST Robotics Competition robot aspects. Students will continue to grow in STEM knowledge and technical skills while utilizing the FIRST Core Values and working as a team to develop solutions. At the same time, this process calls upon an important subset of skills less present in the other aspects of FIRST.
Because of the differences between the traditional competition and the FIRST Innovation Challenge, it seems many teams are at a loss for where to start. This thread serves as a place for team 3201 to document its process, share pointers, and answer questions about the challenge. We make no promises as to the frequency, consistency, or detail of updates, but will try to keep things up-to-date.
Approximately half a dozen team members will be focusing their efforts on the FIRST Innovation Challenge this season. Most have had extensive active involvement in the FIRST LEGO League Innovation Project, with experienced members from Snakebytes (FLL 357) and Global Innovation Award Runners-Up LEGO Legion (FLL 2751). As such, we feel qualified to provide advice and best practices, but at the same time, we’re still learning too and appreciate your feedback.
We’ve already drawn some comparisons between the FIRST Innovation Challenge and the FIRST LEGO League Innovation Project, but how similar are they, really?
|FIRST Innovation Challenge||FIRST LEGO League Innovation Project|
|Core “Prompt” 2020/2021||“Identify a problem or opportunity and design a solution to help people (or a community of people) keep, regain, or achieve optimum physical and/or mental health and fitness through active play or movement.”||“Identify a specific problem linked to people not being active enough. Research your problem and your solution ideas. Design a new piece of technology or improve an existing one. Make a model or prototype to show how your solution helps people be active. Share your solution, collect feedback, and iterate on your design. Pitch your solution at an event.”|
|Initial Timeline||2 Months||4-6 Months|
- Problem/Opportunity (200 Words)
- Solution (200 Words)
- Technology (100 Words)
|Judging/Interview Session||2 Minute Pitch
3 Minute Presentation
10 Minute Q & A
|5 Minute Presentation
5 Minute Q & A
|Judging Emphasis||Problem or Opportunity
|Advancement/Awards||2-4 GIA Semi-Finalists per GROUP
20 GIA Finalists per Program
6 GIA Awards per Program
|~400 GIA Nominees Worldwide
20 GIA Semi-Finalists
2 GIA Runners-Up, 1 Winner (overall)
As you can see above, one of the largest differences between the challenges is the amount of time teams will have until their first judging session. FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition teams have fewer than 2 months until the March 4 deadline for submitting the Executive Summary, and interviews will presumably take place shortly after. Meeting such a tight schedule requires careful planning, so that you don’t get stuck with half a solution.
To plan out our progression, we have created a Gantt chart documenting when we need to be focusing on what. Break the process into milestones (selecting a problem, selecting a solution, writing a pitch, etc.) and work backward from your “drop-dead” submission date of March 4. Break larger goals into more granular tasks when you see fit. Make sure to leave plenty of breathing room and be prepared to adjust your timing
if when things go wrong.
Identify a problem or opportunity and design a solution to help people (or a community of people) keep, regain, or achieve optimum physical and/or mental health and fitness through active play or movement.
There is an enormous set of viable solutions and worthy opportunities within the domain of the challenge prompt, and wrapping your head around it all is understandably difficult. Let’s examine some different ways we can break these down into more manageable chunks.
The words “health,” “fitness,” and “activity,” are so inextricably linked that this prompt can easily turn into one big pile of mush where fitness pervades everything. A careful reading, however, reveals that kept, regained, or achieved physical and/or mental health and fitness is the ultimate goal (ba dum tss) whereas active play or movement is simply the means to get there. Having a solution that keeps people active and moving is great, but consider the underlying problem: what specific improvement are you bringing to your target market’s health and fitness.
The more specific the end user of your innovative solution, the better you can target its features and user experience. As early as possible, you need to identify the market who presents the problem or opportunity. We find it helpful to generate a list of both types of potential users and specific categories of pain points they may have. A snippet of that may look something like this:
Your solution should offer a unique value proposition (selling point) for each pain point you attempt to solve.
Our lead mentor introduced students to a concept from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s a very useful model to think about human behavior challenges, and what part of the problem you are approaching. After all, the FIRST Innovation Challenge is all about changing things.
The core analogy of the book is an elephant and its rider on a journey. The Elephant is massive, stubborn, and impulsive. The Rider is logical but struggles to retain control-- they analyze problems, but sometimes to the point of paralysis. The Path is winding and full of pitfalls.
To create change, you must:
- Direct the Rider (the rational mind) by pointing to the destination and reducing mental clutter.
- Motivate the Elephant (the emotional mind) by invoking feelings and connecting emotionally.
- Shape the Path (the environment) by removing distractions and removing obstacles.
2 Minute Explanation Video
Tackling all three aspects at once is a grand challenge indeed. Reflect on how your problems and solutions fit into this context and consider simplifying your approach to address just one of the factors (Rider, Elephant, or Path). You don’t need to improve all to bring about positive change.
Next time we’ll be sharing about how we conduct research interviews and the questions you should be asking to get to the heart of the problem. Until then, best of luck in your own FIRST Innovation Challenge journey; if we can be of assistance, give us a shout here or at rossrambotics.com.