I feel weird about this, but I’m not really sure how to articulate it.
Let’s do a thought experiment for a second. Start with this premise - is it okay to sell a complete FRC robot for a game? That’s not what’s being done here, I know, but this question establishes if there is “a line” or not. If you think teams should be able to, great, then this is fine to you.
If you don’t, then, there is some line where a COTS product is okay to sell and some line where it is not. Where is this line? Back in the old days, the manual used to draw this, with a vague unenforceable rule prohibiting pre-designed mechanisms designed to entirely solve a specific aspect of the game challenge. But that wasn’t meaningful, and it sort of implied you can’t sell a kitbot, and it faded away. That’s not quite everyone’s line.
In my mind, at least until this happened (I’m now not sure what to think, I’m not taking a firm position one way or another here), the line always seemed to be “sell the parts to make world class robots, not the entire mechanism”. The components released were pretty generic and could be used in any game, like VersaFrame gussets, wheels, rollers, gearboxes, etc. What’s changed about this is that these are now products explicitly designed and sold as products to play this year’s FRC game. Sure, it’s not ZERO work to get these to an effective state (I mean, many teams can’t effecticely use the kitbot!), but for maybe 80% of teams, it’s as good or better than what they could either develop on their own or with COTS building blocks.
All of you making snarky one liner posts about how buying a complete end effector and lift is exactly the same as the kitbot are willfully misunderstanding the reservations people have with this. The kitbot is a device that raises the floor, allowing every team the ability to drive. It’s also the one part of the game challenge present every year, and a challenge that is so important to success your entire season is a waste ifyou can’t do it. These parts here are essentially out of the box, world class solutions to the game’s challenges.
I want to love anything COTS that makes robotics more accessible, and until now I always have. But I guess what’s giving me second thoughts is sitting in my shop, looking at the prototype claw my team’s brightest kids are slaving over, and knowing that this claw exists which absolutely would work better than what the kids are making right now. If I want to encourage this team to be as competitive as they can, I would need to say “hey, this manipulator looks like it’ll be better than what we’re doing, so we need to buy it or we’re just wasting our time.” I guess to some extent the Kitbot already did this, but, I feel like if these products are a normal part of every year’s game… when is it ever going to be the wrong move to fundraise enough to buy these? In terms of opportunity cost to benefit, you just can’t beat it unless you yourself are a world class team.
I’m sure this is an overreaction, and I’ll feel better about it tomorrow, maybe it won’t really even get bought much. But I just wanted to say something with all of these callous snarky responses to the legitiamite uneasiness people feel about this. Even if you don’t agree, their concerns are not without merit, and these people don’t deserve to be talked down to for trying to have an important discussion we need to have sooner or later.