I don’t mean to offend anyone but I am a student who has put every hour of my spare time into designing the robot this year. This makes me feel like what I have spent my time building and making is just gonna get beaten by anyone willing to buy this system. I don’t want to get beaten by somebody who put minimal work into their robot when I have put almost every ounce of effort I have into my teams robot, I feel like the work that I have done for the last few weeks is now obsolete.
I mean no disrespect to 973 I think that it is amazing how you are able to build great robots, but if teams are just gonna buy cots for their robots and not design any major system’s of their robot I don’t think this is a competition I want to be a part of anymore.
As a student I feel really off put by this and I mean no disrespect,but I feel like all the work I have put into the robot this year just became obsolete and pointless, what is the point in doing robotics if other teams are just gonna buy their robot and assemble it, I want to learn from building robots and compete, and I want to do well at competition, I feel really discouraged because I’m not sure I can build something that will be better than this this. I think 973 is an amazing team and all their robots are amazing but I’m not sure I want to be a part of first if I’m competing against teams that can just bought 90% of their robot.
I saw these items on WCP’s website without seeing this thread and my first thought was “neat - maybe teams will use these mechanisms and have manipulators that work more often”. (This is not literally what I thought, as my literal thoughts are best left unsaid)
It’s funny to see people “upset” about the existence of this parts, pretty much for any reason listed in this thread.
“I don’t like that teams can “Buy” a “Game Specific” Mechanism”…
So people are upset with raising the floor?
“I Feel like something is lost in the process of being able to buy items like this…”
So being able to buy a basic kit - the fundamentals of a working design - left to be assembled into a final configuration determined by the needs of the team - using only COTS parts - does not actually improve the Design Process by One or Two Orders of Magnitude?
"This will increase the gaps between the “haves and have-nots”
How are these parts any different than anything else? They’re not super expensive, nor are they prohibitively difficult to acquire? If anything, they’re darn near bargain priced - to get a one off made of any of these by a machine shop or anyone with the proper tools will not end up cheaper - unless it’s donated.
And if we’re being brutally honest here - The CAD is posted online - you can Download Free Software because you’re on an FRC team - print a 1:1 paper template of any of the parts for sale (the non COTS stuff) and make it out of your choice of Material available at Home Depot (or where ever) and suddenly you have a working claw (or elevator)…
I’m upset that this has come out two weeks into the season, after we have invested so much time into our own efforts.
There’s a lot to this one - but all I’m going to touch on here is that 973/Adam/WCP/Etc pulled off game specific mechanism from Concept to Production in under 2 Weeks with minimal/no (I’m Assuming) knowledge of the game before hand - AND are using a supply chain that can respond to changes in Demand During Build Season - In Real Time. (for arguments sake, being able to restock within a week is nominally real time, compared to what is considered the status quo in FRC where items are often “Out of Stock for the Season” or do not arrive in stock for Weeks/Months after Kickoff)
Think about what’s going on here. This is actually a thing. A vendor is sourcing parts, in real time, to raise the floor of FRC - and people have negative comments. AM Has been doing this for years, as has Vex and Others - and now an FRC team is doing it…? This is something that should be celebrated.
We’ve been able to “Buy” more and more advanced Parts as the years have gone on, as others have pointed out. AndyMark, Vex [IFI], Rev, WCP, Armabot, Etc have all made huge efforts to lower the barrier to entry in FRC through various products and more complete solutions - which leads to more inspiration, and that is a fact.
TLDR, because this is probably a total rant - The Greyt Parts are awesome. They will lead to an increase in the number of people inspired through FRC. They will lower the barrier to entry into FRC. They will allow teams to build mechanisms that will work more often than not. They will allow teams to focus on the design process, iteration, testing, tuning and performing, that will have otherwise have been wasted on building lesser versions of the same thing, or nothing at all. These are all good things. Get with it people.
(However, I must say, I personally think the Greyt claw looks a bit funny, and that I’m not a fan of having so many holes…)
If I may offer some advice - it’s still week two (well, now week 3). It sounds like you’re giving up already - feeling as if you’ve lost - without ever walking onto the field.
If you’re really concerned with competing against machines that are essentially these parts - “A Purchased Robot” - why not use the Greyt components as a point of reference for your own design? You know that these components now define the floor (well, I personally wish these were the floor, but sadly, this will not) and all of the information required to reverse engineer them is now posted on line for the world to see. Take this information and improve your own design - it’s only week two (well now, week 3).
That doesn’t even begin to get into all of the other things that go into a robot beyond what can be bought. Yes these are great parts, and yes you can buy them and use them as shown and probably win events. But there is much more to it than just that. Design Optimization, Execution, Strategy, Programming, Scouting, Etc are all still in play here - all that has happened is that the Mechanical Portion is a little bit easier for those who chose to go that route.
I agree with this completely. It would really suck to work hard and devote a bunch of time to FRC, only to lose to teams that bought a sized elevator and an intake. I think the problem with this is that there is no creativity or engineering left to be done by the students. If you buy this, what are you doing? Are you designing and building a robot? Is it something you built? I think the answer to both of these questions is no. It seems many of the people arguing products like this are a good thing would also think that a complete robot built for a game would be a good thing. While those teams would do well and have fun, I don’t think they would learn anywhere near as much as teams that build a robot themselves.
The fundamental problem with products like these being available is that they punish students for working hard on their own designs, and reward teams that chose to just buy. I work hard, and, while losing isn’t fun, I at-least want to lose to people that worked just as hard as I did.
Well 973 as a team is not involved in this, just one of their mentors is doing a collar with west coast products and he has stated that the team isn’t really involved at all.
I agree with what you are saying, it does make you feel bad to be beaten or outperformed by cots parts, part of engineering/fabrication is realizing that cots do exist and can perform at the level or better than your design, just the other day at work I designed a series of shelf clamps for glass panels in a bar area of a restaurant, after having drawn 3d models of everything and submitting them, my boss and the client decided to go with a clamping that McMaster sells, I probably wasted half a work day making the models of these clamps that we would make in house.
I will say that first as a program helps kids learn real world engineering and design processes, and idk how I feel about potentially having a set of kids that just buy everything and miss out in the customer fabrication side, because I feel that can make you a less well rounded designer/engineer without the skills(being custom design experience and the ability to visualize a solution that you can actually manufacture in house)
NINJA EDIT: For clarification one of my main goals being a mentor is to help the students learn skills that will help them in their careers as well as their personal life, and I want to impart in them the ability to design and fabricate their own solutions to common problems they may encounter outside of their careers, say fixing their garage door or fence or something, instead of having to call a guy to come do it for them
Which brings me to my own personal dilema about how I feel about these new products
As a student, I enjoy participating in FRC and the FRC build season, not “being inspired.” I don’t participate to say “wow, we clicked buy on Amazon and assembled a robot, cool.” I participate to say “I built (programmed) that robot that does amazing things.” Now, very few teams would be able to get there without libraries/stock/gearboxes/motors, but no one will be able to get there with these kits.
So what you’re saying is that a team that has extensive software resources, but struggles mechanically - that is now able to buy a well designed Mechanical Assembly - that they are then able to use to allow them to field a robot capable of executing their sophisticated code - cannot say “We Built A Robot That Does Amazing Things”.
In this Hypothetical Situation, The Elevator allowed them to do things that are still Technically Difficult - if anything, it allowed them to do things that they could not have done otherwise. If they cannot build a robot capable of displaying their proficiency in software, how are they ever going to be able to say that “We Built a Robot That Does Amazing Things”
If this is the statement you are trying to make, then I would imagine it is logically flawed at some level.
This is really no different than Legos, or any other “Assemble Via Instructions” sort of Kit.
Would you really tell a Child who assembles a Lego NXT Robot Per Instructions, Then Programs it Per Instructions, To Execute a Task Per Instructions - That They have not done an Amazing thing? That they Have not Built Something?
It would seem that the value of being able to learn from someone else’s efforts is really being missed here. Not everyone is able to build a good robot - if this were the case, FRC would be MUCH different. Parts like this allow for the spread of ideas, concepts, construction methods, etc to teams that otherwise wouldn’t have access to it.
Also - to be real here, if a team buys these components and is able to win events - that’s because they’ve done the work elsewhere as well. We are still a long way off from a COMPLETE solution for an FRC robot, and there’s a tonne of Leg Work that needs to be done to actually get a Machine on the Field that moves more often than not.
I think there is a difference between building an example NXT robot and building and programming one that can compete in FLL. When I was on an FLL team we had to design, build and program our robot. I think that had we built one from the instructions we would not have learned as much or demonstrated as much proficiency. If there was a set of instructions to follow, it wouldn’t have been as fun or as rewarding.
I think to some extent of FRC competitions as the goal, more so than inspiration from them. I think there are much more practical things to be gained by designing and building a robot and facing the challenges that come with it than there are from following instructions for the simple goal of “being inspired.”
Frankly, if you can’t design and build a wheeled intake after seeing Ri3D but have the money to buy this kit, maybe this isn’t the program for you. Elevators are hard, and I am not as opposed to that anywhere near as much. Buying the elevator bearing kit from AndyMark is very reasonable and still requires design work.
I should note that a team with great software skills could absolutely say they programmed an amazing robot if they bought this kit, however, FRC teams should have skills in both areas.
I just judged an FLL Competition for the first time last December.
At least 3 Teams started their robot Presentations stating that they started with a design they found on the Internet - built that, and worked up from there.
Their final machines were not far removed from that original Design (Read as, they weren’t different, really) - yet they still spoke of those robots as their own creations, and were able to accurately describe the various portions of the process that they found rewarding, challenging and fun.
In this instance - I literally had to judge their efforts - and quite honestly, I was impressed. They took something someone else had come up with, and worked through the process of replicating it, and through that process, these children learned lessons that they would not have learned otherwise.
In the end - were these kids inspired? Yes.
Can those kids proudly state they built that robot? Yes.
That’s quite the statement to make. It contradicts so much of what this program is about.**
You’re saying that if you’re a team the resources to “design and build” something yourself that you don’t belong in FRC?
A group of kids working in an after school program, with no technical mentors - and lucky to have a teacher from their school - but with money, can use these kits and hand tools to field a halfway decent robot. What is the problem with that?
This is a good thing. We can’t fix the fact that there are teams in FRC that should likely be in a program that is less demanding, so lets make it a little less difficult for them to be successful.
Well rounded teams will always be successful teams, in all walks of life.
Being well rounded, requires strengths in all area - which requires help. If a team can use the “Wisdom of FRC Mentors” via COTS Solutions to make up for the fact that they cannot find help locally - why would this be a bad thing?
**That is not to say that I don’t have similar feelings - FRC requires an immense amount of resources to be even moderately successful, and a lot of teams would be better off in other programs.
I think that students with the money to buy this and tools to assemble it should be able to design there own intake at-least. Sure, they could take inspiration from this and Ri3D ext, but I think designing your own intake is not that hard. Again, the elevator is on a different level.
I know there has long been debates about wether mentors do to much on teams, but I never dreamed people would argue that an FRC robotics team shouldn’t design there own robot. If they don’t, what is the point? There are plenty of ways to show people STEM is cool, but to actually learn useful skills teams need to do the work.
It sure sounds like some of the students in this thread might beg to differ on this point; I’m at least partly inclined take their word for their level of inspiration over yours, as certain of this as you sound.
I see a lot of fully-general arguments about these sorts of products in this thread:
“It’s just like the kitbot.”
“It’s no different than engineering in real life.”
“It’s just another way to raise the competitive floor.”
The problem with fully-general arguments is that in their attempt to circumvent the *details *of the situation, they render themselves useless; arguments in terms of generalities give no clue as to their domains-of-validity. Even if the line of reasoning ends up holding in the case at hand, the argument offers no insight into why - and thus we can have no confidence that it does actually hold in the case of interest. There’s no “free lunch” - either you tackle the nuance directly, or you fail to say anything of relevance.
Which is to say, “this is just part of a general trend which has resulted in good things and therefore this too is good” is an argument that should convince absolutely no one, because it could be applied to a hopelessly broad class of things and thus has no defense against a reductio ad absurdum.
One says this is no different than a kitbot. How about a full COTS robot designed for this year’s game, then? Would that be different?
One says that purchasing COTS products is part of engineering in real life, and thus this is just teaching students how to be real engineers. In real life, corporate secrets and NDAs are ubiquitous, and often highly-rational choices. Would we cheer their introduction into FRC?
There is no distinguishing without dealing in details.
So, what are the relevant details, here? I will admit, I have found it somewhat vindicating to see these past couple student responses, because I think they cut to the heart of how I feel about the matter:
When I think about this product, try as I might to feel otherwise, there is one thought that keeps coming back to me: I imagine myself as a student, having poured my heart and soul into a mechanism that represents the very best I could do to solve the problem presented by the game. This mechanism may not work wonderfully; it may not get me to worlds, but it is my work. I am proud of it, and eager to see how it fares against the work of my peers around the world, who are participating in the communal engineering challenge that is FRC.
I show up to competition, and lose to several teams that simply purchased a professionally-designed version of the robot that I toiled for 6.5 weeks to complete. How do I feel in that situation? As an adult, rather steamed. As a high-school student? I might well pick up and leave FRC altogether. Yes, it is that bad of a feeling.
It is everything that people who complain about “mentor-built robots” claim as the source of their ire, without any of the counterpoints that I’m sure we’ve all become familiar with from the countless threads on the topic over the years.
It is a repudiation of everything I have felt FIRST is about, and everything valuable I have gotten out of the program.
To my mind, the relevant, detail-specific question is: is this situation I’ve described an accurate imagining of the likely result of this product?
To be completely honest, I don’t know. Karthik pointed out earlier in the thread, quite rightly, that we should probably be cautious about claiming the sky is falling; he is correct in this. We don’t know how well this thing will work out of the box. We don’t know how much effort it actually takes to integrate on a robot. We don’t know how it will compare to “home-rolled” mechanisms, on the whole. We don’t know if this will “open the door” to an acceleration of the trend and the proliferation of current-game-designed mechanisms in future FRC seasons. All of these are relevant details, and we don’t know any of them. This warrants caution - but I would like to note that it warrants caution on both sides. Thus far in this thread, I see something of an imbalance of caution; I don’t think I need to say in which direction I think the balance tips.
And while there are many things I don’t know, there is something I do: I know that, on a gut level, it feels like a threshold has been crossed on the path that leads to the end I have described above. This is something beyond what has been done before; it is a more-or-less complete mechanism designed for the current game, in the current build season. Generalities aside, this is new. It is disingenuous to pretend otherwise.
At some point between the horror of the “olden days” in which one would struggle to scrap together a gearbox with what they could find in the Small Parts, Inc. catalogue and the nightmare hypothetical I’ve imagined above, a line needs to be drawn. Is this the right place for that line? I don’t know. But it feels like it well might be, at least to me.
If nothing else, I feel this is the time for FIRST to have a long, hard think about where on this spectrum they want the competition to end up, and to begin to tailor the rules accordingly. It is entirely possible that external constraints and social pressures would prevent FIRST competitions from ever fully ending up in such a dire state; but I’d rather not leave that to the whims of an emergent system whose ultimate direction may not heed any of our desires.
And if I’m completely wrong (which is entirely possible) and the logical end of this trend is where FIRST wishes the competition to go, then perhaps when it nears that end will be the time I finally move on from FRC. But, for my part, I hope that day never comes; and I strongly suspect that if it does, my situation would not be a unique one.
So, in conclusion: don’t trivialize this. Disagree about the values; disagree about the details; but do not pretend it is a nothing, some triviality to be dismissed with platitudes about inspiration and a fully-general argument without substance. We’re better than that.
This is a great post. I disagree with some of it, but that even still, great post.
Perhaps I have trouble with some of the student opinions in this thread because I’m looking at the big picture - I still stand by my statement of more inspiration - making it easier for teams to field good robots will lead to a net gain in inspiration - not sure how this can be disagreed upon, other than the method.
Also - it’s worth mentioning that there is another side to the “This makes it less inspiring coin”.
How inspirational is losing a match because both of your partners are teams with robots that cannot complete the game objective?
I think that FIRST’s website disagrees with you with respect to method.
FRC- “High school-aged teams compete head to head on a special playing field with robots they have designed, built, and programmed”
Now, the goal is clearly inspiration, but I think the stated method is pretty clear. I think that a sugarcoated engineering experience is much less valuable than a real one, and I think that is what FRC is all about.
Selecting the best COTS parts, configuring them into a workable configuration, adding a bit of “special sauce” is what I get paid to do most days - and I’m considered an Engineer.
No matter what, these products only do the particularly hard parts for you - they are by no means a completed design. I’m really struggling to see how buying these parts is not in line with FIRST’s proposed methods.
You still have to iterate on top of these to make them workable. (The elevator needs less work than the claw probably) You could buy the Greyt claw and learn more about Engineering through 100 different combinations of wheel/power transmission/actuation than you would through your typical design…
Anyway, probably just bickering at this point. Agree to disagree.
Jumping back to this discussion regarding the old rules, I do think there would be a way to write an effectively similar rule that would be somewhat more enforceable (although would ultimately come down to the honor code, like many current rules). If FIRST wanted to reinstate a rule along these lines, they could write it to make COTS items announced after kickoff illegal.
First off (pun intended) its currently allowed so I have no issue with this form of build season cheescake, if it weren’t allowed I would feel otherwise. Its in the open.
I do think this is new, if Adam didn’t do it someone else would eventually. I believe the rational was solid to offer these at a fairly reasonable cost considering time to create the design. Adam does a lot to further First, I’ve seen what his team does to help others. This is help.
I think this is soley a FIRST decision of what they want. I think two watered down “championships” is silly and a cash grab personally so sometimes I don’t get what they are thinking. They might see it otherwise and that’s fine.
Does FIRST want the obvious down the road extension to this? The door is open down the road… for many teams previous designs for the specific current game scoring objectives ending up as COTS? I think that is a bit silly too. Need a Frisbee shooter here ya go. Need a tote stackers here ya go. Need harpoons for Recycle bins? Here ya go. Plus we’ve only seen the hardware side…software?
There are many things I shake my head at in First, yet there are many things they get very right and I always look forward to dedicating my time during “robot season” and seeing how the season will progress. The discussions with smart people with all sorts of views is part of the thrill.
At least they changed the auto scoring plates to avoid Armageddon. They also changed the yellow flags week 1 last year too…so they are listening.
Edit: I believe First should consider complete separation of team personnel like current mentors, parents or students and suppliers like WCP , Vex and Andy Mark if they involved in a team as well as using team designs in the future. There is too much potential for conflict of interest down the road and is easily solved. I do support consultation with team personnel to judge the effectiveness of a COTS item in a past or current game as Ri3D seems to do to beta test the new items they developed for the game. There has to ultimately be separation otherwise it just causes a lot of ruckus and questions as evidenced here. I also support lowering the price allowed for COTS to discourage complex kits from the vendors that offer expensive “separate” add-ons as a game piece manipulator solution. Both elevators this year do that it can get expensive if you buy all the custom paired options associated with the base kit on the same purchase page way beyond the already high COTS unit limit creating one expensive under limit because of separate custom parts COTS unit. Like trim levels on autos this is what’s new lately at both AM and WCP with the elevators as an example. In essence what I think would be desirable in the future is make the “buy it” decision not as good as the “design it” solution for game piece manipulators. Similar to that AM stronghold intake add on posted earlier. Right now that’s somewhat reversed. I don’t blame anyone for “buying it” this year or providing solutions for purchase.