"Is it like that Robot Fighting Show?" Discussion

I was trying to explain what I do to my other job so I could get a couple days off to help in off season and I got the question again… you know the one, “is it like that robot fighting show??” and obviously I would say no and they would get disappointed and/or just not care about the conversation from then on.

So my questions are

  1. How many times do you hear this?
  • Almost every time
  • All the time
  • Sometimes
  • Almost never
  • Never heard this

0 voters

And 2. How do you keep people interested in the topic when you say no?

I want to explain how fun, challenging, and EPIC it is but it always ends up as a “you’d have to be there to get it”.

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How I handle the question depends on the context, my goals (if I have any). In a corporate setting I emphasis the value to society or corporate responcibilty Always plant the seed that this would be a could use of their outreach funds. In a social setting I might mention several of our suppliers play in battle robot world, but still emphasize the value of the program. In the polite small talk category I will drop it if the interest isn’t there and the conversation moves on.

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I usually say “it’s more like sports. We’ve made robots that play soccer, basketball, shoot frisbees, do pull ups. There’s scoring, referees, play by play game announcers, etc.”

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Yeah, i generally go with some variant of “If BattleBots is the robot equivalent of boxing, we’re playing the robot equivalent of [basketball, football, soccer, etc]”. Generally gets the point across pretty well.

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I think that most of us wish that we had enough money to play FRC like BattleBots.

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This happens to me once in a while, though I tend to get an open-ended “what is that” rather than “is that like battle bots”. When I explain it, I try to work in:

  • The kids have 8 weeks to design, build, program a 120 lb robot (wow so big! such a short amount of time!!!)
  • The game is different every year
  • For example, this year the robots [can score points by shooting foam balls into high and low goals, and they get bonus points if they climb at the end]. If there’s a complicated game mechanic like the control panel I usually leave it out of the cliff notes.
  • If they seem interested at all, I show them a picture or video clip of the robot on my phone

That’s as much detail as I give about FRC. Any conversation after that is about what a great opportunity that must be for the kids, isn’t it frustrating to work with teenagers? haha you must be a saint; how gorgeous that robot in the photo is, seriously that was all machined by high schoolers?, how satisfying it is to see them blossom as people and engineers, how proud of them I am, etc. In my experience, adults are far more interested in that stuff than in hearing me go on and on trying to explain how fun and epic FRC is. There’s nothing you can say to most people that will get them visibly excited about the specialness of your particular competition, but most of them understand coaching and can relate on that level - either they’ve coached their kids’ extracurriculars, or they appreciate the coaches who did, or they themselves had a coach when they were growing up who had a big impact on them. Sometimes I throw in “I did robotics in high school and that’s why I became an engineer” for good measure.

Of course, if you’re making a serious pitch for substantial support (such as monetary sponsorship or extra paid days off), you’d probably need to come up with something more formal and focused on the measurable impact FRC has on your students. But if you’re just trying to explain your hobby in a way that doesn’t bore people, the above works pretty well.

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Rather than give numbers to illustrate size, I’ve found it useful to say “six refrigerator-sized robots on a volleyball court-sized field.”

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I usually try to explain the competition (3 v 3 match, robots do things for points, etc.) - if the person you’re talking to is interested in battlebots, they’d probably be more engaged by the strategy/game aspect of FRC than the learning new skills/designing things aspect.

This was one of my favorite lines at demos. I always went with football, because there’s still a bit of violence, but more just shoving than throwing punches.

It’s so much easier to just say yes and move on. In a job interview or elevator pitch, I’m taking the path of least resistance. My robots break frequently and we’ve definitely broken a few too.

Rarely get follow-up beyond “awesome!” and if I do, then I’ll explain further. Lets meet folks where they’re at.

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I usually do some variation of
“Yeah Battlebots is great! But FIRST is to Battlebots what the NFL is to UFC. A high-contact sport true, but one that has rules designed to protect the participants.”

And then from there I can go to any number of games to describe the different tasks we tend to get.

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Go back 20 years

I have coached both Battlebots IQ and FIRST. I think both are great challenges for design and build projects for prospective engineers, programmers, and manufacturers. We don’t need the tribal “we are better” kind of talk. I just explain the differences. My students and sponsors accept our current choice of projects.

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Absolutely, I beleive that neither should be a “Well this is better because~” I actually wish I could say yes to most people who ask that cause I love talking about battlebots just as much! Just gotta love the ingenuity and destruction!

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My go-to description tries to encapsulate the competition dynamic as well: Its like a 3 on 3 pick-up basketball game, but with robots competing instead of people.
That usually redirects the questions to less destructive topics.

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One thing that was pointed out by a team parent that kinda stuck with me is that FRC robots are actually more complex than a battlebot (from a degrees of freedom perspective, not robustness/analysis perspective obviously).

Thinking about it, the average battlebot is a drivetrain and a weapon. Compare that with say our robot from 2020 which had:

  • Drivetrain

  • Deployable intake

  • Funnel

  • Conveyor

  • Turret

  • Shooter

  • Climber

  • Bar traverser

  • Control Panel Mechanism

So, it may not technically be the truth, but I’ve found it does actually get them curious when I say that. Your milage may vary by year and by team.

I just thought that was interesting.

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Reminds me a lot of this clip: https://youtu.be/Q2aMfb8blew?list=PLkZ6_Ld1x9Y-NVXrPKlczEojZo8Q5EsvI&t=797

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My answer from TEN YEARS ago.

indeed it was ten years ago!

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