Thoughts on Ri3D and BuildBlitz

Before you read this, please know that my opinion might not be shared among the majority of ChiefDelphi users, and I accept that. I just think I should share my opinion and thoughts, and hopefully help to improve FRC.

First, I do want to say that I truly appreciate how much effort and time went in to Ri3D and BuildBlitz this year. The participants were an incredible example of what is possible to do, and I thank them for their time. The robots they designed were and are incredible. That said…

The Problem

I feel like although Ri3D and BuildBlitz are incredibly inspirational as to what a team could theoretically accomplish in just 72 hours, they are helping teams a little too much.

When they release videos of how ever part on their robot works, CAD drawings down to the last nut bolt and rivet and number of links they used in their chain, they kill the ingenuity and originality of many frc teams. Why reinvent the wheel when you have 6 fully-functional rule-abiding choices complete with parts lists and design videos that you can copy?

I agree that many teams are not going to directly copy a robot from these 6 teams, however I personally know 3-4 that have chosen to. I know our team is borrowing ideas from many of the robots, and that the moment the reveal videos, CAD drawings and other marketing materials came out, the ingenuity and originality on our team went down, and it was disappointing to me.

Some of us wanted to directly copy parts of their robots and others of us wanted to steer as far away from any of the designs as possible, just because we felt copying their designs wasn’t right.

What I Suggest

Have the Ri3D and BuildBlitz teams continue to inspire teams. But don’t release CAD drawings and parts lists and complete specs – leave something to the imagination until after build season is over, or at least after it’s ⅔ done.

Only release a reveal video after the 72 hours, and make it be just the robot driving/shooting/climbing/miniboting/swimming, with no human narrating it’s abilities. Again, I think this would cause the teams to be inspired by what is possible, without making them decide to build a copy of one of their robots.

Again, I know this probably isn’t a popular opinion, but I feel I needed to share it. Have any other teams felt this way at all? Did Ri3D or BuildBlitz curb your ingenuity or originality of design?

I think that it is great to have these conversations. There have been a lot of discussions on CD about these 3 day builds. Here is one thread of a few.

Matt

I agree with the thoughts you shared here. While my team isn’t really using anything from Ri3D or Build Blitz, I know that many teams will. Just look at last year. With only one robot in 3 days, there were many teams who were carbon copies of that design, and many who followed their suggestions. Not that this is entirely a bad thing, because some teams do need some inspiration right off the bat in build season. I liked having 5 (almost 6) different robots this year because teams could be inspired by many different robots. What you stated about CAD drawings and parts lists is exactly correct, because teams shouldn’t need these unless they plan on building the same robots. So in conclusion I completely agree with you. Robot in 3 days is inspirational and helpful, but giving teams ways to just copy a robot design is not.

*(http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1312604&postcount=36)

If you don’t like Ri3D or Buildblitz, your team and your team alone has the right to decide not to pay attention to BuildBlitz/Ri3D and all resulting designs and CAD models and videos.

Just because there’s a bunch of violence on television does not mean that I have to watch it. Similarly, if a team decides that it is preferable to design in a vacuum, that is their right.

Personally, I don’t see where the obsession with creating unique designs comes from. FIRST robots have always been a combination (in various degrees) of previously existing technologies and game mechanisms. Build Blitz/Ri3D just happen to be introducing more relevant mechanisms (none of which, by the way, are really anything new-- winches and catapults have a had a large deal of previous use in FRC). The only mechanism that I saw that I don’t think is relatively common knowledge (other than Boom Done’s awesome use of sensors) was the choo-choo mechanism of Team JVN. Roller intakes are classic, catapults were used in 2008 and a little bit in 2012, winches have been used in 2008, 2010, 2013, at least, and motor-powered flingers (like Boom Done), while not exactly common, are really just an extension of a classic arm/lever design.

Individual mechanisms very rarely in themselves grant teams advantages. It’s integrating, effectively implementing, and quickly building mechanisms that is the real difference.

Borrowing designs is not a bad thing. There are no patents in FIRST robot design (at least by teams).*

I agree with a previous poster that the three day robots have the right to do what they’re doing. However, I’m still unsure if I like the Ri3D teams or not

PROS-
We end up with competitive teams that are fun to watch
Week 1 regionals in 2012 were pretty darn awful to watch because teams were so bad
Experienced teams who know that certain things will work really well don’t have a massive advantage any more.

CONS-
There are tons of clones of robots out there.
A moderately competitive team now doesn’t stand out as much from a Ri3D copy.
(this could be seen as a pro for some teams)
Less fun to design and prototype your robot.

Arguably if everyone does this, it’s no longer a competitive intake.

Raising the bar and all.

True, but there will be a good portion of teams who will compete with an intake that is inferior to the Ri3D intake. IMO, with the new defense rule, your intake will be the most important part of the robot.

I actually got into an argument with my son about this sort of thing. I became a mentor to help these kids who little to no mechanical experience learn how to put stuff together. One of the things I personally try to get across is this program is suppose to be about thinking outside the box and using some imagination. We all want to make it to Einstein and win, but to me it is more about the learning experience, and learning how to things work and move rather than having an uber competitive bot.
Just my two cents.

I understand some people’s fear of a loss of originality because of the 3 day robots. But I wouldn’t say 2013 had any less original designs than before. Sure the ‘Ri3D robot’ was popular, but in 2012 the ‘polycord elevator to hooded single wheel shooter’ was just as common. As was the ‘4-bar with roller claw’ in 2011.

To overuse the word arguably…

Arguably one of the most important lessons we can teach our students is how to win.

Setting goals, working against seemingly impossible odds, not giving up after failure, working harder, working smarter, etc…

Isn’t it more important to teach them how to think!!?? Winning is nice, but it shouldn’t be the end all be all. Putting forth true effort, and learning something is way more important than bragging rights.

FIRST is a competition…not just about winning a trophy, but winning sponsorship, support from school, and the other non-robot awards associated with a competition.
Every journey is unique and teams have the right to choose which route they want to take.

Personally, I think Ri3D and Build Blitz was one of the best things that have happened in recent years.
Not only do they help teams come up with ideas, they show how teams can utilize their respective products they market and sell.

To achieve what I said against the caliber of competition out there is impossible without thinking. A lot. I said “working smart” after all.

I’ll also say that our team doesn’t compete for bragging rights. We enjoy winning when it happens (as everyone should), but what we really take pleasure in at the end of everything is the transformation in each and every member of the group. Even kids that are barely involved and don’t contribute much (shy, first year, not outgoing, whatever reason) get instilled with an unshakable sense of quality and hard work that often springboards them into much success in their coming seasons with us, and in the rest of their lives.

What is FIRST’s mission?

Inspiration.

To me, the Ri3D type of robots are a good thing and maybe not so good of a thing. They’re a good thing because they raise the floor, allowing teams to see a successful design or six in action, then copy it (and if you just copy it, you’re missing out–the subtle improvements are where it’s at, folks!). They allow more teams to actually be competitive at regionals, never a bad thing–anybody else remember the older days, when if you got one BLT on your alliance, your only hope was that they could play some really good defense?

That said, the not-so-good part is that some teams will just copy the designs. Anybody who’s seen me answer “obvious” rules and/or design questions knows that I’m not going to give a straight answer right away, I’m going to go the long way around (often involving math) and try to teach something along the way. I’m a big fan of not giving the answer, and a big fan of teaching how to think–and NOT a big fan of having everybody just say “Do my homework for me.”

So, I opt to be somewhat neutral, because of what I just outlined. I can see both sides as having valid points.

I think we are saying the same thing just differently. I’ve heard a bunch of bellyaching about this years game, but I think it really brings the “teamwork” back.

To consistently win you need to learn how to think. Engineering is about using your resources. Buy/make analysis is a common occurrence in industry. Using prior examples is also a common occurrence.

If you want to build a bridge, you learn the techniques and the math, but you also look at past winning bridges. That’s how you build a winning (*(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-zczJXSxnw)) bridge.

Winning does not exclude learning, to requires it.

Check out my user title (right under my name), I think it’s appropriate for this discussion.*

I agree that having robots being built in three days and having all the cad files and part numbers readily available is an issue and allows teams to be lazy, but I feel that is not that big of an issue.

My thought being that yes some teams will take these ideas and do better than they have in the past but for the most part teams will continue to only build upon the basic ideas or use their own totally original ideas that will get them the win on Einstein. And using ideas from other teams or past years is not always a bad thing. I don’t see anyone on here complaining about that fact that pretty much half of FIRST uses or has used at sometime 1114’s kitbot on steroids and that’s because it’s a good and well tested design that makes a better robot.

I feel that robot in three days has actually made FIRST a lot more competitive now because although it does now allow teams to just take some cad and part files and build a totally solid and competition ready robot, it also forces teams to figure out ways to defeat these ideas and make even more effective and well designed robots. Because in the end the Ri3D and BuildBlitz bots might be able to make it to district or regional eliminations, but they will all be beat out by better designed robots that came from a teams original idea.

Similar to cadandcookies, I stand by my pre-season post

While there was a lot of cool stuff shown on Ri3d/BuildBlitz, our team compared the final bots against the strategy discussions we had in the first 3-4 days. We decided there were a few shortcomings in the designs (as you would expect with only 3 days to conceptualize and build). We are inspired to design a robot that correct these shortcomings and is a level above and beyond what we saw.

Overall I think Ri3d/BuildBlitz added to the season in a positive way.

-matto-

I cannot speak for VEX on this matter. I just want to bring another factor to your attention.

This year’s game is very easy compared to the last two years. There isn’t much getting around it.

This year’s game challenges are effectively:
-score in the high goal (also means you can truss toss.)
-intake ball (also means you can score in the low goal and assist by spitting out)
-catch a ball/pass ball

You can argue the finer details but the best robots in the world basically just be doing these three things really well. You could say this game has a low ceiling – meaning the robot that does everything really doesn’t have to do as much as other years.

2013, by comparison, was much more challenging. There was not a single robot in 2013 that could do every part of the game – meaning the ceiling was very high, perhaps the highest in FRC history.

2012 is much more similar to 2014 in that there are fewer things to do. However, shooting into a basket (IMHO) was and still is the most technically challenging thing an FRC robot has ever had to do. The 27’ wide 2014 high goal is child’s play by comparison.

The thing I’m trying to get at here is because this game has a lower ceiling than most, the 5 robots built in three days this year were all able to accomplish more of the game tasks than they would have been able to do in harder years like 2012 and 2013. This makes them more attractive to directly copy rather than use for inspiration like they are intended.

Food for thought
Regards, Bryan