Based on the feedback we got last season, we saw that it was important for us to continue doing Build Blitz to help provide teams with resources, instructions, and inspiration to guide them through the build season. At the same time our feedback told us that many teams were concerned that the evolution of these quick designs was having unintended consequences on the community. We hope that by shifting our focus from complete robots to game specific educational resources, we’ve hit the sweet spot where we can help and inspire many, without removing the challenges we all love and thrive on in FRC.
This is an interesting development with Build Blitz. While I personally will miss seeing fully functional robots within 3 days of kickoff, this is a great compromise between the two sides of the argument.
In fact, if you guys develop your educational resources accordingly, we may actually see an increase in the variety of designs for less experienced teams. That’s always great to see!
Looking forward to the second edition of Build Blitz .
We want to be careful with committing to any dates prior to kickoff; so much of what we develop is going to be game specific, we don’t want to over commit prior to knowing the game. Once we wrap our heads around the game and decide what resources we’re focusing on, we’ll publish a detailed timeline of what to expect. Now in terms of generalities, we hope to be developing and releasing our Build Blitz resources across the the first week of the build season.
This idea of not building complete robots and focusing on educational materials is a really good development. I hope the other quick build teams take a similar approach. Having solutions just handed to students has always seemed to me to be depriving them of the valuable experience of prototyping and dreaming. It’s all too easy to look at something that works and say “let’s do that.”
I don’t think that anybody from around my area would outright copy from a CAD file. I would feel the need to improve upon the design or remake it with my own watermark or splice it with other designs. It might vary from team to team, as I live in a fiercely competitive/ prideful area.
The issue that most vocal detractors of the 3 day builds isn’t about teams copy cad files… It’s about teams seeing a finished design and copying the whole concept. How many choo-choo’s and el-toro’s did we see last year? Teams take the finished robots and just say “let’s do what they did” instead of experimenting, prototyping and coming up with their own ideas.
Personally, I love this new direction. Focusing on educational materials and prototyping various ideas will hopefully help to increase creativity and diversity in Design, without giving teams an “easy out” of copying a complete robot they know works.
I think this is a good development. Even though I am firmly in the camp that believes the three day builds have been good for FRC. I just spent a lot of time going through our old match videos and trying to grab good pictures of as many of the robots we have played with and against as possible. As a side project I was also looking at robot designs. And one thing that is clear to me is that the last couple of years have seen a significantly higher percentage of functional robots. And once I subtracted out all of the box on wheels (or box on wheels with non-functional devices) robots I did not see a lessening of variety.
That said, if this project helps teams with ideas about how to develop prototypes without complete robot designs I think it will be a positive development for FRC. I think that the biggest problem many rookies have is that limited experience and limited resources often inhibit the development of prototypes. I think that sometimes older, more well-resourced with experience teams tend to forget how much their institutional knowledge plays into their development process, because to them it just is a part of the process. This seems to me to be a good way to increase that knowledge base across the FRC community.
To be fair, we don’t really know the scope of this new Build Blitz, and it could certainly lead to similar things. I initially thought this new version would make detractors of Build Blitz even more angry because we would be seeing multiple mechanisms and ideas prototyped, tested, and built by Vex.
My impression from from Karthik said above (though I’m certainly just speculating here) is that they plan to release game specific designs or ideas, just not a whole robot. Why waste time building a drivetrain when you do more service by building another arm or pick-up mechanism? I think this is a pretty great idea. We’ll see later what the full plans are, though I’m currently expecting more than just videos talking about design techniques or documents of educational material.
The plan to roll out content over the course of the first week, I think, is one of the most important improvements. Last year, I felt it was simply too much, too quickly - much of the important process that led to the designs (brainstorming, prototyping, tuning) were washed out in mad rush of the 3-day build. At the end of it, it was common to have students wanting to copy aspects of the different robots without any firm motivation other than “it looked good on the reveal video.”
It sounds like it’ll be much easier to parse the information this year (what works well, what doesn’t, and most importantly why that’s the case), which is very important.
I don’t think Vex is going to produce the only viable designs, nor, likely, the optimal ones. What it will do, however, is provide viable designs that have already been proven to work for teams that do not have the resources to experiment with many different ideas. This significantly raises the floor of the competition, and I think that is a good thing.
Anecdotally, in 4464’s rookie year we did not have the money nor manpower to pursue prototypes if we did not know that they would eventually pan out. The Ri3D two-wheel linear shooter made our robot possible that year - not because we copied it exactly (we didn’t - our robot was a full-court shooter and looked very little like theirs), but because they demonstrated a working proof-of-concept and we could purchase the parts for a similar design with the confidence that they would eventually make it onto our robot. That was invaluable.
I’ll miss the full robots, but I’m glad Vex is doing what it is doing. It is quite honestly a huge service for the entire FRC community - both struggling teams and the better-off teams who play with them.
While we all love to talk about how events like these kill creativity or hand teams a solution, they really aren’t. What it is doing is killing the “creativity” of a team who only had the resources to test one idea and run with it regardless of effectiveness. Quite frankly I would rather these teams be able to play the game at all than “creatively” struggle to complete even the most basic tasks. Clearly those teams making the copies would too.
I don’t think a lot of teams who are “well off” realize how huge of a burden prototyping can be on a young, understaffed team. Over the past half decade 2791 has been working more and more each year toward strong, varied prototyping in build season, and it’s way harder than it looks. In the absence of well trained students, you essentially need a mentor per prototyping group to really keep everyone focused and ask the right questions needed for the students to push the prototype further. Until this year, perhaps last, we did not have the resources to prototype more than one mechanism at a time.
2791 has enjoyed some relative success in the past few seasons. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that we are a competitive team at the regional level. But we owe so much of that success to sharing design concepts, learning how other teams’ prototypes worked, and some straight up copying of a prototype or two. Our 2014 shooter, 2013 shooter, 2012 hopper, these are all mechanisms that we were only able to pursue with exposure to others’ prototypes and having the privilege of being able to choose what to prototype based on those ideas.
The only reason we were able to take our limited prototyping resources and apply them in such a focused way toward a proven good concept? We network with several teams throughout the build season to exchange this kind of information. This is not a benefit that every team has. What Vex Build Blitz and Ri3D do is give every team in FRC access to some viable concepts to start from. I think for hundreds of teams this resource is invaluable.
I agree wholeheartedly with everything posted in this thread. Because of Ri3D and BuildBlitz, I have seen teams become competitive, if they understand how to create those robots effectively.
I have a question. For 2014, would you rather have 6 different robots for teams to iterate upon (JVN, Copioli, BoomDone, Ri3D 1.0, 1114 2008, O-Ryon), or all those teams to attempt an 1114 2008 robot, which is a good design, but it would lead to less parity in robot design, and likely more boxes on wheels.
I’ll ask you another question: In 2013/2014, If you are an “original” 9/10 robot up against three 8/10 robots in qualifications, would you rather be teamed up with 2 2/10 boxes on wheels, or 2 6/10 Ri3D clones?