What are your thoughts in regards to identical robot designs from the same school/club?
At some local competitions, different teams from the same school, or club, are using identical robots. For my teams, I try to encourage the kids to pursue their own design and ideas. However, as the season progresses, one design becomes clearly better than the other, and the robots start to converge.
Sometimes, I feel like I am holding back one of my team by asking them not to copy the other robot. I don’t prohibit them, but I encourage them to optimize their own design, to learn to drive it well to maximize their robot skills score, and work on their programming. However, the robot design itself eventually becomes the weak point. So later in the season, the two teams start to have similar designs/robots.
This makes sense to me as we also see other teams/school copying our team’s design/ideas. All fine and fair - you learn from your competitors, and you make improvements to your robots based on what you see at tournaments. So as other teams start to copy/borrow our design, I eventually “allow” our own teams to converge on their design (if they want).
But it feels strange to me to have identical robots at the beginning of the season.
Any thoughts on this? How do you keep your own teams from bringing a single design to a competition? Or do you even worry about that at all?
I try to encourage their own ideas too but what often happens by late season is if one team figures out a great design, the others gravitate towards that. Now some years I have had the exact opposite where teams start out with similar ideas then decide to explore other avenues. Personally I dont have an issue with it. My philosophy is that as long as teams can document the design process in their notebooks and that the bot didnt magically change overnight (one page to the next), it’s fine. Every year we have went to Worlds you wind up seeing 2-3 designs among 200 teams so I think the whole “best practices” idea comes out in the end.
The kids typically want their robot to be unique, and feel guilty about copying someone else’s design. But like you said, as the season progresses, it becomes clear which designs (or perhaps more accurately which scoring strategies) are more successful. Sometimes it is necessary to prod teams into ditching their original design and starting over based on someone else’s idea.
I’ve also observed that teams that don’t make that transition when they need to will stagnate and lose interest. And, that teams seem to have an easier time borrowing design ideas from other teams that they don’t know, rather than from their own classmates.
Kids are taught not to plagiarize and to reference their sources when writing. So they want to know how borrowing someone else’s design is not plagiarism? I’m looking for a better answer, but I usually tell them that they are allowed to copy and that they need to adapt to stay competitive. Sometimes they get going if they are told to study other designs, and then find a way to make them better, or to try and take the best features from a couple good designs and create something new.
It would seem unusual if all the teams in a robotics program had identical robots, especially in the beginning of the season, unless they were all clawbots. But there are scenarios where that could happen, for instance all the kids collaborated on a single design, even before they were separated into teams. Or everyone watched the same YouTube video of a robot that they think is the best.
Identical or extremely similar? Robots that are part for part the same, have identical programming, etc. would be pretty unusual.
What jrp62 said is pretty much how I feel overall. Sometimes multiple teams practice together and naturally incorporate each other’s ideas. Kids see designs online and want to reverse engineer them.
When it comes to judged awards is when it becomes obvious the pitfalls of identical robots. It would be very hard to replicate a good design process if the team themselves did not come up with the design or do not understand the rationale behind why some things are built this way and not that. I’ve judged VRC tournaments where it became obvious that one individual was responsible for 15-20 team designs.
As a coach you have to be careful… If you have a team that has a great idea and another one that copies them from your same organization, then both of your teams can be punished with the judged awards.
From the top of the second page:
Examples of this may include:
Robots built entirely by adults or, in the case of younger student, mentors (i.e., high school students building robots for elementary or middle school teams).
Identical robots on two or more teams (so called clone-bots).
Adults who criticize students from alliance teams for poor performance, failure to perform optimally or who blame other teams for low scores rather than offering positive suggestions.
Judges should not reward teams that Judges have clearly identified as not student centered with any Judged awards.
I had written a long post here, but I realized that it came down to “what jrp62 said” and I don’t want to plagiarize.