Back when I was a student, the FRC and VEX PIC-based micro controllers could barely handle a few interrupts for basic PID on a few motors. Try doing PID on too many motors, or try implementing motion profiling across the board, or try adding more than a handful of floating point or trig calculations, and you bogged down the processor. Sometimes you could cheat it a bit if you multiplied all your values by 100 or 1000, and solely used ints and trig look up tables, but otherside odometry as we know it now simply wasn’t technically possible yet on that hardware.
But I’m not here to bore you with “back in my day, we had to walk 15 miles uphill in January” boomer stories like Grandpa Simpson.
I’m here because a very important lesson to learn in life, especially in engineering and technology, is that the cutting edge work you did while cutting your teeth and learning STEM does not stay cutting edge forever. This is something important to come to terms with. As computing devices get more powerful, as sensors get better, as batteries develop more energy density, eventually the really hard stuff we used to struggle with becomes common.
Usually this starts as custom code libraries or features in really high end automobiles or computers. If it’s hardware, prices drop as it starts getting more use in lower trim model cars or cheaper smartphones. Then as it reaches wider adoption, it typically becomes built in as a standardized commodity, because people are tired of having to do X every time they actually want to do the next task Y.
That’s when it happens. X becomes so standard, so basic, so universal, that we stop thinking about it as a problem, and just use it as the next tool in our arsenal, and move on to the next higher problem to solve.
And that’s fine. And normal. And the reason why our standard of life as a society has gotten orders of magnitude better since The Enlightenment. We use our prior tools and achievements to unlock new tools and achievements.
But nor does it devalue your prior struggles as you pushed the envelope. You did great work at the time, and you helped push and advance capabilities across the board. That effort made you a better person, a better future engineer, and better prepared to solve the next problem, whether in future VEX competitions or in life.
The only difference is that the next batch of students will solve slightly different, slightly more advanced problems.