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  • Judging an FLLCasts robot

    During Robot Design judging, a team came in with an FFLcasts robot, identical down to the color; their attachments, their programs, all apparently provided by FLLCasts.

    They were docked for innovation, but still the top robot in judging. Would you have given them a trophy?
    scoTT

  • #2
    Saw one today also. Along with several robot educator robots and a lot of "dog gear" attachments ala Builderdude. Got to expect a lot of copying when there are over 600 teams in your region.

    I look at the robot mostly as a delivery truck. All the fun stuff happens with the attachments and the robot is responsible for getting the attachments in the right spot. The team using the FLLcasts robot was not very happy with their design choice, both because it puts the light sensor in a fairly worthless place (their opinion) and because the attachment points are less than ideal (also their opinion). They were not able to get reliable solutions using the robot, so their design evaluation suffered. If they came up with great solutions they would have gotten a good evaluation. The choice of the delivery platform wouldn't have much impact. I judge teams on what they bring.

    In the case where a team brings nothing, that is what they will get as an evaluation. ND. They have demonstrated nothing.
    Last edited by Dean Hystad; 12-11-2018, 09:46 AM.

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    • #3
      Glancing at the fllcasts.com site, it appears they provide complete building instructions for a number of robots that are suitable for FLL usage, along with detailed program code for common tasks such as line following, making turns using gyro sensors, etc.

      It doesn't appear that they supply the complete programs and mission attachments to actually solve specific Into Orbit missions, though they give some fairly detailed hints.

      https://www.fllcasts.com/competition...ips-and-tricks

      As a judge, I don't really have a problem with kids starting off with instructions for a specific EV3 bot. But I want to hear how the team evolved the bot in response to the challenges they encountered solving missions. I think far too many teams are starting with a big turtle box design they found on the internet, without thinking about the implications of that design for actually solving some of the missions on the board this year.

      When I'm a programming judge, I'll often see sophisticated gyro or light sensor code using PID algorithms. If they kids can explain in detail how it works, and the challenges they had implementing it, they will usually score very well. If they tell me it is just a MyBlock they downloaded or copied off the internet, and it's just a magic black box to them, they don't score very well.

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      • #4
        Personally, I'm more against teams downloading and using common software MyBlocks than I am about teams building stock robot designs.

        My rationale is that even if a team uses the online instructions to build a base robot model, they still have to physically build the bot. They actually have to find the pieces and put them together. My hope is that the actual physical act of building the bot will teach them some things and encourage them to experiment with building other things.

        Also, I mostly agree with Dean that the base robot is just a delivery vehicle. It's the attachments, mission strategies, and programming that largely determines how successful teams are in the robot game.

        On the other hand, if a team downloads ready-to-use MyBlocks, they learn very little. If nothing else, I'd rather they follow the instructions to actually recreate the blocks on their machine. They need to get familiar with using the EV3 programming environment, and see how the blocks work together. They won't understand it all initially, but it is a start. Better still is to avoid the extremely complicated PID algorithms and teach the kids simple proportional algorithms first. I'd rather have the kids write and understand a 5 block MyBlock completely than have only a vague understanding of what happens in a 25 block routine.

        I've mellowed a little on this subject over the years, but I'm still influenced by the philosophy I was exposed to during my initial season with FLL way back in 2007.

        I found this statement in a Q&A answer to a question about using outside software blocks during the 2007 Power Puzzle season:

        We're trying to provide a fun technical experience for kids where they learn by doing, and where things are as fair as possible. We chose LEGO robots because LEGO is universally known for its simplicity, quality, and versatility, right out of the box. Kids and coaches are already comfortable with it as a toy, but we leverage it as the unparalleled electromechanical prototyping medium that it is.

        To keep things as unintimidating and fair as possible, we simply constrain the allowable kit to LEGO pieces in stock form, and LEGO software in stock form (from FLL kits). This way, a perspective coach who's strong on passion but weak on computers (the vast majority of coaches) can look at FLL and know that everything needed comes in the box, and kids can work with it right off the shelf, and those kids can make a good showing. Of course some teams do have engineers and programmers as coaches, and that's great for those teams, but it amounts to an unfairness we have had to accept and live with, and there are others, but we must strive to keep them to a minimum. So we make it clear, in our FLL values and rules, that we expect the kids to do the work, with the kit provided, and nothing but guidance from the adults. Increasingly though, we face questions like the one above, and really, we can't assess and control all that stuff, so we remind you that you're on your honor.

        Did the kids do everything? Can they explain all of it to the judges? Great. The software rule is the simplest one we have. We can't state it any more clearly, and neither can we control how you program, but if you're downloading programming blocks and firmware, you're using something that didn't come in the kit, written by someone other than the kids on your team. Some may consider that a form of sharing, some may not. But when you need to ask an ethical question, by definition what you're asking about is questionable. The most we can hope is that coaches understand how much more valuable the process is than the points, and that the full power of FLL comes from coaches who focus the kids on accomplishments instead of results.
        Last edited by timdavid; 12-10-2018, 01:37 PM.

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        • #5
          But isn't part of the design process of building the robot be, you know, an actual process? Which wheels work best? How do you properly support axles? How did you figure out where to place the sensors? How did you balance the weight?

          Designing a good delivery vehicle is important. I'd take a dim view of any design (robot or attachment) that the team copied whole off the internet. Dog gears are one thing, whole robots are another.

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          • #6
            My team is 4 years old now, but my kids cycle out after 2 years because we're an elementary school team and they move on to another school in 6th grade. Each year, post season, I've taken in some new, younger kids and trained them with my team using the current robot. Then when it's time to start the new season, we refresh some of the code they already learned and we work on modifying the robot for the new year. We talk pros and cons of the previous year's robot and use that as a basis to change it up. This year, we went all the way back to the basic EV3 robot and made our changes. The kids made their decisions about what to do, but I made them defend their decisions to me and the rest of the team as to what they were changing and why. It was good practice for the robot design judging. No way would I ever allow them to straight up copy a design and useuse as is. They also put together about 4 myblocks that they used over and over. I had to teach them about negative numbers and the principles of why certain things work, but they did the programming. They also brought home the robot design award, and all without copying someone else's work.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by rcatarella View Post
              Designing a good delivery vehicle is important. I'd take a dim view of any design (robot or attachment) that the team copied whole off the internet. Dog gears are one thing, whole robots are another.
              Frankly, I'd be happy simply if the teams that copied entire robots off the internet at least acknowledged the original source for the design. If you are going to build on someone else's work, be honest and up front about the activity. I've judged too many robots that seemingly magically appeared overnight, forming spontaneously from a random pile of LEGOs.

              The film critic for my local paper was just fired for copying phrases from other film critics without attribution. If he had used the phrases in quotes, and attributed them to the original authors, he would still have a job.

              http://www.startribune.com/star-trib...ach/502410192/

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              • #8
                Originally posted by timdavid View Post
                Personally, I'm more against teams downloading and using common software MyBlocks than I am about teams building stock robot designs.

                My rationale is that even if a team uses the online instructions to build a base robot model, they still have to physically build the bot. They actually have to find the pieces and put them together. My hope is that the actual physical act of building the bot will teach them some things and encourage them to experiment with building other things.

                Also, I mostly agree with Dean that the base robot is just a delivery vehicle. It's the attachments, mission strategies, and programming that largely determines how successful teams are in the robot game.

                On the other hand, if a team downloads ready-to-use MyBlocks, they learn very little. If nothing else, I'd rather they follow the instructions to actually recreate the blocks on their machine. They need to get familiar with using the EV3 programming environment, and see how the blocks work together. They won't understand it all initially, but it is a start. Better still is to avoid the extremely complicated PID algorithms and teach the kids simple proportional algorithms first. I'd rather have the kids write and understand a 5 block MyBlock completely than have only a vague understanding of what happens in a 25 block routine.

                I've mellowed a little on this subject over the years, but I'm still influenced by the philosophy I was exposed to during my initial season with FLL way back in 2007.

                I found this statement in a Q&A answer to a question about using outside software blocks during the 2007 Power Puzzle season:
                I like all of this. I've seen two robots designed with full PID goto worlds the last two years. Honestly, it seems like overkill.

                I stuck to proportional control only because it is an easy concept to teach and can be done exactly as you suggest - 5 or 6 blocks. Even as such, it can be hard for the kids to remember what they did 10 weeks prior. I've been thinking of breaking my teaching routine into a video and related set of questions that I can refresh with them as we get closer to competition.

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                • #9
                  As a robot judge, if I recognize the robot as a "canned design", I would judge them on attachments and strategy. Which means that they probably will not score high on mechanical design, unless they have created some outstanding attachments!
                  Legolympians - 2009-2015 (retired - joined FRC team 5422 Stormgears)
                  Legolicious - 5th year girls team
                  Brick Force - 2nd year boys team

                  2015 - Mass FLL coach of the year.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by winklestork View Post
                    During Robot Design judging, a team came in with an FFLcasts robot, identical down to the color; their attachments, their programs, all apparently provided by FLLCasts.

                    They were docked for innovation, but still the top robot in judging. Would you have given them a trophy?
                    The way you describe it, *everything* was copied. That I'd have a problem with. They used a base robot from another source and they gave proper credit for their source -- that I can live with. The team still had to figure out how to accomplish missions with it, create attachments, program it, troubleshoot and perfect missions, etc. But if they're downloading everything with no creativity or understanding of what they're doing or why, that's a problem.

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