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41114Re: (modest) Proposal for Revitalizing Robothon

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  • dcwjobs2004
    Nov 1, 2009
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      My congratulations! Sounds perfect! Honor is due.

      I would suggest adding a level 0.5 for having a robot that "should" work but through problems of dead batteries, loose wires, fried H bridges or general Murphy-isms does not run at the moment. Maybe it should include the ability to at least power-up and light an LED as an incentive to bring spare batteries. To make this work would require a judge to look at the design and implementation to make sure that it is a robot work in progress, not just an LED and a switch. The "merit badge" is for actually *building* a robot, even though it does not work yet.

      Your comment, "Most experienced robot builders can attest that getting to this stage is, in fact, most of the battle." suggests to me that including a level 0.5 might bring a larger number of people into the awards lime-light. After all, most of the robots brought up for show and tell at HBRC meetings do not do much beyond showing that they can power-up. "Wait until the next meeting!" is the self-imposed challenge.

      Thanks for the encouragement. The DPRG Outdoor Challenge sounds really great!

      Dave Wyland


      --- In SeattleRobotics@yahoogroups.com, "dpa_io" <davida@...> wrote:
      >
      > Dave, that was exactly the idea behind the DPRG Outdoor Challenge: a series of tasks to accomplish which take the builder through the stages required to build a robust autonomous vehicle. Each level had a "merit badge" -- we used plastic gold medals hanging on neck ribbons from the local sporting goods store -- awarded with much pomp and circumstance at the ceremony at the end of the day.
      >
      > The lowest level task is essentially, "Can you turn your robot on and make it drive anywhere at all?" You might be surprised to learn how many robots at competiton are not able to achieve this level. Most experienced robot builders can attest that getting to this stage is, in fact, most of the battle. It means (to quote myself):
      >
      >
      > "To successfully run this first simple exercise, the robot builder must have some sort of functioning robot platform with wheels and motors and batteries attached, all mechanically and electrically sound; some sort of h-bridge or other means of controlling the motors from a micro-controller; a micro-controller with the necessary I/O all wired up and working; a software development environment set up and working, with the ability to connect to the robot and download code; and a robust enough implementation that it can run for 10 or 15 minutes without crashing, resetting, coming apart, or having motor EMF spikes brown-out the cpu :>) This exercise also identifies mechanical and control problems with the platform, if it is veering left or right or having trouble holding a straight line. None of this is trivial stuff, even if the exercise itself seems trivial. Any robot that gets to this stage surely deserves a gold star."
      >
      >
      > Certainly the builder that can do so deserves to be rewarded!
      >
      > There are four tasks in all and they get incrementally more difficult.
      >
      > We also collect statics about timing and accuracy for the record books, but those numbers are really for the builders, and have no bearing on whether or not the builder can successfully complete any particular challenge.
      >
      > We had a huge turnout in 2008 when we ran this event. Although no one attempted task #4 (jBot didn't enter) and only one completed task #3. I think it's really important to make the entry level low enough to encourage participation of robots even in rudimentary stages of development.
      >
      > Now this was called the "Outdoor Challenge" but that's just a ruse; the same set of challenges would work fine for smaller indoor robots.
      >
      > For those who might not have seen it, there is a description of the contest philosophy and some technical suggestions here:
      >
      > <http://geology.heroy.smu.edu/dpa-www/robo/challenge/>
      >
      > best regards,
      > dpa
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > --- In SeattleRobotics@yahoogroups.com, "dcwjobs2004" <dcwyland@> wrote:
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Hi Pete,
      > >
      > > The "robot merit badges" and "Dancing with Robots" approaches might help with this. In the "robot merit badges" case, you "win" once and move on, like Boy Scout merit badges. You do not prevent the next guy from "winning."
      > >
      > > The "Dancing with Robots" event is show-and-tell writ large. You should get points/applause for just showing up, and more points/applause for the robot just powering-up but not doing anything, etc. The idea is to applaud people for making robots and making them do something. We already do this informally at HBRC meetings, where people bring their robots up for show and tell.
      > >
      > > Part of the idea here borrows from the HBRC "challenge" idea. In a challenge, like a merit badge, the question is, can you do it? Each person competes against himself or herself. This is opposed to the idea of a contest which has 1 winner and N losers. It also avoids the contest problem that same robot that won last year can win again this year, generating N more losers this year.
      > >
      > > Points and applause are a good thing, IMO. Why else does anyone do show-and-tell? It is a good motivator to get your robot working before the meeting/show. "Noting cleans a house like company coming." IMO, the key is to structure it so everyone gets to play and gets rewarded in a real sense, avoiding empty "self esteem" prizes.
      > >
      > > Dave Wyland
      > >
      > >
      > > --- In SeattleRobotics@yahoogroups.com, "Pete Miles" <robots@> wrote:
      > > >
      > > > I think there is becoming way way too much focus on scoring points,
      > > > establishing specific objectives, and winning contests.
      > > >
      > > > Most of us build robots because this is what we like to do. There is only a
      > > > small percentage of people that build robots specifically to win a contest.
      > > >
      > > > Back in 1999 and 2001 when the Robothon moved to the Seattle Center, we had
      > > > a lot of robot displays. If I remember right, we had far more robots
      > > > sitting on tables, next to tables, and running on the ground all over the
      > > > place than robots that actually competed in contests. These were the great
      > > > years of the Robothon. We had an open class where people brought in their
      > > > creations to show off and there was the highly subjective vote on the best
      > > > in show class.
      > > >
      > > > As the years went on, there were less and less robots showing up for the
      > > > display tables, and less and less robots entering into the Open Class. It
      > > > got to the point that the open class event was canceled do to virtually no
      > > > intrest in it. And now we only have a couple robots that show up for the
      > > > displays.
      > > >
      > > > During the early 2000s we saw a huge jump in robots competing in contests,
      > > > we added new contests and expanded to a 2 day event. But the last few years
      > > > there has been a steady drop in the number of robots in each event, and no
      > > > increase in the intrest for static displays.
      > > >
      > > > What we need to do is get people excited about just bringing their creations
      > > > to the Robothon, regardless of whether they are completed or a works in
      > > > progress, or something that has been sitting on the shelf for 10 years. We
      > > > need to bring the passion back where people just have a fun time showing
      > > > things off and talking robot war stories. The Friday Night Hack Session is
      > > > still a lot of fun in that way.
      > > >
      > > > As for contests, we need to develop them to have fun, and encourage all
      > > > sorts of robots to complete, autonomous, R/C, hybrid, whatever. Reduce the
      > > > focus on points and scoring, and eliminate the focus on winning, but shift
      > > > the focus to just competing and having fun.
      > > >
      > > > Some people will want to try to win. So what, let them. But lets set the
      > > > contests up so that if someone wanted to say, lets make a humanoid to see if
      > > > it can just do it, that they would have an enjoyable experience at it, even
      > > > if they finish in last place.
      > > >
      > > > Just think back to the days when you first got interested in robots, and how
      > > > exciting anything and everything about robots was to you. There are a lot
      > > > of people that walk into the Seattle Center that are just like you way back
      > > > then and will be excited to see what ever you made. Lets bring out our
      > > > creations and show them off.
      > > >
      > > > Pete
      > > >
      > >
      >
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