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DPRG: Future contests

Subject: DPRG: Future contests
From: Jim Brown jim_brown at adc.com
Date: Fri Nov 12 08:42:48 CST 1999

David Philip Anderson wrote:

> Howdy
> Seems to be a divergence of opinion concerning the level of difficulty
> of the RoboFest contests, and the potential barrier this may form for
> beginning robotists.  I suspect this was prompted by the low turnout at
> the last contest.
> As I understand the last few postings, Clay and Dan M. (and possibly James
> Vroman?) find the current tasks may be too difficult for novices.
> Dan writes:
> > I agree with what Clay said at the last meeting.  Our current
> > barrier to entry to too big for many people that want to get
> > started in robotics.
> and James replies:
> > You've been peeking.
> > I have a 3'x5' version of our present course under construction.
> > I have a 4'x4' version of the trinity firefighting house
> > I plan on using a 40khz modulated led in a film canister (trash can ) as
> > the fire. I have a 4'x4' sumo ring that can be converted into the Abyss
> > A course where you have to navigate around an elevated roadway without
> > falling into the Abyss. I have several track shapes planned.
> though this seems to me to be pretty ambitious for novices that may now
> be having trouble getting from one end of the room to the other and back.
> Ed K. and Jim Brown seem to suggest just the opposite, i.e., that we don't
> want to make the contest any easier than it already is.   I've suggested that
> we might want to reinstate the Quick-Trip task, which was eliminated from
> the last contest, as an easier entry-level competition.
> Ed writes:
> > I don't have any objection to restoring a Quick Trip, as long as there is no
> > line following for it.  I would also recommend a rule that says the robot
> > has to execute a minimum of 160 or 170 degrees of turn in total, to
> > eliminate robots that just go straight and back - I really think those are
> > below the intelligent behavior threshold we'd be looking for.
> and Jim also wrote:
> > I can't imagine an easier contest than going down and coming back or
> > line following, nor do I think we should make it any easier than that.
> > There have been young-uns before that have completed with no problem.
> My own young-un, with a pair of motors and a switch (wall following mouse)
> was able to complete the Quick-Trip and Ttime tasks a few RoboFests ago.
> Delynda might have done the same last time if not for the aforementioned
> floor covering, using the same mouse kit.
> So what do you think, is the contest discouragingly hard, or almost too easy?
> Opinions?  Suggestions?
> I have a couple of random observations about the last RoboFest that might
> be food for thought.  First, this is the only time that I know of that
> the audience had to pay admission to see the contest, and I think this
> is not a good thing.  Dan Miner actually had to pay for his own two daughters
> to watch him run his robots!  This was required by the Science Place, as
> admission to their museum, and I understand their reasoning.  Still, it's not
> in the best interest of the club, and no doubt diminished the attendance.
> Second, after the contest concluded, lots of folks who had not entered their
> robots in the event brought them out to run on the course.  This was really
> neat!  Isn't this the real purpose of the whole thing?   Kind of makes you
> stop and think, no?  Can we capitalize on this?
> onward,
> dpa

My humble opinion is that the current contest course is fine.  I do like the new
smaller contest courses too and hope the current contests won't be swapped
out for the new although I would go along with that if that were to happen.

I think the real barrier is not so much the course, but the robots.  I don't
people look at the course and get scared off, instead, they look at the course
wonder how they could build a robot to do that and get scared.  If we had some
plans on the web site, or DPRG kits that they could put together, or someone
to take the time and say "I'll help you build a robot" and hold their hand and
show them where they can buy kits (parallax or owi or whatever), or maybe
programming classes or seminars to help.  Perhaps some robot building/programming

time encouragement or incentives would help (I don't know how).  Maybe
some classes on build this part (h-bridge, line-following-ir, software nav)
These things would remove the barriers.

If you change the contest course, the aforementioned barriers will remain and
there won't be much if any progress made by changing the course.

I'm not saying I'll volunteer, sheesh I've got little or no spare time myself,
but I don't think the changing the contest course is the real problem.

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