Monday, April 14, 2008

Robot Competition Observations





The Israeli boys that we were hosting this week, for the Trinity College Fire-Fighting Robot competition, left this morning.

I've been remiss in my blogging because of my hosting obligations and other things going on around here in general.

But here are a few thoughts and my own personal observation especially after discussion with other participants in the competition this year:

The robotics competition was a disappointment this year. The Chinese teams swept the placings this time around, not because they were smarter or more innovative, but because they just did better. The Chinese all used the same commercially made robots which were not manufactured or invented or substantially programmed by any of the kids that participated. I doubt any of the kids could really even tell you how their robot worked. The adult leaders gave directions.

The whole point of the competition is not merely to win, but to get kids thinking about how to problem solve and how to put an idea into practice, and to build the thing from scratch, and how to get it to solve the problem. These Chinese kids are essentially given a kit and they put it together and they use pretty much the same programming from one robot to the next. There were no deviations within their delegation. Their robots were, for all intents and purposes, identical in design and programming. They employed no originality and no real innovation. But their times through the mazes were the fastest. Good for them. They used fast motors. That is what gave them victory. But as for true problem solving and originality, I think they get a huge zero. Personally, I think they ought to have been disqualified. I had heard that each kid on their team spent upwards of $20,000 to compete (or perhaps the Chinese government pays their way), so I suppose the judges just couldn't send them home empty handed - especially when Chinese sponsorship of the competition may be involved. It just was quite disappointing.

Other teams really worked hard on some interesting and sophisticated robots and you could see that they really spent the time and LEARNED from their experiences in problem solving. That's what it is all about. They were the true winners. Technological advances come from innovation and originality and exploration through trial and error. This is something the kids on the Chinese teams unfortunately will not know; they will only know they have won a trophy.

Meanwhile, a local boy and acquaintance of our family, Nathanial Barshay, took the International champion cup (along with his team mate) and Nathanial took first place in the written part of the competition. Congratulations goes out to him.

Additionally, a homeschool team from Michigan also did quite well with their robot called Flutterbot. It was nice to meet and talk to them.

The Israeli teams took 4th place and on down in the high school competitions. All results are here.

Finally, it is truly a shame that more American middle and high schools do not participate in or encourage participation in these events. They do not even seem to foster the desire for application of math and science in this very important area of learning coupled with competition. Oh well....

We had a nice week with our guests and we were sad to see them leave.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

There were no deviations within their delegation. Their robots were, for all intents and purposes, identical in design and programming.

Thats what the Chinese want from their population isn't it? heh!

They employed no originality and no real innovation. But their times through the mazes were the fastest. Good for them. They used fast motors. That is what gave them victory. But as for true problem solving and originality, I think they get a huge zero.

Actually, they 'get' to own the USA. Being smart is not how you win, numbers are more important. 1000 mass produced MIG jets can destroy a squadron of F16s and the Chinese have enough identikit pilots to do it. Or at least they did; they do not need to fight you to defeat you. All they need is for dumb americans to keep voting bush / clinton / obama / mccain so that money has to be borrowed from China to prop up the war machine, and in the end, america will cut its own throat.

Now THAT is what I call SMART.

China already supplies america with everything except soldiers to die. They make IBM laptops, every toy americans play with and soon, they will make all the 'food' that americans eat.

They come there and whip you, and it stings. What can you do? How can you stop this juggernaut from totally owning everything that was built by the very attributes that they so manifestly lack?

I don't have the answer, sadly, at least, not one that any average american is capable of understanding...and that is the problem.

Personally, I think they ought to have been disqualified.

They would STILL have won! Taking your marbles away and playing only with the weakest players does not make you the winner, nor does it make the competition 'fair'. It simply means that you do not have the wherewithal to compete. They go back to China, build your computers for you, feed you and do everything else for you, but you get to 'win'.

That is a Pyrrhic victory.

That is why they are taking over everything.

I had heard that each kid on their team spent upwards of $20,000 to compete (or perhaps the Chinese government pays their way), so I suppose the judges just couldn't send them home empty handed - especially when Chinese sponsorship of the competition may be involved. It just was quite disappointing.

And disgusting.

Other teams really worked hard on some interesting and sophisticated robots and you could see that they really spent the time and LEARNED from their experiences in problem solving. That's what it is all about. They were the true winners. Technological advances come from innovation and originality and exploration through trial and error. This is something the kids on the Chinese teams unfortunately will not know; they will only know they have won a trophy.

Did you know that the number of genius IQ Chinese citizens is greater than the population of the entire USA? All they need is a few geniuses to excel to whip everyone in the world, and now that the Chinese are adopting capitalism, they are going to do it. We must remember that China has a culture that is 3000 years old. They were doing amazing things when many nations were populated by....no one at all.

These people lost their way in the 20th century, but now they are coming out of it. The very fact that they were competing here is proof of this change. The cultural changes are coming to China, and when they are in place, those people, by sheer force of numbers, and their genius, will be unstoppable.

Americans are too fat, lazy and stupid to compete anymore. They are bankrupting their country in illegal wars, allowing illegal immigration to disrupt and dismantle their country, and they are throwing away their God given rights and no one here even cares.

Cheating Chinese robot builders are the LEAST of your problems Judy!

Finally, it is truly a shame that more American middle and high schools do not participate in or encourage participation in these events. They do not even seem to foster the desire for application of math and science in this very important area of learning coupled with competition. Oh well....

I sigh with you.

All empires end, I just never thought that I would live to see America end.

christinemm said...

Judy thank you for sharing this. I can't believe that. It is a reminder of the difference in our two cultures.

It got me thinking about the reason that our family participates in such events. I support innovation and creative thinking.

I shared the link to your post with the parents who were on the FIRST LEGO League team with us.