Jake Mendelssohn Resigns

Posted 2 Oct 2003 at 01:00 UTC by steve Share This

Everyone who participates in robotics competitions is aware of the Trinity College Fire-Fighting Robot Contest. In addition to the annual final, many regional contests are held at locations across the US. Jake Mendelssohn accounced today that he is resigning from his position as contest coordinator. He has put a web page explaining his reasons and I'm sure anyone who's worked behind the scenes on an event like this has seen similar problems.

Bad news, posted 2 Oct 2003 at 16:08 UTC by ROB.T. » (Master)

Jake is truly hurting. I don't think he understands just how much good he did as the contest coordinator.

I suspect, posted 2 Oct 2003 at 20:45 UTC by earlwb » (Master)

I suspect that he only encounters the upset and hostile contestants who have become all to serious about it all.
I can sympathize with him on it.
I remember a lot of old contests that became too serious and not fun anymore.
When I was a kid we had slot cars, then they had slot car emporiums all over, you could have more than one in a big city too. Then us poor kids got left out as our $25 cars and $10 controllers couldn't compete with the $500 cars and $200 controllers. Where's the fun in that? Do you see any of those 1/24 scale slot car tracks around anymore. They actually killed themselves off. Go karts, I remember racing with a $200 homemade go kart, now look, it costs $50,000 to race a go kart, where's the fun it that.
Years ago, Micromouse was fun and interesting, now it's serious. You used to be able to have a simple wall following robot solve the maze, then they changed the maze and rules to eliminate it. Now kids can't compete anymore as it costs $2,000+ to build and program a competitive micromouse robot. That eliminates most of the classroom groups getting involved. I thought it was pretty neat when a wall following robot could solve the maze faster than a more complex programmed robot could. Kids could get into that for under $50.00. It's no more fun now, have you seen how serious everyone is getting now?
Now look at what the Firefighting contest has become, the rules are complex and formidable. You need a lawyer to defend yourself now. Where's the fun in that?
In RC model airplane racing (or most any other RC racing) the rules are becoming too complex. I remember all the fun we used to have at Quickie 500 racing. That was a 500sq wing area, no streamlining, and a K&B .40 engine only. Now you have to bring out all sorts of precision templates to ensure no one gets under the rules. Plus the people just get so serious in it. It's no more fun either. Aerobatic pattern AMA competitions, I used to use a simple .60 size Atlas pattern plane, competed for years. Now you have to have a 2 to 4 cylinder custom chainsaw engine, a 1/3 scale aerobatic model, a really expensive RC system to compete, and that's only if they allow you to. Besides being really scared of those big planes and engines, it's not fun anymore when it costs you $10,000 to build a serious aerobatic plane to compete with.
I tried FAI electric competitions for a while, until it got to where I couldn't build a carbon graphite glider to the complex levels needed to compete. It's a tribute to those guys who can afford all that stuff to do it, I can't. Just getting the special electric motor was a major deal for me back then. Even non-powered gliders became too expensive with all the new hi-tech wings and fuselages and radios you needed to compete.
Of course look at what happens at little league baseball and football games now. Parents are attacking the coaches and even killed one too. Even Europe isn't immune, I remember lots of riots and violence at the soccer games over there.

Another step on the path to enlightenment ..., posted 4 Oct 2003 at 22:38 UTC by Chuck McM. » (Master)

Jake is hurting, and I think his statement shows just how much he has learned from this experience. The next step is to grow from it.

Clearly the Trinity Contest has inspired thousands of kids to get into engineering and science, so in that regard I believe Jake has been more sucessful than he realizes. Just as clearly there are competitors out there who are treating events like these as a fight to the top.

It is too bad that BattleBots isn't still around in all its glory. It was totally and completely obvious who the "builders" were and to the "competitors" were in the pits of that event.

We need an event that is more like a conference and less like a competition. That would give a place for people in robotics to convene and challenge their understanding and abilities in a supportive and helpful way. BEAM had some elements of that, but I think we need something more Usenix like.

Justifying the means, posted 5 Oct 2003 at 00:38 UTC by ROB.T. » (Master)

I dunno Chuck, if competition gets those creative juices flowing, I'm all for it.

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