Frank Answers Fridays: July 19, 2013
Today’s good question is from Kevin Leonard, a student from Team 20 in New York.
I'm Kevin Leonard, a student on Team 20. I was wondering about the former animation competition, why it got scrapped, and if it would ever return.
Let me give you some background on why I, a "mechanical guy", would care about this. Our team, for a few years, has had a history of making good animations. And because of this, we attracted many students to our team who otherwise would not have joined the team for the engineering part (often girls who like the idea of animation, but not of robot-building. Two of these students come to mind now. One is a graduating senior who, along with being an incredibly talented head animator, is now our drive coach. The other is going to be a senior, and is to be our head scout next year.
In summary, both joined the team for animation, but found other passions in FRC.
What I'm trying to convey is that animation was a great way to get non-engineers into science, technology, engineering, and math that we no longer have (or have in a reduced form due to the Underground Society of Animators: http://animationsrus.org/vote.php).
Why was this awesome competition and award cut?
(You can cut my question if you'd like, it is a bit long :D)
Kevin, thanks for the question. This gives me the chance to talk about this award, and awards in general.
Autodesk sponsored the design and animation awards (officially the ‘Excellence in Design Award’, though it was really two awards as trophies were given in two categories, 3D Design and Animation) for many years. Until 2012, the award was available at the Regional and Championship level. In 2012, it was changed to be a Championship-level award only, as the number of entries being received did not seem to justify continuing at the Regional level. In 2013, the award was eliminated. With less than 50 teams submitting for the awards in 2012, it seemed like there should be a better way to get more teams excited about using advanced design tools, creating animation, and showcasing their work.
Some folks in the community responded very strongly to this change. While not a large number of teams had been submitting for this award, it’s clear that to the teams that were submitting, this award was very important. Kevin’s story about the effect the award had on his team is a great example of the meaningful impact an award can have, even if it’s not generating a large number of submissions across FRC. Also, in direct response to the elimination of this award in 2013, Team 116, Epsilon Delta, led a group of others in creating the Underground Society of Animators that Kevin mentioned, along with their own award. This, in turn, gave FIRST HQ the idea of the ‘Community Awards’ concept. (We don’t have the details for Community Awards finalized yet, but I hope to get them completed and published soon.) The elimination of this award had a clear ripple effect, some positive, some negative.
We have some tough decisions when it comes to awards. I believe there is some relationship between the number and type of awards we give out at events and the degree of inspiration and motivation they can provide. I think too many awards, or too few awards, or awards with unclear criteria, would not provide appropriate motivation to teams. There’s even some (somewhat controversial) evidence that trophies or other external incentives can actually decrease a person’s intrinsic motivation for a task*, something that might not be helpful within the context of FRC, if it is actually occurring. The bottom line is, when it comes to award decisions, we have lots to consider. There’s no formula I know of that gets us to the right answer. (If you have such a formula, please email it to email@example.com**) I do know that I want every team, at the end of every event, to feel a deep sense of accomplishment, whether they are bringing home some extra shelf hardware or not. The challenge is finding out how to get there.
The good news for the design and animation award in particular is that, working with FIRST friend Dave Lavery, we have what I think are some exciting possibilities for 2014. I can’t make any promises yet, but stay tuned.
I’ll blog again soon.
** Not a real address. Please don’t email.
Frank Answers Fridays is a new weekly-ish blog feature where I’ll be answering ‘good questions’ from the FRC community. You can e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, team number and where you’re from, which will be shared, if selected.