Inspiration in the Design Process

JVN shared two really great articles with the Social Media team here at Build Blitz. They tie in perfectly to his presentations on the engineering design process for competition robotics, and his now-famous mantra – “Design is an iterative process!” – so we wanted to share them with you and talk about how they tie into the Build Blitz.

“An idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements. The capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships.” -James Webb Young, in his book ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’, first published in the 1940s. Write to Done talks about Young’s process in this article.

Each year after kickoff, many teams’ first thoughts on design are based upon looking at older years’ games with similar elements and seeing how the most successful teams put their robots together. For the 2014 challenges, there are a lot of comparisons being made to 2008 – the game object is essentially a smaller version of the trackball, and so looking at downsizing manipulators seen in Overdrive is a logical first step. “Steal from the best, invent the rest.” Here at Build Blitz, we’re lucky enough to have mentors from all three of the 2008 World Champion teams in the house. Steal from the best, indeed!

Every robot in FIRST today is inspired by a combination of past designs. With each game release comes a set of comparisons to past concepts, and teams that are smart about their designs can take bits and pieces of the ideas presented in previous years and improve on them as adapted to the new challenge. Everything in design comes down to a three-step process, as outlined here. Nobody works alone when it comes to great ideas, and the FIRST community is a great example of that. Copy, Modify, Combine. Whether it’s with previous designs from your own team, or bouncing ideas off of friends from another team, there are countless ways to adapt to Aerial Assist. Take an idea that’s worked in the past, and adapt it to the new game. Make small steps away from what you’ve got in order to improve it, and then compare the results and bring everything you’ve learned so far into your next iteration.

We hope you’ve been able to gain some helpful knowledge from watching our process here at the Build Blitz. As always, if you have question or there’s something you’d like to see more of, you can reach us at @BuildBlitz, @TeamJVN, and @TeamCopioli on twitter.