here is a subcategory in Robot Design under Mechanical Design called Mechanical Efficiency. This is usually interpreted to mean efficient use of parts. It seems pretty innocuous and self evident on the rubric, but few teams realize how this criteria plays out in the judging room. If they did there wouldn't be so many monster robots being promoted on YouTube. There is nothing wrong with having a big robot. There is nothing wrong with having a small robot. Efficient is "achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense". The adjudication of efficiency is based on how much MORE were you able to accomplish by adding more complexity to your design. A big robot that achieves a LOT more than a little robot can do quite well, but this is a gamble. The reason that this is a risk is because you are taking the risk that another smaller robot would not be able to do just as much as your robot did. So how does this play out on in deliberation? All attributes of your mechanical design are debated until we can compare side-by-side the benefits of each robot design and describe the outcomes produced by each. As long as a big robot is out-performing a little robot, there is no detailed calculation of efficiency, there isn't time for that. But with all things being equal as far as a robot being mechanically designed for reduced program complexity, consistency of execution, number of missions, number of missions per run, reuse of attachments and difficulty of missions chosen, if two teams are comparable across all of these aspects of mechanical design, the smaller robot wins, hands down! (Literally, because deliberation ends). No complex math required.
But let's not stop there. This is quite a profound statement it's worth repeating. Efficient is "achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense". I didn't realize how profound until I spent the last few weeks with my son debating the virtues of core values. As recently as a month ago I was joking with some judges that my 12-year-old son refuses to be on the same team as his 9-year-old brother. I just assumed that Inclusion was a core value battle that I couldn't win. When we attended the Houston Regional Championship, I asked him to videotape the awards ceremony so that I could participate in the high-five line. Afterwards he had a deep desire to win. We have been participating for 3 years now without his team qualifying, so I was puzzled about the change. It turns out that looking through the lens and watching 30 teams jump up for joy with utter elation for an hour was VERY moving to him. He wanted to experience that joy. A few days later, the first sign of change came when he agreed to accept his brother on his team. I was quite proud of this breakthrough and I thought I could check that off my list, but we mustn't forget about Integration as well. A week later my son called me over and started writing on our whiteboard. He really wanted to make sure he understood core values, so he told me he understood why inclusion would be good for his team, but why would he ever need that outside of FLL? This question surprise me since 1) it meant he really wanted to embrace core values, his hand and voice shook a little because he was frustrated he hadn't already mastered this value and 2) I didn't have a quick response that I thought would be convincing. We continued this discussion for a few days where I grasped for answers such as "You don't always get to pick your team, so you should practice making due with what you have". Though I believed this to be a good answer, I was somehow not quite satisfied (this answer encouraged pity which is not what under-valued kids seek). I discovered I have known the answer all along.
Even when you can choose your team, you should STILL practice inclusion. The reason this is the rarest core value in practice is because kids want to win. The reason my son didn't understand why it could possibly be important was he is continuously surrounded by exclusive organization being a sign of success. I was the perpetrator of this problem when I thought I could solve all my team problems by being more selective in my recruiting phase. There is an unspoken negative connotation with both the words inclusion and diversity. Some may perceive that you are weakening the team when you have to take pity on someone that you add to the team for the sake of inclusion. Inclusion is NOT about pity, and the recent discussions about *efficient use of parts* juxtaposed in my conscience with my search for a good answer to my son's questions revealed to me the true answer that I now realize I must share with whoever will listen.
I have judged across all 3 categories of FLL judging and at local, regional and world competitions. It is rare to see teams that embrace inclusion. It's not rare to hear a team in Core Values judging state: "We learned about inclusion". What is rare is teams that will give their weakest members equal time during a presentation, and quietly listen and respect the answer they have to contribute. It's not so rare that I might not sometimes see it more than once, such as at the Houston Regional Championship where I saw it twice, but it's rare enough that I don't always see it at every event I judge. Having witnessed it you might think that I can confirm that teams that practice inclusion sacrifice performance when they practice inclusion. They do not. Most of the teams embracing inclusion do considerable better on average than other teams. How can this be?
Efficient use of parts. A team that embraces inclusion, not out of pity, but out of truly valuing all their team mates, will be some of the most powerful teams because they leave no part or person underutilized.
Back to my son's question: Why should I practice inclusion outside of FLL? Because when we underutilize any member of our community, we are not efficiently using all of our parts. When I say that everyone has value, I am not encouraging us to give everyone an award for a job well done when it was not. What I am advocating is that we actual value every person that comes to us wanting to be a contributor. We should take the time to find that person's talent and give them the opportunity to provide that value to the team and community. Just like the robot game where it is SO easy to be wooed by big robots that we forget that we want efficient use of parts; it is equally tempting to want only the most valuable team members that we don't see the value in all potential team members we already have all around us.
I am not saying this is easy. This is hard. But just like the little girl on Brainiac Maniacs whose eyes lit up when she told me that when she heard the flower and fire missions were the hardest missions, she insisted that she needed to complete them (AND she did); I will honor her sentiment and accept the challenge to take on the hardest FLL core value: Inclusion.
FLL Coach since 2015