Next Year's Junkyard Challenge

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Re: Next Year's Junkyard Challenge

Postby Flavorflav » March 31st, 2009, 6:12 am

I don't know if spending another year as a trial would have worked. Trial events just don't get the level of attention they need to work the bugs out.
The implication of this is that the event will be full of bugs when it runs, which is not a happy thought to me.
The event supervisors for trial events are almost never qualified enough, and the teams that participate are almost never prepared, if they participate at all. I have heard som true horror stories about JYC as a trial event and they all start with an unqualified judge or an unprepared team.

Even now that the even is running live, teams still show up unprepared for the event and some judges still make wild assumptions about the event mechanics.
At NY States they were second-tiering people for being over 100 cm tall or 50 cm wide or for using tape, real event or not.

Even if trial events are taken less seriously, every year that it is a trial event increases the pool of judges with some experience in the event, which leads to fewer mistakes when it is a real event. In NY, trial events count towards your score so everyone does them. Of course, this means there would be no practical difference between JYC being a trial event in NY and being a full event, except that trial events vary from state to state.

In an ideal world JYC would not be a problem event, but I think empirically it is hard to argue that it hasn't been. An ideal judge should be able to read and understand a few pages of rules, but real judges seem to be failing to do so. We can't change the volunteer pool effectively, so I think it would be best to change the event to make the rules harder for judges to misinterpret.
I figured I would post this over anywhere else. I've been working on this event, and have actually come to like it a lot more then I had expected. The only thing that we were talking about that we thought might be a cool idea (although maybe impossible to actually do) would be to run the alternate Junkyard challenge as a trial event. I feel like it would be really interesting, and would definitely make our efforts seem a lot less wasted... plus alternates could perhaps enter in with the device... The actual organization of something like this would be rather difficult, but I think it would be a lot of fun, and worthwhile if it could be pulled off...

Thoughts?
You would need to have two devices, one to enter the competition challenge and the second to enter the secondary challenge, because the competition device is going to use up all of the common parts. Therefore you would still have duplication of effort, which seems to be what you are trying to avoid.

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Re: Next Year's Junkyard Challenge

Postby sean9keenan » March 31st, 2009, 10:11 am

no, you're right... but it might be possible to have after a team goes to have alternates(if a team wanted) clean up and then reconstruct the second device to be rejudged right then... It's rather impractical I guess, but it just seems like a lot of effort is going to waste, and it would be interesting... to see how your second device might have done. It would require extra judges, more coordination, and teams that would demonstrate their devices early, not to mention lax restraints on the actual construction time(in that teams could build throughout the day, after their main device competes). An impractical idea, but a cool one nonetheless... I think? I know our team alternates would enjoy being able to do something like that(if we make nationals), and I would enjoy seeing the results.

My impractical thought of the day I suppose, I should probably work on practical ideas for my coinsorter/scale instead though....

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SoCal Event Supervisor. H2S2O for ever. Competed in Builds & Physics events

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Re: Next Year's Junkyard Challenge

Postby vofbassist » March 31st, 2009, 8:39 pm

at our state comp we had some fun...
we were one of the few teams who built the coin sorter to 1m tall (99cm...close) and when it was our turn to run the coin sorter, hand fed for state, they informed us that the sorter would be on a table...NOT on the ground. My teammate stood on a chair to feed the coins in. Did anyone else experience this? i didnt think it was required to have the sorter on a table...otherwise whats the point of building it 1m high!? we still got 4th even with a penalty. i dont think minnesota prepared for that event
That's crazy. If they pull a stunt like that in Wisconsin, I'm kinda prepared because my parnter is 6'4" I believe, as opposed to my 5'2". Still, it's insane of what some of the supervisors interperet the rules as. At regionals, our supervisor said that we could rip the Mystery Material, which was a 12 inch piece of masking tape. We had him read to us in the rules that we could damage the mystery material, and he said all he read was that we couldn't damage required and supplied materials.

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Re: Next Year's Junkyard Challenge

Postby boomtech » April 20th, 2009, 11:38 am

Same here, our jyc had to be on a table,
and I had to load it standing on a chair. Hooray.
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Re: Next Year's Junkyard Challenge

Postby wlsguy » April 21st, 2009, 6:57 pm

I don't fully understand why there isn't room in SO for both mission and JYC.
There are still quite a few people active at the national level that feel there are too many building events.

The technology committee is limited to 4 different events in each division. In order to have Mission & JYC at the same time, one of the other events would have to be dropped. I don't believe you will ever see both Mission & JYC at the same time in the same division. If many had their way you would never see either one!

Remember: The appearance of a problem is a problem even if there is no problem.
I feel that the people who feel there are too many building events are educators and not engineers. I think that if we only teach kids the theory and never let them put it into practice, the country will continue to fall behind in technology and manufacturing. Unfortunately, I believe the people at the national level are more interested in keeping the status quo rather than thinking outside the box. They just don't listen to the masses

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Re: Next Year's Junkyard Challenge

Postby fleet130 » April 22nd, 2009, 10:33 am

I feel that the people who feel there are too many building events are educators and not engineers.
Possibly true, but irrelevant. They still have significant influence on the decision-making process.
They just don't listen to the masses
Some of "them" report that less than 50% of the teams at their tournaments enter building events. Whatever your bent toward these events, they have a point.
Information expressed here is solely the opinion of the author. Any similarity to that of the management or any official instrument is purely coincidental! Doing Science Olympiad since 1987!

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Re: Next Year's Junkyard Challenge

Postby DeltaHat » April 22nd, 2009, 3:47 pm

The difficulty with engineering events is scale. Each event must be easy enough at the regional level to avoid scaring off young, small, and under-supported teams, while being difficult enough at the national level to challenge the most competitive teams in the nation. I speak from experience when I say this is an extremely difficult thing to do. Add to this the challenge of making events approachable and unintimidating.

In retrospect, I realize that JYC is a very abstract event. As a software engineer, my daily life revolves around handling abstraction, but this event has helped me realize that not everybody is comfortable with high degrees of abstraction and indirection. Building a bottle rocket is both straight forward and concrete. Combining two sets of rules on the fly to build a device that supports an unknown runtime parameter is both complex and very abstract. The people that get it really enjoy the event. The people who don't fear it and reject it. Sadly, the second group is significantly more vocal than the first.
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Re: Next Year's Junkyard Challenge

Postby fleet130 » April 22nd, 2009, 4:23 pm

Mission may have suffered from much the same problem, although it was also the complexity of scoring that turned off "straight-line" thinkers..
Information expressed here is solely the opinion of the author. Any similarity to that of the management or any official instrument is purely coincidental! Doing Science Olympiad since 1987!

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Re: Next Year's Junkyard Challenge

Postby nejanimb » April 22nd, 2009, 6:08 pm

The hole that JYC/Mission fills is a difficult one.

The Balsa events (bridge, tower, boom) work very well, as they're fairly easy to grasp and build something for, but can be really complex on the most competitive levels (though I'm always shocked as to the number of teams that bring tier 2 devices). The best part is that there is no such thing as a maximum score.

The Car events work pretty well (Scrambler, EV, Wheeled Vehicle, etc.) because it's relatively easy, again, to make something. Unfortunately, these events always seem to have bunching at the top. This is where there is a disadvantage as compared to the Balsa events, since whenever an event has the goal of a perfect score (ex: a 200 in EV), there are many teams throughout the country that will work until they get there (or at least extremely close). The method of increasing the difficulty of the task (since the nationals EV task is so much harder) does help somewhat though.

The launching events (Treb, Traj) do scale well too, I think. I prefer Treb to Traj though because, again, it's impossible to get a "perfect score," allowing for limitless improvement. Still cool.

The flight events (Bottle Rockets, Planes, Ornithopter, Egg-o-Naut) are the same way. Good, scalable, and there's no perfect score.

I like the *kind of* building events, like Time and Sounds. I prefer sounds, just because the devices end up being so awesome (some of the past instruments still get used by their performers, but there's no way our clock will get any use after competition). Sounds is such a cool event, and such great devices come out of it. Perhaps a little subjective, but oh well.

The JYC/Mission spot though, is tough. Mission suffered from being both too difficult for less competitive teams and the perfect score problem - bunching at both the top and the bottom. Unfortunate, because it's such a cool event, but it needs work in order to eliminate both of those problems. JYC improves on both of those issues, but it's still so complex that it has a fairly high barrier to entry. I don't think it's essentially flawed though - maybe a streamlined scoring system? Not sure. But, there's my opinion on how the building events fall.
Last edited by nejanimb on April 22nd, 2009, 8:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Next Year's Junkyard Challenge

Postby rjm » April 22nd, 2009, 8:23 pm

Nejanimb, I like the way you think. Keep it up.

The building events have particular appeal for the kids who need tangible feedback as part of their learning - those who learn with their hands, touching, manipulating, and modifying things, observing cause and effect, and getting the satisfaction of making something do what they intended for it to do. Building events are a great hook for higher learning, and a great confirmation of theoretical thinking. We just have to make sure that the building events stay challenging but appropriate, and never let them become mediocre or trivial.

I don't have a great deal of experience with JYC, I'm coaching it for the first time this year. My kids have enjoyed it, the problem-solving opportunities are hard to match in any other events. Further, we can have a number of kids working on different ideas simultaneously. I think that this year's problems have been buildable on multiple levels, from all-thumbs to sophisticated competitor. I like events with open-ended, non-discrete scoring, so measured quantities (efficiency of bridge, accuracy of JYC scale, flight times, etc) make good scoring schemes. Counting points works if you give teams so many scoring opportunities and so little time (or other resources) that no one can actually complete the task; without that you use tie-breakers like (measured) time or mass.

The difficulty I've encountered with JYC has been with judges who approach the event with pre-conceived notions of what the kids should have built. JYC claims to be a spiritual successor to Mystery Architecture. MA was also notorious for being run badly. I don't think it's the kids who have trouble dealing with the abstractions of these events, it's the people who run the events with a rigid, and unyielding, focus. That's probably in the nature of a competition: well defined rules are readily defended and tend to yield clear winners.

My only strong objection here is with the mystery material. In MA, devices were built on the fly out of whatever junk was made available, but the performance expectation was minimal (hold something above the table for 30 seconds...). In JYC the kids are expected to produce high-performance, precision devices, and then expected to incorporate something from a wide-open field of possibilities without compromising the performance. When you give the judges the opportunity to determine whether a use is "significant", then you open the door to misinterpretation, uneven application of the rules, and a bad rap for the event. I've seen it done. My suggestion would be to eliminate the mystery material, or make it a minor bonus rather than a "tier 3" outcome, or publish, in advance, a short list of possible materials which might be used and specific uses that the judges will disallow at a given tournament. That could clear the air.

Bob Monetza
Grand Haven, MI


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