Rules contradiction?

JonB
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Re: Rules contradiction?

Post by JonB » January 21st, 2016, 11:04 am

jdemaris wrote:A few more comments from me (John Demarrais)

I stated . . "The written rules clearly state (with a bit or paraphrasing) that an 80 cm square can be used "in any orientation chosen by the team."".

I got a reply stating . .

"This is NOT what the rules say. The device must fit in an imaginary cube that is 80.0cm on all sides when the device is ready to launch. I have coached Sci Oly for 8 years and I am not seeing the ambiguity in this. "

If you do not see a contradiction in the written rules - something is seriously wrong here. And yes - as written - the rules indicate up to an 80 cm square can be on the floor where the 1 meter taped border will be. I did not say "cube"because a such cube does not have a footprint on the floor. Only a side of that cube. Are you trying to say that an 80 cm "imaginary" cube is not made up of "imaginary 80 cm square sides? A tape border making a square put on a floor cannot determine height and therefore does not measure the entire cube. Just its footprint on the floor. I DID say I was paraphrasing.


I (John Demarrais here again) will also address this next statement/reply to me:

"Innovation is what we do daily, teamwork makes us successful, and working within a framework of the rules keeps us all.... sane. "

I reply (John Demarrais again) that if you want sanity and clarity - don't put in two statements that clearly contradict each other - on the same document.

And to this other reply to me?

"Also, I have only used metric in science- and I agree that we see other units in the USA, but why not know both? Both are valid but Sci Oly should stick with metric since that is what is used in MOST science/engineering."

I reply (John Demarrais again) . . this is plain silly. As I already stated - I am fully aware of the many systems of measurement used in real life in the USA. Metric is still in the minority. In hard science - yes Metric is almost the rule. That being said many people apply science on a daily basis with no Metric system figures involved. Expressing figures in both Metric and US versions is a courtesy to all. All my technical manuals come with dual figures because those tech writers understood this. Seems some people here do not? I have never refused to learn the Metric system. It just happens NOT to be the default in my brain because I was taught different.

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Submit your issue via the above link and I am sure they (Sci Oly) will be happy to clarify anything that you read as being contradictory.

I have nothing more to add or say in this thread after attempting to explain my standpoint as a coach.

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Re: Rules contradiction?

Post by chalker » January 21st, 2016, 5:47 pm

John D.:

First off, welcome to Science Olympiad! We really appreciate you being involved and asking detailed questions to better understand everything. SO is 99% driven by volunteers, parents and coaches, that all have a desire to be engaged in STEM education. Unfortunately, you'll also find that like any large organization, we have our own quirks, lingo, and shortcomings. Sorry about that and please don't be discouraged if someone comes off a little harsh or something doesn't seem to make sense.

To restate what others have said, this is not the place for official clarifications or statements. However as the Chair of the SO Physics Committee (and the creator of the Air Trajectory rules in particular), I try to utilize this forum the best I can to help out those involved in SO that have questions or concerns. In general, we try to design the rules so they impart a multi-faceted challenge that makes it easy for teams just starting up to be involved, yet still makes it possible to differentiate the 'elite' teams that regularly compete at the National tournament. Safety concerns also weigh heavily in our process.

Events like Trajectory have been around since the very beginning of SO (all the way back in 1984). We're constantly tweaking the rules to make them better and present new challenges to the competitors (while keeping the general spirit of an event the same from year to year). Note space constraints prevent us from addressing all possible scenarios in the rules or covering all possible interpretations or ensuring the language is perfectly clear. Hundreds of thousands of students, parents, coaches, and event supervisors will read the rules each year, and it's impossible for us to account for everyone's viewpoint or level of understanding.

We are indeed interested in feedback and not only make changes each year (as indicated by the bolded text in the rules) but also have official online FAQ and clarification mechanisms at soinc.org to address any major issues that might have fallen through the cracks (we are human after all and sometimes make mistakes).

I think the main reason you are getting pushback from other people on this 'contradiction' is that this is a pretty common type of situation in SO events (i.e. we specify some sort of device-level parameters as well as some broader event-level parameters that don't necessarily perfectly match, resulting in the need to evaluate design tradeoffs).

As an aside, the language "in any orientation chosen by the team" is a phrase we've struggled with over the years and tried a variety of permutations on. I'll note you've made a common assumption in that the rule requires one side of the cube to be parallel to the floor, but in reality it doesn't say that. I've seen teams design devices that rely on an non-square with the floor cube orientation. Regardless, perhaps we need to consider changing the language to say something like "in any orientation chosen by the team and in compliance with the rest of these rules", although that opens a bit of a slippery slope that might require us to start adding that later clause to a lot of the various rules.

You mentioned why not just proscribe a circle of a certain diameter as the launch area. One reason is that it's a lot harder for an event supervisor to tape off a circle versus a square on the floor (and we definitely write the rules not with the competitors in mind, but also the ~400 event supervisors that will run each event this year all over the country). The other reason is, as stated previously, the launch area isn't to verify the device dimensions, but rather add a component to the engineering challenge.

Your auto-mechanics and house builders code book analogies are slightly disingenuous because they both mention proscribed values, as opposed to MAX allowable. A better analogy in my opinion (and my apology for not supplying real numbers here) would be to say a trailer hitch has a max trailer weight capacity of 10,000lbs, but the vehicle overall has both a braked and unbraked towing capacity (where the unbraked capacity is usually much less due to other limitations). If you choose to used an unbraked trailer, you can't point to the trailer hitch max capacity and say it's 'contradictory'.

The bottom line is my (and most other people's) opinion is that the rules as written are pretty clear and easy to abide by, while providing LOTS of room for teams to innovate and learn more about science and engineering.

Finally, regarding the metric vs. imperial situation, you are of course well within your rights and prerogative to utilize imperial units (technically 'US customary units'). I was just trying to point out that SO has made a conscious decision to utilize metric units and we try to encourage people to stick with them in relation to SO related things, both for the sake of clarity as well as for educational purposed (e.g. the more you are exposed to metric the more comfortable you get with them). This comes down to it just being a common practice of our community.

As another aside, you pointed out all the things in the U.S. that are in imperial units, but many people are surprised to learn all the common things in the US that are metric, such as: 2 liter soda bottles, hurricane pressures are reported in millibars, film is 35mm, power usage is in kilowatthours, most food nutrition labels break things down by grams, some guns are 9mm caliber, gemstones are weighed by carats, blood sugar measurements are in mg/dl, races are 5km, etc. etc.

Thanks again for being involved and raising your concerns.

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Re: Rules contradiction?

Post by iwonder » January 21st, 2016, 6:54 pm

jdemaris wrote:Something is wrong here, as I see it. The more I read these rules - the more it look likes they are written to curtail innovation and not promote it.

Hopefully, I am missing something?

#3. Construction
Part D. ". . . must fit within a cube 80 cm per side for Division B in a ready-to-launch configuration, in ANY ORIENTATION CHOSEN BY THE TEAM.

OK. Now move on to . .
#4. Completion
Part A. . . . teams must place their devices at a location they select in a launch area 1 meter X 1 meter, designated by tape on the floor.

So here is the problem.
1. The device "cube" is made of squares that measure 31.49" X 31.49".
2. We are allowed any "orientation according to the rules.
3. So if we move the square that is touching the floor and point it at a target with two corners of that square in the centerline of trajectory?
4. Distance between the two corners of the 31.49" square is 44"
5. How does one fit 44"within the proposed tape border that measures 1 meter square (39.3") ?

This appears to me to be a overt contradiction UNLESS the "tape border" is allowed to rotate somehow when the device operator chooses to rotate the device to his/her chosen "orientation."
Welcome to Science Olympiad! Hopefully my two cents helps..

#3; Part D means that the maximum size of the device, when ready to launch, is 80cm in any three perpendicular axis. It doesn't matter how the team crams it in there, how it's oriented, but if it fits in that cube, the device meets the size constraints.

#4; Part A means that the team much now fit the device into this 1m x 1m square. If the team has decided to build a device that completely fills the 80cm cube, then they're limited to how much they can rotate the device by the 1m square. In that case 37 degrees. They could decide they needed to rotate the device in a full circle, in which case they would need to make the device smaller than 70.7cm square at the base. It's their choice how big the device is, given it is smaller than 80cm on each side.

I think the confusion boils down to the fact that the phrase 'in any orientation' only applies to cramming the device into the 80cm cube for measurement, NOT to placing the device in the launch area. The competitor can most certainly not place the device in the launch area in any orientation they chose.


As far as the metric vs customary going on... I feel like converting a whole country to another system is a very slow, tedious process. Any scientific measurements I've seen, in physics research, formulas, or teaching (and other disciplines) have all been metric. It's used in science because of the nice base ten conversions, the fact that for the most part it doesn't rely on exacting standards, but instead measurable quantities that can be reproduced anywhere (with the right equipment) and the need to easily share information around the world. However, lots of engineering still uses customary units, machine tools are indicated in thous and tenths, taps and dies are customary threads, etc. These are the things that are hard to change, and probably why so many of us still use those units.

Long and the short of it is, Science Olympiad emphasizes, well, science, and as such uses metric units, which are much more scientifically 'appropriate'. That being said, most of the designs I made while competing were done in customary units, with customary taps and drills and materials. I just bought a tape measure that reads both, and some electronic calipers that can flip back and forth, and after a while it never really mattered.
'If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room' - Unknown

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Re: Rules contradiction?

Post by jdemaris » January 27th, 2016, 12:51 pm

Still looks like a distinct contradiction to me . I have submitting the following question to the official rules clarification area twice now. Once on Jan 21 and once today Jan 27. No answer posted so far. This is what I asked.

3d states an 80cm cube may be used at "any orientation." This is not possible due to the further
restrictions in 4a

3d clearly states the device can be up to a max size as would fit into an 80 cm sided cube. No other restrictions mentioned there. Yet - in 4d - a rather vague restriction is made - stating a 1 meter square will be taped on the floor . I say this is vague since it does not state who determines the placement of this 1 meter square. It also does not state what plane the square will be in. If two corners of this square point towards the target area - then the 80 cm "cube" would also fit with corners pointing towards the target area. But if the taped 1 meter square has a flat side pointing towards the target area - an 80 cm square-sided cube will NOT fit if having two corners in line with the target area. Note that an 80 cm square measures approx 112 cms corner to corner. Simply put – an 80 cm square cannot be turned at “any orientation” inside a 1 meter square.

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Re: Rules contradiction?

Post by retired1 » January 27th, 2016, 1:11 pm

The rule plainly says that it has to fit inside a 70/80cm cube. It DOES not say that it has to be that size. It also says very plainly that the launch area IS 1.00 m square.
Now the fact that you might have to turn the device corner wise is an engineering problem that your team has to solve.
Your constant carping about this is not going to win friends or influence the rules committee.
The rules are not going to change to placate you. You have to comply with the existing rules or be ranked below those that follow the rules.

Swallow your lawyer attitude and cut the corners off.

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Re: Rules contradiction?

Post by chalker » January 27th, 2016, 7:21 pm

jdemaris wrote:Still looks like a distinct contradiction to me . I have submitting the following question to the official rules clarification area twice now. Once on Jan 21 and once today Jan 27. No answer posted so far.
FYI, we get hundreds of clarifications questions over the course of the season each year. There is a multi-stage and multi-person process involved in responding to most of them, and almost all the people involved are volunteers doing this in their spare time. As a result, it's not uncommon for replies (particularly this time of year) to take a few weeks while we wait for everyone to chime in behind the scenes. I'll note in this particularly case I JUST this evening received my copy of these questions, along with another dozen+ for me to look at (I'm typically in the middle of the process, not the beginning nor end of it) and submitted my suggested responses (which I'm sure you can guess what they are..) However you likely won't see those for a while yet, because it's not just my opinion that matters. The other committee members get an opportunity to chime in, and if we don't agree there is usually then a further delay while we hash out amongst ourselves how to respond.

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Re: Rules contradiction?

Post by jdemaris » February 15th, 2016, 7:12 pm

This sort of reply from Mr. "Retired 1" helps make a mockery of what is supposed to be a science-based event.


"Your constant carping about this is not going to win friends or influence the rules committee.
The rules are not going to change to placate you. You have to comply with the existing rules or be ranked below those that follow the rules.
Swallow your lawyer attitude and cut the corners off."

Mr. Retired 1. Perhaps you regard yourself as witty. Don't be shocked if someone like me does not. If this is about science - then the rules should be clear and unequivocal. I am not "carping" as you put it. Acting like a lawyer? Perhaps. Lawyers work with documents and those documents use words that have agreed-to, in-context meanings. Just as they should in the field of science.

I asked clear questions. I did not ask to be "placated", nor did I ask for a rule-change. Rule clarification is what I have been seeking. As I stated earlier, there is a clear contradiction in the rules as written by any denotation of the word "contradiction" that I am aware of.

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Re: Rules contradiction?

Post by iwonder » February 15th, 2016, 7:19 pm

You've asked 'clear' questions. They've been answered. You refuse to accept those answers. It's quite simple. I see no reason to take this much further.
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Re: Rules contradiction?

Post by Ed63 » February 15th, 2016, 7:42 pm

For the last time, there is no contradiction. The device does not have to be a 80cm cube, just has to fit within an imaginary 80cm cube. You can make your device any size smaller to allow it to rotate if you wish. If you make it 80cm square, then you are correct, you will not be able to rotate it.

Everyone else I've seen at multiple competitions seems to understand the rules and have devices that meet all criteria and rotate to be able to aim at their target.

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Re: Rules contradiction?

Post by retired1 » February 16th, 2016, 7:12 am

Sorry, but there is no contradiction. The device has a max and it has to fit within a 1 m square. The fact that that you will have to turn it a bit is where the engineering come in. Simply put, this amounts to building a device that is smaller in at least one dimension OR simply cutting a bit off of the corners.
Again, there is NO contradiction! It is just an engineering challenge.

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