National Tower Scores?

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Re: National Tower Scores?

Post by Balsa Man » May 23rd, 2017, 1:30 pm

Another interesting issue came up in the towers competition at Nationals.

The issue relates to the rule “constructed of wood and bonded by adhesive. No other materials are allowed.” The B division team I’ve worked with this year were advised during check-in that the markings on their tower (done with felt-tip markers/highlighters) were….a problem; that they could be DQ’d- that by the rules, there could/should be no marks on the tower. The decision was made, very appropriately IMHO, not to DQ them, with a….warning not to do it next year… But a couple hours later, the C team I’ve been working with checked in with similar markings, and not a word was said about them….

I totally understand and support the intent to limit “materials” in the structure to wood and glue, and to prohibit anything that increases strength/performance beyond what can had using only wood and adhesive. And I understand the importance, particularly at the Nationals level, of requiring full compliance with the rules. The use of marks (done with pencil or felt tip markers), however, in no way increases strength/performance, and marks are not “materials” of construction.

What I hope can be done is getting language in the rules for next year (and subsequent years) that clearly allows for marking done in a way that ….gains no advantage in terms of structure performance. Just a simple statement that marks to guide/facilitate construction are not considered “materials”; just like the statement that bamboo is not considered wood.
I cannot imagine any scenario/way that pencil or marker marks could provide any structural/performance advantage. Can anyone else? I also find it hard to believe it was an intention of the rules writers to make the kids build without any marking- as an….added but not explicitly stated challenge. I’m hoping/guessing it was just an oversight; an unintended potential interpretation issue that didn’t get thought of. It’s just something you would probably not think of if you hadn’t spent hours and hours deep into the process of building a high-performance structure……

One of the important things we as coaches teach, of course, is the importance of precision. Part of precision is precisely aligned…parts. Precise marking is how you get precise alignment. It’s a normal, standard tool for anyone doing….fabrication; carpenters, engineers… There’s also a second important use of markings. We’ve gotten into some good discussion this year about the inherent variability in wood/balsa; how some pieces are better than others in structural efficiency; and discussed how to sort through, and measure, to the extent you can, to get the “best” wood to go into that competition tower. Little ‘color-coding’ marks are critical to that process.

So, I’d like to think …we’re all on the same page here; marking is not a way to any unfair advantage; it’s just that as the rule is written, a well totally well meaning judge could understandably interpret it in an unintended (and inappropriate) way. Having done my share of supervising events, I understand the challenges of getting everything right, fairly, for all competitors. It sounds like the crew running towers did a really good job meeting those challenges, and we all appreciate and respect that!
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Re: National Tower Scores?

Post by cheese » May 23rd, 2017, 1:42 pm

dholdgreve wrote:I know of at least 3 teams that were forced to test already broken towers. Did it happen because the towers were out of the box? I don't know... maybe they were broken in transit... I just think it wrong to make the kids take the towers out of the box, then walk down a flight of dimly lit stairs, through the crowd of other coaches and spectators as well as their competition without ant protection for their towers..
Yeah, My tower was around 6 grams, but after we checked in, one of the x braces came loose which cost us to break at 10.5 kg. It would of held max tho..
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Re: National Tower Scores?

Post by cheese » May 23rd, 2017, 1:43 pm

cheese wrote:
dholdgreve wrote:I know of at least 3 teams that were forced to test already broken towers. Did it happen because the towers were out of the box? I don't know... maybe they were broken in transit... I just think it wrong to make the kids take the towers out of the box, then walk down a flight of dimly lit stairs, through the crowd of other coaches and spectators as well as their competition without ant protection for their towers..
Yeah, My tower was around 6 grams, but after we checked in, one of the x braces came loose which cost us to break at 10.5 kg. It would of held max tho..
If we were to have boxes, it probably wouldn't have broken. It was very scary walking down the stairs in the crowded auditorium.
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Re: National Tower Scores?

Post by Crtomir » May 23rd, 2017, 1:45 pm

No markings sounds a bit extreme. No tape or sticky labels seems reasonable, but no markings? How do the kids build it without marking on it? We never had any problem with pen/pencil marks on our towers. The kids even wrote their team name/number on their towers. Sometimes they even wrote the name of their tower on their tower. (They gave each of their towers a unique funny name.)

Glad your kids didn't get DQ'd, but the fact that it was brought up seems strange.

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Re: National Tower Scores?

Post by Random Human » May 23rd, 2017, 3:21 pm

Crtomir wrote:No markings sounds a bit extreme. No tape or sticky labels seems reasonable, but no markings? How do the kids build it without marking on it? We never had any problem with pen/pencil marks on our towers. The kids even wrote their team name/number on their towers. Sometimes they even wrote the name of their tower on their tower. (They gave each of their towers a unique funny name.)

Glad your kids didn't get DQ'd, but the fact that it was brought up seems strange.
Lead or ink from your pen/pencil does add a bit of weight onto yoru tower.... just a piece of advice
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Re: National Tower Scores?

Post by Raleway » May 23rd, 2017, 4:04 pm

Crtomir wrote:No markings sounds a bit extreme. No tape or sticky labels seems reasonable, but no markings? How do the kids build it without marking on it? We never had any problem with pen/pencil marks on our towers. The kids even wrote their team name/number on their towers. Sometimes they even wrote the name of their tower on their tower. (They gave each of their towers a unique funny name.)

Glad your kids didn't get DQ'd, but the fact that it was brought up seems strange.
The Tower must be constructed of wood and bonded by adhesive. No other materials are permitted. (3H)
I guess that's what they were worried about...? In any case, writing stuff on it if using ink slightly increases weight, while indenting with a pencil causes premature failure (because of indentation right)? In any case, I never mark my pieces anymore and just use guidelines or a jig (guidelines from the drawing to cutter and stuff, not drawn on). Still seems a bit silly though... I guess WSU will truly be unforgettable.
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Re: National Tower Scores?

Post by dholdgreve » May 24th, 2017, 6:57 am

A few year back, they specifically put in the rules that the structure was not to be "coated." While I can imagine that completely coating the structure MIGHT increase the strength, it would also add tremendously to the weight of the structure. This rule seemed to get dropped about the same time as the rule that said no single piece could be greater than 1/4" in cross section. In both cases, the only teams that would have violated either of these rules would in no way be able to produce a competitive structure, so both seemed rather self defeating... I was glad to see both of these rules eliminated, as the rules tend to be wordy enough... Science OIympiad is all about the scientific process... and organized methodical way to get from point A to point B. Part of this process is material selection. Color coding the wood for grain structure, density, bending strength, etc. it totally in line with this process. Laying out each column meticulously so that the tower is symmetrical is part of this process. Throwing together bracing on unmarked columns in the hopes of stumbling across something that works is not.

Although the judges seemed to be extremely considerate to the kids, they need to understand that to these kids, this is the most important moment of their young lives. Many are within a hair of breaking down on the spot due to the pressure they put onthemselves. Raising an issue with something as mundane as markers or ink on a column is not only ridiculous, it very well could affect the outcome of their testing... Thank goodness they didn't hand load!. Even if it was done in a non-menacing way, it would no doubt disrupt their chi. If anything, possibly ask the kids what the marks indicate, then complement them on their organized approach... I'm thinking it may be the judges that need to change for next year, not the kids! :)

I know when we were building the towers, the kids would leave 5 MM or so extra on the bottom end of the columns for leveling purposes, then layout their bracing patterns from there. If one of the columns happened to get rotated when placed on the jig so the bottom was now the top, if would really skew the tower. To avoid this from happening, the kids started color coding the top ends... If all 4 tops were not color coded they knew they had some turned the wrong way!
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Re: National Tower Scores?

Post by Balsa Man » May 24th, 2017, 10:43 am

I concur with dholdgreve on all counts 8-) I would note though, from a little... playing around and testing, that limited 'skin coating' on low density pieces, with the right glue, properly applied, might possibly be an avenue that could be exploited (where gain in strength is not overwhelmed by weight gained)- not saying it IS, just ...maybe.

So it sounds like we’re all pretty much on the same page on marking- that interpreting the current rule as prohibiting marking doesn’t make any sense, serve any valid/positive, or (hopefully) intended purpose, and would disallow an appropriate, valid, reasonable… step in good fabrication. Common sense suggests, and I’ve got to believe, that wasn’t the intent in the rule makers minds. Guess an official clarification will be the right way to get it straightened out, looking ahead to next year.

Maybe Chalker would care to comment on intent and best way to resolve?

And, yup, as noted, marking by pencil or marker does add weight, but we’re talking micrograms. A few years ago, I had access to a scale at the office good to 1/10,000th of a gram, and weighed a piece of balsa with and without a felt-tip marker mark. It read no difference in weight. Obviously, marking doesn’t really … act as a construction material- I know the rule currently simply says “constructed of...no other materials.”

Also, as noted by Raleway, pencil marking (which provides the most precise/fine positioning marks) does risk denting (which will reduce buckling strength), especially low density pieces. Gently using the side of the lead is critical if using a pencil.
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Re: National Tower Scores?

Post by scioly2012 » June 18th, 2017, 2:08 pm

In C ours was around 2700, and Mentor(5th) said theirs was around 2800. Could anyone elaborate on what an "elevated" tower might look like for next year? And I wasn't in towers when they had the two-part tower rules, could someone explain how that would be scored?

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Re: National Tower Scores?

Post by Unome » June 18th, 2017, 4:04 pm

scioly2012 wrote:In C ours was around 2700, and Mentor(5th) said theirs was around 2800. Could anyone elaborate on what an "elevated" tower might look like for next year? And I wasn't in towers when they had the two-part tower rules, could someone explain how that would be scored?
A two-tiered tower woudl most likely involve a rule stating that all parts of the tower above a certain height (this height was different between B and C in 2012 if I remember correctly) must fit within a tube of a certain diameter (it'll probably be some readily-available size) - example image

I have no idea what you mean by an elevated tower.
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