Oh, two very different schools of thought on this one. I am ....of the other one. Discussed in a number of posts last year...
Science-O a) deals with/teaches both the content and process of science - and in the building events, engineering, and b) is a competition - with the building events open to the public and other competors.
A key aspect of science and engineering - as it is in the real world- as it works -is that one person's work is built on by others; sometimes by breakhroughs- big jumps- whole new concepts to a problem; sometimes by detailed improvement. In the realm of "things" - as in things built for the building events - there is always room for improvement. To not start from a good idea, and figure out how to improve on it - and to do the best research you can on what's the best current idea out there - would be....., well, stupid.
Except for national security stuff, and corporate trade secret stuff, the world of science and engineering is an open, collaborative, interactive one- people building on other's knowledge and progress. S-O is neither a matter of national security, nor of trade secrets.
The building events are public. If the organizers had intended the protection of designs and techniques, teams would test their devices one at a time, for the judge's eyes only. In that that's not how its done speaks to the intent of the organizers, doesn't it?
There is a good analogy in racing- highly competitive, success through developing neat, new trick parts, new approaches, refinement of old, good ideas. But when you come to the track, everybody gets to look and see. Not take apart and measure, but look at, take notes, take photos. If a competitor or coach see's something.....noteworthy, they are going to take notes- words, sketches. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. Photos, short of getting down 6inches away on key detail, are no different. Secrets are for before the competition - the cat is out of the bag, though, when its competition time. How, IMHO, it works, and should work. For someone to come up with a cool, significantly better idea on how to do something, and expect that no one else should recognize that advance as the new state-of-the art- and adopt and improve from there is.....contrary to what the scientific process is, and, I would argue, what Science-O is all aboul.
Just my personal opinion. I respect contrary views, but do not agree with them.
Fort Collins, CO