Friday, November 9, 2012

Machines Behaving Badly - My Patton Speech

Tomorrow is the tournament, so at High Noon two dozen robots cobbled together by middle school kids will start being forcibly reduced to their constituent parts.  Just before the first match I give a short talk along these lines:

Best of luck in the tournament.  As is the case every year I have had fun in the class and learned a few things.  I hope you can say the same.

The spectators who have come out to watch today are your moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas.  They have come to see two things.

They want to see that you have used your skills to transform an idea into something that moves and works.  Not, in all cases, for very long, but still it is a remarkable achievement.  It should not be possible to create functioning robots on this budget but you have all succeeded nicely.

They also want to see good sportsmanship.  No anger, few tears.

I am very sure you would have completely read the Tournament Rules .....if I ever published them.  

Here is the way things work:

Matches can end by knockout.  If your robot has become a paperweight or a pile of debris it is hard to see how you can injure your opponent very much. 

Matches can also be decided by judges decision.  You may disagree with the judge's call.  Varied opinions are a good thing, but the judges are right and that is final.  No arguments.

Remember that they are looking at the action from three directions.  They can see which robots are moving with purpose and which are limping along shedding parts. They also have an average of 12 years of experience in combat robotics.  You guys have an average of 12 years of experience breathing.  For sure you will see some matches won and lost that you expected would have gone the other way.

Matches can also end in surrender.  In a double elimination tournament it might make sense to throw in the towel if in an early round match you are being pushed slowly but certainly into a hazard that will make sushi out of your robot.  It is much easier to come back and fight to ultimate victory if you do not have to go looking for enough parts to glue back together for the next round.

You may well be called a cheese eating surrender monkey, but that's life.   In later round matches where it is Victory or Death we expect considerably more determination.  Sometimes both robots are being beaten up equally and the driver with the most reckless courage gets the decision.  

Let's have some fun smashing stuff into littler stuff.  Get ready to learn the importance of both steady success and of spectacular, ambitious failure.

And as always I will end by telling you the Secret to Success in Life:

Always show up on time and with your batteries fully charged.

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