Should we consider cost restrictions?

@rlaszlo suggested and gave permission to start a thread on his thoughts on imposing cost restrictions for future seasons (beyond 2022-23). The major rational would be that there are probably few real world engineering problems that operate on a unrestricted budget and it would provide a more level playing field. If not for the entire robot, perhaps just for specific parts like motors. Of course, the fair and practical enforcement of such a restriction is where the issues arrive.

If the rules doesn’t outright constrain costs, another approach could be to ask the international judges to take how the team budgeted their designs into consideration for judged awards.

Please feel free to post your thoughts in this thread on whether or not cost restriction/budget considerations should be made and if so, how could it be done. Also, there were a few teams asking about what parts to use to get started - this may be a good opportunity for anyone to share a bill of materials with costs so new teams can get an idea for what to budget.

I have not noticed that rich kids come in and win tournaments because they have the money. That is not the case. What I have seen is that teams that have been at it for a while have an advantage, becasue they accumulate equipment and, more importantly, knowledge. RCJ is designed for this to happen, with the same task every year.
Thus, I think a cost limit would be pointless and counterproductive even if components had an objective “cost”. However, they don’t. Parts can be purchased new or used, in different countries with different currencies, sometimes with steep discounts or for free from a sponsor. Fortunately, most components tend to get cheaper over time.
Creativity and resourcefulness should earn credit with judges, but dollar cost should not be considered directly as a criterion, in my opinion.

I absolutely agree with Armin,
Sponsoring an Cooperation with local companies would also count as completely different “cost” for every team. One team has as cnc-machine and can build their own parts for almost free. Another Team has to order cnc-parts from companies and have to pay for it. You cannot compare theese costs.

@stiebel @Armin Those are unfortunately good points so the search for a solution to make LWL less of a speed competition continues…

Please find below my original points:

"Regarding the motor voltage and speed questions (aka “efficiency” questions), I may have an idea.

The original spirit of “what you learn is important” got into conflict of the competition spirit, simply because the budget of teams are quite different. So the final ranking of the teams is just partly reflecting how much a team could learn through the years, and team budgets are also altering the ranking.

What about to limit the total cost of a robot?

While it is hard to draw a line, that would level the chances of teams, like they would not be allowed to spend a fortune on motors, and even if the limit would allow more expensive motors, if they would spend, then they would have to restrict their sensors or batteries, etc.

Restricting costs could force teams to balance between what they want to spend their budget on. And restricting costs are getting closer to real world projects, where having a virtually unlimited budget is really rare.

Even if you don’t want to restrict all costs, you might introduce a cost limit on specific parts, like the motors. So for example all the motors on the robot could not cost more than like 400USD (just as an example). Maybe with further restrictions / rules, like motors planned to be used have to be publicly available with prices published during the preparation year, and teams would have to disclose what motors they chose in advance, like until end of November or December. After all the teams have disclosed their preference, a team could insist on their original plan, or could change to any other option any other team disclosed. Any team which has not posted a preference, could then only choose from the motors other teams had earlier put on the common list. That could lead to an open set of motors with a fair shared knowledge of preferences, and may lead to level out some of the unfair advantages.

What do you think?"

Thank you and best regards,

Thanks all for contributing! I tend to be in agreement that direct cost restrictions would not be feasible. However, it is an interesting idea to consider and there may be more to explore there.

I also agree we should recognize resourcefulness in some way. If we were to added to the judging rubric, how should it be assessed? For example, I agree that some teams make a significant investment over time in parts (e.g. motors passed on to generation to generation) and many work hard to raise funds, etc. However, some are simply more advantaged even if they don’t pay for parts directly. For example, they may have parents that work for large companies that give significant sponsorships that students do not even initiate.

What about just recognizing creative fund raising and community outreach more than sponsorships? The idea is to recognize teams that were successful in building a team organization especially when having less opportunities. If anyone has thoughts or suggestions on why or how to include that in judging, please share here.

Realizing this puts the thread on a bit of a tangent, please also continue to post any thoughts on if any sort of cost or acquisition restrictions should be placed on robots especially when considering motors.