Contest entries. Engineers/Professionals vs. ordinary DIY guys

Hey. Recent (as far as I started looking) contest entries are really awesome. Like the electronic orbit wheel, the 3D DLP printer, Carbonize your friends, Predator costume, etc etc etc.

The makers enter the cool contest here,of course. But if you have a look at the winners,  it is very often the machine engineers and the professionals/those that do it for a living. Some of the instructables even fit better on kickstarter imho because you simply cannot replicate it at home. (or did I got the gist of wrong ?)  Like the orbitng wheel or the 3D "diy" DLP printer. There is hardly a chance for an ordinary guy without specialized college eduction and/or access to hardware like waterjets, 3d printers and what have you. 

What do you guys think ? Fair ? Deal with it ? Obsolete participating in contests ?
So shoot !

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sparten114 years ago
I have no degree in most of the tech needed here. I am self taught. when i need to do something or get something done and don't have the money to have someone else do it for me, then I teach myself to do it. The following list are skills that I have had to teach myself to do in order to build some of the most amazing things you can imagine.

1. Electronics
2. Mechanical Engineering
3. Pneumatics
4. Hydraulics
6. Machine Tool design
7. Drafting
8. Drawing both with and without PC
9. Programming: C, C++, Assembly, Java, VB, HTML

and so on. The issue is not just about the tooling but about the concept and a cohesive concept for building/implementation.

If you think it, it will come. I have a short Tenure here and have won 3 contests without any real training. Or money.

If you really want to win the most important things are the Idea, and the tenacity to complete the task.

most of my work was done in my garage or basement. Yes i have access to CNC's and
now that i won a laser cutter, I can use that too. Understand that I didn't always have one i bought my first mill as a manual then thought myself how to make it a cnc. So if you don't have a machine to do the work then don't complain about it build one. There are plenty of instructable to help you do this. If you don't know how then READ. There is a world full of information and how too's out there to help.
Finally if you need help ask me I would be very happy to give you the aid you need Patawan, weather it be simple machining if needed or the use of my laser cutter or 3d printer or my help in some design work with solid works etc. or help with the circuit and or programming.

so don't let the lack of equipment or experience stop you. You can find a way to do it you just need a positive can do attitude. "USE THE FORCE" as it were, so many of us here would be glad to help.

Ben Finio4 years ago
Engineer (B.S. in mechanical, Ph.D. in robotics) and winner of a 3D printer in a previous contest here - I just read through all these comments, and I think it's an interesting discussion, especially between Kiteman and Deeg below. Kiteman, while I agree with your general statement that it's hard to draw a non-blurry line between "pro" and "hobby" (e.g. a hobbyist who happens to know a guy with a laser cutter, vs. an engineer who doesn't have access to one), but I disagree with your statement that

"Anyhoo, as I said earlier, lack of equipment is no longer a barrier to producing high-end projects. The only barrier is personal finances, which it would be inappropriate to assess. " (emphasis added).

As ianmcmill pointed about below, I think the original post was also about education - someone with an engineering/technical degree vs. someone without. If the goal is to design the whiz-bangiest fancy-shmancy widget imaginable, then yes, with a bunch of engineering education under my belt* (and at the time I wrote the contest-winning project, full access to all the equipment in a robotics lab at Cornell), then yes, I probably have a totally unfair advantage over a guy with a liberal arts degree who just decided to start tinkering in his garage with nothing but duct tape and a screwdriver. But only if that's the only way the contest is judged (more on that in a bit).

 Deeg, while I generally agree with your concerns, ultimately I think Kiteman is right that there's no way to draw a fair, enforceable line in the sand. Your brother's barber's son-in-laws's dog's groomer has a laser cutter? You took two semesters of engineering classes in college before switching majors? You inherited an old CNC router from your grandparents? Too bad, you can't enter the "hobby" version of the contest.

Ultimately I think you can accomplish your (Deeg's) goal of leveling the playing field a bit without actually having separate pro/hobby contests or subjective criteria like "could 80% of members build this". Off the top of my head:

- Cost limits on the project, e.g. "all materials including tools cannot be more than $50"
- Tool/material limits, e.g. "no laser cut parts or diamond-tipped saws"
- Judging criteria that include rewards for creative/efficient use of limited resources (if, at the end of the day you accomplish the same task, isn't it more impressive if you can MacGyver something out of cardboard and duct tape than nice clean laser-cut or 3D printed parts that snap together?)
- Along those lines - a "simplicity"/"low-tech" contest with a specific goal. As opposed to open-ended like "Show us anything that uses an Arduino!", make it "Design a device to do X", and reward the design that is simplest, cheapest, easiest to build, and most sustainable. Think along the lines of all those development projects to bring rechargeable reading lights, clean drinking water etc. to under-developed countries. They certainly don't have 3D printers available so the required use of fancy tools is actually a detriment to the project goal, and should be judged accordingly.

Clearly, this won't work for every contest. The Arduino contest is probably always going to be biased in favor of computer science/engineering people no matter what you do with it. But, I think if new contests are formatted carefully to begin with, then you don't have to worry as much about who enters them.
ianmcmill (author)  Ben Finio4 years ago
This totally hit the nail right on the head !
Very well written and argumented.
Deeg4 years ago
I just saw the forum thread about voting. I, too, was confused about the role voting played and didn't realize that the finalists were chosen (in part) by voting. If an Instructable gets the votes from members then it deserves to be included regardless of whether the members have any hope of building it. The members have spoken!
ianmcmill (author)  Deeg4 years ago
Community votes are out of the question. No doubt.

Community (=member) votes always choose at least half the finalists (sometimes contest sponsors choose some of the finalists).
ianmcmill (author)  Kiteman4 years ago
I thought of the voting 'voting'. Not the judging 'voting'. Sorry.
Ah, right.

The simplified way things work is:

The contest opens, and folk enter. Members can immediately vote for any entries they like.
The contest closes. Voting continues, to give late entries a chance to catch up on votes.
Finalists are chosen. This involves counting votes, but also consulting sponsors if appropriate.
Finalists are passed to judges. The judges are usually invited from the more active members, but can also include staff from the sponsoring company. Judges are not told the votes the finalists earned, or which finalists were chosen by sponsors.
Judging happens. Winners are contacted to check they live in valid countries.
Winners are announced.
Prizes are sent.
ianmcmill (author)  Kiteman4 years ago
Because Deeg referred to choosen finalists that are being vote for by the members/community before the actual judging begins.
*its how you market yourself, you got 108 followers.
*Follow the instructions of the contest to the letter. if Krylon is sponsoring a spray paint contest, slip an image of the can next to your finished product.(i got a $50 itunes gift card once)
*If your instructable is using mostly google images, its not going to win. period.
*Put cheesy jokes in the text, use "interesting main images" (look up asteroid belt). sex sells, do a project on something reflective and stand in the reflection in a speedo, post pictures of your underwear. My highest instructable has 63k views, on how to fold laundry. briefs are more funnier than boxers, especially if they have cartoons on them.
*Back in the day clear Macro shots were all the rage. It didn't even have to fit the project, i called it macro porn.
*Some projects like you mention are complicated like a doctoral thesis. I believe the spirit of instructables is to make instructions that are clearly written that others can follow, and to "show off" what you made. Your probably not going to make a set of orbit wheels, but you could cut a slot in a screw when you cant find your tools or mix a batch of oogoo.

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