So I recently had this email land in my mailbox and was quite disturbed. Identifying details removed.
"I am a teacher of IT and preparing elementary students for participating in a national XXXXXX robotics competition. The truth is that I don't have so much time. I want to give to my students the happiness to make the Robot there and pass to the final of the competition.
I want to ask you if you can help me to build and program the Robot that can give the solution to the XXXXXX challenge. I can pay you of course for your work if you can help me."
I've heard rumours before of this happening and frankly I think it is just about impossible to stop a determined Teacher / Team mentor.
This was my reply -
I was disappointed to receive you email. As you are no doubt aware, these kinds of competitions exist to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math skills amongst our students. By providing them with a ready built solution deprives them of the opportunity to learn themselves through the valuable trail and error process. Design skills, creative thinking and problem solving techniques are never learnt when someone else does all the work for you.
In addition, these competitions require that the students do the majority of the work, and so to have someone else design and build would go against the ethos of the competition as well as be blatant misrepresentation of the work that they have done.
I deeply implore you not to go down this route and instead encourage the students to come up with and test their own solutions. The ultimate aim of these such competitions and initiatives is not to win, and your students would achieve and learn considerably more with a robot that doe not make the finals (that they have built themselves) then they would from a robot that did make the finals (that they had nothing to do with).
Given how highly regarded all these types of competitions are becoming. Winning them does bring with it a lot of fantastic publicity as well as financial incentives. I understand that having the competitive part of a challenge can be a very big drawcard and can often be a big factor in the success of such a program, but how do we combat the 'win at all costs' mentality?
In RoboCupJunior Australia we are making a concerted effort to not only personally interview every team that comes in, and by initiatives such as rewarding teams that document and share their solutions regardless of how they perform on the day.
I'd love to hear your thoughts.