Robotics Education & Competition Foundation
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Independent Inquiry


7316X
14-Dec-2023

In the notebook rubric in the guide to judging, the category “Innovation/originality” states: “Team shows evidence of independent inquiry from the beginning stages of their design process.” The team interview rubric under the category “Engineering design process” states: “Team shows evidence of independent inquiry from the beginning stages of their design process. This includes brainstorming, testing, and exploring alternative solutions”

Our team has two questions regarding this.

  1. In this context what specifically would constitute independent inquiry and how are teams expected to show evidence of it? Teams will come up with very similar or even in some cases identical design solutions for the same problems while trying to play the game. How is a team expected to prove that they came up with the design on their own instead of copying it from a different source? At what point would using an outside source for inspiration no longer be considered independent and instead be dependent?

  2. How is a judge intended to interpret this category? No where in the guide to judging exists a clear explanation or definition of what “independent inquiry” is.

Answered by Competition Judging Committee
19-Dec-2023

"Independent inquiry" in this context relates to the process that students are following to find design solutions, not necessarily the solutions themselves. The spirit of this criteria, in both the Team Interview Rubric, and in the Engineering Notebook Rubric, is to encourage teams to document the source and process of implementing their ideas.

The Team Interview Rubric includes clarification and definition, which you cite in your question: "Team shows evidence of independent inquiry from the beginning stages of their design process. This includes brainstorming, testing, and exploring alternative solutions".

The realities of technological and intellectual innovation are that derivative ideas often exist in the world. Students can still learn from the process of exploring existing ideas and applying them to create their own solutions. This is a way to allow for teams to build on and learn from existing work while maintaining a student centered ethos.

Whether the implemented ideas have their origin with students on the team, or if those students found inspiration elsewhere, that should be documented, and students should be going through all of the steps of the design process with that idea - this helps to distinguish the line between drawing inspiration from an idea that students then understand and make their own, and rote copying.