Hobby Engineering/Robotics Project site

Hobby Engineers,
I have been interested in hobby engineering and robotics for quite some time. I have read and posted on this group and others over the past
years. I have spent many countless hours following links to hardware sites, reading about projects people have done and bots that have been built. From it all I feel that the number of hobby engineers online is enormous with hundreds of personal "Yet another robotics project" pages. What I haven't seen online, or anywhere for that matter, is a place where projects can be suggested and people could compete on a hobbyist level. There are large competitions such as FIRST and the DARPA Grand Challenge which require large groups of people and many man-hours of work to build, and are aimed at either high schools or large universities with large wallets. It was with this lack of a hobbyist competition that I kicked my grey matter into gear and started to design out a place for us hobbiest to show the world what we can do, a competition for the rest of us...
I am currently looking into starting an online hobby engineering/robotics site that would host hardware competitions for anyone to try. These projects would be aimed at hardware/software interaction with the real world to overcome posted challenges. This would be much like the larger compositions that are designed for university classes however this would be based on the Internet. Projects and specs would be announced at set times over the year. Any member of the site could join any project currently running. Server space could be provided for pictures of the project as the builder works on their solution. The final proof of the solution would be a video of the system attempting the challenge. The intended way of determining a winner is through community voting. Each "project page" would have a rating system where members of the site could rate the project on such things as approach, design, implementation and overall success. While at the beginning, winning members would earn a place in a "winners list" and most likely a cool site badge, future winners could earn prizes from sponsors.
My hope is that this site could provide a "jumping off point" of sorts to entice more people to build projects and expand their understanding of engineering and robotics.
As can be seen, this would be a rather large undertaking. I feel that this could be a successful online community for hobbyists and fill the gap between specialized competitions and high funding competitions. What I don't know is what the engineering/robotics community thinks of this project... Would you sign up for the site? Would you be willing to try the projects? do you think this would bring more people to the community and expand the knowledge base?
The main question i search for is, Should this be done?
Thank you for your responses
s1axter
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It is an intresting idea, however the number of theoretical robobuilders (you know, those who read and discuss about it, but never get to build something) is significantly larger than those who actual build something. It would be very intresting if those who submit their project would publish how they've designed and build their robot and provide as much pictures, schematics,.. as possible/usefull. A forum for each robot might be a nice addition if they're moderated. Perhaps you could link to http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Robotics as more contributors are always welcome (especialy from those who actualy build robots).
-Patrik

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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

<most snipped>
Some aspects of your idea have been implemented in some community sites like robots.net. You've probably seen it, but just in case...
I assume you mean that the site would propose a hardware competition that people could then do on a local basis. Otherwise, how would people complete virtually?
In any case, the problem here is that is ignores some personal dynamics about the people, especially the adults, who enjoy robotics competitions. They don't like just competing in them, they like *creating* the competitions to begin with. They're not really looking for more ideas. The adult-level hobby robotics community is not all that large, relatively speaking, and anyone who spends even a small portion of the day online will learn about various new directions in competitions.
A segment that might be a more likely target is teachers. The site could have two components; one for teachers (who must provide credentials to get access to a curriculum section of the site), and one for students. Teachers can select among various projects and challenges, and students in the class then visit the site to obtain a project overview, tips, materials list, sample programs, whatever.
Students in school are more naturally inclined to boast about their successes, and will be only too happy to take pictures of themselves and their robots, and do a little write up. Teachers can offer extra credit for this, etc. I think you'll find that the average adult-age hobby robot builder is far more interesting in building than writing about it. It's hard to find people who will send in even a picture and a short paragraph.
-- Gordon
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I like the idea. I live in a small country town in Australia and although we are not in a remote community we are 4 hours from a major city where robotic competitions sometimes take place. Taking part in online competitions/challenges would be welcome. I also teach robotics and allowing my students to take part online would take the headache of busing students to venues.
Robert

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