Competing in tournament with a basic clawbot

  1. 5 months ago

    My team is 6th graders all girls. They plan to compete by building a basic robot that they built using the instructions that came with with "Dual Control Starter Kit". We don't think we are going to win but we just want to get out there learn from others in our first EDR competition. Is this common or is it acceptable? Or they should not enter into competition if they don't build some fancy custom robot? Thoughts? Thanks.

    Some years ago, I mentored two middle school teams. One of them competed with a very slightly modified clawbot. They did well, actually, since they had documented the changes to the clawbot in an engineering notebook and they had autonomous code that scored a bit, and they could drive pretty well. They made it to the state tournament.

    But how they did that year is immaterial, really. Those same core team members got the taste for it. They liked the competition. They even (unbelievably) liked the process of being interviewed by judges. They kept going. Last year as sophomores they were unbeaten in the Black division at the US Open. They were in the top 50 in World Skills, which got them to Worlds. At Worlds, they placed 8th in driver skills, and 37th in skills overall. They did okay in their division (14th; one of @TheColdedge teams was 13th), were picked for the tournament, but were eliminated in the quarter finals. They've won their division's Community Award at Worlds two years in a row.

    And that happened because that very first year at the very first tournament, their coach (not me) convinced them to go compete with a modified clawbot. It was a bit tough to get them to go, because their standard was what they had seen at the nearby high school facility, EC3: DR4B and Scissor lifts driven by World-ranked teams. But she was insistent. They were all but embarrassed by their own perceptions of team ineptitude. But she pushed them to go, and to try. I'm glad she did.

    So yeah, I think clawbots are worth it.

  2. Ashwin Gupta

    Sep 10 California 2496V
    Edited 5 months ago by Ashwin Gupta

    This is my opinion on the matter...

    Is this common or is it acceptable?

    There really isn't anything wrong with this technically, I doubt anyone will think badly of it. I've seen clawbots at competition before. Just be clear, you'll do poorly and you'll have difficulty scoring many points. IMO, there is more to learn from building your own custom robot that's really bad and totally fails than it is to build a clawbot. Then go home and evaluate what happened. Thats what most teams do at their first competition anyway.

    Or they should not enter into competition if they don't build some fancy custom robot?

    They absolutely should enter the competition, the only way to get better and learn is from competition. The added stress, time pressure, intensity really grows a team. Also, you get to see other designs and what experienced teams do. You can evaluate your robot much better after competing with it and seeing its flaws. Make no mistake: its very very uncommon to do well at a first competition, so don't even worry about that. However, I wouldn't advise entering with the clawbot since you loose a lot of the benefits of competition.

    At my first competition we went 1 win 5 losses for the day ranked #27/28. That was three years ago. Yesterday we went 7 wins 1 loss ranked #2/37 and won two awards. That improvement didn't happen by magic, it came from experience and persistence. Going to competition is a must.

  3. Aponthis

    Sep 10 Gilbert, Arizona 127X

    I wouldn't recommend it, as I don't really see a point to it. Building the clawbot as a first robot to learn some things is fine, but for competition, I would build a basic pushbot (basically just a chassis, but with more motor power and better pushing surfaces than the clawbot). If you're feeling ambitious, which I suppose this post suggest you aren't, then you could build a very basic lift and claw, or literally just a standoff on the lift to kind poke through the hole in the top of cones (like this robot: ). It depends on your availability of parts and how much time you have to work and how much time until your competition. PM me (read: start a private conversation) if you want any help! I would be glad to answer questions or direct you to more resources.

  4. AppleDavidJeans

    Sep 10 Collierville, Tennessee 3631A (Retired)

    Can't knock it until you try.

    A team's very first competition will serve as a huge learning experience for them. I know it did for my team back in NBN, where we switched from a low-goal ball magazine robot in our first competition to a high-goal flywheel robot in 4 weeks for our second competition that ended up winning states only a week later. Build something that will at least score, then use the completion to help your team overhaul the robot.

  5. B-Kinney

    Sep 11 Hollywood, FL 77321J - Mentor
    Edited 5 months ago by B-Kinney

    I do not have experience with the clawbot kit, but in my opinion, competing in a tournament with a clawbot would be better than not attending at all. I would imagine you could even take the clawbot and make improvements to it at the competition.

    Even if you don't have a robot ready in time, you would likely still be able to attend a tournament as a spectator and see how everything is run and what other teams' robots are like. This still doesn't teach you as much as competing, but it is better than nothing.

  6. sankeydd

    Sep 11 Event Partner

    I say go for the clawbot. At our first competition last year we had there clawbots, and they were there only robots that could hang. None of them won but they had a good time.

  7. kypyro

    Sep 11 V5 Beta Tester Central Kentucky

    Nothing wrong with going out and competing with a clawbot. If you want to try something else, here's something Doug Klein released.

    Be sure to read the comments.

  8. kmmohn

    Sep 11 Monroe MI 3547

    Participating in early competition is far more important than what type of robot is used, this is why VEX Team VIRUS hosts an early-season competition the first week of August, and no one ever disparages even the most basic robot (this is part of the Robotics community spirit that is unique to our sport). Looking back over the years, you can see that the GDC always has a way that even Clawbots can make some amount of score. Once a novice team has experienced competition, they will get a better idea of strategy, and see examples of what can be built and how they work.

  9. kypyro

    Sep 11 V5 Beta Tester Central Kentucky

    @kmmohn Participating in early competition is far more important than what type of robot is used,...

    Once a novice team has experienced competition, they will get a better idea of strategy, and see examples of what can be built and how they work.

    Definitely agree for a beginning team. Get out and see how it works.

  10. Aponthis

    Sep 11 Gilbert, Arizona 127X

    @kmmohn Looking back over the years, you can see that the GDC always has a way that even Clawbots can make some amount of score.

    I'm going to respectfully disagree on the case of Nothing But Net. If you so much as lifted, you were out of size.

  11. @itpragmatik Definitely be proud of having your team start off with a simple build such as the basic clawbot for an early event. I actually showed our team an event match where an extremely complex RD4B was going against a standard clawbot. The clawbot actually ended up scoring more cones on the goals because of better driving. I'm also pretty sure that the REC training for the district grants involved making a clawbot autonomously grab and drag the mobile goal into the 5 point zone for autonomous. That would be a good goal to have for the first event. If your girls can score 3 cones on top of 3 goals in the five point zone every match, then they will feel accomplished. Note that's probably maxing out a clawbot's potential, but it should be possible. If your first event isn't until late November/early December I would try to build something else, but if your first event is in October and you feel like keeping it safe, then the clawbot is just fine.

  12. puzzler7

    Sep 11 Peoria, Arizona 8452A

    I'd like to note that last year, there was a team so skilled at driving a clawbot, they won the world championship.

    A clawbot built from a kit? No. But a clawbot nonetheless.

  13. Aponthis

    Sep 11 Gilbert, Arizona 127X

    @puzzler7 I'd like to note that last year, there was a team so skilled at driving a clawbot, they won the world championship.

    A clawbot built from a kit? No. But a clawbot nonetheless.

    In my humble opinion, the term "clawbot" is reserved for the robot from the kit. It's been referred to that way for at least half a decade.

  14. puzzler7

    Sep 11 Peoria, Arizona 8452A

    @Aponthis In my humble opinion, the term "clawbot" is reserved for the robot from the kit. It's been referred to that way for at least half a decade.

    Oh, you're absolutely right. But with some of the jokes made in my club, it thrilled me to no end that the dominant meta of Starstruck was called a "clawbot". In fact, as soon as I had the slightest inkling that "clawbots" might become even a semi-viable design at some point during the year, I saved the attached post to show my mentor.

  15. Gear Geeks

    Sep 11 Event Partner, V5 Beta Tester Virginia, USA 8044

    I think it makes sense to start with a clawbot. The first robot we built was the clawbot. We never competed with it - but just building it provides a lot of information on how to construct a robot. Plus, once you make the clawbot, you can drive it then think of incremental changes you can make to improve it. For example, the claw itself will probably not be ideal for picking up cones. You may want to replace the Vex claw with a custom claw. You could also extend the arm so you can stack higher. All I am saying is that the Vex clawbot can provide a platform for you to evolve a robot design throughout the season.

    The cool thing about the Vex competitions is the alliance partner aspect. Just because you have a less than competitive robot doesn't mean that you can't win some matches. A couple years back (Skyrise) a new team came to a competition. The teacher had gotten a grant in mid-season so they built the clawbot and brought it to a competition. They didn't even have their program in the competition template - so we helped them get that all figured out. They went on to win a couple of matches (mostly due to alliance partner) - but still, seeing the kids after their wins was priceless. They were hooked at that point. And that's all that really matters.

  16. Anomaly

    Sep 11 Suspended @DRow there is no reason for m... @DRow there is no reason for m...

    @Gear Geeks I think it makes sense to start with a clawbot. The first robot we built was the clawbot. We never competed with it - but just building it provides a lot of information on how to construct a robot. Plus, once you make the clawbot, you can drive it then think of incremental changes you can make to improve it. For example, the claw itself will probably not be ideal for picking up cones. You may want to replace the Vex claw with a custom claw. You could also extend the arm so you can stack higher. All I am saying is that the Vex clawbot can provide a platform for you to evolve a robot design throughout the season.

    The cool thing about the Vex competitions is the alliance partner aspect. Just because you have a less than competitive robot doesn't mean that you can't win some matches. A couple years back (Skyrise) a new team came to a competition. The teacher had gotten a grant in mid-season so they built the clawbot and brought it to a competition. They didn't even have their program in the competition template - so we helped them get that all figured out. They went on to win a couple of matches (mostly due to alliance partner) - but still, seeing the kids after their wins was priceless. They were hooked at that point. And that's all that really matters.

    I'm going to have to disagree with this. It's not difficult to build a clawbot, but you will learn very little. Conversely, from building your own robot, you will learn lots and be able to make adjustments to future robots based off of what you learn on the first robot.

    Yesterday, my team made it to the semifinals at a competition. We didn't have an amazing robot, but if we had gone in with a clawbot, we probably wouldn't have even made elimination. It's always better to fail and learn that to fail and not learn.

    The first robot I built was also in 6th grade in a class of half girls... You have absolutely nothing to worry about based on age or gender if you work hard enough. Best of luck!

  17. TheColdedge

    Sep 11 Columbus, Indiana 1483

    @Gear Geeks I think it makes sense to start with a clawbot. The first robot we built was the clawbot. We never competed with it - but just building it provides a lot of information on how to construct a robot. Plus, once you make the clawbot, you can drive it then think of incremental changes you can make to improve it. For example, the claw itself will probably not be ideal for picking up cones. You may want to replace the Vex claw with a custom claw. You could also extend the arm so you can stack higher. All I am saying is that the Vex clawbot can provide a platform for you to evolve a robot design throughout the season.

    The cool thing about the Vex competitions is the alliance partner aspect. Just because you have a less than competitive robot doesn't mean that you can't win some matches. A couple years back (Skyrise) a new team came to a competition. The teacher had gotten a grant in mid-season so they built the clawbot and brought it to a competition. They didn't even have their program in the competition template - so we helped them get that all figured out. They went on to win a couple of matches (mostly due to alliance partner) - but still, seeing the kids after their wins was priceless. They were hooked at that point. And that's all that really matters.

    I agree. Last year we paid for two teams to go to state and the two teams dissolved into one. So we sent our freshman with a slightly modified claw bot he had been learning with.

    They ended up 31/64, largely carried but it was still amusing that they did so well.

    The kids learned a lot and were greatly motivated to get back to state this year.

    They may have also been motivated by their sister team winning state but, hey who knows. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    If all you can have done is a claw-bot, take it. The Students will be able to see close up what other teams are doing.

  18. TheColdedge

    Sep 11 Columbus, Indiana 1483
    Edited 5 months ago by TheColdedge

    it was also entertaining watching students "scouting" them and trying to figure out how they got to state with a claw bot.

    It was also slightly entertaining when the kids that ran up to the pit excited to be paired with 1483B (at that time ranked first) to find out they were actually with 1483A, a claw bot... the A and B swap (being A is worse than B)

  19. Gear Geeks

    Sep 11 Event Partner, V5 Beta Tester Virginia, USA 8044

    @TheColdedge it was also entertaining watching students "scouting" them and trying to figure out how they got to state with a claw bot.

    It was also slightly entertaining when the kids that ran up to the pit excited to be paired with 1483B (at that time ranked first) to find out they were actually with 1483A, a claw bot... the A and B swap (being A being worse than B)

    I was pretty entertained when my middle school daughter (the team "scout") discovered she had picked two pushbots as her alliance partners. That was definitely a learning moment! and she had no one else but herself to blame!

  20. TheColdedge

    Sep 11 Columbus, Indiana 1483

    @Gear Geeks I was pretty entertained when my middle school daughter (the team "scout") discovered she had picked two pushbots as her alliance partners. That was definitely a learning moment! and she had no one else but herself to blame!

    We did the same thing. The kids picked a team purely on Vex's stats. Push bot. They were shocked to be picked.

    we were joking we were picking a race car purely on gas millage and got a mo-ped

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