Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know the 2021-22 VEX games are about to be released. This is your guide to VEX forum across the day before Kickoff and for the 6 critical days after kickoff. The few points (7) listed here will make your and more importantly all of our lives here on the forum much better.
The first week is hectic. Lots going on, lots of swirl, lots of activity. VEX forum can be a great resource. But like any power tool if you gum it up with swarf and debris it grinds to a stop and isn’t useful. Remember, you are not the only one using the forum, many of us use the forum. So here are some things to keep the VEX forum going:
Download a copy of the game manual. Watch the game video.
Read the rules. Slowly, carefully, word by word, taking your time as if it was the last corndog of the summer. Read the rules front to back. And when you are done with the first pass read it again. Slowly. Maybe read it out loud as a group, with one person reading each rule and moving around the room. Or read it to the cat. Once you are done with the second full pass, think about what you have read. If you completed both reads in under 20 minutes, consider reading the rules in backwards order.
Remember the rules are “An overview of the game”, “How to score points”, “things you can use to build the robot” and “some of the things you can’t use on the robot”. It does not cover how you are going to play the game (aka strategy) and what the robot will look like (aka design).
At this point you have many questions. “Can we use sharks with lasers?” Time to break out your number one tool, that 64 oz can of “Common Sense”. So, NO, this is not the year of the water game, the sharks will die. If drinking the can of “Common Sense” didn’t get you that answer don’t post your question on the forum, go ask a team mate that has read the manual. Have them use their can of “Common Sense” and their DEEP READING OF THE RULES. Did you come up with the answer? No? Try a 3rd team member.
OK, so maybe a legit question. Next step is to check forum. Look at the top of the screen. See the orange bar? See the spyglass? Click it and you’ll see the box to put key words in. Try 2019 Sharks Lasers. No hits? Reword: 2019 R23 Lasers. No hits? (There is one, I just tried it. Did you spell shark correctly?) R23 Lasers won’t be enough, since this question got asked in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019; the rules change year to year, make sure you have the right year.
It could be that it’s a really weird question. Next scan the recent posts list to see if someone has posted something that may be about your question. Look at the posts and see. If there is a thread, consider replying to it, if not maybe a new thread.
Think about what you are about to write. Think about four things:
– How can I ask my question so it’s clear what I’m looking for
– What part of the rules triggered my question, get that rule number and maybe the exact words ready
– Where did I look for the answer and did I find something close
– Did I really read all the rules carefully? Is now a good time to go back one more time?
- Posting time! Write your post. Be complete with your question, what rule, what other answers you found that may be close, etc. Use Capital Letters when needed. All sentences need nouns and verbs. You are a high school roboteer you should be able to write four to six sentences without dropping into leetspeek. Please, don’t be posting 5 word posts, if you want to chat back and forth, hit up a discord.
Remember your post will be seen my thousands, best foot forward. We all want to help you, so as much detail as you can give helps us help you.
Pick a good subject line. -“Help Stuck” very poor. “Stuck on R23 Help” poor. “Sharks and Lasers in R23” better. “R23 - Are sharks with lasers allowed to be attached to the top of our drive base”, much better.
And you’ll have much better responses if you word your question like, “Rule R47 says … does that mean we have to use a blobbermasher on our robot this year?”
Don’t ask, "I haven’t had time to look, but someone on our team says a blobbermasher is required. Anyone know?
Remember, the rules are searchable too!
Check spelling, grammar, etc. Submit. Now go do something else. Do not sit and refresh THE FORUM over and over. Do not post after an hour a reply “Hey, need help here!”. Other people are busy, they may be researching the question, looking at CAD drawings of the Arcade Frame to see how big of a shark can be attached, etc. Give them some time. Maybe go back and read the rules again?
A great example from this year is here: Confusion or rule sg6
- If this is truly blocking you from progress, the look at answering other threads while you wait. Do you KNOW the answer? Can you cite something that will make your answer better. YAY! Then read all the posts in the thread. Do the current set of posts cover the answer? Will you adding your post really add value? If so, post your answer. Be complete, be detailed, cite why you think this is the answer. "If you check R26 you will see that the Arcade Frame is 4 feet tall, there is no water, the shark will die. And if you check R123 about the additional two human players, you’ll see that sharks would not be included in the criteria. " Remember to check Capitalization, use of nouns and verbs, etc. Questions that look like they came from a smart person get answered quickly.
If it’s 2AM and you need the answer now, try this: there are a ton of discords out there, jump on one of them and ask away.
I used a rule question as my example. Rules questions are normally the first few days. Remember "The Posts On THE VEX FORUM are Opinions Only". If you have a real rules question, ask in the official VEX Q&A. (And ask yourself what the reason the GDC does NOT take questions in the first days of build?" Did you read the manual?!?)
First thing with tech questions is the same search process in step 5. What is the problem, where did you look, what did you find, are things close that you can use to do what you want?
Lets take a few of moments to talk about the answers.
If you post a technical question, you will get many answers back. You should look at the answer given to see if it makes sense. “Yup, we use the wires we cut off of discarded lamps to wire our robot, go for that”. Yikes!!! You should also look at who the answer is from (look at when their first season was, do they have a track record of good posts (look at their other posts and see if there are “likes”.
If you answer a technical question make sure you are giving out complete and current information and in within the current constraints (rules change every year). While you may have tons of experience in coding C++ for web based e-commerce solutions, programming a robot in Python is a little different. Be helpful, don’t add to the problem. If you are kibitzing, maybe wait a day and see if someone answers that really has an answer. If not you can try “Well I’ve never used ‘GlacticStick Glue’ ™ on a shark, but I did stick a flashlight on my brother with it and it was on there all day”
AND if you ask a question and find an answer through a means other than the thread you started, PLEASE do us all a favor and come back to the thread and post the solution.
There is nothing worse than finding a thread that describes the same problem you are having only to get to the end of thousand posts to find “Thanks, got it fixed” as the last post. Tell us what you did/found out, remember the goal of THE VEX FORUM is to help someone else out.
That’s it, just a few things to make your VEX forum experience across the next few weeks great. Help us out helping you out by helping us out!
Now go read the rules!! Really take your time to read them.
TL;DR: Looking for help with the build season? Read the rules over and over, your answer is there. Really, trust me. (Or as Yoda would say “The rules over and over, read, There, your answer is.”)
People often recommend Eric Raymonds How to ask Questions the Smart Way. 5 It’s much longer than what I wrote (HA! you say, but it is!)