5000 VEX Robotics Competition Teams

As this continues to grow, how would you organize the worldwide competition when there are 5,000+ teams? The only other robotics competition (I believe) that has this many teams is FIRST LEGO League, but I’m not sure their model would work best for us.

Let’s pretend you are now the director of competition for VEX. How do you structure the events so that there aren’t 1,000 teams at worlds. Not surprisingly, I have some ideas:

  1. Run things as they are today – just find a place that can hold 1,000 teams and run 16 divisions. Each divisional winner then goes into the finals which will probably take a long time to run.

  2. Create a playoff system, with regional winners qualifying to compete at Worlds. If the goal was to have 400 teams (eight divisions of 50) at Worlds, it might work to:

  • Have regional championships that each qualify seven teams for Worlds (winners, program skills, robot skills, Excellence, Judge’s Choice). There would be 40 of these regional events.

  • Each of the regions would have about 125 teams in their area. Local schools or clubs would sponsor local tournaments as they do now, each of which would qualify teams for the regional. At the very least, the top six teams in each local event qualify for the regional, but the regional committee might extend the list to include the Amaze Winner or the Finalist Alliance. Other slots at the Regional could be filled by a lottery or by some kind of points system that rewards teams that do well in the tournament or in earning other judged awards. A 64-team regional with eight local events could admit eight teams from each local. Perhaps all local events would be conducted by February, the regionals would be in March, and the Worlds would be at the end of April.

Current Super-Regionals, like the Tournament of the Americas and the Pan-Pacific event would have reserved slots at Worlds for their winners, too. Teams that have done well at local events could travel to attend the Super-Regionals as way to get out of their own home area, see new teams, and get a Worlds experience even if they aren’t quite up to Worlds yet. Perhaps the Super-Regionals could all be four weeks before Worlds?

I’m sure if I took more time there are things here that don’t make sense, but I think it’s an interesting question. I have to admit that I kind of like option 1. It would be really, really cool to have 1,000 teams at Worlds, as long as there enough volunteers to run everything!

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I’m not sure that VEX could get that large. Right now FIRST has about 1800 teams and uses 43 regional events to determine the qualifying teams that would attend the Championships. This brought in 348 teams (if I remember right). Split into 4 divisions, (87 teams each), each determining an division winner, then those 4 winners playing against each other to determine an ultimate winner.

VEX could follow this model for now. I would only want them to post the winners of each event, so that anybody could track the winners.

Should they get bigger, you could easily double the model, 8 divisions, etc., and this would work for upwards of 4000 teams.

There are plenty of arenas that could easily hold this, especially with the new VEXnet that will soon be available.

I say find a really big convention center! Not to copy FIRST but the Geogia Dome should do :smiley:

But being serious, if hosting such a large competition is an issue then a playoff system might work out. With that said, the world events have been amazing so far, I would really love to see 1,000+ teams get to go.


If I had a playoff system I would like to make sure there was one of two systems in place:

  1. (the less preferred option) Part of the playoff system would be a methodology in which teams that win, but couldn’t go to Worlds could pass down their invite to teams with the resources to go to Worlds. This way, teams aren’t discouraged from competing and yet all regions do get represented.

  2. (my more preferred option) Part of the playoff system would be to insure the winning team(s) would have the resources necessary to make the trip to worlds. There are plenty of amazing teams that simply don’t have much in the way of resources.

For those people who equate performance with resources and wonder why this might be an issue worth dealing with in advance, I invite you to read http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.04/robot.html , the wired story of “Stinky” and the national underwater bot championship.

I’m pretty sure that the number of competitors in a regional event will vary widely. An urban area where Vex is heavily embraced by the local school system are likely to be very competitive with a greater than average number of teams. Other areas could find themselves wanting to send a representative to Worlds long before they have 64 teams. (What would be the Vex equivalent of the Jamaican Bobsled Team). Whatever system is used, I believe it will have to be flexible enough to deal with this variation.

I think, as this system grows, something will need to be put into place regarding age. It’s my understanding that “middle school teams” (the American definition) were competing directly against “high school teams” (again, the American definition). I know there are numerous groups of younger children who are capable of building (with more engineering assistance) and driving these robots. My son, at age 10, will be building machines with me this year and while it’s my understanding that he’s too young to compete, I would like to find a way to make it possible for him to interact more with the competition teams while keeping it fair for everyone involved (For now, I’m thinking we’ll be happy making youtube videos.). I also recall someone in this forum mentioning that their son (age 6) can assemble the robot and their daughter (age 9) was starting to learn how to program it, so I know I’m not the only person in this boat.

As much as I hate what FIRST did with the District system in Michigan I think it might work in this case.(In my opinion it gave michigan teams an unfair advantage, more events for less money, more time to play etc.)

Anyways the way I would run it is that each state has an organization which is responsible for running competitions around the state throughout the year. With the game being released in the spring plan an event for early fall, late fall, mid winter, late winter, and the a spring regional. That gives you 4 events early on in the year for teams to get practice at. Then for the final regional that is the “Big” event. That is the one event that qualifies teams for worlds. Each regional qualifies 5 teams, winning alliance and 2 skills challenges. That gives you a minimum of 250 teams right there not counting the rest of the world. Now because of team density you might have one regional for the true “midwest” states, the states east of the rockies. Then maybe you have to do two regionals per state out east. Now I’m not sure how it would work in china, do they have states like us? I would just give each country a quota based on team density and let them figure it out themselves so as to tailor it to their population.

As far as the world competition goes I would cap it at 400 teams at the most. That gives you 4 divisions. Give each division 4 fields and run two matches at a time.(Wow that is 16! fields) Each division runs their own eliminations to save time and then the winners play off in another round of eliminations.(Sounds a little similar, eh;)) I would also like to maybe make it a three day competition, getting a couple more matches in would be nice but I can understand if that’s pushing it.

Overall I think something has to change because if we continue with the current system we will end up with worlds being way too big. So by doing bigger regionals you get the big competition feel but at a, hopefully, reduced price. Also I think teams that went to the first ever worlds should get an automatic entry into ever other world competition:)

I think I will still be repeating this on my deathbed :slight_smile:

Can you show me the rule that says your son is too young to compete???

I assert that state boundaries make exceedingly poor dividing lines between groups participating in VRC programs.


I suggest that one/we/IFI must first determine what we want a 5000 team tournament system to accomplish, before they can choose how to structure it…


I was actually reversing that flow. Let’s say 5,000 teams have signed up to participate in local tournaments, what’s the best way to handle the numbers? You’re correct in suggesting that coming up with a tournament structure goal is the right first step, but I guess I was unconsciously assuming that the goal is, “to provide the greatest chance for students to learn about engineering, science and math through a competition system that rewards excellence and is perceived as fair.” How’s that for a working mission statement?

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are around 40,000 secondary (middle and high,private and public) schools in the United States. To reach 5,000 teams, there would, on average, need to be at least one VEX team in 12.5% of schools. Considering international teams and schools with multiple teams, it seems reasonable that VEX will be able to reach 5000 teams.


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Hawaii was at 33% high school participation (robotics in general) as of April 2008.

I was going about this from a much simpler angle. Vex has virtually no penetration in US middle- and high schools, and I’m sure this is also true overseas. Quadrupling the number of registered teams goes from a nearly-invisible proportion of schools and other groups to just-about-invisible. Rapid growth is easier when there is no market penetration to date.

There is no real competition between lower-cost robotics problems. The opposition isn’t other programs, it’s schools (and other organizations) that choose to do nothing. That’s why I expect such rapid growth in Vex.

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I wonder if IFI can handle the growth. Just the sheer demand for parts and fields might cause some problems.

At IFI we call these sorts of things “happy problems”.


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I can’t find the rule. I can state what gave me the “impression” however.

At the Nationals in Omaha there were three divisions. There was a division for the high school students. There was a division for the middle school students. And there was a completely separate game for younger students.

Nationals clearly segregated competitors into age groups and gave me the impression that until my son reached middle school age his competing in the same event as older students would be “unwelcome”.

If this isn’t the case, I would be happy to form a team consisting of local boys his age. I know there’s another student who was in his Webelos pack and attends his school who would be extremely interested and would probably throw himself into the autonomous programming with a passion that scares me. Since that same school is having a two week summer robotics program for people leaving the 5th and 6th grade, there a possibility of those students wanting to participate and compete as well.

And while I can’t find the rule, I’m not surprised that I can’t find it. I’ve still haven’t found the game that the younger kids played at nationals listed on this site. I’m still not sure how the younger students registered for the other competition, if that competition was even done through Vex (or if it was through Create or some other source), and how much advance notice they had or what channel that notice came through.

I do know that the rules state “pre-college” though. I’m not sure what “pre-college” means. It could be limiting to certain grades or it might not be. It’s a word who’s exact definition escapes me, but could be interpreted to support that impression.

Edit: I’ve managed to find the “grade school” event for Nationals:

The description on the main page ( [http://www.create-found.org/RoboticChampionship.php ) for the event supports my impression regarding the age limitations:
At the Robotics Championship of the Americas teams will participate in:
* CREATE Junior’s Rapid Roll for 4th-5th graders.
* CREATE Middle’s Elevation for 6th-8th graders.
* CREATE High’s Elevation for 9th-12th graders (Younger teams are welcome to play up.)
* CREATE Open’s Magbot Mayhem - All ages

I’ll be watching the Create Foundation and the Vex websites to see what opportunities exist for my son and how to get him into those opportunities that attract him. However, I’m not convinced that “pre-college” includes grade school.](http://www.create-found.org/RoboticChampionship.php ) for the event supports my impression regarding the age limitations: )


Is that a new logo for IFI?

Looks good!

I agree, for each state with 50+ teams, they should consider putting together a district system.

VEX regionals in each state should be communicating and coordinating with other new VEX events in the state to maintain high quality regional standards.

A state VEX championship will also provide an opportunity for all the state teams to play at a World Championship level.

I wouldn’t attach the regions to states, though. California has more than 30,000,000 people and Wyoming has something like 350,000. It would make more sense to have standardized regions with a certain number of active teams rather than an arbitrary political entity.

I am a bit perplexed and surprised by what the Create folks (and IFI I suppose) were doing in Omaha; but if I were you I would sort-of ignore it, and my bottom line would be this: Register a VRC team. Put legal students into it. Sign up for competitions.

There is no rule specifying a minimum age for a VRC team’s students. So, if they can satisfy all the actual VRC rules, a team of 2-year olds can compete legally. With that in mind, I think your son and his friends can form a valid team.

The young kids (the oldest is in 9th grade this season) on my team just love it when they can beat a “high school team”. They sometimes also get figuratively spanked by a high school team. They have learned to take both situations in stride.

PS: Falling into the habit of thinking all teams are linked to schools is the other misconception that constantly confuses people. Expect to deal with that if you start an independent team.

It’s OK for a mission statement, but I think you/we/they will need to get more specific about the role a tournament system plays in doing that; particularly since (in my experience) “fairness” is not a stand-alone concept. I suggest that things are only fair “in some chosen sense”.

In my work email archives I have a series of rather long emails exchanged by BillW, CC4HLdr, and me last summer, in which we discussed some of the complexities of a multi-tiered tournament system. Attempting to preserve “fairness” gets ugly really fast. I’ll try to find the time to resurrect and summarize that discussion.


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John V-Neun:

And I would agree. Presently there are at 1300+ teams. Call me when you double that number and I’ll apply some thought to it. Until then I’m busy starting new teams. Oh and I’m not thinking about the new 2010 water based game either.


build some robots, go compete, build some better robots and compete with them.

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