A question about teams being disqualified for awards

I recently heard about a team at a state competition being disqualified for any awards because one of their mentors/teachers/parents was seen working on their robot. I don’t know if this was some sort of local decision or what, but apparently the judges were told not to consider that team for any awards for that reason.

I’ve never heard of mentors/teachers/parents not being allowed to touch a robot. This worries me because it’s not unusual for me to help teams at competitions, even teams that my own kids are going against. I also have instructed my kids that if any teams ask for help, they should help them as much as possible by providing parts or providing hands-on assistance - and they have done this without complaints.

So is this practice of disqualifying a team because an adult was helping now a new thing? an old thing I’ve never known about? or maybe just some localized disturbance in the Field? I certainly wouldn’t want to cause a team to get disqualified for awards simply because I was trying to help them debug a problem or snip something off with my bolt cutters. Has anyone heard of this before? :confused:

I have never heard of anything formal like this.

As a volunteer I might tell a judge if I noticed a mentor doing more than I thought was appropriate but it would have to be pretty far past the line for that to even happen. There is no rule in VRC referring to what is done by the mentor. Just use your best judgement in terms of when mentoring means showing by doing and when it means stepping back and letting them work.

The only thing I know a mentor can’t do is drive the robot.

One of the coach at another school wants to start tournament were anyone who isn’t a student can not touch the robot.:stuck_out_tongue:

I believe that winning or losing matches is not as important as learning. One does not have to dominate a tournament to learn a ton. However, I do wish the competition is fair and just. Based on that principle, people make their own decisions about how important taking a trophy is.

Mentors teach students a lot, and I do hope those things are positive and constructive. Making the best robot for your students and winning champion just to get a trophy is not what I think will teach the students positive thinking.

I totally agree. We had a new team with no build experience at all. We did not compete very well, but the kids had a good time and learned a lot over the course of the year.

I probably was too hands on this year, but next year I will be touching the robot very little as the kids now have some experience.

I touch the robots all the time, I don’t believe in the “crash and burn” mentality of learning but more in the “you did a great job but did you consider doing it this way”. This applies to programing as well, I let students try on their own but then show them alternatives, things they are never going to think of on their own unless someone shows them.

Perhaps this was for VEX IQ where I know that adults being involved in frowned upon more than in VEX EDR.

Yeah at a Vex IQ competition I was helping out at we had to have every team consent to the fact that they received little help from adults during tech inspection.

Those grade 5s with DR4Bs and their parents watching behind them start to get a little bit suspicious…

This happens at our school too but it’s mostly the senior students giving advice rather than the mentor.

How we approach this is somewhat dependent on the students involved, this season we had no seniors.

I confirmed it was for a high school Vex event. I also heard that the team that got disqualified for awards went on to win a slot at Worlds anyway because of their skills scores.

Neither do I. The buzz phrase in education these days seems to be “discovery learning”, a philosophy in which kids are supposed to become “responsible for their own learning” starting as early as first grade. Somehow kids are supposed to figure out for themselves how to learn things and what best to learn, the theory being that they will remember what they learn better that way. Consequently, when it comes to learning things like robotics, kids are often handed a box of parts and a list of URLs and told good luck. The students are supposed to learn how to design and build things entirely on their own. The problem is not that they don’t learn anything at all - it’s that they end up learning how to do things the wrong way. And if the Discovery Learning theory is correct, then the kids will end up remembering the wrong way to do things better than anything else. That way bad habits and bad ideas become engrained in their brain, and I simply don’t see the point of that.

I first ran up against this theory of Discovery Learning when my kids were having extreme difficulties with their algebra lessons. They were given homework they didn’t know how to do. I stepped in and started giving them some quick lessons so they would stop groaning and start work on their robot. Later, I found out my kids were teaching other kids from their class during their lunch break, and those kids were now getting good grades, too. A math teacher then told me I was cheating the system because the kids were supposed to figure out how to do the problems on their own so they would learn the material better. Since it took the human race thousands of years to invent mathematics, I thought it was a little inefficient for sixth graders to have to reinvent the Pythagorean Theorem.

In my opinion, the best way for the kids to learn something like robotics is for them to see a variety of options, view a multitude of possibilities, and hear about the pros and cons of what’s been done in the past before they embark upon their project. You know, the old “stand on the shoulders of giants” thing. But what do I know? I’m not an education professor.

Also what I wonder about: what if middle school teams are being helped by a high school team? Would a middle school team be disqualified for awards because some high school kids were helping the younger kids at a competition?
Would a high school team be disqualified for awards because they were helping the younger kids at a competition and thus breaking, if not the rule, then some spirit of the competition? :eek:

Agree about more on the IQ/middle school than higher. We have seen some where it was announced that adults should stay away. It was funny when there was a situation when kids could not get a part loose and an adult stepped in, a member from another team went there and asked about adult helping. Then their coach came over. When they realized what this “touching robot” was about they agreed that it was necessary.

There were also situations where the event partners made up some strict rules, such as no parent comes here (fill in blank), parents are not allowed in that room, etc. This kind of stuff was not even part of vex rules but hey they can make up anything they want.

That last part of your question… no and it depends. Some teams make it look worse than it appears. It is safer if same level teams help out each other… You can borrow a team member from another team if they need help but have not seen high school team member helping a elementary, for example. If you mean VRC middle school and VRC high school, then not an issue. High school member is considered a mentor equivalent to elementary. At least what we gathered though.

This was discussed this season. An forum member gave an extreme example of adult/mentor helping and Karthik had this to say:

"The VEX Robotics Competition leaves it up to teams to decide how they operate. There are no specific rules about adult involvement on a team, outside of what is stated in the thread you linked to in your question. Any sort of rules about adult involvement in the above described phases of the engineering design process would be completely unenforceable. As such, the extremely unrealistic situation you described with students having zero involvement with the robot would be legal.

We want students to seek out the expertise of adult mentors to enrich and enhance their learning experience as part of the VRC. We hope that all adult mentors will carefully evaluate their involvement on a given team and make sure the degree of involvement does not become so large that it actually detracts from the overall experience of the students. What this exact level may be is highly dependent on the students involved; we leave it up to the adult mentors to work with the students to determine the precise balance."

Original thread:

If that’s the case, then I think such local rules should be posted in advance. Otherwise, I’m not sure which is less fair: allowing teams to get assistance from adults… or making a secret rule against adult assistance and then disqualifying teams for awards without those teams even knowing they got disqualified.

I certainly hope Vex doesn’t turn into something like Destination Imagination (DI), in which adults are not allowed to even make suggestions on how to approach solving a problem. In DI, adults are not even allowed to help the kids unload their stuff from a car at a competition otherwise they will get disqualified immediately. From my own experience with coaching DI, such overly restrictive/idealistic rules result in kids learning next to doodly-squat.

I agree. I don’t do any building or repairs, but I will certainly put my hands all over the robot looking for bad wiring, crimped or exposed wires, or anything that will end up costing me precious budget money. If they blow their cortex out that really hits my wallet hard. Most mentors in my region feel the same way.
As a judge and judge coordinator myself, it is easy to determine how much work was done by the students during an interview.

This is my mentality as well. I don’t like when some people say mentors/teachers/advisers should not touch the robot at all. I do not build the robot for the students by any means. But if I know of a better way to do something, I show them. Isn’t that the point…to teach them? Sometimes that requires a mentor to physically touch the robot.

You may not be an education professor, but having went through college “education” classes I can tell you I would have learned a whole lot more from someone such as yourself than the majority of my college professors.

I totally agree with your views on how to teach. Keep doing what your doing!

I am guilty of crossing that line more than once, but occasionally I feel it is justified, here is one example from a situation earlier this season.

A middle school student shows up at a competition with just a parent and no other team members. The robot is non-functional, the cortex does not work, there is no programming, the motors are not plugged in. One of the event organizers asks if anyone can help, we are in the next pit so I volunteer. There is about 45 minutes to get this robot functional and through inspection before the first match. Allowing the student to do everything himself will mean he will probably not compete, so I “cross the line”, download master code, write a few lines of robotc (which he has installed on his laptop but does not know how to use), plug in motors and get the robot driving.

The student is now competing but loosing matches, he works on the robot all day with the help of several other adults, we discuss programming, build quality, how to improve gearing on his arm etc. By the end of the day I think he probably had two wins but more importantly he had fun and was motivated to rebuild the robot for another competition.

If we had abandoned this student he would probably have felt that no one cared and may have quit robotics altogether. He left excited about the day and learned a lot. Despite the fact that I jumped in and basically built him a robot in 45 minutes, he was obviously not going to win any prizes. I think it was important that he was able to compete and enjoy the day, we could have easily let him “crash and burn”, miss inspection and go home early which would have happened if we had a rule forbidding adults from working on the robot.

What first made me appreciate the fact that Vex is not “just another thing for kids to do” was how we were treated at our first competition. A group of high school kids from team 169 came to our rescue when we were having severe connection issues (which turned out to be a typical malfunction of the good ole black keys). I could not believe the intensity and professionalism with which these kids, and their mentor, went through our team’s robot. They have served as impressive role models for our team ever since. Had the 169 kids and their mentor not been allowed to swarm over our middle school robot the way they did, I doubt we would have remained involved in Vex.

While I definitely agree with all of your points, there is still a line (a rather blurry on) that shouldn’t be crossed.

I have seen many students, straight A’s, tons of academic awards. But when it comes to a real problem, they have no idea what to do, and the first thing they think of doing is ask the teacher.

Those students are the ones that just rely on the teacher too much, I have seen many of them in our school. An example would be in programming class, the compiler throws a syntax error. The student first tries to compile it again, and after that doesn’t work, raised his hand and asks the teacher. Rather than simply googling what the error means.

While hands off and “crash and burn” might be a bit extreme, I just don’t know when or how these students will ever develop problem solving skills. Slowly guiding the student on how to solve the problem would help for that particular problem, but would reinforce the idea of “if I have a problem, I’ll just ask the teacher!”