A Rather Long & Personal Story

(Disclaimer: This thread ultimately leads to a fundraiser. You’ve been warned.)

I don’t know how many of you see me commenting on threads pretty much daily, but over the last few months since I’ve become active, I’ve completely fallen in love with the forums and the people on it. Never before have I had the opportunity to think of, learn, and debate so much about robotics in such a short amount of time. It’s honestly a thrill in it’s own category. However, that’s the only good part about my current situation. Let’s talk:

I joined my school’s VEX club in December 2016 when my AP Computer Science teacher told me there was an open spot on one of our teams. I remember being extremely reluctant to join, and only started learning ROBOTC about 2 minutes before I got to my team’s first build meeting. After it took me about 4 hours just to code a simple arcade control scheme for the robot’s base, my teammates debated their choice of even letting me on. How could a programmer that takes 4 hours to code an arcade drive even hope of achieving something noticeable in an actual competition setting? Yeah, I was feeling pretty down right about then. I even remember thinking, “Why did their previous programmer refuse to give them any of their code?” I had heard rumors that the fallout that caused her to leave the team was harsh, but I had no idea what had really happened, so I just chugged along (albeit a little slowly) for the first few weeks or so.

Everything changed after my first regional competition with the team in January of 2017. I had spent a cumulative twelve hours working on a hanging autonomous, which my team expected me to have ready by the time it came around. At that point I didn’t even know that sensors existed, let alone that they would even help, so everything was time-based (at least my programming had methods, though; I learned in CompSci that hard coding was a no-go pretty early on in the class). That day marked a change in my general attitude towards VEX; it really piqued my creative interest. That day, my hanging autonomous rocked the regional, and my programming skills I had cooked up on the spot (literally in 30 minutes) put us in second place for the event. I was feeling pretty confident by the time the day ended.

From then on until the State Championship in February 2017, I did nothing but hone my programming. In that time, I learned about insanely cool uses for sensors, PID turning, multi-threading, and pretty much everything else a programmer can dream of. While comparing it to now my programming was still awful, it was a huge improvement for me, not just in the code but in my mind. Even though I was literally a 3-month rookie, I was so ready to take home the trophy at States. While we didn’t actually win the event, we got Tournament Finalists, as well as third place in Robot Skills, both of which qualified us for Worlds. My heart almost exploded with joy that day.

The 8 weeks leading from then to Worlds was actually one of the more stressful ones of my life. At that time, I tried to branch out even more–I tried to help during the rebuild, but I was shot down by almost everyone. To them, as well as to my club sponsor and mentor, I was a programmer, nothing more. That was what I was brought into the club to be, and that was all I would ever be. It was a harsh reality, and for a while I accepted it.

We didn’t end up doing very well at Worlds. In fact, we went 0-10 in qualifier matches. I wish I was joking. I felt so humiliated that day, but also extremely frustrated in the fact that had the team taken any of my mechanical suggestions and/or let me help out, the robot wouldn’t have had any of the mechanical failures that it did, and we would have done leagues better. I wasn’t sure whether or not to be mad at them for not listening to me, or mad at myself for letting me take their condescending remarks about how I wasn’t meant to build. I felt utterly defeated.

Going into ITZ, I was a lot more hopeful for my participation on the team. I was now allowed to come to build meetings and pitch in a few ideas here and there. I guess they realized that I was right about Worlds, so perhaps I would be right about this, too. The concept worked great until the first regional competition of the season, where immediately after we lost in the semifinals I suggested a change to the robot. They took it very harshly, as if I wasn’t satisfied with their building abilities. They took it as a personal insult, and I wasn’t invited to a building session for a while.

After the second regional, the same thing happened. I suggested trying out a roller intake, and they kept repeating how they just didn’t like it. I even made a spreadsheet listing the pros and cons of both a claw and roller intake, as well as the professional opinions of multiple top teams as I either PMed them or read their comments on other threads, including 8675A, 1961X, and 9065C. My teammates didn’t even take the time to read a word on that spreadsheet. I would’ve understood if they read it, analyzed it, and ultimately came to the decision that a claw was better for them, but no. The link I sent them was never even opened. I felt betrayed, like we were back at Worlds the season before, where my opinion held negative weight.

After our last regional before winter break, I made a few more suggestions. A 6-bar on the top of the lift, only using 1 tower for the lift to make more space, putting the gearing for the mogo lift on the inside of the drivetrain, and the resuggestion of a roller intake are all some of the topics I mentioned. They told me they finally agreed after seeing our performance at the last regional, and they said that they would take the next month to make any and all changes.

In 3 weeks, they changed the mogo lift (not even to be inside the drivetrain, but something else they thought was better because it didn’t interfere with the tower for the lift that they refused to take off; all it did was just make the robot heavier, which was not good for our turbo base). That was it. In 3 weeks, they had changed something that I could’ve done in 3 hours. This was when I finally realized why their old programmer left, why nobody else would join their team, why I was not the right fit for them: they didn’t see VEX as a commitment. When I confronted them about this, they openly admitted that they were okay with a mediocre robot. They said there were plenty of okay robots with a similar designs to ours, therefore we didn’t need to try anything new. Flabbergasted, this response directly opposed the fact that, to me, VEX as an obligation, not a hobby, and I wasn’t okay with mediocrity, I wanted to be the best.

In January of this year, I told my team that as soon as the season ends, I would unfortunately have to leave their team. I offered to tutor them in programming just in case they couldn’t find someone else by then (although they’d probably just pick someone else from the CompSci class like they did to me), as well as anything else I could do to help them transition, but the moment the news hit them, I knew I had lost them for good. Let’s just say that my relationship with them now is pretty much irreparable. I lost a lot of sleep that week. And a lot of water from my tear ducts. A looooooot of water from my tear ducts.

That decision that I reached was made knowing full well the financial consequences of such actions. I wasn’t going to let money impact my ability to express my own opinions in a field I now knew better than my own former builders. I knew that I probably wasn’t going to get a V5, or any parts (even though my former team has 4 bins of unused metal that they refuse to share with anyone else) at all. I was okay with that, because I hoped that I could do better even with scraps and pieces. I still do.

The day after this year’s State Championship (in which we lost in the semifinals because the opposing team sliced my battery cable in half and we couldn’t move the entire match, but the ref “didn’t see anything”), I realized that I was even worse off than I initially thought. One of our senior teams was supposed to be donating me their parts, but that was no longer the case. My school itself would also not be able to fund a single penny in my direction. A friend suggested opening up a fundraiser, instead, so that I could budget the amount raised for whatever I would need. Thinking, “What could it hurt?”, I launched one they day after. It was originally marketed towards family and friends, but over the past few weeks it’s slowly started to plateau. We’re at about 25% of our goal, and I hope to reach at least 50% by the time Worlds comes around, but at this pace I don’t see that happening without any outside help.

This is why I’ve spent all this time explaining my past, present, and hopes for the future. I know that in the end, I’m basically asking for your money, but I felt that if I took the time to explain why I really, truly need this money, perhaps someone could sympathize. Even a sum like what I’m asking for is only enough for 1 or 2 robots (depending on how demanding next year’s game is), it would be a huge help to a team that’s basically a bunch of outsider kids that know they can do better than their current situations if they all come together. If anyone who reads this could please consider donating a few dollars, any amount would make me extremely grateful. I hope to start my team strong next year, and hopefully I can prove to not only my fellow teams, but also to myself, that I have what it takes to do this. All I need in order for that to happen are the resources.

The fundraiser can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/kickstart-my-future-in-robotics

Thank you for reading this absurdly long story, and feel free to PM me if you have any questions/comments.

Michael Gonzalez (Team 4411S)

1 Like

It sounds like your coach is kinda crap and the program as a whole lacks leadership.
My freshman year I was fortunate enough to be in a good program with a great coach but I was stuck in a team of 12 and all of them were older so I had no role on the team. My ideas were not utilized and I felt the same as you. The next year I started my own team and I have worked every step of the way to gain respect and prove myself. I was left with team members that hated each other and it was very hard the first year. Stay with it because the satisfaction you will get from leading your own team will just build your leadership skills and you as a person, don’t let anyone discourage you or put you down. You have worked hard to get the knowledge that you have and they can’t take that away. Have a heart to heart with your mentor and see what you can do to have your own team. Recruit your friends or people that are willing to learn. Best of luck to you and if you have any questions feel free to DM me on instagram @8110x.the.ribbits .

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@Mystellianne I looked back to see if I did respond to you PMing me, I did. I also looked for if you sent me a spreadsheet, I couldn’t find one. Sorry to go off topic, but if you or anyone else would like to PM me on this, my teams insta if the Vortex insta I would be glad to help.

@Avery_8675A I think he meant his team didn’t read the spreadsheet :stuck_out_tongue:

I appreciate the kind words, they’re definitely needed at this point in time.

Forgive me if my wording was off, I didn’t mean to try and slander any of your teams. I meant that my former teammates did not read the spreadsheet I sent them (that spreadsheet containing information I gathered from talking to your team). I’ll edit the text to make it more clear now. Thanks for the extension of help, I’ll be sure to PM you if I need anything else :slight_smile:

Ok, that makes a lot more sense, because I was wondering where this spreadsheet was, must of read it too fast. Sorry about that.

Aw man that sucks. One thing you could try doing if you don’t like the program is look for another one where you don’t have to go to the school. I know a few around where I am that allow people from different schools to join.

No worries haha, I have mad respect for your team. In fact, your robot was the one my teammates used to justify a lot of their laziness. They used to say “They’re great and they have two towers per side, they’re great and they have a claw, they’re great and they have a chainbar instead of a four bar.”

Nothing pleased me more than showing them the latest version of your bot, where literally everything I recommended to them was implemented exactly as I asked them to do. Props to you guys for not settling for “Ok” and wanting to be better.

Unfortunately the robotics scene in south florida is not all that diverse. I’m sure that would be the case if I lived up north in my state as it’s a lot more popular up there, but my school is the only high school in the county that participates in Vex. One of my school’s other teams is considering leaving affiliation with the school and starting their own community team, and I may join them. However, that just means we’d have even less money than we already do lol


Them boys on 8675a don’t strive for better they strive for best. Lol

Preach. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, too.


To echo one of the comments above, get a better coach than the one you have now. Find someone who is as dedicated to excellence as you are. Good luck.

Glad that my team was one of the reasons you fought for your ideas and new designs your team should have moved to. Its sad that your team was too lazy and stubborn to not listen to you, but keep up the good work and keep your head high. You will succeed at the end. If have any questions I am more that happy to answer them to my best abilities. You are more than welcome to contact me through PM or Instagram at eagles1961x. I wish you the best of luck with your fundraising!

  • Duke 1961XENON

Thank you so much for your contribution, it’s nice to know there are people out there that will lend a hand to a student they don’t even personally know just because of the goodness in their heart. Thank you, and yes, we are working with the other STEM teacher at our school to see if they can run the club for next year, as our current one has been in and out of things the entire year due to personal reasons. I’ve no doubt that they were dedicated, but this year there are unfortunate circumstances that lead us to the conclusion that it’s no longer in our best interest for them to run it.

Thank you for the kind words, I’ll keep my head held high the whole time haha. I have hope, and the community over the last night has really shown me how kind some people can be, so thanks to not only you but to the entire community for that. I’ll be sure to shoot you a message if anything, although it may not be until next season lol.

Where exactly in this video was your PE “sliced”? If it was an illegal offense on our part (1533m) we’d be more than happy to replace it :slight_smile: what a crazy match that was. Good luck starting your own team, it’s not always easy but it can be done through hardwork and become very rewarding in the end! Let us know if you ever need help with things.

It wasn’t your team. At around 1:32, 7121D rams us into the fence with the corner of their robot, then turns and puts down their mogo lift. Immediately after that happens, my lift starts fizzling, resulting in a toppled stack, and after that fizzle it stops working completely. In addition my mogo lift is also on my power expander, so when we went to go put down the mogo it just wouldn’t move. That’s why we tailed you for the remainder of the match, because we couldn’t move our mogo nor our lift.

Upon further inspection after the match (before we approved scores), I looked at the robot and noticed the PE light was off, meaning it wasn’t receiving power. Looking closer you could see that the battery that connects to the PE had been sliced, which makes sense as it stopped receiving power.

I notified the ref and he said he couldn’t be sure it was match affecting, therefore no violation would be called (not even a warning).

Anyway, yeah it’ll be hard, but that’s part of the challenge, right? It’ll pay off in the end :slight_smile:

Update: You guys are actually such amazing people.

In under 24 hours, we’ve received over $350 donations just from you guys alone. For the sake of privacy, I won’t disclose any names (just in case people would like to remain anonymous), but the fact of the matter is that we have a truly amazing community here on the Vex forums.

Not only has the fundraiser been set back on track, but I’ve had the opportunity to learn that I’m not alone in this. Even if you couldn’t donate, thank you to everyone who dropped a kind word or two in about their own personal experiences, as it’s made me realize that everyone goes through something similar at some point in time, and that it’s okay for this to happen.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you guys so much. Not just with fundraising but in raising my general spirits about the year to come, you guys are such an amazing community of people, and I’m so glad to call myself a part of it.


Keep doing what you are doing. You are up to 63.5% of your goal. Frankly, I think you goal is a little low, but I wish you luck.

You might consider looking into becoming a 4-H program. 4-H is in every county in the US and they love helping teens start new clubs. Just do a search on 4-H and the name of the county you live in and call and ask them about it. If your county doesn’t already do robotics they might not be up to speed on all the possibilities, but they would probably still be excited to help you start a program.

You could create a 4-H club that only does robotics. There are probably already 4-H VEX robotics programs in Florida that you could contact to see how they work, but I don’t know any off the top of my head. Or, contact the Exploding Bacon FIRST Robotics Competition team. They are a very successful 4-H FRC team from Florida. Here’s a link from their website that talks about why they are a 4-H club: https://www.explodingbacon.com/4-h-and-first/

One of the advantages of being a 4-H team is that you can accept tax exempt donations without having to submit irs paperwork to become an indepent 501©(3). It gives you a lot of flexibility to create a program that works for you. You’ll just need an adult leader. Volunteers will need to complete some training and have background checks, which are paid for by 4-H.

Good luck with your new team!

If you have questions about 4-H feel free PM me.


a bit off topic but what’s this towers per side thing?