Advice for an Unwanted Situation


#1

Hello, my name is Cole. I’m a sophomore at a high school in which I compete with in VEX. I would like to know if any other people have been in this situation and would like any advice at all whether it be how you got around it or if it’s just telling me to stop complaining and be grateful for what I have. So this year I was a one man team, it was my first year building and I was very uninspired throughout the year till the end. I completely scrapped my robot in the last days of January and completely restarted and rebuilt in 3 days to prepare for a competition on February 2nd my second last chance to qualify for State. (which I didn’t qualify at, got BO1’d cause teammate alliance plugged in a completely dead battery and it was too much for my untested robot to 1v2 in knockouts. I just barely missed World qualifying at State because of bad choices of mine regarding skills and stuff almost completely out of my control with a robot I worked on for a little over a month.

I mention all this to provide context for my situation at my school. Just barely missing Worlds I realize what I can create and be with enough effort and time so when I lost at State I made my goal to spend as much time as possible to make a good, competitive bot. I want to bring my school and robotics organization recognition and prestige to improve our club and if possible put my state Alabama on the map for VEX. Ambitious I know but if I try my hardest maybe I can achieve it.

I want to start designing my new robot immediately after the reveal of the game for this season and work as much as possible over the summer building it then use the school and competition time to perfect the robot. I believe that method would grant me the best chance to make a competitive robot potentially in the world scene. I’m sick of being mediocre.

I brought the idea to my teacher/sponsor and I thought we were on the same page. She says we are done for the year and can’t start working till the next school year starts. Her explanation was that we need an offseason and a time to rest. I can understand her wanting to rest after her staying after school with us till up to 7pm each night. This ruins my plan for next year, while I understand I can still be competitive with the allotted time of the school year and many teams are less privileged and get less time then that. However many teams spend as much time as possible, the teams that are seen as the top and known throughout the community so why can’t I spend my own time to attempt to build a legendary robot? I understand I’m asking of much and using resources that I don’t own but the time I rebuilt my robot I brought motors and metals to my house to work on it, it’s not much different besides it being over the summer. I’d be willing to get my parents to sign a contract or something with the school stating I’d pay for any lost or damaged parts over the timespan of summer break (I would sign it myself but contracts with minors aren’t legally binding).

So I thought of several solutions to the problem at hand because that’s what engineering is isn’t it?

  1. Find another teacher that would come up to the school over the summer and supervise

  2. Bring the parts home to work. (I’d really like if this was a possibility again because I’m gonna be living across the state for a period over the summer and if I could still work on my robot there that would be great.

  3. Go over our sponsor’s head and bring a presentation to the school’s principal requesting permission to use parts.

  4. Make an independent team.

So I asked my teacher about number 1 and she said that wasn’t the issue so I don’t know what “the issue” is.
I asked about number 2 and she said the parts are the school’s and her responsibility so we can’t take them home over the summer. Which I understand but we’ve done it so many times.
The whole point of number 3 is to go to the principal for permission but that could potentially ruin my relationship with the teacher and could ruin future opportunities which is not desired.
I’ve done a lot of research about number 4 and it is completely unrealistic. If I could even get the funding to go independent, the time it would take to order V5s would basically be all of summer and maybe even longer basically being the same issue as staying with the school.

My main point against her reasoning of we need an offseason is that sports leagues like the NFL or such who exhaust not only their minds but their bodies in the season don’t just take a break in the offseason. They are back on the field practicing and getting ready for next season. If that example is invalid because they are professionals then how about an example at my own school. My school’s Girl’s Basketball team has won the State championship twice in a row now and absolutely dominated it. My school’s Boy’s Baseball team won state last year. Neither of those teams take breaks in the offseason they go straight back to preparing. Why are we any different if we want to be in the top of our sport? Teacher had no response.

I dumped a lot of thoughts that were in my brain. I apologize if I come across as ungrateful and selfish but I’d love to maximize my chance in the higher aspects of robotics which could improve the organization and school itself. Again, if anyone has any advice for any topic of this rant or even have words to help me see straight, it’s greatly appreciated. Thank you.


#2

Ambitious, but a fantastic goal!

I don’t have much to say about your school options, as we aren’t affiliated with a school and don’t have to work within those guidelines.

  • I will say that I think #1 is unrealistic based on the info you provided - perhaps once you are on the map & have a very organized, highly competitive team (or group of teams, hopefully) that would be logical, but with a single team run by a single person I don’t think many schools are going to be willing to commit lots of resources (and teachers are definitely a resource!) during an off season.
  • On #2 (and related #3), both of those sound reasonable, however you know best what your relationships are with the teacher and what the school is likely to say. It is awesome to have a teacher sponsor you, and you definitely don’t want to abuse that. Have you considered preparing that same presentation for your teacher, presenting it, and then asking if she would support you presenting it to the principal? Telling her that you understand and respect her concerns about the equipment and providing her with parent-backed commitments to replace them if lost / damaged (and actual monetary amounts, and signed by parents) would be a good thing to include in the presentation.
  • On #4, independent teams are great! But… funding can be difficult, and finding resources (team members, rooms to store & work, teacher knowledge, etc) can certainly be an issue as well. You’re not wrong about the V5, either - chances are no one will be getting their orders until pretty late in the summer.
  • ETA - once people do start getting V5, you could consider purchasing used Cortex items from ebay for your personal use.

It seems that your biggest issue at this point is the lack of physical parts to build with during the off season, correct? That being the case, I’d recommend that you spend time learning how to use a good CAD software (many free ones available for Vex participants). I know many high-level teams do a lot of their preliminary work in CAD and wait until after that is done to build.

I’d also strongly recommend that you prepare non-Vex prototypes using materials around the house (cardboard, pvc, etc). You could consider buying a partial set of game elements (or creating those) and using physical prototypes along with CAD to fully explore your design options.

As a last note, an additional thing I would do in your situation is to spend a lot of time learning programming. I understand that RobotMesh has a virtual link-in that you can utilize to see what the results are (RobotC had Virtual Worlds, which was nice!). If you get very competent at programming and have some pre-made work done, that will greatly accelerate your future robot completion and help you immensely with autonomous work.

Best of luck to you, and I’m glad that you’ve found a spark to ignite a passion!


#3

I have the exact same thing as you did, exept my mentor fully supports me working as often as I can. My advice is totry as hard as possible to find a way to work whever you want, even if that means getting another mentor that can devote more time. Also, you should try to appeal to whoever funds your program, and ask them if you can take the parts home. Best of luck, I can’t imagine what having your program being what holds you back feels like.


#4

Excellent point, try and find others in your school to join your program, to enlarge it. This should generate more willingness for support


#5

Thanks for the advice! My school had 5 competitive teams this season, my school has been competing for years. I know since at least Skyrise. However, my robotics teacher became our teacher around this time of the year last year after having one year of teaching a MS. So this upcoming season will be her third. As well to her we have an assistant sponsor who teaches Special Ed. and her daughter participates in robotics at the school. I know of at least two other teams in the same boat as me at my school for next year and we’ve formed an alliance to work together and strategize to maximize our school’s chance of improving. So I believe we have the number of dedicated students, I should have mentioned that in the original post.

The CAD is a great idea and I’ll definitely work on it over the summer but my original plan was to use the rest of the school year after the game reveal to design and CAD because the engineering computers all have Solid Edge ST9 which I was taught to use last year and have certification for. The rest are also great ideas, I’ll definitely try to use stuff around my house to prototype and brainstorm and also work on programming because I’m mediocre at best.
I would prefer working on the bot itself but thanks for the other options and the ideas.


#6

Yeah I forgot to mention the support I had in the original post. I have an alliance of 3 teams at my school (including me, we’re called vexyz_triple_axis on instagram, check us out for more info i guess). However Y and Z are combining next year so I guess it would be really 2. Possibly more though, haven’t asked opinions of our freshman team.


#7

You just got to push whoever funds you. and ask every possible teacher for full mentorship.

If all else fails you could just design and cad your bot over summer and builld it as soon as they let you next year. Not ideal, but better than nothing


#8

I’m trying. If all else fails that’s all I can do really. It’s definitely better than nothing and I’m gonna exploit it as much as possible for design points and preparation to avoid wasting time.

The biggest problem is I’m also in Marching Band so like from right after school starts to like the end of November I can’t stay after school so that’s kind of a bummer. Just gotta hope I stay this motivated through the summer. Thank you.


#9

Your best option here is to work with your teacher towards letting your teams take the parts home and being able to work on it there. If you have the money for an independent team I’d say go for that, we were able to do so using our own money as well as sponsors. It’s a difficult process, which is why we started right after our season to secure funds.


#10

I don’t really have my own money for going independent and even if I could get enough sponsors I think the wait for new V5s would make moving to independent for that reason obsolete.

I believe my teacher is just tired of robotics after a tough and confusing season with vex’s V5 fiasco and in alabama vex competition switching control to a different university then it used to be all on her first full year of teaching at my school with little reward. Thanks though, I’m still thinking of going independent though for other reasons and seeing other people that have keeps it in my mind.


#11

Giving up her summer is a huge ask for a teacher who is probably volunteering ALOT of time for your robotics program.

Maybe she would be willing to do a week long camp close to the start of school? Maybe you could secure funding to pay her a stipend for that week?

Maybe you could buy a limited amount of parts to perfect just parts of the new robot, for example, to build 3 possible claws or intakes. This would give you a headstart on how to manipulate the game elements without much investment.

Good luck!


#12

I think this goes to the root of the problem of getting buy in from your teacher, or any teacher. Being the lone wolf and not engaging other club members and then asking to build a legendary robot over the summer on your own is pretty much a non-starter for me and my administration. I am probably reading the situation wrong.

That said, I would the off-season developing a team - more than a one person team. Develop the skills you need to build great robots without having to spin a whole summer doing it. Most of the key skills will be on learning to code more effectively, manage project time, develop game and season strategy… You can then start off in the fall effectively.

At this point, I think if you push too hard on your teacher and administration, it will back fire on you, and you may find yourself with the only option is to start an independent team.


#13

Yeah I understand her not wanting to come over the summer. I would prefer to take parts and motors home,

Buying my own metal seems like my only option really then waiting to put motors on till school starts.


#14

If you are buying gear, be deliberate - for example, if your focus is coding during the summer a few sensors, control bundle and chassis is all you really need to get all your motion setup… which will help immensely for autonomous and programming skills.


#15

I have two other teams from my school wanting to work over the summer as well so I’m not sure if that’s the case but it could definitely be a contributor. I’m just trying to maximize time on a robot because this year I felt like I didn’t really have the time. Maybe I wasted too much and need to be more efficient next year. Robotics isn’t my only extra-curricular and the others I take make themselves a priority. Of course I could always quit but if I could work over the summer I believe it would be the perfect solution.
I had 2 others on my team it’s just they didn’t do anything and I didn’t force that upon them that was their own choice. I consider myself a one man team because I designed, built the entire robot besides a few screws, and programmed the entire robot while also being the driver and such. Next year I have people that want to join my team and I’m grateful for it.
I do want to spend lots of time working on strategy though because that’s where I feel I missed out this season, it’d be better to work strategy with the robot at hand but months of just brainstorming is good enough I guess.
Hopefully I don’t lose my motivation.


#16

That is a good point. I really need to get better with sensors. Too bad I’ll have to practice more on cortex but it’s better than nothing. If I can find one to buy.


#17

For your consideration, OP, teachers don’t get paid over the summer. So any time the teacher would spend at school is likely to be unpaid. Lots of teachers have kids of their own and instead of paying for summer daycare, they plan to be home with their kids to save money. Plus, many plan vacations during that time. Some teachers get second jobs over the summer to supplement their income. I just wanted to mention this so you can consider the teacher’s position and some of the reasons for the reluctance to come in over the summer.

As far as taking stuff home. That is tough. The school makes a huge investment in it’s robotics supplies. I can see a reluctance in sending it home with a student with no guarantees on how it will come back.


#18

I would expect cortexes will show up on ebay or in the forums as soon as VEX gets their supply chain failure figured out and starts shipping V5’s again.

A whole summer off? Wow, the VEX Team Virus off-season is about 2 weeks long, right after worlds. We have our first competition on August 3 at the Monroe County Fair.

I would suggest that doing game analysis (with teammates, if possible) and laying the foundation for a good engineering notebook and design process will get you a long way. Download the Judge’s guide, and find the Design Award rubric. This pre-work prior to building a competition robot will take you 4-6 weeks. Part of the design process that is lost to many teams is to build a “tinkerbot” then figure out how to make it work, rather than see what the game requires and design a bot to best complete the task at hand.

Working with CAD and studying programming and sensors with a very basic “2-motor test base” would be a good use of time, especially since you have 2 more years of HS, before you join or start a VEX-U team. Using the gyroscope for autonomous routines and PID for motor control are two areas where many teams lack expertise, and if you work out these areas of programming on a test base, it is very easy to transfer the knowledge to the programming of future robots.

In the meantime, don’t forget to keep playing music :slight_smile:


#19

I have a similar problem to you. My mentor just so happens to also be the athletic director at my school, and that takes a lot of time away from meetings. I keep up with it, though, by trying my hardest to avoid procrastination and designing what I want to build outside of the (often cancelled) 1-hr meetings once a week.
Other students get to have him in school classes (MS PLTW teacher), but I, in the high school, don’t have such luxuries. But I try to use that to my advantage to get more work done on the notebook. (Although Ohio is a very competitive notebooking region, as well as general robot skills, so I haven’t seen it pay off just yet.)

You just have to make the best use of whatever time you have. As others have said, completely design components outside of meetings, and assemble them in what little time you have. I myself have become a decent speed-builder by doing this. (I helped my D team completely rip off a DR4B at a competition because it wasn’t working [after trying to fix it, of course], and attatched a roller to help flip caps. I felt pretty good about that.)

Anyway, CAD is probably worth your time. I’m being kind of hypocritical because I don’t use CAD (yet), but the precise intricacies of your designs can be worked out so much better than just thinking about the build.

Just hang in there. Keep it simple early season, and qualify early. Then spend the rest of the season preparing for State (And hopefully Worlds) with a more advanced robot.


#20

That sounds really tough man. I see you all the time on the forum and I think you’ve replied to almost every single one of my posts so I’m wishing you luck.
I slacked so much on the notebook this season so it would probably be good to have all the extra time to work and prepare it.
Thanks for replying and letting me know I’m not alone in this struggle.
Good luck next season, hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to meet the legend of Got a Screw Loose at Worlds next year.