And so it begins

Please don’t let this season be a repeat of the last. The students CAN and SHOULD design their own robots.

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Huh that was fast (20 chars)

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all the homies have conflicted feelings about ben lipper (real)

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Real shame. How many kids won’t now go through any form of design process because of this? Of course it is not illegal but the energy would be so much better focussed on talking about design process and strategy rather than releasing actual robots so teams learned to design rather than wait for a design.
There is an argument that there is still learning in copying and building these robots, which I believe is true. But my dislike for this comes from the numerous engineering notebooks I judged mid-season last year. So many were on a great trajectory, exploring good things and then all of a sudden, boom, a totally different robot appears on the next page with no journey because these kids couldn’t afford not to have that robot at competition.

Make great content on the process so kids learn how to go on this journey themselves. Release the robot at the end of the season.

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Honestly, as much as I am for community made resources I feel like Ben Lipper takes this a little too far in the way he publishes his designs and is actively inhibiting the learning of many children with what he has. Even in the reveal video itself, he offers up close pictures for people to copy from. It was disheartening to see how so many teams had resorted to copying spitfire and even openly admitting that they copied spitfire (sometimes even admitting that a mentor told them to) during worlds level interviews, sometimes mentioning Ben Lipper by name.

I once had a mentor tell me that the design process doesn’t matter on the VEXIQ level, since these kids are early in the engineering career and the skills learned here are not applicable going forwards. I still to this day wholeheartedly disagree with this sentiment, as for various reasons including being early on in their engineering career, is the exact reason why the design process at the VEX IQ level is so impactful.

To illustrate why this is the case, we must evaluate how this type of copying affects how these young engineers design. If a student sees that copying the meta robot put out by Ben is the way to go either because they got stomped by one of these robots or did well with one, it creates a positive feedback loop and they are more inclined to do it in the future, both inside and outside the classroom. To believe that this doesn’t continue into the future is extremely optimistic.

Then comes the question: what is the solution to this? While I don’t think this is a systematic issue with the competition, I think it’s something that needs to be addressed by mentors and parents of these students. At the end of the day, if the objective is to teach the students as much as possible, shouldn’t the ones directly involved with that process be the ones promoting good engineering practices.

Furthermore, I’m aware that there’s the argument that by “reverse engineering” these robots students are still learning regardless. While this may be true in mechanical concepts to some degree, it still doesn’t teach self driven design and the methodology to make innovations found on some of these robots. It’s not really reverse engineering when students copy for the sake of understanding the mechanisms, but rather because it’s the only way they can remain viable in competition and that it’s the popular thing to do rather than understanding the problem analysis skills went into such design decisions. If your goal is to have students learn these mechanical concepts that they learn from this type of reverse engineering, it is much easier and time efficient to do so by looking at resources intended for this purpose such as the VEX KB or the SIGBots wiki.

There’s also another excuse that many use being that: “If I don’t copy X robot, I won’t be able to win my matches”. While borrowing design elements from another robot to benefit your own is fine (as long as one still understands how that design decision fits into their original design), the issue still remains that learning is being inhibited in place of winning more matches. At that point, is it fair to bring into question if the team as a whole or the mentor is prioritizing awards over the learning of their students? I know this sounds harsh but if education is the goal here, that’s the truth.

Even on the SIGBots wiki, we have a good amount of discussion on what may be too far. We don’t want students copying off the wiki for different parts but rather understanding the pieces of the puzzle that make up an engineering and design solution (aka the robot in this case). This understanding of how these individual pieces fits together is inhibited by this type of copying.

The unspoken truth is that this problem also extends to the VRC level as well, but to a lesser extent as the meta still has room to evolve with even the slightest innovations and differences in build quality being the difference between being world champs or not making worlds at all. Furthermore, it’s obvious that the RECF actively promotes this type of problem solving and understanding (in theory at least) with its rewards based on the quality of engineering notebooks.

rant over, disclaimer: this is my individual opinion and not the opinion of SIGBots/Purdue nor any of its projects/subteams.

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I like the scoring levels in this game because it seems there will be less of a gap between the pushbots of the world versus the metas. The last 2 seasons have had particularly wide gaps. Rise Above had 1 point for risers and 3 for rows, but 30 pts for triple stacks. Pitching in put a 3x premium on high goals vs low ones.

I realize that this year there is a 4x premium, but I bet with the first half of games spent emptying disc holders that many events will find a more even playing field from first to last.

As for the Lipperverse, perhaps RECF should lean in to them, bring them in to the fold and make them official ambassadors of the program and involve them in the herobot design and deployment. At this moment, they have shown a simple, non meta, bot that can play the game and the herobot instructions do not have an ETA for release.

I would argue this absolutely holds true at the VIQC level as well.

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The “Meta” Robot copy exists in all levels of VEX.
All of these designs still require programming which is not easy to copy.

Good reproduction skills is the first stage of robot building skills.
Designing improvements beyond reproduction is the next step.

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I am very conflicted as a coach. My kids have design ideas of their own that get discussed of what they want to be able to accomplish. Due to time limitations we usually build that years hero bot as there are usually one or two components that need to be implemented (Pitching In intake and Choo-Choo come to mind) to be successful. Once the hero is built they use it for a bit and they always realize that it isn’t good enough of course, which is where their modifications come in to make the robot truly theirs.
This past year we entered our regionals and there, part for part, was a Ben Bot. In a way I guess my kids got lucky as they were able to win their competition because their Ben Bot didn’t work for the first 7 matches or so correctly, so my kids built a lead toward the Excellence Award.
After the competition some of the kids ended up building a Ben Bot style, with mods, of their own for worlds and they ended up doing very well in making the Division Finals. So, is one more right than the other? Am I happier that they built something of their own first and then switched over? For sure they are at a disadvantage competitively because they now how have had a lot less hours of practice on this bot. You will hear how kids have literally spent thousands of hours of practice on theirs. Ben Bots are definitely going to catch the eyes of the judges when it comes to Excellence and other qualifying Judges awards. You can’t exactly tell the judge “well they just copied that from on-line” .
We left the arena right after the reveal and I jokingly said to my girls “so what design ideas do you have?” . This girls rattled off like 6 ideas right away and they were wondering when they could start. Kids are amazingly creative but they also like to win. And to win the meta is very appealing to them.
I am excited for this game because I don’t think we will see as many perfect scores due to the ricochet possibilities of the game (but I am sure I am wrong and the meta will prove it soon enough) and hopefully open up some more design possibilities.
Sorry for the long post.

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I mean there is nothing we can really do. And even though ben makes it a little easier there are still always teams that release their designs and teams always copy it. to be honest that’s how I learned robotics. I learned in my first year of vex iq after having spent hours and hours working on a modified version of the hero bot that I could spend the same amount of time building a much more competitive robot. Then in my second year I did the same thing. the difference is taht i learned alot from copying so i was able to include my own ideas. For example my scond year was Next level. So when i saw the first meta bot i knew what to build but i added my own twist to try and give my team the edge, a middle strafe wheel with a suspension. and from there on that is what ive been doing all throught IQ and i do the same now that im in VRC. Even tho you see alot of teams with similar robots ther are actaully very few teams whos robots are identical. most teams take the idea and incorperatie it into their own buildin styles. and those who dont well we call them the “BenLipper Bots” and to be honest they dont usually preform as well because they dont understand how the robot functions as well since they didnt put in the time to figure it out they just copy pasted.

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I hope so… I will ensure our Judge Advisor is fully aware of all the pre-designed bots out there, so teams can be evaluated on their use of design process accordingly. The team that is not truthful about their inspiration should be categorically denied any judges award. A team that shows how they started with a pre-designed bot, and went through a process to make improvements, is another story. But some teams care only about winning the event, not about judged awards.

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I also want to clarify. This is not in any way bashing Ben. I think he is pretty great and super helpful to those in the community.

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They released code for their bots in the past. However, with Vexcode IQ Blocks I wouldn’t really call any of the programming “hard.”

We’ve done this 1000 times, and I’m generally just in the camp of “adults shouldn’t build robots.” Student centered policy says that adults shouldn’t build models. So I don’t.

However, this is their business model. I make money doing robotics myself, but I think I adhere to the student centered policy.

Do a lot of students need inspiration to make a good bot? Absolutely. Can students provide that inspiration? Absolutely. I think we should leave it to the kids, but there’s nothing we can do about it. The Lipperverse is very good business for the Lippers, so they will keep doing it and honestly I really can’t begrudge them for that. I don’t know their situation. A lot of people do a lot worse for a lot less.

However, I will note that they also provide a solution where there is a need. There is next to nothing out there on building complex like there is for legos. There is no general knowledgebase article that really goes into the different launchers you can build with VEX IQ. Students and coaches are left with nothing to work with other than what they can find online, and at least there is something out there to get them started.

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I’ve had this conversation more times than I care to admit. And I used to feel very strongly in one direction or another. I would like to share my thoughts here publicly because I feel that it may be a new way of looking at this subject. My thoughts do not reflect the thoughts or actions of anyone or anything other than myself.

There is no right way to build a robot. There is no right way to be a mentor. There is no right way to be a student. There is no right way to be a coach. There is no right way to learn.

By now, we should all understand that everyone is different. Everyone learns different. Everyone likes different things. Everyone has a different point of view. Everyone has had a different experience in this world.

This argument always comes down to the how. How to teach. How to build a robot. How to learn. How to coach. How a team should be run. I don’t think the how matters. I don’t think the how matters at all really. What we should be arguing about is the results.
Did the students learn something that they didn’t know before? Did they learn how to research? Design? Talk to other students? Talk to adults? Did they learn what it’s like to fail? To succeed? Did they learn how to work in a team? By themselves? With adults? Did they learn to believe in their ideas? Themselves? Others? Did the students make friends? Did they have fun? Did we all chase excellence?

I personally do not care how the students get to the point of learning. As long as it was all safe, appropriate and morally sound. The point of robotics, and most other extracurricular activities really, is to create an opportunity for learning and growth in a student’s life that school alone cannot provide.

I have only been a mentor for 11 years, three of those years I was still in highschool. Over those 11 years I have been a part of 8 teams across 5 programs. And in that time I have learned that every group of students is different. Every student has unique strengths and unique aspects that they may need to work on. I have been a different kind of mentor in at least 8 different ways, and I’m sure it’s actually more. Sometimes I have to be more involved in the build side of things than I would normally like. Sometimes I don’t have to even pick up the robot a single time. Sometimes I have to sit with a student while we write each line of code together. Sometimes I wasn’t 100% what langauge we programmed in because the students just took off running with the software side of things. Sometimes we had to give up on designs that we felt proud of in order to hit a deadline. Sometimes the students unfortunately had to learn the hard way that when we didn’t work hard enough, or enough at all, that compromises need to be made. But they still learned something.

A team can and should be ran in a way that most benefits the students on the team. Sometimes that means that following step by step instructions to building an okay robot. Sometimes that means having the students run nearly independently. It’s all different and it always will be different. Again there is no right way to do things.

It is the mentors and coaches role to find out what way to teach is best.

It is the mentor and coaches responsibility to find the most beneficial way to allow students to learn and grow. And to do everything in their power to give the students that opportunity. Having more information and resources available to do that job is never ever a bad thing.

We should celebrate any time someone provides resources to make our job easier.

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. More information is rarely a bad thing. And again, it is the mentors and coaches role to find out what way to teach is best with the resources we’ve been provided.

And to the students (and some adults too), remember that mentors are people too. And we mess up sometimes. We’re trying our best to provide the best experience possible, but sometimes we fail and need to learn too.

Sorry for the novel.

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Bravo good sir. Appreciate the insight.

No wonder your better than drow.

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You’ve angered the god, we’re all doomed…

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Dillon and Brandon perform two very different roles on this forum, and directly comparing them is to do each a disservice.

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Correction Only one god.

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Oh God back to the copied YouTube robots thread. As someone who fought in this war, there is no good turnout… for anyone.

edit: Because of how close it is and I have seen many similar opinions, here is the thread for pitching in - Copied YouTube robots

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