Cheating at Worlds 2021

After the announcement that VEX Worlds 2021 would be an online event, I began looking back at the online skills tournaments held throughout the year. After reviewing these tournaments I saw several easy ways to cheat due to the lack of referees. I have compiled a list of 5 ideas.

  1. Driving your programming skills run - Attach remote (1) to the competition switch while placing remote (2) and your driver out of view of the camera. Remote (1) could show a connection to a brain, not on the robot while remote (2) could be connected to the robot allowing you to drive during programming skills.

  2. Using illegal components on the robot - These could range from 3D printed parts to FRC motors.

  3. Adjusting the field specifications / modifying components of the field - Removing or cutting away certain parts on the field allowing for easier scoring or descoring.

  4. Using prerecorded runs - Overlaying your video stream with a pre-recorded video.

  5. Using tape or magnets to hold balls down to the field - Creates less scattering of balls

These are just some of the potential issues I see with the virtual skills challenge.

I know in the past teams have attempted to cheat at in-person tournaments, where referees and inspectors are keeping a constant eye on them. Therefore it seems there will be a higher chance of a team attempting to cheat at the upcoming Virtual Skills Challenge due to the lack of referees and inspectors enforcing the rules.

I am not sure if VEX has developed a plan for possible cheating situations yet, but if so I would love to see this document.


I second this. People could easily use custom cartridges in their motors and no one would know. The only way of knowing is to see the tiny slit on the bottom of the motor, which like 95% of the time isn’t visible without taking the motor off. Even if this is done, it would be hard to tell the difference between plastic and PLA over a video call if teams did a decent job of hiding the colors. This is only one of the 100s of way teams could get a significant advantage unfairly


Great points Tilden. Hopefully this will act as a good PSA of sorts because I wouldn’t be surprised if these things become quite common once people start thinking about them. Things will definitely have to be structured to prevent this more than they are currently, and a proctoring system of some sort is probably a necessity.

Is this your team’s last year also?


I guess this is a good way of testing integrity,


I am 100% agreeing with @Tilden2114X on this. Unless a judge physically comes to inspect everything, it is 100 times easier to cheat. This can limit the number of people that even want to do worlds, seeing how easy it would be to rig the field and/or robot.


If VEX could have cameras setup all over the arena and have you say a code before competing it would be hard to cheat.


I dont know any ref or inspector accounts, but if anyone does it would be useful to call their names for them to be aware and take measurements against the cheating

it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between a driver controlling a robot and a program controlling a robot. I would think that referees during worlds would be able to tell the difference, especially at levels high enough where it really matters.

enforcing a closer robot inspection could prevent this in part, of course teams could just switch out the components after inspection, but they would only get away with it if the parts weren’t visible during any point of the match.

it’d have to be pretty subtle for it not to be noticeable by everyone else.

asking teams to answer a question or something at the start of a run would prevent this, as the recording wouldn’t be able to answer or even acknowledge the question.

that’s some pretty high level cheating, but I will acknowledge that this is pretty much undetectable.

so yes, cheating is a valid concern and it probably will happen to some degree during worlds, especially in skills. But I really don’t think there is any way to ensure the competition is completely secure, and at one point the preventative measures and high scrutiny inspection might make the event even less fun than with a higher risk of cheating but a smoother event.

I agree that better anti-cheating measures would be helpful, but I don’t think that is recf’s major priority at the moment and I don’t think there is any way to make cheating just as hard as in in-person events.


I’m in agreement with there being a greater potential for teams to cheat, but it is also likely VEX have taken this into account and laid out measures to try and reduce it. I think it would be best to wait until after or during the Town Hall meeting (4th February), where concerns or queries could be raised as a result.

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I am sure this could be easily detected by getting telemetry from the robot to the refs. Like the graph of the motor temperatures.

Never underestimate the amount of magic @jpearman could put into a simple firmware upgrade!

Lolz - they will have different audio profile.


Hi, @2990B_DQ there are so many different ways to cheat from swapping components to changing the field. And no I have 2 more seasons left.


That would require a lot of cameras which most teams don’t have plus there most likely will still be areas where that won’t be visible.


This still wouldn’t stop a lot of things, like the aforementioned custom cartridges

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  1. You could claim you were using a rerun type code that would look the same as the driver controlled run
  2. Yes but you could swap parts after or just hid them from the judge.
  3. Yes it depends on the level of camera quality they require
  4. That is definitely a good idea. I would say with some fancy editing skills you could still make it work
  5. Agreed. That is just one small option you could even use magnets under the field to move balls or something.

I mean also that could be visible that something is moving at an odd rate with the ratio that it’s on.

to add on to this list-
take some clean straight cuts to your sizing tool to make it a tad bigger (what, gonna size the sizing tool?)

make goals slightly above tolerance

go over the poly limit/use thicker poly, or just print it

hidden ball bearings (you’d need to round the shafts for this and find a way to mount them, but possible)

glue the inserts and shafts to prevents slop between shaft and gear



Yes and honestly there are a lot more crazy ways you could cheat. Even 3D printing goals that self remove balls when pressed or something

This is the one im most concerned about, its super easy to move the bottom ring of the goal just enough where its not noticeable but still gives you a huge advantage


Yeah this could be a serious possibility. Most of my school’s robots (Mine included) aren’t great at pulling balls out of towers (depending on how tight they are) raising the second ring could give teams a huge advantage.

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As someone who has been a Head Referee at 4, soon to be 5, live remote skills-only events, I’d like to address your concerns.

This is why RSE8a requires you to tether the controller you plan on using to the V5 brain prior to every match. Per RSE7, the controller must remain in constant view of the camera during the entire process. If I ever had a doubt a robot was not properly linked to the controller, I would ask the team to tether again and show up close there is a connection between the two. Even then, it’s usually fairly obvious when a robot is being controlled via joysticks vs operating autonomously. This is especially true for someone who has watched their fair share of robot matches, and I think it’s safe to assume anyone that has been selected to be a worlds Head Referee has seen a lot of robot matches.

You still have to go through an inspection process like you would at an in-person event. During the inspections I’ve done, teams have been very gracious about closely showing every part of their robot. If a team was hesitant about moving their camera to a certain part of their robot during the inspection process, that would immediately raise the alarm that something was off.

RSE6 specifically notes a field inspection can be part of the normal inspection process. I would suspect for worlds, this will be standard. I would ask during the town hall if field inspections will be part of the normal inspection process.

Given the interactive nature between the Head Referee and a team before, during, and after the match, I doubt this would be a big issue. If there was any suspicion of this happening, simply asking the team more questions or asking the team to do a particular hand movement could avert any prerecorded script.

Haven’t heard of that one before. But if I saw a ball currently at rest get hit by one in motion and the one at rest resisted initially moving, that would raise alarm about the legitimacy of the run.

Many of the potential cheats you just listed would not occur assuming a Head Referee is enforcing the remote rules as currently written. Which, for the world championship, I think it’s safe to assume the Head Referees will know their stuff.

To be clear, I am not suggesting a remote tournament doesn’t make cheating easier, it does. But Head Referees will keep a critical eye out for any funny business that might occur. If you can think of particular cheating strategies that aren’t already addressed in the rules, I would suggest bringing them up with the RECF during the upcoming town hall.

Remember, there will be a scheduled game update specifically for the world championship. Consider brainstorming what additional rules you would add to help the integrity of the competition.