China Teams at Vex Worlds

There was an interesting thread related to this from an educator. Partially relates to mindset of design and game approach. We are a US team and we always try to validate our students perspective with “how will China approach this game” in our strategy and design.

Link to thread


@Gear_Geeks “What is the secret sauce for Chinese teams and what is the secret sauce for US teams? Is the secret sauce any different?” I am certainly not Chinese and have yet to get the recipe for the US secret sauce but I think we all know it is not so much the ingredients but the cook and how much time that cook spends laboring over the hot stove.

The Universal Secret sauce recipe

This is for slow cooked baked sauce; the best dishes are almost always slow cooked.
Also know no ones sauce is the same

  1. Preheat oven to 865 degrees Celsius.
  2. Grab a recipe book and have your cook book writer write down the recipe you plan to make.
  3. When preheating is done, place your dish in the oven and let bake for 9-11 months
  4. While baking your recipe, make sure to taste test often to avoid anything too salty, sour, or sweet. Make sure everything is just right.
  5. While it’s baking, make sure you research other recipes, you might want to use something another person has. It’s never too late to take the sauce from the oven and change it a tad.
  6. After it’s done baking, it’s time to go to a cook off. Remember to take with your team of chefs about what the judges might ask and make sure you all know how to describe why your recipe is the best. Don’t forget to give the judges your recipe book!
  7. This is the most important step. If for some reason your sauce flops, it can always be remade. Nothing is permanent and there is always time to make a new batch of sauce.
  8. I lied, this is the most important step. Don’t give up and have fun. I have seen teams who non stop work on their robot do terrible compared to teams who work on their robot only 2.5 hours each week and spend the rest of the time chillaxing.
    I have also seen teams at rock bottom, thinking their sauce could never win against someone else’s sauce, but they keep taste testing and changing things, and they eventually had an AMAZING sauce.

Edit: I forgot, there are some ingredients that you shouldn’t have in your sauce. Stress, conflict, and poor time management are nice to avoid. Cheating should never be put in your sauce. As well as giving up.


There’s definitely more salt in one of them


well I’ll share something. We get VPN and scour every single reveal video and match play video out there to learn about building and driving and even certain aspects of coding. Also we try to get close up pictures of good robots (with the team’s consent.)


we put all the videos and pictures into one folder and we look through it whenever we need building inspiration.


Not sure is it the same folder or platform…

but once in a while i do get some china teams sending me message for permission to repost the reveal or match videos onto some china’s platform.
and i think the platform is opened to all china teams for viewing.

so in this sense, i think there are a lot more inter-teams or inter-clubs collaboration/communications in china than what most of us realised.

anyway, i am always impressed by the amount of respect and courtesy the teams (that messaged me) have shown - they bothered to ask for permission to repost the videos.


I believe that student population from various countries is very similar. There is roughly the same distribution of those who have talent for science, art, sports, literature, technology, music, math, engineering, etc…

What is different is the sense of urgency with which parents push kids to excel and how much it resonates with the kids themselves.

I had limited direct contact with international teams from my volunteering as judge at Worlds and US Open, but even from that I could sense that getting to Worlds is much bigger deal for Chinese students than for their US peers.

Maybe it is because getting there is more expensive for teams from overseas and requires larger (monetary) commitment from their parents, so the students value it more and put more efforts of their own to match that.

Also, student interest in the subject needs to be supported by availability of teachers / mentors willing to help and having access to the good training material, which may vary a lot depending on the location.

I find that in US, with the few exceptions, schools have hands off attitude and students are left to search for the help in the online communities like vexforum themselves. This, usually, doesn’t work well until the senior HS years.

Young middle school kids need a lot of guidance at the beginning and parents and teachers interpreting “student-centered” as “students should figure out everything by themselves” fails to keep a lot of them interested in STEM with the exception of the most dedicated.


This is key.

Student-centered has different meanings not only on grade level, but also culturally.

As stated, how I’ll assist my ES IQ and MS IQ and MS VRC teams is very different from how I work with my HS VRC teams.

It’s a slippery slope for sure.


Yes, I agree with this discussion - but always default to the statement quoted when comparing teams. So, assuming all the kids are smart - there are other things that account for the differnces. And the last two posts touch on some of those differences. The key is how to teach and impart knowledge for optimal results. For some optimal results means winning for others optimal results mean learning and innovating. This is not meant as a judgement - just an observation. A program would structure itself differently in each case. And letting kids research on their own and struggle is part of learning - but not conducive to winning.


I would love to find a way to share your optimism that we are getting optimal learning results for an average US team, but I can’t.

For the last few years I’ve been observing many teams in person, at the competitions, or online, both on the open forums and semi-closed Discord groups.

My impression is that many teams that do well, actually perform way below their peak potential, because they are lacking theoretical knowledge. I see a lot of them spending their time on figuring out trivial things and “reinventing the wheel”. By the time they have figured out all basic things, they graduate from the program.

In my opinion, well balanced teaching strategy calls to, first, teach students age appropriate theory, best building and engineering practices, that will later allow them to spend their creative time tinkering with more advanced topics, which will maximize the amount and quality of learning they get per unit of time.


These are 2 interesting contrasting approaches.
This is an issue that even the education research have not been able to settle on something conclusive, i.e. there is really no right or wrong approach.

So view my following comments as my personal opinion, not meant to kick anyone down or start any fire.

I always believe that with proper teaching/coaching, and the teams learning the right things and by doing the right things, there is no reason why a learning team can’t be a winning team as well.

I would like to use my senior teams as an example - they are doing well not just in robotics competitions (regardless of platforms), but also doing well in other tech-related, non-robotics competitions.
I would like to think that the main reason is because they got their foundations right, and what they have learnt are being translated into competition results.

But I must admit that I have an advantage over here - the kids are with me for about 6 years (from 12 / 13yo till 18yo). So I do have a long enough runway to ensure that the kids are learning and at the same time see them developed to someone that are versatile in making use of their knowledge and skills.

I believe in constructivism, but at the same time, personally I am more incline towards @technik3k approach.
I find it difficult to expect students to be creative in a vacuum. I mean, even in constructivism we talked about having sufficient scaffolding in order for the students to learn.
So yes, i do ensure my junior members (esp in their 1st 2 yrs in the club) are properly trained (by their seniors). And I do spend a fair bit of time tossing ideas around with the more senior members, and playing the devil advocate at times… or some times when they come to me with an idea of what they want to do, I will pull out a youtube video or a website and tell them - "Guess what?! There is something similar to what you mentioned… do take a look! ".
But this is not to say that I am not allowing them to fail or learn from mistakes… in fact, believe me… the struggle (for the juniors) is real and harsh… esp when they are being thrashed in HS category competitions. lol…

In summary, I don’t subscribe to the idea of just leaving them alone and they should be creative enough to figure something out.
And i totally agree with this statement…


I totally agree with this… I started as a high school junior in tp season (no previous experience in competitive robotics programs, no previous experience in programming). I work on my robot 3 or 4 hours a day because I knew I’m a rookie and I’m far behind all the other team. If someone could simply tell me I should use competition template, I need an engineering notebook in order to win design award, there’s something called PID that greatly increase the accuracy of robot auton… If someone could teach me all the basic stuff I need to know instead of letting me figure them out in a hard way, I would have made it to worlds last season. It was extremely frustrating.


Lol and then there’s me who got told all that stuff but was so arrogant as a newbie I ignored it all.


I wish there was… I know the hard progress

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Let it be known that 86868R won worlds in starstruck as a rookie team. These team members weren’t knew, but under your logic, that would raise suspicion. Therefore, any claim being made here (which I’m still not sure of) using this point would also have to be made about Cali.

This is true, probably should have changed my wording some, certainly not saying all Chinese teams are “illegall” or unfair.


Are you talking about a VEX U team?

Same, but I find looking at the templates and youtube videos pretty helpful.

oh im certainly not. im just telling my experience ive had with one particular team, just to state for the record at worlds this year, over half the teams my team played with were foreign and we had great experience with them even despite a language barrier.